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"Mr. Baker's first publication was his Reflections on Learning, published in octavo, \6§9, witnout bis name. It is a work full of learning, wit, and ingenuity, and deservedly raised the author's reputation; yet as much as I admire it, it would be the partiality of a biographer to his hero, not to allow that it has considerable defects. The editors of the new Biographia have justly reprehended Mr.Baker's style, which is far from possessing modern elegance, and from being formed by u good ear. It is not so universally replete with coarse and vulgar language, as the styles of Dr. Ecliard, Dr. Bentley, and Dr. Wootton; men whom however I rather mention with Mr. Baker as luminaries of science and wit, than to censure the harshness and want of purity in their diction. But Mr. Baker's book had a more considerable fault than the defect of elegance. It wanted a logical conclusion. The title of bis work explains his scope. 'Reflections upon Learning; where• in is shewn the insufficiency there'of in its several particulars, in 'order to evince the usefulness and 'necessity of Revelation."
"The fathers who decried Human learning in order to enforce the one thing necessary, religion, argued consequentially, supposing God implanted a propensity to arts and sciences in the heart of man, and yet did not intend that be should make any use of tbe powers bestowed. The fathers too who held that absurd doctrine, had at least the excuse of apprehending that the end of the world was at hand. But seventeen hundred years have pretty well exploded that vision; and therefore we must be the more surprised to hear an ingenious man argue like enthusiasts of the second or third century.
'That human industry has not
perfected, probably cannot perfect, every science, is a self-evident truth, but perhaps not a melancholy one. The investigation is delightful; and so exquisite is the goodness of the Creator, that he has taught us to strike out numerous enjoyments even from imperfect knowledge. Where he has not given us specifics, he has bestowed succedaneuros. If the pyramids were raised by slender skill in mechanics, though by great labour, they might be erected in less time now, yet would not last longer. The natives of Otaheite could carve without iron. A Grecian or Roman could execute works in cameo or intaglia without microscopic glasses, which we cannot imitate with superior advantages. But how does revelation supply the defects of knowledge, except in what it was given to rr veal? I will mention a few of Mr. Baker's topics, to which, revelation seems a very inadequate supplement. In fact, except morality, I see not what revelation was intended to improve, has improved, or could improve. If it even has not improved morality, it is not the fault of revelation, but of those to whom it has been dispensed."
"Mr. Baker's Reflections on Learning drew bim into a controversy with Le Clerc, a dispute detailed in the Biographia, and which there* fore I shall not repeat. It seems to have been the only moment of his life in which be did not preserve his temperate politeness, but exchanged it, yet only to a moderate degree, tor that boisterous indelicacy of the literati of the preceding age, the Scaligers, Scioppiuses.and Salmasiuses, who hurled latin ordures at the heads of their foe6, and were proud of being able to be as scurrilous as the coblers of old Rome and in the same terms.
"May I be allowed to think
tbat that a fault which a man commits but once in a long life, is a beauty iu his character; at least a foil, that' heightens the rest of his virtues, and implies a greater amendment? In Mr. Baker it was redeemed by communications even to men of the most opposite principles. He knew to distinguish between the members of the republic of letters, and the adherents to a party in the state from which he dissented.
"His next, and sole other, publication was a new edition of bishop Fisher's funeral sermon on Margaret countess of Richmond and Derby; to which he added an account of her charities, foundations, &c.
"The rest of his life was passed in the study of antiquity and in laborious collections of antique papers, great numbers of which he transcribed with bis own band, relating to our transactions both inthe church and the state. From these stores, and his own indefatigable reading, be assisted many men of congenial studies in their several publications; and he was supposed to bave been engaged for many years in compiling for his own university a work similar to Wood's Athena? Oxonienses: but there is no sufficient warrant for believing that be ever meditated such a digestion; and he certainly left nothing beyond materials for it.
M Of his own college he actually undertook and executed a very valuable history ; valuable still less for its accuracy and fidelity, than for its author's singular impartiality. It is the chef-d'oeuvre of temper in a martyr. It is brightened too with rays of judgment and good sense that shine unexpectedly from such brute matter; and though too dry to charm without the walls of its own college, it is so honourable both to the society and the author, that it is rather surprising a few co
pies at least have not been preserved by the- press; at least it would be a model to writers of that class, if the scribblers of antiquities could be taught to bave taste, and to abandon bigotry and prejudice, and useless trifles, which bave no value but that of existence.
