Imágenes de páginas

it, he made himself an object of hatred to the unscrupulous and turbulent Shaftesbury. He neither supported nor opposed it. He quietly absented himself from the House. Nay, he took care, he tells us, never to discuss the question in any society whatever. Lawrence Hyde, afterwards Earl of Rochester, asked him why he did not attend in his place. Temple replied that he acted according to Solomon's advice, neither to oppose the mighty, nor go about Darker times followed. The Oxford Parlia to stop the current of a river. The advice, what- ment was dissolved. The Tories were triumphever its value may be, is not to be found either ant. A terrible vengeance was inflicted on the in the canonical or apocryphal writings ascrib-chiefs of the Opposition. Temple learned in his retreat the disastrous fate of several of his old colleagues in Council. Shaftesbury fled to Holland. Russell died on the scaffold. Essex added a yet sadder and more fearful story to the bloody chronicles of the Tower. Monmouth clung in agonies of supplication round the knees of the stern uncle whom he had wronged, and tasted a bitterness worse than that of death,

ed to Solomon. But Temple was much in the habit of talking about books which he had never read; and one of those books, we are afraid, was his Bible. Hyde answered, "You are a wise and a quiet man." And this might be true. But surely such wise and quiet men have no call to be members of Parliament in critical times.

He had about fifteen hundred a year, besides the Mastership of the Rolls in Ireland; an office in which he had succeeded his father, and which was then a mere sinecure for life, requiring no residence. His reputation both as a negotiator and a writer stood high. He resolved to be safe, to enjoy himself, and to let the world take its course; and he kept his re solution.

the bitterness of knowing that he had humbled himself in vain. A tyrant trampled on the liberties and religion of the realm. The national spirit swelled high under the oppression. Disaffection spread even to the strongholds of loyalty,-to the cloisters of Westminster, to the schools of Oxford, to the guardroom of the household troops, to the very hearth and bedchamber of the sovereign. But the troubles which agitated the whole society did not reach the quiet orangery in which Temple loitered away several years without once seeing the smoke of London. He now and then appeared in the circle at Richmond or Windsor. But the only expressions which he is recorded to have used during those perilous times, were that he would be a good subject, but that he had done with politics.

A single session was quite enough for Temple. When the Parliament was dissolved, and another summoned at Oxford, he obtained an audience of the king, and begged to know whether his majesty wished him to continue in Parliament. Charles, who had a singularly quick eye for the weaknesses of all who came near him, had no doubt seen through and through Temple, and rated the parliamentary support of so cool and guarded a friend at its proper value. He answered good-naturedly, but we suspect a little contemptuously, "I doubt, as things stand, your coming into the House will not do much good. I think you may as well let it alone." Sir William accordingly informed his constituents that he should not again apply for their suffrages; and set off for Sheen, resolving never again to meddle with public affairs. He soon found that the king was dis- The Revolution came. Temple remained pleased with him. Charles, indeed, in his usual strictly neutral during the short struggle; and easy way, protested that he was not angry, then transferred to the new settlement the same not at all. But in a few days he struck Temple's languid sort of loyalty which he had felt for name out of the list of privy councillors. Why his former masters. He paid court to William this was done Temple declares himself unable at Windsor, and William dined with him at to comprehend. But surely it hardly required Sheen. But in spite of the most pressing solihis long and extensive converse with the world citations, he refused to become Secretary of to teach him that there are conjunctures when State. The refusal evidently proceeded only men think that all who are not with them are from his dislike of trouble and danger; and against them,--that there are conjunctures not, as some of his admirers would have us when a lukewarm friend, who will not put him- believe, from any scruple of conscience or self the least out of his way, who will make no honour. For he consented that his son should exertion, who will run no risk, is more distaste- take the office of Secretary at War under the ful than an enemy. Charles had hoped that new sovereigns. That unfortunate young man the fair character of Temple would add credit destroyed himself within a week after his ap to an unpopular and suspected government. pointment, from vexation at finding that his But his majesty soon found that this fair cha- advice had led the king into some improper racter resembled pieces of furniture which we steps with regard to Ireland. He seems to have have seen in the drawing-rooms of very precise inherited his father's extreme sensibility to old ladies, which are a great deal too white to failure; without that singular prudence which be used. This exceeding niceness was alto- kept his father out of all situations in which gether out of season. Neither party wanted a any serious failure was to be apprehended. man who was afraid of taking a part, of in- The blow fell heavy on the family. They recurring abuse, of making enemies. There tired in deep dejection to Moor Park, which they were probably many good and moderate men now preferred to Sheen, on account of the greatwho would have hailed the appearance of aer distance from London. In that spot, then respectable mediator. But Temple was not a very secluded, Temple passed the remainder mediator. He was merely a neutral.

