Imágenes de páginas

may have been nothing mean or sordid in his nature; an honesty, seldom tried in persons of his station, may have been proof against the common temptations to which it was exposed; the honour which worldly men make their god may have found in him a submissive worshipper; but the more exalted and the nobler qualities of the soul were not likely to be displayed by one whose selfish propensities were gratified in public life at the cost of all that statesmen most regard in public character; and little reliance can be placed either on the humanity, or the self-control, or the self-respect of one whose passions are his masters, and hurry him on to gratification at all the hazards that virtue can encounter. Accordingly his youth was a course of unrestrained and habitual indulgence. In a libertine age he was marked as among the most licentious. Even his fessed panegyrist, Dean Swift, makes no defence for this part of his life, and only ventures to suggest that he had lived long enough to regret and repent of it. Sir William Windham, too, fell into such courses, carried away by his example, and seduced by the charms of his society: and they who have written of him ascribe his early dissipation to the ascendant of such a Mentor. That he survived this tempest of the passions many years, and became more quiet in his demeanour during the calmness of his blood, is perhaps more the result of physical causes than any great eulogy of his returning virtue, or any manifestation of his penitence.


That his feelings, however, when left to their natural course, unperverted by evil associates, nor hurried by evil propensities, were kind and generous, there is sufficient proof. The marriage which in early youth he first contracted was one of accident and of family arrangement: like all such unions, it was attended with little happiness. The second wife was one of his choice: to her his demeanour was blameless, and he enjoyed much comfort in her society. His attachment to his friends was warm and zealous; and they cultivated and looked up to him with a fervour which can ill be expressed by such ordinary words as esteem, or respect, or even admiration. Yet even in this relation, the most attractive in which he appears to us, his proud temper got the better of his kinder nature; and he persecuted the

memory of Pope, whom living he had loved so well, with a rancour hardly to be palliated, certainly not to be vindicated, by the paltry trick to which that great poet and little man had lent himself, in an underhand publication of the manuscripts confided to his care.

His spirit was high and manly; his courage, personal and political, was without a stain. He had no sordid propensities; his faults were not mean or paltry; they were, both in his private life and his public, on a large scale, creating, for the most part, wonder or terror more than scorn or contempt-though his conduct towards the Pretender approached near an exception to this remark; and the restless impatience with which he bore his long exclusion from the great stage of public affairs, and the relentless vengeance with which he, in consequence of this exclusion, pursued Walpole as its cause, betokened anything rather than greatness of soul.

That the genius which he displayed in the senate, his wisdom, his address, his resources in council, should, when joined to fascinating manners and literary accomplishments, have made him shine in society without a rival, can easily be comprehended. So great an orator, so noble a person in figure and in demeanour, one so little under the dominion of the principle which makes men harsh, and the restraints which render their manners formal-was sure to captivate all superficial observers, and even to win the more precious applause of superior minds. To do that which he did so well naturally pleased him; to give delight was itself delightful; and he indulged in the more harmless relaxations of society long after he had ceased to be a partaker in the less reputable pleasures of polished life. He probably left as high a reputation behind him, among the contemporaries of his maturer years, for his social qualities, which remained by him to the last, as he had gained with those who remembered the eloquence that in his earlier days shook the senate, or the policy and intrigues that had also shaken the monarchy itself. The dreadful malady under which he long lingered, and at length sunk-a cancer in the face-he bore with exemplary fortitude, a fortitude drawn from the natural resources of his vigorous mind, and unhappily not aided by the consolations of any religion;

for, having early cast off the belief in revelation, he had substituted in its stead a dark and gloomy naturalism, which even rejected those glimmerings of hope as to futurity not untasted by the wiser of the heathens.*

Such was Bolingbroke, and as such he must be regarded by impartial posterity, after the virulence of party has long subsided, and the view is no more intercepted either by the rancour of political enmity or by the partiality of adherents, or by the fondness of friendship. Such, too, is Bolingbroke, when the gloss of trivial accomplishments is worn off by time, and the lustre of genius itself has faded beside the simple and transcendent light of virtue. The contemplation is not without its uses. The glare of talents and success is apt to obscure defects which are incomparably more mischievous than any intellectual powers can be either useful or admirable. Nor can a lasting renown—a renown that alone deserves to be courted by a rational being-ever be built upon any foundations save those which are laid in an honest heart and a firm purpose, both conspiring to work out the good of mankind. That renown will be as imperishable as it is pure.

*Lord Chesterfield, in one of his letters lately published by Lord Mahon (ii. 450), says, that Bolingbroke only doubted, and by no means rejected, a future state.





THE kindness of a most accomplished and venerable person, the ornament of a former age, and fortunately still preserved to enlighten the present (1836), has permitted the insertion of the following interesting note:

"A circumstance attended Lord Chatham's eloquent invective against our employment of the Indians in the American war, which we have not handed down to us along with it, but which could hardly fail to be noticed at the time. The very same thing had been done in the former war carried on in Canada by his authority and under his own immediate superintendence; the French had arrayed a tribe of these savage warriors against us, and we, without scruple, arrayed another against them. This he thought fit to deny in the most positive manner, although the ministers offered to produce documents written by himself that proved it from among the papers at the Secretary's office. A warm debate ensued, and at length, Lord Amherst, the General who had commanded our troops in that Canadian war, was so loudly appealed to on all sides, that it compelled him to rise, and, most unwillingly (for he greatly respected Lord Chatham), falter out a few words; enough, however, to acknowledge the fact-a fact admitted generally, and even assumed by the opposition lords who spoke afterwards. They seemed to lay the question quietly by as far as it concerned Lord Chatham's veracity, and only insisted upon the difference between the two wars the one foreign, the other civil; arguing, also, that we might have been under some necessity of using retaliation, since the French certainly first began the prac

tice so justly abhorred. The 'Annual Register' for 1777 states that Mr. Burke took the same course in the House of Commons.

[ocr errors]

"Upon hearing what had passed in the House of Lords, Lord Bute exclaimed with astonishment 'Did Pitt really deny it? Why, I have letters of his still by me, singing To Paans over the advantages we gained through our Indian allies.' Could what he thus said have been untrue, when it was almost a soliloquy spoken rather before than to his wife and daughters, the only persons present? The letters he mentioned were probably neither official nor confidential, but such common notes as might pass between him and Lord Chatham while still upon a footing of some intimacy.

"It must be observed that, in 1777, Lord Bute had long withdrawn from all political connexions, lived in great retirement, and had no intercourse whatever with the people then in power."

This venerable and amiable person, Lady Louisa Stuart, who long survived the publication of her letter, wrote the following verses in 1849, which would do much credit to any one, and are truly wonderful in one nearly in her ninetieth year. She had in former days, too, written verses of great beauty; but her repugnance to showing them was so difficult to overcome that very few were allowed to see them. Those now given are here inserted as not alien to the subject of some of the political discussions in this work:


"Wealth may be bought too dear," said those of old,
Who yet distinguished not true wealth from gold,
Nor guessed, what now a wiser age opines,
That Spain was beggared by Potosi's mines,
And Europe quaked, as Mammon rose to pour
His torrents, lava-like, of Indian ore.

True wealth, endowed with no volcanic powers,
Sheds gentle dews and fertilizing showers:
Her's the fair gifts of Nature, linked with peace,
In the full barn and the abundant fleece;
In harvests, vintages, in herds and flocks;
She borrows nothing from Pandora's box;

« AnteriorContinuar »