EDGCUMBE, Hon. Richard (1716-61), of Mount Edgcumbe, nr. Plymouth, Devon.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Ld. of Trade Apr. 1754-5; ld. of Admiralty 1755-6; P.C. 19 Nov. 1756; comptroller of the Household 1756-d.; ld. lt. Cornw. 1759-d.
Capital burgess, Lostwithiel 1743, mayor 1744, and 1756, recorder 1759-d.; recorder, Plympton Erle 1759-d.
‘A martyr to gaming: with every quality to make himself agreeable’, Edgcumbe ‘did nothing but make himself miserable’. As a young man his practice of losing ‘his daily twenty guineas’1 at White’s reduced him to such straits that Henry Pelham, a fellow-member, charitably procured him a secret service pension of £500 a year.2 After some time on the dole he appealed to Pelham for a more satisfactory provision.3 When he had last been named by the Duke of Newcastle to the King for a place, George II’s answer was
‘that he gave me something already:’ which, I suppose, he intended should be a satisfactory one why he should give me nothing else. But I look upon that as extremely different from an employment; it was given me as an alms, for which I was, and ever shall be, very thankful. But though beggars (and I can’t call myself much better) must not be choosers, yet a mere object of charity is what one would not wish to be for ever, and the question is, whether my standing in life as well as in Parliament, joined to my future prospect, is not a pretension equal to those of my competitors — not that I claim anything as due to my own particular merit; but whatever was to be conferred on me, I should esteem, and would have the world do so too, as a grace bestowed upon our family, which may be allowed to be as well entitled the bounty of the Crown as another.
Then the secrecy which he was required to observe with regard to his pension exposed him to embarrassing enquiries as to why he was not provided for. His usual answer was ‘that sons seldom are in their father’s lifetime’, but
when the same question is put to me by my father, accompanied with complaints, (as sometimes it is) then, Sir, I do assure you I suffer greatly to find myself obliged to leave him in his error.
Further, was it not possible that Lord Edgcumbe, who ‘as chancellor of the duchy goes into the King sometimes ... should apply to his Majesty?’ Were the King to give him the same answer as he did the Duke of Newcastle, this
would be of infinite more prejudice to me than the bare refusal of a place; for I am sure my father would never forgive me if he knew I had done that, which I think I was in the right to do, though he would be so too to blame me for it.
I find I am growing a middle-aged man, for I begin to feel symptoms of the passion of that state of life. But I hope you will not look upon it as a degree of ambition more than is laudable, to be desirous to keep pace with my equals, who if I don’t start soon, will all distance me ... Indeed, Sir, I am tired of absolute idleness and want some better food for my brain than what it now feeds upon. I shall be extremely happy to get into a better road, and to owe my happiness to you with double the joy.
In the event he did not obtain a place till shortly after Pelham’s death, when he exchanged his pension for a seat on the board of Trade.4
He died 10 May 1761, appointing in his will his old friend, Horace Walpole, to be trustee for his mistress.5