Yet, it is only justice to the men of the older day, to acknowledge that their motives were of a much higher order than the stimulants of the modern clamour. With many of the Scottish Jacobites, the impulse was a sense of honour to their chieftains, and a gallant devotion to their king; with many of the English, it was a conscientious belief that they were only doing their duty to the lawful throne in resisting the claims of the Prince of Orange. It is remarkable, that of the "seven bishops" sent to trial by James, but one, Trelawny, could be prevailed on to take the oath of allegiance to William; yet, unfounded and extravagant as were these conceptions, they showed manliness and conscience. Later times have had motives, unredeemed by the chivalry of the Scotch, or the integrity of the English; but the cause of both has been marked with a similarity of operation, which makes Solomon still "an oracle."
The elections became the chief scenes of display. The efforts to return Jacobite members were of the most pertinacious kind, and sometimes proceeded to actual violence. In one of the Westminster elections, the court candidate had been furiously attacked by a hired mob; and one Murray, a man of family, and marked, by his name, for an adherent of the Stuarts, had exhibited himself as a leader, had been captured, and consigned to the custody of the Serjeant-at-arms.
After a period of confinement, pardon was tendered to him, if he would ask it. He refused contemptuously, and obtained popularity by playing the hero.
Murray was brought to the bar of the House of Commons to be heard in his own defence. He asserted his innocence, smiled when he was taxed with having called Lord Trentham and the High Bailiff rascals, desired counsel, and was remanded. Another character then comes on the tapis by way of episode. This was Sir William Yonge. It has been said of the celebrated Erskine, that in the House he was a natural, out of the House he was a supernatural; and certainly nothing could be less like, than the orator of the bar, and the prattler of the House of Commons. Yonge's characteristics were just the reverse. He was always trifling, out of the House, and sometimes singularly effective in it. Walpole says of him, that his Parliamentary eloquence was the more extraordinary, as it seemed to come upon him by inspiration. Sir Robert Walpole frequently, when he did not choose to enter early into the debate himself, gave Yonge his notes as the latter came into the House; from which he could speak admirably, though he had missed all the preceding discussion.
Sir Robert Walpole said of him, with a pungency worthy of his son, that "nothing but Yonge's character could keep down his parts, and nothing but his parts support his character;" but, whatever might be his character, it is certain that his parts served him well, for though but four-and-twenty years in Parliament, he was twice a Lord of the Treasury, a Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary at War, finishing with the then very lucrative situation of Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. For the more honorary part of his distinctions, he had the Ribbon of the Bath, was a Privy Councillor, and was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Carnarvonshire.
We now return to Murray. It was moved that he should appear before the House on his knees. Walpole's description is very graphic. "He entered with an air of confidence, composed of something between a martyr and a coxcomb.
"The Speaker called out, Your obeisances, sir, your obeisances, and then, sir, you must kneel. He replied, Sir, I beg to be excused, I never kneel but to God. The Speaker repeated the command with great warmth. Murray answered, Sir, I am sorry I cannot comply with your request: I should in any thing else. Speaker cried, Sir, I call upon you again to consider of it. Murray answered, Sir, when I have committed a crime, I kneel to God for pardon, but I know my own innocence, and I cannot kneel to any one else. The Speaker ordered the Serjeant to take him away and secure him. He was going to reply, but the Speaker would not suffer him. The Speaker then made a representation to the House of his contemptuous behaviour, and said, However you may have differed in the debate, I hope you will be unanimous in the punishment.
"Then ensued a long, tedious, and trifling succession of speakers, finishing by an adjournment at two in the morning."
Then comes another character passing through the magic lantern. The Mutiny Bill is the back-ground for this caricature. The front figure is Lord Egmont. John Percival, second Earl of Egmont, seems to have been an extraordinary compound of the fanatic and the philosopher. He was scarcely of age, before he had a scheme of assembling the Jews, and making himself their king. His great talent was, indefatigable application. He was never known to laugh. He was once, indeed, seen to smile; but that was at chess. His father had trained him to history and antiquities; and he early settled his own political genius by scribbling pamphlets. Towards the decline of Sir Robert Walpole's power, he had created himself a leader of the Independents, a knot of desperate tradesmen, many of them converted to Jacobinism, by being fined at the custom-house for contraband practices. One of their chiefs was Blackistone, a grocer in the Strand, detected in smuggling, and forgiven by Sir Robert Walpole; detected again, and fined largely, on which he turned patriot and became an alderman of London.
At the beginning of this parliament, rejected by Westminster, and countenanced nowhere, he bought what Walpole pleasantly calls, the loss of an election at Weobly, for which place, however, on a petition, Fox procured his return to parliament, and immediately had the satisfaction to find him declare against the court. At the Westminster election, his indefatigability against the ministerial favourite came amply into play. All the morning he passed at the hustings, then came to the House, where he was a principal actor, and the rest of the day he spent at hazard, not to mention the hours spent in collecting materials for his speeches, or in furnishing them to his weekly mercenaries.
We then have a touch of the pencil at Lord Nugent.
"This Irishman's style was florid bombast; his impudence as great as if he had been honest. He affected unbounded good-humour, and it was unbounded, but by much secret malice, which sometimes broke out into boisterous railing, but oftener vented itself in still-born satires. Nugent's attachments were to Lord Granville; but all his flattery was addressed to Mr. Pelham, whom he mimicked in candour, as he often resembled Granville in ranting. Nugent had lost the reputation of a great poet, by writing works of his own, after he had acquired fame by an ode that was the joint production of several others."
Walpole certainly had an aversion to the wits of his day, with the exception of George Selwyn; on whom he lavished a double portion of the panegyric that he deserved, as a sort of compensation for his petulance to others. His next portrait was Lord Chesterfield, the observed of all observers, "the glass of fashion, and the mould of form," a man of talent unquestionably, and a master of the knowledge of mankind, but degrading his talent by the affectation of coxcombry, and turning his knowledge into a system of polished profligacy.
Chesterfield, though not the first who had made a study of the art of nothings, was the first who publicly prided himself on its study; and while France owed her fashionable vice to a hundred sources, all England looked up to Chesterfield as the high priest of that shrine, in which time and reputation were equally sacrificed, and in which fame was to be acquired alone by folly.
Walpole's sketch was struck off when Chesterfield was sinking into the vale of years, and he exhibits that celebrated peer under the character, at once melancholy and ridiculous, of a superannuated politician and an old beau. Chesterfield, since he had given up the seals in 1748, had retired from politics; in that spirit of resignation, which, in extinguished politicians, is only a decent disguise for despair.
He had published what he called an apology for his resignation, which, as Walpole says, excited no more notice than the resignation itself. "From that time he had lived at White's, gaming, and pronouncing witticisms among the boys of quality." He then proceeds to examine the noble lord's construction, pretty much in the style of an anatomist with the subject on the table, and cuts him up with all the zeal of angry science.
"Chesterfield, early in life, announced his claim to wit, and the women believed in it. He had besides given himself out for a man of great intrigue, and the world believed in that too. It was not his fault if he had not wit, for nothing exceeded his efforts in that point. His speeches were fine, but as much laboured as his extempore sayings. His writings were every body's; that is, whatever came out good was given to him, and he was too humble ever to refuse the gift. But besides the passive enjoyment of all good productions in the present age, he had another art of reputation, which was, either to disapprove of the greatest authors of other times, or to patronize whatever was too bad to be ascribed to himself."
We then have a slight glance at his public life. His debut in diplomacy was as ambassador to Holland, where, as Walpole says, "he courted the good opinion of that economical people," by losing immense sums at play. On his return, he attached himself to Lord Townshend, an unlucky connexion; but what did him more harm still, was the queen's seeing him one Twelfth Night after winning a large sum of money at hazard, cross St. James's Court, "to deposit it with my Lady Suffolk until next morning." The queen never pardoned an intimacy there, and well she might not, Lady Suffolk's royal intimacies being perfectly notorious.
His next employment of note was the vice-royalty of Ireland; in which Walpole acknowledges that he was the most popular governor which that luckless country ever had. "Nothing was cried up but his integrity. He would have laughed at any man who had any confidence in his morality."
But Chesterfield's vice-royalty deserves better treatment than this. In Ireland he was an able governor. The man had something to do, and he did it. The lounger of the London clubs could not dawdle through the day in the midst of a fiery people full of faction, bleeding with the wounds of civil war, and indignant at the supremacy of the "Saxon."
