1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Hardinge

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 86 (May, June 1816) 469-70, 563.



April 26. At Presteigne, on his return from the Circuit, in his 72d year, George Hardinge, esq. M.A. F.R.S. and F.S.A. Attorney General to the Queen, and His Majesty's Justice for the counties of Glamorgan, Brecknock, and Radnor. This eminent Judge was the third (and eldest surviving) son of Nicholas Hardinge, esq. of Canbury, near Kingston, Surrey, by Jane second daughter of Sir John Pratt, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and sister to Charles the first Earl Camden. His father, who had been educated at Eton and at King's College, was a first-rate scholar, and particularly happy in his Latin poetry. He was a Barrister-at-law, Recorder of Kingston, some time Joint Secretary to the Treasury, and for several years Principal Clerk of the House of Commons. George, whose brilliant wit and extensive learning have always been acknowledged and admired, was also bred at Eton; and afterwards at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained the degree of M.A. in 1769 per literas regias. He was elected F.R.S. in 1769; and F.S.A. in 1788. He was also a Barrister of the Inner Temple; in 1782 Solicitor General to the Queen, and afterwards her Attorney-General. In 1787 he was appointed Justice of the counties of Glamorgan, Brecknock, and Radnor; and such were his talents, and so powerful his interest, that the highest dignity in his profession seemed to await his grasp. Many of his Speeches at the Bar of the Houses of Lords and Commons were absolutely patterns of elegance and ingenuity; that in particular on Mr. Fox's India Bill, Dec. 16, 1783, (the publication of which was interpreted as a personal avowal of the sentiments it contained); and one in vindication of Sir Thomas Rumbold. A Speech also at Warwick, in April 1792, as Counsel for the Hundred, on a Trial for Damages, claimed by Dr. Priestley and others, after the disgraceful Riots at Birmingham, was a master-piece of legal ingenuity. His various Charges also, for many years, at the different Assizes in Wales, breathe the truest sentiments of humanity and legal discrimination.

To the "Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century" he was a copious and most valuable contributor. "Think," he says to the Editor, "what a fine old Grecian I must be, who intimately knew, for years and for ages, the first Lord Camden, Dr. Akenside, Mr. Hall (Markland's friend), Baron Adams, Wray, Lort, Barrington, Lord Dacre, Mr. Dyson, Horace Walpole of Strawberry-hill. Mr. Cambridge, and Athenian Stuart, &c." — Many of those eminent persons are in the most lively manner pourtrayed by him in the Eighth Volume of that Work; and several others are already printed in the unpublished "Illustrations of Literature," intended as a companion and continuation of the former volumes.

In 1780, Mr. Hardinge printed for the use of his friends an Edition of his father's Latin Poems. Of this volume he had prepared a new Edition, which, was this summer to have been put to the press. "Nothing," he says, in the Literary Anecdotes, vol. VIII. p. 542, "will confer more honour upon me, or make me happier, than the publication of these Latin verses at your own cost and risk, if I am correct in so understanding your proposal. The books are so few, that I cannot be sure of laying my hands upon more copies than this one which I possess, and have corrected; so that I should be afraid of parting with it, unless upon the faith of your Publication. — I beg leave to add the delight it would give me to superadd some of the best English Poems which I trace to my father's pen. They are very few; and, of their kind (which is like Addison's humour put into elegant verse), incomparable; but not so gifted and superior to all competition as the Latin. — There is a very excellent Portrait of my father, in Kent, painted when he was Clerk of the House of Commons; but there is no Print from it at present."

The separate publications of Mr. Hardinge were: Letters to Edmund Burke, in which are contained Inquiries into the constitutional Existence of an Impeachment against Mr. Hastings, 1791, third edition, 8vo. The Essence of Malone; or the Beauties of that fascinating Writer, abstracted from his immortal work, entitled Some Account of the Life and Writings of John Dryden, 1800, 8vo; The Filial Tribute, 1807, in honour of his aged Mother, to present as keepsakes to his friends; The Russian Chiefs, an Ode, 1813, 4to; reprinted in 1814; Two single Sermons by a Layman; and a serious Essay on the Character of Jonathan.

