16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 35


WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM.* IT is remarkable that hitherto there has been no good biography of Chatham by an English writer. The only work of a size at all adequate to the subject is that of the Rev. Francis Tbackeray, who collected a mass of valuable material, but put it before his readers with little or no arrange- ment and without any critical insight. Almon's Anecdotes only touch the fringe of the subject, while Mr. Green's and Mr. Frederic Harrison's more recent volumes, though good as far as they go, are on too slight a scale to be considered exhaustive. And yet the subject is one which might, we think, have appealed even to a Gibbon, so colossal is the man himself, and so fraught with destiny for Britain are the events in which he took part. Perhaps it is this very greatness of the subject which has deterred writers, who are keen enough to extract the plums from Horace Walpole's rich garner of contem- porary scandal. Possibly, too, another reason for this absence of a good. biography is the extraordinary mystery that still clings to Chatham's personality. Macaulay in his eloquent, though perhaps not entirely just, essays on Chatham makes a passing allusion to a point of likeness between him and Wallenstein. There is no doubt some likeness. Both were great Imperialists, seeing far beyond their time the need of unity for the Empire to which they respectively belonged. Both seem to have earned a reputation vaster even than their great though meteoric achievements could entirely have accounted for. Both, too, bad in common the love of pomp and parade and of this world's glorious circumstances, the fear of noise and the love of mystery. The mystery is all the more remarkable in Chatham's case because at first sight the material for forming a judgment on him is apparently so ample. Besides the four published volumes of his correspondence, there are ninety-six other bundles of letters, either written by him or to him, at the Record Office. The papers published by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, and the corre- spondence collected by the Duke of Newcastle or by the Hardwicke family, all throw some light upon him. But when one investigates all these and other better-known

* William Pill. Earl of Chatham. By Albert von Ruville. Translated by R. H. Chaytor, M.A., Assisted by Mary Morrison. With an Introduction by Itoiessor Hugh E. Egerton. 3 vols. London W. Heinemann, [30s. net.]

sources, such as the Grenville, Bedford, and Rockingham Papers, and Horace Walpole's Letters and Memoirs, they are found to be somewhat unsatisfactory. Except for Pitt's letters to his wife, which are eloquent with the rich tenderness of a great man's love, and a few others, there are hardly any letters of his which contain the personal touch of the man in his inmost soul. Moreover, there are most important gaps in his correspondence. For instance, the years of his youth, when be was a cornet of horse or a rising Member of Parliament, and even up to the time of his marriage, when he was already forty-six years old, are almost unrepresented save by a few letters, most of which are distant and official in tone. Indeed, almost the only lettere which give us any idea of the way in which the man worked, and of what was in his mind, are the valuable series addressed to the Colonial Governors recently published by Miss Kimball. There one learns to appreciate his rapidity of decision, his extraordinary eye for details, and his knowledge of his fellow-men. But that was when he was at the zenith of his power. To understand him one wants to know bow he developed from his youth upwards. Often, too, even when material from other sources is available, the state of parties or of personal predilections is so extra- ordinarily confused that it is difficult to trace out any individual lineament in the mass of intrigue and sordid self- seeking.

Moreover, even if we had more written material about Chatham, he would still, we believe, to some extent remain a mystery. Few men of his own time even professed to understand him, and those who did leave us the impression that his greatness consisted in some extraordinary power in his personality, which transcended even the bounds of space, and made him either awfiil or inspiring in the remoteat hamlet of France or in the wilds of North America. His effect on those who could see and hear him is known from that wonderful description of his speaking by Charles Butler, who says of him that every hearer was impressed with the con- viction " that there was something in him even finer than his words, that the man was infinitely greater than the orator." Perhaps the descriptions which bring Chatham home most clearly at the present day are the hints thrown out by his granddaughter, Lady Hester Stanhope, in her eyrie on Mount Carmel, to that strange Dr. Meryon, who has fortunately left a record of her conversations. She, more than any of his descendants—certainly more than her uncle, William Pitt the younger—seems to have inherited some of the strange magnetism of her grandfather's personality, his uncanny knowledge of far-distant events, his unflinching courage, and his ruthless domination. Although, therefore, she can hardly have remembered him, we feel that some of her phrases hit him off with a fellow flash of genius. "My grandfather," she says for example, "had grey eyes like mine, and yet by candle light, from the expression that was in them, one would have thought them black. When he was angry or speaking very much in earnest, nobody could look him in the face" ; or again—" My grandfather was capable and likely to write and do things which no human being would dream came from his hands" ; and she relates, what one may well believe, that she often used to tell Mr. Pitt—" You are not the grand statesman that was your father; you are a little God Almighty sent from heaven who is always thinking of the respect due to the King, of complaisance to the Peers and killing yourself out of compassion. He made them all tremble "; and on another occasion she exclaimed—" My grandfather dived into futurity, as I do." His contemporaries also noticed this uncanny power, and remarked on his mysterious allusion to the "blow of hostility" when Spain's seizure of the Falkland Isles could not possibly have been known in England, and in the last year of his life on his wonderful foreshadowing of Burgoyne's surrender. Chatham's spirit, indeed, as he himself would no doubt have desired, even when all possible facts about him have been discovered, will always seem to contain something elemental, and therefore inexplicable and mysterious.

