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George Bubb Dodington, 1691-1762

John Carswell introduces George Bubb Dodington; a man of pleasure; an indefatigable careerist; and an industrious and successful politician.

High on a green hill, just beyond West Wycombe on the main road from London to Oxford, there stands the queer hexagon of flint raised by Sir Francis Dashwood to the memory of George Bubb Dodington, Lord Melcombe, at his late friend’s expense. Beside it is the even queerer, inaccessible chapel that Dashwood built in a fit of deistical enthusiasm; and underneath are the damp caves in which, it is said, the Medmenham Franciscans sometimes carried on their mysteries: caves under the bland green hill of cant, topped by a mausoleum whose shape was suggested by Rabelais’ Abbey of Theleme, form a fitting symbol of the world which George Bubb Dodington so long adorned.

His very name is a by-word. He was the butt of the sophisticated in his own time, and has been quoted ever since as the outstanding example of its (and their) corruption. Pope mocked “Bu— with pay and scorn content” and Browning was severer still:

“folks see but one Fool more, as well as knave, in Dodington.”

It is a career that does indeed offer passages which are both deplorable and grotesque. Nevertheless, the historian should be grateful to him. He was one of those men—industrious, clear-headed, enwrapped in business and almost entirely without imagination—who leave behind them a just record of the world they accept and understand. So what has been called his shamelessness is, historically speaking, one of his greatest advantages; another is the minute accuracy of his record; a third is the very oddness of his personality which, in fastening the attention of his contemporaries, made them register his activities.

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