BUBB (afterwards DODDINGTON), George (?1691-1762), of Eastbury, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. ?1691, 1st surv. s. of Col. Jeremiah Bubb, M.P., of Foy, Herefs. being o.s. by his 2nd w. Alicia, da. of John Dodington of Dodington Som. educ. Winchester 1703; Exeter, Oxf. 18 July 1707, aged 16; L. Inn 1711; Grand Tour 1711-13. m. c.1725, Katherine, da. of Edmund Beaghan of Sissinghurst, Kent, sis. of Edmund Hungate Beaghan, s.p. suc. fa. 1692; 28 Mar. 1720 to fortune of his uncle George Dodington, having taken the name of Dodington only by private Act of Parliament in 1718. cr. Baron Melcombe 6 Apr. 1761.
Envoy to Spain 1715-17; clerk of pells [I] 1720-d.; ld. lt. Som. 1720-44; ld. of Treasury 1724-40; treasurer of the navy 1744-9, Dec. 1755-Nov. 1756; P.C. 3 Jan. 1745; treasurer of the chamber to Prince of Wales 1749-51.
Dodington’s father, variously described as an Irish adventurer and an apothecary at Carlisle or Weymouth, died leaving him wholly unprovided for. He was adopted by his uncle, George Dodington, who brought him into Parliament and was presumably responsible for his appointment to be envoy to Spain at the age of 24. After two years at Madrid, where he acquitted himself creditably, he came home to join the Whig Opposition with his uncle, to whose fortune he succeeded in 1720. Rich, able, and ambitious, he was taken up by Walpole, who made him a lord of the Treasury in 1724. In 1726 he addressed an adulatory poetic epistle to Walpole, praising loyalty as the supreme political virtue and claiming to be one of those who
To share thy adverse fate alone pretend, In power a servant, out of power a friend.
A year later, on George II’s accession, when an adverse fate seemed to have overtaken Walpole, Dodington was among the first to desert him for his supposed successor, Sir Spencer Compton, afterwards Lord Wilmington. He appears also to have sent an anonymous letter to Compton urging him to oust ‘this man’, Walpole, who had become ‘more odious to the nation in general than can easily be conceived’, and to assume ‘the charge of first minister’.
The Tories will readily come into measures with you and by taking in some few of the best of them (though this must be done with caution) and giving the rest but tolerable quarter, you may make his Majesty King of all his people.
The House of Commons would present no difficulty:
The never-failing arguments of places and pensions, and the rod of dissolution but never so gently shook over that House, would, ’tis conceived, make them as compliable as heart could wish, and the present great man ... would be evidently in your power.
There was nothing in the business of the Treasury, which
as to form is done by the clerks of the office, and the raising money on any emergency is concerted with a set of men in the City who find their account in it too well ever to refuse their assistance. A good judgment ... is the chief quality required in a Lord Treasurer.
On the ground that it was ‘beneath the dignity of a first minister to be constantly fighting his own battles in an House of Commons’, Compton was advised to take a peerage and the White Staff, with ‘a proper secretary of state and chancellor of the Exchequer’, i.e. Dodington himself, in the Commons.1
Though Compton failed to respond, Dodington became closely connected with him and his friend, the Duke of Dorset, acting with Walpole in public and abusing him in private. In 1732 he increased his importance by supplanting Lord Hervey as chief political adviser to Frederick, Prince of Wales. In 1733 he is described as completely governing the Prince, making mischief between him and the King, and setting him against the excise scheme. Walpole declared
that if it were not for fear of making a breach between the King and his son he both could and would turn out Dodington; ‘for this’ added he, ‘is the second time that worthy gentleman has proposed to rise by treading upon my neck’.
Meanwhile the opposition leaders were undermining him by inculcating into Frederick that ‘Dodington’s game was so to play the Prince’s favour as to keep him in a sort of équilibre until he found to which party he could sell His Royal Highness to the best advantage’. In the summer of 1734, finding himself supplanted in Frederick’s favour, he ‘retired into the country unaccompanied, and ... unpitied in his disgrace’. He possessed, Hervey writes,
the je ne sais quoi in displeasing in the strongest and most universal degree that any man was blessed with ..., being, with good parts and a good deal of wit, as far from agreeable in company as he was, notwithstanding his knowledge and his great fortune, from being esteemed by any party, or making any figure in the state. He was one of those unfortunate people whom it was the fashion to abuse and ungenteel to be seen with; and many people really despised him, who naturally one should suppose were rather in a situation to envy him. His vanity in company was so overbearing, so insolent, and so insupportable that he seemed to exact that applause as his due which other people solicit.2
For the next five years he ran straight, resisting heavy pressure from the Prince of Wales in 1737 to support the motion for an increase in the Prince’s allowance, in which he carried with him his five followers in the Commons, Edward and John Tucker, who managed Weymouth and Melcombe Regis for him; his cousins, George Dodington of Horsington and Thomas Wyndham of Tale; and his brother-in-law, E. H. Beaghan. But in the spring of 1740 he went over to the Opposition in circumstances described a few months later by Walpole to Sir Dudley Ryder:
He told me that Dodington and he had now absolutely fallen out and gave me a history of him. He said he was made of very good parts and learning and great ambition, but wrong-headed. He said that there had been no cordiality between them ever since this King’s reign, that Dodington had taken upon him to advise him, Sir Robert, to give up to Lord Wilmington, now he could not possibly hold it; that he had not been well with the King.