Mr. Justice Hardinge married Lucy, daughter and heiress of Richard Long, esq.; who survives him, without issue. His remains were deposited in the family vault at Kingston-upon-Thames. Two younger brothers survive him; Henry, of Peter-house, Cambridge, LL.B.1779, late vicar of the new vicarage of Kingston-upon-Thames, now rector of Stanhope, in the county of Durham; father of George N. Hardinge, esq. the gallant Naval Hero whose loss is recorded in Gent. Mag. vol. LXXVIII. pp. 748, 768, whom the Judge had adopted as his son; and to whose memory the British Legislature have voted a public monument. The other brother is Sir Richard Hardinge, of Belleisle, Fermanaghshire, in Ireland, some time in the East India service, and created a baronet Aug. 4, 1801....

Mr. George Hardinge was a Representative in Parliament for Old Sarum from 1784 to 1802. He was appointed Senior Justice for the Counties of Glamorgan, &c. in 1787, and Attorney General to the Queen in 1794. He was also a Vice-President of the Philanthropic Society. He wail great grandson of Sir Robert Hardinge, of King's Newton, in the county of Derby, knight. His father, Nicholas Hardinge, esq. (sometime a Representative in Parliament for Eye in Suffolk,) was distinguished for his virtues and literary attainment; and for the ability and integrity with which he discharged the important duties of his several public employments. He married Jane, fifth daughter of Sir John Pratt, of Wilderness in Kent (the second daughter by a second marriage). Nicholas had nine sons and three daughters. Of the sons, only two are now surviving: Henry, rector of Stanhope, co. Durham; and Sir Richard Hardinge, bart. sometime steward of the household to Lord Camden, when Viceroy of Ireland, and now Surveyor of the Customs in Ireland. Of the three daughters, Jane was married to Henry Pelham, of Crowhurst, Sussex, esq. (who took the name and arms of Cressett in addition); great grandson of Sir Thomas Pelham, bart. ancestor of the Duke of Newcastle. The other two, Caroline and Julia, are unmarried.

The correspondence of Mr. George Hardinge was most extensive. Of his various compositions, his letters were preeminent. They were extraordinary, from their wit, fancy, and gaiety. They seemed to be the productions of a youth of 20, rather than of a man upwards of 70 years of age.

Notwithstanding his talents and acquirements, he had a rare humility for an author, being ready at all times to adopt his friends' suggestions in preference to his own expressions. In conversation he had few equals; as he had an astonishing flow and choice of words, and an animated delivery of them, such as very few persons possess. He delighted in pleasantries, and always afforded to his auditors abundance of mirth and entertainment, as well as information. Whatever his talents were, they were greatly surpassed in value by his active benevolence. By ardent zeal and perseverance in the service of those persons whom he thought worthy of protection, he was able to obtain immense sums by subscription. Many are now alive to bless his memory. The sums he collected for such persons amounted to near 10,000; and he was in a situation to command success. No rebuffs checked him: no obstacles prevented his constant pursuit of his meritorious object. This activity of friendship, almost always successful, was the principal feature in his character. It was wholly disinterested; it was noble; and ought to be held forth to general example.

To the 2d Edition of Mr. Hardinge's Letters to Mr. Burke was added, "An Appendix, containing a short Answer to Major Scott's Charge of Inconsistency against Mr. Hardinge's Sentiments respecting Mr. Hastings, and of Illiberality in his Treatment of that Gentleman." — His Speech as Counsel for the Hundred at Warwick, accompanied by Extracts from Priestley's Political Opinions referred to in that Speech, 1792, was printed, but perhaps not generally published. — A Second Edition, enlarged, was published in 1800, of The Essence of Malone; or, the Beauties of that fascinating Writer extracted from his immortal Work; in 539 pages and a quarter, just published; and (with his accustomed felicity) intituled Some Account of the Life and Writings of John Dryden!! And this satirical tract was followed, in 1801, by Another Essence of Malone; or, the Beauties of Shakspeare's Editor.