At last, however, he had escaped from pub- Mr. Courtenay (vol. ii. p. 160) confounds Moor Park lic life, and found himself at liberty to follow in Surrey, where Temple resided, with the Moor Park in Hertfordshire, which he praises in the essay on Garhis favourite pursuits. His fortune was easy.dening.

of his life. The air agreed with him. The | Yet in justice to Temple we must say, that soil was fruitful, and well suited to an experi- there is no reason to think that Swift was more mental farmer and gardener. The grounds unhappy at Moor Park than he would have been were laid out with the angular regularity in a similar situation under any roof in Engwhich Sir William had admired in the flower-land. We think also that the obligations which beds of Haarlem and the Hague. A beautiful the mind of Swift owed to that of Temple were rivulet, flowing from the hills of Surrey, bound- not inconsiderable. Every judicious reader ed the domain. But a straight canal which, must be struck by the peculiarities which disbordered by a terrace, intersected the garden, tinguish Swift's political tracts from all similar was probably more admired by the lovers of works produced by mere men of letters. Let the picturesque in that age. The house was any person compare, for example, the conduct small, but neat and well furnished;-the of the Allies, or the Letter to the October Club, neighbourhood very thinly peopled. Temple with Johnson's False Alarm, or Taxation no had no visiters, except a few friends who were Tyranny, and he will be at once struck by the willing to travel twenty or thirty miles in difference of which we speak. He may possiorder to see him; and now and then a foreigner bly think Johnson a greater man than Swift. whom curiosity brought to have a look at the He may possibly prefer Johnson's style to author of the Triple Alliance. Swift's. But he will at once acknowledge that Johnson writes like a man who has never been out of his study. Swift writes like a man who has passed his whole life in the midst of public business, and to whom the most important affairs of state are as familiar as his weekly bills.

Here, in May, 1694, died Lady Temple. From the time of her marriage we know little of her, except that her letters were always greatly admired, and that she had the honour to correspond constantly with Queen Mary. Lady Giffard, who, as far as appears, had always been on the best terms with her sisterin-law, still continued to live with Sir William.

But there were other inmates of Moor Park to whom a far higher interest belongs. An eccentric, uncouth, disagreeable, young Irishman, who had narrowly escaped plucking at Dublin, attended Sir William as an amanuensis, for twenty pounds a year and his board, dined at the second table, wrote bad verses in praise of his employer, and made love to a very pretty, dark-eyed young girl, who waited on Lady Giffard. Little did Temple imagine that the coarse exterior of his dependant concealed a genius equally suited to politics and to letters; a genius destined to shake great kingdoms, to stir the laughter and the rage of millions, and to leave to posterity memorials which can perish only with the English language. Little did he think that the flirtation in his servants' hall, which he perhaps scarcely deigned to make the subject of a jest, was the beginning of a long unprosperous love, which was to be as widely famed as the passion of Petrarch, or of Abelard. Sir William's secretary was Jonathan Swift-Lady Giffard's waiting-maid was poor Stella.

Swift retained no pleasing recollections of Moor Park. And we may easily suppose a situation like his to have been intolerably painful to a mind haughty, irascible, and conscious of pre-eminent ability. Long after, when he stood in the Court of Requests with a circle of gartered peers round him, or punned and rhymed with cabinet ministers over Secretary St. John's Mount-Pulciano, he remembered, with deep and sore feeling, how miserable he used to be for days together when he suspected that Sir William had taken something ill. He could hardly believe that he, the same Swift who chid the Lord Treasurer, rallied the Captain General, and confronted the pride of the Duke of Buckinghamshire with pride still more inflexible, could be the same being who had passed nights of sleepless anxiety, in musing over a cross look or a testy word of a patron. "Faith," he wrote to Stella, with bitter levity "Sir William spoiled a fine gentleman."

"Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter."

The difference, in short, between a political pamphlet by Johnson, and a political pamphlet by Swift, is as great as the difference between an account of a battle by Doctor Southey and the account of the same battle by Colonel Napier. It is impossible to doubt that the superiority of Swift is to be, in a great measure, attributed to his long and close connection with Temple.

Indeed, remote as the alleys and flower-pots of Moor Park were from the haunts of the busy and the ambitious, Swift had ample opportunities of becoming acquainted with the hidden causes of many great events. William was in the habit of consulting Temple, and occasionally visited him. Of what passed between them very little is known. It is certain, however, that when the Triennial Bill had been carried through the two Houses, his majesty, who was exceedingly unwilling to pass it, sent the Earl of Portland to learn Temple's opinion. Whether Temple thought the bill in itself a good one does not appear; but he clearly saw how imprudent it must be in a prince, situated as William was, to engage in an altercation with his Parliament; and directed Swift to draw up a paper on the subject, which, however, did not convince the king.

The chief amusement of Temple's declining years was literature. After his final retreat from business, he wrote his very agreeable memoirs; corrected and transcribed many of his letters; and published several miscellaneous treatises, the best of which, we think, is that on Gardening. The style of his essays is, on the whole, excellent,-almost always pleas ing, and now and then stately and splendid The matter is generally of much less value; as our readers will readily believe when we inform them that Mr. Courtenay-a biograpner,

that is to say, a literary vassal, bound by the immemorial law of his tenure to render homage, aids, reliefs, and all other customary


A most idle and contemptible controversy had arisen in France touching the comparative merit of the ancient and modern writers. was certainly not to be expected that, in that age, the question would be tried according to those large and philosophical principles of criticism which guided the judgments of Lessing and of Herder. But it might have been expected, that those who undertook to decide the point would at least take the trouble to read and understand the authors on whose merits they were to pronounce. Now, it is no exaggeration to say that, among the disputants who clamoured, some for the ancients, and some for the moderns, very few were decently acquainted with either ancient or modern literature, and not a single one was well acquainted with both. In Racine's amusing preface to the "Iphigénie," the reader may find noticed a most ridiculous mistake, into which one of the champions of the moderns fell about a passage in the Alcestis of Euripides. Another writer blames Homer for mixing the four Greek dialects-Doric, Ionic, Eolic, and Attic

services to his lord,-avows that he cannot | in tolerable order by his discretion, now, when give an opinion about the essay on "Heroic he had long lived in seclusion, and had become Virtue," because he cannot read it without accustomed to regard himself as by far the first skipping;—a circumstance which strikes us man of his circle, rendered him blind to his as peculiarly strange, when we consider how own deficiencies. In an evil hour he publong Mr. Courtenay was at the India Board, lished an "Essay on Ancient and Modern and how many thousand paragraphs of the Learning." The style of this treatise is very copious official eloquence of the East he must good-the matter ludicrous and contemptible have perused. to the last degree. There we read how Lycur One of Sir William's pieces, however, de- gus travelled into India, and brought the Sparserves notice, not, indeed, on account of its tan laws from that country-how Orpheus and intrinsic merit, but on account of the light Museus made voyages in search of knowledge, which it throws on some curious weaknesses and how Orpheus attained to a depth of learnof his character; and on account of the extra-ing which has made him renowned in all sucordinary effect which it produced on the re- ceeding ages-how Pythagoras passed twentypublic of letters. two years in Egypt, and, after graduating there, spent twelve years more at Babylon, where the Magi admitted him ad eundem-how the ancient Brahmins lived two hundred years—how the earliest Greek philosophers foretold earth, quakes and plagues, and put down riots by magic-and how mucn Ninus surpassed in abilities any of his successors on the throne of Assyria. The moderns, ne owns, have found cut the circulation of the blood; but, on the other hand, they have quite lost the art of magic; nor can any modern fiddler enchant fishes, fowls, and serpents by his performance. He tells us that "Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus made greater progresses in the several empires of science than any of their successors have since been able to reach;" which is as much as if he had said that the greatest names in British science are Merlin, Michael Scott, Dr. Sydenham, and Lord Bacon. Indeed, the manner in which he mixes the historical and the fabulous reminds us of those classical dictionaries, intended for the use of schools, in which Narcissus, the lover of himself, and Narcissus, the freedman of Claudius-Pollux, the son of Jupiter and Leda, and Pollux, the author of the Onomasticon-are ranged under the same heading, and treated as personages equally real. The effect of this arrangement resembles that which would be produced by a dictionary of modern names, consisting of such articles as the following:-"Jones, William, an emi nent Orientalist, and one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal-Davy, a fiend who destroys ships-Thomas, a foundling, brought up by Mr. Allworthy." It is from such sources as these that Temple seems to have learned all that he knew about the ancients. He puts the story of Orpheus between the Olympic games and the battle of Arbela; as if we had exactly as much reason for be lieving that Orpheus led beasts with his lyre, as we have for believing that there were races at Pisa, or that Alexander conquered Darius.

