15 JUNE 1850, Page 16


PHIPPS'S MEMOIRS OF ROBERT PLUMER WARD.* THE literary success of the author of Tremaine was owing to the worldly experience and means of observation which his official position gave him ; but the sole interest which he possesses in the eyes of the world arises from his success as an author. As an office-holder, he was not a mere red-tapist, but one of those able, hard-working, experienced administrative men, who really carry on the business of government, and, except in the case of rare ability and courage in a " chief," are masters of the Ministers, though want of interest, ambition, or " gift of the gab," retains them in a subordinate post. As an author, Mr. Ward's temporary success was greater than his permanent prospects. His sub- jects were generally large enough, he was a man of extensive reading, and his tastes took in a wide range ; but he was essen- tially bounded by the present. His earlier works, which pro- cured him the patronage of Pitt, and with it a seat in Parliament and office, were on the Law of Nations : and though their most attractive part related to a temporary subject, the rights of belli- gerents and neutrals, there was enough in that branch of the sub- ject to secure duration ; but who reads them now ? how few, in- deed, know of their existence ? Be cannot be said to have origi- nated the serio-didactic novel, for Hannah More and others had long cultivated that field ; but he brought to it, what they could not bring, a well-bred scholarship, a wide knowledge of public and pri- vate life, seen in affairs as well as society, with less of a narrow sectarian spirit: yet it may be doubted -whether Tremaine some thirty years hence will be more read than Ccelebs in Search of a Wife. If Mr. Ward did not found the school of fashionable novel- ists, he was certainly among the founders ; and he infused into the best of his works, De Vire, a real knowledge of Parliamentary life, a newer and truer view of statesmen and nobles, though a little en beau and a great variety Of actual characters. The circumstance of beau, supposed resemblance to Canning, and the accident of publication at a time when the official conspiracy of the novel seemed acting in Parliament, gave De Vere a success with the world at large, which its length and longwindedness might have marred. Mr. Ward's essays (generally in the form of stories) were not so successful with the public as his fictions. We think he was by nature designed for an essayist—naturally given to dis- cuss and expound; but nature had denied him that Tenet-au-tin originality of perception, that vigour of thought, and (as a con- sequence) that terseness of style, which are necessary to- render the essay attractive and to preserve it. As Robert Plumer Ward was essentially confined to the present, so he was dependent. on it ; he was nothing if not in the mode, and in his later works he rather fell behind the fashion.

His life as presented in these volumes was not very remarkable or eventfuL His father was a merchant ;tt Gibraltar, and also held the post of chief clerk of the civil d9artment of the Ordnance in that garrison : his mother was a Spanish Iewess. Robert Ward was born in London, in 1766, on a visit of the family to England; and, after an education at private schools, was sent to Oxford, in 1783. He left the University in 1787, in debt ; and soon after became it student of the Inner Temple. An affection of the knee- joint sent him to Baines : he was speedily cured ; but was so -at- tracted by the pleasures of French society, that he remained in France till the Revolution; from which he had a narrow escape. "It happened, unfortunately for him, that another Ward,' of about the same age and personal appearance, had incurred the suspicion of the Repub- lican party, at a moment when suspicion lost all its doubts and death follow- ed close upon the heels of certainty. To use his own words, 'I was arrested for having the same name and the game coloured coat and waistcoat as an- other Ward, guilty of treason ; was ordered without trial to Paris, to he guillotined; and only escaped by their catching the real traitor : I was, how- ever, banished the republic, merely for my name's sake.'"

On his return to England he was called to the bar, in June 1790; and but for a singular circumstance might have passed through life as a literary barrister, with middling success in law and letters.