Jacobitism, in England a fashion, was in Ireland a fury. In England a phantom of party, it was in Ireland a fierce superstition. In England a fading recollection of power lost, and a still feebler hope of favours to come, it was in Ireland a hereditary frenzy embittered by personal sufferings, exalted by fantastic notions of pedigree, and sanctioned by the secret but powerful stimulants of Rome. This was no place for a man to take his rest, unless he could contrive to sleep on thorns.
Chesterfield was thus forced to be vigorous and vigilant; to watch every symptom of disaffection, to suppress every incipient turbulence, to guide without the appearance of control, and to make his popularity the strength of a government almost wholly destitute of civil reputation or military force. But the highest panegyric is to be found in the period of his thus preserving the peace of Ireland. It was in 1745, when the Pretender was proclaimed in Edinburgh, when the Highland army was on its march to London, and when all the hopes of hollow courtiership and inveterate Jacobitism were turned to the triumph of the ancient dynasty. Yet, Ireland was kept in a state of quietude, and the empire was thus saved from the greatest peril since the Norman invasion.
An Irish insurrection would have largely multiplied the hazards of the Brunswick throne; and though we have firm faith in the power of England to extinguish a foreign invader, yet, when the question came to be simply one of the right to the crown, and the decision was to be made by civil conflict, the alienation, or the insurrection, of Ireland might have thrown an irresistible weight into the scale.
It is not our purpose, nor would it be becoming, to more than allude to the private life of this showy personage. His was not the era of either public or private morality. His marriage was contemptible, a connexion equally marked by love of money and neglect of honour; for his choice was the niece of the Duchess of Kendal, the duchess being notoriously the king's mistress, and Chesterfield obviously marrying the niece as being a probable heiress of her aunt, and also of bringing to her husband some share of the royal favour. He was disappointed, as he deserved, in the legacy; and seems to have been not much happier in the wife, who brought him no heir, and was apparently a compound of pride and dulness. He was more fortunate, however, in earning the political favour of the old Duchess of Marlborough, who left him L20,000 in her will.
Still, with all the political chicanery, and all the official squabbles of parliament, those were sportive times; and Walpole records the delay of the debate on the bill for naturalizing the Jews, as arising from the adjournment of the house, to attend private theatricals at Drury Lane, where Delaval had hired the theatre to exhibit himself in Othello! Walpole, in his pleasant exaggeration, says, that "the crowd of people of fashion was so great, that the footman's gallery was hung with blue ribands."
For some reason, which must now sleep with the author, he had an inveterate aversion to Seeker, then Bishop of Oxford, and afterwards translated to Canterbury. "The King," said he, "would not go to chapel because the Bishop of Oxford was to preach before him. The ministers did not insist upon his hearing the sermon, as they had lately upon his making him Dean of St. Paul's."
Character and popularity do not always depend upon the circumstances which alone ought to fix either. He then proceeds to hew the right reverend lord in pieces. "This bishop," says he, "who had been bred a Presbyterian and man-midwife, which sect and profession he had dropt for a season, while he was President of a Free-thinking Club, had been converted by Bishop Talbot, whose relation he married, and his faith settled in a prebend of Durham, whence he was transplanted by the queen, and advanced by her (who had no aversion to a medley of religions, which she always compounded into a scheme of heresy of her own) to the living of St. James's, vacant by the death of her favourite Arian, Dr. Clarke, and afterwards to the bishoprics of Bristol and Oxford."
Then, probably for the purpose of relieving the dark hues of this desperate portrait, he throws in a touch of praise, and tells us that Secker grew surprisingly popular in his parish of St. James's, and was especially approved of in the pulpit.
Secker's discourses, with his charges and lectures, still remain; and it is impossible to conceive any thing more commonplace in style, weaker in conception, or more thoroughly marked with mediocrity of mind. And yet it is perfectly possible to conceive such a man popular. What the multitude call eloquence, in the pulpit, is palpably different from eloquence any where else. At the bar, or in the legislature, it evidently consists in a mixture of strong sense and powerful feeling. It must exhibit some knowledge of the subject, and more knowledge of human nature. But the "sermons" which then achieved a passing popularity were characterised by nothing but by the most shallow notions in the most impotent language. The age of reasoners had passed away with Barrow, South, and Sherlock; and a studied mingling of affected simplicity and deliberate nonsense constituted the sole merits of the pulpit in the middle of the eighteenth century. Then, according to the proverb, that "when things come to the worst, they must mend," came the gentle enthusiasm of Wesley and the fierce declamation of Whitefield, both differing utterly in doctrine, practice, and principle, yet both regarding themselves as missionaries to restore Christianity, and both evidently believed by the multitude to be all but inspired. Their example, however, infused some slight ardour into the established pulpit, and its sermons were no longer dull rechauffes of Epictetus, and substitutes for the Gospel, taken from the schoolboy recollections of Plato. Secker reigned in this middle-age of the pulpit, and his performances are matchless as models of words without thought, doctrines without learning, and language that trickled through the ear without the possibility of reaching the understanding.
But Secker's faults were those of nature, which alone is to be blamed; unless we are to join in the blame the ministers who placed such a twinkling taper as a "shining light" in the church.
We do not believe in the story of his freethinking, though Walpole strongly repeats it, and gives his authority. Secker's was obviously a commonplace mind, wholly destitute of all pretension to ability, yet as obviously not disinclined to make use of those means which often constitute court favour, but which high minds disdain. He had been made Dean of St. Paul's by the Chancellor's interest, though he had been for some time in the shade at court, from being strongly suspected of cultivating the Prince's connexions at the same time; however, he achieved Canterbury at last, and, once sheltered in Lambeth, he might laugh at the jealousies of courtiers.
Walpole now bursts out into indignant virtue; exclaims that even the church has its renegades in politics, and almost compassionates the king, "who was obliged to fling open his asylum to all kinds of deserters; revenging himself, however, by not speaking to them at his levee, or listening to them in the pulpit."
In the meantime, the great source of all opposition, the dread of the successful, the hope of the defeated, the thorn in the royal side, or, to take a higher emblem, the tree of promise to all that contemptible race who trade in conscience, and live on faction,—disappeared in a moment. The heir-apparent died! The Prince of Wales had suffered from a pleurisy, but was so much recovered as to attend the king to the House of Lords. After being much heated in the atmosphere of the house, he returned to Carlton House to unrobe, put on only a light frock, went to Kew, where he walked some time, returned to Carlton House, and lay down upon a couch for three hours on a ground floor next the garden. The consequence of this rashness or obstinacy was, that he caught a fresh cold, and relapsed that night.
After struggling with this illness for a week, he was suddenly seized with an increase of his distemper. Three years before, he had received a blow on the breast from a tennis ball, from which, or from a subsequent fall, he often felt great pain. Exhausted by the cough, he cried, "Je sens la mort," and died in the arms of his valet.
The character of this prince, who was chiefly memorable as the father of George III., had in it nothing to eclipse the past age, conciliate the present, or attract honour from the future. Walpole, in his keen way, says, "that he resembled the Black Prince in nothing, but in dying before his father." "Indeed," he contemptuously adds, "it was not his fault if he had not distinguished himself by warlike achievements." He had solicited the command of the army in Scotland in the rebellion of 1745, which was of course given to his brother; "a hard judgment," says Walpole, "for what he could do, he did." When the royal army lay before Carlisle, the prince, at a great supper which he gave his court and favourites, had ordered for the dessert a model of the citadel of Carlisle, in paste, which he in person, and the maids of honour, bombarded with sugar plumbs!
The Prince had disagreed with the king and queen early after his coming to England, "not entirely," says Walpole, "by his own fault." The king had refused to pay his debts in Hanover, and "it ran a little in the blood of the family to hate the eldest son!" The queen exerted more authority than he liked, and "the Princess Emily, who had been admitted into his greatest confidence, had not," the historian bitterly observes, "forfeited her duty to the queen, by concealing any of his secrets that might do him prejudice."
Gaming was one of his passions; "but his style of play did him less honour than even the amusement." He carried this dexterity into practice in more essential points, and was vain of it. "One day at Kensington that he had just borrowed L5000 of Doddington, seeing him pass under his window, he said to Hedges, his secretary, 'that man is reckoned one of the most sensible men in England; yet, with all his parts, I have just tricked him out of L5000!'" A line from Earl Stanhope summed up his character,—"He has his father's head and his mother's heart."
