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austere a censor as John Newton, calls a foxhunting squire Nimrod, and gives to a chaplain the disrespectful name of Smug. Congreve might with good effect have appealed to the public whether it might not be fairly presumed that, when such frivolous charges were made, there were no very serious charges to make. Instead of doing this, he pretended that he meant no allusion to the Bible by the name of Jehu, and no reflection by the name of Prig. Strange that a man of such parts should, in order to defend himself against imputations which nobody could regard as important, tell untruths which it was certain that nobody would believe. " * One of the pleas which Congreve set up for himself and his brethren was, that, though they might be guilty of a little levity here and there, they were careful to inculcate a moral, packed close into two or three lines, at the end of every play. Had the fact been as he stated it, the defence would be worth. very little. For no man acquainted with human nature could think that a sententious couplet would undo all the mischief that five profligate acts had done. But it would have been wise in Congreve to
have looked again at his own comedies before.
“Love for Love,” says Collier, “may have a somewhat better farewell, but it would do a man little service should he remember it to his dying day:"— “The miracle to-day is, that we find A lover true, not that a woman’s kind.” Collier's reply was severe and triumphant. One of his repartees we will quote, not as a favourable specimen of his manner, but because it was called forth by Congreve's characteristic affectation. The poet spoke of the “Old Bachelor” as a trifle to which he attached no value, and which had become public by a sort of accident. “I wrote it,” he said, “to amuse myself in a slow recovery from a fit of sickness.”—“What his disease was,” rep. Collier, “I am not to inquire: but it must e a very ill one to be worse than the remedy.” All that Congreve gained by coming forward on this occasion was, that he completely deprived himself of the excuse which he might with justice have pleaded for his early offences. “Why,” asked Collier, “should the man laugh at the mischief of the boy, and make the disorders of his nonage his own, by an after approtation?” Congrevo was not Collier's only opponent. Vanbrugh, Denis, and Settle took the field. And, from the Passage in a contemporary satire, we are inclined to think that among the answers to the “Short View,” was one written, or supposed to be written, by Wycherley. The victory remained with Collier. A great and rapid reforn, in all the departments of our lighter literature was the effect of his labours.
A new race of wits and poets arose, who generally treated with reverence the great ties which bind society together; and whose very indecencies were decent when compared with those of the school which flourished during the last forty years of the seventeenth century. This controversy probably prevented Congreve from fulfilling the engagements into which he had entered with the actors. It was not till 1700 that he produced the “Way of the World,” the most deeply meditated, and the most brilliantly written, of all his works. It wants, perhaps, the constant movement, the effervescence of animal spirits, which we find in “Love for Love.” But the hysterical rants of Lady Wishfort, the meeting of Witwould and his brother, the country knight's courtship and his subsequent revel, and above all, the chase and surrender of Milamant, are superior to any thing that is to be found in the whole range of English comedy from the Civil War downwards. It is quite inexplicable to us that this play should have failed on the stage. Yet so it was; and the author, already sore with the wounds which Collier had inflicted, was galled past endurance by this new stroke. He resolved never more to expose himself to the rudeness of a tasteless audience, and took leave of the theatre forever. He lived twenty-eight years longer, without adding to the high literary reputation which he had attained. He read much while he retained his eyesight, and now and then wrote a short essay, or an idle tale in verse; but appears never to have planned any considerable work. The miscellaneous pieces which he published in 1710 are of little value, and have long been forgotten. The stock of same which he had acuttired by his comedies was sufficient, assisted by the graces of his manner and conversation, to secure for him a high place in the estimation of the world. During the winter, he lived among the most distinguished and agreeable people in London. His summers were passed at the splendid country-seats of ministers and peers. Literary envy, and political faction, which in that age respected nothing else, respected his repose. He professed to be one of the party of which his patron Montagu, now Lord Halifax, was the head. But he had civil words and small good offices for men of every shade of opinion. And men of every shade of opinion spoke well of him in return. His means were for a long time scanty. The place which he had in possession, barely enabled him to live with comfort. And when the Tories came into power, some thought that he would lose even this moderate provision, But Harley, who was by no means disposed to adopt the exterminating policy of the Octoner club, and who, with all his faults of unuer standing and temper, had a sincere kindness for men of genius, reassured the anxious poet by quoting very gracefully and happily the lines of Virgil— “Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Poena, Nectam aversus equos Tyria sol jungit ab urbe.”