"He was, early in 1794, leaving his chambers in the Temple for the pur- pose of paying a visit in the Northern outskirts of London. Upon crossing Fleet Street he had to traverse Bell Yard ; and as he passed a watchmaker's shop his attention was attracted by a placard in the window, of a very revo- lutionary character, convening a meeting of a certain society, that evening, at the watchmaker's. Many a man would have passed it unnoticed, or con- tented himself with a feeling of regret or indignation at the prevalence during that period of similar views : not so was it with young Ward ; he was fresh from all the horrors which the success of such principles in a neighbouring country had entailed ; he at once determined to enter the watchmaker's shop and provoke a discussion with him. For two hours did the young student contest with the Republican the justice of his:sentiments ; for two hours did he labour to impress upon him, not only by argument but by his own expe- rience, the horrors to which success must lead; but at the end of that tune he was obliged to leave him' apparently unmoved, or at all events uncon- vinced. He paid his distant visit, and late in the evening returned home- wards through the same alley. Despairing of success, he paid no second visit to his disputant of the morning, though he did remark with pleasure that the revolutionary placard had been withdrawn. Hardly, however' had he passed the shop twenty yards, when he heard some one running after and calling to him. He looked back and beheld the Republican watchmaker. The manner of the man was changed from the dogged imperturbability. with which he had listened to Mr. Ward's arguments in the morning to a frank and eager confidence. I have called you in,' said he, to say I have done nothing but think over your words : I feel their truth ; I shudder at the precipice on which I stood, at the evil I was about to do ; and am now as anxious to communicate and prevent as I was before to conceal all our • Memoirs of the Political and Literary Life of Robert Plumer Ward, Esq., Au- thor of "The Law of Nations," "Tremaine," "De Fere," Sm. With Selections from his Correspondence. Diaries, and unpublished Literary Remains. By the Honourable Edmund Phipps. In two volumes. Published by Murray.

schemes.' lie then communicated to him the existence of a most fearful plot against the Government, which, with his newly-awakened feelings, he longed to frustrate by immediately informing the authorities, if he who had convinced would also accompany and support him.

"They went to the Chief Magistrate, S.ir Richard Ford, who attached so much importance to the communication, that the three were at once ushered into the presence of Pitt and his colleagues, assembled with Macdonald and Scott, the Attorney and Solicitor-General. The singular history was duly narrated in detail; the arguments carried on by the young Mentor, the mis- ',rings of the Republican, and then the details of the impending danger. The countenance of Pitt was turned with interest on the young lawyer, who seemed not only to share that horror of revolutionary movements with which he was himself so strongly imbued, but who had so gallantly acted upon it. What was your motive, young gentleman,' he inquired, for thus entering the shop ' 'I, Sir,' answered young Ward, am not long returned from France, and have there seen in practice what sounds so fine in theory."

Though, according to report, Pitt was not the man to overlook rising talent or lose sight of a useful adherent, eight years elapsed before ranch came of this singular introduction ; during which the young barrister published two books or pamphlets on the Law of Nations, married 'a sister of Lady Mulgrave, and was slowly work- ing his way at the bar. In 1802, Pitt, in a stiff enough letter, offered Mr. Ward a seat for Cockermouth, one of the Lowther bo- roughs.' and when he returned tO.power, his protégé became Under- Secretary of State for the ForeIgn Department, (his brother-in- law, Lord Mtilgrave, being Principal Secretary,) after he had pub- lished a pamphlet in justhication of Pitt's highhanded seizure of the Spanish treasure-ships. Of course he went out on the accession of All the Talents after Pitt's death ; and came in again on their ex- pulsion, as a Lord of the Admhalty, still under Lord Mulgrave. In 1812, he was moved to the Ordnance, as "Clerk." In 1823, he quitted office, withdrew from Parliament, and began novel-writing as an amusement, at fifty-eight. He died in 1846, in his eighty- second year; having lived long enough to see his son, the present Lord High 6ommissioner of the Ionian Islands, Secretary to the Admiralty under a Whig Ministry. He was thrice married, and each time advantageously. His first wife, as we have seen, was a sister-in-law of Lord Mulgrave; the second, whom he wedded at the age of sixty-three, was the widow of Mr. Phimer of Glisten Park, which became his through the ; his third alliance, when he was nearly seventy, gave him the advantage of a jointure, of 1,000/. per annum allowance as guardian, and a couple of man- sions. His writings would lead to the notion that Robert Ward was everything tender and amiable : and so he might be as long as he was pleased ; but he would seem to have had a quiet implaca- bility, 'that was offended on slight grounds and obdurate in dis- pleasure. He quarrelled with his son on account of his politics : lie received some slight from an official friend and repulsed all at- tempts at explanation, till a letter written when Ward was seventy- two and his correspondent turned of seventy produced a recon- ciliation, rather dry on his part. It would have been satisfactory tO know that some relenting, some interest beyond a "suspicion of the writer, had been shown on the receipt of the following manly letter, written after the publication of De Vere. After alluding to the internal traits by which he had identified the author, the ano- nymous correspondent continues. It surprises me I confess; that the feeling, judgment, and sagaci4., 'which sufficed to produce the work that I have been commending, should have suffered the golden opinions of me, which you entertained, to be filched and adulterated by mere traducers, whose reports the hearer's own experience could have almost refuted, and whose testimony was so obviously liable lobe warped by prejadice. "We live in a strange world. Before my feelings and dispositions had changed from wavering and transient to permanent and fixed,—before the desultory ramblings, which almost became our age, had terminated in a path, and that, I trust, a right and honourable one, and from which, with moderate allowance for human inferiority, I have not deviated since,—before my principles had attained their vigour, and generated those correct habits which it was their province to produce,—hi short, while, like most young men, I might be said to have as yet no character at all,' I obtained your friendship. How I lost it, I have already told you. When, remains to tell you. I lost it when any fruits which my youth may have promised had appeared ; lost it all at once, under circumstances scarcely more annoying to my feelings than revolting to my sense of what was right and just. "I am not seeking to penetrate what is to me, indeed, no secret neither do I form the unavailing wish that our expired intercourse Should revive. (Yen eat fait. A knot which has been loosened or untied may be formed again, but this knot has been cut. Accordingly, I neither address you b your name nor subscribe my own. My handwriting, though not

