The Greville Memoirs

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The Greville Memoirs



Taylor's 'Philip van Artevelde' — Goodwood — Earl Bathurst's Death — Death of Mrs. Arbuthnot — Overtures to O'Connell — Irish Tithe Bill — Theodore Hook's Improvisation — Lord Westmeath's Case in the Privy Council — First Council of Lord Melbourne's Government and Prorogation — Brougham's Vagaries — Lord Durham's Exclusion — The Edinburgh Dinner — Windsor and Meiningen — Spencer Perceval — Lord Grey's Retirement — The Westmeath Case again — The Queen's Return— Melbourne and Tom Young — Holland House — Reflections Conversation on the Poets — Miscellaneous Chat — Lord Melbourne's Literary Attainments — Lord Holland's Anecdotes of Great Orators — Execution of Charles I. — Lord Melbourne's Opinion of Henry VIII. — The 'Times' attacks Lord Brougham — His Tour in Scotland — His Unpopularity — Cowper's Secret — Canning on Reform — Lord Melbourne on Palmerston and Brougham — Canning and Brougham in 1827 — Senior Lord Melbourne and the Benthamites — His Theology — Spanish Eloquence — The Harley Papers — The Turf — Death of Lord Spencer — The Westmeath Case heard — Law Appointments — Bickersteth — Louis Philippe's Position.

July 23rd

Brougham spoke for four hours on the Poor Law Bill on Monday, and made a luminous speech; Alvanley, to people's amusement, spoke, and against the Bill; he spoke tolerably well a grave speech and got compliments.

July 24th.

Read Reeves' 'History of English Law,' finished Henry Taylor's 'Van Artevelde,' and read 250 lines of Virgil. 'Philip van Artevelde' is a poem of extraordinary merit, and the offspring of a vigorous and independent mind. The author, who is my particular friend, and for whom I have a sincere regard and a great admiration, took his work to Murray, who gave it to Lockhart to read. Lockhart advised Murray not to publish it, at least at his own risk, but he bestowed great encomiums on the work, and urged Taylor to publish it himself. He did so, without much [115] expectation that it would be popular, and has been agreeably surprised to find that in a short space of time a second edition is called for. With the vivacity of a sanguine disposition, and a confidence in the sterling merits of his poem, he now believes that edition will follow edition like wave upon wave, in which I fear he will be disappointed. [When the first edition was all sold, and a second called for, he made up his account with his publisher, and the balance was £37 against him. — November 29th.]

August 5th.

At Goodwood for the races, so read nothing except half of Jacquemont's Letters and a little book I picked up, the 'History of the Grand Vizier Coprogli;' called to town on Wednesday last for a Council, to swear in Mulgrave Privy Seal; went to Petworth on my way for one night. Stanley was at Goodwood, absorbed in racing, billiards, and what not; nbody would have guessed that all this rough and rustic gaiety covered ambition, eloquence, and powers which must make him one of the most eminent men, though his reputation is not what it was.

While I was there news came of Lord Bathurst's death. He was a very amiable man and with a good understanding, though his talents were far from brilliant, a High Churchman and a High Tory, but a cool politician, a bad speaker, a good writer, greatly averse to changes, but unwillingly acquiescing in many. He was nervous and reserved, with a good deal of humour, and habitually a jester. His conversation was generally a series of jokes, and he rarely discussed any subject but in a ludicrous vein. His conduct to Napoleon justly incurred odium, for although he was only one of many, he was the Minister through whom the orders of Government passed, and he suffered the principle share of the reproach which was thrown upon the Cabinet for their rude and barbarous treatment of the Emperor at St. Helena. He had not a lively imagination, and his feelings were not excited by the contemplation of such a striking example of fallen greatness. I was Lord Bathurst's private secretary for several years, but so far from feeling any obligation to him, I always consider his mistaken kindness in giving me that [116] post as the source of all my misfortunes and the cause of my present condition. He never thought fit to employ me, never associated me with the interests and the business of his office, and consequently abandoned me at the age of eighteen to that life of idleness and dissipation from which I might have been saved had he felt that my future prospects in life, my character and talents, depended in great measure upon the direction which was at that moment given to my mind. He would probably have made me a Tory (which I should hardly have remained), but I should have become a man of business, and of the antagonist tastes which divided my mind that for literature and employment would have got the better of that for amusement and idleness, instead, as unfortunately happened, of the latter prevailing over the former. Though I knew Lord Bathurst so long, and was his private secretary for some years, and his family and mine have always been so intimate, I had no real intimacy with him. From what I have learnt from others I am disposed to rate his abilities more highly than the world has done. He was the friend and devoted admirer of Pitt, and a regular Tory of the old school, who felt that evil days had come upon him in his old age. When he left office with the Duke of Wellington he resolved upon finally quitting public life, and let what might happen, never to take office again. On coming to town yesterday I heard of another death — Mrs. Arbuthnot, after a short illness. The Duke of Wellington, with whom she had lived in the most intimate relations for many years, evinced a good deal of feeling, but he is accused of insensibility because he had the good taste and sense to smooth his brow and go to the House of Lords with a cheerful aspect. She was not a clever woman, but she was neither dull nor deficient, and very prudent and silent.

August 6th.

To my office, then to the House of Lords and heard a discussion on foreign politics; not very amusing; Melbourne not so good as Grey would have been. The Duke spoke, but he looked very ill. Walked from the House with Lord Carnarvon, who is an intelligent man, but a great alarmist and very desponding; he thinks we are going on [117] step by step to an utter subversion of all interests and institutions.

August 7th.

Yesterday I met the Duke of Wellington, who talked to me of Mrs. Arbuthnot; I walked away from my office with Duncannon, who told me that O'Connell's amendment in the Tithe Bill met with his concurrence, and in fact, though he did not exactly say as much, his connivance. He said he was sure this Bill was the only chance for the Irish Church, which he was very anxious to save and support; expressed great anxiety to make it up with O'Connell by giving him a great judicial situation, is convinced he is sincere (at the moment) in all he says, but that he is so vain and excitable and ambitious that when he returns to Ireland he forgets all he has promised or professed; the demon of agitation regains the ascendant, and he bursts into all those excesses which have made him so odious and formidable; but there is no chance of any arrangement with him, for the majority of the Government would not hear of it. I dined at the Travellers; walked to a fire in Edward Street, where I amused myself with the strange figures and groups, the glare, bustle, and noise. There was Duncannon again, a Secretary of State jostling and jostled in the mob.

