George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton

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The Lord Lyttelton

PC
Lyttlelton.jpg
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
25 November 1755 16 November 1756
Monarch George II
Prime Minister The Duke of Newcastle
Preceded by Hon. Henry Bilson Legge
Succeeded by Hon. Henry Bilson Legge
Personal details
Born(1709-01-17)17 January 1709
Hagley, Worcestershire
Died22 August 1773(1773-08-22) (aged 64)
Hagley, Worcestershire
Nationality British
Political party Whig
Spouse(s)(1) Lucy Fortescue (d. 1747)
(2) Elizabeth Rich
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford

George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, PC (17 January 1709 – 22 August 1773), known between 1751 and 1756 as Sir George Lyttelton, 5th Baronet, of Frankley, in the County of Worcester, was a British statesman. As an author himself, he was also the supporter of other writers and as a patron of the arts made an important contribution to the development of 18th century landscape design.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Landscape design art tradition, practised by landscape designers, combining nature and culture

Landscape design is an independent profession and a design and art tradition, practiced by landscape designers, combining nature and culture. In contemporary practice, landscape design bridges the space between landscape architecture and garden design.

Contents

Life

Lord Lyttelton was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, 4th Baronet, of Frankley, in the County of Worcester, by his wife Christian Temple, daughter of Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Baronet of Stowe, and wife Mary Knapp. Educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, he afterwards went on grand tour, visiting Europe with his tutor. It was during this time that he started publishing his early works in both poetry and prose. Even after he was elected to Parliament in 1735, he continued to publish from time to time. In 1742 he married Lucy, daughter of Hugh Fortescue, [1] and following her death in 1747 he later married Elizabeth, daughter of Field Marshal Sir Robert Rich, 4th Baronet, in 1749. He died in August 1773, aged 64, and was succeeded as baron by his eldest son, Thomas. [2] Though Samuel Johnson’s biographical notice of Lyttelton is characterised by a conspicuous show of dislike, it diverges at the end into a long description of his exemplary death and the plain inscription he asked to have added to his first wife’s monument in St John the Baptist Church, Hagley. [3]

Sir Thomas Lyttelton, 4th Baronet, of Frankley, in the County of Worcester, was an English landowner and Whig politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1721 to 1741. He held office as one of the Lords of the Admiralty from 1727 to 1741.

Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Baronet Member of the English Parliament

Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Baronet was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1654 and 1697.

Stowe House Country house in Buckinghamshire, England

Stowe House is a grade I listed country house in Stowe, Buckinghamshire, England. It is the home of Stowe School, an independent school and is owned by the Stowe House Preservation Trust who have to date spent more than £25m on the restoration of the house. Stowe House is regularly open to the public. The gardens, a significant example of the English garden style, along with part of the Park, passed into the ownership of The National Trust in 1989 and are open to the public. The parkland surrounding the gardens is open 365 days a year. National Trust members have free access to the gardens but there is a charge for all visitors to the house which goes towards the costs of restoring the building. The gardens and most of the parkland are listed grade I separately from the House.

Political career

Lyttelton was Member of Parliament (MP) for Okehampton from 1735 to 1756 and, as one of Cobham's Cubs during the 1730s, opposed the Prime Minister Robert Walpole. He served as secretary to Frederick, Prince of Wales from 1737, [4] and then, after Walpole's fall, as a Commissioner of the Treasury in 1744. That year too he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. [5] Lyttelton was made a Privy Councillor in 1754 and in the following year became briefly Chancellor of the Exchequer, but performed poorly in that role. In 1756 he was raised to the peerage as Lord Lyttelton, Baron of Frankley in the County of Worcester, and continued to speak in the House of Lords until the year before he died.

Okehampton was a parliamentary borough in Devon, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons in 1301 and 1313, then continuously from 1640 to 1832, when the borough was abolished by the Great Reform Act.

Cobhamites

The Cobhamite faction were an 18th-century British political faction built around Richard Temple, 1st Viscount Cobham and his supporters. Among its members, the group included the future Prime Ministers William Pitt and George Grenville. They had a general Whig philosophy and were at first supporters of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole but later became opponents of his administration.

