1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Hardinge

Anonymous, in Review of Hardinge, Miscellanies; British Critic NS 11 (1818) 204-05.



Mr. George Hardinge, the son of the preceding gentleman, was born at Canbury, near Kingston, in 1744, and succeeded to this estate, by the death of his father, in his fourteenth year. From Eton he was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he appears to have distinguished himself by some exercises, among the Academical Gratulations on the King's marriage, the birth of the Prince of Wales, and the Peace of Paris. The late Bishop of Llandaff was his tutor; but he did not proceed regularly to his degrees, nor was it till the year 1769, that he commenced M.A. and then only by Royal mandate. At a suitable time he was called to the bar, and appointed king's counsel, through the interest of his uncle, Lord Camden. He does not, however, seem at any period to have devoted his whole energies to professional occupation. In 1777, he married Lucy, daughter of Richard Long, Esq. of Hinxton, Cambridgeshire; and fixed his abode at the well-known Ragman's Castle, on the banks of the Thames, at Twickenham; a spot to which he was attracted by the vicinity of his two friends, Horace Walpole and Richard Owen Cambridge. In 1782, he was nominated solicitor-general to the Queen, (to whom, on Mr. Ambler's death, he had the honour of becoming attorney-general also) and in the following year, distinguishing himself at the bar of both houses; in the Commons, by a defence of Sir Thomas Rumbold; in the Lords, as counsel for the Directors of the East India Company, against Mr. Fox's celebrated Bill. Of all Mr. Hardinge's efforts, this may be pronounced facile princeps; it is strictly Ciceronian; so strictly, that perhaps there may be something of hardness about it to ears more accustomed to the declamation of our modern Courts than the Roman Oratory. It will bear comparison with the most brilliant productions of that brilliant period in which it was delivered; and Mr. Hardinge, like Mr. Hamilton, might, without fear of being forgotten, have been content to found his reputation upon this single speech. It must however, be read entire; and it would be unjust to mangle it by extraction.

In 1784, he was returned by Lord Camelford for the Borough of Old Sarum. And three years afterwards he obtained the honourable office of senior Justice of the Counties of Brecon, Glamorgan, and Radnor — an appointment particularly adapted to his habits, for it afforded scope for the employment of his legal attainments, and yet left him much time for the enjoyment of extensive society. The loss of a nephew (a gallant young naval officer, who was killed in action), whom he had adopted as his heir, embittered the latter years of his life; and on the 26th of April 1816, in his seventy-second year, he died while on the circuit, at Presteigne.

Mr. George Hardinge was too much a man of pleasure to arrive at excellence, either in his professional or his literary pursuits: he has left behind him the reputation rather of capability than performance; what he did was done with ease, or it would not have been done at all, but this very facility prevented him from doing many more, and much better things; once or twice indeed he shook off his constitutional propensity to indulgence, but it was only that he might afterwards enjoy a more uninterrupted repose. He possessed from nature powers which might have made him "long remembered;" but the memory of them expired almost at the same time with their owner, and is not likely to be revived by the greater part of the present Miscellanies.