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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

IX. Memoir-Writers, 1715–60

§ 7. His Political Career

After a spell of Italian travel, in which he had engaged partly for the sake of his health (which, according to the parental view, had been undermined by that “poisonous plant tea”), he returned in 1729, and, having given in his adherence to the victorious wing of the party in power, was promptly pensioned and appointed vice-chamberlain, with the special purpose of serving as Walpole’s agent about the person of queen Caroline, whose closest confidences he shared. Walpole employed his incisive pen to refute the libels contributed to The Craftsman by Pulteney, whose barbed retorts suggested most of the ugly insinuations which Pope worked up into his scarifying caricature of “Sporus, that mere white curd of ass’s milk.” After the queen’s death in November, 1737, Lord Hervey was admitted to the cabinet as lord privy seal, but, much against his inclination, was thrown out of office by the fall of Walpole. His pamphlets, such as Miscellaneous Thoughts on the Present Posture of Foreign and Domestic Affairs and his Three Speeches on the Gin Act (1742–3), show that his mental vigour was unimpaired. His health, however, was gradually failing; and he died, in the lifetime of his father, on 5 August, 1743, aged only 46, and was buried in the family tomb at Ickworth. During the last fifteen years of his life, he had been composing his both lifelike and highly polished, but throughly cynical, Memoirs, which extend from his first coming to court to the death of the queen. The manuscript of these Memoirs, entirely in autograph, was left to his sons, by whom it appears that several sheets referring to the more intimate dissensions in the royal family were destroyed. Allusion was made to them by Horace Walpole, who seems to have inspected them in 1759; but Hervey’s second son, the third earl, left strict injunctions, in his will, that the Memoirs were not to be published until after the death of George III. They appeared, eventually, as Memoirs of the reign of George the Second, edited from the original manuscript at Ickworth by John Wilson Croker (1848). They give a wonderfully vivid picture of the court of the second George; but the comedy presented is of the type of classical Roman satire, in which the motive of avarice is overwhelmingly predominant. The dramatis personae are the king, the prince, Wilmington, Walpole, Pulteney, Wyndham, Bolingbroke, Chesterfield—and the writer hates them all, sees all their characters at their worst and depicts them with merciless satire. For the queen alone and her daughter the princess Caroline, he had a genuine respect and attachment; indeed, the princess’s affection for him was commonly said to be the reason for the close retirement in which she lived after his death.