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STORER, Anthony Morris (1746-99), of Golden Square, London
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Family and Education
b. 12 Mar. 1746, 1st s. of Thomas Storer of Westmorland, Jamaica, and Golden Sq., Westminster, by Helen, da. of Col. James Guthrie of Westmorland, Jamaica. educ. Eton 1754-64; Corpus Christi, Camb. 1764; M. Temple 1762. unm.
Ld. of Trade July 1781-May 1782; sec. to embassy at Paris Sept.-Dec. 1783; minister plenipotentiary Paris Dec. 1783-Jan. 1784.
A man of fashion, the friend of Fox and Fitzwilliam, and of Lord Carlisle and George Selwyn, Storer, though ‘highly bilious’ in health and dependent on his father’s fluctuating West Indian fortunes, ‘led the dancing world at balls and assemblies’ for more than a decade, and gambled for high stakes at Brooks’s. ‘He was the best dancer, the best skater of his time’, writes John Nichols.1 ‘He excelled too as a musician, and a disputant, and very early as a Latin poet. In short, whatsoever he undertook he did con amore, as perfectly as if it were his only accomplishment.’
In 1774 Storer was returned after a contest on the interest of his friend Lord Carlisle, and like him supported North’s Administration. Carlisle kept an eye on his parliamentary activities, and apparently did not hesitate to offer advice. ‘Before I finish my letter, you will expect that I should say something about my intentions to speak,’ Storer wrote to Carlisle on 27 Oct 1775,
I am obliged to you for your advice, no one can be convinced of the utility of speaking in Parliament more than I am, and as you have often heard me express myself, I should not wish to commence a perfect orator immediately; so that it is not the fear of not excelling that deters me. I have too, besides, a very. strong desire of being able to speak, yet powers are not always the consequence of desires.2
At length, on 27 Nov. 1775, he delivered his maiden speech, condemning an Opposition motion on North’s American measures. ‘I have heard no great commendations of his eloquence,’ wrote George Selwyn to Carlisle, 8 Dec., ‘but no abuse of his speech neither. I was told ... that there was rather too much flummery about Lord North, and that was all.’ He hoped that Storer would ‘upon some critical occasion make a well-considered speech. He is very capable of it, but he seems to want judgment in some things, and I would therefore wish him to consult some old Member if he makes another set speech. He is an excellent attender, and I am glad that you made choice of him for many reasons.’ Storer himself reported to Carlisle, 14 Dec.:
It is true I have spoke, and as you say, and as I meant, not brilliantly. Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien is a very favourite maxim of mine. Perhaps, as this is one of my great undertakings, it is more owing to you than to any other motive.
Conscientious attendance proved a strain: ‘Good God,’ he wrote to Carlisle, 29 Dec., after a long speech by David Hartley, ‘I shudder even now at the thoughts of it. No one can have a complete idea of a bore who has not been in Parliament.’ He himself never spoke again in the House. ‘What is he employing himself about?’ wrote Selwyn in exasperation to Carlisle, early the following year. ‘Why won’t he attempt to say something? What signifies knowing what Cicero said, and how he said it, if a man cannot open his mouth to deliver one sentiment of his own.’
When in 1778 Carlisle went to America as head of the conciliatory commission, Storer went as his assistant. In 1780 he was returned for Morpeth on Carlisle’s interest. In January 1781, after violent hurricanes in the West Indies had affected the family fortunes, Storer applied to North for a vacancy at the Board of Trade. Selwyn reported to Carlisle on the 28th that he had an air ‘forte triste; he told me that he should put down his horses, and it may be that he must be obliged to retrench many other expenses if this succour of the Board of Trade is not administered to him’. Storer himself wrote to Carlisle on 5 Feb.:
I assure you that I have had neither pride nor false delicacy hitherto in any application ... that I thought might be of service. I have worked with Lady North and George North. Others have done so for me with Miss North. Le père de famille, Lord Guilford, has not been neglected ... I have left nobody unsolicited that has any access to Lord North except Keene.
But on 28 Feb., when he had still heard nothing: ‘If I had known how disagreeable it was to ask a favour of Lord North, I really believe nothing would have persuaded me to apply to him.’ Besides, he was now anxious lest vacating his seat might endanger Carlisle’s interest at Morpeth, and wrote on 1 Mar.:
For God’s sake do not let me proceed one step further in my application to Lord North, if the object of my pursuit clashes in the most distant manner with your interest ... It is undoubtedly true that having served Government fairly and honestly, as far as a petit monsieur could, one rather feels a right, for more reasons than merely interested ones, to share, as Burke says, the loaves and fishes; but I am sure that I shall never dream about my pretensions ... if my success be attended with the suspicion or shadow of the smallest inconvenience to you.
