Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

In the October ensuing, he was pressed with an earnestness admitting no refusal to succeed the Earl of Harrington as Secretary of State, and held the seals till February, 1748; when a strong memorial of his upon the ill success of the public measures being disregarded, his health greatly impaired, and his inclination for a private life victorious in the struggle with his ambition, he desired leave to resign. His Majesty granted his request in these words: “ I will not press you, my Lord, to continue in an office you are tired of, but I must insist on seeing you often, for you will ever live in my esteem.” He then went to Bath, for the recovery of his health ; and on his return to town in the winter, ordered the following lines, as descriptive of the life to which he intended to devote himself, to be affixed on the most conspicuous part of his library :

Nunc veterum libris, nunc somno et inertibus horis,
Ducere solicita jucunda oblivia vitæ.

His senatorial exertions, after this period, were few and unimportant. To him however, in a considerable measure, may be ascribed the adoption of the New Stile in the English Calendar. His speech on that occasion, it is certain, made a deep impression upon the noble audience, as well by the strength of it's argument, as from the elegance of it's composition, and the grace of it's delivery. To this last characteristic he himself, in a letter · to his son,' attributes all it's popularity; fairly acknowledging that his acquaintance with the subject was superficial, and that the Earl of Macclesfield had the principal merit in framing and explaining the bill. Beside a growing indifference to public matters, he was farther disqualified for taking a part in them by a deafness, * which, to use his own words, “ cut him off from

* Under this affliction he wrote the following Letter, probably to Dr. Monsey : SIR,

Bath, Nov. 8, 1757. • Upon my word, I think myself as much obliged to you for your voluntary and unwearied attention to my miserable deafness, as if your prescriptions had removed or relieved it. I am now convinced, by eight years' experience, that nothing can; having tried every thing that ever was tried, and perhaps more. I have tried the urine of hares so long and so often, that whether male, female, or hermaphrodite, I have probably had some of every gender. I have done more; I have used the galls of hares, but to as little purpose.

"I have tried these waters in every possible way. I have bathed my head; pumped it; introduced the stream, and sometimes drops of the water, into my ears: but all in vain. In short, I have left nothing untried, and have found nothing effectual. Your little blisters, which I still continue, have given me more relief than any thing else.

* Your faculty will, I hope, pardon me, if not having the vivacity of ladies, I have not their faith neither. I must own, that they always reason right in general ; but I am sorry to say, at the same time, that they are commonly wrong in every particular. I stick to that middle point, which their alacrity makes them leap over.

*I am persuaded, that you can do more than other people ; but then, give me leave to add, that I fear that more is not a great deal. In the famous great fog, some years ago, the blind men were the best guides, having been long used to the streets : but, still, they only groped their way; they did not see it. You have, I am sure, too much of the skill and too little of the craft of your profession, to be offended with this image. I heartily wish, that it was not so just a one. Why physical ills exist at all, I do not know; and I am very sure, that no Doctor of Divinity has ever yet given me a satisfactory reason for it: but, if there be a reason, that same reason (be it what it will) must necessarily make the art of medicine precarious, and imperfect: otherwise, the end of the former would be defeated by the latter.

Of all the receipts for deafness, that which you mention, of

society, at an age when he had no pleasures but those left.” His last exertion was in favour of a subsidiary treaty with Russia, upon the prospect of a rupture with France in 1754, when he displayed all his former animation : but he almost sunk under the effort. Henceforward, he confined his occupations princi. pally to his pen and his books; contributing largely to · The World,' a periodical publication conducted by Mr. Edward Moore and his literary associates.

His papers are Nos. 18, 24, 25, 29, 49, 90, 91, 92, 98, 100, 101, 105, 111, 112, 113, 114, 120, 148, 151, 189, and 196. These all attest his respect for pure morality and decorous manners.