He manages little better when he comes to the moderns. He gives us a catalogue of those whom he regards as the greatest wits of later times. It is sufficient to say that, in his list of Italians, he has omitted Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso; in his list of Spaniards, Lope and Calderon; in his list of French, Pascal, Bossuet, Molière, Corneille, Racine, and Boi leau; and in his list of English, Chaucer,

just, says he, as if a French poet were to put Gascon phrases and Picard phrases into the midst of his pure Parisian writing. On the other hand, it is no exaggeration to say that the defenders of the ancients were entirely unacquainted with the greatest productions of later times; nor, indeed, were the defenders of the moderns better informed. The parallels which were instituted in the course of this dispute are inexpressibly ridiculous. Balzac was selected as the rival of Cicero. Corneille was declared to unite the merits of Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. We should like to see a "Prometheus" after Corneille's fashion. The "Provincial Letters," masterpieces undoubtedly of reasoning, wit, and eloquence, were pronounced to be superior to all the writings of Plato, Cicero, and Lucian together, particularly in the art of dialogue-an art in which, as it happens, Plato far excelled all men, and in which Pascal, great and admirable in other respects, is notoriously deficient.


This childish controversy spread to England; and some mischievous demon suggested Temple the thought of undertaking the defence of the ancients. As to his qualifications for the task, it is sufficient to say, that he knew Dot a word of Greek. But his vanity, which, when he was engaged in the conflicts of active ife, and surrounded by rivals, had been kept | Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton

In the midst of all this vast mass of absurdity |ness had been increased by many years of se one paragraph stands out pre-eminent. The clusion and flattery,-was moved to the most doctrine of Temple-not a very comfortable violent resentment; complained, very unjustone-is, that the human race is constantly de- ly, of Bentley's foul-mouthed raillery, and degenerating; and that the oldest books in every clared that he had commenced an answer, but kind are the best. In confirmation of this doc- had laid it aside, "having no mind to enter the trine, he remarks that the Fables of sop are lists with such a mean, dull, unmannerly pe the best fables, and the letters of Phalaris the dant." Whatever may be thought of the tembest letters in the world. On the merit of the per which Sir William showed on this occa letters of Phalaris he dwells with great warmth sion, we cannot too highly applaud his discreand with extraordinary felicity of language. tion in not finishing and publishing his answer, Indeed, we could hardly select a more favour- which would certainly have been a most exable specimen of the graceful and easy ma-traordinary performance. jesty to which his style sometimes rises than this unlucky passage. He knows, he says, that some learned men, or men who pass for learned, such as Politian, have doubted the genuineness of these letters. But of these doubts he speaks with the greatest contempt. Now it is perfectly certain, first, that the letters are very bad; secondly, that they are spurious; and thirdly, that, whether they be bad or good, spurious or genuine, Temple could know nothing of the matter; inasmuch as he was no mor able to construe a line of them than to decipher an Egyptian obelisk.

This Essay, silly as it is, was exceedingly well received, both in England and on the Continent. And the reason is evident. The classical scholars, who saw its absurdity, were generally on the side of the ancients, and were inclined rather to veil than to expose the blunders of an ally; the champions of the moderns were generally as ignorant as Temple himself; and the multitude were charmed by his flowing and melodious diction. He was doomed, however, to smart, as he well deserved, for his vanity and folly.

