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To obtain celebrity as an author was with Budgell an early and favourite object; and it is said that, during his first visit to Dublin, he contributed some papers to the Tatler. These, however, were never acknowledged, and are now unknown. To the Spectator he gave considerable assistance, and his share in the first seven volumes is discriminated by the signature X. In the eighth volume also, and in the Guardian, he has inserted some papers of importance.
While furnishing materials for the Spectator, he added to his reputation by the composition of a humorous epilogue for The Distrest Mother. It must not be forgotten, however, that Johnson has ascribed this jeu d'esprit to the pen of Addison: an ascription which I could wish were true, as it would exonerate our author from the foolish vanity of lavishly praising his own production in the Spectator *, and of repeatedly calling for its recitation in the theatre.
To the fame which he had now acquired by his
* It was known in Tonson's family, observes the annotator on No 555 of the Spectator, and told to Mr. Garrick, that Addison was himself the author of this epilogue; and that, when it was actually printed with his name, he came early in the morning, before the copies were distributed, and ordered it to be given to Mr. E. Budgell, that it might add weight to the solicitation which Addison was then making for a place for Mr. Budgell.
periodical labours, and by the circulation of various pieces of epigrammatic wit, were added the solid comforts of a good estate. In 1711, his father died, and left him an annual income of 950 l., which, though somewhat clogged with debts, was amply sufficient to place him in a state of complete independence. His industry, however, received no diminution from the sudden acquisition of opulence; he attended strictly to the duties of his office, and in prosecution of his literary career, published, in 1714, a version from the Greek of "The Characters of Theophrastus." It is executed with neatness and elegance, and had the honour of being liberally praised by Addison in the thirty-ninth number of The Lover.
Having adopted the Whig principles of his friend, the path of political promotion was soon laid open to his view by the accession of the house of Hanover: an event which was immediately followed by his appointments of chief secretary to the lords justices of Ireland, and deputy clerk of the council of that kingdom. Nor did his honours rest here; towards the close of 1714, he became a member of the Irish parliament, and was chosen, along with several persons of the highest rank, an honorary bencher of the inns of court in Dublin.
The rebellion, which broke out in 1715, added
much to his employment and importance, and devolved upon him a very considerable part of the duty of a field-officer. He was entrusted by government with the superintendance of the embarkation of the troops from Ireland to Scotland, and had orders to provide them with the necessary shipping; a business to which he was totally unaccustomed, but which he conducted, not only with singular ability, but with a disinterestedness which acquired for him, and entitled him to, very distinguished praise.
To the great, but partial, opinion which Addison entertained of his talents, and of his knowledge of Irish affairs, he was indebted for his last promotion; this took place in 1717, when his illustrious friend being appointed principal secretary of state, he immediately received from his hands the situation of accountant and comptroller general of the Irish revenue, a place the income of which usually exceeded four hundred pounds per annum.
Budgell had now attained a most respectable station in life: his fortune was liberal, if not splendid; his abilities, both in the literary and political world, were acknowledged and esteemed, and, in a moral point of view, he was not merely free from vice, but valued for his integrity, generosity, and assiduity. The zealous friendship and
support of Addison, indeed, conferred a weight and consequence upon his character which it could not otherwise have acquired; but, independent of this assistance, the mental and moral merit of Budgell were, at this period, adequate to the establishment of a very estimable reputation.
It is one of the most useful provinces of biography to point out the fatal consequences of vice and folly; and the future life of this unfortunate man furnishes us with a striking and lamentable example of the fairest hopes and fame obscured and blasted by excess of vanity and passion.
The nomination of the Duke of Bolton to the lord lieutenancy of Ireland in 1718 was the crisis of our author's fate. This nobleman had for some time patronised a Mr. Edward Webster, who, when his grace visited Dublin, not only accompanied him as a friend, but was immediately appointed his chief secretary, and a privy counsellor. Budgell, whose ideas of his own importance had led him to expect much attention from the Duke, was extremely mortified at the preference and respect paid to a man for whom he professed to entertain the utmost contempt. Webster was not tardy in retaliating the affront, and soon after irritated the comptroller almost to madness, by insisting upon quartering on him
one of his friends and favourites. Budgell resisted the demand with high indignation; and, not content with pouring forth a torrent of abuse on the family, education, and abilities of his adversary, he was indiscreet enough, in a succeeding pamphlet, to implicate the Duke in the controversy, and to accuse him of extreme folly and imbecility. The consequence was such as might naturally have been expected; the Duke, very justly offended at the intemperance of Budgell, procured his removal from office; and he was under the necessity of immediately leaving Ireland, to escape the storm which he had so wantonly raised.
On his arrival in England, he instantly waited upon his friend Addison, by whose advice had he regulated his conduct he would have altogether avoided this disgraceful retreat. Addison had now relinquished the seals, and, with a view to the recovery of his health, was altogether resident in the country. No two characters could be more opposed than were, at this time, those of this amiable man, and of Budgell. Mildness, resignation, and forgiveness were descriptive of the former; in the latter, an exasperated mind and a keen spirit of revenge were the prominent features. The influence of Addison upon his temper and conduct ceased now to act; and though