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Paris-amounting in all to sixteen or seventeen thousand pounds ayear? Was it his birth? No;-a Dutch gentleman. Was it his state? No; he had none. Was it his learning, his party, his political abilities and application? You can answer these questions easily and as soon as I can render them. What was it then? Many people wondered, but I do not. It was his air, his address, his manners, and his graces. Show me any one instance where intrinsic worth and merit, unassisted by exterior accomplishments, have raised any man so high.'
This is going much too far in the way of depreciation, and against it may be set the impartial estimate of Marmontel:
A personage totally different from Count Kauniz was this Lord Albemarle, ambassador of England, who died at Paris as regretted amongst us as in his own country. He was par excellence what is called un galant homme: noble, sensible, generous, full of loyalty, frankness, politeness, and goodness, he united what is best and most estimable in the two characters of English and French.'*
On the evening of December 2nd, 1754, he was taken ill at Paris as he was going home from a supper party, and died in a few hours. The current story ran that the event was announced to Lady Albemarle in a dream; or (as Lady Temple tells it) that she thought she saw her husband dressed in white; the same thing happened before the Duke of Richmond's death, and often has happened before the death of any of her family.' This may pair off with the Bodach Glas of the M'Ivors.
When George, the third Earl, delivered up the insignia of his father's Order of the Garter, the King said to him: Your father had a great many good qualities, but he was a sieve.' Walpole sarcastically remarks: It is the last receiver into which I should have thought his Majesty would have poured gold.' The King alluded to his large demands for secret service money, which was honestly expended on public objects. At all events, he saved nothing, and died poor, probably in debt, for the estate of Voorst was sold by the son to the Count of Lynden in September, 1756.
The accession to the peerage made no change in the position or mode of life of the third Earl. He remained a member of the Duke of Cumberland's military household, and accompanied him in the campaign of 1757, which ended with the disastrous Convention of Closterseven, signed September 10, by which 38,000 Hanoverians and Hessians laid down their arms, and were broken up as a force without becoming prisoners of war. The King publicly disclaimed this convention, and threw the whole blame and responsibility on his son. When the Duke first appeared in the royal presence, the King never addressed
* Mémoires,' tom. i. p. 342.
Vol. 141.-No. 282.
a word to him, but said aloud, in the course of the evening, 'Here is my son, who has ruined me and disgraced himself." The Duke resented this treatment by resigning all his employments, but took no step to vindicate himself at the expense of his father. The only minister who guessed the truth, or had the courage to speak out, was Pitt, the great Commoner, who, when the King said he had given the Duke no orders for such a treaty, answered, But full powers, Sir-very full powers.' A document discovered amongst Lord Albemarle's (the third Earl's) papers proves that Pitt was right:
'Copy of H.M.'s letter to H.R.H. the Duke, dated August the 9th,
'DEAR WILLIAM,-I just received your letter of the 2nd August, by which I see the distracted situation of my affairs in Germany. I am convinced of your sense, and capacity, and zeal, for my service, therefore, you will receive powers to get me and my country out of these difficulties, at the best rate you can, by a separate peace as elector, including my allies the Duke of Wolfenbuttle, the Landgrave, the Duke of Saxony, and Count Buckebourg. Nobody attributes your bad success either to you or the troops under your command, to any cowardice or want of precaution. But it seems, fate is everywhere against us. I trust my affairs entirely to your conduct. You will talk with my Ministers and choose those you think properest for this negotiation, as in the case of war I depend upon your courage and skill, so I now depend upon your affection, zeal, and capacity, to extricate yourself, me, my brave army, and my dearly-beloved subjects, out of the misery of slavery they groan under.
Lord Albemarle was Commander-in-Chief of the successful expedition against Havannah, in 1762; having under him one brother, Major-General William Keppel, who displayed the most distinguished gallantry in leading the storming-parties; whilst another, Commodore Augustus Keppel, effectively discharged the duty confided to him by the Admiral, with six ships-of-theline, of conducting the naval operations of the siege. Speaking of the capture of the place, in the Annual Register, Burke says, 'It was a military advantage of the highest class. It was equal to the greatest naval victory by its effect on the enemy's marine, and in the plunder it equalled the produce of a national subsidy.' The plunder was roughly estimated at three millions. Lord Albemarle, in a letter to the Duke of Cumberland, expresses an expectation that his share will, from first to last,
exceed 100,000l. Lord Stanhope states that the naval and military Commanders-in-Chief received 122,6977. a-piece. The two younger brothers came next in the distribution; and when the place was restored to the Spaniards, a few months after the capture, it was remarked that the sole apparent object or result of the expedition was to put money into the pockets of the Keppels. If we are not misinformed, the estates which now go with the title were purchased with this prize-money; so that Quidenham' might not inappropriately be styled 'Havannah' Hall.
His life and career are glossed over in this work, probably from his having been the subject of a separate biography, but the principal illustration of the Keppels of England, of the third generation, was Commodore (afterwards Admiral Viscount) Keppel, who, strange to say, although a gallant and able officer, attained his highest point of celebrity and popularity by a drawn battle and a court-martial: whose memory is kept alive, as his renown when living was enhanced, rather by fortunate coincidences than by remarkable exploits: by painting and eloquence more than by professional merit or success. It was his fortunate lot to sail round the world with Anson: to be the subject of two of Reynolds's masterpieces: to be strikingly associated with the early career of Erskine; and to inspire a succession of splendid passages in one of the finest compositions of Burke. The central and turning-point of his career was the naval action off Ushant, July 27th, 1778. After some hours' fighting, in which a good deal of damage was sustained by both French and English, the combat was interrupted by a squall of wind and the approach of night. As soon as practicable, Keppel took measures for its renewal by orders and signals to the officer in command of the rearmost division, Sir Hugh Palliser, who (as he subsequently alleged) was prevented from obeying by the disabled condition of his ship. The Admiral, finding himself unsupported, held off, and the French fleet sailed back to Brest.