is, like yourself, much changed; and, though this were not the case, you could not, after the lapse of so much time, have recognized it.

41-.My regard you oontinue to possess, though I am not certain of your title to.retain it. But you have, by means of your estrangement, sustained a loss. In ceasing to entertain a feeling of esteem and cordiality towards me, you have lost that whichie a source of soothing gratification to the mind in which it is cherished, and which, I flatter myself, I as well deserved to have retained with regard to mean any other of your early friends, be that other who he may. Again : though you have not lost a friend, (for my sentiments towards you continue friendly,) you have elected to lose the usual and not unpalatable fruits of friendship in my case ; and this at a time of life (for we are much of the same age) when old friends can the less be spared, be- cause new friendships arc rarely formed. 4' When our earliest meetings and the commencements of a bygone friend- ship are called up before me by the letter which, I scarcely know why, I am writing, I feel myself softened as well-as depressed by the recollection; and, as I write farewell, it gives me pain to think that I might add to it the words —probably for ever. God bless you!"

There is nothivT in Robert Ward's life or literary eminence to require or even justify so large a space as his nephew has be- towed upon it. Strictly speaking, indeed, the biography occupies but a small portion of these bulky volumes, which are chiefly filled with remains or correspondence ; and much of that little is not distinguished for matter or character. The correspondence is indifferent. The latter portion of it is mainly devoted to litenuT Criticism, or compliments, having for subject the author's works or those of his praisers; and is weak and flimsy to a degree. The earlier portion principally relates to polities, especially to the in- trigues carried on by Canning and Malmesbury during the Ad- dington Ministry to procure Pitt's premature return to office. To -this Lord Mulgrave was judiciously opposed; and although there is nothing very new or particular in the account, and the letters are rather flat, it gives the -Mulgrave version of the business. The most valuable part of the book, and which was, indeed, well worthy of separate publication, is a diary that Mr. Ward kept through a considerable portion of his official life, beginning in Time 1809, and continuing with a short interruption till the death of Perceval, when it ceased till 1819 ; after which it was main- tained to a later period than Mr. Phipps thinks it proper to pub- lish it. This diary consists of gossip, anecdote, on data, and con- fidential communications made to Mr. Ward on various occasions and at critical times, together with his own observations and oc- casional reflections on affairs, or remarks on characters. As he was much in the confidence of Perceval, saw a good deal of the Duke of Wellington (Master-General of the Ordnance during the tent of the Manchester massacre and Sidmouth's spy doings,) and was continually behind the scenes, the diary i both curious and amusing. Allowance must of course be made for the writer's position as a partisan, and some of his later notions are those of the " laudator temporis acti," speaking without responsibility ; but it is sufficiently interesting to raise a desire for the whole published as a diary, and not mixed up with other matters to whicli it has small relation.