August 12th.

On Saturday to Hillingdon, and back yesterday; passed the night at the House of Lords, to hear the debate on the Irish Tithe Bill. [1] At a meeting at Apsley House the Tory Lords came to an unanimous resolution to throw out the Bill, and at one or two meetings at Lambeth the Bishops agreed to do the same. The debate was heavy; Melbourne very unlike Lord Grey, whose forte was leading the House of Lords and making speeches on such occasions. Ellenborough spoke the best, I think. I hardly ever heard such unbroken fluency, and a good deal of stuff, too, in his speech. Ellice and Spring Rice both told me that this decision was the most fatal and most important that had occurred for years; the latter said that no tithe would be paid, but that there would be no active resistance. Such

[1] The Irish Tithe Bill was thrown out by the House of Lords by 189 to 122.

[118] tithe property as could be seized would not be sold, because there would be no purchasers for it. One thing is clear to me, that those Tories who are always bellowing 'revolution' and 'spoliation,' and who talk of the gradual subversion of every institution and the imminent peril in which all our establishments are placed, do not really believe one word of what they say, and, instead of being oppressed with fear, they are buoyed up with delusive confidence and courage; for if they did indeed believe that the Church — the Church of Ireland especially — was in danger, and that its preservation was the one paramount desideratum, they would gladly avert, as far as they might, that danger by a compromise involving a very small (if any) sacrifice of principle, and which would secure to the Irish clergy, as far as human prudence, legislative sanction, and the authority of law can secure it, a permanent and a competent provision, free from the danger and the odium which have for a long time past embittered the existence of every clergyman in the country. It is a curious speculation to see what the effect will be of this vote practically in Ireland on the condition of the clergy, and upon public opinion here.

It is difficult to understand why the Lords did not alter the Bill in Committee and restore it to its original state, that which Ellenborough said he would not have opposed, and which had been already sanctioned by a great majority of the House of Commons upon the report of a Committee. If they had done this, either the Bill must have passed in this less obnoxious shape or the odium of its rejection would have been thrown upon the Commons, and the Lords would undoubtedly have had an excellent case to present to the country. But if there is a wall they are sure to run their heads against it, and if there is none they build one up for the purpose. What puzzles me most is the opposition of the clergy; they are the parties mobt immediately and most deeply interested in this Bill, and yet the great majority of them appear to be opposed totis viribus to it.

August 13th.

Dined at Roehampton yesterday with Farquhar. Mrs. Norton and Mrs. Blackwood and Theodore [119] Hook dined there among others. After dinner he displayed his extraordinary talent of improvisation, which I had never heard but once before, and then he happened not to be in the vein. Last night he was very brilliant. Each lady gave him a subject, such as the 'Goodwood Cup,' the 'Tithe Bill;' one 'could not think of anything,' when he dashed off and sang stanzas innumerable, very droll, with ingenious rhymes and excellent hits, 'his eye begetting occasion for his excellent wit,' for at every word of interruption or admiration, every look or motion, he indulged in a digression, always coming back to one of the themes imposed upon him. It is a tour de force, in which I believe he stands alone, and it is certainly wonderfully well worth hearing and uncommonly amusing.

August 14th

Yesterday there was a bother with the Chancellor about Lord Westmeath's case pending before the Privy Council. [1] He took it into his head (probably having been got at by Lady Westmeath or some of her friends) to have it decided forthwith, and sent to desire a Committee might be convened. Westmeath's counsel was out of town; Follett, whom he relies on, is on the Northern Circuit, but his other counsel is to be had, being at Chislehurst. Accordingly the Chancellor desired that the case might stand over from Thursday, the day he first appointed it (giving only two days' notice), to Monday, and that it should be notified to the parties that if they did not then appear the case should go on without them. Westmeath came to me in a frenzy of rage, and said the Chancellor was the greatest of villains, and so he would tell him in the House of Lords or in the Privy Council. I begged him to hold his tongue, and I would speak to the Chancellor. So I went to the House of Lords, where he was sitting, and told Lemarchant what had passed, and that the case ought not to be thus hurried on. He thanked me very much, and said he would go to Brougham;

[1] The appellate jurisdiction in causes matrimonial was vested at this time in the King in Council. The case of Westmeath v. Westmeath, which was a suit for a separation and a question of alimony, came up on appeal from the Court of Arches.

[120] but he soon returned, and said that the Chancellor would hear nothing, and would have the case brought on, and he therefore advised me not to give myself any further concern in it, and to leave him and Westmeath to settle it as they might. In the meantime Westmeath went down to the House of Lords, and after speaking to Wynford, whom the Chancellor had asked to attend (as he learnt from me), was going to get up in the House of Lords and attack him, and was only prevented by Wynford dragging him down by the tail of his coat. I had already spoken to Wyn- ford, and I afterwards spoke to Lord Lansdowne, telling them that the case ought not to be hurried on in this peremptory way, and I persuaded Lord Lansdowne to set his face against it. However, in the meantime, Wynford had urged the Chancellor to put it off, and not exasperate that madman, who would say or do something violent; and, whether from reason or fear, he prevailed on him. Wynford told me that Brougham is undoubtedly mad, and so I really believe he is. While I was in the House of Lords Home came in from the Commons, and said they had succeeded in stifling there all discussion on the rejection of the Tithe Bill by the House of Lords. Grattan was going to introduce the subject, but was prevailed on to say nothing, and to some questions put by Major Beauclerck Althorp refused to reply.

August 16th.

At a Council for the prorogation; the first time I have seen all these new Ministers in a bunch — a queer set, all things considered, to be in possession of the Palace. Great change of decoration. Duncannon, Ellice, Hobhouse, Abercromby, Mulgrave, Auckland. The King, who is fond of meddling in the Council business instead of repeating like a parrot what is put in his mouth, made a bother and confusion about a fancy matter, and I was forced to go to Taylor to explain it to him, which I did after the House of Lords. The King was quite knocked up and easily satisfied, for he neither desired nor could have understood any explanations. There were not much more than half a dozen Peers in the House, but many ladies. The Chancellor went down, and, in presence of the ladies, [121] attired in his golden robes (and especially before Mrs. P., to whom he makes love), gave a judgement in some case in which a picture of Nell Gwynne was concerned, and he was very proud of the delicacy of his judgement. There never was anything like his exhilaration of spirits and good-humour. I don't know what has come to him, except it be that he has scrambled through the session and got Lord Grey out. He wound up in the House of Lords by the introduction of his Bill for a Judicial Committee there, which he prefaced by a speech exhibiting his own judicial acts, and undoubtedly making a capital case for himself as to diligence and despatch if it be all true (which I see no reason to doubt), and passing a great eulogium upon the House of Lords as an institution, and drawing comparisons between that House and the House of Commons, much to the disadvantage of the latter, expressing many things which are very true and just and of a highly conservative tendency. He is a strange being whom, with all his inconsistencies, one cannot but admire; so varied and prodigious are his powers. Much more are these lines applicable to him than to his predecessor on the Woolsack:

Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.

