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Lady Minto's Memoir of the Right Hon. Hugh Elliot. 329 carry a measure through Parliament for the like purchase of British railways, there can be no doubt that opinion is travelling rapidly in that direction, and that it has been not a little accelerated of late by the sudden great increase of fares on some of the metropolitan lines. When railways were originally authorised, private interests were compelled to give way to the public good; and if it should appear, after the experience of forty years, that the private interests of the proprietors of railways are incompatible with cheap locomotion and the proper accommodation of the public, private interests must again give way; and then it may be deemed expedient, in the interests of society, that the State—which is but Society organised-shall resume possession, and become the owners and controllers as in former times, of the great highways of the kingdom.

Art. II.-A Memoir of the Right Hon. Hugh Elliot. By the

Countess of Minto. Edinburgh, 1868.
TE should be sorry to chill the hopes or cloud the prospects

of a distinguished and popular class of public servants, but we are afraid that diplomacy has seen its best days; and that if steam, electricity, and responsible government have not proved its ruin, they are rapidly accelerating its decline. An ambassador at a corrupt or despotic Court, several days' or weeks' journey from his own country, had ample scope for the display of tact, insight into character, knowledge of affairs, and even statesmanship. He had to deal with favourites, as well as with ministers of state. He had to humour caprices, and watch for happy moments—the mollia tempora fandi—as well as to draw up protocols or dictate despatches. Instead of telegraphing for instructions, he was obliged to act upon his own judgment and responsibility on the spur of the occasion, when haply the fate of kingdoms depended on the success or failure of an intrigue. It was a mistress, Madame de Pompadour, irritated by some contemptuous expressions imprudently let drop by Frederic the Great, that induced France to join the combination against him in the Seven Years' War, and many similar instances might be adduced in favour of Voltaire's well-known theory of causation in history—that great events are brought about by small things. When empires were ruled by loose or capricious women, there were no bounds to the influence which an accomplished and quick-witted man of the world might exercise ; and prior to the French Revolution a Court or Government con


trolled by reason, or anything that could be called policy, was rather the exception than the rule.. "Many men, in all nations. long for peace,' says Carlyle, speaking of 1759; but there are Three Women at the top of the world who do not; their wrath, various in quality, is great in quantity, and disasters do the reverse of appeasing.' These three women were Elizabeth of Russia, Maria Theresa, and Madame Pompadour.

* Ah, my friend ! [writes Madame du Barri) who would have told me in my fifteenth year that the day would come when I should be obliged to mix diplomacy with every action of my life? There were moments when, dismissing the anxieties caused me by these trickeries, I burst out laughing to think that I was directing the most important interests in concert with foreign ambassadors and ministers. Behold me surrounded by the Pope's Nuncio, Monseignor Giraud, Archbishop of Damas; the Count of Marcy Argenteau, Austrian Ambassador; the English Ambassador, Viscount Stormont; M. de Moncenigo; and all the other great and petty members of the diplomatic body. How sly I was with that Moncenigo, who was sly in everything. How reserved I was with Lord Stormont, who phlegmatically tried to win me over to the interests of England. He was eternally hanging about me. I could not guess the reason of his tiresome assiduity. At last, one fine day, he told me that his Court desired to give me proofs of its goodwill, that it contemplated offering me an annual present worthy of it and me. “My Lord,” I replied, in a severe tone, " the woman whom the King of France honours with his friendship is rich enough to make presents, and esteems herself sufficiently to receive none !"

A pupil in the Chesterfield school would have avoided such a blunder, and this was the school in which the most renowned diplomatists of the eighteenth century were brought up. The Prince de Broglie, who dates (and, we think, a little antedates) the subversive change in diplomacy from the French Revolution, speaks thus of its professors or practitioners prior to 1789:

Their memory was a gallery of living portraits, and their conversation, studded over with the most august names, but marked by a discreet malignity, resembled that which is often carried on in the vestibule about the habitués of the château. There is nothing offensive in such a comparison. During a régime under which kings represented the entire State, faithful domestic service without meanness was & natural form of patriotism. A large portion of their wandering lives was also spent in the pursuit of sensuality and elegance, in sumptuous fêtes, where they were hosts and guests by turns, wherever they pitched their tents. They gave the signal for pleasure. Strange pastime, it will be said, for the depositaries of the destinies of nations. But this judgment would be as superficial as pedantic; for if their policy was frivolous, their frivolity was still oftener political. These diversions were but an occasion for encountering on the pacific territory of a salon, in the midst of songs, flowers, and festivity, the rival of the eve


become the doubtful friend of the morning; to observe him when off his guard in the whirl of dissipation, and by the charm of private relations to soften the too rude conduct, and deaden the too clashing contact, of public interests. Besides, what ease in sustaining the weight of the heaviest affairs ! what art in untying the knots! What reserve, exempt from restraint, in the laisser-aller of a trifling or animated conversation! What strategy hidden under the mask of goodhumour! What finesse in insinuation! What vivacity in the repartee! Entrusted to these light hands, the stormy communication of nations retained to the very eve of armed conflict, and resumed on the very morrow of battle, the character of graceful amenity befitting the commerce of men of high rank and similar education.' *

He adds, with something like a sign of regret :

“Our generation has seen the wrecks of this artificial and brilliant group, to which the Restoration of 1815 brought back some days of transitory éclat. The spectacle was curious, and I like to recall the memory of it, more especially now that this product of another age

of the world has been buried for ever under successive layers of revolutions.'

