‘Dear Brother,’ the unpublished letters of Charles Cadogan, part 7: A family quarrel has ended, and King George III is back to health (Rome 1789)

Cadogan writes the first of his Latin letters to William. King George III had recovered from his first attack of madness, perhaps porphyria, by mid-February 1789. The Whig leader Charles James Fox had  proposed a Regency Bill to make the Prince of Wales de facto ruler during his father’s illness. The more conservative Whig peers, like Charles Cadogan’s father, Lord Cadogan, supported Fox’s Bill but with considerable reservations, and this may explain the ‘protestatio’ – translated ‘declaration’ but does it mean an amendment to the Bill?- signed by Lord Cadogan. ‘Uncle Hector’ is a mystery; Charles Cadogan’s only uncle was Thomas 2nd Lord Montfort, a political ally of his father, so Hector (? of Troy) may be a joke or a nickname. Cadogan supports his father – ‘interests’ means political interests – but he is impressed by the Tory Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, who realised that the Bill had to pass even though it would’ve meant him losing power and Fox becoming Prime Minister. In the event, the King recovered just in time to prevent a Regency, until his final illness in 1811.

These letters show that Cadogan was quite a linguist, writing Italian as well as Latin. He wishes he had stayed long enough at Westminster to do Greek, but he joined the Guards instead. To my knowledge, this is the first time we know where he went to school, and with whom he served in the army. He keeps in touch with Venetian diplomats, including the former Consul in Alexandria, with whom he stayed in Egypt. Venice was the clearing-house for diplomatic information throughout the whole Eastern Mediterranean, and Cadogan clearly keeps an ear to what is happening there.

Most of the two letters is in Latin, but where Cadogan goes back into English, I’ve put it in italics. The ‘little corner’ about friends back home reminds you that reading letters could be a social occasion, and he writes this part in English so William can show their friends that Charles is asking after them.

Finally, spare a thought for Cottrell, Cadogan’s servant, who shares his master’s joy at the end of a family quarrel and has also shared his extraordinary travels. Since his first mention in 1783 he too has been abroad this whole time.

Rome, March 20th 1789

Best and dearest brother,

N.B. Direct your elegant answer to this to Turin; where I shall pass a few days after the Ascension, and consequently be there the beginning of June.

Three weeks have passed since I received your last, full of your usual kindness. I had always wanted to get to grips with Latin again, especially now after seeing the miraculous and living images of Antiquity, back when I was in Greece and now in Italy, which are described by ancient authors in the most elegant Latin. What greatly urges me to this, however, is the thought that I have a brother who is an outstanding/excellent [Cadogan allows his brother to delete as appropriate] scholar, and what’s far more, a true friend, who without flattering will indicate the faults in my grammar and style, and freeing/forgiving my letters of blame, will always make corrections. I accept this with the gladdest spirit; this instruction, therefore, commands you to be bound by your good will.

As for the matter of the Kingdom, I give great thanks for the King’s health, although I would have chosen to be comformable with our Father’s private Interests, who underwrit/signed the declaration with Uncle Hector.

But the good of the Kingdom should always take precedence over all other  considerations, and – by Hercules! – I believe the merit of Pitt is outstanding. Much happier even is the fact that your wife, and neighbours, our mutual friends, are well.

This letter will probably reach you after your return from Chelsea, where I hope you had a happy time. In Rome at the moment, I’m busy with things Ancient and Modern. I’ll be leaving after Holy Week, when there are magnificent (and probably heretical) sights to be seen. I shall go to Venice to see all the sights, including the Ascension Ceremony. And especially two former Ambassadors to Constantinople, who knew me there, and both have returned to Venice in the time between my leaving there and now. There I will also find the Venetian Consul General who was in Alexandria in my time, and who was a very hospitable friend to me. I will stay at Venice for a few days, soon after which I am going to Turin.

Where I’m not sure if a word is the right one, I’ve written in subscript; and where the usage seems better to me, I’ve written it superscript. May you, with your usual kindness, indicate the right one that I should always make sure of in future. I care always to be right and proper, and I am all in this.

But with all this your kind Indulgence I shall never fail of reserving a little Corner for enquiring after Mrs Cadogan, Vatas, Loveday, The Blares, and the Thompsons in plain English. You give me a good account of all except the latter who by the bye must be as old as the Poles. You would have felt my Anxiety about Latin, had you seen the most interesting Scenes I have both here and elsewhere, and therefore I have been for a good while Past the Constant Companion of Livy, Virgil, Horace etc. When I was in Greece I much regretted the not being able to understand the old venerable inscriptions there remaining in the Original. Indeed I now wish that I had remained some time longer with you at Westminster. However on the other hand, I consider that we could not foresee at that time, that my Ensigncy in the Guards would have availed me so little, and as God does everything for the best, the less we wish the better, with this Doctrine I conclude, being dear Brother yours ever most affectionately, CH Cadogan.


Rome 18th April 1789

Best and dearest brother,

Your letter of the 24th of last month, about the restoration of your old friendship with Father, gave me the greatest joy.  This very happy occasion must be a great consolation to your soul (and as you also write) is especially cheering for me, especially as it happened without the intervention of any other party, for which reason it is likely to be more longlasting. So I tell you of my greatest joy, and give witness that God has at once turned your grief into peace and calm. It lifts my heart with gratitude that Divine Providence has freed the soul of my good brother from such sadness and unease. Cottrell shares my joy, and I was glad that there was space in a letter I wrote to Father today to let him know about it. With great but (more usefully) loving tears he announced/communicated this to me.

My letter to Father includes my Last Will and Testament, as he will tell you, and I don’t doubt he will give you the gist of it. I forgot to do this before I left England, but I take the first convenient opportunity to put that failure and anxiety to rest. May God keep your wife well in her continuing health, and may she lead a calmer life after the lucky event.

If you find any false concords, or think that my ablatives will run better with than without littles*, I’m sure you’ll tell me of these, or any other faults with your usual Candour. I allways write Italian without the latter, and indeed so do the Natives, who (tho’ contaminated) yet are partly descendants of the old Romans, as their Language is of the Latin. I leave this Tomorrow, and go for a month to Venice, where I shall meet with several Levant acquaintances, and the two late Embassadors from the Venetian Republic to Constantinople, which Embassadors change every three years.

 I shall be at Turin about the 2nd week in June, where (as I told you in my last) I hope to find a Latin or at least partly Latin Letter at the Poste restante. After Greece etc. I have gone through a regular and most interesting Course of Antiquities here, seen the pompous Ceremonies of the holy week, and received full as much formal attention from Princes and Cardinals (such as they are) as I wished, consistent with other more essential pursuits, and living a little with my honest Countrymen who I have by no means learnt to despise. I now conclude with redoubled joy by begging you to remember me as usual to your Reading Neighbourhood, and give me some account of the rallying of the Jewry, the immortal Peter Pounce**.

 Poor old drooping Loveday and his family, Carichfergus and Blare; who on account of his public spirit with regard to cultivation of Land (however it may agree with his private pocket) deserves the cognomen name of Agricola***. I hope he is very well, and believe me dear Brother devotissimus tuus

CH Cadogan

*’littles’ – accents; Cadogan writes his next Latin letter with accents on the ablatives, so William must have said he’d prefer them.

**Peter Pounce – Lady Booby’s money-lending steward in Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews. The reference is unclear.

***agricola = farmer, also the surname of Julius Gnaeus Agricola (40 – 93AD) a Roman general and governor of Britain

Parliamentary Archives CAD 4/21 – 22

Featured image: from Dr Alexander Adam’s Compendious Dictionary of the Latin Tongue 1814






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