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and three or four servants-all, perhaps, better dressed than himself!
For through every period of his life it was a prevalent feature in his character to be thought poor : that he could not afford to live as other people did : and that the reports of his being rich were entirely erroneous.
To these ideas he thought he gave strength by having no servants, nor any of the "outward and visible signs” of wealth : and he had persuaded himself, that the public would really think he had no money, because he made no use of any.
Mr. Elwes was first chosen to represent the county of Berks, in the year 1774 ; and he was brought in, in the way he best liked -at no expense. His brother member was Christopher Griffith, Esq. who died in the year 1776, and he was succeeded by Whinchcomb Henry Hartley, Esq. who was re-elected with Mr. Elwes, at the general election, in the year 1780.
When Mr. Elwes first took his seat, the opposition of that time, headed by Mr. Fox, had great hopes that he would be of their party. Mr. Fox had that knowlege of him, which has joined many to his politics. He had seen him at Newmarket, and knew that he was fond of play ; and talked to him with that frankness, which, from great abilities and high political situation, is, and always must be, conciliating. These hopes, however, were disappointed, in Mr. Elwes immediately joining the party of Lord North-and. however it may now sound, it should be said, that let the public opinion of Lord North be now what it may, yet I am convinced, Mr. Elwes had no other motive for that union, than a fair and honest belief that the measures of Lord North were right. But Mr. Elwes never was of that decided and certain cast of men, that such a minister would best approve. He would frequently dissent, and really vote as his conscience led him. Hence, many members of opposition, looked on him as a man “off and on;" or, as they styled him, a « parliamentary coquette :" and it is somewhat remarkable, that both parties were equally fond of having him as a nominee on their contested elections frequently he was the chairman; and he was remarkable for the patience with which he always heard the counsel. In the longest committees, he seldom interrupted their harangues; and those gentlemen at the bar, who have most frequently put this virtue to the test, will remember his patience with gratitude. Of this great quality, to get through life, few men, if any, have possessed a larger share: though in strict regard to truth, it may be added, he never had the good fortune to hear for one day-the trial of Mr. Hastings. · The honor of parliament made no alteration in the dress of Mr. Elwes; on the contrary, it seemed, at this time, to have
attained additional meannessomand nearly to have reached that happy climax of poverty, which has, more than once, drawn on him the compassion of those who passed by him in the street.
For the Speaker's dinners, however, he had one suit-with which the Speaker, in the course of the sessions, became very familiar. The minister, likewise, was well acquainted with it and at any dinner of opposition, still was his apparel the same. The wits of the minority used to say, “that they had full as much reason as the minister to be satisfied with Mr. Elwes--as he had the same habit with every body.”
At this period of his life, Mr. Elwes wore a wig.-Much about that time when his parliamentary life ceased, that wig was worn out-so then, being older and wiser as to expense, he wore his own hair—which, like his expenses, was very small.
Shortly after Mr. Elwes first came into parliament, he went to reside with his nephew, Colonel Timms, who then had a house in Scotland-yard. Of this nephew old Mr. Elwes was certainly very regardful, and indeed he had every cause to be so.—Those who had the honor of Colonel Timms's acquaintance while living, will not forget him now he is no more. The corps in which he served remember him with regret; and the gentlemen of Suffolk, who were acquainted with him, looked forward, not without satisfaction, to a period when they imagined he would possess the property of Mr. Elwes-when he would reside amongst them and when he would diffuse around the country those blessings which great property can confer, when it is used liberally! such blessings as spring from employing, improving, and civilizing the inhabitants of a country—such blessings as arise from the gracious purposes of hospitality and good neighborhood, and still more gracious purposes of relieving the distressed.
Riches, thus employed, no person under Mr. Elwes had ever seen. Had Colonel Timms survived, I have no doubt such prospects would have been realized : an untimely death, however, cut off these hopes. The entailed estate which would have fallen to Colonel Timms, his son will inherit; and, I doubt not, will find out, as the best part of his inheritance, the way to make the loss of a good father felt less severely.
Old Mr. Elwes still went on in his support of Lord North, and the madness of his American war, conducted as he conducted it, till the country grew tired of his administration. But the support given by Mr. Elwes was of the most disinterested kind, for no man was more materially a sufferer. The great property which he had in houses, and those chiefly amongst the new buildings of Marybone, was much injured by the continuance of the war; and as no small proof of it, he had just then supplied the money to build a crescent at the end of Quebec-street, Portman-square, where he expended certainly not less than seven or eight thousand pounds, and which, from the want of inhabitants at that time, was never finished. It has since fallen to Mr. Baker, the ground-landlord, who will, doubtless, make the money which Mr. Elwes lost.
Convinced at length of the ill conduct of Lord North, Mr. Elwes entered into a regular and systematic opposition to his measures with the party of Mr. Fox, in which he continued till Lord North was driven from power, in March 1782. While the party were exulting in the scramble for places, and the division of the loaves and fishes-Mr. Elwes, with nothing to hope and nothing to fear, stood by, with that honest indifference which characterises a man who looks not to men but to measures, and who votes only as his conscience bids him.