In a speech the other night, by way of putting his audience on a wrong scent with regard to his correspondence with Lord Wellesley, he assured them that that correspondence was on any subject but politics, and in every language except English; and Lemarchant told somebody that his most difficult employment was to correct and copy out the Chancellor's Greek epigrams to Lord Wellesley, his Greek characters being worse than his English; while Lord Wellesley sent him very neatly written and prettily composed epigrams in return. I should think Lemarchant's occupation very amusing, and that no study could be more curious than that of the mind and actions of this strange specimen of humanity.

August 19th.

At Stoke from Saturday, the 16th, till [122] yesterday; had much talk with old Creevey about the Chancellor. Sefton, his great ally, so resented his conduct to Lord Grey that he was on the point of quarrelling with him, and Brougham miscalculated so far as to chuckle to Sefton himself over the improvement of his own position in the new order of things, telling him that he could more easily manage Melbourne than he could Lord Grey. They are a precious set with their squabbles and tracasseries. It appears that they very well knew what Brougham was from the beginning, especially Grey's womankind, who warned their father against him, but they all flattered themselves they had taken the sting out of him by getting him into the House of Lords. Creevey says that Brougham is devoured with ambition, and what he wants is to be Prime Minister, but that it is quite impossible he should for ever escape detection and not be regularly blown up sooner or later. He now wants to appear on good terms with Lord Grey, and there is a dinner at Edinburgh in contemplation (at which Brougham is to preside) to be given to. Lord Grey. His friends want him not to go, but he has a notion that the Scotch have behaved so well to him that he ought not to refuse the invitation. The Chancellor had intended to go junketing on the Rhine with Mrs. P., and this project was only marred by his discovering that he could not leave the country without putting the Great Seal in commission at a cost (to himself) of £1,400. This was a larger price than he was disposed to pay for his trip, so he went off to Brougham instead.

On Sunday I went all over the private apartments of Windsor Castle, and walked through what they call the slopes to the Queen's cottage; all very splendid and luxurious. In the gallery there is a model of a wretched-looking dog-hole of a building, with a ruined tower beside it. I asked what this was, and the housekeeper said, 'The Chateau of Meiningen;' put there, I suppose, to enhance by comparison the pleasure of all the grandeur which surrounds the Queen, for it would hardly have been exhibited as a philosophical or moral memento of her humble origin and the low fortune from which she had been raised. [1]

[1] This model really represented the ruined Castle of Altenstein, not the Schloss at Meiningen, which is a handsome German Residenz.

[123] As I rode into London yesterday morning I fell in with Spencer Perceval, and got off my horse to walk into town with him. He talks rationally enough till he gets on religious topics; he asked me what I thought of the state of affairs, and, after telling him my opinion of the condition and prospects of the Church, I asked him what he thought of them. He said he agreed with me as to the status, but his notion was 'that it all proceeded from a departure from God,' that ours was a back-sliding Church, and that God had forsaken it, and that we had only to put our trust in Him, and rely entirely on Him, and He would work out the salvation of His own. We parted in the midst of the discussion, and before I had any time to get from him any explanation of the course he would recommend to those who govern in furtherance of his own theocratical principles.

There has been what is called 'a great Protestant meeting ' at Dublin, at which Winchilsea was introduced to the Irish Orangemen and made one of them. It was great in one way, for there were a great many fools, who talked a great deal of nonsense and evinced a disposition to do a great deal of mischief if they can. Winchilsea's description of himself was undoubtedly true, only it is true always and of all of them, 'that his feelings were so excited that he was deprived of what little intellect he possessed.'

August 26th.

On Friday to Hillingdon, Saturday to Stoke; Lord John Russell, Medem, Dedel, Tommy Duncombe, D'Orsay. Lord John and I walked to Bulstrode on Sunday and talked about the Chancellor and the Government. He said that Lord Holland was struck with Brougham's want of tact at hearing him press Lord Grey to go to a public dinner at Edinburgh because he was to be in the chair; that Lord Grey did not think Brougham had been engaged ab initio in a plot to get him out. Lord John talked of the House of Lords, and how it and the House of Commons were to be re-united. He thinks that the obstinacy of the House of Lords and its Tory spirit are attributable solely to the numerous creations of the last thirty or forty years.

Tommy Duncombe is the greatest political comedy going, [124] he is engaged in a mediation between the master builders and the operatives, who have quarrelled about the unions, and an express came to him from Cubitt after dinner.

Sefton told me that Lord Grey, when he was at Windsor, had a long conversation with the King, in which his Majesty expressed no little dissatisfaction at what had recently occurred and at the present posture of his affairs. He told me that Lord Grey certainly would not have continued in office under any circumstances till Parliament met again, and that, in fact, his continual propositions to retire and expressions of consciousness of inability and unfitness had been very embarrassing and annoying both to his colleagues and the King, and that the latter had evidently been tired out by them, as was proved by his not making the slightest effort to induce Lord Grey to remain when he tendered his resignation. Grey acted very handsomely in giving his proxy to Melbourne, and the reason he stayed away from the House of Lords during the latter days of the session was that he was afraid of being compelled to say something indicative of the real state of his mind and feelings with regard to past occurrences.

When I got to town yesterday, to my great astonishment I found that the Vice-Chancellor had been at the office with a peremptory mandate from the Chancellor to bring on the Westmeath case on Friday next, sent up from Brougham Hall. In my absence the summonses had been issued, but I desired them all to be recalled, and the Vice-Chancellor soon after happening to call on me, I told him what had occurred before, and that the Lord President was opposed to the cause being thus hurried on. He acquiesced, and wrote to the Chancellor to say he had heard from me that it could not be; and so it ended, but I dare say the Chancellor will be in a violent rage, which I rather enjoy than not. [1] It is very clear that he intends to exercise paramount authority

[1] In addition to other reasons, which are obvious, against this proceeding, it would have been an unprecedented thing to call on an important appeal for hearing at the end of August, in the midst of the long vacation.

