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Art. I. Lettres Historiques, Politiques, &c.; i. e. Historical, Polia
tical, Philosophical, and Private Letters of Henry St. John, Lord Viscount Bolingbroke, from 1710 to 1736, containing the secrec Negotiations of the Peace of Utrecht, and many Details connected with History, Philosophy, Literature, &c. With Explanations and Notes on the Subjects and the Persons mentioned by Bolingbroke. Preceded by an Historical Essay on his Life, a Catalogue raisonné of his Works, a Selection of his Thoughts, and a Fac-simile of his Hand-writing. Printed in Part from Originals in the Hand of that Illustrious Englishman. 3 Vols. 8vo. Paris. 1808. Imported by De Boffe, and by Dulau. Price 1l. 168. sewed. The literary fame of Lord Bolingbroke has, we think, long
since attained its acmè among his countrymen, and appears for several years past to have been somewhat on the decline. Occasional reference, indeed, may and always will be made to his official letters, from which some important facts in our history must derive elucidation ; and his papers in the Craftsman will often be consulted, as rich storehouses of political invective, and armories for all the weapons that are employed in party-warfare. His philosophical works, also, however condemned for sophistical arguments and a mischievous tendency, '
must yet command admiration for that dazzling splendor of composition, and that stately march of measured prose, which enable them to take the lead perhaps of all other specimens App. Rev. VOL. LX.
of the English oratorical style. Yet his reputation as an author has by no means increased in proportion to our nearer acquaintance with his genius ; familiarity has had something of its usual effect in diminishing veneration, and, in fact, few volumes are less frequently displaced from the shelves of any library, than the works of Lord Bolingbroke.
This degree of neglect may, however, be partly imputed to the injustice with which a prophet is usually treated in his own country; and the publication before us is an unquestionable proof that his Lordship's character has obtained higher and more lasting praise on the continent :- but we are at liberty to examine the grounds on which it rests, and these do not, in our judgment, materially impeach the correctness of the opinion which we ascribe to our English readers. When he is extolled as an unrivalled statesman for negotiating the peace of Utrecht, which, though it may be approved at Paris, has been universally exposed to the censure of our politicians ; and when he is almost worshipped as a philosop for the powerful efforts by which he has rescued the human mind from the bondage of superstition ; we must pause before we join in such a panegyric pronounced by a Frenchman of the nineteenth century, though he may repeatedly assert that none but priests can possibly object to the religion of his hero, and none but wbigs can arraign his politics.
Nevertheless, though a controversy on these subjects might be maintained by us, without any sacrifice of truth and liberty to national prejudice of theological bigotry, the reader will probably hear with satisfaction that we are far from wishing to revive such antiquated and unprofitable polemics. Our only concern is with the personal qualities of a man whose talents and opportunities must inevitably secure to him a very corispicuous rank in the annals of our empire.
Various original publications have already placed - Boling. broke in different points of view before his countrymen ;-his own voluminous works, edited, according to the requisition of his will, by Mallet, a short time after his Lordship's death ;the posthumous miscellanies of his distinguished correspondents, Pope and Swift ;--the Hardwicke State-Papers ;- and last in time, though perhaps the first in value and importance, the political papers for which we were about twelve years ago indebted to Mr. Park. The greater part of the materials of which the present volumes are composed are derived from these several sources : bust another, hitherto inaccessible, has been discovered, by which they have been considerably enriched,
The editor, General GRIMOARD, informs us that he had the good fortune to receive from the Comte de
Sancé a large collection of letters indubitably genuine, addressed by Boling broke to the Abbé Alari ; a man who was eminent for erudition, was successively tutor to Louis the Fifteenth and his son the Dauphin, and was afterward one of the forty of the French academy. The collection was immediately destined for the press : but it is still more fortunate that the General, while preparing these papers for that purpose, was apprized of another series addressed by Bolingbroke to Madame de Ferriol, in the possession of Mr. Quintin Craufurd, a Scotchman of distinction, who has been many years fixed in France by his love of Letters and the Arts,' Great Britain being, we presume, wholly destitute of both ! They appear to have been preserved by Mr. Craufurd as inestimable relics ; and he permitted the publication of those which were in his custody, only on condition that all the originals appertaining to both correspondences should finally remain in his hands.