Reassured by Carlisle but still unsuccessful, Storer wrote on 27 Apr.: ‘I cannot help feeling sometimes a spark of anger at his [North’s] treatment, and wish it was in the power of so little a gentleman as myself to have some revenge.’ And on 7 May: ‘Tonight Lady Charges gives a ball, to which I am going to be a mere inactive spectator ... The life of pleasure is past, and yet no occupation succeeds. There is the rub!’ Disappointment and bilious disorders beset him, though, as he told Carlisle on 6 June, his life was now very temperate—‘it costs me very little to refrain from those things which I wished for once with the greatest avidity’. Instead he turned to a new interest: ‘Your Lordship will wonder at a visit I had yesterday’, wrote Horace Walpole to Lord Strafford, 13 June 1781, ‘it was from Mr. Storer who has passed a day and a night here. It was not from my being a fellow scholar of Vestris, but from his being turned antiquary; the last passion I should have thought a macaroni would have taken.’ Though Storer at last obtained his appointment to the Board of Trade in July, his discontent with North continued, and to the concern of Selwyn and Carlisle he talked of absenting himself from Parliament. ‘Il a l’ésprit un peu trop echauffé, et il fera bien de s’en corriger’, Selwyn wrote to Carlisle on 13 Nov. ‘You may take occasion to speak to him gently upon the matter. I am no advocate for Lord North and the Treasury but I wish him to conduct himself with temper and by your directions, for you have been and must be the artifex suae fortunae.’ In the end Storer decided to attend, but he had a real grievance against North, who had been persuaded by the retiring commissioner of trade, Lord Walsingham, to delay issuing Storer’s patent and thus enable Walsingham to continue drawing the salary for a further six months. Selwyn reported on 8 Dec. that ‘very sour words’ had passed between Storer and John Robinson, the secretary to the Treasury, but the patent was not made out till January, and even then Storer, according to Selwyn, would ‘have nothing to receive these nine months’.3 Storer applied himself conscientiously to his new office, attending 17 out of 21 meetings. ‘I confess “your lordships” sounds very pleasantly to my ear’, he wrote to Carlisle, 24 Feb. 1782, ‘I am only afraid that I shall not hear so delightful an appellation long’—in the event only till May, when the Board was abolished.
Storer voted against Shelburne's peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783. After the formation of the Coalition he again obtained an office; when in September 1783 the secretaryship to the British embassy at Paris became vacant, Edward Gibbon wrote to Lord Sheffield that Storer was likely to be appointed ‘because he could resign a place which Fox wants for Col. Stanhope’, and Fox himself told the ambassador, the Duke of Manchester, that Storer's place would be ‘very remarkably convenient’ (what the place was is not stated).4 On 21 Sept. Fox wrote to inform Manchester that Storer had been appointed:5
It is true that his principal attachment is to Lord North, but I have been much acquainted with him ever since we were at school together and have no doubt but he will consider himself entirely appointed by me, and act accordingly ... Storer ... is certainly a man of some parts and knowledge and used when he was younger to have an uncommon degree of application, but whether the dissipated and very idle habits of his life have changed him in this respect is more than I know. This I am sure of, he is very desireous to please me.
On 23 Sept. Storer wrote to Carlisle informing him of the appointment:
I should, I own, have requested your leave to have accepted it, had you not upon a former occasion of the like nature seemed to think that my application to you was perfectly idle, and that your dissent or approbation was entirely useless and unnecessary. I have considered it, however, as right to acquaint you with this appointment, lest you might imagine that it might make me neglect that attendance in Parliament which might be material to your interest, but which give me leave to assure you certainly will not do, as I shall be ready at all times to return to England upon the shortest notice that my attendance is wanted.
But his acceptance seems finally to have severed his friendship with Carlisle (although there were no political differences between them), and before the general election of 1784 he wrote to William Eden:6
This dissolution will certainly set me adrift, and I have nothing for it but virtute mea involvere, which is a thin covering this cold weather. If you can be of any service to me I trust you will in any means, to get into Parliament. I will borrow, spend, or beg money for that purpose: having once enlisted under the banner of the Coalition, I do not like being broke and left without employment.
But neither seat nor employment was forthcoming, nor was Storer any more successful in December 1787, when finding ‘the burden of having nothing to do ... very insupportable’, he wrote to Eden: ‘I cannot help flattering myself that I might have a chance of being again in the corps diplomatique.’7
He died 5 July 1799.