[125] over the Judicial Committee, and to consider everything connected with it at his disposal. When first he had the Privy Council Bill drawn up by one of his devils, he intended to create a new tribunal, of which he should be the head, and though he was obliged to give up his original design, he still considers himself entitled to deal with the Judicial Committee as he pleases. If the Lord President had more of the spirit that is due to the office over which he presides, he would not suffer him to interfere, and I am resolved if I can to get Lord Lansdowne to assert his own authority. The Chancellor has promised Sefton that when Mr. Blackburn, now a judge at the Mauritius, comes home, he shall be made a Privy Councillor; that Sir Alexander Johnston, who now attends the sittings of the Council, shall be dismissed, and Blackburn invited to attend instead of him, and that he shall have £400 a year, (which by the Act he may). This, if it takes place, will be one of the grossest and most barefaced jobs that ever were perpetrated; but I think it can never be. What makes it worse is that Brougham introduced this clause for the express purpose of meeting Blackburn's case; so he told Sefton, but I suppose it means that he made the stipend receivable by an ex-judge in any colony, when the pretext for it was the power of obtaining the assistance of Indian judges. [1]

September 4th.

At Court yesterday. The King came to town to receive the address of the City on the Queen's return — the most ridiculous address I ever heard. The Queen was too ill to appear. Her visit to Germany knocked her up, and well it might, considering the life she led — always up at six and never in bed till twelve, continual receptions and ceremonies. Errol told me she showed them her old bedroom in the palace (as they call it) at Meiningen — a hole that an English housemaid would think it a hardship to sleep in.

[1] No colonial judge has evey been appointed to one of the assessorships of the Judicial Committee, except Sir Alexander Johnston, who had been Chief Justice of Ceylon; but Sir Alexander refused to accept the stipend (£400 a year) attached to the office, and never did receive it.

[126] Stanley (not the ex-Secretary, but the in Under-Secretary) told me last night an anecdote of Melbourne which I can very easily believe. When the King sent for him he told Young 'he thought it a damned bore, and that he was in many minds what he should do — be Minister or no.' Young said, 'Why, damn it, such a position never was occupied by any Greek or Roman, and, if it only lasts two months, it is well worth while to have been Prime Minister of England.' 'By God that's true,' said Melbourne; ' I'll go.' Young is his private secretary — a vulgar, familiar, impudent fellow, but of indefatigable industry and a man who suits Melbourne. His taste is not delicate enough to be shocked at the coarseness, while his indolence is accommodated by the industry, of his secretary. Then Young [1] knows many people, many places, and many things; nobody knows whence he comes or what is his origin, but he was a purser in the navy, and made himself useful to the Duke of Devonshire when he went to Russia, who recommended him to Melbourne. He was a writer and runner for the newspapers, and has always been an active citizen, struggling and striving to get on in the world, and probably with no inconsiderable dexterity. I know nothing of his honesty, for or against it; he seems good-humoured, but vulgar and familiar. Ben Stanley and I were talking about public men, and agreed that by far the ablest, and at the same time the most unscrupulous, of them are Brougham and O'Connell, and that the latter is probably on the whole the most devoid of principle. Their characters and adventures would be worthy of a Plutarch.

September 5th.

At Holland House yesterday, where I had not been these two years. Met Lord Holland at Court, who made me go. The last time I was with my Lady she was so mighty uncivil that I left off my visits, and now we met again as if there had been no interruption, and as if we had been living together constantly. Spring Rice and his son, Melbourne, and Palmerston dined there; Allen was at Dulwich, but came in the evening, and so did Bobus Smith. There

[1] Tom Young was commonly known as ' Ubiquity Young,' because you saw him in every place you might happen to go to.

[127] was a great deal of very good talk, anecdotes, literary criticism, and what not, some of which would be worth remembering, though hardly sufficiently striking to be put down, unless as forming a portion of a whole course of conversations of this description. A vast depression came over my spirits, though I was amused, and I don't suppose I uttered a dozen words. It is certainly true that the atmosphere of Holland House is often oppressive, but that was not it; it was a painful consciousness of my own deficiencies and of my incapacity to take a fair share in conversation of this description. I felt as if a language was spoken before me which I understood, but not enough to talk in it myself. There was nothing discussed of which I was altogether ignorant, and when the merits of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Crabbe were brought into comparison, and Lord Holland cut jokes upon Allen for his enthusiastic admiration of the 'De Moribus Germanorum,' it was not that I had not read the poets or the historian, but that I felt I had not read them with profit. I have not that familiarity with either which enables me to discuss their merits, and a painful sense came over me of the difference between one who has superficially read and one who has studied, one who has laid a solid foundation in early youth, gathering knowledge as he advances in years, all the stores of his mind being so orderly disposed that they are at all times available, and one who (as I have done) has huddled together a quantity of loose reading, as vanity, curiosity, and not seldom shame impelled; reading thus without system, more to cover the deficiencies of ignorance than to augment the stores of knowledge, loads the mind with an undigested mass of matter, which proves when wanted to be of small practical utility — in short, one must pay for the follies of one's youth. He who wastes his early years in horse-racing and all sorts of idleness, figuring away among the dissolute and the foolish, must be content to play an inferior part among the learned and the wise. Some instances there are of men who have united both characters, but it will be found that these have had frequent laborious intervals, that though they may have been vicious they have never been indolent, and [128] that their minds have never slumbered and lost by disuse the power of exertion. Reflections of this sort make me very uncomfortable, and I am ready to cry with vexation when I think on my misspent life. If I was insensible to a higher order of merit, and indifferent to a nobler kind of praise, I should be happier far; but to be tormented with the sentiment of an honourable ambition and with aspirations after better things, and at the same time so sunk in sloth and bad habits as to be incapable of those exertions without which their objects are unattainable, is of all conditions the worst. I sometimes think that it would be better for me, as I am not what I might have been (if my education had been less neglected, and my mind had undergone a better system of moral discipline), if I was still lower than I am in the scale, and belonged entirely to a more degraded caste; and then again, when I look forward to that period which is fast approaching —

When .... a sprightlier age —
Comes tittering on to drive one from the stage —

I am thankful that I have still something in store, that though far below the wise and the learned, I am still something raised above the ignorant mob, that though much of my mental substance has been wasted, I have enough left to appear respectably in the world, and that I have at least preserved that taste for literary pursuits which I cling to as the greatest of blessings and the best security against the tedium and vacuity which are the indispensable concomitants of an idle youth and an ignorant old age.

