27 JULY 1850, Page 16

BIIREE'S ANECDOTES OF THE ARISTOCRACY. * Tnis is a readable, various,

and pleasant book, with enough of ex- trinsic interest in its subjects to attract, and never BO long in its • Anecdotes of the Aristocracy, and Episodes of Ancestral Story. By .T. Bernard Burke, Esq., Author of the "Peerage and Baronetage." Second Saris.. In two volumes. Published by Churton. sections as to tire. Mr. Burke's merits as a novelist do not rise above the average, and they belong to the rhetorical rather than the dramatic schooL A peculiar, and when stripped of its pedan- try an interesting kind of learning, imparts substance and attrac- tion to the volumes, showing the importance of mastery in a pur- suit. To pick up a remarkable family story or tradition to eke it out with scenes, and the manners of the time as received in novels, is so easy as to have become common. Mr. Burke knows enough of family story not only to select the best anecdotes or incidents, but to connect them appropriately with the fortunes and cha- racteristics of the house. His manners may have rather too much of literary convention; the names of sack and sherry, the stereo- typed phrases

the ready sword, and all the other ways by which phrases of the roisterer and boon companion, the slashed

cava- liers and men about town are supposed to have been distinguished in Tudor and Stuart times or knights and others of a previous period, are too imitatively 'adopted by Mr. Burke. He is, how- ever, read in the history, the modes, and the incidents of the age in which helanys his little town stories or the historical scenes, and is con.ventiopfrom want of imagination, not of knowledge. A tradition or a narrative illustrating noblemen's or gentlemen's families, is not the only, perhaps not the chief portion of Mr. Burke's book. He mingles with his fictions, or his anecdotes thrown into the form of fiction, many interesting realities. Sometimes he presents the reader with an account of crime and trial, curiously il- lustrative of personal character and the manners of the age; some- times he gives a biography of a remarkable person among the aris- tocracy, ]oreceded by an account of his family. In other cases he confines himself to a single remarkable circumstance,—as the duel between the Duke of Wellington and Lord Winehelsea ; or the death of Sir Francis Burdett, which Mr. Burke attributes to grief for the death of Lady Burdett, and says the immediate cause was a refusal of nourishment. Not the least valuable parts of the book, however, are a species of essay on the fortunes of families. The following is from a chapter on their decadence.

"It has often occurred to us that a very interesting paper might be written on the rise and fall of English famffies. Truly does Dr. Borlase remark that the most lasting houses have only their seasons, more or less, of a certain constitutional strength. They have their spring and summer sun- shine glare, their wane, decline, and death.' Take, for example, the Plan-

• tagenets, the &affords, and the Nevins, the three most illustrious names on the roll of England's nobility. What race in Europe surpassed in royal position in personal achievement, our Henries and our Edwards ? and yet . we find the great-great-grandson of Margaret Plantagenet, daughter and heiress of George Duke of Clarence, following the craft of a cobler at the little town of Nevfport in Shropshire, in the year 1637. Besides, if we were to investigate the fortunes of many of the inheritors of the Royal arms, it would soon be discovered that

'The aspiring blood of Lancaster'

had sunk into the ground. The princely stream flows at the present time through very humble veins. Among the lineal descendants of Edmund of Woodstock, Earl of Kent, sixth son of Edward I., King of England, entitled to quarter the Royal arms, occur Mr. Joseph Smart, of Hales Owen butcher,

and Mr. George Wilmot, keeper of the turnpike-gate at Cooper's Owen, near Dudley; and among the descendants of Thomas Plantagenet, Duke of Glou- cester, fifth son of Edward HI., we may mention Mr. Stephen James Penny,

the late sexton at St. George's, Hanover Square. • • •

"The story of the Gargraves is a melancholy chapter in the romance of real life. For full two centuries, or more, scarcely a family in Yorkshire enjoyed a higher position. Its chiefs earned distinction in peace and war ; one died in France, Master of the Ordnance to King Henry V.; another, a soldier too, fell with Salisbury, at the siege of Orleans ; and a third filled the Speaker's chair of the House of Commons. What an awful contrast to this fair picture does the sequel offer. Thomas Gargrave, the Speaker's eldest son, was hung at York, for murder • and his half-brother, Sir Richard, endured a fate only less miserable. The splendid estate he inherited he wasted by the most wanton extravagance, and at length reduced himself to abject want. His excesses,' says Mr. Hunter, in his History of Don- caster," are still, at the expiration of two centuries, the subject of village tradition ; and his attachment to gaming is commemorated in an old paint- ing, long preserved in the neighbouring mansion of Badsworth, in which he is represented playing at the old game of put, the right hand against the left, for the stake of a cup of ale.'

"The close of Sir Richard's story is as lamentable as its course. An utter bankrupt in means and reputation, he is stated to have been reduced to tra- vel with the pack-horses to London, and was at last found dead in an old hostelry! He had married Catherine, sister of Lord Danvers, and by her left three daughters. Of the descendants of his brothers few particulars can be ascertained. Not many years since, a Mr. Gargrave, believed to be one of them, filled the mean employment of parish-clerk of Kipper.

