SELWYN, George Augustus (1719-91), of Matson, Glos.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1747 - 1754
1754 - 1780
1780 - 25 Jan. 1791

Family and Education

b. 11 Aug. 1719, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Selwyn of Matson by Mary, da. of Lt.-Gen. Thomas Farrington of Chislehurst, Kent. educ. Eton 1728-32; Hertford, Oxf. 1739 and 1744; I. Temple 1737; Grand Tour 1739-44. unm. suc. fa. 1751.

Offices Held

Surveyor of maltings and clerk of irons at the Mint 1740-d.; registrar of ct. of Chancery, Barbados 1753-d.; paymaster, board of works 1755-82; surveyor-gen. of crown lands 1784-d.

Mayor, Gloucester 1758, 1765.


George Selwyn was a Member of Parliament for more than 40 years, without once speaking in the House or ever casting a vote contrary to the King’s inclination. The sinecures he had accumulated were given as a recompense for placing his parliamentary interest at the disposal of the government of the day. He had been no more than a spectator at the game of politics, without convictions or loyalties and caring little which side won provided his own interests were not likely to suffer. A renowned wit and a welcome guest in the most aristocratic society, he had lived only for pleasure, yet had succeeded also in pleasing others.

But by 1790 the comedy was nearly over. He had lost all his interest at Gloucester and had so neglected Ludgershall that he had to stand a contested election— the first since the beginning of his parliamentary career. Characteristically, the chief thing that seemed to worry him was that now that his hold on Ludgershall was uncertain, his ‘hopes of any emolument to be derived from it would be frustrated’. The place awarded him by Pitt in 1784 fell far short of the pension he had previously relinquished.1 Other clouds were darkening his life. He was in poor health, suffering from gout and dropsy, ‘the usual disorders of bon vivants’, and his death had been several times prematurely reported in the newspapers.2 Events in France greatly concerned him. ‘If this revolution had happened two thousand years ago’, he wrote, ‘I might have been amused by an account of it written by some good historian’; but now ‘these calamities and abominations’ threatened to upset the secure and comfortable world he had known.3

The end came on 25 Jan. 1791. Favoured throughout life, he was favoured even in the moment of his death.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. S. P. Kerr, Selwyn, 166; PRO 30/8/222, f. 248.
  • 2. Morning Chron. 26 Jan. 1791; Gent. Mag. (1791), i. 94.
  • 3. HMC Carlisle, 681.
  • 4. The assistance of Mr John Brooke in writing this article is gratefully acknowledged.