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LORD GEORGE BENTINCK, M.P.
ENGRAVED BY J. B. HUNT, FROM A
PORTRAIT BY M. CLAUDET.
We might perhaps find stronger proof for introducing the portrait of Lord George Bentinck than we shall rest content with in at present so doing. It is not as the new light blazing forth so suddenly in the political horizon; not as the able and worthy opponent of the great statesman of his time; not as the acknowledged leader of a powerful and respected party; not as the high-principled advocate or indefatigable patriot, that we here publish the excellent likeness we have obtained. It is not for any of these attributeshowever noble and exalted they may really make their possessor-but rather as the most accomplished sportsman of the age, and as the very keenest turfite the annals of British racing ever produced ; as the adventurous spirit who ordered posters on, to take Elis down to Doncaster to win the Leger; as the proposer of amendments that he himself was the first to put into practice; as the uncompromising enemy to every species of shuffling and rascality; and as the owner of race-horses who facilitated for the whole public those opportunities for enjoying the pastime that so chosen a few had hitherto alone expected. On these grounds is it that we pay our tribute of respect to Lord George Bentinck, confident that every sportsman will re-echo our opinion, while assured that none will question his right to the position be has gained, as few could equal the claims he has shown for it.
William George Frederick Cavendish Bentinck, more commonly known as Lord George Bentinck, was born at Welbeck, on the 27th of February, 1802, and is the second surviving son of that good man and true sportsman, his Grace the Duke of Portland, by Henrietta, eldest daughter and coheiress of the late Major-General Scott, and sister of the Dowager Viscountess Canning. The earlier part of his lordship's life was in no way indicative or preparatory to the public standing he was destined hereafter to occupy; for up to his seventeenth year his studies were pursued altogether at home-a custom, though, far from general at that period. The profession to which his disposition would appear to have first inclined him was that of arms; and accordingly, we have him entering, somewhere about 1819, as a cornet, in the Tenth Hussars. By this time, however, the opportunity for the young soldier to distinguish himself was nearly gone ; and what with two general reductions in four years, and those two following almost immediately after the commencement of his campaign, it was quite as much as Lord George, by various exchanges and purchases, could keep on active service. Indeed, in 1822 he would seem to have somewhat compromised the Dragoon by going into the Forty-first, with the after-intention of accompanying his uncle, the late Mr. Canning, just appointed Governor-General, to India, in the capacity of military secretary. The melancholy decease
of Lord Castlereagh, and the immediate call for Mr. Canning as leader in the lower House, with the seals of the foreign Office placed in his keeping, interrupted this course at the very last moment—so late even that the luggage of uncle and nephew had already been sent on board their frigate, the “ Jupiter.” In this change the subject of our memoir so far participated as to continue with his illustrious relative as private in place of military secretary, but without any of the emolument appertaining to the office. Having ably fulfilled the duties of this honorary appointment for nearly three years, it was thought advisable for his lordship to resume his original pursuit; and in 1825 we have him exchanging once more from half-pay to the Second Life Guards, with whom, though, he did not remain much more than twelve months. The cause of his leaving was certainly rather characteristic. In riding one day off Newmarket Heath with the late Duke of York, perhaps even as great a lover of racing as Lord George himself, the Commander-in-Chief, with that gracious manner which so generally distinguished him, made his brother-turfite the presentation of an unattached majority then vacant. This was the last step and place Lord George took in the service; for only two years later he was elected member for Lynn, for which borough he still sits; and in 1835, seeing no hope of action or advancement, retired in toto from the army-list by selling out.
Having so far followed Lord George Bentinck as “an officer and a gentleman," it now becomes our more especial duty to consider his character as a “gentleman sportsman.”
The inclination for field and other eminently national sports, although only fully developed within these few years, had long and surely shown itself; the turf, however, at first not holding that ascendancy over other amusements which in after time it so signally obtained. Indeed, if any, in the opening days of Lord George's career, could boast of a preference, it was the chace, for which for some considerable period his lordship evinced all that active energy in participation that he subsequently transferred to its more costly companion. For many seasons, we believe, he might have been reckoned something very like a six days a-week man, backed with the further recommendation that he rode to hounds, and not at men. In fact in all his pursuits, Lord George Bentinck has strictly confined himself to their purely legitimate and proper use; and so in the field he figured only as a good—that is to say, a farabove-the-average-rider, when, had his aim been the lead, and not the hunting, he might no doubt have been classed with the brilliant. In shooting, again, he was always content with the fair-play performances of spaniels, pointers, and setters, in making up a moderate bag, rather than call in the aid of biped beaters and overstocked preserves to fill the carts and swell out the list. In boating, and other recreations of the kind, Lord George also played a good part; and in short, when a young man, arrived at no mean proficiency in most of those pursuits likely to interest and test one of his spirit and ability.
Still his lordship's great forte, and, as some good people until very lately were charitably inclined to think, his only grand point, was the turn for racing-a passion that worked equally to his own fame and the advantage of the sport he so warmly affected.
