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GEORGE LYTTELTON, the son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, of Hagley in Worcestershire, was born in 1709. He was educated at Eton, where he was so much distinguished, that his exercises were recommended as models to his school-fellows.
From Eton he went to Christ Church, where he retained the same reputation of superiority, and displayed his abilities to the public in a poem on
He was a very early writer, both in verse and prose. His “ Progress of Love," and his “ Persian Letters," were both written when he was very young; and indeed the character of a young man is very visible in both. The verses cant of shepherds and flocks, and crooks dressed with flowers; and the Letters have something of that indistinct and headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius always catches when he enters the world, and always suffers to cool as he
He staid not long in Oxford; for in 1728 he began his travels, and saw France and Italy. When he returned, he obtained a seat in parliament, and soon distinguished himself among the most eager opponents of Sir Robert Walpole, though his father, who was a Commissioner of the Admiralty, always voted with the Court.
For many years the name of George Lyttelton was seen in every account of every debate in the House of Commons. He opposed the standing army; he opposed the excise ; he supported the motion for petitioning the King to remove Walpole. His zeal was considered by the courtiers not only as violent, but as acrimonious and malignant : and, when Walpole was at last hunted from his places, every effort was made by his friends, and many friends he had, to exclude Lyttelton from the Secret Committee.
The Prince of Wales, being (1737) driven from St. James's, kept a separate court, and opened his arms to the opponents of the ministry. Mr. Lyttelton became his secretary, and was supposed to have great influence in the direction of his conduct. He persuaded his master, whose business it was now to be popular, that he would advance his character by patronage. Mallet was made under-secretary, with 2001. : and Thomson had a pension of 1001. a year. For Thomson Lyttelton always retained his kindness, and was able at last to place him at ease.
Moore courted his favour by an apologetical poem, called “The Trial of Selim ;" for which he was paid with kind words, which, as is common, raised great hopes, that were at last disappointed.
Lyttelton now stood in the first rank of opposition; and Pope, who was incited, it is not easy to say how, to increase the clamour against the ministry, commended him among the other patriots. This drew
upon him the reproaches of Fox, who, in the House, imputed to him as a crime his intimacy with a lampooner so unjust and licentious. Lyttelton supported his friend; and replied, that he thought it an honour to be received into the familiarity of so great a poet.
While he was thus conspicuous, he married (1741) Miss Lucy Fortescue of Devonshire, by whom he had a son, the late Lord Lyttelton, and two daughters, and with whom he appears to have lived in the highest degree of connubial felicity ; but human pleasures are short; she died in childbed about five years afterwards; and he solaced himself by writing a long poem to her memory.
He did not, however, condemn himself to perpetual solitude and sorrow; for, after a while, he was content to seek happiness again by a second marriage with the daughter of Sir Robert Rich; but the experiment was unsuccessful.
At length after a long struggle, Walpole gave way, and honour and profit were distributed among his conquerors. Lyttelton was made (1744) one of the Lords of the Treasury; and from that time was engaged in supporting the schemes of the ministry.
Politics did not, however, so much engage him as to withhold his thoughts from things of more importance. He had, in the pride of juvenile confidence, with the help of corrupt conversation, entertained doubts of the truth of Christianity; but he
thought the time now come when it was no longer fit to doubt or believe by chance, and applied himself seriously to the great question. His studies, being honest, ended in conviction. He found that religion was true: and what he had learned he endeavoured to teach (1747) by “ Observations on the “ Conversion of St. Paul ;' a treatise to which infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer. This book his father had the happiness of seeing, and expressed his pleasure in a letter which deserves to be inserted.
“I have read your religious treatise with infinite pleasure and satisfaction. The style is fine and “clear, the arguments close, cogent, and irresistible.
May the King of kings, whose glorious cause you “ have so well defended, reward your pious labours; “and grant that I may be found worthy, through “the merits of Jesus Christ, to be an eye-witness of " that happiness which I don't doubt he will boun
tifully bestow on you. In the mean time, I “shall never cease glorifying God, for having en"dowed you with such useful talents, and giving me so good a son.
“ Your affectionate father,
“ THOMAS LYTTELTON.”.
A few years afterwards (1751), by the death of his father, he inherited a baronet's title with a large estate, which, though perhaps he did not augment, he was careful to adorn by a house of great elegance
and expense, and by much attention to the decoration of his park.
As he continued his activity in parliament, he was gradually advancing his claim to profit and preferment; and accordingly was made in time (1754) cofferer and privy counsellor : this place he exchanged next year for the great office of chancellor of the Exchequer; an office, however, that required some qualifications which he soon perceived himself to want.
The year after, his curiosity led him into Wales; of which he has given an account perhaps rather with too much affectation of delight, to Archibald Bower, a man of whom he had conceived an opinion more favourable than he seems to have deserved, and whom, having once espoused his interest and fame, he was never persuaded to disown. Bower, whatever was his moral character, did not want abilities; attacked as he was by an universal outcry, and that outcry, as it seems, the echo of truth, he kept his ground : at last, when his defences began to fail him, he sallied out upon his adversaries, and his adversaries retreated.
About this time Lyttelton published his “Dia“ Jogues of the Dead,” which were very eagerly read, though the production rather, as it seems, of leisure than of study: rather effusions than compositions. The names of his persons too often enable the reader to anticipate their conversation ; and, when they have met, they too often part without any conclusion.
He has copied Fenelon more than Fontenelle.
When they were first published, they were kindly