Robert Walpole British statesman and art collector, 1st Earl of Orford, First Lord of the Treasury

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford,, known between 1725 and 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British politician who is generally regarded as the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Lyttelton was later described as “an amiable, absent-minded man, of unimpeachable integrity and benevolent character, with strong religious convictions and respectable talents,” but ultimately as “a poor practical politician”. [6] His political opponent Lord Hervey spitefully characterised his performance as a speaker as “a great flow of words that were always uttered in a lulling monotony, and the little meaning they had to boast of was generally borrowed from the commonplace maxims and sentiments of moralists, philosophers, patriots, and poets, crudely imbibed, half digested, ill put together, and confusedly refunded.” [7]

John Hervey, 2nd Baron Hervey English courtier, political writer and memoirist

John Hervey, 2nd Baron Hervey, was an English courtier and political writer and memoirist who was the eldest son of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, by his second wife, Elizabeth. He was known as Lord Hervey from 1723, upon the death of his elder half-brother, Carr, the only son of his father's first wife, Isabella, but Lord Hervey never became Earl of Bristol, as he predeceased his father.

Poetry and patronage

Hagley Hall Hagley Hall June 2011.jpg
Hagley Hall

Lord Lyttelton was a friend and supporter of Alexander Pope in the 1730s and of Henry Fielding in the 1750s; the latter dedicated his novel Tom Jones to Lyttelton. He had written his “Epistle to Mr. Pope, from a young gentleman at Rome” while still on European tour, advising him to abandon satire for a patriotic theme more worthy of his greatness. [8] Later on the poem was used to preface editions of Pope's work. [9]

Alexander Pope English poet

Alexander Pope is regarded as one of the greatest English poets, and the foremost poet of the early eighteenth century. He is best known for his satirical and discursive poetry—including The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, and An Essay on Criticism—as well as for his translation of Homer. After Shakespeare, Pope is the second-most quoted writer in the English language, as per The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, some of his verses having even become popular idioms in common parlance. He is considered a master of the heroic couplet.

Henry Fielding English novelist and dramatist

Henry Fielding was an English novelist and dramatist known for his rich, earthy humour and satirical prowess, and as the author of the picaresque novel Tom Jones. Additionally, he holds a significant place in the history of law enforcement, having used his authority as a magistrate to found what some have called London's first police force, the Bow Street Runners. His younger sister, Sarah, also became a successful writer.

Throughout his life he acted as a friendly patron of poets. James Thomson, for whom Lyttelton eventually arranged a pension, was a frequent visitor to Hagley Hall. Joseph Warton he appointed his domestic chaplain and it was at his suggestion that David Mallet was made undersecretary to the Prince of Wales.

Hagley Hall Grade I listed historic house museum in Hagley, United Kingdom

Hagley Hall is a Grade I listed 18th-century house in Hagley, Worcestershire, the home of the Lyttelton family. It was the creation of George, 1st Lord Lyttelton (1709–1773), secretary to Frederick, Prince of Wales, poet and man of letters and briefly Chancellor of the Exchequer. Before the death of his father in 1751, he began to landscape the grounds in the new Picturesque style, and between 1754 and 1760 it was he who was responsible for the building of the Neo-Palladian house that survives to this day.

Joseph Warton 18th-century English literary critic

Joseph Warton was an English academic and literary critic.

David Mallet (c.1705–1765) was a Scottish poet and dramatist.

Lyttelton's own poetic reputation was guaranteed continuity by his work being included in the collection of English poets prefaced by Johnson's Lives. Variously annotated and augmented, the collection appeared in succeeding editions into the start of the 19th century. The monody “To the Memory of a Lady lately Deceased”, [10] written on the death of his first wife, had an even longer lasting reputation. Though Thomas Gray found “parts of it too stiff and poetical”, he especially praised the fourth stanza as “truly tender and elegiac”. The poem was alluded to or parodied by others well into the 19th century, particularly the invocation of the “shades of Hagley” in the fifth stanza. Anna Seward, in answer to a correspondent who preferred Lyttelton's ode to the newly fashionable sonnet, ingeniously rearranged the lines of the poem into a series of sonnets, in which the "shades of Hagley" passage headed the second. [11] And William Gladstone acknowledged that his Church Principles was “completed beneath the shades of Hagley” as late as 1840. [12]

The plain memorial to Lord Lyttelton in St John the Baptist Church, Hagley Hagley, St John the Baptist - interior, 1st Baron Lyttelton (died 1773) memorial.JPG
The plain memorial to Lord Lyttelton in St John the Baptist Church, Hagley
Memorial inscription to Lucy Lyttelton, with her husband's poetical tribute, 1747 Hagley, St John the Baptist - interior, Lucy Lyttelton nee Fortescue 1.jpg
Memorial inscription to Lucy Lyttelton, with her husband's poetical tribute, 1747