The debates at this period were very long and interesting, and generally continued till a late hour in the morning. Mr. Elwes who never left any company, public or private, the first, always stayed out the whole debate. After the division, Mr. Elwes, without a great-coat, would immediately go out of the House of Commons into the cold air, and, merely to save the expense of à hackney-coach, walk to the Mount Coffee-house. Sir Joseph Mawbey, and Mr. Wood of Lyttleton, who went the same way as Mr. Elwes did, often proposed a hackney-coach to him, but the reply always was," he liked nothing so much as walking.” However, when their hackney-coach used to overtake him, he had no objection to coming in to them; knowing that they must pay the fare. This circumstance happened so often, that they used to smile at this act of small cunning, and indulge him in it.
But as the satisfaction of being conveyed home for nothing did not always happen, on those nights when it did not, Mr. Elwes invariably continued his plan of walking. A circumstance happened to him on one of these evenings, which gave him a whimsical opportunity of displaying that disregard of his own person which I have before noticed. The night was very dark, and hurrying along, he went with such violence against the pole of a sedan-chair, which he did not see, that he cut both his legs very deeply. As usual, he thought not of any assistance: but Colonel Timms, at whose house he then was, in Orchard-street, insisted on some one being sent for. Old Elwes at length submitted, and an apothecary was called in, who immediately began to expatiate on " the bad consequences of breaking the skin-the good fortune of his being sent for—and the peculiar bad appearance of Mr. Elwes's wound.” 6 Very probably,” said old Elwes, “but Mr. , I have one thing to say to you—in my opinion my legs are not much hurt; now you think they are-so I will make this agree
ment:- I will take one leg, and you shall take the other; you shall do what you please with yours, and I will do nothing to mine ; and I will wager your bill that my leg gets well the first."
I have frequently heard him mention, with great triumph, that he beat the apothecary by a fortnight!
All this time the income of Mr. Elwes was increasing hourly, and his present expenditure was next to nothing ; for the little pleasures he had once engaged in, he had now given up. He kept no house, and only one old servant and a couple of horses; he resided with his nephew: his two sons he had stationed in Suffolk and Berkshire, to look after his respective estates, and his dress certainly was no expense to him : for, had not other people been more careful than himself, he would not have had it even mended.
- When he left London he went on horseback to his country-seats, with his couple of hard eggs, and without once stopping on the road at any house. He always took the most unfrequented roadbut Marcham was the seat he now chiefly visited; which had some reason to be flattered with the preference, as his journey into Suffolk cost him only two-pence halfpenny, while that into Berkshire amounted to four-pence!
CHAP. VII. When Mr. Elwes thought he had got into the House of Commons for nothing, he had not taken into the account the inside of the house-the outside only had entered into his calculation. In a short time, therefore, he found out, that members of parliament could want money, and he had the misfortune to feel one member that was inclined to lend them. Perhaps a fate ordained this retribution, and designed that thus only, some of the enormous wealth of Mr. Elwes should escape from his grasp. Be this as it may, there does however exist a pile of bad debts and uncancelled bonds, which, could they be laid on the table of the House of Commons, would strike dumb some orators on both sides of the house.
In the survey of these monied memorials it would seem as if some members had thought they were only franking a letter, or considered these bonds as a cover to go free.
Time, which conquers all things, conquered this passion of lending in Mr. Elwes; and an unfortunate proposal which was made him of vesting twenty-five thousand pounds in some ironworks in America, gave, at last, a fatal blow to his various speculations. - The plan had been so plausibly laid before him,
con Time, whiwir. Elwes. 'wenty-first, a fat
that he had not a doubt of its success; but he had the disappointment never to hear more either of his iron, or his gold.
From this period he began to think that the funds were full as safe as iron-works, or members of parliament; and from that time he vested his money in those securities.
I have heard him say, that three contested elections would not have cost him more than he lost by his brother representatives. In the year 1780, another member threatened him with a calamity not less likely to be afflictive. His neighbor, at that time, in Welbeck-street, Lord George Gordon, gave him a prospect of diminishing his income on houses--and as Mr. Elwes was his own insurer, he passed his time very pleasantly during the fires. On a house adjoining to that where Mr. Elwes lived being set on fire, Lord George Gordon offered, very civilly, to take the furniture of Mr. Elwes into his own house, by way of securing it. But Mr. Elwes full as civilly replied — He was much obliged to his lordship, but if he would give him leave, he would take his chance !”
On the dismission of Lord North, Mr. Elwes was left in the party of Mr. Fox—though he could not properly be said to belong to any set of men, for he had the very singular quality of not determining how he should vote, before he heard what was said on the subject. On this account he was not reckoned an acquisi. tion by either side ; and, it is but justice to say, he was perfectly indifferent to the opinions of both.
When the Marquis of Lansdowne came into power, Mr. Elwes was found supporting for a time his administration and his lordship will understand me, when I say—Mr. Elwes had his reasons to be satisfied with the peace; for he saw what he might not otherwise have seen. · Not long after this, Mr. Elwes followed his conscience on a question, and voted with Mr. Fox against the Marquis of Lansdowne, and thus added another confirmation to the political opinion that was held of him . That no man, or party of men, could be sure of him.”
This was frequently the declaration of Sir Edward Astley, Sir George Saville, Mr. Powis, and Mr. Marsham, who all, and frequently, talked to him on his whimsical versatility. But it will, undoubtedly, admit a question, even in politics, how far a man thus voting on all sides, as his opinion led him at the moment, be or be not a desirable man, in aiding the good government of a country?
Mr. Elwes having thus voted against the Marquis of Lansdowne, as a minister, went forward to assist, with his vote, the greatest monster in politics that ever disgraced any country since the beginning of time!can any one have a doubt that I niean the