A smart hit is mentioned of Pelham, who, however, was not remarkable for humour. One Ayscough, who had been preceptor to Prince George, and who had "not taught him to read English, though eleven years old," was about to be removed from the preceptorship. Lyttleton, whose sister he had married, applied to Pelham to save him. Pelham answered, "I know nothing of Dr. Ayscough—Oh, yes, I recollect, a very worthy man told me in this room, two years ago, that he was a great rogue." This very worthy man happened to be Lyttleton himself, who had then quarrelled with Ayscough about election affairs. Walpole abounds in sketches of character, and they are generally capital. Here is a kit-cat of Lord Albemarle, then ambassador in Paris. "It was convenient to him to be any where but in England. His debts were excessive, though he was ambassador, groom of the stole, governor of Virginia, and colonel of a regiment of guards. His figure was genteel, his manner noble and agreeable. The rest of his merit was the interest Lady Albemarle had with the king through Lady Yarmouth. He had all his life imitated the French manners since he came to Paris, where he never conversed with a Frenchman. If good breeding is not different from good sense, Lord Albemarle at least knew how to distinguish it from good nature. He would bow to his postilion, while he was ruining his tailor."
The prince's death had all the effect of the last act of a melo-drama. It had blown up more castles in the air, than any explosion in the history of paint and pasteboard. All the rejected of the court had naturally flocked round the heir-apparent, and never was worship of the rising sun more mortified by its sudden eclipse. Peerages in embryo never came to the birth, and all sorts of ministerial appointments, from the premier downwards, which had been looked upon as solid and sure, were scattered by this one event into thin air. Drax, the prince's secretary, who "could not write his own name;" Lord Baltimore, who, "with a great deal of mistaken knowledge, could not spell;" and Sir William Irby, the princesses' Polonius, were to be barons; Doddington, it was said, had actually kissed hands for the reversion of a dukedom!
The whole work is a picture gallery. Doddington, whose "Diary" has placed him among those authors whose happiest fate would have been to have been prohibited the use of pen, ink, and paper, is sketched to the life in a few keen and graphic lines.
"This man, with great knowledge of business and much wit, had, by mere absurdity of judgment and a disposition to finesse, thrown himself out of all estimation, and out of all the views which his large fortune and abilities could not have failed to promote, if he had preserved but the least shadow of steadiness. He had two or three times gone all lengths of flattery, alternately with Sir Robert Walpole and the prince. The latter keenly said, 'that they had met again, at last, in a necessary connexion, for no party would have any thing to do with either.'"
Why has not some biographer, curious in the dissection of human vanity, written the real life of Doddington? There could be no richer subject for a pen contemptuous of the follies of high life and capable of dissecting that compound of worldly passion and infirm principle which, in nine instances out of ten, figures in the front ranks of mankind.
Doddington had begun public life with higher advantages than most men of his time. He had figure, fortune, and fashion; he was employed early in Spain, with Sir Paul Methuen, our ambassador; where he signed the treaty of Madrid. He then clung to Walpole, whom he panegyrised in verse and adulated in prose. But Walpole thwarted his longing for a peerage, and the refusal produced his revolt. He then went over to the Opposition, and flattered the prince. But the prince had a favourite already; and Doddington failed again. He then returned to Walpole, who made him a lord of the treasury. But Walpole himself was soon to feel the chances of power; and Doddington, who was never inclined to prop a sinking cause, crossed the House again. There he was left for a while, to suffer the penalties of a placeman's purgatory, but without being purified; and, after some continuance in opposition, a state for which he was as unfitted as a shark upon the sea-shore, he crossed over again to the court, and was made treasurer of the navy. But he was now rapidly falling into ridicule; and, determining to obtain power at all risks, he bowed down before the prince. At this mimic court he obtained a mimic office, was endured without respect, and consulted without confidence. Even there he had not secured a final refuge.
The prince suddenly died; and Doddington's hopes, though not his follies, were extinguished in his grave. Such was the fate of a man of ability, of indefatigable labour, of affluent means, and confessedly accomplished in all the habits and knowledge of public life. He wanted, as Walpole observes, "nothing for power but constancy." Under a foreign government he might have been minister for life. But in the free spirit and restless parties of an English legislature, though such a man might float, he must be at the mercy of every wave.
We then have the most extraordinary man in England in his day, under review, the well-known Duke of Newcastle, minister, or possessing ministerial influence, for nearly a quarter of a century! Of all the public characters of his time, or perhaps of any other, the Duke of Newcastle was the most ridiculed. Every act of his life, every speech which he uttered, nay, almost every look and gesture, became instantly food for burlesque. All the scribblers of the empire, with some of the higher class, as Smollett, were pecking at him day by day; yet, in a Parliament where Chatham, with his powerful eloquence, Bedford with his subtle argument, Townshend with his wit, and the elder Fox with his indefatigable intrigue, were all contending for the mastery; this man, who seemed sometimes half-frenzied, and at other times half-idiotic, retained power, as if it belonged to him by right, and resigned it, as if he had given it away.
Walpole thus describes his appearance. "A constant hurry in his walk, a restlessness of place, a borrowed importance, gave him the perpetual air of a solicitor. His habit of never finishing, which proceeded from his beginning every thing twenty times over, gave rise to the famous bon-mot of Lord Wilmington: 'The Duke of Newcastle always loses half an hour in the morning, which he is running after for the rest of the day.' But he began the world with advantages:—an estate of L30,000 a-year, great borough and county interest, the heirship of his uncle, the old Duke of Newcastle, and a new creation of the title in his person." Walpole curiously describes the temperament of this singular man. "The Duke of Newcastle had no pride, though infinite self-love. He always caressed his enemies, to enlist them against his friends. There was no service that he would not do for either, till either was above being served by him.
"There was no expense to which he was not addicted, but generosity. His houses, gardens, table, and equipage, swallowed immense treasures. The sums which he owed were exceeded only by those which he wasted. He loved business immoderately, yet was always only doing it, never did it. His speeches in council and parliament were copious of words, but unmeaning. He aimed at every thing, yet endeavoured nothing. A ridiculous fear was predominant in him; he would venture the overthrow of the government, rather than dare to open a letter that might discover a plot. He was a secretary of state without intelligence, a man of infinite intrigue without secrecy or policy, and a minister despised and hated by his master, by all parties and ministers, without being turned out by any." This faculty of retaining office is evidently the chief problem in Walpole's eyes, and was as evidently the chief source of wrath, in the eyes of his crowd of clever opponents.
But the duke must have had some qualities, for which his caricaturists will not give him credit. He must have been shrewd, with all his oddity, and well acquainted with the science of the world, with all his trifling. He must have known the art of pulling the strings of parliament, before he could have managed the puppet show of power with such unfailing success. He must also have been dexterous in dealing with wayward tempers, while he had to manage the suspicious spirit, stubborn prejudices, and arrogant obstinacy of George II. It may be admitted that he had great assistance in the skill and subtlety of his brother Pelham; but there were so many occasions on which he must have trusted to himself alone, that it may well be doubted, whether to be, constantly successful, he must not have been singularly skilful, and that the personal dexterity of the minister was the true secret of his prolonged power.
We now come to Walpole's summary of the career of the two most celebrated men of his early life—his father and Bolingbroke.
Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Bolingbroke had begun, as rivals at school, lived a life of competition, and died much in the same manner, "provoked at being killed by empirics, but with the same difference in their manner of dying as had appeared in the temper of their lives,—the first with a calmness which was habitual philosophy, the other with a rage which his affected philosophy could not disguise. The one had seen his early ambition dashed with imprisonment, from which he had shot into the sphere of his rival. The other was exiled, recalled, and ruined. Walpole rose gradually to the height of power, maintained it by his single talents against Bolingbroke, assisted by all the considerable men of England; and when driven from it at last, resigned it without a stain or a censure; retiring to private life without an attempt to re-establish himself, and almost without a regret for what he had lost."
Though this was the tribute of a son to a father, it is, in all its essentials, the tribute of truth; for Walpole was, beyond all doubt, a man of great administrative abilities, remarkably temperate in the use of power, and, though violently assailed both within and without the house, neither insolent in the one instance, nor vindictive in the other. It was equally beyond a doubt, that to him was in a great degree owing the establishment of the Hanover succession. The peaceful extinction of Jacobitism, whose success would have been the renewal of despotism and popery; and that system of finance and nurture of the national resources, which prepared the country for the signal triumphs of the reign, were the work of Walpole.