He said that he had been soliciting the peerage very much and sometime before the end of the last session he pressed Sir Robert for a categorical answer, to which Sir Robert answered that he would be plain with him, he could not expect he had more affection for him than he had for Sir Robert. That, however, if he had a mind to serve him, he believed he would find great difficulty with the King, who was in nothing so hard to be persuaded as to make peers, and there [were] several pressing for it, whom he owned he should prefer to him. That however, if he desired it, he would nominate him to the King and recommend him, but not in preference to them. On this Dodington said he found he had not been well received at Court, and felt ill effects of misrepresentation of him there. After which Sir Robert said he believed he could not be at a loss to know the reason; he could assure him that the late Queen had before her death said that it was entirely owing to him that the Prince thought for himself, for Dodington used to be constantly two or three hours with the Prince till he was undermined by the present set of people.
He said Dodington has used the most servile flattery to him but now they are quite broke. He thinks nothing too great for him, and thinks he is not considered enough. And as he has had an opportunity of putting in six Members of Parliament by his interest in the Treasury at Weymouth and at Winchelsea, he has always carried these Members in almost every question against the Administration. And now is setting up four Members at Weymouth, and at Winchelsea, and also at Bridgwater, in opposition.3
At the general election Dodington was successful in winning all four seats at Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, filling three of them with independent Members, whose votes in the House he could not control. Thomas Wyndham did not stand; Beaghan was defeated at Winchelsea; while Dodington himself only just scraped home at Bridgwater at the expense of the other opposition candidate, Sir Charles Wyndham, who complained that ‘the treachery I met with from Mr. Dodington could not be expected from any man’.4 Thus the net result of his defection was to deprive the Government of five seats, at the cost of reducing his own personal following in the new House to John Tucker, who was again returned for Weymouth.
In opposition Dodington kept in close touch with Wilmington and Dorset in the Administration. On the eve of Walpole’s resignation he consulted Dorset about a letter which he had drawn up appealing to Wilmington to forestall the opening of negotiations between the Government and the leaders of the Whig Opposition by offering to the King to form an Administration himself on an ‘extensive bottom’, i.e. one which would include Dodington. But though both Wilmington and Dorset made representations to the King in this sense, they were not prepared to resign on the issue, with the result that Dodington was left out of the new Government.5
For the next two sessions Dodington continued in opposition, becoming a member of the ‘anti-ministerial cabinet’. He was one of the nine opposition leaders to whom Pelham offered the places made available by the dismissal of the Bath-Granville part of the Administration at the end of 1744. His share was the lucrative place of treasurer of the navy, carrying with it the appointment of its cashier, a post filled half a century earlier by his uncle, which he gave to John Tucker.6
Dodington remained at the navy office till 1749 when the Prince of Wales invited him to join his new opposition. Gambling on an early accession he accepted, sent his resignation to Pelham, and was appointed treasurer of the chamber to Frederick, a nominal post at a salary of £2,000 a year, shown on the establishment at £1,200 to avoid jealousies, with the promise of a peerage and a secretaryship of state in reversion. He also secured a promise from Frederick to provide in reversion for his friends, Henry Furnese, Sir Francis Dashwood, Robert Henley, and Lord Talbot. His appointment was badly received by the Prince’s household, who were convinced that he had come in to ‘govern and supplant them’. The impression was confirmed by his first visit to Cliveden, Frederick’s country seat, when the 2nd Lord Egmont noted: ‘his manner cool and false to me - presumes a great deal - and hints at measures quite contrary to our system’. Next month he embodied these hints in a memorial to Frederick, condemning the aggressive system of opposition adopted by Egmont and his colleagues as futile, contrary to Frederick’s interests, and ‘carried on for the private preferment of the opposers’, who, it was implied, were using their master as a catspaw to obtain places for themselves in the Government. Simultaneously he gave out that he had ‘accepted his new employment purely to prevent the bad effect of the Prince’s following the advice of people now about him’. A day or two later Frederick read to him a reply from which Dodington drew the conclusion that ‘the difference ... between us is not considerable’. But Egmont and the rest of the party continued their aggressive opposition, combining against him, neither consulting nor informing him on parliamentary business, and taking every opportunity of differing and disassociating themselves publicly from him in debates. In February 1750 he complained to the Prince of Wales of the appearance of ‘the vilest and most rancorous pamphlet against me that I believe any age or country can show, the author of it taking, by implication, the character of being of the Prince’s service’. The pamphlet was a reply to an anonymous paper on financial matters in the Prince’s organ, The Remembrancer, the authorship of which was imputed to Dodington on the ground that its ‘curious similes and metaphors, all drawn from your former profession’, showed it ‘to be the performance of an apothecary’. It then went on to describe Dodington as ‘shunned by all’ and ‘hated by all’.
