Charles James Fox: a Man for the People

By Loren Dudley Reid | Go to book overview

31
Death of 1806

The giant race is now extinct.

Francis Horner

In an age when a low fever might suddenly become high, a slight infection massive, a lesser illness mortal, no one could tell whether he would survive an indisposition or be carried away by it. Aches and pains had to be endured with little hope of relief. Physicians were at hand, but fortified mainly with plasters, ointments, leeches, purges, instruments for letting blood. If one recovered, he could be grateful for a constitution strong enough to survive both ailment and healer. If suffering were prolonged he could only pray for the fortitude to endure.

Elizabeth Fox's journal, kept during the spring and summer of 1806, shows her growing alarm about the worsening health of her husband. He never fully recovered from long exposure to bitter cold while attending Nelson's funeral. He worked far too hard. He laboured at parliamentary and official duties when he needed rest and repose. 'Carl dined at the Marquis of Buckinghams came home at nine and was busy writing till near twelve and thank God he seems nice and well and not the worse for the fatigue he has.' This on March 16. 'Carl not quite so well Genl Fitz dined with us a good many people came in the evening which made angel a little cross.' This on April 2. Carl 'did not get to bed until half past three'; his 'cold still bad he breakfasted ill bed'; 'he sat up with Ld Yarmouth and Sir F. Vincent writing till three'; 'still worse . . . saw Dr Vaughan'; 'very bad he suffered dreadfully with the pain in his thighs'; 'some days better and some worse but very bad and low the day before yesterday'; 'a badish night owing to the hardness of the poultice'; entries like these through June and July.

As early as the end of June Fox's friends realized his days were numbered. 'I fear that the die is cast respecting Fox,' wrote the Marquis of Buckingham, 'whether his life be protracted a few months or not.'1 Lady Gower, who saw him June 29, was distressed to see his emaciated face and hands, his sunken bosom, his sallow complexion, his enormous body and legs. 'I cannot tell you the sort of gentle,

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1
HMCR, Fortescue MSS., viii, 208. To Grenville, June 29, 1806. ' Fox's state of health is such as gives no hopes of the possibility of his ever resuming his place in the H. of C.' Stowe collection, ST 174, June 29 ( Huntington).

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