Page images
PDF
EPUB

austere a censor as John Newton, calls a fox-A new race of wits and poets arose, who gene. hunting squire Nimrod, and gives to a chaplain rally treated with reverence the great ties which the disrespectful name of Smưg. Congreve bind society together; and whose very inde. might with good effect have appealed to the cencies were decent when compared with those public whether it might not be fairly presumed of the school which flourished during the last ihat, when such frivolous charges were made, forty years of the seventeenth century. there were no very serious charges to make. This controversy probably prevented ConInstead of doing this, he pretended that he greve from fulfilling the engagements into ineant no allusion to the Bible by the name of which he had entered with the actors. It was Jehu, and no reflection by the name of Prig. not till 1700 that he produced the “Way of the Strange that a man of such parts should, in World," the most deeply meditated, and the order to defend himself against imputations most brilliantly written, of all his works. It which nobody could regard as important, tell wants, perhaps, the constant movement, the untruths which it was certain that nobody effervescence of animal spirits, which we find would believe.

ir: “Love for Love." But the hysterical rants One of the pleas which Congreve set up for of Lady Wishfort, the meeting of Witwould himself and his brethrere was, that, though they and his brother, the country knight's courtship might be guilty of a little levity here and there, and his subsequent revel, and above all, the they were careful to inculcate a moral, packed chase and surrender of Milamant, are superior close into two or three lines, at the end of every to any thing that is to be found in the whole play. Had the fact been as he stated it, the range of English comedy from the Civil War desence would be worth very little. For po downwards. It is quite inexplicable to us that man acquainted with human nature could think this play should bave failed on the stage. Yet that a sententious couplet would undo all the so it was; and the author, already sore with inischief that five profligate acts had done. the wounds which Collier had inflicted, was But it would have been wise in Congreve to galled past endurance by this new stroke. He have looked again at his own comedies before, resolved never more to expose himself to the he used this argument. Collier did so; and rudeness of a tasteless audience, and took leave found that the moral of the “Old Bachelor" of the theatre forever. the grave apophthegm which is to be a set-off He lived twenty-eight years longer, without against all the libertinism of the piece-is con- adding to the high literary reputation which he tained in the following triplet:

had attained. He read much while he retained “What rugged ways aitend the noon of life!

his eyesight, and now and then wrote a short Our sun declines, and with what anxious strife, essay, or an idle tale in verse; but appears What pain, we tug that galling load-a wife." never to have planned any considerable work. «« Love for Love,” says Collier, “ may have in 1710 are of little value, and have long been

The miscellaneous pieces which he published a somewhat better farewell, but it would do a

forgotten. man little service should he remember it to his

The stock of fame which he had acquired by dying day:"

his comedies was sufficient, assisted by the "The miracle to-day is, that we find

graces of his manner and conversation, io seA lover true, not that a woman's kind."

cure for him a high place in the estimation of Collier's reply was severe and triumphant. the world. During the winter, he lived among One of his repartees we will quote, noi as a the most distinguished and agreeable people favourable specimen of his manner, but be in London. His summers were passed at the cause it was called forth by Congreve's cha- splendid country-seats of ministers and peers. racteristic affectation. The poet spoke of the Literary envy, and political faction, which in « Old Bachelor” as a trifle to which he at- that age respected nothing else, respected his tached no value, and which had become public repose. He professed to be one of the party by a sort of accident. “I wrote it,” he said, of which his patron Montagu, now Lord Halifax, sin amuse myself in a slow recovery from a was the head. But he had civil words and fit of sickness."-"What his disease was," re- small good offices for men of every shade of plied Collier, “I am not to inquire: but it must opinion. And men of every shade of opinion be a very ill one to be worse than the remedy." spoke well of him in return.

All that Congreve gained by coming forward His means were for a long time scanty. The on this occasion was, that he completely de- place which he had in possession, barely enprived himself of the excuse which he might abled him to live with comfort. And when with justice have pleaded for his early offences. the Tories came into power, some thought that "Why," asked Collier, “should the man laugh he would lose even this moderate provision. at the mischief of the boy, and make the dis- But Harley, who was by no means disposed to orders of his nonage his own, by an after ap- adopt the exterminating policy of the October protation?”

club, and who, with all his faults of under Congreve was not Collier's only opponent. standing and temper, had a sincere kindness Vanbrugh, Denis, and Settle took the field. for men of genius, reassured the anxious poet And, from the passage in a contemporary sa by quoting very gracefully and happily the tire, we are inclined to think that among the lines of Virgil answers to the "Short View," was one written, or supposed to be written, by Wycherley. The

"Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Pænı,

Nec tam aversus equos Tyria sol jungit ab urbe." victory remained with Collier. A great and rapid refornt in all the departments of our The indulgence with which Congreve wa lighter literature was the effect of his labours. treated by the Tories, was not purchased tv

any concession on his part which could justly neither the ministers nor the leaders of the op. offend the Whigs. It was his rare good-fortune position could be offended. to share the triumph of his friends without The singular affectation which had from the having shared their proscription. When the first been characteristic of Congreve, grew house of Hanover came to the throne, his for- stronger and stronger as he advanced in life. tunes began to flourish. The reversion to At last it became disagreeable to him to hear which he had been nominated twenty years his own comedies praised. Voltaire, whose hefore, fell in. He was made a secretary to the soul was burned up by the raging desire for island of Jamaica; and his whole income literary renown, was half puzzled, half dis. amounted to 12001. a year-a fortune which, gasted by what he saw, during his visit to for a single man, was, in that age, not only England, of this extraordinary whim. Coneasy, but splendid. He continued, however, greve disclaimed the character of a poet-deto practise the trugality which he had learned clared that his plays were trifles produced in when he could scarcely spare, as Swift tells an idle hour, and begged that Voltaire would us, a shilling to pay the chairman who carried consider him merely as a gentleman. “If you him to Lord Halifax's. Though he had no- had been merely a gentleman," said Voltaire, body to save for, he laid up at least as much I should not have come to see you." as he spent.

Congreve was not a man of warm affections. The infirmities of age came early upon him. Domestic ties he had none; and in the tempoHis habits had been intemperate; he suffered rary connections which he formed with a sucmuch from gout; and when confined to his cession of beauties from the green-room, his chamber, had no longer the solace of literature. heart does not appear to have been at all in. Blindness, the most cruel misfortune that can terested. Of all his attachments, that to Mrs. befall the lonely student, made his books ase- Bracegirdle lasted the longest, and was the less to him. He was thrown on society for all most celebrated. This charming actress, who his amusement, and, in society, his good breed- was, during many years, the idol of all Lon ing and vivacity made him always welcome. don; whose face caused the fatal broil in

By the rising men of letters he was consi- which Mountfort fell, and for which Lord Modered not as a rival, but as a classic. He had hun was tried by the Peers; and to whom the left their arena; he never measured his Earl of Scarsdale was said to have made strength with them; and he was always loud honourable addresses, had conducted hersell, in applause of their exertions. They could, in very trying circumstances, with extraorditherefore, entertain no jealousy of him; and nary discretion. Congreve at length became thought no more of detracting from his fame her confidential friend. They constantly rode than of carping at the great men who had been out together, and dine l together. Some people

lying a hundred years in Poet's Corner. Even said that she was his mistress, and others that . the inmates of Grub Street, even the heroes of she would soon be his wife. He was at last

the Dunciad, were for once just to living drawn away from her by the influence of a merit. There can be no stronger illustration wealthier and haughtier beauty. Henrietta, of the estimation in which Congreve was held, daughter of the great Marlborough, and wife than the fact that Pope's Iliad, a work which of the Earl of Godolphin, had, on her father's appeared with more splendid auspices than death, succeeded to his dukedom, and to the any other in our language, was dedicated to greater part of his immense property. Her him. There was not a duke in the kingdom husband was an insignificant man, of whom who would not have been proud of such a Lord Chesterfield said, that he came to the compliment. Dr. Johnson expresses great House of Peers only to sleep, and that he admiration for the independence of spirit might as well sleep on the right as on the left which Pope showed on this occasion, and of the woolsack. Between the duchess and some surprise at his choice. “He passed over Congreve sprung up a most eccentric friendpeers and statesmen to inscribe his Iliad' to ship. He had a seat every day at her table, Congreve, with a magnanimity of which the and assisted in the direction of her concerts. praise had been complete, had his friend's That malignant old hag, the Dowager Duchess virtue been equal to his wit. Why he was Sarah, who had quarrelled with her daughter, chosen for so great an honour, it is not now as she had quarrelled with everybody else, possible to know.” It is certainly impossible affected to suspect that there was something to know; yet, we think, it is possible to guess. wrong. But the world in general appears to The translation of the “Iliad” had been zeal- have thought that a great lady might, without ously befriended by men of all political opi- any imputation on her character, pay attention nions. The poet who at an early age had to a man of eminent genius, who was pearly been raised to affluence by the emulous libe- sixty years old, who was still older in appear. rality of Whigs and Tories, could not with pro. ance and in constitution, who was confined to priety inscribe to a chief of either party, a his chair by gout, and was unable to read from work which had been munificently patronised blindness. by both. It was necessary to find some person In the summer of 1728, Congreve was orwho was at once eminent and neutral. It was dered to try the Bath waters. During his ex. therefore necessary to pass over peers and cursion he was overtured in his chariot, and statesmen. Congreve had a high name in received some severe internal injury, from leuters. He had a high name in aristocratic which he never recovered. He came back cire les. He lived on terms of civility with to London in a dangerous state, complained wer of all parties. By a courtesy paid him constantly of a pain in his side, and con