The indulgence with which Congreve wa treated by the Tories, was not purchased ov any concession on his part which could justly offend the Whigs. It was his rare good-fortune to share the triumph of his friends without having shared their proscription. When the house of Hanover came to the throne, his fortunes began to flourish. The reversion to which he had been nominated twenty years before, fell in. He was made a secretary to the island of Jamaica; and his whole income amounted to 1200l. a year—a fortune which, for a single man, was, in that age, not only easy, but splendid. He continued, however, to practise the frugality which he had learned when he could scarcely spare, as Swift tells us, a shilling to pay the chairman who carried him to Lord Halifax's. Though he had nobody to save for, he laid up at least as much as he spent. The infirmities of age came early upon him. His habits had been intemperate; he suffered much from gout; and when confined to his chamber, had no longer the solace of literature. Blindness, the most cruel misfortune that can befall the lonely student, made his books useless to him. He was thrown on society for all his amusement, and, in society, his good breeding and vivacity made him always welcome. By the rising men of letters he was consiiered not as a rival, but as a classic. He had left their arena; he never measured his strength with them; and he was always loud in applause of their exertions. They could, therefore, entertain no jealousy of him; and thought no more of detracting from his fame than of carping at the great men who had been lying a hundred years in Poet's Corner. Even - the inmates of Grub Street, even the heroes of the Dunciad, were for once just to living merit. "There can be no stronger illustration of the estimation in which Congreve was held, than the fact that Pope's Iliad, a work which appeared with more splendid auspices than any other in our language, was dedicated to him. There was not a duke in the kingdom who would not have been proud of such a compliment. Dr. Johnson expresses great admiration for the independence of spirit which Pope showed on this occasion, and some surprise at his choice. “He passed over peers and statesmen to inscribe his ‘Iliad' to Congreve, with a magnanimity of which the praise had been complete, had his friend's virtue been equal to his wit. Why he was chosen for so great an honour, it is not now possible to know.” . It is certainly impossible to know; yet, we think, it is possible to guess. The translation of the “Iliad” had been zealously befriended by men of all political opi. nions. The poet who at an early age had been raised to affluence by the emulous liberality of Whigs and Tories, could not with propriety inscribe to a chief of either party, a work which had been munificently patronised by both. It was necessary to find some person who was at once eminent and neutral. It was therefore necessary to pass over peers and statesmen. Congreve had a high name in letters. He had a high name in aristocratic *roles. He lived on terms of civility with * of all parties. By a courtesy paid him
neither the ministers nor the leaders of the op. position could be offended. The singular affectation which had from the first been characteristic of Congreve, grew stronger and stronger as he advanced in life. At last it became disagreeable to him to hear his own comedies praised. Voltaire, whose soul was burned up by the raging desire for literary renown, was half puzzled, half disgusted by what he saw, during his visit to England, of this extraordinary whim. Congreve disclaimed the character of a poet—declared that his plays were trifles produced in an idle hour, and begged that Woltaire would consider him merely as a gentleman. “If you. had been merely a gentleman,” said Woltaire, “I should not have come to see you.” Congreve was not a man of warm affections. Domestic ties he had none; and in the temporary connections which he formed with a succession of beauties from the green-room, his heart does not appear to have been at all interested. Of all his attachments, that to Mrs. Bracegirdle lasted the longest, and was the most celebrated. This charming actress, who was, during many years, the idol of all Lon don; whose face caused the fatal broil in which Mountfort sell, and for which Lord Mohun was tried by the Peers; and to whom the Earl of Scarsdale was said to have made honourable addresses, had conducted herself, in very trying circumstances, with extraordinary discretion. Congreve at length became her confidential friend. They constantly rode out together, and dined together. Some people said that she was his mistress, and others that she would soon be his wife. He was at last drawn away from her by the influence of a wealthier and haughtier beauty. Henrietta, daughter of the great Marlborough, and wife of the Earl of Godolphin, had, on her father's death, succeeded to his dukedom, and to the greater part of his immense property. Her husband was an insignificant man, of whom Lord Chesterfield said, that he came to the House of Peers only to sleep, and that he might as well sleep on the right as on the left of the woolsack. Between the duchess and Congreve sprung up a most eccentric friendship. He had a seat every day