Among the various collections thus combined, and furnishing in the whole three hundred and fifty one epistles, those which were obtained in the manner above described, and are pow first published, naturally form the first, or rather are the only proper objects of our present criticism ; and though the external evidence, by which their authenticity is established, can admit of no reasonable doubt, we shall introduce them to our readers by a specimen so pointedly characteristic of the author, as almost to supersede the necessity of any other proof. It was addressed to the Abbé Alari, on the 25th of June 1723, when measures were in progress for obtaining a pardon from George the First, and restoring Bolingbroke to his country. The Abbé appears to have taken a very active part in those negotiations, and was probably in London, where it was in. tended that this letter should be shewn. It is the same which has here been selected for the purpose of exhibiting the chirograph of Lord Bolingbroke :
“ I do not like apologies, and I need them not. I have preferred a long exile to an equivocal return : but all is cquivocal to the ignorant, who are ill-informed of facts, and to the half-witted, who could not judge even if they were informed. Were I to enter into the detail of all that has happened for some years past, I should write a volume,-no letter could contain it. But, my dear friend, bere is an answer which shall close the mouths of all who have not renounced reason and natural equity. I served the late Queen to the hour of her death, and I think no man will accuse me of having failed in any point of duty towards her. After that time, I was in the intereste of the Chevalier de Saint George ; and as often as it may please those who charge me with having failed in thosc engagements, I am ready to give an account of the manner in which catered into and
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departed from them. In the mean time, I beg you to say on my part, to all who may hold the malicious language which you have mentioned to me, that if they can advance a single proved fact to justify any one of their accusations, I shall own myself guilty of all, to which the weakness of some and the iniquity of others has given currency in the world. After such a declaration, those who cannot produce facts, accompanied by proofs, ought to be silent, or they will be despised as calumniators.
“ BOEINGBROKE.” That person must, in our opinion, be wholly impenetrable to the force of internal evidence, who does not instantly recognize the style, the tone, and the moral and intellectual habits of the writer, in these broad assertions and bold defiances,—this call for specific proof against him, when he undertakes by proof to destroy a general imputation,—this s conclusion, in which nothing is concluded,"—this explanation by which nothing is explained,--this daring challenge to no individual,--and this sweeping allegation of ignorance and folly against all who may question conduct the most questionable that the world ever witnessed. The letter is in fact an epitome of the celebrated pamphlet to Sir William Windham; the most entertaining, and perhaps the best, of all Lord Bolingbroke's compositions, but lamentably inadequate, in every point of view, to the purpose of effecting his vindication.
All the other allusions to politics in this additional correspondence are so extremely slight, as to possess no interest or information : it must likewise be stated that the series does not begin till after Lord Boling broke had left the service of the Pretender, of whom we showd have hailed with pleasure any contemporary anecdotes. Neither is it much tainted with the writer's peculiar notions on religious subjects; though these may be occasionally detected, as in his complaints of his first wife, who seems to have become a saint on being abandoned by her Lord. « Certainly,” says he to Madame de Ferriol, “ I have great reason to complain of the late Lady Bolingbroke ; and the difference between returning this year to England and having returned last year will amount to many hundred thousand francs. She deceived the King, (who had, in consideration for me, released a part of the confiscation,) as well as me, who had put every thing under her name. She died a devotee. What a supple quality is religion ! how it lends itself to everything, how it sanctifies every thing, when it is managed by an able director ! I thank the Maréchal for his anger. If I return to my country, I shall find means of preventing a great part of what has been
done against me, from producing its effect. In every case, if my misfortunes diminish my property, they also diminish my desires.
The concluding sentiment is perpetually flowing, in an endless variety of well-sounding phrases, from the philosophical pen of Lord Bolingbroke. On the advantages of exile and other calamities, in teaching men to subdue their passions, and to prefer moral and intellectual acquisitions to sensual enjoyments,-and on the happy state of those whose desires are under the dominion of enlightened reason,-he is never tired of enlarging : yet the number is not small of these moral epistles, in which he earnestly requests his female friend to provide him with a scientific cook; and when she sends one who does not understand his business, the tender intimacy of these faithful correspondents appears to be a little endangered. M. Alari is commonly requested to procure books for the noble student, who devotes many hours of his agreeable retirement at La Source to historical researches. On the whole, we cannot say that these letters have answered our expectations. The greater part of them consist of such ordinary compliments as pass in all well-bred society, and prove no more than that the writer moved in a certain sphere of life. From the mass, we snatch a few scraps on literary subjects :
“ I shall be much obliged to you, my dear Madam, for the perusal which you are kind enough to offer me of M. Arouet's, Volaire's) tragedy (Edipe). Even if I had not heard that drama mentioned with praise, still I could not but feel a great impatience to read it.
He who begins his career, in assuming the cothurnus, by emulating so great an original as' Corneille, makes a very bold effort, and yet, perhaps, a more prudept one than is gene.' rally supposed. I doubt not that to M. Arouet may be applied the words wlinch M. Corneille puts into the mouth of the Cid; “In truth his merit waits not for length of years, and his first essay stamps him at once a master" - (et son coup d'essai passe pour un coup de maitre”'),
Again, at the distance of seven years :
“ Did you receive some tiine ago a letter, which I wrote to you, and a second which I wrote to Voltaire! You told me in one of yours, that he wished to dedicate his poem (the Henriade) to me. So fine a work requires a more considerable patron. I am ready to do him all the service that depends on me, my friendship for him, and the real merit of his poem, would be sufficient to engage me to do.. so, and I want no other motive. It is possible that he may change his intention ; it is even possible that he never entertained it: but the favour which I have to request of you is to sound him thoroughly on the subject, and to put me in possession of his designs. I will frankly tell you my motive, I should be curious to know in what manner