1849 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Horace Twiss

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 31 (June 1849) 649-52.



May 4. In his 63rd year, Horace Twiss, esq. the senior Queen's Counsel, Vice-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and a Bencher of the Inner Temple.

Mr. Horace Twiss was the eldest son off Francis Twiss, esq. author of a Verbal Index to Shakespeare, by Frances, second daughter of Mr. Roger Kemble, and sister to Mrs. Siddons. He is remembered to have officiated as assistant to his aunt when she gave her incomparable Readings from Shakspeare, and he always continued a devoted admirer of the drama, and a friend to the votaries of the stage.

He was called to the bar by the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple on the 28th of June 1811. He travelled the Oxford circuit for some years, and became one of its most distinguished leaders; but, during the latter period of his professional career, he attached himself exclusively to the Equity Courts, and was advanced to the grade of King's Counsel in Trinity term 1827. No one can doubt that his legal abilities and knowledge very far exceeded those of many of his competitors who have obtained forensic, or even judicial, eminence; but his chances of success were materially lessened by his social, literary, and political celebrity; for the world are slow to believe that any man can be first-rate in more than one walk at a time.

In 1812 he appeared as an author in a publication entitled The Influence of Prerogative; being an attempt to remove popular misconception respecting the present state of the British Constitution; but he had long before that period distinguished himself by slight dramatic productions, poetry, and jeux d'esprit of every description, many of which appeared in the Morning Chronicle. "St. Stephen's Chapel, a Satirical Poem, by Horatius," published in 1807, was attributed to him, whether truly we cannot say.

His other publications, so far as we can ascertain them, were as follow:—

A Selection of Scotish Melodies, with Symphonies and Accompaniments for the Piano Forte by H. R. Bishop, and Words by Horace Twiss, esq. 1814.

The Carib Chief; a Tragedy, in 5 Acts. 1819, 8vo. This was first performed at Drury Lane Theatre on the 13th May, 1819, and was well received.

An Inquiry into the means of consolidating and digesting the Laws of England, 1825. (To which Mr. Crofton Uniacke published a Letter in reply.)

Conservative Reform, being outlines of a Counter-Plan, 1832. 8vo.

The public and private Life of Lord Chancellor Eldon; with Selections from his Correspondence. 1844. 3 vols. 8vo.

In 1820 Mr. Twiss entered upon political life as member for the borough of Wootton Bassett, a seat, which, according to the fashion of the times, was obtained by a moderate payment of money, though nominally by the interest of Lord Clarendon. He was re-chosen in 1826, after a contest in which Lord Clarendon's candidates polled 156, and their opponents 71 votes.

At the conclusion of his first speech, which was on Catholic Emancipation, the Duke of Norfolk, who had been seated under the gallery, requested to be introduced to him, and thanked him in the warmest and most flattering terms for his advocacy; and the late Lord Londonderry, an excellent judge, shook him cordially by the hand and said, "You may speak as often as you like now, for the House are sure to listen to you." His speech on the bill for allowing counsel to address the jury for the defence in cases of felony was another highly successful effort; and a speech on the Court of Chancery is generally understood to have led, by the powers of argument and reasoning displayed in it, to his appointment as Under-Secretary for the Colonies, on the formation of the Duke of Wellington's administration, in 1828. He had previously been Counsel to the Admiralty, and Judge Advocate of the Fleet, during Lord Liverpool's administration.

In 1830 Mr. Twiss sat for Newport (Isle of Wight); but the Reform Act, which he earnestly opposed, had the effect of cutting short his Parliamentary career.

He was not in Parliaments of 1831 or 1832. From 1835 to 1837 he sat for Bridport, having succeeded in ousting the former member John Romilly, esq. (by 207 votes to 199); but he found it impossible to establish a durable hold on the constituency. Nor was he more fortunate at other places at which he subsequently became a candidate.

In 1837 he unsuccessfully contested Nottingham, when the result of the poll was, for

Sir R. C. Fergusson . . . 2056
Sir J. C. Hobhouse . . . 2052
W. H. C. Plowden, esq. . . . 1397
Horace Twiss, esq. . . . 1396

In 1841 he more narrowly failed in obtaining a seat for Bury St. Edmund's, the votes being, for

Earl Jermyn . . . 341
Lord Charles FitzRoy . . . 310
Horace Twiss, esq. . . . 298
R. G. Alston, esq. . . . 256

While Mr. Twiss sat as Member for Bridport he took a conspicuous part in the passing of Lord Lyndhurst's Marriage Act, the object of which was to legalise all such marriages within the prohibited degrees of affinity as had been contracted previous to the passing of the Bill. It is not, we believe, generally known, that the peace and happiness of one of the highest families of the land was at that moment much disturbed by the uncertain state of the law, and that Lord Lyndhurst's measure was introduced chiefly, if not exclusively, for the purpose of giving an Act of indemnity to the parties in question, and securing the succession to a high title and to a vast property. It was at the urgent request of that family that Mr. Twiss took charge of the measure in the House of Commons; and it was entirely owing to his discretion and good sense, as well as to his popularity with all parties in the House, that the Bill passed into law, and that the noble family so deeply concerned in the issue was delivered from a most painful state of doubt and anxiety.

