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IT IS OF THE ESSENCE OF THESE MEMOIRS NOT TO SOFTEN
THE TIME THEY
Note by the Author
THE AUTHOR of these Journals requested me, in January 1865, a few days before his death, to take charge of them with a view to publication at some future time. He left that time to my discretion, merely remarking that Memoirs of this kind ought not, in his opinion, to be locked up until they had lost their principal interest by the death of all those who had taken any part in the events they describe. He placed several of the earlier volumes at once in my hands, and he intimated to his surviving brother and executor, Mr. Henry Greville, his desire that the remainder should be given me for this purpose. The injunction was at once complied with after Mr. Charles Greville's death, and this interesting deposit has now remained for nearly ten years in my possession. In my opinion this period of time is long enough to remove every reasonable objection to the publication of a contemporary record of events already separated from us by a much longer interval, for the transactions related in these volumes cominence in 1818 and end in 1837. I therefore commit to the press that portion of these Memoirs which embraces the Reigns of King George IV. and King William IV., ending with the Accession of her present Majesty.
In accepting the trust and deposit which Mr. Greville thought fit to place in my hands, I felt, and still feel, that I undertook a task and a duty of considerable responsibility ; but from the time and the manner in which it was offered me I could not decline it. I had lived for more than five-and-twenty years in the daily intercourse of official life and private friendship with Mr. Greville. Sir George Cornewall Lewis, to whom he had previously intended to leave these Journals, died before him. After that event, deeply to be regretted on so many accounts, Mr. Greville did me the honour to select me for the performance of this duty, which was unexpected by myself; and my strong attachment and gratitude to him for numberless acts of kindness and marks of confidence bound me by every consideration to obey and execute the wishes of my late friend.
In the discharge of this trust I have been guided by no other motive than the desire to present these Memorials to the world in a manner which their Author would not have disapproved, and in strict conformity with his own wishes and injunctions. He himself, it should be said, had frequently revised them with great care. He had studiously omitted and erased passages relating to private persons or affairs, which could only serve to gratify the love of idle gossip and scandal. The Journals contain absolutely nothing relating to his own family, and but little relating to his private life. In a passage (not now
published) of his own writings, the Author remarks :• A journal to be good, true, and interesting, should be • written without the slightest reference to publication, · but without any fear of it: it should be the transcript
of a mind that can bear transcribing. I always contem‘ plate the possibility that hereafter my journal will be read, and I regard with alarm and dislike the notion of 'its containing matters about myself which nobody will * care to know' (January 2nd, 1838).
These notes were designed chiefly to preserve a record of the less known causes and details of public events which came under the Author's observation, and they are interspersed with the conversations of many of the eminent men with whom he associated. But it must be borne in mind that they are essentially what they profess to be—a contemporary record of facts and opinions, not altered or made up to square with subsequent experience. Hence some facts may be inaccurately stated, because they are given in the shape they assumed at the time they were recorded, and some opinions and judgments on men and things are at variance (as he himself acknowledges and points out) with those at which the writer afterwards arrived on the same persons and subjects. Our impressions of what is passing around us vary so rapidly and so continually, that a contemporary record of opinion, honestly preserved, differs very widely from the final and mature judgment of history : : yet the judgment of history must be based upon contemporary evidence. It was remarked by an acute observer to Mr. Greville himself, that the nuances in political society are so delicate and numerous, the details so nice and varying, that unless caught at the moment they escape, and it is impossible to collect them again. That is the charm and the merit of genuine contemporary records.
The two leading qualities in the mind of Mr. Greville were the love of truth and the love of justice. His natural curiosity, which led him to track out and analyse the causes of events with great eagerness, was stimulated by the desire to arrive at their real origin, and to award to everyone, with judicial impartiality, what appeared to him to be a just share of responsibility. Without the passions or the motives of a party politician, he ardently sympathised with the cause of Liberal progress and Conservative improvement, or, as he himself expresses it, with Conservative principles on a Liberal basis. He was equally opposed to the prejudices of the old Tory aristocracy, amongst whom he had been brought up, and to the impetuous desire of change which achieved in his time so many vast and various triumphs. His own position, partly from the nature of the permanent office he held in the Privy Council, and partly from his personal intimacies with men of very opposite opinions, was a neutral one ; but he used that neutral position with consummate judgment and address to remove obstacles, to allay irritations, to compose differences, and to promote, as far as lay in his power,
the public welfare. Contented with his own social position, he was alike free from ambition and from vanity. No man was more entirely disinterested in his judgments on public affairs, for he had long made up his nind that