at her table, and assisted in the direction of her concerts. That malignant old hag, the Dowager Duchess Sarah, who had quarrelled with her daughter, as she had quarrelled with everybody else, affected to suspect that there was something wrong. But the world in general appears to have thought that a great lady might, without any imputation on her character, pay attention to a man of eminent genius, who was pearly sixty years old, who was still older in appearance and in constitution, who was confined to his chair by gout, and was unable to read from blindness. In the summer of 1728, Congfeve was ordered to try the Bath waters. During his excursion he was overturned in his chariot, and received some severe internal injury, from which he never recovered. He came back to London in a dangerous state, complained constantly of a pain in his side, and continued to sink, till, in the following January, he expired. He left 10,000l. saved out of the emoluments of his lucrative places. Johnson says that this money ought to have gone to the Congreve family, which was then in great distress. Doctor Young and Mr. Leigh Hunt, two gentlemen who seldom agree with each other, but with whom, on this occasion, we are happy to agree, think that it ought to have gone to Mrs. Bracegirdle. Congreve bequeathed 200l. to Mrs. Bracegirdle, and an equal sum to a cer•tain Mrs. Jellat; but the bulk of his accumulations went to the Duchess of Marlborough, in whose immense wealth such a legacy was as a drop in the bucket. It might have raised the fallen fortunes of a Staffordshire squire— it might have enabled a retired actress to enjoy every comfort, and, in her sense, every luxury—but it was not sufficient to defray the duchess's establishment for two months. The great lady buried her friend with a pomp seldon seen at the funerals of poets. The corpse lay in state under the ancient roof of the Jerusalem Chamber, and was interred in Westminster Abbey. The pall was borne by the Duke of Bridgewater, Lord Cobham, the Earl of Wilmington, who had been Speaker, and who was afterwards First Lord of the Treasury, and other men of high consideration. Her grace laid out her friend's bequest in a superb diamond necklace, which she wore in honour of him; and, if report is to be believed, showed her regard in ways much more extraordinary. It is said that she had a statue of him in ivory, which moved by clockwork, and was placed daily at her table; that she had a "wax doll made in imitation of him, and that the feet of this doll were regularly blistered and anointed by the doctors, as poor Congreve's feet had been when he suffered from the gout. A monument was erected to the poet in Westwninster Abbey, with an inscription written by Whe duchess; and Lord Cobham honoured him with a cenotaphy, which seems to us (though
that is a bold word) the ugliest and most absurd of the buildings at Stowe.
We have said that Wycherley was a worse Congreve. There was, indeed, a remarkable analogy between the writings and lives of these two men. Both were gentlemen liberally edu. cated. Both led town lives, and knew human nature only as it appears between Hyde Park and the Tower. Both were men of wit. Neither had much imagination. Both at ar. early age produced lively and profligate comedies. Both retired from the field while still in early manhood, and owed to their youthful achieve. ments in literature the consideration which they enjoyed in later life. Both, after they had ceased to write for the stage, published volumes of miscellanies, which did little credit either to their talents or their morals. Both, during their declining years, hung loose upon society; and both, in their last moments, made eccentric and unjustifiable dispositions respecting their estates.
But in every point Congreve maintained his superiority to Wycherley. Wycherley had wit: but the wit of Congreve far outshines that of every comic writer, except Sheridan, who has arisen within the last two centuries. Congreve had not, in a large measure, the poetical faculty, but, compared with Wycherley, he might be called a great poet. Wycherley had some knowledge of books, but Congreve was a man of real learning. Congreve's offences against decorum, though highly culpable, were not so gross as those of Wycherley; nor did Congreve, like Wycherley, exhibit to the world the deplorable spectacle of a licentious dotage. Congreve died in the enjoyment of high consideration; Wycherley forgotten or despised. Con. greve's will was absurd and capricious; but Wycherley's last actions appeared to hays been prompted by obdurate malignity.
Here, at least for the present, we must stop Vanbrugh and Farquhar are not men to be hastily dismissed, and we have not left our. selves space to do them justice.
THE LATE LORD HOLLAND."
[Epix Burgh Review for JULY, 1841.]
Maxy reasons make it impossible for us to lay before our readers, at the present moment, a complete view of the character and public career of the late Lord Holland. But we feel that we have already deferred too long the duty of paying some tribute to his memory. We feel that it is more becoming to bring, without further delay, an offering, though intrinsically of little value, than to leave his tomb longer without some token of our reverence and love.