The diary begins with Canning's intrigue against Castlereagh ; and Canning is occasionally brought forward in the earlier period, and painted with a good deal of shadow, (he was then in a sort of opposition to Perceval,) and altogether a very different personage from the Wentworth of De Vere. Lord Palmerston, then a " very fine young man," and a promising candidate for place, with no other faults, in Mr. Ward's estimation' than what he has certainly got rid of long since—nervousness and modesty I—also figures in the pages, and at a critical conjuncture of his fortunes. "Lord Palmerston came to town, sent for by Percevat He was so good as to confide to me that three things were offered to him,—the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, Secretaryship at War, or a seat at the Treasury, by way of intro- duction to the seals, if he was afraid of entering upon them at once. These offers were' however, in the alternative of there being any of them declined by Mikes (Member for Pomfret), to whom they were made in the first in- stance. Lord P. consulted me very frankly upon them, and asked if I thought he would be equal to the seals either in Cabinet or Parliament, particularly the latter, where he had barely made his debut. I told him, and was most sincere,. that in common with all his friends whim I had ever heard speak on nerves m l'arliament, (of which he 'seemed most to doubt, nobody could the subject, I thought him quite equal to them in point of capacity, but as to judge but himself. He said, Petty (whom / had mentioned) had come for- ward after having felt his way and got possession of himself in the Rouse, and that if he had done the same he perhaps would not hesitate. As it was, he inclined to the second place, but had written to Lord Mahuesbury. We walked up to Hyde Park disousing the subject Among other tomes which I urged, one seemed to impress lum much ; which was, the great dif- ference there would be in his situation and pretensions upon a return to office, in the event of our going out, if he retired as a Cabinet Minister in- stead of a subordinate capacity. He allowed it much flattered his ambition, but feared the prejudice it would occasion to his own reputation and the in- terest of his friends if he failed. I left him inclining to the Secretary at War ; and admired his prudence, as I have long done the talents and excel- lent understanding as well as the many other good qualities as well as ac- complishments, of this very fine young man."

One portion of the diary relates to the Regency. New facts are scarcely advanced, but -we think some freshness is given from the light and colouring of the author. Unless Sheridan really persuaded the Prince to throw over the Whigs, out of re- venge for Whig hauteur, his Royal Highness would. seem to have acted entirely from hiniself. The arrogance of Grey and Gren- ville comes out very strongly in the painting of his opponent. After all, however, it is doubtful whether they could have come in. The Tories would have been strong in Opposition; the Whigs could scarcely form a Government without the Canning votes, and the hatred with which the old Whigs regarded their leader ren- dered that junction impossible : what was more than all, their cowardly anti-national policy would have rendered their position one of great difficulty with the country. The fact is that poor in point of talent as the Perceval Ministry was, it best repre- sented the opinion of the country ; as the Whigs now are in a similar position. Some of these points are well put in this report of a conversation in the House of Commons; which will also give an idea of the manner of the diary. "7. W. Ward told me what he called a bon mot, and seemed much to en- joy, of Lady —'s. He had said there was difficulty in letting people to accept of offices just now : she answered, she thought Lord Greneille would be not unwilling to acoept them all in his own person. Oh strange 1111i071, where this, by one of their party, is thought characteristic and told with glee ! I understand, however, that Tierney has °meowed there is a diffi- culty. The Prince, it seems wants them to accept, and they are afraid to accept. They are therefore reduced to tell the 1'nm*, We would accept if it were to do ourselves good ; but not when it is inconvenient, though to do. you good. The remarkable part of the evening was a conversation with Brand, who came over to sit by me. Though he had spoken, and strongly, against us in the debate, he opened immediately upon the merits of Perceval: he admired his conduct and ability so ranch, that if he had ever given him a vote in his life, he said, he would have supported him on these questiom ; that his character had enabled him to commence the stand he had made, and character had attached his party so much to him as to continue the raatoxity all through ; that this sentiment was not peculiar to him in the Opposition, but partaken.by many—indeed, all without exception admired him ; that this would give him extraordinary influence as the head of an Opposition, which must give great trouble to the new Government when it was formed : nevertheless, he thought we were not going out it was too dangerous to come ; probably, he added, laughing, the t will keep Perceval three months 1 as his father's Minister, and then 'fall so much in love with him ' (that

was the expression) that he will continue him as his own. He then entered much on the comparison between him and Canning ; the latter of whom, he amid, spite of his abilities, was discarded by all parties; that he could tell me it was finally resolved not to admit him in the new Government, into which some on account of those abilities had wished to introduce him. I may say, he observed, that I had some share in the rejection : I protested against suc.h a junction whenever it was talked of; I told my friends it would ruin that with- out which they never could make a Government, character ; that the eyes of a m.mt- number whom they could by no means command were upon them : I bade theca look at the back rows on the side of Opposition, and asked them if they could count such men as Nicholson, Calvert, Halsey, Coke of Norfolk, &c., &c., as their regular supporters, unless it was from an esteem for their character—and if that character would not sustain a deep wound in the out- set—if, for the sake of power, they allied themselves with a man who had deserted all alliances he had ever made; that he had deserted them before, after a treaty' made, and had then deserted Percent, after endeavouring to undermine Iftstlereagh ; his conduct to whom had injured himself with the public in the most serious manner, in having allowed him to retain his office and undertake that melancholy expedition, five months after he had declared him so incapable that he put his own resignation upon his dismissal ; that to ally with such a man could be only lowering themselves in public esteem without gaining anything but a hollow support. I would inform Canning myself, he added, that this was my protest, if he asked me."

