Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

unwarrantable complaisance for the interests and even dictates of the electorate, which was the only way by which a British minister could hold either favour or power during the reigns of king George the First and Second.

The coarseness and imperiousness of his manpers, made him disagreeable to queen Caroline.

Lord Townshend was not of a temper to act a second part, after having acted a first, as he did during the reign of king George the First. He resolved, therefore, to make one convulsive struggle to revive his expiring power, or, if that did not succeed, to retire from business. He tried the experiment upon the king, with whom he had a personal interest. The experiment failed, as he might easily, and ought to, have foreseen. He retired to his seat in the country, and, in a few years, died of an apoplexy.

Having thus mentioned the slight defects, as well as the many valuable parts of his character, I must declare, that I owed the former to truth, and the latter to gratitude and friendship as well as to truth, since, for some years before he retired from business, we lived in the strictest intimacy that the difference of our age and situations could admit, during which time he gave me many unasked and unequivocal proofs of his friendship.

Chesterfield.

CHARACTER OF LORD BOLINGBROKE. It is impossible to find lights and shades strong enough to paint the character of lord Bolingbroke, who was a most mortifying instance of the vie.

lence of human passions, and of the most improved and exalted human reason. His virtues and his vices, bis reason and his passions, did not blend themselves by a gradation of tints, but formed a shining and sudden contrast.

Here the darkest, there the most splendid colours, and both rendered more striking from their proximity. Impetuosity, excess, and almost extravagancy, characterized not only his passions, but even his senses. His youth was distinguished by all the tumult and storm of pleasures, in which he licentiously triumphed, disdaining all decorum. His fine imagination was often heated and exhausted, with his body, in celebrating and deifying the prostitute of the night; and his convivial joys were pushed to all the extravagancy of frantic bacchanals. These passions were never interrupted but by a stronger ambition. The former impaired both his constitution and his character; but the latter destroyed both his fortune and his reputation.

He engaged young, and distinguished himself in business. His penetration was almost intuition, and he adorned whatever subject he either spoke or wrote upon, by the most splendid eloquence; not a studied or laboured eloquence, but by such a flowing happiness of diction, which (from care, perhaps, at first) was become so habitual to him, that even his most familiar conversations, if taken down in writing, would have borne the press, without the least correction, either as to method or style. He had noble and generous sentiments, rather than fixed reflected principles of goodnature and friendship; but they were more violent than lasting, and suddenly and often varied to their opposite extremes, with regard even to the same persons. He received the common attention of civility as obligations, which he returned with interest; and resented with passion the little inadvertencies of human nature, which he repaid with interest too. Even a difference of opinion upon a philosophical subject, would provoke and prove him no practical philosopher at least.

Notwithstanding the dissipation of his youth, and the tumultuous agitation of his middle age, he had an infinite fund of various and almost universal knowledge, which, from the clearest and quickest conception, and the happiest memory that ever man was blessed with, he always carried about him. It was his pocket-money, and he never had occasion to draw upon a book for any

He excelled more particularly in history, as bis historical works plainly prove. The relative, political, and commercial interests of every country in Europe, particularly of his own, were better known to him than perhaps to any man in it; but how steadily he pursued the latter in his public conduct, his enemies of all parties and denominations tell with pleasure.

During his long exile in France, be applied hinself to study with his characteristical ardour; and there he formed, and chiefly executed, the plan of his great philosophical work. The common bounds of human knowledge were too narrow for his warm and aspiring imagination; he must go extra fiammantia mánia mundi, and explore the anknown and unknowable regions of metaphysics, which open an unbounded field for the excursions of an ardent

sum.

imagination; where endless conjectures supply the defects of unattainable knowledge, and too often usurp both its name and its influence,

He had a very handsome person, with a most engaging address in his air and manners; he had all the dignity and good-breeding which a man of quality should or can have, and which so few, in this country at least, really have.

He professed himself a deist, believing in a general Providence, but doubting of, though by no means rejecting, (as is commonly supposed) the immortality of the soul, and a future state.

He died of a cruel and shocking distemper, a cancer in his face, which he endured with firmness. A week before he died, I took my last leave of him with grief; and he returned me his last farewell with tenderness, and said, 'God, who placed me here, will do what he pleases with me hereafter; and he knows best what to do. May he bless you !

Upon the whole of this extraordinary character, what can we say, but, alas! poor human nature.

Chesterfield.

CHARACTER OF SIR ROBERT WALPOLE.

I MUCA question whether an impartial character of sir Robert Walpole will or can be transmitted to posterity; for he governed this kingdom so long, that the various passions of mankind mingled, and in a manner incorporated themselves, with every thing that was said or written concerning him. Never was man more flattered, nor more

abused; and his long power was probably the chief cause of both. I was much acquainted with him, both in his public and his private life. I mean to do impartial justice to his character; and therefore my picture of him will, perhaps, be more like him than any of the other pictures drawn of him.

In private life he was good-natured, cheerful, social; inelegant in his manners, loose in his morals. He had a coarse, strong wit, which he was too free of for a mau in his station, as it is always inconsistent with dignity. He was very able as a minister, but without a certain elevation of mind necessary for great good or great mischief. Profuse and appetent, his ambition was subservient to · his desire of making a great fortune. He had more of the Mazarin than of the Richelien. He would do mean things for profit, and never thought of doing great ones for glory.

He was both the best parliament man, and the ablest manager of parliament, that, I believe, ever lived. An artful, rather than an eloquent speaker; he saw, as by intuition, the disposition of the house, and pressed or réceded accordingly. So clear in stating the most intricate matters, especially in the finances, that, whilst he was speaking, the most ignorant thought that they understood what they really did not. Money, not prerogative, was the chief engine of his administration; and he employed it with a success which in a manner disgraced humanity. He was not, it is true, the inventor of that shameful method of governing, which had been gaining ground insen

« AnteriorContinuar »