1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Lyttelton

John Aikin, in Select Works of the British Poets (1820) 666.



GEORGE LORD LYTTELTON, born at Hagley, in Jan. 1708-09, was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, Bart. of the same place. He received his early education at Eton, whence he was sent to Christ-church College, in Oxford. In both of these places he was distinguished for classical literature, and some of his poems which we have borrowed were the fruits of his juvenile studies. In his nineteenth year, he set out on a tour to the Continent; and some of the letters which he wrote during his absence to his father are pleasing proofs of his sound principles, and his unreserved confidence in a venerable parent. He also wrote a poetical epistle to Dr. Ayscough, his Oxford tutor, which is one of the best of his works. On his return from abroad he was chosen representative in parliament for the borough of Oakhampton; and being warmed with that patriotic ardour which rarely fails to inspire the bosom of an ingenious youth, he became a distinguished partisan of opposition politics, whilst his father was a supporter of the ministry, then ranged under the banners of Walpole. When Frederic Prince of Wales, having quarreled with the court, formed a separate court of his own, in 1737, Lyttelton was appointed secretary to the Prince, with an advanced salary. At this time Pope bestowed his praise upon our patriot in an animated couplet:

Free as young Lyttelton her cause pursue,
Still true to virtue, and as warm as true.

In 1741, he married Lucy, the daughter of Hugh Fortescue, Esq. a lady for whom he entertained the purest affection, and with whom he lived in unabashed conjugal harmony. Her death in child-bed, in 1747, was lamented by him in a Monody, which stands prominent among his poetical works, and displays much natural feeling, amidst the more elaborate strains of a poet's imagination. So much may suffice respecting his productions of this class, which are distinguished by the correctness of their versification, the elegance of their diction, and the delicacy of their sentiments. His miscellaneous pieces, and his history of Henry II., the last, the work of his age, have each their appropriate merits, but may be here omitted.

The death of his father, in 1751, produced his succession to the title and a large estate; and his taste for rural ornament rendered Hagley one of the most delightful residences in the kingdom. At the dissolution of the ministry, of which he composed a part, in 1759, he was rewarded with elevation to the peerage, by the style of Baron Lyttelton of Frankley, in the county of Worcester. He died of a lingering disorder, which he bore with pious resignation, in August 1773, in the 64th year of his age.