tinned to sink, till, in the following January, that is a bold word) thë ngliest and most absurd he expired.

of the buildings at Stowe. He left 10,000l. saved out of the emolu We have said that Wycherley was a worse ments of his lucrative places. Johnson says Congreve. There was, indeed, a remarkable that this money ought to have gone to the Con- analogy between the writings and lives of these greve family, which was then in great distress. two men. Both were gentlemen liberally eduDoctor Young and Mr. Leigh Hunt, two gen- cated. Both led town lives, and knew human tlemen who seldom agree with each other, but nature only as it appears between Hyde Park with whom, on this occasion, we are happy to and the Tower. Both were men of wit. Nei. agree, think that it ought to have gone to Mrs. ther had much imagination. Both at ar. early Bracegirdle. Congreve bequeathed 2001. to age produced lively and profligate comedies. Mrs. Bracegirdle, and an equal sum to a cer. Both retired from the field while still in early tain Mrs. Jellat; but the bulk of his accumu- manhood, and owed to their youthful achieve lations went to the Duchess of Marlborough, ments in literature the consideration which in whose immense wealth such a legacy was they enjoyed in later life. Both, after they had as a drop in the bucket. It might have raised ceased to write for the stage, published volumes the fallen fortunes of a Staffordshire squire- of miscellanies, which did little credit either to it might have enabled a retired actress to en- their talents or their morals. Both, during joy every comfort, and, in her sense, every their declining years, hung loose upon society; luxury_but it was not sufficient to defray the and both, in their last moments, made eccentric duchess's establishment for two months. and unjustifiable dispositions respecting their

The great lady buried her friend with a estates. pomp seldom seen at the funerals of poets. But in every point Congreve maintained his The corpse lay in state under the ancieni roof superiority to Wycherley. Wycherley had wit: of the Jerusalem Chamber, and was interred but the wit of Congreve tar outshines that of in Westminster Abbey. The pall was borne every comic writer, except Sheridan, who has by the Duke of Bridgewater, Lord Cobham, the arisen within the last two centuries. Congreve Earl of Wilmington, who had been Speaker, had not, in a large measure, the poetical facaland who was afterwards First Lord of the ty, but, compared with Wycherley, he might be Treasury, and other men of high consideration. called a great poet. Wycherley had some Her grace laid out her friend's bequest in a knowledge of books, but Congreve was a man superb diamond necklace, which she wore in of real learning. Congreve's offences against honour of him; and, if report is to be believed, decorum, though highly culpable, were not so sho ved her regard in ways much more extra- gross as those of Wycherley; nor did Congreve, ordinary. It is said that she had a statue of like Wycherley, exhibit to the world the deplohim in ivory, which moved by clockwork, and rable spectacle of a licentious dotage. Conwas placed daily at her table; that she had a greve died in the enjoyment of high considerawax doll made in imitation of him, and that the tion; Wycherley forgotten or despised. Con. feet of this doll were regularly blistered and greve's will was absurd and capricious; but anointed by the doctors, as poor Congreve's Wycherley's last actions appeared to have feet had been when he suffered from the gout. been prompted by obdurate malignity. A monument was erected to the poet in West Here, at least for the present, we must stop minster Abbey, with an inscription written by Vanbrugh and Farquhar are not men to be the duchess; and Lord Cobham honoured him hastily dismissed, and we have not left our with a cenotaphy, which seems to us (though selves space to do them justice.

THE LATE LORD HOLLAND."

[EDIXBURGH REVIEW FOR JULY, 1941.)