As a slight but imperfect sketch of the talk of Holland House I will put down this: —

They talked of Taylor's new poem, 'Philip van Artevelde.' Melbourne had read and admired it. The preface, he said, was affected and foolish, the poem very superior to anything in Milman. There was one fine idea in the 'Fall of Jerusalem' — that of Titus, who felt himself propelled by an irresistible impulse like that of the Greek dramatists, whose fate is the great agent always pervading their dramas. They held [129] Wordsworth cheap, except Spring Rice, who was enthusiastic about him. Holland thought Crabbe the greatest genius of modern poets. Melbourne said he degraded every subject. None of them had known Coleridge; his lectures were very tiresome, but he is a poet of great merit. Then they spoke of Spencer Perceval and Irving preaching in the streets. Irving had called on Melbourne, and eloquently remonstrated that 'they only asked the same licence that was given to puppet-shows and other sights not to be prevented; that the command was express, "Go into the highways," and that they must obey God rather than man.' Melbourne said this was all very true and unanswerable. ' What did you answer?' I asked. 'I said, "You must not preach there."' Then of Cambridge and Goulburn, who is a saint and gave lectures in his room, by which he has caught several young men. Lord Holland spoke of George III.'s letters to Lord North; the King liked Lord North, hated the Duke of Richmond. Amongst the few people he liked were Lord Loughborough and Lord Thurlow. Thurlow was always 'endeavouring to undermine the Minister with whom he was acting, and intriguing underhand with his "enemies.' Loughborough used to say, 'Do what you think right, and never think of what you are to say to excuse it beforehand' — a good maxim. The Duke of Richmond in 1763 or 1764, after an audience of the King in his closet, told him that 'he had said that to him which if he was a subject he should not scruple to call an untruth.' The King never forgave it, and the Duke had had the imprudence to make a young king his enemy for life. This Duke of Richmond, when Lord-Lieutenant of Sussex, during the American war, sailed in a yacht through the fleet, when the King was there, with American colours at his mast-head. He never forgave Fox for putting the Duke of Portland instead of himself at the head of the Government in 1782. During the riots in 1780 on account of Admiral Keppel, Tom Grenville burst open the door of the Admiralty, and assisted at the pillage and destruction of papers. Lord Grey a little while ago attacked him about it, and he did not deny it. Such things could not be done now. During the [130] Windsor election they hired a mob to go down and throw Lord Mornington (Lord Wellesley) over Windsor Bridge, and Fitzpatrick said it would be so fine to see St. Patrick's green riband floating down the stream. They first sent to Piper to know if Lord Mornington could swim. The plan was defeated by his having a still stronger mob. After dinner they discussed women's works: few chefs-d'oeuvre; Madame de Sévigné the best; the only three of a high class are Madame de Sévigné, Madame de Stael, and (Bobus Smith said) Sappho, but of her not above forty lines are extant : these, however, are unrivalled; Mrs. Somerville is very great in the exact sciences. Lady Holland would not hear of Madame de Stael. They agreed as to Miss Austen that her novels are excellent. Quintus Curtius is confirmed by Burnes' travels in Bokhara, but was reckoned no authority by the greatest scholars; Lord Melbourne said Mitford had expressed his confidence in him. Of the early English kings there is no reason to believe that any king before Edward III. understood the English language; the quarrel between Beckett and King Henry II. was attributed by some writers to the hostile feeling between Normans and Saxons, and this was the principal motive of the quarrel and the murder of the Archbishop. Klopstock had a sect of admirers in Germany; some young students made a pilgrimage from Göttingen to Hamburg, where Klopstock lived in his old age, to ask him the meaning of a passage in one of his works which they could not understand. He looked at it, and then said that he could not then recollect what it was that he meant when he wrote it, but that he knew it was the finest thing he ever wrote, and they could not do better than devote their lives to the discovery of its meaning.

September 7th.

At Holland House again; only Bobus Smith and Melbourne; these two, with Allen, and Lord Holland agreeable enough. Melbourne's excellent scholarship and universal information remarkably display themselves in society, and he delivers himself with an energy which shows how deeply his mind is impressed with literary subjects.

[131] After dinner there was much talk of the Church, and Allen spoke of the early reformers, the Catharists, and how the early Christians persecuted each other; Melbourne quoted Vigilantius's letter to Jerome, and then asked Allen about the 11th of Henry IV., an Act passed by the Commons against the Church, and referred to the dialogue between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely at the beginning of Shakespeare's 'Henry V.,' which Lord Holland sent for and read, Melbourne knowing it all by heart and prompting all the time. Lingard says of this statute that the Commons proposed to the King to commit an act of spoliation on the clergy, but that the King sharply rebuked them and desired to hear no more of the matter. About etymologies Melbourne quoted Tooke's 'Diversions of Purley,' which he seemed to have at his fingers' ends. I forget what other topics were discussed, but after Lady Holland and Melbourne and Allen went to bed, Lord Holland, Bobus, and I sat down, and Lord Holland told us many anecdotes about the great orators of his early days. Fox used to say Grey was the most prudent man he knew, and this perhaps owing to his having got into a scrape early in his Parliamentary life, by attacking Pitt, who gave him a severe castigation; it was about his letter to the Prince being sent by a servant during the Regency discussions. Fox thought his own speech in 1804 on going to war with France the best he ever made. Lord Holland believed that Pitt (the younger) was not so eloquent as Chatham. Grattan said, ' He takes longer flights, does not soar so high.' No power was ever equal to Chatham's over a public assembly, much greater in the Commons than it was afterwards in the Lords. When Sir Thomas Robinson had been boring the House on some commercial question, and introduced the word 'sugar' so often that there was at last a laugh as often as he did so, Chatham, then Mr. Pitt, who had put him up, grew very angry, and at last his wrath boiled over. When Robinson sat down Pitt rose, and with a tone and manner of the utmost indignation began, 'Mr. Speaker, sir — sugar — I say sugar. Who laughs now?' and nobody did laugh. Once in [132] the House of Lords, on a debate during the American war, he said he hoped the King might be awakened from his slumbers. There was a cry of ' Order! order!' 'Order, my Lords?' burst out Chatham, 'Order? I have not been disorderly, but I will be disorderly. I repeat again, I hope that his Majesty may be awakened from his slumbers, but that he may not be awakened by such an awful apparition as that which drew King Priam's curtains in the dead of the night and told him of the conflagration of his empire.' Holland regretted much that he had never heard Lord North, whom he fancied he should have liked as much as any of his great opponents; his temper, shrewdness, humour, and power of argument were very great. Tommy Townshend, a violent, foolish fellow, who was always talking strong language, said in some debate, ' Nothing will satisfy me but to have the noble Lord's head; I will have his head.' Lord North said, 'The honourable gentleman says he will have my head. I bear him no malice in return, for though the honourable gentleman says he will have my head, I can assure him that I would on no account have his.'

