The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753)
Part 5 out of 6
wisely advised. As to his genius it would be superfluous to say any
thing here, his works are in the hands of every reader of taste, and
speak for themselves; we know not whether we can be justified in our
opinion, but we beg leave to observe, that of all Gay's performances,
his Pastorals seem to have the highest finishing; they are perfectly
Doric; the characters and dialogue are natural and rurally simple; the
language is admirably suited to the persons, who appear delightfully
[Footnote A: See Jacob.]
[Footnote B: General Dictionary, Article Gay.]
[Footnote C: Swift, ubi supra.]
* * * * *
PHILIP Duke of WHARTON,
The unhappy nobleman, the memoirs of whose life we are now about to
relate, was endowed by nature with all those shining qualifications by
which a great man can be formed. He possessed a most extensive memory,
a strong and lively imagination, and quick and ready apprehension.
By the immediate authority of his father, our noble author's studies
were confined to one particular branch of learning; with a view, no
doubt, that his son's uncommon genius might make the greater progress,
and shine with a superior lustre in that species of erudition he had
made choice of for him. On this account it was, that the earl his
father would not permit the young lord to go to public or private
schools, or to any college, or university, but had him carefully
instructed by domestic tutors; and as he gave an early display of the
most astonishing parts, the earl bent all his thoughts how to improve
them in the best manner, for his son's future advantage.
As soon as this sprightly genius, had laid a sufficient foundation in
classical learning, he studied history, particularly that of his
own country, by which he was able to discern the principles of
the constitution, the revolutions it has undergone, the variety of
accidents by which it may be endangered, and the true policy by
which it can be preserved. While he thus read history, he became a
politician; and as he did not neglect other sciences, he acquired a
general knowledge both of life and things, before most other persons
of distinction begin to read, or think at all.
By his not receiving an academical education, he escaped that
stiffness and moroseness of temper frequently contracted by those who
have been for some time condemned to a collegiate obscurity. Neither
had he the least tincture of a haughty superiority, arising from
the nobleness of his birth, and the lustre of his abilities. His
conversation was easy, pleasant, and instructive, always suited to his
company, of whatever quality, humour, or capacity they were.
As it was the earl of Wharton's view, to qualify his son to fill
that high station, in which his birth would one day place him with
advantage to his country; his great care was to form him a compleat
orator. For this purpose some of the principal parts in the best
English Tragedies were assign'd him at times to study, particularly
those of Shakespear, which he used to repeat before a private
audience. Sometimes his father gave him speeches which had been
uttered in the house of peers, and which the young lord got by heart,
and delivered with all the graces of action and elocution; with so
much propriety of expression, emphasis of voice, and pronunciation
wherever it was requisite, as shewed his lordship was born for this
arduous province. Nor did the excellency of these performances receive
a small additional beauty from the gracefulness of his person, which
was at once soft and majestic.
Thus endowed by nature to charm and persuade, what expectations might
not have been formed on him? A youth of a noble descent, who added to
that advantage the most astonishing parts ever man possessed, improved
by an uncommon and well regulated education. What pity is it, this
illustrious young man, born to have dictated to the senate, and
directed the business of a state, with the eyes of a people fixed upon
him, should fall so exceedingly short of those fair hopes, he had so
justly raised in every breath. He wanted one quality, without which
birth, fortune, and abilities, suffer a considerable diminution. That
quality is prudence; of which the duke of Wharton was so destitute,
that all his parts were lost to the world, and the world lost to him.
The first prelude to his misfortunes, may justly be reckoned his
falling in love, and privately marrying a young lady, the daughter of
major general Holmes; a match by no means suited to his birth, fortune
and character; and far less to the ambitious views his father had of
disposing of him in such a marriage, as would have been a considerable
addition to the fortune and grandeur of his illustrious family.
However disappointed the earl of Wharton might be, in his son's
marrying beneath his quality; yet that amiable lady who became his
daughter-in-law deserved infinitely more felicity than she met with
by an alliance with his family; and the young lord was not so unhappy
through any misconduct of hers, as by the death of his father, which
this precipitate marriage is thought to have hastened. The duke being
so early freed from paternal restraints, plunged himself into those
numberless excesses, which became at last fatal to him; and he proved,
as Pope expresses it,
A tyrant to the wife his heart approv'd;
A rebel to the very king he lov'd.
The young lord in the beginning of the year 1716 indulged his desire
of travelling and finishing his education abroad; and as he was
designed to be instructed in the strictest Whig principles, Geneva was
judged a proper place for his residence. On his departure from England
for this purpose, he took the rout of Holland, and visited several
courts of Germany, and that of Hanover in particular.
Though his lordship was now possessed of his family estate, as much as
a minor could be; yet his trustees very much limited his expences,
and made him too moderate remittances, for a person of his rank and
spirit. This gave him great uneasiness, and embarrassed him much in
his way of living, which ill suited with the profusion of his taste.
To remove these difficulties, he had recourse to mortgaging, and by
premiums and large interest paid to usurers, supplied his present
necessities, by rendering his affairs still worse.
The unhappy divisions which reigned in England at the time this
young peer made his first entry into public life, rendered it almost
impossible for him to stand neuter, and on whatever side he should
declare himself, still there was danger. The world generally expected
he would follow the steps of his father, who was one of the first
English gentlemen who joined the prince of Orange, and continued firm
to the Revolution principles, and consequently approved the Hanoverian
succession, upon whose basis it was built. But whatever motives
influenced the young marquis (for king William had bestowed this title
on his father) he thought proper to join the contrary party. The cause
of his abandoning the principles of the Whigs is thought to be this.
The marquis being arrived at Geneva, he conceived so great a disgust
at the dogmatical precepts of his governor, the restraints he
endeavoured to lay upon him, and the other instances of strict
discipline exercised in that meridian of Presbyterianism, that he fell
upon a scheme of avoiding these intolerable incumbrances; so, like
a torrent long confined within its bounds by strong banks, he broke
loose, and entered upon engagements, which, together with the natural
impetuosity of his temper, threw him into such inconveniencies, as
rendered the remaining part of his life unhappy.
His lordship, as we have already observed, being very much disgusted
with his governor, left him at Geneva, and as if he had been flying
from a pestilence, set out post for Lyons, where he arrived about the
middle of October 1716.
The author of the duke of Wharton's life has informed us, that the
reason of his lordship's leaving his governor so abruptly, was on
account of the freedom with which that gentleman treated him, a
circumstance very disgustful to a person of his quality. He took leave
of him in the following manner.
His lordship somewhere in his travels had picked up a bear's cub, of
which he was very fond, and carried it about with him; but when he was
determined to abandon his tutor, he left the cub behind him, with the
following note addressed to him.
'Being no longer able to bear with your ill-usage,
I think proper to be gone from you; however,
that you may not want company, I have left you
the bear, as the most suitable companion in the
world, that could be picked out for you.'
When the marquis was at Lyons he took a very strange step, little
expected from him. He wrote a letter to the Chevalier de St.
George, then residing at Avignon, to whom he presented a very fine
stone-horse. Upon receiving this present, the Chevalier sent a man of
quality to the marquis, who carried him privately to his court, where
he was received with the greatest marks of esteem, and had the title
of duke of Northumberland conferred upon him. He remained there
however but one day, and then returned post to Lyons; from whence he
set out for Paris. He likewise made a visit to the queen dowager of
England, consort to king James the IId. then residing at St. Germains,
to whom he paid his court, pursued the same rash measures as at
During his stay at Paris, his winning address, and astonishing parts,
gained him the esteem and admiration of all British subjects of both
parties who happened to be there. The earl of Stair, then ambassador
at the court of France from the king of Great Britain, notwithstanding
all the reports to the marquis's disadvantage, thought proper to shew
some respect to the representative of so great a family, which had so
resolutely supported the present administration, especially as he was
a young man of such great personal accomplishments, both natural and
acquired, and blest with a genius so capable of serving his country
even in the most eminent station.
These considerations induced lord Stair, who was a prudent, discerning
minister, to countenance the young marquis, give him frequent
invitations to his table, and to use him with distinguishing civility.
The earl was likewise in hopes, by these gentle measures, and this
insinuating behaviour, to win him to his party, which he had good
reason to think he hated. His excellency never failed to lay hold of
every opportunity, to give him some admonitions, which were not always
agreeable to the vivacity of his temper, and sometimes provoked him to
great indiscretions. Once in particular, the ambassador extolling the
merit, and noble behaviour of the marquis's father, added, 'That he
hoped he would follow so illustrious an example of fidelity to his
prince, and love to his country, by treading in the same steps.'--Upon
which the marquis immediately answered, 'That he thanked his
excellency for his good advice, and as his excellency had also a
worthy and deserving father, he hoped he would likewise copy so bright
an original and tread in all his steps.' This was a severe sarcasm, as
the ambassador's father had betrayed his master in a manner that was
quite shameful. He acted the same part in Scotland, which Sunderland
did in England. They pushed on king James the IId. to take violent and
unconstitutional measures, to make his ruin certain: They succeeded
in their scheme, and after the Revolution, boasted their conduct as
meritorious; but however necessary it might be for king William, upon
principles of policy to reward the betrayers, he had yet too good
a heart to approve the treachery.--But to return to the marquis, we
shall mention another of his juvenile fights, as an instance to what
extravagant and unaccountable excesses, the inconstancy of his temper
would sometimes transport him.
A young English surgeon, who went to Paris, to improve himself in
his business, by observing the practice in the celebrated hospitals,
passing by the embassador's house on the 10th of June at night, took
the liberty to break his excellency's windows because there was no
bonfire before his door. Upon this outrage he was seized and committed
prisoner to Fort L'Eveque. This treatment of the young surgeon was
resented by the marquis; but he fought for no other satisfaction
than to break the ambassador's windows a second time. Accordingly his
lordship proposed it to an Irish lieutenant-general, in the service of
France, a gentleman of great honour and of the highest reputation for
abilities in military affairs, desiring his company and assistance
therein. The general could not help smiling at the extravagance of the
proposal, and with a great deal of good-nature advised his lordship
by all means not to make any such attempts; 'but if he was resolutely
bent upon it, he begg'd to be excused from being of the party, for it
was a method of making war to which he had never been accustomed.'
We might here enumerate more frolics of the same kind which he either
projected, or engaged in, but we chuse rather to omit them as they
reflect but little honour on the marquis.--We shall only observe,
that before he left France, an English gentleman of distinction
expostulating with him, for swerving so much from the principles of
his father and his whole family, his lordship answered, 'That he
had pawned his principles to Gordon the Pretender's banker for a
considerable sum; and till he could repay him, he must be a Jacobite,
but that when that was done he would again return to the Whigs.'
