Edited By Mascha Hansen and Jürgen Klein
LORD HERVEY, DEATH AND FUTURITY, Bill Overton
LORD HERVEY, DEATH AND FUTURITY Bill Overton, Loughborough University “Thoroughly sensible of all the gracious distinctions and innumerable favours with which Your Majesty honoured me when I was alive, I thought it my duty to give Your Majesty some notice of my death. On Saturday, the 14th June, about 5 minutes after eleven I died.”1 So John, Lord Hervey, began a letter to Queen Caroline in June or July 1736. He went on to give a humorous account of the elaborate obsequies received by his body before informing her of the many services she had received unawares from his spirit in the following week, including brushing away a fly who had been about to taste her chocolate, and tearing six pages out of the parson’s sermon to shorten it. At the end of the letter, he called her attention to the purgatory he had undergone in this way, and asked that, if she thought him deserving of any reward, she “pronounce [his] Sentence and say, ‘Je vous laisse vivre’,” which would bring about his immedi- ate “resurrection.”2 This was not Hervey’s only jeu d’esprit on the subject. In his memoirs, left incomplete and not printed till long after his actual death, he recorded an exchange between himself and the Queen in which she had wondered “what an alteration in the Palace Lord Hervey’s death would make, how many people would mourn, and how many rejoice.” To this he had replied “he believed he could guess just how it...
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