We shall say very little of the book which lies on our table. And yet it is a book which, even if it had been the work of a less distinguished man, or had appeared under circumstances less interesting, would have well repaid an attentive perusal. It is valuable, both as a record of principles and as a model of composition. We find in it all the great maxims which, during more than forty years, guided Lord Holland's public conduct, and the chief reasons on which those maxims rest, condensed into the smallest possible space, and set forth with admirable perspicuity, dignity, and precision. To his opinions on Foreign Policy we, for the most part, cordially assent; but, now and then, we are inclined to think them imprudently generous. We could not have signed the protest against the detention of Napoleon. The protest respecting the course which Engl pursued at the Congress of Verona, though it-contains inuch that is excellent, contains also positions which, we are inclined to think, Lord Holland would, at a later period, have admitted to be unsound. But to all his doctrines on Constitutional Questions we give our hearty approbation; and we firmly believe that no British government has ever deviated from that line of internal policy which he has traced, without detriment to the public.
"We will give, as a specimen of this little volume, a single passage, in which a chief article of the political creed of the Whigs is stated and explained with singular clearness, force, and brevity. Our readers will remember that, in 1825, the Catholic Association agitated for emancipation with most formidable effect. The Tories acted after their kind. Instead of removing the grievance, they tried to put down the agitation, and brought in a law, apparently sharp and stringent, but, in truth, utterly impotent, for restraining the right of petition. Lord Holland's protest on that occasion is excellent.
“We are,” says he, “well aware that the privileges of the people, the rights of free discussion, and the spirit and letter of our popular institutions, must render—and they are intend
* The Opinions of Lord Holland, as recorded in the Journals of the House of Lords, from 1797 to 1841. Col *cted and cdited by D. C. Moylan, of Lincoln's Inn, Warrister-at-Law. 8vo London. 1841.
ed to render—the continuance of an extensive grievance, and of the dissatisfaction consequent thereupon, dangerous to the tranquillity of the . country, and ultimately subversive of the authority of the state. Experience and theory alike forbid us to deny that effect of a free constitution; a sense of justice and a love of liberty equally deter us from lamenting it. But we have always been taught to look for the remedy of such disorders in the redress of the grievances which justify them, and in the removal of the dissatisfaction from which they flow; not in restraints on ancient privileges, not in inroads on the right of public discussion, nor in violations of the principles of a free government. If, therefore, the legal method of seeking redress, which has been resorted to by persons labouring under grievous disabilities, be fraught with immediate or remote danger to the state, we draw som that circumstance a conclusion long since foretold by great authority—namely, that the British constitution and large exclusions cannot subsist together; that the constitution must destroy them, or they will destroy the constitution.”
It was not, however, of this little book, valuable and interesting as it is, but of the author," that we meant to speak; and we will try to do so with calmness and impartiality.
In order fully to appreciate the character of Lord Holland, it is necessary to go far back into the history of his family; for he had inherited something more than a coronet and an estate. To the house of which he was the head belongs one distinction, which we believe to be without a parallel in our annals. During more than a century, there has never been a time at which a Fox has not stood in a prominent station among public men. Scarcely had the checkered career of the first Lord Holland closed, when his son, Charles, rose to the head of the Opposition, and to the first rank among English debaters. And before Charles was borne to Westminster Abbey, a third Fox had already become one of the most conspicuous politicians in the kingdom.