About the latter end of December 1716, the marquis arrived in England,
where he did not remain long, till he set out for Ireland; in which
kingdom, on account of his extraordinary qualities, he had the honour
done him of being admitted, though under age, to take his seat in that
august assembly of the house of peers, to which he had a right as earl
of Rathfarnam, and marquis of Catherlough. Here he espoused a very
different interest from that which he had so lately embraced. He
distinguished himself on this occasion as a violent partizan for the
ministry; and acted in all other respects, as well in his private
as public capacity, with the warmest zeal for the government. The
speeches which he made in the house upon many occasions, uttered
with so much force of expression, and propriety of emphasis, were
an irrefutable demonstration of his abilities, and drew upon him the
admiration of both kingdoms. The marquis's arguments had very great
influence on which side of the question soever he happened to be.--No
nobleman, either in that or the English house of peers, ever acquitted
himself with greater reputation, or behaved with a more becoming
dignity than he did during this session of the Irish parliament. In
consequence of this zeal for the new government, shewn at a time when
they stood much in need of men of abilities, and so little expected
from the young marquis, the king who was no stranger to the most
refined rules of policy, created him a duke, the highest degree of a
In the preamble to his patent, after a detail of the merit of his
father, and his services to the government are illustrated, his
lordship's behaviour in Ireland and his early endowments are thus
'When we see the son of that great man, forming himself by so worthy
an example, and in every action exhibiting a lively resemblance of
his father; when we consider the eloquence he has exerted with so much
applause in the parliament of Ireland, and his turn and application,
even in early youth to the serious and weighty affairs of the public,
we willingly decree him honours which are neither superior to his
merits, nor earlier than the expectation of our good subjects.'
As soon as the duke of Wharton came of age, he was introduced to the
house of lords in England, with the like blaze of reputation, and
raised jealousies in the breasts of the most consummately artful, and
best qualified in the house of peers. A little before the death of
lord Stanhope, his grace, who was constant in nothing but inconstancy,
again changed sides, opposed the court, and endeavoured to defeat all
the schemes of the ministry.
He appeared one of the most forward and vigorous in the defence of the
bishop of Rochester, and in opposing the bill for inflicting pains and
penalties on that prelate.
The judicious observations he made on the trial of the bishop, and the
manner in which he summed up and compared a long and perplexed kind
of evidence, with inimitable art and perspicuity, may be seen in the
duke's speech upon that extraordinary occasion, which is a lasting
proof of his amazing abilities in the legislative capacity, as well as
of his general knowledge of public business.
He, however, did not confine this spirit of opposition to the house of
lords, but exerted it both in city and country, promoting in all kinds
of elections such persons as were supposed to be no fautors of the
court. Such was the hatred he now conceived to the ministry, and such
his desire of becoming eminent; that he even pushed himself into
the city of London; was invested with the rights and privileges of a
citizen, and was entered a member of the wax-chandler's company; by
virtue of which he appeared at all meetings, charmed all societies,
and voted in his own right upon all occasions.
Notwithstanding his astonishing activity in opposition to the court,
he was not yet satisfied that he had done enough. He could not be in
all places, and in all companies at once. As much an orator as he was,
he could not talk to the whole nation, and therefore he printed his
thoughts twice a week, in a paper called the True-Briton, several
thousands of which being dispersed weekly, the duke was pleased to
find the whole kingdom giving attention to him, and admiring him as an
author, though they did not at all approve his reasoning.
Those political papers, which were reckoned by some the standard
of good sense, and elegant writing, were collected together in his
life-time, and reprinted by his order, with a preface, in which he
gives his reasons for engaging in an undertaking so uncommon to a
person of his distinction.
Here it will not be improper to remark, that notwithstanding all those
instances of the duke's zeal, his sincerity in opposing the ministry
was yet suspected, as his former behaviour was so very inconsistent
with it; but he never failed to justify himself throughout the
different and contrary courses of his conduct, pretending always to
have acted consistently with the honour and interest of the realm. But
he never was able in this particular to obtain the public judgment in
It is impossible to reconcile all the various actions of this
noble-man. He was certainly too much governed by whim and accident.
From this time forward, however, though he might deviate from the
strict rules of a moral life, he cannot be said to have done so with
respect to his politics. The same principles on which he set out,
he carried to his grave, with steadiness through all the events of
fortune, and underwent such necessities, as few of his quality ever
experienced, in a cause, the revival and success of which had long
been desperate, before he engaged in it.
The duke's boundless profusion had by this time so burthened his
estate, that a decree of chancery took hold on it, and vested it in
the hands of trustees for the payment of his debts, but not without
making a provision of 1200 l. per annum for his subsistence. This
allowance not being sufficient to support his title with suitable
dignity at home, he proposed to go abroad for some years, 'till his
estate should clear itself of incumbrances. His friends, for his own
sake, were pleased with this resolution, and every body considered
this course as the most prudent, that in such circumstances could be
taken. But in this the world was deceived, for he went abroad from no
such prudent motive, oeconomy being a virtue of which he never had the
least notion in any part of his life. His business at Vienna was to
execute a private commission, not in favour of the English ministry,
nor did he ever shine to greater advantage, as to his personal
character, than at the Imperial court.
From Vienna his grace made a tour to the court of Spain, where his
arrival alarmed the English minister so much, that two expresses were
sent from Madrid to London, upon the apprehension that his grace was
received there in the character of an ambassador, upon which the duke
received a summons under the Privy Seal to return home. His behaviour
on this occasion was a sufficient indication that he never designed to
return to England, whilst affairs remained in the same state, and
the administration in the same hands they then were in. This he often
declared from his going abroad the second time, which, no doubt, was
the occasion of his treating that solemn order with so much indignity,
and endeavouring to enflame the Spanish court, not only against the
person who delivered the warrant, but against the court of Great
Britain itself, for exercising an act of power, as he was pleased to
call it, within the jurisdiction of his Catholic Majesty. After this
he acted openly in the service of the Pretender, and appeared at his
court, where he was received with great marks of favour.
While his grace was thus employed abroad, his duchess, who had been
neglected by him, died in England, on the 14th of April 1726, and left
no issue behind her. The lady's death gave the duke no great shock.
He was disencumbered of her and had now an opportunity of mending his
fortune by marriage.
Soon after this, the duke fell violently in love with Mademoiselle
Obern, a beautiful young lady at the Spanish court, who was then one
of the maids of honour to the Queen of Spain. She was daughter of an
Irish colonel in that service, who being dead, her mother lived upon
a pension the King allowed her, so that this lady's fortune consisted
chiefly in her personal accomplishments. Many arguments were used by
their friends on both sides to dissuade them from the marriage. The
Queen of Spain, when the duke asked her consent, represented to him
in the most lively terms, that the consequence of the match would be
misery to both, and absolutely refused her consent.
Having now no hopes of obtaining her, he fell into a violent
melancholy, which introduced a lingering fever, of which he languished
'till he was almost ready to drop into the ground. This circumstance
reaching her Majesty's ear, she was moved with his distress, and sent
him word to endeavour the recovery of his health, and as soon as he
was able to appear abroad, she would speak to him in a more favourable
manner, than at their last interview. The duke upon receiving this
news, imagined it the best way to take the advantage of the kind
disposition her Majesty was in; and summoning to his assistance his
little remaining strength, he threw himself at her Majesty's feet, and
begged of her either to give him Mademoiselle Obern, or not to order
him to live, assuring her, in the language of tragedy, that she was to
pronounce the sentence of his life, or death. The Queen consented,
but told him he would soon repent it, and the young lady being dazzled
with the lustre of a ducal title, and besides having a real value for
her lover, they were soon united by an indissoluble bond.
After the solemnization of his marriage, he passed some time at Rome,
where he accepted of a blue garter, affected to appear with the title
of duke of Northumberland, and for awhile enjoyed the confidence of
the exiled Prince. But as he could not always keep himself within the
bounds of the Italian gravity, and having no employment to amuse his
active temper, he ran into his usual excesses, which giving offence,
it was thought proper for him to remove from that city for the
present, lest he should fall into actual disgrace. Accordingly the
duke quitted Rome, and went by sea to Barcelona, where hearing that
the trenches were opening before Gibraltar, he resolved upon a new
scene of life, which few suspected he would ever engage in. He wrote
a letter to the King of Spain, acquainting him, 'That he designed
to take up arms in his Majesty's service, and apprehending that his
forces were going to reduce the town of Gibraltar under his obedience,
he hoped he should have his permission to assist at the siege as a
This done, he went to the camp, taking his duchess along with him,
and was received with all the marks of respect due to his quality.
The Conde de la Torres, who commanded there, delivered him an obliging
letter from the King his master, thanking him for the honour he
intended him, by serving in his troops, and during that siege,
appointed him his aid-de-camp, by which, post the duke was to give an
account of all transactions to his Majesty himself, which obliged
him to be often in the trenches, and to expose his person to imminent
danger. During this siege want of courage was never imputed to him; on
the contrary, he was often guilty of the most imprudent rashness. One
evening he went close to the walls, near one of the posts of the town,
and threatened the soldiers of the garrison. They asked who he was? he
readily answered, the duke of Wharton; and though he appeared there as
an enemy, they suffered him to return to the trenches without firing
one shot at him.
This siege was ended, and the duke received no other hurt, than a
wound in his foot by the bursting of a grenade, and when nothing more
was to be done in the camp, he went to court, where he was held in the
utmost respect by the principal nobility. The King likewise, as a
mark of his favour, was pleased to give him a commission of Colonel
Agregate (that was the term) to one of the Irish regiments, called
Hibernia, and commanded by the marquis de Castelar.
Could the duke have been satisfied with that state of life, and
regulated his expences according to his income, he had it then in his
power to live, if not affluently, at least easily. But in a short time
he was for changing the scene of action; he grew weary of Madrid, and
set his heart on Rome. In consequence of this resolution, he wrote a
letter to the Chevalier de St. George, full of respect and submission,
expressing a desire of visiting his court; but the Chevalier returned
for answer, that he thought it more advisable for his grace to draw
near England, than make a tour to Rome, that he might be able to
accommodate matters with the government at home, and take some care
of his personal estate. The Chevalier very prudently judged, that so
wretched an oeconomist as the duke, would be too great a burden to a
person, whose finances were not in a much better condition than his
own. Be that as it may, the duke seemed resolved to follow his advice,
and accordingly set out for France, in company with his duchess, and
attended by two or three servants, arrived at Paris in May 1728. He
sent a letter to Mr. Walpole then embassador there, to let him know
he designed to visit him. That gentleman returned the duke a civil
answer, importing, 'that he should be glad to see his grace at his own
time, if he intended it a public visit; if a private one, they would
agree upon an hour, that should be most convenient.' The duke declared
that he would come publicly, which he did next day, and his discourse
with that minister was suitable to the usual gaiety of his temper; for
though he spoke of returning home, it was in such an undetermined way,
that Mr. Walpole could not guess his real intentions. He received the
duke however with his usual complaisance, and with a respect agreeable
to his quality, but was not a little surprized, when, at parting, his
grace told him, he was going to dine with the bishop of Rochester. Mr.
Walpole answered, 'That if he had a design of making that prelate a
visit, there was no manner of occasion for telling him of it.' Thus
they parted, and never again had another interview.