September 13th.

Dined again at Holland House the day before yesterday; Melbourne, Rice, Lord and Lady Albemarle, and Lord Gosford; rather dull. A discussion about who was the man in a mask who cut Charles I.'s head off; Mackintosh believed he knew. "What a literary puerility ! The man in a, mask was Jack Ketch (whatever his name was); who can doubt it ? Where was the man, Roundhead or Puritan, who as an amateur would have mounted the scaffold to perform this office? But the executioner, though only discharging the duties of his office, probably thought in those excited times that he would not be safe from the vengeance of some enthusiastic cavalier, and that it was more prudent to conceal the features of the man by whom the deed was done. Melbourne swore that Henry VIII. was the greatest man who ever lived, and Allen declared if he had not married Anne Boleyn we should have continued Catholics to this day, both of which assertions I ventured to dispute. Allen with all his learning is fond of a paradox, and his prejudices shine forth [133] in every question in which Church and religion are implicated. Melbourne loves dashing opinions.

September 18th

For some weeks past a fierce war has been waged by the 'Times' against the Chancellor. It was declared in some menacing articles which soon swelled into a tone of rebuke, and have since been sharpened into attacks of a constancy, violence, and vigour quite unexampled; all the power of writing which the paper can command — argument, abuse, and ridicule — have been heaped day after day upon him, and when it took a little breathing time it filled up the interval by quotations from other papers, which have been abundantly supplied both by the London and the country press. I do not yet know what are the secret causes which have stirred the wrath of the 'Times.' The 'Examiner' has once a week thrown into the general contribution of rancour an article perhaps wittier and more pungent than any which have appeared in the 'Times,' but between them they have flagellated him till he is raw, and it is very clear that he feels it quite as acutely as they can desire. While they have thus been administering castigation in this unsparing style, he has afforded them the best opportunities by his extraordinary progress in Scotland, and the astonishing speeches which he made at Aberdeen and Dundee, making more mountebank exhibitions than he did in the House of Lords, and exciting the unquenchable laughter of his enemies and the continual terror of his friends. Lord Holland told me that he was trembling for the account of the Edinburgh dinner. That great affair appears, however (by the first half of the proceedings), to have gone off very well. Lord Grey in his speech confined himself to general topics, and he and Brougham steered extremely clear of one another, but Brougham made some allusions which Durham took to himself, and replied to with considerable asperity of tone, avoiding, however, any personalities and anything like a direct collision. Everybody asks, How long will Brougham be permitted to go on playing these ape's tricks and scattering his flummery and his lies? and then they say, But you can't get rid of him, and the Government (dangerous as he [134] is to them) could not get on without him. There would probably be no difficulty; experience has demonstrated to me the extreme fallacy of the notion that anybody under any circumstances is indispensable. Althorp appeared the most indispensable man the other day, but that was only because his friends and the fools in the House of Commons kept bawling out that he was so till they persuaded him, themselves, and everybody else that it really was the case. Who would have dared to say that this Government could have gone on without either Stanley in one House or Lord Grey in the other? But anybody would have been scouted as mad who had argued that it would go on just as well when deprived of both of them. The Chancellor's amazing talents — his eloquence, sarcasm, and varied powers — can never fail to produce considerable effect; but in the House of Lords the field is narrow for the display of these qualities, the audience is cold and unfriendly, and he has excited such a general feeling of personal animosity against himself, and has done such irreparable injury to his character — having convinced all the world that he is desperately ambitious, false, capricious, intriguing, and governed by no principle, and under the influence of no sentiment of honour — that his influence is exceedingly diminished. Those who are charitably disposed express their humane conviction that he is mad, and it probably is not very remote from the truth. [1]

Henry Taylor brought me a parcel of letters to frank to Southey the other day; they are from Newton, Cowper's nephew (I think to W. Thornton), and they are to supply Southey with materials for Cowper's Life, which he is writing. There is one curious fact revealed in these letters, which

[1] It is with pain and reluctance that I print these remarks on Lord Brougham, and several passages in the preceding pages of these Memoirs which are equally severe, and in some respects, I think, exaggerated. But I certainly do not feel myself justified in withholding them. They were all revised and corrected by the author himself with great care; and nothing but a true and full account of the sentiments which Lord Brougham's conduct had excited amongst his colleagues and contemporaries at that time can account for the catastrophe which awaited him, and which excluded him for the rest of his life from official life and employment.

[135] accounts for much of Cowper's morbid state of mind and fits of depression, as well as for the circumstance of his running away from his place in the House of Lords. It relates to some defect in his physical conformation; somebody found out his secret, and probably threatened its exposure.

September 19th.

