JENYNS, Soame (1704-87), of Bottisham, Cambs.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Jan. 1704, o.s. of Sir Roger Jenyns of Bottisham by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Peter Soame, 2nd Bt., of Hayden, Essex. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1722. m. (1) his cos. Mary (d. 30 July 1753), da. of Col. Soame of Dereham Grange, Norf., s.p.; (2) 26 Feb. 1754, his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Henry Grey of Hackney, s.p. suc. fa. 22 Sept. 1740.
Ld. of Trade 1755-80.
Soame Jenyns led a sheltered orderly existence. His patrons, Lord Montfort and Lord Hardwicke, arranged his elections for him, and the post at the Board of Trade, which he held for 25 years, brought him £1,000 p.a. He supported every Administration in turn, busied himself about Cambridge affairs, and maintained a prolific output of light verse and writings on political, economic and religious subjects. He was bland and amusing, ‘with the most even temper and undisturbed hilarity of all the good companions whom I ever knew’, wrote Richard Cumberland.1 William Cole the antiquary, a close friend, described him as ‘rather of a finical and beauish turn, and not at all made for canvassing and caballing at elections’:
If a person who did not know him was to be asked on seeing him dressed what was his profession, I think it is ten to one but that he would say he was a dancing master. He has the misfortune to be extremely short sighted, a circumstance not unusual with eyes formed as his are, which are very projecting, and though he has a large wen in his neck, which a grave and even no very large wig would cover and hide, yet the predominancy for dress is such that a small little bag or pig-tail wig is preferred, by which means the aforesaid blemish is visible to everyone. Mr. Jenyns is a man of a lively fancy and pleasant turn of wit; very sparkling in conversation, and full of merry conceits and agreeable drollery, which is heightened by his particular inarticulate manner of speaking through his broken teeth, and all this is mixed with the utmost good nature and humanity, having hardly ever heard him severe upon any one.2
In 1747 he had been returned for Cambridgeshire with Philip Yorke, Lord Hardwicke paying half his expenses. There was some discontent in the county at both the representatives being members of the Yorke group, and in 1753 Lord Granby declared himself a candidate. Lord Hardwicke was unwilling to face the ‘monstrous expense’ of a contest on Jenyns’s behalf: ‘he cannot argue or suppose that it is reasonable that things should go on upon the unequal foot they were upon’. Jenyns had to be ‘laid aside’, though assured that he would certainly be taken care of’. When the general election came, Montfort arranged with Newcastle for him to be returned for Sir Jacob Downing’s borough of Dunwich: Jenyns paid £500, and the Treasury found the other £500. He was also given a secret service pension of £600 p.a., presumably until a place could be found for him, and in December 1755 was appointed a lord of Trade. But by 1758 Downing had quarrelled with Newcastle, and wrote to Hardwicke that he was not prepared to re-elect Jenyns. In vain Hardwicke protested to Downing, 22 June 1758:
I took a real pride in thinking that you had brought him in at Dunwich in a great measure as a friend of mine and not of anybody else’s. He had no attachment to the Duke of Newcastle. His dependence is upon me, and to me he owed his place.
Having eased Jenyns out of the county seat, Hardwicke felt it his duty to find him a haven. The opportunity came a month later, when Lord Dupplin, the Member for Cambridge, succeeded his father as Earl of Kinnoull. To Philip Yorke Jenyns wrote, 21 Sept. 1758:
Lord Kinnoull said it was the Duke of Newcastle’s opinion as well as his own that nothing would so firmly establish the interest at Cambridge as my being his successor, and Lord Hardwicke thought that it would be the surest method for me to get an established seat in Parliament and in the end the least expensive.
He accordingly vacated his seat at Dunwich, and was returned unopposed for Cambridge.3
Jenyns made no figure in the House of Commons. His interventions in debate were brief