It is impossible not to be struck by the strong family likeness which, in spite of diversities arising from education and position, appears in these three distinguished persons. In their faces and figures there was a resemblance, such as is common enough in novels, where one picture is good for ten generations, but such as in real life is seldom found. The ample person, the massy and thoughtful forehead, the large eyebrows, the full cheek and lip; the expression, so singularly compounded of sense, humour, courage, openness, a strong will and a sweet temper, were common to all. But the
features of the founder of the house, as the
ncil of Reynolds and the chisel of Nollekens o: handed them down to us, were disagreeably harsh and exaggerated. In his descendants, the aspect was preserved; but it was softened, till it became, in the late lord, the most gracious and interesting countenance that was ever lighted up by the mingled lustre of intelligence and benevolence. As it was with the faces of the men of this noble family, so was it with their minds. Nature had done much for them all. She had moulded them all of that clay of which she is most sparing. To all she had given strong reason and sharp wit: a quick relish for every physical and intellectual enjoyment; constitutional intrepidity, and that frankness by which constitutional intrepidity is generally accompanied; spirits which nothing could depress'; tempers easy, generous, and placable; and that genial courtesy which has its seat in the heart, and of which artificial politeness is only a faint and cold initation. Such a disposition is the richest inheritance that ever was entailed on any family. But training and situation greatly modified the fine qualities which nature lavished with such profusion on three generations of the house of Fox. The first Lord Holland was a needy political adventurer. He entered public life at a time when the standard of integrity among statesmen was low. He started as the adherent of a minister who had indeed many titles to respect; who possessed, eminent talents both for administration and for debate; who understood the public interest well, and 'who meant fairly by the country; but who had seen so much perfidy and mean"ness, that he had become skeptical as to the existence of probity. Weary of the cant of patriotism, Walpole had learned to talk a cant of a different kind. Disgusted by that sort of hypocrisy which is at least a homage to virtue, he was too much in the habit of practising the less respectable hypocrisy which ostentatiously displays and sometimes even stimulates vice. To Walpole, Fox attached himself politically and personally, with the ardour which belonged to his temperament. And it is not to be denied, that in the school of Walpole he contracted faults which destroyed the value of his many great endowments. He raised himself, indeed, to the first consideration in the House of Commons; he became a consummate master of the art of debate; he attained honours and immense wealth—but the public esteem and confidence were withheld from him. His private friends, indeed, justly extolled his generosity and good-nature. They maintained, that in those parts of his conduct which they could least defend, there was nothing sordid; and that, if he was misled, he was misled by amiable feelings—by a desire to serve his friends, and by anxious tenderness for his children. But by the nation he was regarded as a man of insatiable rapacity and desperate ambition; as a man ready to adopt, without scruple, the most immoral and the most unconstitutional measures; as a man perfectly fitted, by all his opinions and feelings, for the work of managing the Parliament by means of
secret service-money, and of keeping down the Vol. IV.-58
people with the bayonet. Many of his contemporaries had a morality quite as lax as his; but very few among them had his talents, and none had his hardihood and energy. . He could not, like Sandys and Doddington, find safety in contempt. He therefore became an object of such general aversion as no statesman since the fall of Strafford has incurred—of such general aversion as was probably never in any country incurred by a man of so kind and cordial a disposition. A weak mind would have sunk under such a load of unpopularity. But that resolute spirit seemed to derive new firmness from the public hatred. The only effect which reproaches appeared to produce on him, was to sour, in some degree, his naturally sweet temper. The last steps of his public life were marked, not only by that audacity which he had derived from nature—not only by that immorality which he had learned in the school of Walpole—but by a harshness which almost amounted to eruelty, and which had never been supposed to belong to his character. His severity increased the unpopularity from which it had sprung. The well-known lampoon of Gray may serve as a specimen of the feeling of the country. All the images are taken from shipwrecks, quicksands, and cormorants. Lord Holland is represented as complaining, that the cowardice of his accomplices had prevented him from putting down the free spirit of the city of London by sword and fire, and as pining for the time when birds of prey should make their nests in Westminster Abbey, and unclean beasts burrow in St. Paul's. Within a few months after the death of this remarkable man, his second son Charles appeared at the head of the party opposed to the American War. Charles had inherited the bodily and mental constitution of his i. and had been much—far too much—under father's influence. It was indeed impossible that a son of so affectionate and noble a spirit should not have been warmly attached to a parent who possessed many fine qualities, and who carried his indulgence and liberality to: wards his children even to a culpable extent, The young man saw that the person to whom he was bound by the strongest ties, was, in the highest degree, odious to the nation; and the effect was what might have been expected from his strong passions and constitutional boldness. He castin his lot with his father, and took, while still a boy, a deep part in the most unjustifiable and unpopular measures that had been adopted since the reign of James the Second. In the debates on the Middlesex election, he distinguished himself, not only by his precocious powers of eloquence, but by the vehement and scornful manner in which he bade defiance to public opinion. He was at that time regarded as a man likely to be th: most formidable champion of arbitrary government that had appeared since the Revolution —to be a Bute with far greater powers—a Mansfield with far greater courage. Happily his father's death liberated him early from the pernicious influence by which he had been misled. His mind expanded. His range of observation became wider. His genius broke through early roof His natural bene 2 (