George Howard

George Howard, Earl of Carlisle, digital portrait gallery

Earl of Carlisle

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(17th September, 1773 – 7th October 1848)

OUR Portrait of this most estimable nobleman, from a picture by Jackson. might almost spare us the task of writing a biographical memoir, if these characters were to be taken from physiognomy, and our friends did not expect a few details from the pen. We have hardly seen a likeness where the pencil spoke more truly. High intellect, amiability, refinement, and the calm firmness which distinguishes true and natural from acquired and self-asserting dignity, are marked in every lineament ; and these features only proclaim the exalted individual aright. The long roll of the British Peerage is not graced by a name more worthy of esteem and honor than that of GEORGE HOWARD, the EARL OF CARLISLE.

This branch of the family, derived from the ducal house of Norfolk, was ennobled about the middle of the seventeenth century ; when, in the year 1661, soon after the civil wars, the first peer, Charles, the great-grandson of the famous " Belted Will Howard, was called to the Upper House as Earl of Carlisle, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland. This was the royal act of King Charles, his Lordship having been previously created, by Cromwell in 1657, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, and Baron of Gillesland. From him is descended, through many of the most splendid female alliances of his ancestors, GEORGE, the subject of this brief sketch, who is the son of Frederick, the fifth Earl ; and a man of such celebrity, that we will venture to devote a few lines to his memory.

Earl Frederick was the Eton contemporary of Fox, Hare, and other celebrated individuals, and early displayed that predilection for elegant literature and the fine arts which distinguished him in after life. In 1780, he was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, which office he filled with benefit to the country for nearly two years ; when one of the political changes so frequent in those days interrupted his measures, and he gave place to the Duke of Portland. Many important questions afterwards agitated the kingdom, and in all these his Lordship took a prominent part, and, for a long period, in opposition to Mr. Pitt. On the breaking out of the French revolutionary war, however, his Lordship, alarmed by the danger of the crisis, ranged himself with the government, to strengthen and support it against the common enemy.

But his Lordship claims our tribute rather as a scholar and a poet, than as a statesman. Even his boyhood was adorned by a devotion to the Muses; and several of the periodical publications of that era were enriched by his fugitive pieces. A splendid edition of his acknowledged productions was published by Balmer in 1801. " The Father's Revenge," and " The Stepmother," two tragedies, were later works ; and the noble Lord followed the pursuits of literature with ardour to the end of his life in 1825, and was equally the friend of literary men, and the munificent patron of the arts.

It will be recollected by our readers how bitterly he was assailed by his relative Lord Byron, in his literary character ; and we refer to the matter, for the purpose of throwing some light upon this incident, which none of the biographers of Lord Byron have yet done. Lord Carlisle was related to our splendid poet by the marriage of his grandfather Henry, the fourth Earl, to Isabella the great-aunt of Byron ; and we are informed that the mother of the latter, a wayward woman, had, from his childhood upwards, prejudiced his mind against his paternal relations. It was not, therefore, surprising, that with a temperament like his, and impressed with erroneous feelings, he should at the first semblance of an occasion mistake civility for
affront, and throw himself back on his native pride and resent-ment, instead of looking fairly at the circumstances which gave rise to his anger. It was then he struck the blow, which he afterwards repented, and in some measure recalled. The offence, we believe, was on account of Lord Carlisle's declining to introduce him to the House of Peers, when he took his seat ; and also referring him for his pedigree to the Herald's College previous to the issue of the writ. But it seems to have been his own temper, and not the facts, which could afford materials for so much spleen : the Earl of Carlisle never meant to treat Lord Byron slightingly, by pointing to him the only place where his pedigree could be made out ; and with regard to the introduction, it is not consistent with the rules of the House, for a peer of a superior to introduce a peer of an inferior degree. A peer by descent, after receiving his writ, indeed, takes the oaths at the table without any introduction ; and a peer newly created is introduced by two peers of his own rank. But, misinformed on these points, Lord Byron gave way to his passions, and endeavoured to stigmatize, or rather turn into ridicule, the party who had so unconsciously offended him.

As every incident in which Byron was concerned, and especially when connected with so exalted a person as the Earl of Carlisle, is of public interest, we hope to be excused for this -episode ; and now return to the more immediate object of our sketch.

The present Earl was born 17th September, 1773, and was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. As his father was embarked in political life, it is probable that he contemplated a similar course for his son ; and accordingly in 1795-6, we find that he accompanied Lord Malmesbury in one of his missions to the continent, and was, no doubt, thus early initiated into many of the mysteries of diplomacy. On his return he took his seat in the House of Commons : and continued to devote himself to parliamentary duties with more attention than usual with young men of similar rank and fortune.