Bolingbroke, with talents of the highest brilliancy, wanted that strength of judgment without which the most brilliant talents are only dangerous to their possessor. After tasting of power, only to feel the bitterness of disappointment—after rising to the height of ambition, only to be cast into the lowest depths of disgrace, after being driven into exile, and returning from it only in the humiliation of a pardon under the hand of his rival,—Bolingbroke died in retirement, without respect, and in the obscurity, without the peace of a private station. It must be acknowledged that, in his instance, ill-fortune was only another name for justice; that the philosopher, whose pen was employed in defaming religion, was punished in the politician, who felt the uncertainty of human power; and that a life expended in treachery to the religion in which he was born, was well punished by his being forced in public life to drink the bitterest dregs of political shame, live with an extinguished reputation, and be buried in national scorn, long before his body was consigned to the tomb.
At this period, the king, far advanced in years, was destined to feel the heaviest pressure of domestic calamity. His queen, a woman of sense and virtue, to whom, notwithstanding the grossness of his vices, he could not help paying public respect, died from the effects of an accident, which had grown into a confirmed disease. Her death was followed by that of his youngest daughter, the Queen of Denmark, a woman "of great spirit and sense," who died of an accident resembling her mother's. She, too, like the Queen of England, had led an unhappy life,—for like her, she had the vice and scandal of royal mistresses to contend with.
The king, on the news of this death, broke into unusual expressions of sorrow and fondness. "This," said he, "has been a fatal year to my family; I lost my eldest son, but I was glad of it. Then the Prince of Orange died, and left every thing in confusion. Poor little Edward has been cut open, (for an imposthume in his side,) and now the Queen of Denmark is gone. I know I did not love my children when they were young, I hated to have them running about my room; but now I love them as well as most fathers."
The contrast between the Walpole and the Pelham administrations, is sketched with great force and fidelity. In our days the character of a cabinet depends upon the party. In those days the character of the cabinet depended upon the premier. Walpole was bold, open, steady, and never dejected: Pelham was timorous, reserved, fickle, and apt to despair. Presumption made Walpole many enemies: want of confidence in himself estranged from Pelham many friends. Walpole was content to have one great view, and would overlook or trample on the intermediate degrees: Pelham could never reach a great view, through stumbling at little ones. Walpole loved power so much, that he would not endure a rival: Pelham loved it so much that he would endure any thing. Walpole would risk his administration by driving every considerable man from court, rather than venture their rivalry: Pelham would employ any means to take able men out of the opposition, though he ventured their engrossing his authority and outshining his capacity; but he dreaded abuse more than competition, and always bought off his enemies, to avoid their satire, rather than to acquire their support.
The historian, on the whole, regards Pelham's conduct on this point, though the less bold, as the more prudential. He acknowledges that the result of Sir Robert's driving away all able men from him was, to gain for himself but weak and uncertain assistance, while he always kept up a formidable opposition. But he might have grounded Sir Robert's failure, on insulted justice, as well as on mistaken policy; for, by depriving able men of their natural right to official distinction, he did more than enfeeble himself,—he deprived the country of their services. Walpole's was the more daring plan, and Pelham's was palpably and abjectly pusillanimous; but the result of the one was, to reduce the government to a solitary minister, while the result of the other was always to form an effective cabinet. The former plan may subsist, during a period of national peril; but the return of public tranquillity, which, in England, is always the severest trial of governments, invariably shows the superior stability of the other.
Both were valued in private life. "Walpole was fond of magnificence, and was generous to a fault: the other had neither ostentation nor avarice, and yet had but little generosity. The one was profuse to his family and friends, liberal indiscriminately, and unbounded to his tools and spies: the other loved his family and his friends, and enriched them as often as he could steal an opportunity from his extravagant bounty to his enemies and antagonists." Walpole was "forgiving to a fault, if forgiveness be a fault. Pelham never forgave, but when he durst not resent! The one was most appreciated while he was minister; the other most, when he ceased to be minister. All men thought Pelham honest, until he was in power. Walpole was never thought so, until he was out." Such is the lecture which this dexterous operator gives, knife in hand, over the corpses of the two most powerful men of their age.
Is it to be supposed that Ireland was doing nothing during this bustling period of English faction? Quite the contrary. It was in a flame, yet the subject was as insignificant as the indignation was profuse. One Jones, the court architect, was charged by the opposition with irregularities in his conduct, and was defended by the ministry. On the first division ministers had a majority, but it was almost a defeat, the majority amounting to but three. All Ireland resounded with acclamation. The "national cause" was to live, only with the expulsion of Jones from his office; and to perish irrecoverably, if he should draw another quarter's salary. His protectors were anathematised, his assailants were the models of patriotism. The populace made "bonfires of reproach" before the primate's house, a tolerably significant sign of what might happen to himself; and stopped the coaches in the streets, demanding of their passengers a pledge "whether they were for Ireland, or England." Even the hackney coachmen exhibited their patriotic self-denial by the heroism of refusing to carry any fare to the Castle, the residence of the viceroy. The passion became even more powerful than duelling. A Dr. Andrews, of the Castle party, challenging Lambert, a member, at the door of the Commons, on some election squabble, Lambert said, "I shall go first into the house, and vote against that rascal Neville Jones." Andrews repeating the insult, and, as it seems, not allowing time for this patriotic vote, Lambert went in and complained; in consequence of which Andrews was ordered into custody; Carter, the Master of the Rolls,—for even the lawyers had caught fire on the occasion,—exclaiming of Andrews, "What! would that man force himself into a seat here, and for what? only to prostitute his vote to a man, the sworn enemy of his country," (Lord George Sackville, then Secretary for Ireland.) The Speaker, too, was equally hostile. The government were finally defeated by 124 to 116. Never was ridiculous triumph more ridiculously triumphant. The strangers in the gallery huzzaed, the mob in the streets huzzaed. When Lord Kildare returned to his house (he had been the leader of the debate,) there was a procession of some hours. All the world was rejoicing, Neville Jones was prostrated, Ireland had cast aside her sackcloth, and was thenceforth to be rich, loyal, and happy. The triumph lasted during the night, and was forgotten in the morning. Jones covered his retreat with a pleasantry, saying—"So, after all, I am not to be In—igo, but Out—igo Jones," a piece of wit, which disposed many in that wit-loving land to believe, that he was not so very much a demon after all. But the revenge of government was longer lived than the popular rejoicing. Their first intention was a general casting out of all who had foiled them in the debate: a two-handed slaughter of officials—a massacre of the innocents. But the wrath cooled, and was satisfied with turning off Carter, master of the rolls; Malone, prime serjeant; Dilks, the quarter-master general; and abolishing the pension of Boyle, a near relative of the obnoxious speaker.
But a powerful man was now to be snatched away from the scene: Pelham died. He had been for some time suffering under the great disease of high life, high living. His health had given way to many feasts, many physicians, and the Scarborough waters. He died on the 8th of March, 1754.
France next supplies the historian with another display. The two countries differ, even in the nineteenth century, by characteristics wholly irreconcilable; and they are both of a sterner order as time advances with both. But, in the eighteenth century, each country in its public transactions approached nearer to the propensities and passions of the drama. The rapid changes of the English cabinet—the clever circumventions of courtiers—the bold developments of political talent, and the dexterous intrigues of office—bore some resemblance to the graver comedy. On the other hand, the Court life of France was all a ballet, of which Versailles was the patent theatre. There all was show and scene-shifting the tinsel of high life, and the frolic, of brilliant frivolity.—The minister was eclipsed by the mistress; the king was a buffoon in the hands of the courtier; and the government of a powerful nation was disposed of in the style of a flirtation behind the scenes.
Louis XV. had at this period grown weary of the faded graces of Madame de Pompadour, and selected for his favourite a woman of Irish extraction, of the name of Murphy. The monarch had stooped low enough, for his new sultana was the daughter of a shoe-maker. The royal history was scarcely more profligate, than it was ridiculous. His Majesty, though the husband of a respectable queen, had seemed to regard every abomination of life as a royal privilege. He had first adopted the society of a Madame de Mailly, a clever coquette, but with the disqualification of being the utter reverse of handsome. Madame, to obviate the known truantry of the King, introduced her sister, Madame de Vintinsille, as clever, but as ordinary as herself. The latter died in child-birth, supposed to have been poisoned! The same family, however, supplied a third sultana, a very pretty personage, on whom the royal favour was lavished in the shape of a title, and she was created Duchess de Chateauroux.
