The butt and the bogy

The butt of Gilroy and the bogy of Walpole

Disraeli once spoke of Shelburne as one of the suppressed characters of English history. Shelburne’s friend, Charles, third Earl Stanhope, is another. While Lady Hester has tempted not a few biographers both in her country and abroad, it was not till nearly a century after his death that the career of her distinguished father has found a chronicler. He has been hitherto vaguely known as a man of eccentric habits and impossible opinions—“the Quixote of the nation,” as he is described in the “Rolliad.” The present biography, commenced by his great-great-granddaughter, at length reveals him as one of the outstanding personalities of his time, an inventive genius of the first order, and a fearless reformer who played a leading part in public life for forty years. The son-in-law of Chatham, the nephew by marriage of Grenville, the comrade and then the enemy of Pitt, the protege of Wilkes, the formidable antagonist of Fox during the “Coalition and of Burke during the French Revolution, the valued supporter of Wilberforce, the friend of Franklin and Condorcet, Grattan and Price, the ally of Shelburne and Lauderdale in their opposition to the Great War and of Lord Holland in his championship of religious liberty, the butt of Gillray and the bogy of Horace Walpole, the hero of the youthful Coleridge and Landor, the oracle of the little band of Parliamentary Reformers who never lost courage or hope, the patron of Lancaster’s schools, the friend of Fulton and Rennie and himself an inventor of first rank— few of his contemporaries touched the life of their age at so many points.

(The Life of Charles Third Earl Stanhope by Ghita Stanhope, revised and completed by G.P. Gooch, 1914, p. v)