The heads of the "great Whig families," however, were more sanguine, and hoped, or at least were occupied, to the last. Their treatment by the Prince was characteristic; and one can fancy the magnates at Adam's announcement in the following extract.

_ "What most offended them was the manner in which the Prince announ- ced his resolution. They were in the very act of forming the Administra- tion, filling offices, &c. &c., when Adam came in from the Prince. They said they could not be disturbed ; he said he must disturb them, for he had a message from the Prince ; they replied that it was for the Prince they were at work, for they were making the Government ; Adam told them to spare all trouble, for no Government was to be made. This was on Friday the 1st, in the evening; and what affronted them was, that after having had such a task committed to them the Prince should have presumed to take a counter resolution by himself without first consulting them."

This is a characteristic trait of the Duke of Wellington's way of getting through business. "He was fond of relating, that soon after the Duke's appointment, he was leaving his office at the usual hour, when, on coming out at the Park en- trance, he perceived his new chef just in the act of getting on horseback. He went up to the Duke, and mentioned that there were some matters connected with the department on which he would like to communicate with him when he had time. 'No time like the present,' said the Duke, and, at once dis- missing his horse, returned with Mr. Ward into the Ordnance Office. There, then, he remained closeted with the Duke till past eight, listening to and answering his_pertinent queries upon manifold points connected with the department. From that moment the Duke appeared to be an fait of the bud- ness in hand, and ready to cope with the details as they from time to time presented themselves."

The Duke seems to have been more alarmed at the state of the nation about 1819 than the nature of the case justified; deceived, probably, by the official" reports" of Messrs. Castles and Co. The following remark, however, exhibits his penetration.

"He said, if the rising broke out anywhere, it would be at Glasgow and Paisley ; where many rich merchants and all they supported would be sure to suffer, while no one could certainly foretell how soon it might be put down. This led him to his favourite notion, that the loyal should be taught to rely more upon themselves, and less upon the Govern- ment, in their own defence against the disloyal. It was this, he thought, that formed and kept up a national character : while every one was accus- tomed to rely upon the Government, upon a sort of commutation for what they paid to it, personal energy went to sleep, and the end was lost : that in England, he observed, every man who had the commonest independence, one, two, five, or six hundred, or a thousald a year' had his own little plan of comfort—his favourite personal pursuit, whether his library, his garden, his hunting, or his farm, which he was unwilling to allow anything (even his own defence) to disturb; he therefore deceived himself into a notion that if there was a storm it would not reach him and went on his own train tilt it was actually broke in upon by force. This led to supineness and apathy as to public exertion • which would lathe end ruin us : the disposition, therefore, must be changed, by forcing them to exert themselves ; which would not be if Government did everything in civil war, they nothing : hence his wish for a volunteer force. All this was exceedingly sound, and showed the reach of his reflecting mind as an observer of human nature, as well as a datesnial and soldier, more than anything I have yet seen."

There is a curious passage touching Pitt's dying moments.

"At the time Mr. Ward accepted the post of Under-Secretary of State, (re- signing that of Welsh Judge,) it had been promised him that the apparent risk of such a step to the future prospects of his family should be guarded against by the grant of a pension, to commence when he should cease to hold office. He had been hut a year in the post thus accepted, and amid the pressure of other matters the contemplated arrangement had never been com- pleted. More than once in his last illness ilid Pitt allude to his unfulfilled promise, and speak with kindness of him to whom it had been made. Later on, when he could no longer continuously articulate, he made the nanie Hobert Ward' audible, and added signs for paper and ink. His trembling hind having feebly traced a number of wandering characters, and added what could be easily recognized as his well-known signature, he sank back. The precious paper (precious, whatever may have been its unknown import, as a proof of remembrance at so solemn a moment) was afterwards handed over by the physician in attendence, Sir Walter Farquhar, to Mr. Ward ; and many a time did he declare, as he displayed it to me that he would give anything he valued most in the world to be able to decipher its unformed


Some posthumous compositions of Mr. Ward are appended to the Memoirs. They consist of "characters," similar to those of Chesterfield and other writers, and of " sketches " and essays; these last being set in a species of framework, intended to connect them into a series. They are not the best specimens of the au- thor's composition; and perhaps were hardly worth publication. Allowance is to be made, as Mr. Phipps remarks, for their unre- visecl state ; and revision might have removed crudities and im- parted more closeness and strength. It would not, however, have altered their main defects ; which may be summed up by saying that they belonged to another age, without reaching the peculiar force and finish which alone can give interest to an obsolete mode.