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strongly urged by his friend to forbear any further discussion of the subject, he almost immediately published a statement of his case; which, though written with some address, and circulated with such rapidity, that eleven hundred copies were disposed of in one day, only served to increase the number and virulence of his enemies.
Addison, notwithstanding he felt much hurt at the pertinacity and violence of Budgell, exerted every nerve in his favour, and obtained a promise from the Earl of Sunderland, that when the clamour of party had subsided, he would support and patronise him. The kind effort, however, was rendered unavailing by the usual imprudence of Budgell, who, in 1719, by writing a pamphlet against the peerage bill, so offended the Earl, that he no longer considered himself as under any obligation to promote his views. This event was speedily followed by the death of Addison: a loss irreparable to Budgell, and which not only deprived him of an invaluable and faithful friend, but at once annihilated all probable prospect of his ever enjoying court preferment.
To divert his chagrin, he passed over to France in the autumn of this year (1719); and having travelled through part of its provinces, and seen the chief cities of Flanders, Brabant, and Hol
land, he joined the court at Hanover, and in November, accompanying the royal suite, revisited his native country.
If Budgell commenced his tour with the expectation of allaying that irritation and fever of mind which, in the opinion of his friends, had already nearly placed him in the situation of a delirious man, he was completely disappointed. Though possessed of a fortune which, with regulated wishes, might have enabled him to live with perfect dignity and independence, his restless ambition and unsubdued revenge were perpetually prompting the means of acquiring some official situation under government. In all his efforts and applications, however, and they were numerous, he was, through the influence of his enemies, altogether unsuccessful; and he at length relinquished in despair his political views, to embrace the still more hopeless scheme of gambling in the stocks.
He began this ruinous practice in the year 1720; and very soon imbibing all the national enthusiasm and infatuation relative to the Southsea scheme, he deeply engaged in that delusive undertaking, and saw himself speedily deprived of twenty thousand pounds! the stroke, though severe, did not deprive him of his wonted energy, and he entered into the business and debates of
the general courts of the company with so much spirit, activity, and elocution, as to attract the attention and admiration of the Duke of Portland, who, having lost nearly the whole of his property, likewise, by this wretched bubble, had been just nominated, with a view to the retrieval of his affairs, governor of Jamaica. This nobleman generously offered to take Mr. Budgell with him as his secretary, to treat him as his friend and brother, and to make his interest his own. Budgell received the proposal with joy and gratitude; but while he was making the necessary arrangements for his new office, preparatory to embarking, a secretary of state waited upon the Duke with information, " that he might take any man in England for his secretary, excepting Mr. Budgell; but that he must not take him."
In this instance Mr. Budgell was certainly "more sinned against than sinning;" the severity of ministers was cruel and excessive, and in its consequences, to a man of such irritable feelings as was the object of their persecution, almost irreparably destructive. His resentment, as might be imagined, knew no bounds; he endeavoured, though in vain, by every effort to procure a seat in parliament; and in these fruitless attempts he sunk the remainder of his property, to the amount, it is said, of five thousand pounds.
With the privations of poverty our author was ill calculated to struggle; he wanted those fixed principles, that steady resolution and determined virtue, without which pecuniary adversity cannot be borne with innocence or dignity. With the flight of those advantages which result from fortune, all that remained of the moral worth of Budgell appears to have vanished. He not only became a most virulent pamphleteer, abusing, in the most indiscriminate manner, all the measures of administration; but there is too much reason to believe, made use of every artifice to defraud and prey upon his friends and relations.
By the assistance of the Dutchess Dowager of Marlborough, he made his last effort, in 1727, to procure a seat in the House of Commons. Grace, who was adverse to administration, and, at the same time, well acquainted with the ready eloquence and ability of Budgell, and with his inveterate hatred of the ruling powers, imagined that he might be rendered a powerful and useful oppositionist, and, accordingly, seconded his endeavours by a present of a thousand pounds. The attempt failed, however, and Budgell had again recourse to his pen for the means of subsistence. Had this been employed in the cause of his country, of virtue, or religion, no nobler occupation
could have been resorted to; but, unfortunately, it was prostituted to the worst of all purposes,— to sow the seeds of scepticism and infidelity. Having deviated widely from the path of rectitude, and plunged himself into difficulties from which he hesitated not attempting to extricate himself by means the most dishonest, he was willing, it is probable, to believe, that the precepts which so forcibly arraigned and condemned his conduct, were the result of imposture on the one hand, and credulity on the other. It is certain, that he was the intimate associate of all the deistical writers of his day, and was generally esteemed by the public as perfectly sceptical with regard to revealed religion: a suspicion which was confirmed by the part he took in publishing Tindal's Christianity as old as the Creation*.
* It was said to be the Doctor's request in his last testament, that the second part of this work, and his other pieces, collected into a volume, should be given to the public by our author. This he frequently spoke of doing, and of adding a life of his deceased friend; but he never carried his designs into execution. As it was reported that Dr. Conybeare was rewarded with the deanery of Christchurch, for answering the first part of "Christianity as old as the Creation," Mr. Budgell used to say, that he hoped that the Dean would live a little while longer, that he might have the pleasure, by the publication of the second part, of making him a bishop.
Biographia Britannica, vol. ii. p. 692.