‘Little P’: the Life and Times of Spencer Perceval

R.E. Foster shows that we should know more of Perceval than the manner of his untimely death.

Perceval’s Career to 1809

Perceval was born in London on 1 November 1762. As the second son of a lesser nobleman’s second marriage, he could anticipate little inherited wealth, though he did enjoy the benefits of Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. Recognition of the need to make his own way led him into a legal career in which he increasingly prospered from the mid 1790s onwards. More than once he nearly refused political preferment because he was wary of exchanging the uncertain income of government office for the more regular and substantial sums he could obtain as a King’s Counsel. In 1807, when he was earning over £8,000, it took a great deal to prevail upon him to become Chancellor of the Exchequer: the Attorney Generalship would have been both professionally and financially more congenial to him.

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