His exclusion from Parliament shut out Mr. Twiss, on the return of the Conservatives to power in the year 1841, from political office, which, had he enjoyed a seat, he would undoubtedly have obtained, as Sir Robert Peel entertained the highest opinion of his abilities and administrative talents. Had a Mastership in Chancery fallen vacant, during the Hon. Baronet's administration, Mr. Twiss would, it was generally understood, have been selected to fill it.

His energies, however, were inexhaustible. His fortune was limited; and, finding his forensic gains inadequate, he devoted his talents to the Press. He hit upon the plan, now generally adopted, of giving a summary of the speeches in the Houses of Parliament in addition to the reports, and for many years he ably supplied the House of Commons' summary for The Times. He was also an occasional contributor of leading articles to the same journal. He continued to employ himself in this manner until, in Oct. 1844, he received the appointment of Vice-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on the nomination of the late Lord Granville Somerset, then Chancellor of the Duchy.

But Mr. Twiss's literary fame will chiefly rest upon his Life of Lord Eldon, for which he was entrusted, by the grandson and heir of that distinguished lawyer and statesman, with all his private papers and memoranda. This work will continue to be resorted to, not merely as a biography, but as a collection of curious anecdotes touching some of the most remarkable political transactions of the Chancellor's era.

"In private life Mr. Twiss was highly and deservedly beloved and esteemed. A more affable, kind-hearted, and generous man, or a more agreeable companion, never existed. Being an excellent scholar, endowed with an astonishing and well-stored memory, full of life and spirits, ever ready to enter into the wit and fun of others, thoroughly acquainted with the world, and a perfect gentleman in feeling, his conversation was brilliant, and his society much sought; he was the very life and soul of the Fish Dinner at the Crown and Sceptre, at Greenwich, — the traditional festivity of the Tory party at the close of each session, ever since the days of Mr. Pitt, who with the celebrated Harry Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, was the originator of this time-honoured observance.

"With a limited income, Mr. Twiss exercised an almost unbounded hospitality; his home was ever open, not only to his friends and acquaintance, but to persons of all ranks and conditions in life. The leading politicians in both Houses of Parliament, the principal members of the Bench and the Bar, the most celebrated authors and wits of the day, and the most distinguished members of the musical and dramatic profession, met in his saloons, where it was the chief delight of the kind host, and of his amiable and accomplished lady, to make all happy and merry around them. One of the more recent of their hospitable gatherings must be fresh in the memory of many, and can scarcely fail to add by its recollection to the feelings of melancholy which the sudden demise of Mr. Twiss has excited among his numerous friends. We allude to the occasion of his purchasing, and entering upon, a new house, early in the present year, the lease of his former residence having expired. On leaving the latter, he gave a farewell dinner; and shortly after he received his friends in his new abode, at what he called a house-warming; when, with his usual warmth and cheerfulness, he expressed a hope that he would see them all there many times more. It was otherwise ordained. Within a few sort weeks after this gay and pleasant meeting, the friend of many friends, the admired of many admirers, was no more!" — John Bull.

Mr. Twiss had been for some time in indifferent health, but it was not until Wednesday the 25th April, that the nature of the disease which has proved fatal manifested itself. While attending on that day a meeting of the Law Life Assurance Company, of which he was a director, he was suddenly seized with spasms of the heart and other symptoms which indicate the existence of that formidable malady known as angina pectoris. He rallied, however, almost immediately, and, though fully aware of the dangerous nature of the disease, and impressed with the conviction that it would terminate suddenly and fatally, he soon regained his accustomed cheerfulness, and resumed the ordinary course of his active life.

On the day of his death he left home about 10 o'clock, and, having spent the intervening hours in the transaction of other business, attended at 2 o'clock a meeting of the Rock Assurance Society, at Radley's Hotel, Bridge-street, Black-friars. The discussion had begun, and he had risen to address the meeting, when, after speaking some minutes with his usual clearness and force, he suddenly sank back into his chair, as if in a fainting fit. He was immediately carried by the friends about him into an adjoining room, and several medical gentlemen were instantly in attendance. Cordial were promptly administered, and every other means which science could suggest were taken to restore the action of the heart, but after one or two convulsive sobs Mr. Twiss had ceased to breathe.

Mr. Twiss was twice married; first, at Bath, Aug. 2, 1817, to Anne Laurena, only daughter of Colonel Serle, of Montague-place; and by that lady he had an only daughter, married first to Mr. Bacon, barrister-at-law, and secondly, in 1830, Anne, widow of Charles Greenwood, esq. an eminent Russia merchant, and daughter of the Rev. Alexander Sterky, Swiss pastor, and preceptor, we believe, to the Princess Charlotte of Wales.