The duke made little stay at Paris, but proceeded to Rouen in his
way, as some imagined, to England; but there he stopt, and took up
his residence, without reflecting in the least on the business that
brought him to France. He was so far from making any concession to the
government in order to make his peace, that he did not give himself
the least trouble about his personal estate, or any other concern in
England. The duke had about 600 l. in his possession, when he arrived
at Rouen, where more of his servants joined him from Spain. There he
formed his houshold, and made a calculation, in which there appeared
to be but one mistake, that is, he proportioned his expences, not
according to his income, but quality; and though every argument was
used to convince him of this error, at once so obvious and fatal, yet
he would hearken to no admonition while he had one crown left.
At Rouen, as in every other place, the duke charmed all those who
conversed with him; he was warmly received by persons of the first
distinction in that province, with whom he took the diversion of
hunting twice a week, 'till some news arrived, which would have given
interruption to the mirth of any other man; but the alteration was
scarce to be perceived in him.
This was a Bill of Indictment preferred against Philip duke of
Wharton, for high treason. The fact laid to his charge was, appearing
in arms before, and firing off cannon against, his Majesty's town of
Gibraltar. Here we cannot omit an anecdote, from which the reader
may draw what conclusion he pleases. During the time the proceedings
against the duke were at a stand in the long vacation, a gentleman
of character, intimately acquainted with the duke, and also with his
affairs in England; one who enjoyed the sunshine of court favour, and
was a Member of Parliament, went over to Rouen to visit his grace, in
company with another gentleman. These two visitants took a great deal
of pains to persuade him to submit to the government, and return to
his estate, which they assured him he might do, by writing a letter to
the King, or the ministry. This alone, without any other pretensions
to favour, was to re-establish him, and leave him the free enjoyment
of his estate, which, notwithstanding all the reductions, would
even then have yielded 6000 l. a year. This point they sollicited
incessantly, and their words of honour were given, to remove all
scruples his grace might have about the performance of the conditions.
Their interpositions were however in vain; he refused to submit to the
ministry, or write to the King, and thought it beneath him to ask a
This conduct of the duke may be imputed, by some, to pride and
obstinacy, but a more natural construction is, that he was afraid of
treachery. He could not discover upon what motives, two persons whom
he looked upon as creatures of the court, would give themselves the
trouble to come to Rouen, in order to persuade him to act for his
own interest, unless they had some concealed views of such a nature,
perhaps, as would prove fatal to him, should he submit.
He soon after this received advice from England, that his trustees
could remit him no more of his annuity, on account of the indictment
preferred against him. There was now a dreadful prospect before him;
his money was wasted; all future supplies cut off; and there was a
large family to support, without any hopes of relief. He began now to
feel the effects of the indictment, which he before held in so much
contempt; he complained of it as a rigorous proceeding, because it
laid him under a necessity of asking a favour, and receiving it in a
public manner, which he fancied neither consistent with his honour,
or reputation. Thus exasperated against the government, he wrote the
memorable paper which he contrived to get printed in Mist's Journal,
under the colour of an account of Mirevais and Sultan Ezref, which
contained severe reflexions on the administration. Mean time the
duke's credit at Rouen began to sink; he was attended every morning
with a considerable levee, consisting of the tradesmen of that city,
who came with importunate faces to demand payment of their bills,
which he discharged by quitting Rouen, leaving his horses and equipage
to be sold, and the money to be divided among them. The duke, before
this event, had thrown himself at the feet of the Chevalier de St.
George, as the only possible resource he had left. Accordingly he
wrote him a most moving letter, giving him a detail of his present
sufferings, very pathetically representing the distress to which he
was reduced, and humbly imploring his protection, with what little
assistance might be necessary to enable him to support such a burthen
of calamities, as he found otherwise too heavy to bear.
* * * * *
The duke having now returned to Paris, made a considerable reformation
in his houshold affairs, and placed himself in a private family, while
the duchess went to a relation's at St. Germains. In the mean while
the answer of the letter sent to Rome came in its proper time, in
which his imprudent conduct was represented; but at the same time was
touched with so light and delicate a hand, that it gave the duke
but little uneasiness. No hopes were given him, that he should be
gratified in his extravagancies, or flattered in his levities; on the
contrary he was told, 'That as his past conduct had not merited any
favour, nothing but his future behaviour could recommend him to it.'
The duke had sufficient penetration to discover by this hint, that he
was not likely to be abandoned, which was consolation enough to one
of his sanguine temper, in the then desperate situation of his
affairs.--The Chevalier de St. George soon after sent him 2000 l.
for his support, of which he was no sooner in possession, than he
squandered it away in a course of extravagance. In reality, money
seemed to be such a burthen to him, that he bent all his thoughts
to get rid of it as fast as possible; and he was as unwilling his
companions should be troubled with it as himself. As a proof of this
strange temper we shall quote one instance amongst many in the words
of the writer of his life, which will serve to shew the heedless
profusion of that unaccountable nobleman.
'A young Irish lord of the duke's acquaintance, of a sweet obliging
and generous disposition, happening to be at St. Germains, at the time
his grace was paying a visit to his lady; the duke came to him one
night, with an air of business, and told his lordship that an affair
of importance called him instantly to Paris, in which no time was to
be lost, wherefore he begged the favour of his lordship's coach. The
young nobleman lent it very readily, but as the duke was stepping into
it, he added, that he should reckon it an additional obligation, if
his lordship would give him, his company: As the duke was alone,
the young lord either could not, or would not, refuse him. They went
together for Paris, where they arrived about midnight. The duke's
companion then supposing his grace's business might demand privacy,
offered to leave him and come again, when it should be finished; but
he assured his lordship it was not necessary; upon which they went
upon the following frolic together. The first thing to be done, was to
hire a coach and four horses; the next to find out the music belonging
to the Opera, six or eight of which his grace engaged at a set price:
The young lord could not imagine in what this would end; till they
returned to St. Germains, which was at five the next morning when the
duke marching directly with his troop to the castle, ordered them to
strike upon the stairs. Then the plot broke out into execution, being
no more than to serenade some young ladies, near whose apartments they
'This piece of extravagant gallantry being over, the duke persuaded
the young lord to go about a mile off, to Poissy, where an English
gentleman 'of their acquaintance lived: His lordship consenting, the
duke took with him a pair of trumpets, and a kettle-drum, to give
the music a more martial air: But to this the Opera music made an
objection at first, because as they should be wanted that night
in their posts, they should forfeit half a louis d' or each, for
non-appearance. Half a louis d' or! says his grace, follow the duke
of Wharton, and all your forfeitures shall be paid. They did so, and
entered Poissy in such a musical manner, that they alarmed the whole
town, and their friend did not know whether he had best keep his
house, or fly for it; but the affair was soon explained, and the
musical troop was entertained by the gentleman their friend, in a very
handsome manner. This frolic being now finished, there was one thing
more absolutely necessary, viz. to discharge the reckoning, upon which
occasion the duke in a very laconic manner addressed himself to the
young lord.' My lord, says he, 'I have not one livre in my pocket,
wherefore I must desire you to pay these fellows, and I'll do as
much for you whenever I am able. Upon this his lordship with great
chearfulness, paid all demands, amounting to 25 louis d' ors.'
It may seem a strange observation, but it is certainly true, that the
brute creation differs not more from the rational in many respects,
than a man from himself: That by suffering passions to usurp the
dominion of the soul, human nature is stript of its dignity, debased
to the beasts that perish, and still rendered more ignominious by the
complications of guilt. We have already seen the duke of Wharton set
up as the idol of an admiring people; an august senate listened to
the enchantments of his eloquence; a powerful ministry dreading his
resolutions; he was courted, flattered, feared; and obeyed. View him
now, and the scene is shifted. Observe him descending to the most
abject trifling, stooping to the meanest expedients, and the orator
and statesman transformed to the vagabond and the wanderer.
No incident in this nobleman's life has been represented more to his
disadvantage, and is in itself more interesting than the following.
The account which is here inserted was sent to a friend by the duke's
A Scots peer with whom both the duke, and the duchess lived in great
intimacy in Italy, happening to come to Paris, when the duke was
there, they renewed their acquaintance and friendship, and for some
time continued with mutual freedom, till the duke had reason to
believe from what he heard from others, that the peer had boasted
favours from the duchess of Wharton.
This instance of wanton vanity, the duke could not help resenting,
though he often declared since the quarrel, that he never had the
least suspicion of the duchess's honour. He resolved therefore very
prudently to call the Scots lord to an account, without letting
him know it was for the duchess or so much as mentioning her name;
accordingly he took occasion to do it in this manner.
It happened that the duke of Wharton and his lordship met at a lady's
whom they mutually visited, and the duke dropping his glove by chance,
his lordship took it up, and returned it to the duke; who thereupon
asked him if he would take it up in all it's forms? To which his
lordship answered, yes, my lord, in all its forms.
Some days after, the duke gave a ball at St. Germains, to which he
invited the Scots nobleman, and some person indiscretely asked his
grace whether he had forbid the duchess's dancing with lord C----.
This gave the duke fresh reason to believe that the Scots peer had
been administring new grounds for his resentment, by the wantonness
of calumny. He dissembled his uneasiness for the present, and very
politely entertained the company till five o'clock in the morning,
when he went away without the ceremony of taking leave; and the next
news that was heard of him was from Paris, from whence he sent a
challenge to lord C----d, to follow him to Flanders.
The challenge was delivered by his servant, and was to this effect:
'That his lordship might remember his saying he took up his glove in
all its forms, which upon mature reflexion, his grace looked upon to
be such an affront, as was not to be born, wherefore he desired his
lordship to meet him at Valenciennes, where he would expect him with a
friend and a pair of pistols; and on failure of his lordship's coming
his grace would post him, &c.
The servant who delivered the letter, did not keep its contents a
secret; and lord C----d was taken into custody, when he was about
setting out to meet his grace. All that remained then for his lordship
to do, was to send a gentleman into Flanders, to acquaint the duke
with what happened to him. His grace upon seeing the gentleman,
imagining him to be his lordship's second, spoke to him in this
manner; 'Sir, I hope my lord will favour me so far as to let us use
pistols, because the wound I received in my foot before Gibraltar,
in some measure disables me from the sword.' Hereupon the gentleman
replied with some emotion, 'My lord duke, you might chuse what you
please; my lord C----d will fight you with any weapon, from a small
pin to a great cannon; but this is not the case, my lord is under an
arrest, by order of the duke of Berwick.'
His grace being thus disappointed in the duel, and his money being
almost spent, he returned to Paris, and was also put under an arrest
till the affair was made up by the interposition of the duke of
Berwick, under whose cognizance it properly came as Marshal of France.
The duke's behaviour on this occasion, so far from being reproachable,
seems to be the most manly action of his whole life. What man of
spirit would not resent the behaviour of another, who should boast
of favours from his wife, especially when in all probability he never
His grace's conducting the quarrel, so as to save the reputation of
his duchess, by not so much as having her name called in question, was
at once prudent, and tender; for whether a lady is guilty or no, if
the least suspicion is once raised, there are detractors enough in
the world ready to fix the stain upon her. The Scots lord deserved the
severest treatment, for living in strict friendship with two persons
of quality, and then with an insidious cruelty endeavouring to sow
the seeds of eternal discord between them, and all to gratify a little
vanity: Than such a conduct nothing can be more reproachable.