To his papers 90–92 on · Hard Drinking,' in particular, has been ascribed no inconsiderable effect in lessening the prevalence of that odious and irrational vice. Being now about sixty years of age (for his first communication is dated May 3, 1753, and his last September 30, 1756) he was admirably qualified by his experience of the world to expose it's vices and it's follies, espe

the roar of cannon upon Blackheath, would be to me the most disagreeable; and, whether French or English, I should be pretty indifferent. Armies of all kinds are exceedingly like one another: offensive armies may make defensive ones necessary, but they do not make them less dangerous. Those, who can effectually defend, can as surely destroy; and the military spirit is not of the neutral kind, but of a most active nature. The army, that defended this country against Charles I., subdued, in truth, conquered it under Cromwell.

• Our measure of distress and disgrace is not only full, but running over. If we have any public spirit, we must feel our private ills the less by the comparison. I know that, whenever I am called off from my station here, I shall, as Cicero says of the death of Crassus, consider it as mors donata, non vita erepta: till when I shall be with truth your faithful humble servant,

CHESTERFIELD.'

cially those which were sanctioned by rank and fashion; and it ought to be added to his credit, that when he wrote in ‘Fog's Journal,'* and other papers established for political purposes, his lucubrations almost always turned on subjects of morals, manners, and taste.

Of the above numbers Mr. Chalmers pronounces 49, 90, 91, 98, 105, and 151 unrivalled, perhaps, both for matter and manner. No. 148, On Civility and Good Breeding,' contains the outline of the purer part of his celebrated system.

Nos. 100 and 101, are supposed to have been written to conciliate Dr.Johnson, then about to publish his • Dictionary,' whom Lord Chesterfield was conscious he had offended. Continued neglect, it appears, had provoked Johnson to decline his Lordship’s patronage; and it was not by the subjoined extract, that the offended Lexicographer could be soothed into a forgetfulness of his sufferings :

* To this work, which was published 1728_1731, his Lordship gave at least three communications; and to Common Sense, another written by the opposition in 1737, he contributed Nos. 3, 4, 14, 16, 19, 25, 30, 32, 33, 37, 51, 54, 57, 89, 93, and 103.

+ Of this composition Dr. Maty, in his • Life of Lord Chesterfield,' prefixed to his Miscellaneous Works, gives the following anecdote: “ Lord Chesterfield being at Bath showed one of his last · Worlds' to his friend General Irwin, who dined with him almost every day. The General, in the course of conversation, mentioned good-breeding (as distinguished from mere civility) as a subject, that deserved to be treated by him. His Lordship at first declined it; but on his friend's insisting, and urging the singular propriety of it's being undertaken by a man, who was so perfect a master of the thing, he suddenly called for pen and ink, and wrote this excellent piece off hand, as he did all the others, without any erasure or interlineation. It ever afterward went by the name of General Irwin's Paper.'

During our free and open trade, many words and expressions have been imported, adopted, and naturalised from other languages, which have greatly enriched our own. Let it still preserve what real strength and beauty it may have borrowed from others; but let it not, like the Tarpeian Maid, be overwhelmed and crushed by unnecessary foreign ornaments. The time for discrimination seems to be now come. Toleration, adoption, and naturalisation have run their lengths. Good order and authority are now necessary. But where shall we find them, and at the same time the obedience due to them? We must have recourse to the old Roman expedient in times of confusion, and choose a Dictator. Upon this principle, I give my vote for Mr. Johnson to fill that great and arduous post : and I hereby declare, that I make a total surrender of all my rights and privileges in the English language, as a free-born British subject, to the said Mr. Johnson during the term of his dictatorship. Nay, more: I will not only obey him, like an old Roman, as my Dictator; but like a modern Roman, I will implicitly believe in him as 'my Pope, and hold him to be infallible while in the chair-but no

longer.” *

Unbribed by this proposition, the Doctor addressed to him his celebrated letter,which whatever may

* World,' No. 100.

+ Johnson had, for a long time, a remarkable delicacy with respect to the circulation of this Letter; having refused Bishop Douglas permission to read it to Lord Hardwicke, with a “ No, Sir, I have hurt the dog too much already.” It certainly is not a composition, however Lord Chesterfield's dissimulation might affect to be gay upon the occasion, which even the most seared conscience could endure without finching:

« ZurückWeiter »