"The authors and editors his contemporaries, whose studies were congenial with Mr. Baker's, were gratefully fond of acknowledging their obligations to him, and of bearing testimony to his exemplary virtues. Mr Brown Willis, Dr. Knight in his Life of Erasmus, Dr. Richardson in his edition of Godwin De Prssulibus Angliae, Professor Ward in his History of Greshain College, Dr. Fiddes in his Life of Wolsey, and Hearne in several of his publications, all hold the same language on the communicative humanity and other excellencies of this primitive confessor.
"More might be said on this head; but where genuine virtues shine so conspicuously by their own light, they want no adventitious rays. The preceding age had leaned so heavily on those collateral crutches, compliment* from cotemporaries, that panegyrics of that kind sunk into total disuse. Mr. Pope's juuevile works were, I think, the last so gilded,and his own effulgence made all those lesser stars
Hide their dtminish'd heads.
"In those indefatigable research- . es, in collections, in benevolent and friendly communications, and in the exercise of every duty and of every charity within tire limits of his contracted fortune, Mr. Baker reached the eighty-fourth year of his age, when his life terminated as mildly, though suddenly, as it had been passed. Ou Saturday the S8lh of June, 17*0, in the afternoon, he was found lying upom
the floor of his chamber; his face so much convulsed that his speech was almost inarticulate; a stupor hung mi Ins senses, and one side was dead. At times he seemed to disregard what was passing around him; at others be knew those present, and recommended himself to their prayers for an easy death ; expressing perfect resignation, as he perceived, he said, that his time was come, and thanking his friends for their kind offices. In this easy State of transition he lasted till the following Wednesday; and being almost incapable of swallowing, be took little nourishment and less of medicine, accepting with uneasiness any assistance, but to change bis linen, as he deemed all remedy impossible, and but a delay of his departure; so that his friends forbore to disturb him more than was requisite to mark that there was no neglect.
"This was the end he had often wished, preceded by a short illness, and accompanied by little or no pain. He was interred in the antichapel of St. John's college with every sincere mark of respect and ceremony from the society, and an oration in his praise was pronounced over his grave by one of the fellows.
"The last act of his life, his will, was consonant to the series of his
actions, and breathes the same devotion, humility, charity, friendship, and candour, that had adorn, ed each period. One particularity of his last testament is too memorable not to be singled from the rest of his legacies. One of them is to Dr. Conyers Middletou, whose principles in church and state were not only very different from those of Mr. Baker, but the doctor himself had lost the friendship of their common patron, the earl of Oxlord, by being converted from the narrow and bigoted creed of those who adhered to the monkish notion: of royal and ecclesiastic despotism, and who did not, like Mr. Baker, allow any toleration, nor forgive Middletou for seeing with his own eyes. Mr. Baker certainly intended no reproach to a sect, which he never quitted; but the candour of his conduct is the severest censure on every party that is intolerant. They alone who abhor toleration deserve little. They are enemies to the freedom of religion, over which God alone can have any right of empire. Mr. Baker lived and died in charity with all mankind, and was perhaps the sole instance of a man who bequeathed lis worldly goods to a society that ejected him, and to the ministers of a church in which he bad lost preferment."
Person, Disposition, Manners, &c. of Sir Robert Walpole.
[From thelirst Volume of Mr. Coxe's Memoirs of the Life and 'adMinistration ofSirRoBEnr Walpole, Earl of Orford.]
• CUR Robert Walpole was tall lO and well-proportioned, unci in his youth an opening manhood so comely, that at the time of his marriage he aod his wife were
called the handsome couple, and among the knights who walked in procession at the installation of the garter, in 1725, he was, next to the duke of Grafton and lord Towns.
bend, hend, most distinguished for his appearance. As he advanced in years be became extremely corpulent and unwieldy. His countenance does not seem to have been remarkable lor strong traits. The features were regular; when he spoke, and particularly when he smiled, his physiognomy was pleasing, benign, and eulighteued: bis eye was full of spirit and fire, and his brow prominent and manly.
"His style of dress was usually plaiu and simple; a circumstance which was not overlooked- by the Craftsman, who thus holds him up to ridicule: 'There entered a man 'dressed inaplainhabit,withapurse 'of gold in his hand. He threw
* himself forward into the room in a
* bluff ruffianly manner, a smile, or 'rather a sneer upon bis counte'nance.' His address was sotrank and open, his conversation so pleasing, and bis manner so fascinating, that those who lived with him in habits of intimacy adored him, those who saw him occasionally loved him, and even his most bitter opponents could not bate him. Que of these did not hesitate to say of him, ' Never was a man in private 'life more beloved; and hisenemies 'allow no man did ever in private 'life deserve it more. He was hu'mane and grateful, and a generous
* friend to all who he did not think 'would abuse that friendship. This
* character naturally procured that
* attachment to his person, which 'has been falsely attributed solely to
* a corrupt influence and to private 'interest; but this shewed itself ata 1 time when these principles were
* very faint in their operation, and 'when his ruin seemed inevitable.'