" A similar melancholy narrative applies to another great Yorkshire house. Sir William Reresby, Bart, son and heir of the celebrated author, succeeded, at the death of his father, in 1689, to the beautiful estate of Thrybergh, in York- shire, where his ancestors had been seated uninterruptedly from the time of the Conquest ; and he lived to see himself denuded of every acre of his broad lands. Le Neve states, in his MSS. preserved in the Heralds' College, that he became a tapster in the King's Bench Prison, and was tried and im- prisoned for cheating in 1711. He was alive in 1727, when Wootton's ac- count of the Baronets was published. In that work he is said to be reduced to a low condition. At length he died in great obscurity, a melancholy in- stance how low pursuits and base pleasures may sully the noblest name, and waste an estate gathered with labour and preserved by the care of a race of distinguished progenitors. Gaming was amongst Sir William's follies—par- ticularly that lowest specimen of the folly the fights of game-cocks. The tradition at Thrybergh is (for his name is not quite forgotten) that the fine estate of Dennaby was staked and lost on a single main. Sir William Reresb was not the only baronet who disgraced his order at that period. In 1722, Sir Charles Burton was tried at the Old Bailey for stealing a seal; pleaded poverty, but was found guilty, and sentenced to transportation ; which sen- tence was afterwards commuted for a milder punishment."

The following anecdotes are from a sketch of the house of Queensberry; in which the last Duke, "old Q," naturally fills the most prominent place, though by no means the worthiest man of the family. It may be added, that Mr. Burke's long acquaint- ance with the " aristocracy " has given him a polite tolerance to- wards their doings. There is none of the spirit of the cynic or the satirist in his narrative of their deeds, though he occasionally ven- tures a remark.

"Few men occupied a more conspicuous place about the court and town for nearly seventy years, during the reigns of the Second and Third Georges. Like Wilmot Earl of Rochester, he pursued pleasure under every shape, and with as much ardour at fourscore as he had done at twenty. At the de- cease of his father, in 1731, he became Earl of March ; and he subsequently, in 1748, inherited his mother's earldom of Ruglen, together with the family's estates in the counties of Edinburgh and Linlithgow. These rich endow- ments of fortune, and a handsome person, of which he was especially careful, combined to invest the youthful Earl with no ordinary attractions, and the ascendancy they acquired he retained for a longer period than any ono of his contemporaries ; from his first appearance in the fashionable world in the year 1746, to the moment he left it for ever, in 1810, at the age of eighty- five, he was always an object of comparative notoriety. There was no inter- regnum in the public course of his existence. His first distinction he achieved on the turf; his knowledge of which, both in theory and practice equalled that of the most accomplished adepts of Newmarket. In all his principal matches he rode himself, and in that branch of equitation rivalled the most professional jockeys. Properly accoutred in his velvet cap, red silken jacket, buckskin breeches, and long spurs, his Lordship bore away the prize on many a well-contested field. His famous match with the Duke of Hamilton was long remembered in sporting annals. Both noblemen rode their own horses, and each was supported by numerous partisans. The contest took place on the race-ground at Newmarket., and attracted all the fashion- ables of the period. Lord March, thin, agile and admirably qualified for exertion, was the victor. Still more celebrated was his Lordship's wager with the famous Count O'Taafe. During a conversation at a convivial meet- ing on the subject of running against time,' it was suggested by Lord March, that it was possible for a carriage to be drawn with a degree of ce- lerity previously unexampled, and believed to be impossible. Being desired to name his maximum, he undertook, paovided choice of ground were given him and a certain period for training, to draw a. carriage with four wheels not less than nineteen miles within the space of sixty minutes. The accom- plishment of such rapidity staggered the belief of his hearers ; and a heavy wager was the consequence. Success mainly depending on the lightness of the carriage, Wright of Long Acre, the most ingenious coach-builder of the day, devoted the whole resources of his skill to its construction, and produced a vehicle formed partly of wood and partly of whalebone, with silk harness, that came up to the wishes of his employer. Four blood horses of approved speed were then selected,. and the course at Newmarket chosen as the ground of contest. On the appointed day, 29th of August 1750, noble and ignoble gamesters journeyed from far and near to witness the wonderful experiment ; excitement reached the highest point, and bets to an enormous amount were made. At length the jockeys mounted ; the carriage was put in motion, and rushing on with a velocity marvellous in those times of coach travelling, but easily conceived by us railway travellers of the nineteenth century, gained within the stipulated hour the goal of victory."

This publication is a second series, the first of which we do not remember to have seen. It is owing probably to the circumstance of being a continuation that some of the matter, though interest- ing in itself, is not so fresh as is desirable in a book of this kind. The duel between Colonel Montgomery and Captain Macnamara is well known; so is that between O'Connell and D'Esterre--the last, by the by, having nothing to do with the "aristocracy." The trial of Spencer Cowper, brother of the Chancellor, is also to be found in common books, together with several other things we might mention. It may also be observed that Mr. Burke is apt to sacrifice completeness to an idea of effect.