The nation was furious: party-spirit ran high; and the two criminating and recriminating admirals belonged to opposite parties. The court-martial on Keppel lasted thirty-two days. Anticipating the acquittal and its effects, Gibbon writes to Holroyd, February 6th, 1779: In a night or two we shall be in a blaze of illumination, from the zeal of naval heroes, landpatriots, and tallow-chandlers; the last are not the least sincere!' London was illuminated, and the mob celebrated the event by
* Life of Admiral Viscount Keppel.' By the Hon, and Rev. T. Keppel. In two volumes. 1842. 21 2
breaking into the houses of Palliser and Lord Sandwich (the First Lord) and destroying everything they could lay hands on. The same spirit extended to the provinces, and the Keppel head and arms were substituted for those of Admiral Vernon and the Marquis of Granby throughout the whole length and breadth of the land. Yet, if he did his duty, he certainly did no more. There was little material difference between his case and that of Byng, who erred from no lack of bravery. I will not lead my fleet as Keppel did,' wrote Nelson; neither, we may rest assured, would the Admiral Keppel of our day, who, supported or unsupported, would never have suffered the unmolested withdrawal of the French.
The defence was principally conducted by Erskine, whose training as a midshipman had made him familiar with nautical terms. The day after the trial he received a letter of thanks from the Admiral enclosing two bank-notes of 500l. each, which he hurried to display to his friend Reynolds, exclaiming : • Voilà, the nonsuit of cow-beef'—his ordinary diet prior to this gleam of fortune.
Admiral Keppel joined the Rockingham Ministry of 1782 as First Lord, and was created a Viscount. Lord St. Vincent, on announcing his own appointment as First Lord to Lord Keith, writes: How I shall succeed, remains to be proved; I have known many a good Admiral make a wretched First Lord of the Admiralty.' Mr. Disraeli thinks that Lord Keppel must have been one of the First Lords alluded to by Lord St. Vincent ;* but his naval administration seems to have been unobjectionable, with the exception of the letter of recall to Rodney, which became known immediately after the glorious victory of the 12th of April, 1782. According to Mr. Massey, always clear-sighted and well-informed, Lord Keppel, unable to justify, had the meanness and folly to evade even the admission of it. He said that no evidence of any such act could be produced, and that it was to be treated only as a vague report, not fit for discussion in Parliament. This pettifogging quibble was followed by immediate exposure.'t The recall was avowed by Fox, who attempted a justification; but Rodney had now become the popular idol, and Keppel, so far as public opinion was con
*Parliamentary Debates.' 'Times,' March 14, 1876.
A History of England during the Reign of George III.' Vol. iii. p. 123. According to the Parliamentary Debates, Lord Keppel's point, a poor one, was that the recall was not officially before the House. The letter of recall, signed by his secretary, was dated May 1st, nearly three weeks after the action, and Pigot, who was to supersede Rodney, had set sail before the news of the victory reached England. An unavailing attempt is made in the 'Life' to shift the responsibility to the Cabinet,
cerned, might have been glad to change places with his old adversary Palliser. In one of Gillray's caricatures, ‘Britannia's Assassination,' Keppel is lowering his flag with, 'He that fights and runs away, &c.' in his mouth. In another, Rodney Triumphant,' or 'Admiral Lee-Shore in the Dumps,' Keppel, wearing a crape hat-band by way of mourning for the victory, mutters, This is more than we expected, more than we wished.'
A tribute from the pen of genius will long outlive the eulogistic or damnatory extravagance of faction, and Burke's carefully drawn character of Lord Keppel should be valued by the family as the Spensers and Fieldings should value Gibbon's reference to the authors of 'The Faërie Queen' and the "History of a Foundling' in his autobiography. The concluding nine or ten pages of 'A Letter to a Noble Lord' are devoted to Keppel, who is introduced thus:
'It was but the other day that, on putting in order some things that had been brought here on my quitting London for ever, I looked over a number of fine portraits, most of them persons now dead, but whose society, in my better days, made this a proud and happy place. Amongst these was the picture of Lord Keppel. It was painted by an artist worthy of the subject, the excellent friend of that excellent man from their earliest youth, and a common friend of us both, with whom we lived for many years, without a moment of coldness, of peevishness, of jealousy, or of jar, to the day of our final separation.
I ever looked on Lord Keppel as one of the greatest and best men of his age; and I loved and cultivated him accordingly. He was much in my heart, and I believe I was in his to the last moment. It was at his trial at Portsmouth that he gave me this picture."
Prior to 1770, the three brothers, the Earl, the Admiral, and the General, had remained unmarried, and had no immediate intention of marrying, relying on their younger brother Frederick, Bishop of Exeter, for the continuance of the race. The Bishop had a wife, Walpole's niece, and a son ten years old; but the lady managed to make herself so disagreeable to the trio of brothers-in-law that they tossed up which of them should marry with a view of disappointing her. The toss was won (or lost) by Lord Albemarle, who forthwith married a daughter of Sir John Miller, and died two years afterwards, leaving a son, four months old, born May 14th, 1772. This son, William Charles, succeeded as fourth Earl, and married in
* The portrait mentioned by Burke was bequeathed by his widow to his friend, Lord Fitzwilliam, and is now in the Fitzwilliam Gallery. Another fine portrait of Keppel, by Reynolds, was purchased by the late Sir Robert Peel at Christie's for 500 guineas, and is now in the National Gallery.