George Canning (1770-1827)


Life
[“The Younger”], b. 11 April 1770, son of George Canning [q.v.], and his wife Mary Ann Costello [q.v.]; brought up by his uncle, Stratford Canning, a Whig banker, at request of the actor John Moody who predicted that young George would otherwise end on the gallows; his mother returned to the stage; ed. Eton and Christ Church, Oxon., 1788-91 and Lincoln’s Inns, 1791; reacted with outrage to the French Revolution; attached himself to Pitt, 1793; elected MP for Newport, 1794; afterwards for Wendover, 1797; appt. Under-Secretary of State, 1796-99;
 
co-founded with John Gifford the Anti-Jacobin; also contrib. Quarterly Review. member of India board, 1799-1800; paymaster-gen., 1800-01; Treasurer of the Navy, 1804-06; refused office under Grenville; Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1807-09, during Lord Portland’s administration; fought duel with Castlereagh, then at the war office; wounded in the thigh on the second exchange and resigned office in consequence, Sept. 1809; refused foreign office under Lord Liverpool, May 1812; MP Liverpool, 1812-22;
 
visited Portugal and S. France, 1812-16; Ambassador Extraordinary to Lisbon, 1814-16; joined Liverpool’s admin. as president of India Board, 1816; resigned 1821, as favouring Queen Caroline; nominated governor-general of India, 1821; resigned 1822; Harwich MP 1822; foreign sec. for Lord Liverpool, Sept. 1822; acknowledged independence of Spain’s colonies, 1823; shielded Greece against Turkey, 1825-27; supported popular party in Portugal, 1826-27; Premier at Lord Liverpool’s death, 1827; Prime Minister, 1827; d. 8 Aug. 1827, being succeeded by Lord Angelesey; Poetical Works (1823); Speeches (1828). ODNB OCEL JMC OCIL

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Works
[Anon.], Ulm and Trafalgar (London 1806); Poetical Works of G. C. (London 1823); Memoir of G.C. with his Odes, Songs, Satires etc. (Brussels 1835).

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Criticism
Wendy Hinde, George Canning (Blackwell 1989) [note that Hinde has also written Catholic Emancipation, A Shake to Men’s Minds (Blackwell 1992). A memoir of Canning appeared in the New Irish Magazine and Monthly National Advocate (Dublin; Vol. l No.1 July 1822), with port.

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Quotations
English constitution: ‘Other nations, excited by the example of the liberty which this country has long possessed, have attempted to copy our Constitution; and some of them have shot beyond it in the fierceness of their pursuit ... Our lot is happily cast in the temperate zone of freedom, the clime best suited to the development of the moral qualities of the human race, to the cultivation of their faculties, and to the security as well as the improvement of their virtues; a clime not exempt, indeed, from variations of the elements, but variations which purify while they agitate the atmosphere that we breathe. Let us be sensible of the advantages which it is our happiness to enjoy. Let us guard with pious gratitude the flame of genuine liberty, that fire from heaven, of which our Constitution is the holy depository; and let us not, for the chance of rendering it more intense and radiant, impair its purity or hazard its extinction!’ (Extract from Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature, 1904)

“The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-grinder”
      by George Canning and J. H. Frere
 

“Needy Knife-grinder! whither are you going?
Rough is the road, your wheel is out of order -
Bleak blows the blast; - your hat has got a hole in't,
   So have your breeches!

“Weary Knife-grinder! little think the proud ones,
Who in their coaches roll along the turnpike-
road, what hard work 'tis crying all day “knives and
   “scissors to grind O!”

“Tell me, Knife-grinder, how you came to grind knives?
Did some rich man tyranically use you?
Was it the squire? or parson of the parish?
   Or the attorney?

“Was it the squire, for the killing of his game? or
Covetous parson, for his tithes distraining?
Or roguish lawyer, made you lose your little
   All in a lawsuit?

(Have you not read the Rights of Man, by Tom Paine?)
Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids,
Ready to fall, as soon as you have told your
   Pitiful story.”

Knife-grinder
“Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, sir,
Only last night a-drinking at the Chequers,
This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were
   Torn in a scuffle.

“Constables came up for to take me into
Custody; they took me before the justice;
Justice Oldmixon put me in the parish -
   Stocks for a vagrant.

“I should be glad to drink your Honour's health in
A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence;
But for my part, I never love to meddle
   With politics, sir.”

Friend of Humanity
I give thee sixpence! I will see thee damn'd first -
Wretch! whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to vengeance -
Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded,
 Spiritless outcast!”

[Kicks the Knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and exit in a transport of Republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy.]

 
Available at Representative Poetry Online - online; accessed 13.09.2011.

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References
Dictionary of National Biography
: Founded with John Gifford [1758-1818 ODNB] of the Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, in imitation of the Anti-Jacobin of William Gifford, first ed. of the Quarterly Review [1756-1826 ODNB]. See also John Wilson Croker.

D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1912), ’the Younger’; Ulm and Trafalgar (anon. Lon. 1806); Poetical Works of G.C., Lon. 1823; Memoir of G.C. with his Odes, songs, satires etc., Brussels, 1835. Note that PI has him born in the same calendar day that his father dies one year after.