In the course of a valuable paper on The Diplomatic Service,' Sir Henry Bulwer plausibly contends that the result of the alteration should be increased care in the choice of our diplomatic agents, and a marked improvement in their character:

• The affairs which were lispingly discussed in the lady's chamber are now seriously debated in the representative assembly; and the secrets timidly uttered round the fauteuil of the Minister are publicly printed in the daily papers. The nation is no longer circumscribed within the limits of a Court. It is necessary, then, that diplomacy should become acquainted with the nation itself.'

This raises a grave and difficult question upon which we are not at present disposed to enter. The sole point to which we wish to direct attention is that the new school rarely requiring, will rarely be chosen for, the personal qualities which create interest or be frequently placed in circumstances which give piquancy to private correspondence or memoirs : that the old school are practically extinct already; and that consequently a real service to historical and biographical literature is rendered by any one who rescues from oblivion an active and varied diplomatic career of the olden time. Such a career cannot fail to illustrate the manners and morals as well as the political annals of the period; and such a career pre-eminently fitted to amuse and instruct, is now before us in ' A Memoir of the Right Hon, Hugh Elliot,' by the Countess of Minto.

* • La Diplomatie et Le Droit Nouveau.' Par Albert de Broglie. Paris, 1868.


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The subject of this memoir was by no means a model diplomatist. Some of his best as well as his exceptionable qualities were ill suited to the vocation. He was high-spirited, impulsive, and imprudent, as well as clear-sighted, sagacious, and quick-witted. His sell-indulgent habits, with his incurable irregularity, formed a grave drawback to his imperturbable presence of mind, his chivalrous courage, his varied acquirements

, his ready wit, his powers of conversation, and his admitted charm of manner. But if this sort of man occasionally gets into difficulties by overstepping the conventional line, he has also methods of his own for getting out of them; and his biography, besides being the more interesting in itself, is so much the better adapted for placing in broad relief the peculiarities of the Courts to which he was successively accredited.

His character being of this composite sort, the duty of evolving and portraying it has fortunately been undertaken by a granddaughter who has inherited its brightest points, is on a par with him in fancy, feeling, and accomplishments, can follow him in his most discursive flights, and appreciate him in his most erratic moods. Her materials, independent of family traditions and reminiscences, consist of two portions or classes of correspondence: the first, composed of letters written by or relating to Mr. Elliot; the second, of letters private and official, written to him at different periods. These fill several volumes, and the nicest discrimination was required in dealing with them ; but not only are the selections made with excellent judgment and unimpeachable good taste,--they are pointed by reflections, and connected by additional matter, in a way to give unbroken continuity to the narrative. Consciously or unconsciously, whilst professing merely to edit • Notes from Minto Manuscripts, Lady Minto produced a valuable memoir, when, under this title, she printed the substance of the work before us for private circulation in 1862. It now, in its completed shape, presents a full-length and striking portrait of a remarkable member of a remarkable race. The very sarcasm levelled at the Elliots in the palmy days of Whig patronage, as · The Scotch Greys,' was in some sort a recognition of their talents and energy.

The Right Honourable Hugh Elliot, who concluded a distinguished career of public service as Governor of Madras, was the second son of Sir Gilbert Elliot, the third baronet, whose family was ennobled in the person of the fourth baronet of the same name in 1797.* He was one of five children


* Long prior to this creation the family had belonged to the Scotch Noblesse de


two brothers, two sisters, and himself. He was born in 1752, but Lady Minto has been unable to discover anything material relating to him prior to 1762. The first ten years are almost a blank; the family correspondence is entirely silent as to their domestic doings. “In none is there any allusion to favourite haunts, to gardens or grounds, to dependents or pets, nothing to show affection for home as a place. Strong family affection, however, has been ever the characteristic of the race.' Lady Minto delicately suggests, that, if the unsettled life of the parents, divided between London, Edinburgh, and two or three other places, will not account for the phenomenon, it is possible that the home itself may not have been of the kind to make itself remembered with unmixed pleasure. "Sir Gilbert' (she says) was a grave, highly cultivated man, immersed in politics, and, like all fathers of his time, seems to have inspired his family with as much awe as admiration. Lady Elliot, clever, high-spirited, and imaginative, was not, like one who filled her place in after years,

“ Blessed with a temper, whose unclouded ray

Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day.” To a want therefore of home sunshine, it is possible that we may in part ascribe the fact that the letters written from home deal chiefly with news, with politics, or with advice, while those addressed there by the absent sons are confined to matters affecting their studies and pursuits.'

The two elder brothers, Gilbert and Hugh, were brought up together. From 1762 to 1764 they were under the care of a private tutor, Mr. (afterwards Sir Robert) Liston, at Twickenham. Towards the end of 1764 they were placed in a military school near Paris, where they had Mirabeau for a schoolfellow, and David Hume, to whom they were specially commended, as a protector and friend. At the end of two years (in 1766) they were removed to Edinburgh, where they pursued a multiplicity of studies, natural and moral philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, classics, &c., under the superintendence of Professor George Stuart, besides taking lessons in drawing, fencing, and dancing. In 1768 they went to Oxford and were entered of Christchurch, which was then, as now, the college most in request for young men of family and fortune. Hugh did not keep terms enough to entitle" him to a degree, and in 1770 we robe. The first baronet (creation of 1700) held the title of Lord Minto as a Lord of Session, and was subsequently appointed Lord Justice Clerk. The second was also appointed Lord Justice Clerk, and held the same title. The first Earl was successively viceroy of Corsica, envoy-extraordinary to Vienna, president of the Board of Control; and Governor General of Bengal. General Elliot, Lord Heathfield, was descended from a common ancestor.

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