Maxr reasons make it impossible for us to ed to render-the continuance of an extensive lay before our readers, at the present moment, grievance, and of the dissatisfaction consequent a complete view of the character and public thereupon, dangerous to the tranquillity of the. career of the late Lord Holland. But we feel country, and ultimately subversive of the authat we have already deferred too long the daty thority of the state. Experience and theory of paying some tribute to his memory. We alike forbid us to deny that effect of a free con. feel that it is more becoming to bring, without stitution ; a sense of justice and a love of liberty further delay, an offering, though intrinsically equally deter us from lamenting it. But we of little value, than to leave his tomb longer have always been taught to look for the reme. without some token of our reverence and love. dy of such disorders in the redress of the griev.

We shall say very little of the book whichances which justify them, and in the removal lies on our table. And yet it is a book which, of the dissatisfaction from which they flow; even if it had been the work of a less distin- not in restraints on ancient privileges, not in guished man, or had appeared under circum- inroads on the right of public discussion, nor stances less interesting, would have well repaid in violations of the principles of a free governan attentive perusal. It is valuable, both as a ment. If, therefore, the legal method of seekrecord of principles and as a model of compo-ing redress, which has been resorted to by sition. We find in it all the great maxims persons labouring under grievous disabilities, which, during more than forty years, guided be fraught with immediate or remote danger to Lord Holland's public conduct, and the chief the state, we draw from that circumstance a reasons on which those maxims rest, condensed conclusion long since foretold by great author. into the smallest possible space, and set forth ity--namely, that the British constitution and with admirable perspicuity, dignity, and preci- large exclusions cannot subsist together; that sion. To his opinions on Foreign Policy we, the constitution must destroy them, or they for the most part, cordially assent; but, now will destroy the constitution." and then, we are inclined to think thein imprudently generous. We could not have signed It was not, however, of this little book, valuathe protest against the detention of Napoleon. ble and interesting as it is, but of the author, The protest respecting the course which Eng. that we meant to speak; and we will try to do land pursued at the Congress of Verona, though so with calmness and impartiality. it contains nuch that is excellent, contains In order fully to appreciate the character of also positions which, we are inclined to think, Lord Holland, it is necessary to go far back Lurd Holland would, at a later period, have into the history of his family; for he had in. admitted to be unsound. But to all his doc- herited something more than a coronet and an trines on Constitutional Questions we give our estate. To the house of which he was the hearty approbation; and we firmly believe that head belongs one distinction, which we believe no British government has ever deviated from to be without a parallel in our annals. During that line of internal policy which he has traced, more than a century, there has never been a without detriment to the public.

time at which a Fox has not stood in a promi. "We will give, as a specimen of this little nent station among public men. Scarcely had volume, a single passage, in which a chief the checkered career of the first Lord Holland article of the political creed of the Whigs is closed, when his son, Charles, rose to the head stated and explained with singular clearness, of the Opposition, and to the first rank among force, and brevity. Our readers will remember English debaters. And before Charles was that, in 1825, the Catholic Association agitated borne to Westminster Abbey, a third Fox had for emancipation with most formidable effect. already become one of the most conspicuous The Tories acted after their kind. Instead of politicians in the kingdom. removing the grievance, they tried to put down It is impossible not to be struck by the strong the agitation, and brought in a law, apparently family likeness which, in spite of diversities sharp and stringent, but, in truth, utterly impo, arising from education and position, appears tent, for restraining the right of petition. Lord in these three distinguished persons. In their Holland's protest on that occasion is excellent. faces and figures there was a resemblance,

such as is common enough in novels, where “We are,” says he, “well aware that the one picture is good for ten generations, but privileges of the people, the rights of free dis such as in real life is seldom found. The ample cussion, and the spirit and letter of our popular 'person, the massy and thoughtful forehead, the institutions, must render--and they are intend-large eyebrows, the full cheek and lip; the ex.

pression, so singularly compounded of sense, • The Opirions of Lord Holland, as recorded in the humour, courage, openness, a strong will and a ucted and cdited by B. MOYLAN, of Lincoln's lun, features of the founder of the house, as the.

sweet temper, were common to all. But the Barrister-at-Law. Sv

. 1841

pencil of Reynolds and the chisel of Nollekens people with the bayonet. Many of his contemhave handed them down to us, were disagree poraries had a morality quite as lax as his; but ably harsh and exaggerated. In his descend- very few among them had his talents, and none ants, the aspect was preserved; but it was had his hardihood and energy. . He could not, softened, till it became, in the late lord, the like Sandys and Doddington, find safety in conmost gracious and interesting countenance that tempt. He therefore became an object of such was ever lighted up by the mingled lustre of general aversion as no statesman since the fall intelligence and benevolence.