But this course of rivalry was interrupted. The king was suddenly seized with illness. Fitzjames, Bishop of Soissons, came to the royal bedside, and remonstrated. The mistress was dismissed, with a kind of public disgrace, and the queen went in a sort of public pomp, to thank the saints for the royal repentance.
"But," says Walpole, "as soon as the king's health was re-established, the queen was sent to her prayers, the bishop to his diocese, and the Duchess was recalled—but died suddenly." He ends the narrative with a reflection as pointed and as bitter as that of any French chamberlain in existence:—"Though a jealous sister may be disposed to despatch a rival, can we believe that bishops and confessors poison?"
Madame de Pompadour had reigned paramount for a longer period than any of those Medeas or Circes. Walpole describes her as all that was charming in person and manner. But nearer observers have denied her the praise of more than common good looks, and more than vulgar animation. She, however, evidently understood the art of managing her old fool, and of keeping influence by the aid of his ministers. Madame mingled eagerly in politics, purchased dependents, paid her instruments well, gave the gayest of all possible entertainments—a resistless source of superiority in France—had a purse for many, and a smile for more; by her liveliness kept up the spirits of the old king, who was now vibrating between vice and superstition; fed, feted, and flattered the noblesse, by whom she was libelled, and worshipped; and with all the remaining decencies of France exclaiming against her, but with all its factions, its private licentiousness, and its political corruption, rejoicing in her reign; she flourished before the eyes of Europe, the acknowledged ruler of the throne.
Can we wonder that this throne fell—that this career of glaring guilt was followed by terrible retribution—that this bacchanalian revel was inflamed into national frenzy—that this riot of naked vice was to be punished and extinguished by the dungeon and the scaffold?
Walpole, though formed in courts, fashioned in politics, and a haunter of high life to the last, now and then exhibits a feeling worthy of a manlier vocation, and an honester time. "If I do not forbid myself censure," says he, "at least I shall shun that poison of histories, flattery. How has it predominated in writers. My Lord Bacon was almost as profuse of his incense to the memory of dead kings, as he was infamous for clouding the memory of the living with it. Commines, an honester writer, though I fear, by the masters whom he pleased, not a much less servile courtier, says that the virtues of Louis XI. preponderated over his vices. Even Voltaire has in a manner purified the dross of adulation which contemporary authors had squandered on Louis XIV. by adopting and refining it after the tyrant was dead."
He then becomes courageous, and writes in his castle of Strawberry Hill, what he never would have dared to breathe in the circle of St. James's. "If any thing can shock one of those mortal divinities, and they must be shocked before they can be corrected, it would be to find, that the truth would be related of them at last. Nay, is it not cruel to them to hallow their memories. One is sure that they will never hear truth; shall they not even have a chance of reading it?"
In all great political movements, where the authority of a nation has been shaken, we are strongly inclined to think that the shock has originated in mal-administration at home. Some of the most remarkable passages in these volumes relate to our early neglect of the American Colonies. In the perpetual struggles of public men for power, the remote world of the West seemed to be wholly forgotten, or to be remembered only when an old governor was recalled, or a new creature of office sent out. Those great provinces had been in the especial department of the Secretary of State, assisted by the Board of Trade. That secretary had been the Duke of Newcastle, a man whose optics seem never to have reached beyond Whitehall. It would scarcely be credited, what reams of papers, representations, memorials, and petitions from that quarter of the world lay mouldering and unopened in his office. He even knew as little of the geography of his province, as of the state of it. During the war, while the French were encroaching on the frontier; when General Ligonier hinted some defence for Annapolis, he replied in his evasive, lisping hurry, "Annapolis. Oh, yes, Annapolis must be defended—Where is Annapolis?"
But a more serious impolicy was exhibited in the neglect of American claims to distinctions and offices. No cabinet seems ever to have thought of attaching the rising men of the colonies, by a fair and natural distribution of honours. Excepting a few trifling offices, scarcely more than menial, under the staff of the British governors, or commissions in the provincial militia, the promotion of an American was scarcely ever heard of. The result was natural,—the English blood was soaked in the American veins; the original spirit of the colonist became first sullen, and then hostile. It was natural, as the population grew more numerous; while individual ability found itself thwarted in its progress, and insulted by the preference of strangers to all the offices of the country, that the feelings of the people should ponder upon change. Nothing could be more impolitic than this careless insult, and nothing more calamitous in its consequences. The intelligent lawyer, the enterprising merchant, the hardy soldier, and America had them all, grew bitter against the country of their ancestors. It would scarcely be believed, that the Episcopal Church was almost wholly abandoned to weakness, poverty, and unpopularity, and even that no bishop was sent to superintend the exertions, or sustain the efficacy, or cement the connexion of the Church in America with the Church in England. The whole of the united provinces were, by the absurd fiction of a sinecure law, "in the diocese of London!" Of course, in the first collision, the Church was swept away like chaff before the wind. An Episcopal Church has since risen in its room; but it has now no farther connexion with its predecessor than some occasional civilities offered to its tourist bishops on presenting their cards at Lambeth, or the rare appearance of a volume of sermons transmitted to our public libraries.
Another capital fault was committed in the administration of those great colonies: they had been peopled chiefly by emigrants of the humbler order. Leaving England chiefly in times of national disturbance, they had carried with them the seeds of republicanism; but all men love public honours, and Englishmen love them as much as any others. Hereditary honours, too, are the most valuable of all, from their giving a certain rank to those objects of our regard, which every honest and high-minded man values most, his children. To be the founder of a family is the most honourable, the most gratifying, and the most permanent reward of public talents. The Americans of our day affect to abhor a peerage; though no people on earth are more tenacious of the trifling and temporary titles of office. Nothing could have been easier at this period, than the creation of an aristocracy in America; and nothing could have been wiser. The landed proprietors, and there were some of vast possessions; the leading men of commerce, and there were some of great wealth; and the principal lawyers, and there were men of eloquence and ability among them—would have formed the nucleus of an aristocracy purely English, closely connected with the English throne as the fountain of honour, and not less strongly bound to English allegiance. An Episcopacy, of all ties the most powerful, required only a word for its creation. And in this manly, generous, and free-spirited connexion, the colonies would have grown with the growth of England; have shunned all the bitter collisions of rival interests; have escaped the actual wars which inflicted disaster on both; and, by the first of all benefits to America, she would have obtained the means of resisting that supremacy of faction, which is now hurrying her into all the excesses of democracy.
In Canada we are still pursuing the same system, inevitably to be followed by the same fruits. We are suffering it to be filled with men of the lowest order of society; with the peasant, the small dealer, the fugitive, and the pauper. Those men no sooner acquire personal independence, than they aim at political. But who ever hears of a title of honour among even the ablest, the most gallant, or the most attached of the Canadian colonists? The French acted more rationally. Their Canadians have a noblesse, and that noblesse to this moment keep their station, and keep up the interest of France in Canada. Our obvious policy would be, to conciliate the leading men by titles of honour, to conciliate the rising generation by giving them the offices of their own country, and make it a principle of colonial government, that while the command of the forces, or the governor-generalship should be supplied from home, every office below those ranks should be given to those brave and intelligent individuals of the colony who had best earned them. We should then hear of no factions, no revolts, and no republicanism in Canada.
It is a curious contrast to the present state of things, that during the long reign of George II. government was simply a game. Half a dozen powerful men were the players. The king was merely the looker on, the people knew no more of the matter than the passers by through Pall-Mall know of the performances going on within the walls of its club-houses. It must shock our present men of the mob to hear of national interests tossed about like so many billiard balls by those powdered and ruffled handlers of the cue. Yet every thing is to be judged of by the result. Public life was never exhibited on a more showy scale. Parliament never abounded with more accomplished ability. England never commanded higher influence with Europe. If her commerce has since become more extensive, it was then more secure, and if the victories of our own time have been on a scale of magnitude, which throws the past into the shade, our fleets and armies then gave proofs of a gallantry which no subsequent triumphs could transcend.
It cannot be doubted, that the habits of that rank to which the statesmen of that day were born, naturally influenced their views of political transactions. Though party unquestionably existed in all its force among them, there was no faction. If there was a strong competition for power, there was little of the meanness of modern intrigue; and a minister of the days of George II. would no more have stooped to the rabble popularity, than he would have availed himself of its assistance or dreaded its alienation.