Not long after this adventure, a whim seized the duke of going into
a convent, in order to prepare for Easter; and while he was there, he
talked with so much force and energy upon all points of religion, that
the pious fathers beheld him with admiration. Mankind were for some
time in suspense, what would be the issue of this new course of life;
but he soon put an end to their speculations by appearing again in
the world, and running headlong into as wild courses of vice and
extravagance, as he had ever before done. He had for a companion, a
gentleman for whom he entertained a very high esteem; but one who
was as much an enemy as possible to such a licentious behaviour. In
another situation, our noble author would have found it a happiness
to be constantly attended by a person of his honour, probity, and good
sense; but the duke's strange and unaccountable conduct, rendered
the best endeavours to serve him ineffectual. In a letter which that
gentleman wrote to a friend in London, he concludes with a melancholy
representation of the duke's present circumstances;
----'However, notwithstanding what I have suffered, and what my
brother 'madman' has done to undo himself, and every body who was so
unlucky as to have the least concern with him, I could not help being
sensibly moved on so extraordinary a vicissitude of fortune, to see a
great man fallen from that shining light, in which I have beheld him
in the house of lords, to such a degree of obscurity, that I have
beheld the meanest commoner here decline his company; and the Jew he
would sometimes fasten on, grow tired of it, for you know he is a
bad orator in his cups, and of late he has been seldom sober. A week
before he left Paris, he was so reduced, that he had not one single
crown at command, and was forced to thrust in with any acquaintance
for a lodging: Walsh and I have had him by turns, all to avoid a crowd
of duns, which he had of all sizes, from 1400 livres to 4, who hunted
him so close, that he was forced to retire to some of the neighbouring
villages for safety. I, sick as I was, hurried about Paris to get him
money, and to St. Germains to get him linen. I bought him one shirt
and a cravat, which, with 500 livres, his whole stock, he and his
duchess, attended by one servant, set out for Spain. All the news
I have heard of him since, is, that a day or two after he sent for
captain Brierly, and two or three of his domestics to follow him; but
none but the captain obeyed the summons. Where they are now I cannot
tell, but I fear they must be in great distress by this time, if he
has had no other supplies; and so ends my melancholy story.'
In this deplorable situation did the duke leave Paris, an instance
indeed of the strange reverse of fortune, but for which he could not
blame the severity of providence, or the persecution of enemies, but
his own unbounded profusion, a slave to which he seems to have been
born. As a long journey did not very well suit with his grace's
finances, so he went for Orleans, thence fell down the river Loire
to Nantz in Britany, and there he stopt some time 'till he got
a remittance from Paris, which was squandered almost as soon as
received. At Nantz some of his ragged servants rejoined him, and
from thence he took shipping with them from Bilboa, as if he had been
carrying recruits to the Spanish regiment. From Bilboa he wrote a
humorous letter to a friend at Paris, such as his fancy, not his
circumstances, dictated, giving a whimsical account of his voyage, and
his manner of passing away his time. But at the end, as if he had
been a little affected with his late misconduct, he concludes thus,
'notwithstanding what the world may say of me,
'Be kind to my remains, and O! defend,
Against your judgment, your departed friend[A].'
When the duke arrived at Bilboa, he had neither friends, money,
nor credit, more than what the reputation of his Spanish commission
procured him. Upon the strength of that he left his duchess and
servant there, and went to his regiment, where he was obliged to
support himself upon the pay of 18 pistoles a month, but could get no
relief for the poor lady and family he left behind him. The distress
of the duchess was inexpressible, nor is it easy to conceive what
would have been the consequence, if her unhappy circumstances had not
reached the ear of another exiled nobleman at Madrid, who could not
hear of her sufferings without relieving her. This generous exile,
touched with her calamities, sent her a hundred Spanish pistoles,
which relieved her grace from a kind of captivity, and enabled her to
come to Madrid, where she lived with her mother and grandmother, while
the duke attended his regiment. Not long after this, the duke's family
had a great loss in the death of his lady's mother, by which they were
deprived of a pension they before enjoyed from the crown of Spain; but
this was fortunately repaired by the interest of a nobleman at court,
who procured the duchess's two sisters to be minuted down for Maids of
Honour to the Queen of Spain, whenever a vacancy should happen, but
to enter immediately upon the salary of these places. Her Majesty
likewise took the duchess to attend her person.
There have been many instances of people, who have sustained the
greatest shocks which adversity can inflict, through a whole life of
suffering, and yet at last have yielded to the influence of a trifling
evil: something like this was the case of the duke of Wharton, which
the following story will illustrate.
He was in garrison at Barcelona, and coming from a ball one night, in
company with some ladies, a man in a masque, whom he did not know,
was guilty of some rudeness to him. The duke enquired who he was,
and being informed that he was valet de chambre to the marquis
de Risbourg, governour of Catalonia, he suffered himself to be
transported by the first motions of his passion, and caned him. The
fellow complained of this usage to his master, who at first took no
notice of it, imagining his grace would make some excuse to him for
such a procedure, but whether the duke thought it beneath his quality
to make any apology for beating a menial servant, who had been rude
to him, or would not do it upon another account, he spoke not a word
about it. The marquis resenting this behaviour, two days after ordered
the duke to prison. He obeyed, and went to Fort Montjuich: as soon as
he arrived there, the marquis sent him word, he might come out when he
pleased; the duke answered, he scorned to accept liberty at his hands,
and would not stir without an order from the court, imagining they
would highly condemn the governour's conduct; but the marquis had too
much credit with the minister, to suffer any diminution of his power
on that account; he received only a sharp rebuke, and the duke
had orders to repair to his quarters, without entering again into
Barcelona. This last mortification renewed the remembrance of all
his misfortunes; he sunk beneath this accident, and giving way to
melancholy, fell into a deep consumption. Had the duke maintained
his usual spirit, he would probably have challenged the marquis, and
revenged the affront of the servant upon the master, who had made the
quarrel his own, by resenting the valet's deserved correction.
About the beginning of the year 1731 he declined so fast, being in his
quarters, at Lerida, that he had not the use of his limbs, so as to
move without assistance; but as he was free from pain, he did not
lose all his gaiety. He continued in this ill state of health for two
months, when he gained a little strength, and found some benefit
from a certain mineral water in the mountains of Catalonia; but his
constitution was too much spent to recover the shocks it had received.
He relapsed the May following at Terragana, whither he removed with
his regiment; and going to the above mentioned waters, the benefit
whereof he had already experienced, he fell into one of those fainting
fits, to which he had for some time been subject, in a small village,
and was utterly destitute of all the necessaries of life, 'till
some charitable fathers of a Bernardine convent, offered him what
assistance their house afforded. The duke accepted their kind
proposal, upon which they removed him to their convent, and
administered all the relief in their power. Under this hospitable
roof, after languishing a week, died the duke of Wharton, without one
friend, or acquaintance to close his eyes. His funeral was performed
in the same manner in which the fathers inter those of their own
Thus we have endeavoured to exhibit an adequate picture of the duke
of Wharton, a man whose life was as strongly chequered with
the vicissitudes of fortune, as his abilities were various and
astonishing. He is an instance of the great imbecility of intellectual
powers, when once they spurn the dictates of prudence, and the maxims
of life. With all the lustre of his understanding, when his fortune
was wasted, and his circumstances low, he fell into contempt; they
who formerly worshipped him, fled from him, and despised his wit when
attended with poverty. So true is it that,
Want is the scorn of every wealthy fool,
And wit in rags is turn'd to ridicule.
The duke of Wharton seems to have lived as if the world should be new
modelled for him; for he would conform to none of the rules, by which
the little happiness the world can yield, is to be attained. But we
shall not here enlarge on his character, as we can present it to the
reader, drawn in the most lively manner, by the masterly touches of
Pope, who in one of his familiar epistles, thus characterizes him.
POPE's Epistle on the KNOWLEDGE
and CHARACTERS of MEN.
Wharton, the scorn and wonder of our days,
Whose darling passion was the lust of praise:
Born with whate'er could win it from the wise,
Women and fools must like him, or he dies;
Tho' wond'ring senates hung on all he spoke,
The club must hail him master of the joke.
Shall parts so various aim at nothing new?
He'll shine a Tully and a Wilmot too;
Then turns repentant, and his God adores,
With the same spirit that he drinks and whores;
Enough if all around him but admire,
And now the Punk applaud, and now the Friar.
Thus with each gift of nature and of art,
And wanting nothing but an honest heart;
Grown all to all, from no one vice exempt;
And most contemptible, to shun contempt;
His passion still to covet gen'ral praise,
His life, to forfeit it a thousand ways;
A constant bounty which no friend has made;
An angel tongue which no man can persuade;
A fool, with more of wit than half mankind,
Too rash for thought, for action too refin'd:
A tyrant to the wife his heart approves;
A rebel to the very King he loves;
He dies, sad out-cast of each church and state,
And, harder still! flagitious, yet not great.
Ask you why Wharton broke thro' ev'ry rule?
'Twas all for fear the Knaves should call him Fool.
Pope's Works, Vol. III. The duke is author of two volumes of poems, of
which we shall select the following as a specimen.
The FEAR of DEATH.
Say, sov'reign queen of awful night,
Dread tyrant say!
Why parting throes this lab'ring frame distend,
Why dire convulsions rend,
And teeming horrors wreck th' astonish'd sight?
Why shrinks the trembling soul,
Why with amazement full
Pines at thy rule, and sickens at thy sway?
Why low'r the thunder of thy brow,
Why livid angers glow,
Mistaken phantom, say?
Far hence exert thy awful reign,
Where tutelary shrines and solemn busts
Inclose the hallow'd dust:
Where feeble tapers shed a gloomy ray,
And statues pity feign;
Where pale-ey'd griefs their wasting vigils keep,
There brood with sullen state, and nod with downy sleep.
Advance ye lurid ministers of death!
And swell the annals of her reign:
Crack every nerve, sluice every vein;
And choak the avenues of breath.
Freeze, freeze, ye purple tides!
Or scorch with seering flames, AEra's nature flows in tepid streams,
And life's meanders glide.
Let keen despair her icy progress make,
And slacken'd nerves their talk forsake;
Years damp the vital fire.
Yawn all ye horrors of the flood;
And curl your swelling surges higher.
Survey the road!
Where desolating storms, and vengeful fates,
The gawdy scene deface;
Ambition in its widest havock trace
Thro' widow'd cities, and unpeopl'd states.
And is this all!
Are these the threaten'd terrors of your reign?
O dream of fancy'd power!
Quit, quit, th' affected shew,
This pageantry of grief, and labour'd pomp of woe.
Draw the pleasing scene,
Where dreadful thunders never rowl, nor giddy tempests low'r.
Passions sooth'd, and tumult dying;
Always new, and always flying.
We dread we know not what, we fear we know not why,
Our cheated fancy shrinks, nor sees to die
Is but to slumber into immortality.
