John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave and Duke Of Buckingham(1648-1721)

This nobleman (a warrior, a politician, a courtier, and a poet) was not personally a tyrant to his Yorkshire tenants, whatever his steward might have been; for he never came near them if he could help it. But, before he had arrived at his dukedom, and when he was very young, the Great Plague broke out in London; and he thought it a less plague to visit his estate than to stay in the midst of the epidemic.

As soon as the pestilence was subdued, . . . he set out again for the metropolis: but, during his stay on the estate, he had been so affable to his dependents, and it was so much their interest to have him among them, that they used every effort in their power to seduce him into a liking for the country, and to inoculate him into a taste which, it was clear, he did not take naturally. They accompanied him, therefore, in a body, nearly through the first stage of his journey to town; and after having gone in procession with his carriage over Saltersgate Moor, a dismal waste of sundry miles, they then took their leaves, beseeching him to come back to them soon.

Many flowery speeches passed between the noble Earl and his adherents—of kindness and patronage on one side, and duty and devotion on the other; all ending, on the part of the tenantry, with

`At what time may we hope for the happiness of seeing Your Lordship again?'

The answer was, for some time, ingeniously evaded; till at last this main desideratum was so strongly pushed that there was no parrying it, and his Lordship said,

`My worthy friends, I shall make a point of being with you again, at the next Plague.'

From George Colman, the Younger, Random Records (1830), i.172-3.

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