HERVEY, Hon. Thomas (1699-1775), of Bond St., London.
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Family and Education
b. 20 Jan. 1699, 2nd s. of John Hervey, M.P., 1st Earl of Bristol, by his 2nd w.; half-bro. of Carr, Lord Hervey, and bro. of Hon. Felton and John, Lord Hervey. educ. Westminster 1712-17; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1717-19. m. Aug. 1745, Anne, da. of Francis Coghlan, counsellor at law in Ireland, 1s.
Equerry to Queen Caroline 1728-37; surveyor of the King’s gardens 1738-60.
Thomas Hervey was returned in 1733 for the family seat at Bury St. Edmunds, in succession to his brother, John, Lord Hervey, who procured him a present of money from Walpole in 1737 and a post of £500 p.a. in the royal Household next year.1 Throughout his parliamentary career he supported the Government, except in the crucial division on the chairman of the elections committee, 16 Dec. 1741, when he voted with the Opposition, saying on being asked why he had done so, ‘Jesus knows my thoughts, one day I blaspheme and pray the next.’ ‘Tom Hervey is quite mad’, Horace Walpole wrote, referring not only to this incident, but to Hervey’s having recently been in an asylum.2 Hervey himself attributed his ‘madness’ to the effects on ‘a distressed mind in a distempered body’ of a dispute with Sir Thomas Hanmer, whose wife, a considerable heiress, had left him to put herself under Hervey’s protection in 1737.3 In 1739 she had made a will bequeathing to Hervey the reversion of her estates in Cambridgeshire, Middlesex, Anglesey and Caernarvonshire, which had been settled ‘after death of me and my husband and failure of issue of my body to the use of such person or persons as I should appoint’.4 At the same time she appealed to Hanmer to leave to Hervey her principal estate of Barton, Suffolk, which he had acquired absolutely under their marriage settlement.5
I am [she wrote] perhaps the only woman who, in my situation, would not either have exposed you to the world, or have wronged your family; though what would have been an injury to yours would have been but justice to my own: for, supposing me capable of having a child, your giving my estate to your heir, or my giving an heir to your estate, are but one and the same injustice.
After her death in 1741, Hanmer not only ignored her request but as life tenant proceeded to cut down the timber on one of Hervey’s reversionary estates. On this Hervey published an open letter to Hanmer accusing him of being an impotent fortune hunter:
You once made some little feint towards joining of your person on the wedding night and the next morning begged pardon for her disappointment.
Alleging that she had agreed to marry Hanmer only under pressure from her parents, the letter continues:
In my opinion the man that takes a woman, who has not made that man her choice is in fact committing but a lawful sort of rape; to which indeed your guilt is analagous in sound only; for it must be confessed that your enormity was not a rape but rapine.
On Hanmer’s death in 1746, Barton went to his nephew, but Hervey succeeded to the other estates.6
Before the general election of 1747 Hervey decided not to stand again, to the relief of his father, who wrote:
If I should sum up all the articles wherein he has been guilty towards me and if possible much more so towards my dearest and most valuable friend, Sir Thomas Hanmer, the black list would so terrify his already affrighted soul that it must cast him into irrecoverable madness, a consequence I have long and carefully avoided.
But on learning that his brother, Felton, was being put up for the seat by Lord Bristol, he threatened to ‘split the family interest’ by ‘offering himself ... to serve a body of men whom he had for six years so shamefully neglected as never to come near them either before, at, or after his last election’.
He wrote a long letter to the mayor and corporation, in which he recounted the bead roll of his distresses, and concluded: ‘to add to my misfortune, I have married a woman without a shilling, to prevent her running distracted or making away with herself’.
In the end he thought better of it. He never stood again but continued to air his grievance in open letters ‘full of madness and wit’.7 He died 18 Jan. 1775, commemorated by Dr. Johnson: ‘Tom Hervey, though a vicious man, was one of the genteelest men that ever lived.’
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Hervey, Mems. 740-1.
- 2. To Mann, 16 Dec.; Corresp. H. Walpole (Yale ed.), xxx. 23.
- 3. Letter from Hon. Thos. Hervey to Sir Thos. Hanmer (1742).
- 4. PCC 92 Spurway.
- 5. Hanmer Corresp. 74.
- 6. PCC 54 Alexander; Letter from Hervey to Hanmer.
- 7. Letter Bks. of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, iii. 308, 328; Corresp. H. Walpole (Yale ed.), xxx. 115-16; Walpole to Conway, 6 May 1763.