1833 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Lyttelton

Thomas Enort Smith, "Anecdote Gallery: the celebrated Lord George Lyttelton" Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 21 (May 1833) 603.



The following anecdote of this erudite and accomplished nobleman, the friend of the poet Thomson, and known to this day by the appellation of "the great and good," was narrated to me in my boyhood, as far back as the year 1794 or 1795, by an elderly female, named Frisby, who lived at that time as housekeeper with my late uncle, Mr. George Smith, of St. Saviour's Churchyard. The subsequent are the narrator's own words:—
"I was at that time a young girl, living as one of the under servants at Hagley, and, not having been in the family long, did not know till then that his lordship was sometimes affected with an impediment in his speech. That this was really the case, was proved by the following — to me and to his lordship — most unpleasant, trying circumstance. Passing the library one day, where he was sitting with the door open, he called to me, and holding a guinea in his hand, said, 'Here, girl, go and fetch change for this gig—, gig—, gig—, gig—;' and so continued, endeavouring in vain to pronounce the word guinea. Instead of my looking serious, as I ought to have done, at his lordship's embarrassment, like a great, stupid wench, (as I certainly was,) I burst into a loud fit of laughter in his face. I shall never forget the angry and reproving look his lordship gave me, whilst I was thus unthinkingly exposing my ignorance. 'Shut the door,' said he, in a raised tone of voice; I began to tremble from head to foot, expecting nothing short of an immediate discharge from his service; when, as I turned round to obey his orders, my better feelings overpowered me, and I burst into a violent flood of tears. I continued sobbing and crying a considerable time, with my back turned to his lordship—for I dared not look him in the face. At length, he rose, as soon as my feelings were calmed, and spoke to me these words: 'Go to your work; I see you are penitent, I therefore freely forgive you; only, let me conjure you never to lose sight of discretion so far again.'"
Here was a triumph of temper worthy the great Newton himself.
ENORT.