Yesterday at Holland House; nobody there but Melbourne. We were talking of Reform, and Lord Holland said, ' I don't know if we were right about Reform, but this I know, that if we were to propose it at all, we were right in going the lengths we did, and this was Canning's opinion.' Melbourne said, 'Yes, I know it was, and that was mine, and that was the reason why I was against Reform.' Holland then resumed that he had formerly been one of Canning's most intimate friends at college; that at that time — the beginning of the French Revolution — when a general excitement prevailed, Canning was a great Jacobin, much more so than he was himself; that Canning had always hated the aristocracy (a hatred which they certainly returned with interest); that in after life he had been separated from Canning, and they had seen but little of each other. Just before he was going to India, however, Holland called on him, and Canning dined at Holland House. On one of these occasions they had a conversation upon the subject of Reform, when Canning said that he saw it was inevitable, and he was not sorry to be away while the measure was accomplished, but that if he had been here while it was mooted, he could have let those gentlemen (the Whig aristocracy) know that they should gain nothing by it. After dinner we had much talk about religion, when Allen got into a fury; he thundered out his invectives against the charlatanerie of the Apostles and Fathers and the brutal ignorance of the early Christian converts, when Holland said, laughing, 'Well, but you need not abuse them so violently.' They were in high delight at Holland House at the way the Edinburgh dinner went off. It was a very ludicrous incident that the Scotchmen could not be kept from falling to before Lord Grey and the grandees arrived, and when they did come most of the dinner was [136] already eaten up. The Chancellor is said to have made an admirable speech at the meeting of savans, full of dignity, propriety, and eloquence, and the savans spoke one more absurdly than another.

September 23rd.

On Saturday at Stoke; came up yesterday with Melbourne. We had a great deal of talk. As soon as we got into the carriage he asked me if I thought it was true that Talleyrand had taken such offence at Palmerston that he would not return here on that account, and if I knew what it was that had affronted him, whether any deficiency in diplomatic punctilio or general offensiveness of manner. I told him I had no doubt it was true, and that the complaints against Palmerston were so general that there must be some cause for them, and though Madame de Lieven might be prejudiced against him, all the foreign Ambassadors could not be so. He said it was very extraordinary if it was so, tried to argue that it might not be the case, and put it in all sorts of different ways; he said that Palmerston exhibited no signs of temper or arrogance with his colleagues, but quite the reverse; he owned, however, he was very obstinate. We then talked over the Stratford Canning business; he admitted that it was unfortunate and might lead to serious consequences, both as to our relations with the Emperor and to the question of diplomatic expenses here. I expressed my astonishment that Palmerston's obstinacy should have been permitted to have its own way in the matter, and I should guess, from his own strong opinion on the subject, that an Ambassador would be sent before long. He told me — what I did not know before — that the King of Prussia had desired to have Lord Clanwilliam recalled from Berlin.

He then talked of Brougham, and I found that he knows him thoroughly, and is more on his guard than I thought he was with regard to him. I told him of the change in Sefton's feelings towards him on Lord Grey's account, and also of Brougham's strange want of discrimination and his imprudence in congratulating himself to Sefton on the recent changes, and of his expectations of profiting by Melbourne's advancement to power. I touched lightly on the latter part, [137] because it is never prudent to dwell upon topics which are injurious to a person's vanity, and a word dropped upon so tender a part produces as much effect as the strongest argument. He seemed not a little struck by it, and when I said that I thought there was a taint of insanity in the Chancellor, he said that he thought a great change in him was manifest in the course of the last year, and admitted that he did not think him of sound mind certainly. This he rather implied than expressed, however. He talked of his conduct in Parliament, and observed upon the strange forbearance of the Tories towards him; he thought he had never given stronger evidence of talent than in some of his speeches during the last session. I asked him if the King and Brougham were well together. He shook his head : 'not at all, and the King can't bear these exhibitions in Scotland.' He said the King liked Palmerston, Auckland, Spring Rice, and Mulgrave; had no fancy for any of the rest. (I suspect he likes him (Melbourne), because he appears to talk openly to him, and to express his feelings about the others, and I dare say Melbourne puts him at his ease.) He can't bear John Russell, respects Althorp (and particularly Lord Spencer), but hates Althorp's politics; treats Lord Holland with the familiarity of a connexion, [1] but doesn't like his politics either; he is tenacious about having everything laid before him, often gives his opinion, but is easily satisfied; liked Lord Grey, but was never quite at his ease with him (this accounts for his taking Lord Grey's resignation as quietly as he did); has a very John-Bullish aversion to the French, and the junction of the English and French fleets two years ago was a bitter pill for him to swallow.

We afterwards talked of Canning and the Duke of Wellington, and the breaking up of the Tory Government. I told him that I believed the Duke and the Tories were aware of Canning's communications with Brougham. Brougham wrote to Canning and made him an unqualified offer of support. When the King asked Canning how he was to

[1] Colonel Fox, Lord Holland's eldest son, having married Lady Mary, the King's eldest daughter, both, however, born out of wedlock.

[138] obtain support enough to carry on the Government, he pulled this letter out of his pocket, gave it to him, and said, 'Sir, your father broke the domination of the Whigs; I hope your Majesty will not endure that of the Tories.' 'No,' said the King; 'I'll be damned if I do; ' and he made him Minister. This Canning told Melbourne himself.

September 25th

Dined yesterday at Holland House; only Melbourne and Pahlen, and in the evening Senior came. He is a very able man a conveyancer, great political economist, and author of various works on that subject. He was employed by Government to draw up the Poor Law Bill, and might have been one of the Poor Law Commissioners if he would have accepted the office; his profits in his profession are too great to be given up for this occupation. By a discussion which arose about Bickersteth's merits it was clear that there is a question of his being Solicitor-General. Melbourne said 'he was a Benthamite, and they were all fools.' (He said a doctrinaire was a fool, but an honest man.) I said 'the Austins were not fools.' 'Austin? Oh, a damned fool. Did you ever read his book on "Jurisprudence"?' I said I had read a great part of it, and that it did not appear to be the work of a fool. He said he had read it all, and that it was the dullest book he ever read, and full of truisms elaborately set forth. Melbourne is very fond of being slashing and paradoxical. It is astonishing how much he reads even now that he is Prime Minister. He is greatly addicted to theology, and loves conversing on the subject of religion. —— who wanted him to marry her (which he won't do, though he likes to talk to her), is the depositary of his thoughts and notions on these subjects, and the other day she told me he sent her a book (I forget what) on the Revelation stuffed with marginal notes of his own. It was not long ago that he studied Lardner's book on the 'Credibility of the Christian Religion,' and compared it with the Bible as he went along. She fancies that all this reading and reflection have turned him into the right way. I can see no symptom of it at Holland House.

After dinner we talked of languages, and Lord Holland [139] insisted that Spanish was the finest of all and the best adapted to eloquence. They said that George Villiers wrote word that nothing could be better than the speaking in the Cortes — great readiness and acuteness in reply — and that a more dexterous and skilful debater than Martinez de la Rosa could not be found in any assembly. 'That speaking so well is the worst thing about them,' said Melbourne. 'Ah, that is one of your paradoxes,' Lord Holland replied.

