1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Lyttelton

Peter L. Courtier, in Lyre of Love (1806) 1:170-71.



Son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton of Hagley in Worcestershire, George, created afterwards Baron Lyttelton, of Frankley in the same county, was born January 17, 1708-9. Having proceeded from Eton to Christ Church, in 1728 he commenced his travels, during which he honourably displayed a talent for poetry, in several epistles to his friends. On his return home, being elected for Oakhampton, he declared in opposition to Walpole, though that minister was then actively supported by Sir Thomas Lyttelton. In 1735 appeared his Persian Letters. From this time, conformably with what he conceived to be the duty of patriotism, be entirely attached himself to Frederic Prince of Wales, of whom he obtained pensions for Mallet and Thomson, having earnestly recommended to that prince the general patronage of literature, as a subject worthy of royal protection. After the compulsory retreat of Walpole from power, Lyttelton was appointed one of the Lords of the Treasury; and though his abilities were not exactly calculated for effective situations in the state, he continued some time high in estimation with his political confederates.

January 1746-7 was rendered for ever mournful to Lyttelton, by the loss of his lady, Lucy, daughter of Hugh Fortescue (of Filleigh in Devonshire), to whom he had been married in 1741, and who died at the early period of twenty-nine years. She was buried at Over-Harley, Staffordshire, but the monument raised to her memory is in Hagley Church. How tenderly he appreciated her life, and how deeply he regretted her death, is evinced by the poems that he inscribed to her while living, and by the affecting Monody, in which he has perpetuated the remembrance of her worth! By this Lady, he had one son, and two daughters. The celebrated Dissertation on the Conversion of Saint Paul, published in 1747, was probably completed, if not principally written, during the illness that terminated the life of his accomplished and amiable bride.

His Lordship's literary exertions afterwards extended to a work entitled Dialogues of the Dead, and concluded with his History of Henry the Seventh. He died at Hagley Park, August 22, 1773, after a lingering and painful indisposition; which he sustained with the equanimity of a philosopher, and the resignation of a christian. His remains were deposited at Hagley.

Of this nobleman, it is no extravagance to assert that he appears to have attained as much of perfection as the condition of human nature will admit. With no attractions of person, he had the felicity to secure, in his Lucy, the heart of one of the most interesting and excellent women of the age in which he lived: — such was the known benevolence of his feelings, the liberality of his views, the elegance and force of his genius, the variety and fascination of his accomplishments. Nobility is ennobled by conferring lustre on such a character.

Lord Lyttelton married a second time, in 1749, to Elizabeth, daughter of Field-Marshal Sir Robert Rich. Though the confidential friend of his first wife, and on that account selected by his Lordship, she was found utterly incapable of supplying her loss. Only one poem seems to have been addressed to this Lady, and that one on her wedding-day!