All reconciling name!
In space unbounded as in power;
Where fancy limits cannot frame;
Nor reason launch beyond the shore:
An equal state from all distinction free,
Spread like the wide expanse of vast immensity.
Seditious tumults there obey,
And feuds their zeal forget:
Debated empires own one common sway,
There learn'd disputes unite;
Nor crowded volumes the long war maintain:
There rival chiefs combine
To fill the gen'ral chorus of her reign.
So streams from either pole,
Thro' diff'rent tracks their wat'ry journies rowl;
Then in the blending ocean lose their name,
And with consenting waves and mingl'd tides forever flow the same.
[Footnote A: These two lines are taken from Dryden, who addressed them
to Congreve, when he recommended to him the care of his works.]
* * * * *
This gentleman was of the first rank of wit and gallantry. He received
his education at All Souls College in the university of Oxford, to
which he left a donation of 30,000 l. by his will, part of which was
to be appropriated for building a new library[A]. He was many years
governour of the Leeward Islands, where he died, but was buried at
Oxford. He is mentioned here, on account of some small pieces of
poetry, which he wrote with much elegance and politeness. Amongst
these pieces is an epilogue to Mr. Southern's tragedy called The Fate
of Capua, in which are the following verses;
Wives still are wives, and he that will be billing,
Must not think cuckoldom deserves a killing.
What if the gentle creature had been kissing,
Nothing the good man married for was missing.
Had he the secret of her birth-right known,
'Tis odds the faithful Annals would have shewn
The wives of half his race more lucky than his own.
[Footnote A: Jacob.]
* * * * *
A man of low extraction, and who never received any regular education.
He was an imitator of the famous Butler, and wrote his Reformation, a
poem, with an aim at the same kind of humour which has so remarkably
distinguished Hudibras. 'Of late years, says Mr. Jacob, he has kept a
public house in the city, but in a genteel way.' Ward was, in his
own droll manner, a violent antagonist to the Low Church Whigs and in
consequence, of this, drew to his house such people as had a mind
to indulge their spleen against the government, by retailing little
stories of treason. He was thought to be a man of strong natural
parts, and possessed a very agreeable pleasantry of temper. Ward was
much affronted when he read Mr. Jacob's account, in which he mentions
his keeping a public house in the city, and in a book called Apollo's
Maggot, declared this account to be a great falsity, protesting that
his public house was not in the City, but in Moorfields[A].
The chief of this author's pieces are,
Hudibras Redivivus, a political Poem.
Don Quixote, translated into Hudibrastic Verse.
Ecclesiae & Fastio, a Dialogue between Bow-steeple Dragon, and the
Exchange Grasshopper. A Ramble through the Heavens, or The Revels of
The Cavalcade, a Poem.
Marriage Dialogues, or A Poetical Peep into the State of Matrimony.
A Trip to Jamaica.
The Sots Paradise, or The Humours of a Derby Alehouse.
A Battle without Bloodshed, or Military Discipline Buffoon'd.
All Men Mad, or England a Great Bedlam, 4to. 1704.
The Double Welcome, a Poem to the Duke of Marlborough.
Apollo's Maggot in his Cups, or The Whimsical Creation of a Little
Satirical Poet; a Lyric Ode, dedicated to Dickey Dickenson, the witty,
but deformed Governor of Scarborough Spaw, 8vo. 1729.
The Ambitious Father, or The Politician's Advice to his Son; a Poem in
five Cantos, 1733, the last work he left finished.
Mr. Ward's works, if collected, would amount to five volumes in 8vo.
but he is most distinguished by his London Spy, a celebrated work in
[Footnote A: Notes on the Dunciad.]
* * * * *
Sir ROGER L'ESTRANGE,
This gentleman was second son of Sir Hammon L'Estrange of Hunston in
Norfolk, knt. and was born anno 1617[A]. In the year 1644 Sir Roger
having obtained a commission from King Charles I. for reducing Lynne
in Norfolk, then in possession of the Parliament, his design was
discovered to colonel Walton the governour, and his person seized.
Upon the failing of this enterprize he was tried by a court-martial
at Guildhall, London, and condemned to lose his life as a spy, coming
from the King's quarters without drum, trumpet, or pass; but was
afterwards reprieved, and continued in Newgate several years. Sir
Roger in a work of his, called Truth and Loyalty Vindicated, has
informed us, that, when he received sentence of death, which was
pronounced against him by Dr. Mills, then judge advocate, and
afterwards chancellor to the bishop of Norwich, he was cast into
Newgate, where he was visited by Mr. Thorowgood and Mr. Arrowsmith,
two members of the assembly of divines, who kindly offered him their
utmost interest if he would make some petitionary acknowledgment,
and submit to take the covenant, which he refused. But that he
might obtain a reprieve, he wrote several letters to the earl of
Northumberland, the earl of Stamford, and others of the nobility, from
whom he received favours. In the House of Commons he was particularly
obliged to Sir John Corbet, and Sir Henry Cholmondley. He was
reprieved in order to a further hearing; but after almost thirty
months spent in vain endeavours, either to come to a hearing, or to
put himself into an exchangeable condition, he printed a state of his
case, as an Appeal from the Court-martial to the Parliament, dated at
Newgate in 1647.
After almost four years imprisonment, with his keeper's privity, he
slipt into Kent, and then with much difficulty got beyond sea. About
the latter end of August 1653, upon the dissolution of the Long
Parliament, by Cromwel, he returned into England, and presently
acquainted the council, then sitting at Whitehall, that finding
himself within the Act of Indemnity, he thought it his duty to give
them notice of his return. Soon after this he was served with the
Wednesday September 7, 1655,
That Roger L'Estrange be sent unto, to attend the committee of this
council for examination.
JOHN THURLOE, Secretary.
This order laid him under a necessity of attending for his discharge,
but perceiving his business to advance very slowly, and his father
at that time lying upon his death-bed, he was sollicitous to have his
discharge as much hastened as possible, that he might pay his duty to
his father, whom he had not seen for many years before. Mr. Strickland
was one of the commissioners appointed to examine him, and the person
from whom, in the judgment of his friends, he was to expect the least
favour. Mr. L'Estrange therefore to render him more propitious to his
purpose, paid him the compliment of a visit, telling him frankly
that he was returned upon the invitation of the Act of Indemnity;
and laying before him how much it concerned him, both in comfort
and interest, to see his dying father. Mr. Strickland, in place of
complying with Mr. L'Estrange's proposition, answered, that he would
find himself mistaken, and that his case was not included in that Act.
Mr. L'Estrange's reply to him was, 'that he might have been safe among
the Turks upon the same terms; and so he left him. From that time
matters beginning to look worse and worse, he considered it, as
his last expedient, to address Cromwel himself. After several
disappointments, for want of opportunity, he spoke to him at last
in the Cock-pit, and the sum of his desire was, either a speedy
examination, or that it might be deferred 'till he had seen his
father. Cromwel remonstrated against the restlessness of his party,
observed, 'that rigour was not his inclination, but that he was but
one man, and could do little by himself; and that Mr. L'Estrange's
party would do well to give some better testimony of their quiet, and
peaceable intentions.' Mr. L'Estrange told him, 'that every man was to
answer for his own actions, at his own peril;' and so Cromwel took
his leave. Some time after this Mr. L'Estrange was called, and Mr.
Strickland, with another gentleman, were his examiners; but the latter
pressed nothing against him. Mr. Strickland indeed insisted upon his
condemnation, and would have deprived him of the benefit of the Act of
Indemnity, telling him at last, 'that he had given no evidence of
the change of his mind, and consequently was not to be trusted.'
Mr. L'Estrange's final answer was to this effect, 'that it was his
interest to change his opinion, if he could, and that whenever he
found reason so to do, he would obey the sense of his own mind.' Some
few days after this he was discharged[B]. 'During the dependency of
this affair (says Mr. L'Estrange) I might well be seen at Whitehall,
but that I spake to Cromwel on any other business than this, that I
either sought, or pretended to, any privacy with him, or that I ever
spake to him after this time, I absolutely disown. Concerning the
story of the fiddle[C], this I suppose might be the rise of it: being
in St. James's Park, I heard an organ touched in a little low room
of one Mr. Henckson's; I went in, and found a private company of some
five or six persons. They desired me to take up a Viol, and bear a
part. I did so, and that part too, not much advance to the reputation
of my cunning. By and by, without the least colour of design,
or expectation, in comes Cromwel. He found us playing, and, as I
remember, so he left us.--As to bribing of his attendants, I disclaim
it. I never spake to Thurloe, but once in my life, and that was about
my discharge. Nor did I ever give bribe, little or great, in the
The above declaration Sir Roger was obliged to make, as some of his
enemies wanted to turn those circumstances of favour he received from
the Oliverian government to his disadvantage, and prevent his rising
in court distinction.
Sir Roger having little paternal fortune, and being a man rather
profuse than oeconomical, he had recourse to writing for bread. After
the restoration he set up a news-paper, which was continued 'till
the Gazette was first set on foot by Sir Joseph Williamson, under
secretary of state, for which, however, the government allowed Mr.
L'Estrange a consideration. Mr. Wood informs us, that our author
published his paper twice every week in 4to. under the title of The
Public Intelligence and News; the first of which came out August the
31st, 1663, and the other September the 3d, the same year. 'These
continued till the 9th of January 1665, at which time Mr. L'Estrange
desisted, because in the November before, there were other News-Papers
published twice every week, in half a sheet in folio. These were
called The Oxford Gazettes, and commenced the 7th of November, 1665,
the king and queen, with their courts being then at Oxford. These for
a little while were written by one Henry Muddeman; but when the court
removed to London, they were called the London Gazette. Soon after Mr.
Joseph Williamson, under secretary of State, procured the writing
of them for himself; and thereupon employed Charles Perrot, M.A. and
fellow of Oriel College in Oxford, who had a good command of his pen,
to do that office under him, and so he did, though not constantly,
till about 1671; after which time they were constantly written by
under secretaries, belonging to those that are principal, and do
continue so to this day.'
Soon after the popish plot, when the Tories began to gain the
ascendant over the Whigs, Mr. L'Estrange became a zealous promoter of
the Tory interest. He set up a paper called the Observator, in which
he defended the court, and endeavoured to invalidate those evidences
which were given by Oates's party against the Jesuits. He likewise
wrote a pamphlet, in which he attempts to prove, that Sir Edmundbury
Godfrey's murther, for which so many suffered, and so great a flame
was raised in the nation, was really perpetrated by himself. He
attempts to shew that Sir Edmundbury was a melancholy enthusiastic
man; that he was weak in his undemanding, and absurd in his conduct.
The activity he discovered in Oates's plot, had raised him to such
reputation, that he was unable to bear it, and therefore the natural
enthusiasm of his temper prompted him to make himself a sacrifice,
from a view of advancing the Protestant cause, as he knew his murther
would be charged upon the Papists.
