The first Lord Holland, Horace Walpole, the Duke of Queensberry, each a type of the society of the eighteenth century; the unscrupulous politician, the cultivated amateur and man of letters, the sportsman with half the opera dancers in London in his pay—of all he was the closest friend. The most intimate of them, the Duke of Queensberry, led an extravagant and a dissipated life, in contrast with which Selwyn’s was homely and simple. He could leave the gambling table of the club to play with Mie Mie or a schoolboy from Eton; while his friends were crippled by dice and cards and became seekers after political places by which they might live, he was prudent in his play and neither ruined himself nor others. He had a self-control and a sound sense, which were not common in his generation; we see them in the tranquil, contemplative eyes of Reynolds’s portraits, ready in a moment to gleam with humour. By reason of his unfailing good-nature, he was always at the service of a friend. Himself without ambition, he watched men, not possessed of his tact and ability, rise to positions which he had never the least desire to fill. In an age of great political bitterness and the strongest personal antagonism he continued the tranquil tenor of his way, amused and amusing, hardly ever put out except by the illness or the misfortune of a friend. “George Selwyn died this day se’night,” wrote his friend Storer to Lord Auckland; “a more good-natured man or a more pleasant one never, I believe, existed. The loss is not only a private one to his friends, but really a public one to society in general."* Gaiety of temperament and sound sense, a quick wit and a kind heart, sincerity and love of society, culture without pedantry, a capacity to enjoy the world in each stage of life: these are seldom found united in one individual as they were in George Selwyn, and he is thus for us perhaps the pleasantest personality of English society in the eighteenth century.
* “Journal and Correspondence of Lord Auckland,” vol. ii. p. 383.
CHAPTER 2. 1767-1769 THE CORRESPONDENCE COMMENCES.
Frederick, fifth Earl of Carlisle—Lady Sarah Bunbury—The Duke of Grafton—Carlisle, Charles Fox, and the Hollands abroad—Current events—Card-playing—A dinner at Crawford’s—Lady Bolingbroke —Almack’s—The Duke of Bedford—Lord Clive—The Nabobs—Corporation of Oxford sell the representation of the borough—Madame du Deffand —Publication of Horace Walpole’s “Historic Doubts on Richard the Third”—Newmarket—London Society—Gambling at the Clubs—A post promised to Selwyn—Elections—A purchase of wine—Vauxhall.