We now come to one of those negociations which, like a gust of wind against a tree, while they seemed to shake, only strengthened the cabinet. A violent attack had been made in the house upon Sir Thomas Robinson, a great favourite with the king. Walpole strikes off his character with his usual spirit. Sir Thomas had been bred in German courts, and was rather restored, than naturalised to the genius of Germany. He had German honour, loved German politics, and "could explain himself as little" as if he spoke "only German." Walpole attributes Sir Thomas's political distinctions simply to Newcastle's necessity for finding out men of talents inferior to his own, "notwithstanding the difficulty of the discovery." Yet if the duke had intended to please his master, he could not have done it more happily than by presenting him with so congenial a servant. The king, "with such a secretary in his closet, felt himself in the very Elysium of Heren-hausen."
Then follows a singular conversation between the king and Fox. The Duke of Newcastle saw his power tottering, and had begun to look out for new allies. His first thought was to dismiss Pitt, the next and more natural, was to "try to sweeten Fox." Accordingly, on the morning of the 29th, the king sent for Fox, reproached him for concurring to wrong Sir Thomas Robinson, and asked him if he had united with Pitt to oppose his measures. Fox assured him he had not, and that he had given his honour that he would resign first. Then, said the king, will you stand up and carry on my measures in the House of Commons, as you can do with spirit. Fox replied, I must know, sir, what means I shall have. "It would be better for you," said the king, "you shall have favour, advantage, and confidence," but would not explain particulars, only asking if he would go to the Duke of Newcastle.
"I must, if you command me," said Fox, "go and say I have forgot every thing."
"No," replied the king, "I have a good opinion of you. You have abilities and honesty, but you are too warm. I will send a common friend, Lord Waldegrave. I have obligations to you that I never mentioned. The prince tried you, and you would not join him, and yet you made no merit of it to me."
Mingled with these memoirs are appendices of anecdote, and those anecdotes generally of remarkable characters. Among the rest is a sketch of the famous Count Bruhl, one of those men who figured in Europe as the grand burlesque of ministerial life, or rather of that life, which in the East raises a slave into the highest appointments of the state, and after showing him as a slipper-bearer, places him beside the throne. The extravagances of the court of Saxony at that period were proverbial, the elector being King of Poland, and lavishing the revenues of his electorate alike on his kingdom and person. While the court was borrowing at an interest of ten per cent. the elector was lavishing money as if it rained from the skies. He had just wasted L200,000 sterling on two royal marriages, given L100,000 sterling for the Duke of Modena's gallery of pictures, given pensions in Poland amounting to L50,000 sterling above what he received, and enabled Count Bruhl personally to spend L60,000 a-year.
This favourite of fortune, originally of a good family, was only a page to the late king, and had the education of a page. By his assiduity, and being never absent from the king's side, he became necessary to this marvellously idle monarch; he himself, next to the monarch, being, probably, the idlest man in his dominions. The day of a German prime minister seems to have been a succession of formal idlenesses. Bruhl rose at six in the morning, the only instance of activity in his career. But he was obliged to attend the king before nine, after having read the letters of the morning. With the king he staid until the hour of mass, which was at eleven. From mass he went to the Countess Moyensha, where he remained till twelve. From her house he adjourned to dinner with the king, or to his own house, where he was surrounded by a circle of profligates, of his own choosing. After dinner he undressed, and went to sleep till five. He then dressed, for the second time in the day, each time occupying him an hour. At six he went to the king, with whom he staid till seven. At seven he always went to some assembly, where he played deep, the Countess Moyensha being always of the party. At ten he supped, and at twelve he went to bed. Thus did the German contrive to mingle statesmanship with folly, and the rigid regularities of a life not to be envied by a horse in a mill, with the feeble frivolities of a child in the nursery. His expenses were immense; he kept three hundred servants, and as many horses. Yet he lived without elegance, and even without comfort. His house was a model of extravagance and bad taste. He had contracted a mania for building, and had at least a dozen country seats, which he scarcely ever visited. This enormous expenditure naturally implied extraordinary resources, and he was said to sell all the great appointments in Poland without mercy.
Frederick of Prussia described him exactly, when he said, that "of all men of his age he had the most watches, dresses, lace, boots, shoes, and slippers. Caesar would have put him among those well dressed and perfumed heads of which he was not afraid." But this mixture of prodigality and profligacy was not to go unpunished, even on its own soil. Bruhl involved Saxony in a war with Frederick. Nothing could be more foolish than the beginning of the war, except its conduct. The Prussian king, the first soldier in Europe, instantly out-manoeuvred the Saxons, shut up their whole army at Pirna; made them lay down their arms, and took possession of Dresden. The king and his minister took to flight. This was the extinction of Bruhl's power. On his return to Dresden, after peace had been procured, he lost his protector, the king. The new elector dismissed him from his offices. He died in 1764.
Some scattered anecdotes of Doddington are characteristic of the man and of the time. Soon after the arrival of Frederick Prince of Wales in England, Doddington set up for a favourite, and carried the distinction to the pitifulness of submitting to all the caprices of his royal highness; among other instances, submitting to the practical joke of being rolled up in a blanket, and trundled down stairs.
Doddington has been already spoken of as a wit; and even Walpole, fastidious as he was, gives some instances of that readiness which delights the loungers of high life. Lord Sunderland, a fellow commissioner of the treasury, was a very dull man. One day as they left the board, Sunderland laughed heartily about something which Doddington had said, and, when gone, Winnington observed, "Doddington, you are very ungrateful. You call Sunderland stupid and slow, and yet you see how quickly he took what you said." "Oh no," was the reply, "he was only now laughing at what I said last treasury day."
Trenchard, a neighbour, telling him, that though his pinery was extensive, he contrived, by applying the fire and the tan to other purposes, to make it so advantageous that he believed he got a shilling by every pine-apple he ate. "Sir," said Doddington, "I would eat them for half the money." Those are but the easy pleasantries of a man of conversation. The following is better: Doddington had a habit of falling asleep after dinner. One day, dining with Sir Richard Temple, Lord Cobham, &c., he was reproached with his drowsiness. He denied having been asleep, and to prove his assertion, offered to repeat all that Cobham had been saying. He was challenged to do so. In reply, he repeated a story; and Cobham acknowledged that he had been telling it. "Well," said Doddington, "and yet I did not hear a word of it. But I went to sleep because I knew that, about this time of day, you would tell that story."
There are few things more singular than the want of taste, amounting to the ludicrous, which is sometimes visible in the mansions of public men, who have great opulence at their disposal. Walpole himself, when he became rich, was an instance of this bad taste in the laborious frivolity of his decorations at Strawberry hill. But in Doddington we have a man of fashion, living, during his whole career, in the highest circles, familiar with every thing that was graceful and classical in the arts, and yet exhibiting at home the most ponderous and tawdry pomp. At his mansion at Eastbury, in the great bed-chamber, hung with the richest red velvet, was pasted on "every panel of the velvet his crest, a hunting horn, supported by an eagle, cut out in gilt leather, while the footcloth round his bed was a mosaic of the pocket flaps and cuffs of all his embroidered clothes."
He was evidently very fond of this crest, for in his villa at Hammersmith, (afterwards the well known Brandenburg House,) his crest in pebbles was stuck in the centre of the turf before his door. The chimney-piece was hung with spars representing icicles round the fire, and a bed of purple lined with orange, was crowned by a dome of peacock's feathers. The great gallery, to which was a beautiful door of white marble, supported by two columns of lapis lazuli, was not only filled with busts and statues, but had an inlaid floor of marble, and all this weight was above stairs. One day showing it to Edward, Duke of York, (brother of George III.) Doddington said, Sir, some persons tell me, that this room ought to be on the ground. "Be easy, Mr. Doddington," said the prince, "it will soon be there."
At length this reign, which began in doubt of the succession, and was carried on in difficulties both political and commercial, came to a close in the most memorable prosperity. The British arms were triumphant in every quarter, and the king had arrived at the height of popularity and fortune, when the sudden bursting of a ventricle of the heart, put an end to his life in October, 1760, in his seventy-seventh year, and the thirty-third of his possession of the throne.
A general glance at the reigns of the first three Georges, might form a general view of the operations of party. In other kingdoms, the will of the monarch or the talents of the minister, alone stand before the eye of the historian. In England, a third power exists, more efficient than either, and moulding the character of both, and this is party, the combination of able members of the legislature, united by similarity of views, and continuing a systematic struggle for the supremacy. This influence makes the minister, and directs even the sitter on the throne. And this influence, belonging solely to a free government, is essential to its existence. It is the legitimate medium between the people and the crown. It is the peaceful organ of that public voice which, without it, would speak only in thunder. It is that great preservative principle, which, like the tides of the ocean, purifies, invigorates, and animates the whole mass, without rousing it into storm.
