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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

§ 9. Memoirs of Lord Waldegrave and Melcombe (George Bubb Dodington)

Among the less important memoirs of the second quarter of the eighteenth century, before the protagonist of memoir-writing is reached—the great little Horace, whose name, as Sir Leslie Stephen points out, is a synonym for the history of England from 1740 to 1790—a passing mention may be made of the Memoirs of Lord Waldegrave and George Bubb Dodington. James, second earl of Waldegrave, a great-grandson of James II, became a favourite with George II, was nominated lord of the bedchamber in 1743 and governor of the prince of Wales, afterwards George III, by whom he was not liked. Though extremely “unlovely” in both address and appearance, Waldegrave, who hated hard work, set up for a man of gallantry and pleasure, and, a few years before his death from small-pox in 1763 (when he was aged only forty-eight), married Walpole’s niece, the handsomest woman in England. Waldegrave, though he was prime minister for five days only (8–12 June, 1757), had a close insight into the course of affairs during the period of which he writes (1754–8). The real interest of his Memoirs consists in the carefully weighed characters which he draws of the chief actors, and in the strong contrast between these portraits and the sinister silhouettes of the too clever and far from scrupulous Hervey. Thus, in his portrait of George II, Waldegrave insists, as upon the two really salient features in the likeness, on the king’s passion for business and his keen knowledge (surpassing that of any of his ministers) of foreign affairs.

Among the Tapers and Tadpoles of the “broad-bottom administration,” we are fortunate in possessing a three-quarter length portrait of so typical a fortune-hunter as George Bubb Dodington, who, by a long course of “disagreeable compliances” and grotesque contortions, raised himself to £5000 a year and a peerage as baron Melcombe. He died at Hammersmith, aged seventy, on 28 July, 1762. In the days of his splendour, he sought to become a patron of letters and was accepted as such by Young, Thomson and Fielding, but spurned by Johnson. A diligent student of Tacitus, he compiled a large quantity of political papers and memoranda, which he left to a distant cousin, Henry Penruddocke Wyndham, on condition that those alone should be published which did honour to his memory. Wyndham published the Diary in 1784, persuading himself, with judicious sophistry, that the phrase in the will formed no barrier to such a proceeding.

The Diary presents, perhaps, the most curious illustration in existence of the servile place-hunters of the age, with its unctuous professions of virtuous sentiment and disgust at venality, which serve only to heighten the general effect. It must be said, in Bubb’s honour, that he united with Chesterfield and Walpole in trying to save Byng. His Diary, though carelessly compiled, contains some curious historical information, especially as to the prince and princess of Wales, during the period which it covers, from 1748 to 1760. In his cynical self-complacency, he becomes almost a humorous artist. But, from a literary point of view, his is a dry light, which few readers of the present day will be specially interested to rekindle.