Allen talked to me about the Harley papers, which were left in a box not to be opened for sixty years; the box was only opened a few years ago at my cousin Titchfield's (the first) desire, and the papers submitted to Mackintosh, with permission to publish them in his 'History of England.' Mackintosh's death put an end to this, and Allen wants me to ask my uncle the Duke of Portland to put them in my hands and let me publish them. I never did so. Macaulay had all Mackintosh's papers, and amongst them his notes from these MSS.

London, November 13th.

For two months nearly that I have been in the country I have not written a line, having had nothing worth recording to put down. It is not worth my while to write, nor anybody else's to read (should anybody ever read these memoranda), the details of racing and all that there-unto appertains, and though several disagreeable occurrences have ruffled the stream of my life, I have no pleasure in recording these; for if their consequences pass away, and I can forget them, it is better not at any future time to awaken 'the scorpion sting of griefs subdued.' Of public events I have known nothing but what everybody else knows, and it would have been mere waste of time to copy from the newspapers accounts of the conflagration of the Houses of Parliament or the Durham dinner at Glasgow. My campaign on the turf has been a successful one. Still all this success has not prevented frequent disgusts, and I derive anything but unmixed pleasure from this pursuit even when I win by it. Besides the continual disappointments and difficulties incident to it, which harass the mind, the life it compels me to lead, the intimacies arising out of it, the [140] associates and the war against villany and trickery, being haunted by continual suspicions, discovering the trustunworthiness of one's most intimate friends, the necessity of insincerity and concealment sometimes where one feels that one ought and would desire to be most open; then the degrading nature of the occupation, mixing with the lowest of mankind, and absorbed in the business for the sole purpose of getting money, the consciousness of a sort of degradation of intellect, the conviction of the deteriorating effects upon both the feelings and the understanding which are produced, the sort of dram-drinking excitement of it — all these things and these thoughts torment me, and often turn my pleasure to pain. On arriving in town I went to Crockford's, where I found all the usual set of people, and soon after Sefton came in. Lord Spencer's death had taken place the day before; he knew nothing of the probable arrangements, but he told me that he supposed Althorp would go to the Admiralty and Auckland to India. But what he was fullest of was that Mrs. Lane Fox's house was become the great rendezvous of a considerable part of the Cabinet. The Chancellor, Melbourne, Duncannon, and Mulgrave are there every day and all day; they all dine with her, or meet her (the only woman) at each other's houses, as often as they can. It certainly is a droll connexion. The squabbles between Brougham and Durham seem to have resolved themselves into a mere personal coldness, and there is no question now of any hostilities between them. I never thought there would be, though some people apparently did; but they both would much rather rail than fight.

November 14th.

Went down to the Council Office yesterday, and found them in the middle of Lord Westmeath's case — Lord Lansdowne, the Vice-Chancellor, Parke, Erskine, and Vaughan. Lushington was for Lady Westmeath, and Follett (with a civilian) for him. After the argument there was a discussion, and well did Westmeath do, for they reduced the alimony from £700 to £315 a year, and the arrears in the same proportion. Thus Westmeath succeeded in great measure in his appeal, which he would not have done [141] if the Chancellor had contrived to lug on the case as he wished; for Erskine was all for giving her more, the others did not seem averse, and but for Parke, who hit off the right principle, as well as what best accorded with the justice of the case, she would certainly have got a much larger award.

The Vice-Chancellor afterwards told me the history of the recent legal appointments. There never was any difference of opinion between Brougham and Melbourne on the subject of either. Campbell accepted the Attorney-Generalship on the express condition that he should not expect to succeed as a matter of right to any vacancy in the Courts, but on Leach's death he did instantly urge his claims. Brougham wrote to Melbourne, and speedily followed his letter to London, and they both agreed not to listen to this claim, and to promote Pepys. I don't know how they disposed of Home's claim. Bickersteth [1] refused to be Solicitor-General on account of his health, and not choosing to face the House of Commons and its work. Shadwell told me that he wrote to Brougham and suggested Rolfe when the vacancy occurred, that he had not been in great practice, but was a good lawyer and excellent speaker, and that the Chancellor and Melbourne had likewise concurred in this appointment. Nothing is settled about the new arrangements rendered necessary by Lord Spencer's death, but Melbourne went to Brighton yesterday. Rice has worked hard to master the Colonial business, and probably will not like to be translated to the Exchequer; besides, it is supposed that his seat at Cambridge would be in great peril. People talk of their not going on; how can any others go on better?

Lord Lansdowne has just returned from Paris, where, he

[1] Mr. Bickersteth refused to be Solicitor-General because the offer was made to him by the Lord Chancellor, and not by the Prime Minister. At that time he was personally unacquainted with Lord Melbourne, but he consented to call on him at Lord Melbourne's request, and the offer was repeated, but not accepted. The real reason of his refusal was his profound distrust of Lord Brougham, which amounted to aversion, and he thought it unworthy of himself to accept the office of a law officer of the Crown under a Chancellor with whom he could not conscientiously act, I have read a MS. narrative of the whole transaction by Lord Langd.ile himself, in which these sentiments are very strongly expressed.

[142] told me, he had frequent conversations with the King. The new Ministry is a wretched patched-up affair; but the Governnment of France is centred in the King, and it is his great power and influence in the Chambers, and not the ability of his Ministers (be they who they may), that keeps the thing going. This influence appears to be immense, and without enjoying any popularity, there is an universal opinion that Louis Philippe is indispensable to France. He told Lord Lansdowne that he had always been against the appointment of Marshal Gérard as President of the Council, although he had a high opinion of him, but that he was aware he had not tact and judgement sufficient for that post, and he had told his Ministers that he would consent to the appointment if they insisted on it, but that he warned them that it would break up the Government. Whatever may be the instability of this or any other Administration, it is said that nothing can be more firm and secure than the King's tenure of his crown. He appears, in fact, to be the very man that France requires, and as he is in the vigour of life and has a reasonable prospect of a long reign, he will probably consolidate the interest of his family and extinguish whatever lingering chance there might be of the restoration of the old effete dynasty.[1]

[1] Edward, 12th Earl of Derby, died on 21 October 1834, from which date his grandson, afterwards 14th Earl of Derby, assumed the courtesy title of Lord Stanley.

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