The reign of George the First, was a continual effort of the constitutional spirit against the remnants of papistry and tyranny, which still adhered to the government of England. The reign of the second George was a more decided advance of constitutional rights, powers, and feelings. The pacific administration of Walpole made the nation commercial; and when the young Pretender landed in Scotland, in 1745, he found adherents only in the wild gallantry, and feudal faith of the clans. In England Jacobitism had already perished. It had undergone that death from which there is no restoration. It had been swept away from the recollections of the country, by the influx of active and opulent prosperity. The brave mountaineer might exult at the sight of the Jacobite banner, and follow it boldly over hill and dale. But the Englishman was no longer the man of feudalism. The wars of the Roses could be renewed no more. He was no longer the fierce retainer of the baron, or the armed vassal of the king. He had rights and possessions of his own, and he valued both too much to cast them away in civil conflict, for claims which had become emaciated by the lapse of years, and sacrifice freedom for the superstitious romance of a vanished royalty.
Thus the last enterprise of Jacobitism was closed in the field, and the bravery of the Highlander was thenceforth, with better fortune, to be distinguished in the service of the empire.
The reign of the third George began with the rise of a new influence. Jacobitism had been trampled. Hanover and St. Germains were no longer rallying cries. Even Whig and Tory were scarcely more than imaginary names. The influence now was that of family. The two great divisions of the aristocracy, the old and the new, were in the field. The people were simply spectators. The fight was in the Homeric style. Great champions challenged each other. Achilles Chatham brandished his spear, and flashed his divine armour, against the defenders of the throne, until he became himself the defender. The Ajax, the Diomede, and the whole tribe of the classic leaders, might have found their counterparts in the eminent men who successively appeared in the front of the struggle; and the nation looked on with justified pride, and Europe with natural wonder, at the intellectual resources which could supply so noble and so prolonged a display of ability. The oratorical and legislative names of the first thirty years of the reign of George the Third have not been surpassed in any legislature of the world.
But a still more important period, a still more strenuous struggle, and a still more illustrious triumph, was to come. The British parliament was to be the scene of labours exerted not for Britain alone, but for the globe. The names of Pitt, Fox, Burke, and a crowd of men of genius, trained by their example, and following their career, are cosmopolite. They belong to all countries and to all generations. Their successes not only swept the most dangerous of all despotisms from the field, but opened that field for an advance of human kind to intellectual victories, which may yet throw all the trophies of the past into the shade.
* * * * *
"To-morrow we quit Rome," said Mildred; "let us spend the day in quest of nothing new, but in a farewell visit to some of our first and oldest friends. How soon does that which we very much admire, come to be an old friend!"
Winston felt the same inclination as herself; but Mr. and Miss Bloomfield, since nothing new was to be seen, preferred to stay at home and rest themselves, in anticipation of the morrow's journey. Winston and Mildred therefore started together.
They entered a carriage and drove to St. Peter's; alighting, however, at the entrance of the magnificent colonnade which extends before it. The last visit we pay to any remarkable place bears a strong resemblance to the first; for the prospect of quitting it revives the freshness of the scene, and invests it for a second time with something like the charm of novelty. As it broke on us before from a past spent in ignorance of it, so now we seem to look out on it from the long anticipated absence of the future.
"Standing at the extremity of the colonnade," said Winston, "how diminutive seem the men who are ascending the broad flight of steps that lead to the church itself; and the carriages and horses drawn up at the bottom of those steps look like children's toys. Men have dwarfed themselves by their own creations."
"Who is it," said Mildred, "that in his oracular criticism pronounced this colonnade, beautiful as it is, to be disproportioned to the building, and out of place. Whoever it was, he must have excogitated the idea at a distance, and in some splenetic humour; it never could have entered through his eyesight standing here. Had there been a portico to the church, such as we are told Michael Angelo intended, resembling that of the Pantheon, then this colonnade might have been unnecessary—it would always have been a beautiful addition—but with so flat a facade, (the only part of the building, I think, which disappoints expectation,) I pronounce the colonnade to be absolutely essential. Without it the temple would never seem to invite, as it does and ought to do, the whole Christian world to enter it. Oh, if it were only to girdle in those two beautiful fountains, it were invaluable."
"Beautiful indeed! Such should fountains be," said Winston. "The water, in its graceful and noble play, should constitute the sole ornament. If you introduce statuary, the water should be an accessary to the statue, and no longer the principal ornament."
"How I abominate," said Mildred, "all those devices for spirting water out of the mouths of animals! It is a constant surprise to me that a taste so evidently revolting to all our natural associations, should be still persevered in. To leave unmentioned more odious devices, I can never pass without a sense of the disagreeable and the offensive, even those lions or leopards, whichever they may be, in the Piazza del Popolo, who are abundantly supplying the inhabitants with water through their mouths. And where the fountain is made to play over the statue, what a discoloured and lamentable appearance it necessarily gives to the marble! Let the river god, if you will, lean safe and tranquil over his reversed and symbolic pitcher: or at the feet of some statue, half surrounded by foliage, let the little fountain be seen playing from the ground; but keep the statue out of the water, and oh, keep the water out of the statue!"
 "The good Abderites," writes Wieland in his Abderiten, "once got the notion that such a town as Abdera ought no longer to be without its fountain. They would have one in their market place. Accordingly, they procured a celebrated sculptor from Athens to design and execute for them a group of figures representing the god of the ocean, in a car drawn by four sea-horses, surrounded by nymphs, and tritons, and dolphins. The sea-horses and the dolphins were to spout a quantity of water out of their nostrils. But when all was completed, it was found that there was hardly water enough to supply the nose of a single dolphin. So that when the fountain began to play it looked for all the world as if the sea-horses and the dolphins had all taken a miserable cold, and were put to great shame there in the public place by reason of this dropping rheum. As this was too ridiculous for even the Abderites to endure, they removed the whole group into the temple of Neptune; and now, as often as it is shown to a foreigner, the custodian, in the name of the worthy town of Abdera, bitterly laments that so glorious a work of art should have been rendered useless by the parsimony of Nature."
In like manner, our good Brightonians lately got possessed of the notion that their sea-beaten town ought no longer to be without its fountain. They accordingly procured, not an artist from Athens, but a tall iron machine from Birmingham, tall as their houses, and much resembling in form one candlestick put upon another. This they placed in the choicest site their town afforded. Its ugliness was of no importance, as it was to be hidden underneath the graceful and ample flow of water. But when this water-spouting instrument was erected, it was found here too that no water was to be had—no natural and gratuitous supply. And now when the stranger wonders at this tall disfigurement, and inquires into its meaning, he is told how the spirited efforts of the Brightonians to adorn their town have been rendered fruitless by the parsimony of water-companies. Once a week, however, his cicerone will advertise him—once every week and for two hours together—the fountain is let off to the sound of music, and the people are gathered together to see it play—or rather, he might add, to weep—for even at these moments it feels the effect of the same cruel spirit of parsimony.
Our countrymen had better leave fountains alone. The introduction of them into London is nothing but a thoughtless imitation of what can only be a pleasing and natural ornament in a quite different climate. Who cares to see water spirting in the fog of London, in an atmosphere cold and damp, where there is rain enough to drown the fountain, and wind enough to scatter it in the air? Out of the whole twelve months there are scarce twelve days where this bubbling up of water in our city does not look a very discomfortable object.
They ascended the broad flight of steps, and seemed now to feel themselves dwarfs as they mounted—and entered the portico. Here are several groups of allegorical figures, and to the right and left the equestrian statues of Charlemagne and Constantine.
"I am not surprised," said Mildred, "at the mistake of a countryman of ours, who took Charlemagne for St. Paul. One would more naturally look for the apostle here."
"What! than the great benefactor of the Papacy! I rather suspect," replied Winston, "that St. Paul would find himself less at home in this temple than Charlemagne. What think you of these colossal allegories? Here we have Truth, with her invariable mirror."
"Which mirror, it has always appeared to me," said Mildred, "has a very poor significance. It reflects faithfully the surface of all things. But this is not the sort of truth we care much about."
"But it reflects faithfully."
"That would rather illustrate the good moral lesson to speak the truth, than the exalted effort to attain it."
