Frederick Augustus Hervey, Earl of Bristol

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

« James Henry | Index | Thomas Hibernicus »

Hervey, Frederick Augustus, Earl of Bristol, and Bishop of Derry, was born in 1730, educated at Westminster and Cambridge; consecrated Bishop of Cloyne in 1767, and translated to Derry in 1768. He was noted for the prominent part he took in the Volunteer movement. Barrington tells us he "acquired a vast popularity among the Irish, by the phenomenon of an English nobleman identifying himself with the Irish nation, and appearing inferior to none in a zealous assertion of their rights against his own countrymen. It was a circumstance too novel and too important to escape their marked observation, and a conduct too generous and magnanimous not to excite the love and call forth the admiration of a grateful people."

He was a more advanced, though less discreet Irish politician than Lord Charlemont, and contested unsuccessfully with him the presidency of the Rotunda Convention of Volunteers. At times he assumed almost regal state, and paraded Dublin in a coach drawn by six horses, attended by a body-guard of light dragoons which had been raised and was commanded by his nephew, the notorious George Robert FitzGerald. Among other munificent benefactions, he erected the spire of Derry Cathedral. His last years were spent on the Continent; and he died at Albano, in Italy, 18th July 1803, aged about 73. His remains were interred at Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, where maybe seen an obelisk erected to his memory by the inhabitants of Derry. Mr. Lecky says: "The character of the Bishop has been very differently painted; but its chief ingredients are sufficiently evident, whatever controversy there may be about the proportions in which they were mixed. He appears to have been a man of respectable learning and of real talent, sincerely attached to his adopted country, and on questions of religious disqualification greatly in advance of most of his contemporaries; but he was at the same time utterly destitute of the distinctive virtues of a clergyman, and he was one of the most dangerous politicians of his time.

Vain, impetuous, and delighting in display, with an insatiable appetite for popularity, and utterly reckless about the consequences of his acts, he exhibited, though an English peer and an Irish bishop, all the characteristics of the most irresponsible adventurer. Under other circumstances he might have been capable of the policy of an Alberoni. In Ireland for a short time, he rode upon the crest of the wave; and if he had obtained the control he aspired to over the Volunteer movement, he would probably have headed a civil war. But though a man of clear, prompt judgment, of indisputable courage, and of considerable popular talents, he had neither the caution of a great rebel nor the settled principles of a great statesman. His habits were extremely convivial; he talked with reckless folly to his friends, and even to British officers, of the appeal to arms which he meditated; and he exhibited a passion for ostentation which led men seriously to question his sanity."

Sources

21. Barrington, Sir Jonah, Historic Memoirs of Ireland. 2 vols. London, 1835.

118. Ecclesiae Hiberniae Fasti: Rev. Henry Cotton: Indices by John R. Garstin, M.A. 5 vols. Dublin, 1851-'60.

212. Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland—Swift, Flood, Grattan, and O'Connell: William E. H. Lecky. First and Second Editions. London, 1861-'71.
Lecky, William E. H., see No. 212.

« James Henry | Index | Thomas Hibernicus »