title: Character of Lord Rokeby. Published size box area 9.85cm wide by 18cm high.

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Matthew Lord Rokeby.

Image showing Chandos (Brydges) shield, with 'Maintien Le Droit' and Sudeley Castle in background.



Printed at the private Press of Lee Priory;


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EVOLVING in my mind the practi­cal effects of Solitude on the human character, for the purpose of elucidating its uses and abuses in the ESSAYS which I have undertaken to compose under the title of THE SYLVAN WANDERER, I was induced to attempt the portrait of a venerable but eccentric Nobleman with whom I had a personal acquaint­ance ;  and whose qualities and habits I had the best opportunity of accurately and intimately know­ing.
      Of this portrait I have indulged myself in tak­ing a few copies for private distribution.   In the attempt, I need not say that I have not aimed at any wild and striking creature of the imagination ; but have laboured at a living and faithful image, which shall bear all the marks of reality and identity.
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      We gaze with interest and delight on the his­torical portraits of Vandyke; but with how much more intense pleasure and improvement does a cul­tivated understanding contemplate Lord Clarendon's delineation of the foldings of the mind and heart of his great cotemporaries !   I have not the insane vanity to suppose that I can delineate like Lord Clarendon: nor is the present subject of my pen of the same importance as most of those whose charac­ters this powerful and eloquent Historian has pre­served by his lively pen.   But I will not admit that every one who spends his life in Solitude is an insig­nificant idler ; nor that Court-ceremonies, or State-affairs, are the only matters in which merit or success can be worthy of perpetuation.
      Were the virtues of private life oftener cele­brated, it would tend to the promotion of morals as well as intellect.   But the noise which surrounds the statesman, the warrior, the senator, and the diplomatist, engrosses the attention and misleads the judgment of the world.
      There is an ardent ambition generally atten­dant on great talents, which carries them through repulses and difficulties very dangerous to the mor-
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bid feelings of acute intellect.   But if it sometimes succeeds in surmounting these obstacles, it too fre­quently yields to its attendant sensibilities, and submits to a seclusion, which by the aid of fortitude and self-government may work out its own hap­piness, or by languor and inaction may become a prey to unbroken regrets.