of Strafford has incurred-of such general As it was with the faces of the men of this aversion as was probably never in any country poble family, so was it with their minds. Na- incurred by a man of so kind and cordial a disture had done much for them all. She had position. A weak mind would have sunk under moulded them all of that clay of which she is such a load of unpopularity. But that resolute most sparing. To all she had given strong spirit seemed to derive new firmness from the reason and sharp wit; a quick relish for every public hatred. The only effect which rephysical and intellectual enjoyment; constitu- proaches appeared to produce on him, was to tional intrepidity, and that frankness by which sour, in some degree, his naturally sweet temconstitutional intrepidity is generally accom- per. The last steps of his public life were panied; spirits which nothing could depress; marked, not only by that audacity which he had tempers easy, generous, and placable; and that derived from nature--not only by that immogenial courtesy which has its seat in the heart, rality which he had learned in the school of and of which artificial politeness is only a faint Walpole--but by a harshness which almost and cold innitation. Such a disposition is the amounted to cruelty, and which had never been richest inheritance that ever was entailed on supposed to belong to his character. His seany family.

verity increased the unpopularity from which But training and situation greatly modified it had sprung. The well-known lampoon of the fine qualities which nature lavished with Gray may serve as a specimen of the feeling such profnsion on three generations of the of the country. All the images are taken from house of Fox. The first Lord Holland was shipwrecks, quicksands, and cormorants. Lord à needy political adventurer. He entered Holland is represented as complaining, that the public life at a time when the standard of in- cowardice of his accomplices had prevented tegrity among statesmen was low. He started him from putting down the free spirit of the as the adherent of a minister who had in- city of London by sword and fire, and as pining deed many titles to respect; who possessed for the time when birds of prey should make eminent talents both for administration and for their rests in Westminster Abbey, and unclean debate; who understood the public interest beasts burrow in St. Paul's. well, and who meant fairly by the country ; Within a few months after the death of this but who had seen so much perfidy and mean- remarkable man, his second son Charles ap"ness, that he had become skeptical as to the peared at the head of the party opposed to the existence of probity. Weary of the cant of American War. Charles had inherited the patriotism, Walpole had learned to talk a cant bodily and mental constitution of his father, of a different kind. Disgusted by that sort of and had been much-far too much-under his hypocrisy which is at least a homage to virtue, father's influence. It was indeed impossible he was too much in the habit of practising the that a son of so affectionate and noble a spirit less respectable hypocrisy which ostentatiously should not have been warmly attached to a displays and sometimes even stimulates vice. parent who possessed many fine qualities, aud To Walpole, Fox attached himself politically who carried his indulgence and liberality to and personally, with the ardour which belonged wards his children even to a culpable extent to his temperament. And it is not to be denied, The young man saw that the person to whoin that in the school of Walpole he contracted he was bound by the strongest ties, was, in the faults which destroyed the value of his many highest degree, odious to the nation; and the great endowments. He raised himself, indeed, effect was what might have been expected to the first consideration in the House of Com- from his strong passions and constitutional mons; he became a consummate master of the boldness. He cast in his lot with his father, and art of debate; he attained honours and im- took, while still a boy, a deep part in the most mense wealth--but the public esteem and con- unjustifiable and unpopular measures that had fidence were withheld from him. His private been adopted since the reign of James the friends, indeed, justly extolled his generosity Second. In the debates on the Middlesex and good-nature. They maintained, that in election, he distinguished himself, not only by those parts of his conduct which they could his precocious powers of eloquence, but by the least defend, there was nothing sordid; and vehement and scornful manner in which he that, if he was misled, he was misled by bade defiance to public opinion. He was at amiable feelings-by a desire to serve his that time regarded as a man likely to be the friends, and by anxious tenderness for his most formidable champion of arbitrary governchildren. But by the nation he was regarded ment that had appeared since the Revolution as a man of insatiable rapacity and desperate - to be a Bute with far greater powersma ambition; as a man ready to adopt, without Mansfield with far greater courage. Happily scruple, the most immoral and the most un- his father's death liberated him early from the constitutional measures; as, a man perfectly pernicious influence by which he had been fitted, by all his opinions and feelings, for the misled. His mind expanded. His range of work of managing the Parliament means of observation became wider. His genius broke secret service-money, and of keeping down the through early prejudices. His na:ural bepe

Vol. IV.-58

« PreviousContinue »