The Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot

The Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot

The Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot

The Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot

Excerpt

Born on 14 March 1767, Charles Arbuthnot was the third son of John Arbuthnot, of Rockfleet, County Mayo, by his third wife Anne, daughter of Richard Stone, a well-known London banker. His mother's wealthy relations took charge of his education and launched him in a career. At the age of six his great-uncle, Andrew Stone, the politician and tutor of George III, left him a legacy of £3,000, and, subsequently, his great-aunt bequeathed him £20,000.

In 1774 he was sent to a private school at Richmond, and five years later he went on to Westminster. Proceeding to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1784, he passed four years 'in idleness and amusements'. 'I lived there', he afterwards wrote, 'with a most agreeable set, but unfortunately it was not the turn of those with whom I associated, to read and study.' In 1788 he spent several months on the Continent 'in the best society', and a year later he went with Lord North's youngest son Frederick, to Denmark, Sweden, and Poland.

It was intended that he should be a lawyer, but 'the severe labour of the law' was too distasteful to him, and he idled away his time in fashionable London society until 1793, when, through the influence of a friend John King, Lord Grenville's under-secretary of state, he was offered the post of précis- writer in the foreign office at a salary of £300 a year. Two years later he entered the house of commons as member for East Looe, but successive diplomatic appointments interfered with a parliamentary career, and he was not again in parliament until April 1809. Within a few weeks of his election he was sent to Stockholm as secretary of legation. He returned home at the beginning of 1797, and in 1798 he went to Stuttgart to congratulate Frederick of Württemberg, George III's son-in-law, on his succession to the duchy.

In the course of this year John King again brought Arbuthnot's claims to foreign employment before Lord Grenville, with the result that he was offered the consulship at Lisbon, which, he was assured, was equal in rank and superior in value to the situation of minister plenipotentiary. He had recently fallen in love with Miss Clapcott-Lisle, daughter of William Clapcott-Lisle and of Mrs. Lisle, the Princess of Wales's lady-in-waiting, and sister of the first marquess of Cholmondeley. Lord Cholmondeley gave him to understand that . . .

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