In 1806, he was a Commissioner for the affairs of India, and so competent to his office, that we are indebted to him for one of the most luminous speeches upon the affairs of that country, which has ever been pronounced within the walls of the House. It was published separately as a pamphlet, and is, we believe, the only distinct publication which we can attribute to his Lordship. We believe his Lordship contributed, if nothing besides, a very clever Latin poem to the famous Anti-j acobin newspaper.
Subsequently to this period, his Lordship was sent on a special mission to Berlin ; but of the intents and purposes of such secret and important employment, we cannot be expected to give any information.
After remaining some time in Prussia, his Lordship returned home, and resumed his useful though not too obtrusive public services ; for he spoke very seldom in Parliament, yet he exercised, in consequence of his acknowledged talents and intelligence, a beneficial influence, more felt than heard of, in the counsels and government of the nation.—Thus years rolled on, till in 1824, he was made Lord-Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire ; and in 1825, (September 4th). succeeded his father in the Earldom of Carlisle.

In 1827, when Mr. Carmine was called upon by his Majesty to form an administration, his Lordship, between whom and the minister an intimacy, alike honorable to the tastes and endowments of both, had long been established, accepted the office of First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, with a seat in the cabinet ; and afterwards Privy Seal, which he resigned in 1828.

At present his Lordship has a seat in the Cabinet, but without office ; and his addition to their numbers may justly be deemed one of the most stable assurances of the continuation of the new government ; since, whatever changes may assail it, the country will always look with confidence to men actuated by that purity of principle and integrity which distinguishes the Earl of Carlisle. Such an individual can want nothing, can desire nothing, but the welfare Of the land in which he has so large a stake ; and, surrounded by a family like his, with a son, Lord Morpeth, following admirably in the steps of his forefathers, whether we look to patriotism or the love of science and literature, England has the surest of pledges that he will do his duty, even were he not stimulated by the finest sense of innate rectitude, and the example of a glorious race.

His Lordship, on March 21st, 1801, married Lady Georgiana Cavendish, the eldest daughter of William, the fifth Duke of Devonshire, by whom he has six sons and six daughters. Of the latter are married, Lady Caroline to the Hon. William Lascelles, third son of the Earl of Harewood ; Lady Georgiana to the Right Hon. George Agar Ellis, eldest son of Viscount Clifden, and now First Commissioner of Woods and Forests ; Lady Harriet to Geoge. Earl Gower, eldest son of the Marquess of Stafford ; and Lady Blanche to William Cavendish, Esq. Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge.

The titles are, Earl of Carlisle, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, in the county of Northumberland, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland. His Lordship's principal seats are Naworth Castle, the ancient castle of the Dacres, a coheiress of whom married Belted Will Howard, above two hundred years ago, in Cumberland ; and Castle Howard, in the county of York. The latter mansion is adorned by a splendid collection of paintings of ancient and modern masters, and combines many of the chef d'ceuvres of the greatest foreign artists, with some of the finest performances which the liberal patronage of the noble owners could accomplish from native art.—As a matter of curiosity, we append a notice of two of the most remarkable of these works from the Catalogue at Castle Howard.

ADORATION OF OCR SAVIOUR BY THE WISE. MEN, by Mabeuse.—A wonderful production of the Art. This picture, though painted almost 300 years ago, appears from the freshness of its colours, to have been finished within this century. Every part is touched with the same laborious minuteness. The draperies and the ornaments of jewellery, &c. introduced, are in themselves sufficient for the employment of years. The heads are executed with great spirit and freedom. The portraits of the Duke of Brabant, John of Leyden, Albert Darer, with his own, heighten the value of this astonishing effort of painting. It is to be regretted that more of the persons introduced (clearly portraits) are not handed down to us by name. The painter is said to have given eight years of unremitted labour to this work.

THE THREE MARIES, by Annibal Caracci.—If there ever was a picture that united all the excellencies of painting, this seems to be that wonderful effort of the Art. The drawing, colouring, and composition, cannot be surpassed; and the deep tragedy which it exhibits, to use the words of a great author, Dr. Johnson, " storms the human heart." The expression of grief of Mary Magdalen is carried to the extremest point of agonizing wo; and most astonishing is it, that such fixed despair, and sense of excruciating misery, should be described on the human countenance, without verging to grimace or distortion. The fainting figure of the Mother of Jesus is a masterly contrast to the dead body of the Son ; and the terror expressed  by the elder Mary, at viewing her daughter apparently lifeless, gives room to describe distress of a more varied kind, than that of the Mary Magdalen. The size of the canvass (and on which the whole of the subject can be embraced at once) much enhances the value of this picture, as it prevents a painful operation of the mind, which the spectator is called upon to exert, in order to unite the extended parts of a larger subject. Many stories are recorded of the esteemed value of this extraordinary work ; such the court of Spain having offered to cover its surface with louis-d'ors. which would amount, by the trial, to 8000. An offer within these last twenty years, from England, is said to have extended to more than that sun. While in possession of the Duke of Orleans, and before the troubles commenced in France, it was not probable that any offer (with the hope of acceptance) could have been made. By the most awful and unexpected of all events, the French Revolution, and in the wreck of all princely grandeur and individual property, it found its way into England, and into the hands of the owner of this house ; where, as long as it remains, may it not only be an object of delight and admiration, but a memorial of the instability of all worldly possessions!