"Here the lady—and a very sweet face she has—is looking at herself in the mirror. This must represent, I suppose, metaphysic truth."
"If so, that must be the reason," rejoined Mildred, "that she is placed here outside the temple. I am afraid she will never enter it. But we will." And they proceeded into the church.
"What an admirable effect has this high altar!" said Winston, in a subdued exclamation. "Standing as it does in the centre, just beneath the dome, and so justly proportioned, it at once occupies the whole building, and explains its purpose to the eye. I cannot agree with the criticism which has objected to the twisted column in a position like this. These four bronze and gilded pillars—how lofty they are!—sustain nothing of greater weight than the canopy above them, and are here as much in the character of ornament as support. The dove, in its golden atmosphere of glory, the representation of the Holy Spirit, which is indeed at the extremity of the church, seems brought within them, and to be floating between the columns. In every picture or engraving I have seen, the contrary effect is produced, and the high altar, losing its central position, seems transferred, with the dove in it, to the extremity of the church."
"And this semicircle of small burning lamps, arranged in their mystical trinities on the marble balustrade before it; and this double flight of stairs," continued Winston, as they approached the altar, and looked over the balustrade, "leading down to those brazen doors below, before which other burning lamps are suspended; and that marble figure of the Pope kneeling before them, kneeling and praying incessantly for the people—it is altogether admirable!"
"The light of lamps and tapers," said Mildred, "burning in midday, had upon me at first an incongruous effect; they seemed so superfluous and out of place. But after a little reflection, or a little habit, they ceased to make this impression. The lamp and the taper are not here to give light, but to be light. The light is a mystical and brilliant ornament—it is here for its own sake—and surely no jewellery and no burnished gold could surpass it in effect. These brazen lamps round the altar, each tipped with its steady, unwavering, little globe of light, are sufficiently justified by their beauty and their brightness. In the light of the taper, as in the water of the fountain, the ordinary purposes of utility are forgotten—enough that it is beautiful."
"How admirable the arrangement," said Winston, "of the tombs of the pontiffs! The sculpture on them seems as much a part of the church as of the monument. That kneeling figure of Clement XIII., kneeling upon its exalted tomb—I shall see it whenever I think of St. Peter's. It is here, and not in the Vatican, that Canova triumphs. That genius of Death, reclining underneath the pontiff, with his torch reversed—what could be more expressive, more tender, more melancholy! And Faith, or Religion, whichever she may be, standing upright on the opposite side, and leaning her outstretched hand with force upon the marble—is a noble figure too. But I could willingly have dispensed with those spikes around her head, signifying rays of light."
"It is a fortunate subject for the artist, that of the Pope," said Mildred. "Being a temporal prince, a high-priest, and it is to be supposed, a saint, he can be represented in all attitudes; in the humility of prayer, or the dignity of empire. Yonder he rises, blessing the people, and here he sits enthroned, giving out the law, and Religion is looking up to him! Have you observed this monument to our James II.?—who certainly deserved a tomb in St. Peter's, since he paid the price of a kingdom for it. It is one of the least conspicuous, but not one of the least beautiful of Canova's. Those two youthful figures leaning their brows each on his inverted torch—standing sentinels by that closed door—are they not inexpressibly graceful? And that closed door!—so firmly closed!—and the dead have gone in!"
"Mildred Willoughby," said Winston, "you are a poet."
It was the first time he had ever called his companion by her Christian name. It was done suddenly, in the moment of admiration, and her other name was also coupled with it; but he had no sooner uttered the word "Mildred" than he felt singularly embarrassed. She, however, by not perceiving, or not seeming to perceive his embarrassment, immediately dissipated it.
"If I were," said she, "to tell me of it would for ever check the inspiration. To banish all suspicion of poetry, let me make a carping criticism, the only one, I think, which the whole interior of this edifice would suggest to me. I do wish that its marble pillars could be swept clean of the multitudes of little boys that are clinging to them—cherubs I suppose they are to be called. By breaking the pillar into compartments, they destroy the effect of its height. Little, indeed, they are not; they are big enough. A colossal infant—what can be made of it? And an infant, too, that must not smile, or he might be taken for a representative of some other love than the celestial?"
"Ay, and do what the artist will," said Winston, "the two Loves often bear a very striking resemblance. In the church of St. Giovanni, amongst their wreaths of flowers, the cherubs have a very Anacreontic appearance."
"But away with criticism. One farewell look," cried Mildred, "at this magnificent dome. How well all its accessaries, all its decorations, are proportioned and harmonised—growing lighter as they rise higher. Here at the base of each of the four vast columns which support it, we have gigantic statuary—seen and felt to be gigantic, yet disturbing nothing by its great magnitude—just above the columns those exquisite bas-reliefs—next the circular mosaics—then the ribbed roof, so chastely gilded and divided into compartments, distinct yet never separated from the whole—it is perfection!"
They bade farewell to St. Peter's; and, in pursuance of their design, re-entered their carriage and drove to its great dilapidated rival—the Coliseum.
"No dome here but the wide heavens," said Winston, as they approached the vast circular ruin rising arch above arch into the air. "How it scales, and would embrace the sky! Verily these old Romans seemed to have no idea that any thing was to come after them; they lived and built upon the earth as if they were the last types of the human species."
"Mutability and progress are modern ideas; they had not attained to them," said Mildred.
They walked partly round the interior, looking through the deep arches, overhung with verdure, and regretting the patches here and there too perceptible of modern masonry, and still more the ridiculous attempt, by the introduction of some contemptible pictures, or altar pieces, in the arena, to christianise the old heathen structure. They then ascended to the summit to enjoy the prospect it commands, both of the distant country, the beautiful hills of Italy, and of the neighbouring ruins of ancient Rome.
"How plainly it is the change of religion," said Winston, "which gives its true antiquity to the past! All that we see of ancient Rome bears the impress of Paganism; every thing in the modern city, of Catholicism. It is this which puts the great gulf between the two, and makes the old Roman to have lived, as it seems to us, in a world so different from our own. Strange! that what in each age is looked upon as pre-eminently unchangeable and eternal, should by its transformations mark out the several eras of mankind. Ay, and this religion which now fills the city with its temples—which I do not honour with the name of Christianity—will one day, by its departure from the scene, have made St Peter's as complete an antiquity as the ruins we are now sitting on."
"I notice," said Mildred, "you are somewhat bitter against Catholicism."
"I was tolerant when at a distance from it, and when again at a distance I shall perhaps grow tolerant again. But a priesthood, not teaching but ruling, governing men in their civil relations, seizing all education into its own hand, training the thinking part of the community to hypocrisy, and the unthinking to gross credulity—it is a spectacle that exasperates. I used in England to be a staunch advocate for educating and endowing the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland. I shall never, I think, advocate that cause again. To educate this priesthood,—what is it but to perfect an instrument for the restraining and corrupting the education of all the rest of the people? To endow this priesthood,—what else would it be but to give them an additional influence and power, to be used always for their own aggrandisement, and the strengthening of their own usurpations? The donative of a Protestant government would not make them dependent upon that government; they have sources of wealth in their own superstitions; they draw their vitality, and strike their roots, in a far other soil than the crafty munificence of an opponent. They would use the gift as best it pleased them, and defy a government—anxious only for peace—to withdraw it. No! even if the tranquillity of the empire should require the two churches to be placed on an equal footing, I still would not endow the Roman Catholic.—But pardon me,—what have we to do with the politics of England here?"
"I cannot tell you," said Mildred, quite acquiescing in this dismissal of the subject. "I cannot tell you what a singular pleasure it gave me when I first saw the classic ruin—the few upright Corinthian pillars with their entablature across them, and the broken column lying at their feet—which the pictures of Claude make us so familiar with. It must be confessed, that the back-ground of my picture—such as the Campo Vaccino afforded me—was not exactly what a Claude would have selected. How different in character and significance are the two ruins—the classic and the romantic! The one square, well-defined, well-proportioned, speaks of an age of order,—when Time stood still a little, and looked with complacency on what he was about; the other, with its round towers of unequal height, its arches of all shapes and dimensions, full of grandeur, but never exhibiting either completeness or congruity, tells us clearly of a period of turmoil and disorder, and great designs withal,—when Time had struck his tent, and was hurrying on in confused march, with bag and baggage, knight, standard, and the sutler's wagon all jumbled together.—Let us, on our return, pass through that group of desolate Corinthians; and, looking in at the Capitol, bid farewell to the Dying Gladiator."