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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

The Baroness von Imhoff was a young


soon became plain to Warren Hastings that he was not going to make much of a livelihood either by Persian poetry or by the calling of a man of letters. His thoughts had turned back to India within a year of his return to England, and he had applied for employment to the Company, but for some reason his request was not granted. In 1768, however, the Court of Directors appointed him to a seat in Council at Madras, and early in the following year, 1769, he sailed again for India on his most momentous voyage. Not only was that ship, the "Duke of Grafton," bearing him to a career of the greatest glory and the greatest obloquy; not only was it carrying him to a grandeur and a fall almost unparalleled in the history of men who were not monarchs. On board the "Duke of {256} Grafton" Warren Hastings was to meet with one of the most serious influences of his life. We have already seen how Hastings had married, had been a father, and how wife and children had passed out of his life and left him alone. Hastings was a man of strong emotions. Now he met a woman who awoke all the strongest emotions of his nature and won his devotion for the rest of his life. The Baroness von Imhoff was a young, beautiful, attractive woman, married to a knavish adventurer.

It is certain that she and Hastings felt a warm attachment for each other; it seems certain that Imhoff connived at, or at least winked at, the attachment. It may be that the understanding between

Hastings and Imhoff was in this sense honorable--that the Baron was willing to free his wife from an unhappy union that she might form a happy union. It may be that Hastings's passion was indeed, in Macaulay's fine phrase, "patient of delay." The simple facts that call for no controversy are that Hastings met the Baroness von Imhoff in 1769; that eight years later, in 1777, Imhoff, with the aid of Hastings's money, obtained his divorce in the Franconian Courts, and that the woman who had been his wife became the wife of Hastings. She made him a devoted wife; he made her a devoted husband. Hastings was never a profligate. In an age that was not remarkable for morality his life was apparently moral even to austerity. His relationships with the Imhoffs constitute the only charge of immorality that has been brought against him, and the charge, at least, is not of the gravest kind. If Anglo-Indian society was at first inclined to be uncharitable, if the great ladies of its little world held aloof in the beginning from the Baroness von Imhoff, her marriage with Hastings seems to have restored her to general favor and esteem.

[Sidenote: 1771--Hastings's great administrative qualities]

Warren Hastings found plenty of work cut out for him on his return to India. He had his own ideas, and strong ideas, about the necessity for reforms. He was much opposed to the policy of sending out as secretaries to the local governments men who were without local experience and therefore less likely to take a warm interest {257} in the Company's welfare, while such appointments were in themselves unjust to the claims of the Company's own servants. He vehemently urged the necessity for making the rewards of the service more adequate to the duties of the service, and he announced himself as determined to do all he could for "the improvement of the Company's finances, so far as it can be effected without encroaching upon their future income." If Hastings could scheme out needed reforms on his way out, he found on his arrival that the need for reform was little short of appalling. The position which Hastings held was a curious one. He was President of the Council, it is true, but president of a council of which every member had an equal vote, and many of the members of which had personal reasons for wishing to oppose the reforms that Hastings was coming out to accomplish. A disorganized government had to be reorganized, an exhausted exchequer to be refilled, a heart-breaking debt to be reduced, and all this had to be done under conditions that well might have shaken a less dauntless spirit than that of Warren Hastings.

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