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Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (2nd Edn. 1941) selects passages from ‘Dispatch’, in cypher, to Sir Charles Bagot, English Ambassador to the Hague [in rhyming verse]; “The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder”; “The Loves of the Triangles”[‘carrying Three Insides’]; “New Morality” [‘A steady patriot of the world alone / The friend of every country but his own’; ‘Give me the avowed, erect and manly foe ... save me from the candid friend’]; “Progress of Man” [‘... mars creation’s plan’]; “The Rovers” [‘... let us swear eternal friendship’]; “Song” [‘rotting in ... university of Gottingen’]; “Song for the Inauguration of the Pitt Club”; Speech in House of Commons, 1801 [‘Away with the cant of “Measures not men!” - the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along. If the comparison must be made, if the distinction must be taken, men are everything, measures comparatively nothing.’]; Speech of 1826 [‘I call the New World into existence, to redress the balance of the Old’.

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The Oxford Book of 18th Century Poetry (OUP) selects ’The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinders’, Sapphics, from The Anti-Jacobin no. 2, Nov. 27 1797; also ’The Soldier’s Friend’, dactylics, from The Anti-Jacobin, No. 5, Dec. 11, 1797, both against Paine; also ’Song’, By Rogero, in ’’The Rovers’, [Whene’er with haggard’s eyes I view/This Dungeon that I’m rotting in/I think of those Companions true/Who studied with me at the U/-niversity of Gottingen/...&c.’, from The Anti-Jacobin, No. 30, June 4 1798 (702ff.).

Wells, ed. English and American Drama [Microcards], contains a copy of “The Rover”, from Burlesque Plays (London 1885), with George Ellis and John H. Frere.

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Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: Catholic Univ. of America 1904), selects ’On the English Constitution’ [’the temperate zone of freedom’]; Song from The Rover; and ’The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder’; also an extract from Life of Canning, under Robert Bell. McCarthy calls him an orator, wit, poet, statesman; called by Byron, ’a genius - almost a universal one’. b. 11 April 1770; ed. Eton, brilliant member of The Microcosm (Nov. 1786-July1787); his essay on The Books for Children published by Goldsmith’s friend and publisher Newbery; first a Liberal, then a Tory; fnd. The Anti-Jacobin to oppose revolutionary sentiment, 30 weekly numbers in 1796; the poetry collected a publish in 1894; associated with The Quarterly Review, contributing notably on the bullion question; entered Parliament on Sheridan’s advice, 1794; Lord Dalling referred to the ‘singularly mellifluous and sonorous voice, the classical language - now pointed with epigram, now elevated into poetry, now burning with passion, now rich with humour - which curbed into still attention a willing and long-broken audience.’ Under-Secretary of State, 1796; Treasurer of the Navy, 1804-06; Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1807-09; Ambassador to Lisbon, 1814-16; Premier, 1827; assisted S. America republics to obtain independence; a letter he addressed to the American representative in England was the initial step which led President Monroe to formulate the famous Monroe Doctrine. [His attitude on Emancipation is not stated.]

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The British Library (pre-1976 Catalogue) - see listing attached.

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Hyland Catalogue (1997) lists Substance of [...] Speech of George Canning on Lord Morpeth’s Motion for a Committee on the State of Ireland, February 3rd, 1812 (1812), 54pp, 2pp. advs. and errata slip.

University of Ulster Central Library holds Canning, Peter Dixon (1932/1976) 941.074; George Canning, Wendy Hinde (1973; rep. Blackwell 1989) 941.074.

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Notes
Edmund Burke: Canning believed that Burke’s Reflections “has been justified by the course of subsequent events and almost every prophecy has been strictly fulfilled”. In 1823 he wrote that he took Burke’s “last works and words the manual of my politics” (See E. J. Stapleton, ed., Some Official Correspondence of George Canning, Vol. I (London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1887), p.74l; quoted in Wikipedia article on Burke [online - accessed 11.03.2011.].

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H[enri] Hovelaque [Professeur au lycée Saint-Louis, ed.], Anthologie de la Littérature irlandaise des Origines au XXe siècle (Paris Libraire Delagrave 1924), includes the prefatory statement: ‘ils ne l’ont vu ni assez souvent, ni d’assez près; enfin, rappelons-nouse que l’Angleterre forme, ainsi que l’a si bien vu une femme d’esprit, Lady Clanricarde, fille du grand Canning, comme une haute muraille qui nous empêche de voir l’île sœur.’ (p.2).

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Oscar Wilde alludes to Canning An Ideal Husband (1985) where Lord Caversham reports the Times’ acount of Sir Robert Chiltern’s speech, which is styled ‘one of the finest pieces of oratory ever delivere din the House since Canning.’ To which Lord Goring replies: ‘Ah! Never heard of canning. Never wanted to. And did ... did Chiltern uphold the scheme?’ (Act IV.)

Stratford Canning, Viscount de Redcliffe and celebrated British diplomatist, of whom there is a statue in Westminster Cathedral, was a cousin [ODNB].

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