Christchurch was up in arms; and though that college seems then to have been almost destitute of severe and accurate learning, no academical society could show a greater array of orators, wits, politicians,-bustling adventurers, who united the superficial accomplishments of the scholar with the manners and arts of the man of the world, and this formidable body resolved to try how far smart repartees, well turned sentences, confidence, puffing, and intrigue could, on the question whether a Greek book were or were not genuine, supply the place of a little knowledge of Greek.

Out came the reply to Bentley, bearing the name of Boyle, but in truth written by Atterbury, with the assistance of Smalridge and Christchurch at Oxford was then widely and others. A most remarkable book it is, and justly celebrated as a place where the lighter often reminds us of Goldsmith's observation, parts of classical learning were cultivated that the French would be the best cooks in the with success. With the deeper mysteries of world if they had any butcher's meat, for that philology neither the instructors nor the pupils they can make ten dishes out of a nettle top. had the smallest acquaintance. They fancied It really deserves the praise, whatever that themselves Scaligers, as Bentley scornfully praise may be worth, of being the best book said, as soon as they could write a copy of ever written by any man on the wrong side of Latin verses with only two or three small a question of which he was profoundly ignofaults. From this college proceeded a new rant. The learning of the confederacy is that edition of the Letters of Phalaris, which were of a schoolboy, and not of an extraordinary rare, and had been in request since the appear- schoolboy; but it is used with the skill and ance of Temple's Essay. The nominal editor address of most able, artful, and experienced was Charles Boyle, a young man of noble men; it is beaten out to the very thinnest leaf, family and promising parts; but some older and is disposed in such a way as to seem ten members of the society lent their assistance. times larger than it is. The dexterity with While this work was in preparation, an idle which they avoid grappling with those parts quarrel, occasioned, it should seem, by the of the subject with which they know themnegligence and misrepresentations of a book-selves to be incompetent to deal is quite wonseller, arose between Boyle and the king's derfu Now and then, indeed, they commit librarian, Richard Bentley. Boyle, in the pre-disgraceful blunders, for which old Busby, unface to his edition, inserted a bitter reflection der whom they had studied, would have whipon Bentley. Bentley revenged himself by ped them all round. But this circumstance proving that the Epistles of Phalaris were for- only raises our opinion of the talents which geries; and in his remarks on this subject made such a fight with such scanty means. treated Temple, not indecently, but with no Let our readers, who are not acquainted with great reverence. the controversy, imagine a Frenchman who had acquired just English enough to read the Spectator with a dictionary, coming forward to defend the genuineness of "Rowley s Poems" against Percy and Farmer; and they will have some notion of the feat which Atterbury had

Temple, who was quite unaccustomed to any but the most respectful usage, who, even while engaged in politics, had always shrunk from all rude collision, and had generally succeeded in avoiding it, and whose sensitive

He was not, however, without defenders. Like Hector, when struck down prostrate by Ajax, he was in an instant covered by a thick crowd of shields

“ουτις εδυνησατο ποιμενα λαων Ουτασαι ουδε βαλειν· πριν γαρ περιβησαν αριστοι, Πουλυδάμας τε, και Αινείας, και διος ̓Αγήνωρ, Σαρπηδων τ' αρχος Λυκίων, και Γλαυκος αμυμων.”

the audacity to undertake, and which, for a time, it was really thought that he had performed.

This description is surely by no means ap. plicable to a statesman who had, through the whole course of his life, carefully avoided exposing himself in seasons of trouble: who had repeatedly refused, in the most critical con junctures, to be Secretary of State; and whe now, in the midst of revolutions, plots, foreign and domestic wars, was quietly writing non sense about the visits of Lycurgus to the Brah mins, and the tunes which Arion played to the Dolphin.

We must not omit to mention that, while the controversy about Phalaris was raging, Swift, in order to show his zeal and attachment, wrote the "Battle of the Books ;"—the earliest piece in which his peculiar talents are discernible. We may observe, that the bitter dislike of Bentley, bequeathed by Temple to Swift, seems to have been communicated by Swift to Pope, to Arbuthnot, and to others who continued to tease the great critic, long after he had shaken hands very cordially both with Boyle and Atterbury.