Mr. L'Estrange's reasoning, being only conjectural, and very
improbable, is therefore far from conclusive: It is certain that there
never was a more intricate affair than this. We have read the trials
of all those who suffered for this murther, chiefly upon the evidence
of one Prance, and one Bedloe, who pretended to have been accomplices;
but their relation is so inconsistent; their characters so very
infamous, and their reward for being evidences supposed to be so
considerable, that the most candid enquirer after truth, can determine
nothing positively concerning it. All who suffered for the popish
plot, denied their knowledge of it; the four men who were executed,
as being the perpetrators persisted to the last in protesting their
innocence of it. After all, the murther of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey
is perhaps one of those secrets, which will ever remain so, till the
hearts of all men are laid open.
The services, which Mr. L'Estrange rendered the court, procured him
the honour of knighthood; and he served as a member for Winchester, in
the parliament called by king James the IId. 1685. But things taking
quite a different turn in that prince's reign, in point of liberty
of conscience, to what most people expected, our author's Observators
were dropt, as not being suitable to the times. However he continued
licenser of the press 'till the accession of the prince of Orange to
the throne; in whose reign, on account of his Tory principles, and
his attachment to his late master, he met with some troubles. He was
suffered however to descend to the grave in peace, though he had in a
manner survived his understanding. He died December 12, 1705, in the
88th year of his age.
[D]Besides his Observators, which make three volumes in folio, he
published a great number of poetical and other works. Winstanley,
in his Lives of the Poets, says, 'That those who shall consider the
number and greatness of his books, will admire he should ever write so
many; and those who have read them, considering the skill and method
they are written in, will admire he should write so well. Nor is he
less happy in verse than prose, which for elegance of language, and
quickness of invention, deservedly entitles him to the honour of a
The following are the titles of some of his works, viz. Collections in
Defence of the King. Toleration Discussed. Relapsed Apostate. Apology
for Protestants. Richard against Baxter. Tyranny and Popery. Growth
and Knavery. Reformed Catholic. Free-born Subjects. The Case Put.
Seasonable Memorials. Answer to the Appeal. L'Estrange no Papist; in
answer to a Libel, intitled L'Estrange a Papist, &c. with Notes and
Animadversions upon Miles Prance, Silver-Smith, cum multis aliis. The
Shammer Shamm'd. Account Cleared. Reformation Reformed. Dissenters
Sayings, in two Parts. Notes on Colledge, the Protestant Joiner.
Citizen and Bumpkin, in two Parts. Further Discovery in the Plot.
Discovery on Discovery. Narrative of the Plot. Zekiel and Ephraim.
Appeal to the King and Parliament. Papist in Masquerade. Answer to the
second Character of a Popish Successor. Confederations upon a Printed
Sheet intitled, The Speech of Lord Russel to the Sheriffs: Together
with the Paper delivered by him to them at the place of execution,
on July 1683. These pieces with many more, were printed in quarto;
besides which he wrote the following, viz. The History of the Plot in
Folio. Caveat to the Cavaliers. He translated into English Cicero's
Offices; Seneca's Mora's, Erasmus's Colloquies; Quevedo's Visions;
Bona's Guide to Eternity; Five Love Letters from a Nun to a Cavalier;
Josephus's Works; Aesop's Fables.
* * * * *
Mr. Gordon, author of the Independent Whig, and translator of Tacitus,
has very freely censured L'Estrange. He bestows very freely upon him
the epithet of a buffoon, an ignorant droll, &c.----He charges him
with having no knowledge of the Latin tongue; and says, he is unfit
to be read by any person of taste. That his stile is full of technical
terms, and of phrases picked up in the streets, from apprentices and
* * * * *
Sir Roger L'Estrange translated the third Book of Tacitus, an author
of whom Mr. Gordon made an entire translation. To raise the reputation
of his own performance, he has abused that of L'Estrange, in terms
very unfit for a gentleman to use, supposing the censure had been
true. Sir Roger's works indeed are often calculated for the meanest
capacities, and the phrase is consequently low; but a man must be
greatly under the influence of prejudice, who can discover no genius
in his writings; not an intimate acquaintance with the state of
parties, human life, and manners.
* * * * *
Sir Roger was but ill-rewarded by the Tories, for having been their
champion; the latter part of his life was clouded with poverty,
and though he descended in peace to the grave, free from political
turmoils, yet as he was bowed down with age and distress, he cannot be
said to have died in comfort. He had seen much of the world, examined
many characters, experienced the vicissitudes of fortune, and was as
well instructed as any man that ever lived, in the important lesson of
human life, viz. That all things are vanity.
[Footnote A: See Gen. Dict. Art. L'Estrange.]
[Footnote B: Truth and Loyalty, ubi supra.]
[Footnote C: Sir Roger L'Estrange was called, by way of derision,
[Footnote D: General Dictionary.]
* * * * *
Mr. EDMUND SMITH,
This distinguished poet was son of an eminent merchant, one Mr. Neal,
by a daughter of baron Lechemere[A]. Some misfortunes of his father,
which were soon followed by his death, occasioned our author's being
left very young in the care of a near relation (one who married Mr.
Neal's mother, whose name was Smith).
This gentleman treated him with as much tenderness as if he had been
his own child, and placed him at Westminster-school, under the care
of Dr. Busby. After the death of his generous guardian (whose name
in gratitude he thought proper to assume) he was removed to Christ's
Church in Oxford, and was there by his aunt handsomely supported till
her death; after which he continued a member of that learned society,
till within five years of his own. Some time before his leaving
Christ-Church, he was sent for by his mother to Worcester, and
acknowledged by her as a legitimate son. We chuse to mention this
circumstance, in order to wipe off the aspersion which folly and
ignorance cast upon; his birth[B].
In honour to Mr. Smith it should be remembered, that when he stood a
candidate for one of the universities, at the Westminster election, he
so peculiarly distinguished himself by his conspicuous performances,
that there arose no small contention between the representative
electors of Trinity College in Cambridge, and Christ-Church College
in Oxon, which of those two illustrious societies should adopt him as
their own. But the electors of Trinity College having the preference
of choice that year, they resolutely elected him; but being invited
at the same time to Christ-Church, Mr. Smith chose to accept of a
He passed through the exercises of the college, and the university,
with unusual applause; and tho' he often suffered his friends to call
him off from his retirement; yet his return to his studies was so much
the more passionate, and his love of reading and thinking being so
vehement, the habit grew upon him, and the series of meditation and
reflexion being kept up whole weeks together, he could better arrange
his ideas, and take in sundry parts of a science at one view without
interruption or confusion. Some of his acquaintance, who were
pleased to distinguish between the wit and the scholar, extoll'd him
altogether on account of the first of these excellencies; but others,
who were more candid, admired him as a prodigy in both. He had
acquired reputation in the schools, both as a philosopher and polemic
of extensive knowledge, and deep penetration, and went through all the
courses with a proper regard to the dignity, and importance of each
science. Mr. Smith had a long and perfect intimacy with all the Greek
and Latin Classics; with whom he had industriously compared whatever
was worth perusing in the French, Spanish, and Italian, and all the
celebrated writers in his own country. He considered the antients and
moderns, not as parties, or rivals for fame, but as architects upon
one and the same plan, the Art of Poetry. If he did not always commend
the compositions of others, it proceeded not from ill-nature (for that
was foreign to his temper) but a strict regard to justice would not
suffer him to call a few flowers elegantly adorned, without much art,
and less genius, by so distinguished a name as poetry. He was of Ben
Johnson's opinion, who could not admire,
----Verses, as smooth and soft as cream,
In which their was neither depth nor stream.
Mr. Smith's Bodleian Oration, printed with his other works, though
taken from a remote and imperfect copy, has shewn the world, how great
a matter he was of Ciceronian Eloquence. Since Temple and Roscommon
(says Mr. Oldisworth) 'No man understood Horace better, especially
as to his happy diction, rolling numbers, beautiful imagery, and
alternate mixture of the soft and sublime. His friend Mr. Philips's
Ode to Mr. St. John, after the manner of Horace's Lusory, or Amatorian
Odes, is certainly a master-piece: But Mr. Smith's Pocockius is of the
sublimer kind; though like Waller's writings upon Cromwell, it wants
not the most delicate and surprizing turns, peculiar to the person
He was an excellent judge of humanity, and so good a historian, that
in familiar conversation, he would talk over the most memorable fads
in antiquity; the lives, actions, and characters of celebrated men,
with amazing facility and accuracy. As he had carefully read and
distinguished Thuanus's Works, so he was able to copy after him: And
his talent in this kind was so generally confess'd, that he was made
choice of by some great men, to write a history, which it was their
interest to have executed with the utmost art, and dexterity; but
this design was dropp'd, as Mr. Smith would not sacrifice truth to the
caprice, and interested views of a party.
* * * * *
Our author's Poem, condoling the death of Mr. Philips, is full of the
noblest beauties, and pays a just tribute to the venerable ashes of
that great man. Mr. Smith had contracted for Mr. Philips the most
perfect friendship, a passion of which he was very susceptible, and
whole laws he considered as sacred and inviolable.
* * * * *
In the year 1707 Mr. Smith's Tragedy called Phaedra and Hippolitus was
acted at the Theatre-Royal. This play was introduced upon the stage,
at a time when the Italian Opera so much engrossed the attention of
the polite world, that sense was sacrificed to sound. It was dress'd
and decorated, at an extraordinary expence:----and inimitably
perform'd in all its parts, by Betterton, Booth, Barry, and Oldfield.
Yet it brought but few, and slender audiences.----To say truth,
'twas a fine Poem; but not an extraordinary Play. Notwithstanding the
intrinsic merit of this piece, and the countenance it met with from
the most ingenious men of the age, yet it languished on the stage,
and was soon neglected. Mr. Addison wrote the Prologue, in which he
rallies the vitiated taste of the public, in preferring the unideal
entertainment of an Opera, to the genuine sense of a British Poet.
Long has a race of Heroes fill'd the stage,
That rant by note, and thro' the gamut rage;
In songs, and airs, express their martial fire,
Combat in trills, and in a feuge expire;
While lull'd by sound, and undisturb'd by wit,
Calm and serene, you indolently fit;
And from the dull fatigue of thinking free,
Hear the facetious fiddle's rapartee;
Our home-spun authors must forsake the field,
And Shakespear to the soft Scarlatti yield.
To your new taste, the poet of this day,
Was by a friend advis'd to form his play;
Had Valentini musically coy,
Shun'd Phaedra's arms, and scorn'd the proffer'd joy,
It had not mov'd your wonder to have seen,
An Eunuch fly from an enamour'd queen.
How would it please, should me in English speak,
And could Hippolitus reply in Greek?
We have been induced to transcribe these lines of Mr. Addison, in
order to have the pleasure of producing so great an authority in
favour of the English drama, when placed in contradistinction to an
entertainment, exhibited by Eunuchs and Fidlers, in a language, of
which the greatest part of the audience are ignorant; and from the
nature of which no moral instruction can be drawn.
