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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

May,   pp. [unnumbered]-714 PDF (97.6 MB)

Page 709

PHILIP DUKE OF WHARTON.              MAY 31.               PHILIP DUKE OF WHARToN*
Thus, possessed of a large income, high in the
favour of his sovereign, the envy or admiration
of the nobility, and the idol of the people, he
lived in princely splendour-chiefly at Wooburn,
in Bucks, his favourite country-seat, on which he
had expended £100,000 merely in ornamenting
and improving it. With the view of qualifying
Philip, his only surviving son, for the eminent
position he had achieved for him, he had him
educated at home under his own supervision.
And the boy's early years were as full of promise
as the fondest or most ambitious father could
desire. Handsome and graceful in person, he
was equally remarkable for the vigour and acute-
ness of his intellect. He learned with great
facility ancient and modern languages, and, being
naturally eloquent, and trained by his father in
the art of oratory, he became a ready and effec-
tive speaker. When he was only about nine
years old, Addison, who visited his father at
Winchenden House, Bucks, was charmed and
astonished at 'the little lad's' knowledge and
intelligence; and Young, the author of the Night
Thoughts, called him 'a truly prodigious genius.'
But these flattering promises were soon marred
by his early predilection for low and dissolute
society; and his own habits speedily resembled
those of his boon companions.     His father,
alarmed at his perilous situation, endeavoured
to rescue him from the slough into which he was
sinking; but his advice and efforts were only
met by his son's increased deceit and alienation.
When scarcely fifteen years old, he contracted
a clandestine marriage with a lady greatly his
inferior in family and station. When his father
became acquainted with this, his last hope
vanished.  His ambitious spirit could not bear
the blow, and he died within six weeks after the
marriage. Hope still lingered with the fonder
and deeper affections of his mother. But self-
gratification was the ruling passion of her son;
and, reckless of the feelings of others, he rushed
deeper and deeper into vice and degradation.
His mother's lingering hope was crushed, and
she died broken-hearted within twelve months
after his father. These self-caused bereavements,
enough to have softened the heart of a common
murderer, made no salutary impression on him.
He rather seemed to hail them     as welcome
events, which opened for him the way to more
licentious indulgence.  For he now    devoted
himself unreservedly to a life of vicious and
sottish pleasures; but, being still a minor, he
was in some measure subject to the control of
his guardians, who, puzzled what was best to
do with such a character, decided on a very ha-
zardous course. They engaged a Frenchman as
his tutor or companion, and sent him to travel
on the Continent, with a special injunction to
remain some considerable time at Geneva, for
the reformation of his moral and religious
Proceeding first to Holland, he visited Hano-
ver and other German courts, and was every-
where honourably received. Next proceeding to
Geneva, he soon became thoroughly disgusted
%t the manners of the place, and, with contempt
both for it and for the tutor who had taken
him there, he suddenly quitted both. He left
behind him a bear's cub, with a note to hip
tutor, stating that, being no longer able to submit
to his treatment, he had committed to his
care his young bear, which he thought would ba
a more suitable companion to him than himself-
a piece of wit which might easily have been
turned against himself. He had proceeded to
Lyons, which he reached on the 13th of October
1716, and immediately sent from thence a fine
horse as a present to the Pretender, who was
then living  at Avignon.   On receiving this
present the Pretender invited him to his court,
and, on his arrival there, welcomed him with
enthusiasm, and conferred on him the title of
Duke of Northumberland.      From   Lyons he
went to Paris, and presented himself to Mary
D'Este, widow of the abdicated King James II.
Lord Stair, the British ambassador at the French
court, endeavoured to reclaim him by acts of
courtesy and kindness, accompanied with some
wholesome advice.    The duke returned his
civilities with politeness-his advice with levity.
About the close of the year 1716, he returned
to England, and soon after passed to Ireland;
where he was allowed, though still a minor, to
take his seat in parliament as Marquis of
Catherlough. Despite his pledges to the Pre-
tender, he now joined his adversaries, the
king and government who debarred him from
the throne. So able and important was his
support, that the king. hoping to secure him on
his side, conferred on him the title of Duke
of Wharton. When he returned to England,
he took his seat in the house as duke, and
almost his first act was to oppose the government
from whom he had received his new dignity.
Shortly afterwards he professed to have
changed his opinions, and told the ministerial
leaders that it was his earnest desire to retrace
his steps, and to give the king and his govern-
ment all the support in his power. He was
once more taken into the confidence of ministers.
He attended all their private conferences; he
acquainted himself with all their intentions;
ascertained all their weak points; then, on the
first important ministerial measure that occurred,
he used all the information thus obtained to
oppose the government, and revealed, with
unblushing effrontery, the secrets with which
they had entrusted him, and summoned all his
powers of eloquence to overthrow the ministers
into whose confidence he had so dishonourably
insinuated himself. He made a most able and
effective speech-damaging, indeed, to the minis-
try, but still more damaging to his own character.
His fickle and unprincipled conduct excited the
contempt of all parties, each of whom he had in
turn courted and betrayed. Lost to honour,
overwhelmed with debt, and shunned by all
respectable society, he abandoned himself to
drunkenness and debauchery. ' He drank im-
moderately,' says Dr King, ' and was very
abusive and sometimes mischievous in his wine :
so that he drew on himself frequent challenges,
which he would never answer.       On   other
accounts likewise, his character was become very
prostitute.' So that, having lost his honour, he
left his country and went to Spain. While at
Madrid he was recalled by a writ of Privy Seal
- -1
MA Y 31.

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