But to Dr. von Ravine, the writer of the hook now under review, there is no mystery. It is all perfectly plain sailing; and the author never has any doubt, from beginning to end, of his hero's character, of the nature of his achievements, or of his motives. To Dr. von Ruville—we do not think we do him an injustice—the great Chatham is merely an intriguing politician with ability beyond the generality, but inspired principally by the desire of making money or of attracting attention for his own aggrandisement. Some of his actions, no doubt, would superficially appear to have bad noble motives as their inspiration, such as his refusal to accept irregular emoluments when holding the office of Paymaster-General. This, however, is easily explained by the suggestion that it was of political advantage to Pitt to appear " a monument of integrity." Again, a propensity for legacy-hunting is, by a subtle process of reasoning, held to account for events which Dr. von Ruville cannot otherwise understand in Pitt's career. In his attitude about Byng's execution, which has hitherto been considered an example of his fearless integrity and fairness, Dr. von Ruville discovers an unworthy desire to run with the hare of popular approval and hunt with the hound of regal approbation. Even when he was making his dying speech, one of his noblest, against the disruption of the great Empire which he did so much to create, Dr. von Ruville finds it easy to discover that this seemingly patriotic line of argument was dictated by a desire to return to the councils of the King. Such instances occur on almost every page of these three large volumes, but it is needless to multiply them. It can easily be seen that the process, once started, merely requires ingenuity to carry it through to its completion. And the credit for such ingenuity we can give to Dr. von Ruville in most unstinted measure. He does indeed admit that Pitt occasionally showed great political energy and power of work, but even those admissions seem to be dragged from a most unwilling witness. Never, however, throughout the whole course of the volumes does be once suggest that Chatham cared for his country or studied its good. Murray, Bute, and North appear as enlightened patriots in contrast to his hero. This may truly be called a triumph.

We have said enough to indicate that Dr. von Ruville shows considerable energy in his task of depreciating Pitt. We wish, nevertheless, to do him full honour for the many valuable qualities to be found in his three volumes. It is the first history of Chatham which in any way brings together all the results which may be obtained from manuscripts and printed material. His marshalling of the facts ascertainable about Pitt's life, and still more his very clear knowledge of European politics, will always make his book invaluable to the student. Whatever may be one's opinion as to the weight to be attached to his judgment, his knowledge of the English Constitution and of the play of parties is wonderful for a foreign observer; in fact, the only mistake which we have discovered in his account of English institutions is the strange remark that Prince Frederick was anxious to obtain the " lucrative" office of Chancellor of Cambridge University. Moreover, be maintains the best traditions of German scholar- ship by his absence of any racial bias. So much is this the: case that in discussing the vexed question whether Bute sacrificed the interests of Frederick the Great at the Treaty of Paris he is, if anything, more than just to the British i Ministry. He has, further, the great merit, as an historian: dealing with new materials, of giving all his references. Incidentally, however, it may be remarked that a student who takes the trouble to look these up will sometimes find that the author draws deductions about his hero not entirely warranted by the authorities.

With such great merits, it is somewhat difficult to under- stand why the author has taken so extraordinarily wrong- headed a view of the subject of his history. One would have thought that, holding the opinions he does about Pitt, it was hardly worth while to take so much trouble and write so large a book on the subject. The explanation, it seems to us, is to be found in a misplaced desire of Dr. von Ruville to trace all Pitt's actions to a conception of his character which he originally formed, not from a study of his actions, but from a theory of what they ought to be considering his ancestry. Governor Pitt was avaricious and unscrupulous, therefore Chatham must have this strain strongly marked in his character. His mother was the daughter of a Peer, therefore Chatham must have the aristocratic instincts of pomp fully developed. His grandmother, again, was a Scotch woman descended from the Stuarts, hence we may account for Chatham's fellow-feeling with the Scotch and his embodiment of Scottish. regiments.

This perverted parti pris is-the more to be regretted consider- ing some undeniable merits which, as we have pointed out, the author possesses. Professor Egerton in his introductory remarks to some extent warns the student against the author's judgment on Pitt. Nevertheless, we think that the Beit Piofessor of Colonial History would have been better advised not to sanction in any way what we cannot help characterising as a libel on the man who more than any other made such a Pro- fessorship possible.

Save for a few trivial mistakes, the translation is well done. It is not inspiring; but then the original German has none of the qualities of eloquence. The photogravure por- traits which adorn the volume would be more interesting if their origin had been indicated. In that case the mistake would probably not have been made of giving a portrait of the second Duke of Grafton to illustrate the more notorious third Duke's lineaments.