Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

humours are purged out of him; and his great temperance and economy are so signal, that the first is fit for my constitution, and the latter would enable you to lay up so much money as to buy a bishopric in England. . As to the return of his health and vigour, were you here, you might inquire of his hay-makers; but as to his temperance, I can answer that for one whole day we have had nothing for dinner but mutton - broth, beans and bacon, and a barn-door fowl. Now his lordship is run after his cart, I have a moment left to myself to tell you, that I overheard him yesterday agree with a painter for two hundred pounds, to paint his country hall with rakes, spades, prongs, etc, and other ornaments, merely to countenance his calling this place a farm.» What Pope here says of his engagements with a painter, was shortly after executed; the hall was painted accordingly in black crayons only, so that at first view it brought to mind the figures often seen scratched with charcoal, or the smoke of a candle, upon the kitchen walls of farm-houses. The whole, however, produced a most striking effect, and over the door at the entrance into it was this motto: Satis beatus ruris honoribus. His lordship seemed to be extremely happy in this pursuit of moral tranquillity, and in the exultation of his heart could not fail of communicating his satisfaction to his friend Swift. «I am in my own farm,» says he, « and here I shoot strong and tenacious roots : I have caught hold of the earth, to use a gardener's phrase, and neither my enemies nor my friends will find it an easy matter to transplant me again.»

There is not, perhaps, a stronger instance in the world than his lordship, that an ambitious mind can never be fairly subdued, but will still seek for those gratifications which retirement can never supply. All this time he was

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

- mistaken in his passion for solitude, and supposed that to

be the child of philosophy which was only the effect of spleen: it was in vain that he attempted to take root in the shade of obscurity; he was originally bred in the glare of public occupation, and he secretly once more wished for transplantation. He was only a titular lord, he had not been thoroughly restored; and, as he was excluded from a seat in the House of Peers, he burned with impatience to play a part in that conspicuous theatre. Impelled by this desire, he could no longer be restrained in obscurity, but once more entered into the bustle of public business, and disavowing all obligations to the minister, he embarked in the opposition against him, in which he had several powerful coadjutors: but previously he had taken care to prefer a petition to the House of Commons, desiring to be reinstated in his former emoluments and capacities. This petition at first occasioned very warm debates : Walpole, who pretended to espouse his cause; alleged that it was very right to admit him to his inheritance; and when Lord William Pawlet moved for a clause to disqualify him from sitting in either House, Walpole rejected the motion, secretly satisfied with a resolution which had been settled in the cabinet, that he should never more be admitted into any share of power. Po this artful method of evading his pretensions, Bolingbroke was no stranger; and he was now resolved to shake that power which thus endeavoured to obstruct the increase of his own : taking, therefore, his part in the opposition with Pulteney, while the latter engaged to manage the House of Commons, Bolingbroke undertook to enlighten the people. Accordingly, he soon distinguished himself by a multitude of pieces, written during the latter part of George the First's reign, and likewise the beginning of that which succeeded. These were conceived with great vigour and boldness; and now, once more engaged in the service of his country, though disarmed, gagged, and almost bound, as he declared himself to be, yet he resolved not to abandon his cause, as long as he could depend on the firmness and integrity of those coadjutors, who did not labour under the same disadvantages with himself. His letters, in a paper called the Craftsman, were particularly distinguished in this political contest; and though several of the most expert politicians of the time joined in this paper, his essays were peculiarly relished by the public. However, it is the fate of things written to an occasion, seldom to survive that occasion: the Craftsman, though written with great spirit and sharpness, is now almost forgotten, although, when it was published as a weekly paper, it sold much more rapidly than even the Spectator. Beside this work he published several other separate pamphlets, which were afterwards reprinted in the second edition of his works, and which were very popular in their day. This political warfare continued for ten years, during which time he laboured with great strength and perseverance, and drew up suc a system of politics, as some have supposed to be the most complete now existing. But; as upon all other occasions, he had the mortification once more to see those friends desert him, upon whose assistance he most firmly relied, and all that web of fine-spun speculation actually destroyed at once, by the ignorance of some and the perfidy of others. He then declared that he was perfectly cured of his patriotic frenzy; he fell out not only with Pulteney for his selfish views, but with his old friends the tories, for abandoning their cause as desperate; averring, that the faint and unsteady exercise of parts on one side, was a crime but one degree inferior to

[graphic]

the iniquitous misapplication of them on the other. But he could not take leave of a controversy in which he had been so many years engaged, without giving a parting blow, in which he seemed to summon up all his vigour at once; and where, as the poet says,

Animam in vulnere posuit.

This inimitable piece is entitled, «A Dissertation on Parties,» and of all his masterly pieces it is in general esteemed the best.

Having finished this, which was received with the utmost avidity, he resolved to take leave, not only of his enemies and friends, but even of his country; and in this resolution, in the year 1936, he once more retired to France, where he looked to his native country with a mixture of anger and pity, and upon his former professing friends with a share of contempt and indignation. «I expect little,» says he, « from the principal actors that tread the stage at present. They are divided, not so much as it seemed, and as they would have it believed, about measures : the true division is about their different ends. Whilst the minister was not hard pushed, nor the prospect of succeeding to him near, they appeared to have but one end, the refor-' mation of the government. The destruction of the minister was pursued only as a preliminary, but of essential and indisputable necessity, to that end; but when his destruction seemed to approach, the object of his succession interposed to the sight of many, and the reformation of the government was no longer their point of view. They had divided the skin, at least in their thought, before they had taken the beast. The common fear of hastening his downfal for others, made them all faint in the chase. It was

this, and this alone that saved him, and put off his evil day.»

Such were his cooler reflections, after he had laid down his political pen, to employ it in a manner that was much more agreeable to his usual professions, and his approaching age. He had long employed the few hours he could spare, on subjects of a more general and important nature to the interests of mankind; but as he was frequently interrupted by the alarms of party, he made no great proficiency in his design. Still, however, he kept it in view, and he makes frequent mention in his letters to Swift, of his intentions to give metaphysics a new and useful turn. « I know,» says he, « in one of these, how little regard you pay to writings of this kind; but I imagine, that if you can like any, it must be those that strip metaphysics of all their bombast, keep within the sight of every well constituted eye, and never bewilder themselves, whilst they pretend to guide the reason of others.»

Having now arrived at the sixtieth year of his age, and being blessed with a very competent share of fortune, he returned into France, far from the noise and hurry of party; for his seat at Dawley was too near to devote the rest of his life to retirement and study. Upon his going to that country, as it was generally known that disdain, vexation, and disappointment had driven him there, many of his friends as well as his enemies supposed that he was once again gone over to the Pretender. Among the number who entertained this suspicion was Swift, whom Pope, in one of his letters, very roundly chides for harbouring such an unjust opinion. “You should be cautious,» says he, « of censuring any motion or action of Lord Bolingbroke, because you hear it only from a shallow, envious, and malicious reporter. What you writ to

« ZurückWeiter »