Hated by the Whigs, because you have betrayed them; hated by the Tories because you have deceived them, have joined, at different times, as interest led you, with every faction in the Kingdom, yet never had the confidence of any; and have now intruded yourself into a set of men, everyone of whom cannot do otherwise but detest you; for they must know that your character would weigh them down; that your arrogance and self-sufficiency would perplex them; that your instability and perfidy would betray them. They must recall how you have always behaved towards those with whom you have joined. They must remember the advice which was long since given you, to talk as you vote, or to vote as you talk; and they must know you never have had sense enough to follow it. Yet, notwithstanding all this, I am informed that your folly and self-sufficiency is such that you entertain golden dreams of being a minister. No man has more time to indulge himself in dreaming than yourself, and surely no man ever dreamt so wildly. What one qualification have you which is necessary to that situation? Have you character? No. Have you any connections? None at all; except about three men as absurd as yourself and three more as profligate, I do not know a man in the kingdom that would join you. But have you abilities for it? In what does your knowledge consist? Your ignorance of the finances is apparent in every conversation. You have exposed it in your own writings ... But perhaps you pride yourself on having the outward part of a great man. It is true you have always been a man of show and parade, yet ... you are surely the most tawdry man in the nation. The furniture of your house and of your head is equally tawdry; your clothes and your talk are equally tawdry; and everything belonging to you is tinselled over with leaf gold, like your father’s boluses. Yet I have heard your head aches for a coronet. Thou vainest of vain mortals ... it is not in the power of the Crown to ennoble you. Yet since you are desirous of being distinguished by a title, I will do that for you which the Crown cannot do. Go forth and be a Count - Count Glysterpipe be your title; your father’s (opiferque per orbem decor) will suit you well for a motto. As for supporters, you must e’en go without them, unless you can personify Pride and Ignorance.7
He obtained no satisfaction from Frederick who merely assured him that it could not possibly have been written by any of his servants, while behind his back nick-naming him ‘the Apothecary’ to Egmont, one of the suspected authors of the libel.8 Though outwardly civil, the Prince, according to the Princess, could never forgive Dodington for saying of him, since he had returned to his service: ‘Il a une telle tête, et un tel coeur, qu’on ne peut rien faire avec lui’.9 No longer consulted by his master, he was demoted in Egmont’s lists of a new government from secretary of state to master of the wardrobe.10
After Frederick’s death in 1751 Dodington, ‘with one foot in the grave’, but still ‘determined to make some sort of figure in life’, set himself to make his peace with the King and the Pelhams, pleading that ‘the offer of five Members at least should be sufficient to wipe away impressions, even if I had been a declared Jacobite’.11 But except for a brief return to his old post of treasurer of the navy under Newcastle in 1755-6, he never again held office. He died 28 July 1762, leaving his famous diary, the record of a political gambler, who usually backed the wrong horse.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 437; Cal Treas. Bks. xxii. 362-3; Hervey, Mems. 29; HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 375-80.
- 2. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 31-32, 93-94, 375, 426-7; Hervey, Mems. pp. xxxix, 176, 311-12, 385-7.
- 3. Dodington Diary, 466; Ryder's diary, 9 Aug. 1740, Harrowby mss.
- 4. To Ld. Gower, 28 May 1741, PRO, Granville mss.
- 5. Owen, Pelhams, 12-14, 16-18, 31-32, 97, 108.
- 6. Ibid. 199 n.3; Glover, Mems. 30.
- 7. Dodington Diary, 1-7, 13, 16-37, 38, 471-2, 473-84; Egmont mss, occasional memorandums, 14 Sept. 1749, Add. 47073; Ld. Harrington to Henry Pelham, 19 Oct. 1749, Newcastle (Clumber) mss; Necessity of lowering interest and continuing taxes demonstrated in a letter to A.B. (1750).
- 8. See under BUCKINGHAM.
- 9. Walpole, Mems. Geo II i. 88n.
- 10. Add. 47097/2.
- 11. Dodington Diary, 226, 297, 299