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ATTHEW ROBINSON, second LORD ROKEBY, spent the greater part of his life at his seat at Horton, in Kent, about five miles inland from Hythe, on the road to Canterbury. The house was spacious ;  but not more than a century old.   It stood in a large park, principally of rich grazing land, which it's wildness made picturesque.   Ancient trees, and ancient brush-wood, which had never been touched by the axe for fifty or sixty years, encircled the boundaries, and were irregularly and profusely grouped about the domain.
      Horton lies in a thin neighbourhood.   The residences of gentry are either distant, or divided by deep and sometimes impassable roads.   The
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soil, though in many parts rich to the agriculturist, or at least to the grazier, is wet, marshy, and not very genial to health and comfort.   Here Mr. Robinson, a scholar, a travelled gentleman, a Fel­low of Trinity Hall in Cambridge, at the age of about thirty-two, when the possession devolved on him by the death of his mother, (for his father lived to his 85th year,) took up his principal abode for the remainder of his life.
      They who knew him best, heard him uni­formly express his wonder at those, who complain­ed that time hung heavy on their hands.   To him neither the morning was tedious, nor the dark and lonely night long.   He generally rose with the sun ; and always spoke with enthusiastic gratitude of the invigorating warmth and cheerfulness of his beams.
      Free air and habitual exercise gave vigour to his limbs, and a complacent tone to his whole frame.   His spirits were buoyant ;  perhaps loud and overflowing.   His appetite was keen; and his muscular powers, displayed in long walks which would tire a quadruped, sometimes excited ignorant wonder, or silly disbelief.
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      He understood all the practical parts, as well as the theory, of grazing, by which the large herds that stocked the numerous acres of his park were supported, and grew fat.
      He had a good library ;  and he read with zest and eagerness even to the last.   His memory was capacious, exact, and retentive ;  and his understand­ing was inquisitive and piercing.   But he had scarcely any fancy ;  and no taste.   He was insensible to the charms of poetry ;  and was untouched by the graces of composition.   Hard politics, or his­tory, or travels, were the food which his mind most loved, and which it most endeavoured to digest.
      In all these respects he was the very reverse of his sister M
RS. MONTAGU.   Her taste, the exuberance of her imagination, the copious and inexhaustible elegance of her language, and the flexibility and extent of her knowledge, were not only great and conspicuous, but almost unrivalled. Her Essay on the Genius of Shakespeare is a mas­terpiece of original, vigorous, eloquent, and just criticism.   Brought up under the same parents, and not much separated in age, they were a strik­ing instance of family dissimilitude !   Opposite
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pursuits and feelings drew them asunder in the walks of life ;  and after the first days of youth were over, they passed little of the remaining periods of their long existence in each other's society.
      Mr. Robinson had seen the world in early life; and had mixed in high society ;  and had then acquired the address and polish of the Court of George the Second, which he never laid aside. The succession to his patrimonial abode, the principles of political and moral independence which he had early adopted, his health, and perhaps certain habits of singularity, generated by original powers of thinking, all contributed to withdraw him from the concourse of mankind, and place his chief joys and occupations in loneliness and the mighty works of Nature.
      Among the happy oppositions of his character, was a disgust at the follies and dishonesties of the world, and a mixture of sagacity and courage which rebutted every attempt to confound his understanding, or insult his feelings or prejudices. The talents of such a man were well calculated to succeed in the thronged paths of mankind.   When he came forth, he was the idol of the multitude: he
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knew how to lead the passions of the mob ;  and no one possessed more influence at an election contest. He spoke from the heart ;  for he thought that all power and freedom ought to remain with the people.
      Soon after the Kentish estates (his maternal inheritance) devolved on him, he came into the House of Commons as Representative for the City of Canterbury.   He sat in two parliaments, 1747, and 1754;  and twenty years after he had resigned his seat, still possessed sufficient influence in 1780 to contribute materially to the return of his youngest brother.
      The views of Government, which his studies and his prejudices had fostered, induced him to set himself up as the champion of the people :  and these sentiments unfolded the doors of his hos­pitable table to the yeomanry as well as to the gentry of the country.   No one is so illiberal, or so stupid, as to suppose that the natural gifts of ta­lents or virtues are allotted more to one rank of society than to another :  but few, except those of bad taste and dull perception, can, if they have re­ceived the advantages of a cultivated understand­ing and polished conversation, long endure with
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patience the familiarity of men, whose mental faculties and daily manners have been confined to the toils and the coarseness of an humble occu­pation.
      Mr. Robinson appeared to me to feel this :  and his pride, his liveliness of sensation, and his cultivated knowledge, were in perpetual conflict with the consistency of his principles.   Fools some­times attempted to take liberties with him; but soon repented their presumption :  for he was keen, sarcastic, and powerful in his observations ;  and prompt, vigorous, and pertinent in his language.
      His tall, meagre, and ungraceful form, his rude and neglected dress, and his long beard, ex­cited a kind of popular and senseless attraction to his person, to which his best friends regretted that he gave occasion.   It ill became the strength of his mind, and the manliness of his moral character.   It sprung indeed out of the unfettered range of his opinions :  but it was an ill-formed and ill-condition­ed excres­sence.   It afforded a jest for the half-witted ;  and a triumph for that stupidity, which ought never to be offered occasion to exult.
      Some time after he had arrived at the age of
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eighty, an Irish Peerage devolved on him by the death of his cousin the Primate of Ireland, who had himself enjoyed a venerable length of years, and had given little probability that the subject of the present memoir would have survived him.   No two characters could be more unlike, than those of the Primate and his successor.  The former had been brought up in Courts ;  and passed his life in them.   He had every polished habit ;  was graceful and magnificent ;  and spent his days in palaces, capitals, and public places.   He knew and valued the world, conformed to its customs, and prosper­ed by his regard for human institutions.   He was elegant, complacent, sensible, winning, and bene­volent.   The Irish people looked up to him with esteem and respect ;  and still regard his memory with fondness and admiration.
      I am not sure that he, who spent so many of his long days in the loneliness of the woods and lawns of Horton, was in all views a character more worthy of respect.   But we estimate men like books, by their rarity, as well as by their intrinsic worth.   There is often not only strength, but merit, in deviating from the beaten track.
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      The Robinsons were a Yorkshire family.  Their beautiful seat at Rokeby, which has been lately made the scene of one of Walter Scott's favourite poems, was sold by Sir Thomas Robinson, the Primate's elder brother, to Mr. Morritt, the father of the present possessor.   Mr. Matthew Robinson was born at York, in which county, (about Burniston and Allerthorpe,) were his paternal estates;  a property of which he did not come into possession till the death of his father in 1778, when he himself was verging towards seventy.   At his own death, after a lapse of two and twenty years, his father's old chariot still stood unused in his coach­house ;  for he himself never kept a carriage.
      A rude kind of plenty reigned throughout the mansion.   There was no deficiency of servants ;  but they were rather for use than ostentation.   They wore no liveries ;  and they had grown grey in their master's employment.   Without; the distant views were luxuriant, and lively with vast herds of flocks.   But in the immediate environs of the mansion, there was too much the appearance of bareness and desolation.   The trim hand of Art was offensive to the owner ;  and shrubberies and
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walks, and walls and gardens, had been all thrown down, or uprooted.
      His income was far beyond his expenditure, though his rents had never been raised, and he made scarcely any interest of his large personal pro­perty.   Great sums, amounting to nearly 15,000 guineas in specie, lay locked in the coffers of his mansion ; and twenty or thirty thousand pounds was deposited among several private bankers.   He had small sums in different foreign banks in various parts of the continent, most of which was lost when the French Revolution spread its convulsions over other states.   To the public Funds of his native country he trusted little.   He always expected a national bankruptcy ;  and yet with a glaring incon­sistency, trusted the banks of individuals, who must necessarily have been involved in any public ruin.
      He had the character of avarice; but the charge was quite unfounded.   He was a generous, though a whimsical lender, wherever his confidence was engaged.  And there were occasions, on which he was bountiful both to his relations and others.
      Among his moral virtues were his philan­thropy, and his entire exemption from envy, ma-
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lice, and all those petty and degrading faults which spring out of them.   The purity of his heart re­joiced at the welfare of his neighbours; and he neither looked with bitterness nor scorn at any man's pleasures or pursuits.   Content with his own ways, he was willing that every one should follow without reproach the bent of his imagina­tions, where they were innocent.
      Perhaps the frame of his mind, as well as his early habits, led him into too general a custom of scepticism on most of the subjects regarding life and manners which are daily occurring ;  and this again led him into singularities of opinion as well as conduct, which sound judgment and deep wis­dom could not always justify.   It is quite clear that, in a great variety of cases, we must yield to general admissions, and not refuse our assent merely because we ourselves cannot see the reasons of them.   The most powerful talents are limited in their excursions, and cannot have either strength or leisure themselves to examine and resolve every question which the business of the world presents, or human speculations suggest.   Lord Rokeby's theories, therefore, political or moral, sometimes

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