The illusion was soon dispelled. Bentley's answer forever settled the question, and established his claim to the first place amongst classical scholars. Nor do those do him justice who represent the controversy as a battle between wit and learning. For, though there is a lamentable deficiency of learning on the side of Boyle, there is no want of wit on the side of Bentley. Other qualities too, as valuable as either wit or learning, appear conspieuously in Bentley's book;-a rare sagacity, an unrivalled power of combination, a perfect mastery of all the weapons of logic. He was greatly indebted to the furious outcry which the misrepresentations, sarcasms, and intrigues of his opponents had raised against him;-an outcry in which fashionable and political circles joined, and which was re-echoed by thousands who did not know whether Phalaris ruled in Sicily or in Siam. His spirit, daring even to rashness-self-confident, even to neg- Sir William Temple died at Moor Park in ligence and proud, even to insolent ferocity, January, 1699. He appeared to have suffered -was awed for the first and for the last time no intellectual decay. His heart was buried -awed, not into meanness or cowardice, under a sun-dial which still stands in his fabut into wariness and sobriety. For once he vourite garden. His body was laid in Westran no risks; he left no crevice unguarded; minster Abbey by the side of his wife; and a he wantoned in no paradoxes; above all, he place hard by was set apart for Lady Giffard, returned no railing for the railing of his ene- who long survived him. Swift was his literary mies. In almost every thing that he has writ-executor, and superintended the publication of ten we can discover proofs of genius and his Letters and Memoirs, not without some learning. But it is only here that his genius acrimonious contests with the family. and earning appear to have been constantly under the guidance of good sense and good temper. Here we find none of that besotted reliance on his own powers and on his own luck, which he showed when he undertook to edite Milton; none of that perverted ingenuity which deforms so many of his notes on Horace; none of that disdainful carelessness by which he laid himself open to the keen and dexterous thrusts of Middleton; none of that extravagant vaunting and savage scurrility by which he afterwards dishonoured his studies and his profession, and degraded himself almost to the level of De Paucs.

Of Temple's character little more remaine to be said. Burnet accuses him of nolding irreligious opinions, and corrupting everybody who came near him. But the vague assertion of so rash and partial a writer as Burnet, about a man with whom, as far as we know, he never exchanged a word, is of very little weight. It is, indeed, by no means improbable that Temple may have been a free-thinker. The Osbornes thought him so when he was a very young man. And it is certain that a large proportion of the gentlemen of rank and fashion who made their entrance into society while the Puritan party was at the height of power, and while the memory of the reign of that party was still recent, conceived a strong disgust for all religion. The imputation was common between Temple and all the most distinguished courtiers of the age. Rochester and Buckingham were open scoffers, and Mulgrave very little better. Shaftesbury, though more guarded, was, supposed to agree with them in opinion. All the three noblemen who were Temple's colleagues during the short time of his continuance in the cabinet, were of very indifferent repute as to orthodoxy. Halifax, indeed, was generally considered as an atheist; but he solemnly denied the charge; and, indeed, the truth seems to be, that he was more religiously disposed than most of the statesmen of that age; though two impulses which were unusually strong in him,-a passion for ludicrous images, and a passion for subtle speculations,-sometimes prompted him to talk on serious subjects in a manner which gave great and just offence. It is not even

Temple did not live to witness the utter and irreparable defeat of his champions. He died, indeed, at a fortunate moment, just after the appearance of Boyle's book, and while all England was laughing at the way in which the Christchurch men had handled the pedant. In Boyle's book, Temple was praised in the high- | est terms, and compared to Memmius-not a very happy comparison; for the only particular information which we have about Memmius is, that in agitated times he thought it his duty to attend exclusively to politics; and that his friends could not venture, except when the republic was quiet and prosperous, to intrude on him with their philosophical and poetical productions. It is on this account, that Lucretius puts up the exquisitely beautiful prayer for peace with which his poem opens:

"Nam neque nos agere hoc patriæ tempore iniquo Possumus æque animo, nec Memmii clara propago 'Talibus in rebus communi deesse saluti."

« AnteriorContinuar »