The chief excellence of this play certainly consists in the beauty and
harmony of the verification. The language is luxuriantly poetical. The
passion of Phaedra for her husband's son has been considered by some
critics as too unnatural to be shewn on the stage; and they have
observed that the poet would have written more successfully if he
had converted the son into a brother. Poetical justice is carefully
distributed; Phaedra and Lycon are justly made the sufferers, while
Hippolitus and Ismena escape the vengeance of Theseus. The play is not
destitute of the pathetic, tho' much more regard is paid to the purity
and elegance of the language, than a poet more acquainted with the
workings of the heart would have done. We shall give an example to
illustrate this observation. When Theseus reproaches Hippolitus for
his love to Ismena, and at the same time dooms him as the victim, of
his revenge and jealousy, he uses these words,
Canst thou be only clear'd by disobedience,
And justified by crimes?--What! love my foe!
Love one descended from a race of tyrants,
Whose blood yet reeks on my avenging sword!
I'm curst each moment I delay thy fate:
Haste to the shades, and tell, the happy Pallas,
Ismena's flames, and let him taste such joys
As thou giv'st me; go tell applauding Minos,
The pious love you bore his daughter Phaedra;
Tell it the chatt'ring ghosts, and hissing furies,
Tell it the grinning fiends, till Hell found nothing
To thy pleas'd ears, but Phaedra and Ismena.
We cannot suppose that a man wrought up to fury, by the flame of
jealousy, and a sense of afronted dignity, could be so particular in
giving his son directions how to behave in hell, and to whom he should
relate the story of his fate. When any passion violently overwhelms
the soul, the person who feels it, always speaks sententiously, avoids
repetitions, and is not capable of much recollection, at least of
making a minute detail of circumstances. In how few words, and with
greater force would Shakespear have conduced this speech of Theseus.
An example will prove it: when Othello is informed that Cassio is
slain, he replies,
Had all his hairs been lives,
My great revenge had stomach for them all.
When Phaedra is made acquainted with the ruin of Hyppolitus, the poet
makes her utter the following beautiful speech, which, however, is
liable to the same objection as the former, for it seems rather a
studied declamation, than an expression of the most agonizing throes
she is then supposed to experience.
What's life? Oh all ye Gods! can life attone
For all the monstrous crimes by which 'tis bought?
Or can I live? when thou, O Soul of honour!
O early hero! by my crimes art ruin'd.
Perhaps even now, the great unhappy youth,
Falls by the sordid hands of butchering villains;
Now, now he bleeds, he dies,--O perjur'd traitor!
See his rich blood in purple torrents flows,
And nature sallies in unbidden groans;
Now mortal pangs distort his lovely form,
His rosy beauties fade, his starry eyes
Now darkling swim, and fix their closing beams;
Now in short gasps his lab'ring spirit heaves,
And weakly flutters on his falt'ring tongue,
And struggles into sound. Hear, monster hear,
With his last breath, he curses purjured Phaedra:
He summons Phaedra to the bar of Minos;
Thou too shalt there appear; to torture thee
Whole Hell shall be employ'd, and suff'ring Phaedra
Shall find some care to see thee still more wretched.
No man had a juster notion of the difficulty of composing, than Mr.
Smith, and he sometimes would create greater difficulties than he
had reason to apprehend. Mr. Smith had, indeed, some defects in his
conduct, which those are more apt to remember, who could imitate him
in nothing else. Amongst the blemishes of an innocent kind, which
attended Mr. Smith, was his extreme carelessness in the particular of
dress; this oddity procured him the name of Captain Ragg. His person
was so well formed, and he possessed so much natural gracefulness,
that notwithstanding the disadvantage of his appearance, he was
called, by the Ladies, the Handsome Sloven.
It is to be wondered at (says Mr. Oldisworth) that a man under
poverty, calamities, and disappointments, could make so many friends,
and those so truly valuable. He had, indeed, a noble idea of the
passion of friendship, in the success of which, consisted the
greatest, if not the only happiness of his Life. He was serene and
chearful under the dispensations of providence; he avoided having any
dealings with mankind in which he could not be just, and therefore
refused to embrace some opportunities of amending his fortune.
Upon Mr. Smith's coming to town, no man was more surrounded by all
those who really had, or pretended to wit, or more courted by the
great men, who had then a power and opportunity of encouraging arts
and sciences. Mr. Smith's character grew upon his friends by intimacy,
and exceeded the strongest prepossessions which had been conceived in
his favour. A few years before his death, Mr. Smith engaged in some
considerable Undertakings; in all which he raised expectations in the
world, which he lived not to gratify. Mr. Oldisworth observes, that he
had seen about ten sheets of Pindar translated into English, which, he
says, exceeded any thing of that kind, he could ever hope for in our
language. He had drawn out a plan for a tragedy of Lady Jane Grey, and
had written several scenes of it: a subject afterwards nobly executed
by Mr. Rowe. His greatest undertaking was Longinus, which he executed
in a very masterly manner. He proposed a large addition to this work,
of notes and observations of his own, with an intire system of the
art of poetry in three books, under the title of Thoughts, Action,
and Figure; in this work he proposed to reform the art of Rhetoric, by
reducing that confused heap of Terms, with which a long succession
of Pedants had incumbered the world, to a very narrow compass;
comprehending all that was useful and ornamental in poetry under each
head, and chapter. He intended to make remarks upon all the ancients
and moderns, the Greek, Latin, English, French, Spanish, and Italian
poets, and to anamadvert upon their several beauties and defects.
Mr. Smith died in the year 1710, in the 42d of his age, at the seat of
George Ducket esq; called Hartham, in Wiltshire; and was buried in the
parish church there. We shall give the character of this celebrated
poet in the words of Mr. Oldisworth:--"He had a quickness of
apprehension and vivacity of understanding, which easily took in, and
surmounted, the most knotty parts of mathematics and metaphysics.
His wit was prompt and flowing, yet solid and piercing; his taste
delicate, his head clear, and his manner of expressing his thoughts
perspicuous, and engaging; an eager, but generous, emulation grew
up in him, which push'd him upon striving to excel in every art and
science, that could make him a credit to his college: and it was his
happiness to have several cotemporaries, and fellow students, who
exercised and excited this virtue in themselves and others: his
judgment naturally good, soon ripened into an exquisite fineness, and
distinguishing sagacity, which as it was active and busy, so it
was vigorous and manly, keeping even pace with a rich and strong
imagination, always on the wing, and never tired with aspiring; there
are many of his first essays in oratory, in epigram, elegy and epic,
still handed about the university in manuscript, which shew a masterly
hand, and though maimed and injured by frequent transcribing, make
their way into our most celebrated miscellanies, where they mine with
uncommon lustre. As his parts were extraordinary, so he well knew how
to improve them; and not only to polish the diamond, but enchase it in
the most solid and durable metal.
"Though he was an academic the greatest part of his life, yet he
contracted no sourness of temper, no tincture of pedantry, no itch of
disputation, or obstinate contention for the old, or new philosophy,
no assuming way of dictating to others, which are faults which some
are insensibly led into, who are constrained to dwell within the walls
of a private college." Thus far Mr. Oldisworth, who has drawn the
character of his deceased friend, with a laudable fondness. Mr. Smith,
no doubt, possessed the highest genius for poetry; but it is certain
he had mixed but too little in life. His language, however luxuriously
poetical, yet is far from being proper for the drama, and there is
too much of the poet in every speech he puts in the mouths of his
characters, which produces an uniformity, that nothing could teach him
to avoid, but a more general knowledge of real life and characters.
It is acknowledged that Mr. Smith was much inclined to intemperance,
though Mr. Oldisworth has glossed it over with the hand of a friend;
nor is it improbable, that this disposition sunk him in that vis
inertiae, which has been the bane of many of the brightest geniuses of
the world. Mr. Smith was, upon the whole, a good natured man, a great
poet, a finished scholar, and a discerning critic.
[Footnote A: See the Life and Character of Mr. Smith, by Mr.
Oldisworth, prefixed to his Phaedra and Hippolitus, edit. 1719.]
[Footnote B: Oldisworth, ubi supra.]
* * * * *
DANIEL DE FOE,
This gentleman acquired a very considerable name by his political and
poetical works; his early attachment to the revolution interest, and
the extraordinary zeal and ability with which he defended it. He
was bred, says Mr. Jacob, a Hosier, which profession he forsook, as
unworthy of him, and became one of the most enterprizing authors
this, or any other age, ever produced. The work by which he is most
distinguished, as a poet, is his True Born Englishman, a Satire,
occasioned by a poem entitled Foreigners, written by John Tutchin,
esq;[A]. This gentleman (Tutchin) was of the Monmouth faction, in the
reign of King Charles II. and when that unhappy prince made an attempt
upon his uncle's crown, Mr. Tutchin wrote a political piece in his
favour, for which, says Jacob, he was so severely handled by Judge
Jeffries, and his sentence was so very uncommon, and so rigorously
executed, that he petitioned King James to be hanged.
Soon after the revolution, the people, who are restless in their
inclinations, and loath that, to-day, for which they would yesterday
have sacrificed their lives, began to be uneasy at the partiality
their new King discovered to his countrymen. The popular discontent
rose to such a heighth, that King William was obliged to dismiss
his Dutch guards, and though he died in possession of the crown of
England, yet it proved to him a crown of thorns, and he spent fewer
peaceful moments in his regal station, than before his head was
envisioned with an uneasy diadem. De Foe, who seems to have had a
very true notion of civil liberty, engaged the enemies of the new
government, and levelled the force of his satire against those, who
valued themselves for being true-born Englishmen. He exposes the
fallacy of that prepossession, by laying open the sources from whence
the English have sprung. 'Normans, Saxons, and Danes, says he, were
our forefathers; we are a mixed people; we have no genuine origin; and
why should not our neighbours be as good as we to derive from? and I
must add[B], that had we been an unmixed nation, I am of opinion,
it had been to our disadvantage: for to go no farther, we have three
nations about us clear from mixture of blood, as any in the world, and
I know not which of them we could wish ourselves to be like; I mean
the Scotch, Welsh, and Irish, and if I were to write a reverse to the
satire, I would examine all the nations of Europe, and prove, that
these nations which are the most mixed, are the best, and have least
of barbarism and brutality amongst them.' Mr. De Foe begins his satire
with the following lines,
Wherever God erects a house of pray'r,
The devil always builds a chapel there:
And 'twill be found upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation.
After passing a general censure on the surrounding nations, Italy,
Germany, France, &c. he then takes a view of England, which he charges
with the black crime of ingratitude. He enumerates the several nations
from whence we are derived, Gauls, Saxons, Danes, Irish, Scots, &c.
From this amphibious ill-born mob began
_That vain ill-natur'd thing,_ an Englishman.
This satire, written in a rough unpolished manner, without art, or
regular plan, contains some very bold and masculine strokes against
the ridiculous vanity of valuing ourselves upon descent and pedigree.
In the conclusion he has the following strong, and we fear too just,
Could but our ancestors retrieve their fate,
And see their offspring thus degenerate;
How we contend for birth, and names unknown,
And build on their past actions, not our own;
They'd cancel records, and their tombs deface,
And openly disown the vile degenerate race:
For fame of families is all a cheat,
'Tis pers'nal virtue only makes us great.