Despite his long political career, it was as a poet that Lyttelton was chiefly remembered in the 19th century. [13] But he was author also of many works in prose, chiefly historical and theological. Two, however, are distinguished by their humour. Letters from a Persian in England, to his Friend at Ispahan (1735) ironically comments on the idiosyncrasies of the time from the naïve point of view of an outsider. On attending a wedding ceremony in “one of their Mosques”, for example, the visitor remarks that “Marriage here is esteemed a Religious Ceremony, and that I believe is one Reason among others why so little Regard is paid to it.” [14] Oliver Goldsmith was later to borrow the same approach for his Chinese philosopher in Letters from a Citizen of the World to his Friends in the East (1760). [15] There were, nevertheless, French models for both in the Lettres Persanes of Montesquieu (1721) and the Lettres Chinoises (1735) of Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens, both of which had been translated soon after into English. [16]

Another work with prior French counterparts was Lyttelton's Dialogues of the Dead (1760). [17] Though these had Classical precedents, the more immediate models were François Fénelon’s Dialogues des morts anciens et modernes [18] and Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle's Nouveaux Dialogues des morts, [19] which had also appeared in popular English translations as Dialogues of the Dead. The themes treated in Lyttelton's are political, literary and philosophical, although the characters sometimes stray from their expected role. Joseph Addison and Jonathan Swift’s conversation is of politics, while Charles XII of Sweden proposes to Alexander the Great an alliance against Alexander Pope for insulting them both in a satire. Included among these conversations were three that Lyttleton had encouraged the bluestocking leader Elizabeth Montagu to write (Dialogues 26-8). [20]

All of Lyttelton’s writing was collected shortly after his death by his nephew, G. E. Ayscough. In 1791 an edition of his poems appeared in Germany accompanied by J. G. Weigel’s prose translations. [21] During his lifetime Lyttelton’s Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul was translated into French in 1750 by Jean Deschamps (1707-67) and again in 1754 by the Abbé Antoine Guénée (1717-1803); his Dialogues of the Dead was also translated into French in 1760 as Dialogues des morts by Élie de Joncourt (1697-1765) and Jean Deschamps. [22]

Hagley Hall and grounds

Ossian memorial, Clent Hill Clent standing stones, Winter sunset.jpg
Ossian memorial, Clent Hill

Lyttelton spent many years and a fortune developing Hagley Hall and its park, which contained many follies as well as memorials to the poets Milton, Pope, Thomson and the neighbouring landscaper William Shenstone. Also included among the latter was a ‘druid’s temple’ of standing stones commemorating Ossian that Lyttelton had erected outside his grounds on nearby Clent Hill. The hall itself was designed by Sanderson Miller and is the last of the great Neo-Palladian houses to be built in England. [23]

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References

  1. Lucy Fortescue biography, access date 3 December 2015
  2. DNB 1885-1900
  3. Samuel Johnson, The Lives of the English Poets, London 1831, pp.391-4
  4. Office holders
  5. "Fellow details". Royal Society. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  6. DNB 1885-1900
  7. Quoted from Hervey’s memoirs in The History of Parliament
  8. Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive
  9. Memoirs And Correspondence Of George, Lord Lyttelton, London 1845, p.41
  10. Text online
  11. Letters of Anna Seward, Edinburgh 1811, vol. 1, pp.261-3
  12. Google Books, p.iii
  13. Dictionary of Geography, Descriptive, Physical, Statistical, and Historical, Forming a Complete General Gazetteer of the World
  14. Letter 3, p.5
  15. Online archive
  16. Woo-Lih Dun Ho, Goldsmith’s Chinese Letters through Chinese Eyes, Boston University Graduate School 1950, p.3
  17. Gutenberg
  18. Hathi Trust
  19. Google Books
  20. Women Critics 1660-1820: An Anthology, Indiana University 1995, p.96
  21. Lord Lyttelton's Gedichte, Englisch und Deutsch
  22. DNB 1885-1900
  23. Historic England, Hagley Hall

Bibliography

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
William Northmore
Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc
Member of Parliament for Okehampton
1735 1756
With: Thomas Pitt of Boconnoc to 1754
Robert Vyner from 1754
Succeeded by
Robert Vyner
William Pitt (the Elder)
Political offices
Preceded by
James Pelham
Secretary to Frederick, Prince of Wales
1737–1744
Succeeded by
Henry Drax
Preceded by
The Earl of Lincoln
Cofferer of the Household
1754–1756
Succeeded by
The Duke of Leeds
Preceded by
Henry Bilson Legge
Chancellor of the Exchequer
1755–1756
Succeeded by
Henry Bilson Legge
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Lyttelton
1756–1773
Succeeded by
Thomas Lyttelton
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
Thomas Lyttelton
Baronet
(of Frankley)
1751–1773
Succeeded by
Thomas Lyttelton