"Good temper and equanimity were bis leading characteristics, and the placability imprinted on his countenance was not belied by his;
conduct. Of this disposition, his generous rival, Pulteney thought so highly, that, in a conversation with Johnson, in: said, 'Sir Robert 'was of a temper so calm and equal, 'and so hard to be provoked, mat 'he was very sure he never felt the 'bitterest invectives againslhim for
* half an hour.'
"His deportment was manly and decisive, yet affable and condescending; he was easy of access; his maimer of bestowing a favour heightened the obligation; and his manner ol declining was so gracious that few persons went out of bis company discontented.
"Among those parts of his convivial character which have attracted attention, his laugb is noticed for singular gaiety and heartiness. His son familiarly observed to me, 'It would have done you good to 'bear him laugh.' Sir Charles Hanbury Williams says of luni, that be 'laughed the heart's laugb.* Nicholas Hardinge elegantly noticed its peculiarity, 'propriuquc vutcit so
* ria risu.'
"His conversation was sprightly, animated, and facetious, yet oonsionally coarse and vulgar, and too often licentious to an unpardonable degree.
'* In company with women he assumed an air of gallantry, which evenin his younger days was illsuited to his manner and chai>t< r, but in his latter years was totally incompatible with his age auu figure. He affected in bis conversation with the sex a trilling levity; but his gaiety was rutign atil loo sterous; his wit too often course and licentious.
"If we may Believe lotd Chesterfield, who knew him wt-ii, I ut whose pen was dipped in ^.all when he drew bis character, " his p»r'vailing weakness was to bo ibou, t * to have a polite and happy turn to 'gallantry, of which he had un'doubtedly less than any manjiv'ing; it was his favourite and fre4 quent subject of conversation; 'which proved, to those who had 'any penetration, that it was his
* prevailing weakness, and they ap'plied to it with success.' Pulteney also said of him, 4 A writer who 'would tell him of his success in his 'amours, would gain his confidence 'in a higher degree than one who 'commended the conduct of his ad'ministration.' To this foible also a poetaster, after speaking of him under the name of sir Robert Brass, alludes:
* Nay, to divert the sneering town,
•' This foible he shared in common with many able men, and particularly with cardinal Richelieu, who piqued himself more on being a man of gallantry than on being a great minister. It is some consolation for persons of inferior abilities, that men of superior talents are not exempt from the infirmities of human nature, and it is no uncommon circumstance, to prefer flattery on those points in which we wish to excel, to just praise for those in which we are known to excel.
"He is justly blamed for a want of political decorum, and for deriding public spirit, to which Pope alludes:
* Would be oblige me, let me only find, He does no* flunk mc what he thinks mankind.'
"Although it is not possible to justify him, yet this part of his conduct has been greatly exaggerated.
The political axiom generally attributed to him, that all men have their price, and which has been so often repeated in verse and prose, was perverted by leaving out the word those. Flowery oratory he despised; he ascribed to the interested views of themselves or their relatives, the declarations of pretended patriots, of whom he said, 'All those men have tbeir price,' and, in the event, many of them justified his observation. No man was more ready to honour and do justice to sincerity and consistency. He always mentioned bis friend the duke of Devonshire in terms of the highest affection and respect, and even applauded the uniform conduct of one of bis constant opponents. 'I wi.l noi s<iy,' he observed, 'who is corrupt, but I will say 'who is not, and tbat is Snippen.'
"His own conduct sufficiently belied the axiom trroneously imputed to him. He was consistent and uniform, never deviating in one single instance from his attachment to the protestant succession. He was neither awed by menaces or swayed by corruption; he held one line of conduct with unabating perseverance, and terminated his political career with the same sentiments of loyalty which distinguished his outset.
"He was naturally liberal, and even prodigal. His buildings at Houghton were more magnificent than suited bis circumstances, and drew on him great obloquy. He felt the.impropriety of this expenditure, and on seeing his brother's house at Wolterton, expressed bis wishes that he had contented himself with a similar structure. The following anecdote also shews tbat he regretted his profusion: sitting by Sir John Hynde Cotton, during the reign of queen Anne, aiid in