As the son of a nobleman always fond of a little racing, it was but natural to find
him following in the same steps; and at a comparatively early era in his life, Lord George, if we recollect right, indulged occasionally in courting the honours of the cap and jacket. At any rate, we mark him down in 1824 as riding a winning race over his favourite course, Goodwood, on Mr. Poyntz's Olive: and a very terrible race it was, considering there were two dead heats between Olive and Swindon, and then a jealous “who shall ?" for the third. When, moreover, we are told that the Honourable F. Berkeley was the beaten man on this occasion, it may be fairly computed that Lord George had become quite as good a horseman across the flat as he already had been proved over a country. His last appearance as an amateur race-rider was also enacted over Goodwood, in the year before last, but not with the like success; the blue-and-white colours of Captain Cook succumbing to Lord Maidstone on Larry McHale. In this, though, we are rather anticipating the order of events; and as it is our intention to give something like an outline of the Bentinck dynasty, we may as well commence it at once, ranging our glance from the time the turf-leviathan broke out as Mr. John Day, to the day he gave up the high-mettled to the “no surrender.”
Something, then, like ten or twelve years since, we see the fruits of a strong foundation rising up promisingly enough, with such horses to begin with as Venison the stout, The Drummer, Chapeau d'Espagne, and one or two more-well succeeded by the wild and wonderful project attempted, and so gloriously performed, with Lord Lichfield's nomination for the St. Leger. This was perhaps the first decisive step in Lord George's march of improvement, and, by the way of the world, proportionately condemned and ridiculed. Many of the unbelievers, however, had too convincing an argument of its practicability and convenience, and so the innovation of vanning racehorses was allowed to be good, and followed accordingly. The success of Elis on this occasion was but preliminary to the two-year-old triumphs of Grey Momus--a course of conquest that brought the Danebury stable more in fashion than ever. How Grey Momus just lost the Derby, but won the Ascot Cup; and how Crucifix, the very next year, did stamp her second season's form with the Epsom honours—are they not all things recorded in the minds of men ? “ From or with” these we run on to Capote, Sal Volatile, Mulberry Wine, Ratsbane, Dreadnought, Grey Milton, Naworth, Gobemouche and Pluto; and thence to about the acme of his lordship’s strength, when in 1844 he had forty horses running in public, and somewhere near a hundred in all. Proof-Print, Topsail, Misdeal, Tripoli, Firebrand, Flytrap, The Yorkshire Lady, St. Jean d'Acre, and African are the picked ones who take us on to the time, when Gaper again disappointed us of that Derby which ought ere the close to have been added on to the Oaks of Crucifix, and Leger of Elis. Some good things, however, were still in waiting, for which the names of Miss Elis, Croton Oil, Best Bower, Bramble, Pug, Cowl, Clumsy, Princess Alice, Longitude, My Mary, and Old Discord—almost the only horse Lord George ever possessed that could run on-afford in themselves very strong evidence. The great fact, though, all along, whether in or away from Honest John's hard labour, has been—the younger they be, the better they be; and so the curtain falls in excellent keeping on another strong next-year favourite, in Planet for the Derby, and the picked of all the fillies in Slander for the Oaks.
We would wish it to be understood that in giving this epitome of Lord George's stud and their performances, we do not consider the effect as of any great import to our purpose; for it is not the good the turf did him, but rather the good his Lordship did the turf, that we look upon as the “better part.” Many a man, in fact, with a far shorter string, has played a more successful game ; and if the mere sum total of prizes pocketed, or flyers produced be the argument, we must confess to knowing greater names than that of Lord George Bentinck. But, we repeat, it is not this; it is not a reputation that hangs on to a clipping filly, a fame that owns its origin in the thousands won, or an honour that is associated with a piece of plate. The memory of “the Great Reformer" of turf abuses and race-course monopoly will live as long as an Englishman has a taste for the amusement, or a sympathy and admiration for one who alone effected what a whole body allowed themselves unequal to attempt. In support of this, let us look_to, or call over, in the first place, the comforts and information Lord George made it his great care to provide for the masses--a portion of the company that previously had little thought or attention bestowed to their wants. Who forced stewards, trainers, and jockey to come out punctual to that time they had never hitherto professed to keep? Who heralded, for the benefit of every spectator within sight, the names by number of the field preparing to start? And who, to perfect this part of his design, suggested that fine treat, and perhaps best part of the scene, the saddling, walking, and cantering the horses before the stands ?' Previous to these admirable arrangements, how many a man, wearied with waiting, has left ere the race he came to see was run; or thanks to an indifferent card, and one bird's-eye view, without a glance at the horse he had pinned his faith to! We are quite certain, moreover, that no few, with a real inclination for the sport, have had to scarch their next day's paper for the winner of the race they had seen.
If Lord George so far merited the thanks of the multitude, he accomplished quite as much for those who, more directly concerned, did very becomingly express their gratitude by the offer of a testimonial. His stringent and admirably-drawn-up rules for the exclusion of defaulters from race-courses, and the spirit with which he supported the regulations he had made, would of themselves have been quite sufficient to warrant any public demonstration of the kind. When, however, we come to consider with them the other means he took for meeting the covert machinations of swindlers; the provision he made to prevent horses being drawn at the last minute, and, above all, his triumphant plan for suppressing that most rascally of all proceedings known as “ false starts” —when we come to add these on to his other achievements, we feel much inclined to conclude that scarcely a sufficient return has been made for them. Still, by his own liberality and forethought, Lord George Bentinck has converted this very offering into the crowning deed of his dynasty;*
* The Bentinck Benevolent and Provident Fund, including the sum of £2,100 Consols, being stock purchased with money subscribed for a testimonial to Lord George Bentinck, now amounts to £2,400 Consols. The fund