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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

Hervey was an admirer of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu


No man has been more bitterly

denounced by his enemies or more warmly praised by his friends. Affectation, insincerity, prodigality, selfishness, servility to the great, contempt for the humble, are among the qualities his opponents ascribe to him. According to his friends, his cynicism was a mere affectation to hide a sensitive and generous nature; his bitterness arose from his disappointment at finding so few men or women who came up to a really high standard of nobleness; his homage of the great was but the half-disguised mockery of a scornful philosopher. Probably the picture drawn by the friends is on the whole more near to life than that painted by the enemies. The world owes him some thanks for a really interesting book, the very boldness and bitterness of which enhance to a certain extent its historical value. At this time Hervey was but little over thirty years of age. He was the son of the first Earl of Bristol by a second marriage, had been educated at Westminster School and at Clare Hall, Cambridge; had gone early through the usual round of Continental travels, and became a friend of George the First's grandson, now Prince of Wales, at Hanover. This friendship not merely did not endure, but soon turned into hate. Hervey was an admirer of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and was admired by her; but her own assurances, which may be trusted to, declared that there had been nothing warmer than friendship between them. Lady Mary afterwards {308} maintained that the relationship between Hervey and
her established the possibility of "a long and steady friendship subsisting between two persons of different sexes without the least admixture of love." Hervey was in his day a somewhat free and liberal lover of women, and it is not surprising that the world should have regarded his acquaintanceship with Lady Mary as something warmer than mere friendship. We shall have occasion to refer to Hervey's memoirs of the reign of George the Second more than once hereafter, and may perhaps now cite a few words which Hervey himself says in vindication of their sincerity and their historical accuracy; "No one who did not live in these times will, I dare say, believe but some of those I describe in these papers must have had some hard features and deformities exaggerated and heightened by the malice and ill-nature of the painter who drew them. Others, perhaps, will say that at least no painter is obliged to draw every wart or wen or humpback in its full proportions, and that I might have softened these blemishes where I found them. But I am determined to report everything just as it is, or at least just as it appears to me; and those who have a curiosity to see courts and courtiers dissected, must bear with the dirt they find in laying open such minds with as little nicety and as much patience as, in a dissection of their bodies, if they wanted to see that operation, they must submit to the disgust."

Hervey fought with spirit and effect on the side of Walpole, although Lady Hervey strongly disliked the Minister and was disliked by him. Walpole had at one time, it was said, made unsuccessful love to the beautiful and witty Molly Lepell, and he did not forgive her because of her scornful rejection of his ponderous attempts at gallantry. Hervey, nevertheless, took Walpole's side, and proved to be an ally of some importance. A great struggle was approaching, in which the whole strength of Walpole's hold on the Sovereign and the country was to be tested by the severest strain.


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