The next satire of any consequence which De Foe wrote, was entitled
Reformation of Manners, in which some private characters are severely
attacked. It is chiefly aimed at some persons, who being vested with
authority to suppress vice, yet rendered themselves a disgrace to
their country, encouraging wickedness by that very authority they have
to suppress it.
Poetry was far from being the talent of De Foe. He wrote with more
perspicuity and strength in prose, and he seems to have understood, as
well as any man, the civil constitution of the kingdom, which indeed
was his chief study.
In the first volume of his works there is a prose essay, which he
entitles The Original Power of the Collective Body of the People of
England, Examined and Asserted; this was intended to refute a very
ridiculous opinion, which politicians, more zealous than wise, had
industriously propagated, viz. 'That the representatives of the
people, i.e. the House of Commons had a right to enact whatever laws,
and enter into whatever measures they please, without any dependence
on, or even consulting the opinion of, their constituents; and that
the collective body of the people have no right to call them to an
account, or to take any cognizance of their conduct.' In answer to
which Mr. De Foe very sensibly observes, 'that it is possible for even
a House of Commons to be in the wrong. They may be misled by factions
and parties, and it is as ridiculous to suppose them infallible; as
to suppose the Pope of Rome, or the Popish conclave infallible, which
have more than once determined against one another. It is possible
(says he) for them to be bribed by pensions and places, and by either
of those extremes to betray their trust, and abuse the people who
entrust them; and if the people should have no redress in such a
case, then would the nation be in hazard of being ruined by their own
representatives. And it is a wonder to find it asserted in a certain
treatise, _That it is not to be supposed, that ever the House of
Commons can injure the people who entrust them._ There can be no
better way to demonstrate the possibility of a thing, than by proving
that it has been already; and we need go no further back than to the
reign of King Charles II. in which we have seen lists of 180 members,
who received private pensions from the court; and if any body should
ask whether that parliament preserved the ballance of power in the
three branches of our constitution, in the due distribution some have
mentioned? I am not afraid to answer in the negative. And why, even
to this day, are gentlemen so fond of spending their estates to sit
in the House, that ten thousand pounds have been spent at a time to be
chosen, and now that way of procuring elections is at an end, private
briberies, and clandestine contrivances are made use of to get into
the House? No man would give a groat to sit, where he cannot get
a groat himself for sitting, unless there were either parties to
gratify, profits to be made, or interest to support. In this case
it is plain a people may be ruined by their representatives, and the
first law of nature, self-preservation, give the people a right to
resent public encroachments upon their valuable liberties.'
In the same volume is a tract entitled The Shortest Way with the
Dissenters, which contained reflexions against some ecclesiastics
in power, for breathing too much a spirit of perfection. He became
obnoxious to the ministry on this account, and was obliged to justify
himself by writing an explanation of it. Mr. De Foe in his preface to
the second volume of his works, collected by himself, takes occasion
to mention the severe hardships he laboured under, occasioned by
those Printers, more industrious than himself, who make a practice of
pirating every work attended with success. As an instance of this kind
of oppression, he mentions the True Born Englishman, by which, had he
enjoyed the full profit of his own labours, he must have gained near a
thousand pounds; for besides nine editions which passed under his own
inspection, this poem was twelve times pirated: but the insolence
of those fraudulent dealers did not stop here. A Printer of a bad
reputation collected a spurious and erroneous copy of several pieces
of De Foe, and entitled them The Works of the Author of the True Born
Englishman; and though he was then embroiled with the government for
one of the pamphlets which this collection contained, yet had this man
the impudence to print amongst them the same pamphlets, presuming so
far upon the partiality of the public resentment, that he should pass
with impunity for publishing that very thing for which the author
was to be prosecuted with the utmost severity. This, however, was an
irresistible testimony, that the resentment shewn to the author was on
some other, and less justifiable account, than the publication of that
book; so was it a severe satire on the unwariness of the ministry,
who had not eyes to discern their justice plainly exposed, and their
general proceedings bantered by a Printer, for publishing in defiance
of them that same book for which another man stood arraigned.
Mr. De Foe, who possessed a resolute temper, and a most confirmed
fortitude of mind, was never awed by the threats of power, nor
deterred from speaking truth by the insolence of the great. Wherever
he found vice he lashed it, and frequently, as Pope says, he
Dash'd the proud gam'ster from his gilded car,
Bar'd the mean breast that lurk'd beneath a star.
For some vigorous attacks against the measures of a prevailing
party, which Mr. De Foe reckoned unconstitutional and unjust, he
was prosecuted, and received sentence to stand on the pillory; which
punishment he underwent.
At the very time he was in the hands of the ministry, to shew the
invincible force of his mind, he wrote a Hymn to the Pillory, as a
kind of defiance of their power. 'The reader (says he)[C] is desired
to observe this poem was the author's declaration, even when in the
cruel hands of a merciless, as well as unjust ministry; that the
treatment he had from them was unjust, exorbitant, and consequently
illegal.' As the ministry did not think proper to prosecute him for
this fresh insult against them, that forbearance was construed a
confession of guilt in their former proceedings.
* * * * *
In the second volume of our author's works, is a piece entitled More
Reformation, a satire upon himself. We have already taken notice of
a satire of his called Reformation of Manners, in which some personal
characters are stigmatized, which drew much odium on Mr. De Foe. This
satire called More Reformation, is a kind of supplement to the former.
In the preface he complains of the severe usage he had met with, but,
says he, 'that the world may discern that I am not one of those who
practice what they reprove, I began this satire with owning in myself
those sins and misfortunes which I am no more exempted from, than
other men; and as I am far from pretending to be free from human
frailties, but forwarder to confess any of the errors of my life,
than any man can be to accuse me; I think myself in a better way to
reformation, than those who excuse their own faults by reckoning up
'Some that have heard me complain of this hard usage, have told me,
there is something of a retaliation of providence in it, for my being
so very free with the character's of other men in a late satire called
The Reformation of Manners. To this I answer, first, in that satire,
or any other I ever wrote, I have always carefully avoided lashing any
man's private infirmities, as being too sensible of my own, but if
I have singled out any man by character, it has either been such, as
intending to reform others, and execute the laws against vice,
have been the greatest examples, and encouragers of it in their own
practice; or such as have been entrusted with the executive power of
justice, and having been called upon by the laws to reform us, have
been a public reproach to the magistracy of this nation, and ought to
be punished by the laws they have been protected by.
'Secondly, I have never made any man's disasters, or misfortunes, the
subject of my satire. I never reproached any man for having his house
burnt, ships cast away, or his family ruined. I never lampooned a man
because he could not pay his debts, or for his being a cuckold.
'Thirdly, I never reproached any man for his opinion in religion, or
esteemed him the worse for differing in judgment from me.
'If therefore the scandalous treatment I have received is just on
me, for abusing others, I must ask such, who is the man? Where is the
character I have given that is not just? and where is the retaliation
of providence, that these men entitle themselves to in loading me with
falsities and lies, as a just punishment for my speaking truth.
'But p-x on him, said a certain sober gentleman, he is a Whig, and
what need he have meddled with his own party, could not he have left
them out, there were characters enough on the other side?
'Why really I must own, I know no Whig or Tory in vice; the vicious
and the virtuous are the only two parties I have to do with; if a
vicious, lewd, debauched magistrate happened to be a Whig, what then?
let him mend his manners, and he may be a Whig still, and if not, the
rest ought to be ashamed of him.'
We have been induced to make this extract, as it seems to mew the
genius and spirit of the author in a more advantageous light, than we
could have otherwise done. Though he was a resolute asserter of Whig
principles, and a champion for the cause of liberty, yet was he never
blinded by party prejudice, but could discern designing, and selfish
men, and strip them of their disguises, though, joined with him in the
same political contests.
In the conclusion of the Hymn to the Pillory, which is written with
great strength of expression, he assigns the reasons for his being
doomed to that ignominy.
Thou Bugbear of the law stand up and speak,
Thy long misconstru'd silence break,
Tell us, who 'tis upon thy ridge stands there,
So full of fault, and yet so void of fear;
And from the paper in his hat.
Let all mankind be told for what.
Tell them it was because he was too bold,
And told those truths which should not ha' been told.
Extol the justice of the land
Who punish what they will not understand;
Tell them that he stands there
For speaking what we would not hear;
And yet he might ha' been secure,
Had he said less, or would he ha' said more.
Tell them that it was his reward,
And worse is yet for him prepar'd,
Because his foolish virtue was so nice
As not to tell his friends, according to his friends advice.
And thus he's an example made,
To make men of their honesty afraid,
That from the time to come they may
More willingly their friends betray,
Tell them the ministers that plac'd him here,
Are scandal to the times,
Are at a loss to find his guilt,
And can't commit his crimes.
There are in the same volume many other poetical pieces, and
political, and polemical tracts, the greatest part of which are
written with great force of thought, though in an unpolished irregular
stile. The natural abilities of the author (for he was no scholar)
seem to have been very high. He had a great knowledge of men and
things, particularly what related to the government, and trade of
these kingdoms. He wrote many pamphlets on both, which were generally
well received, though his name was never prefixed. His imagination was
fertile, strong, and lively, as may be collected from his many works
of fancy, particularly his Robinson Crusoe, which was written in so
natural a manner, and with so many probable incidents, that, for some
time after its publication, it was judged by most people to be a
true story. It was indeed written upon a model entirely new, and
the success and esteem it met with, may be ascertained by the many
editions it has sold, and the sums of money which have been gained
by it. Nor was he lest remarkable in his writings of a serious and
religious turn, witness his Religious Courtship, and his Family
Instructor; both of which strongly inculcate the worship of God, the
relative duties of husbands, wives, parents, and children, not in
a dry dogmatic manner, but in a kind of dramatic way, which excites
curiosity, keeps the attention awake, and is extremely interesting,
We have already seen, that in his political capacity he was a declared
enemy to popery, and a bold defender of revolution principles. He was
held in much esteem by many great men, and though he never enjoyed any
regular pod under the government, yet he was frequently employed in
matters of trust and confidence, particularly in Scotland, where he
several times was sent on affairs of great importance, especially
those relative to the union of the kingdoms, of which he was one of
It is impossible to arrive at the knowledge of half the tracts and
pamphlets which were written by this laborious man, as his name is
not prefixed, and many of them being temporary, have perished like all
other productions of that kind, when the subjects upon which they were
written are forgot. His principal performances, perhaps, are these,
A Plan of Commerce, an esteemed Work, in one large vol. 8vo. of which
a new edition was lately published.
Memoirs of the Plague, published in 1665.
Family Instructor. Two Volumes.
History of Apparitions (under the name of Moreton.)
Robinson Crusoe. Two Volumes.
Political History of the Devil.
History of Magic.
Caledonia, a Poem in praise of Scotland.
De Jure Divino, a Poem.
English Tradesman, &c.
History of Colonel Jack.
Cleveland's Memoirs, &c. are also said to be his. Considered as a
poet, Daniel De Foe is not so eminent, as in a political light: he
has taken no pains in verification; his ideas are masculine, his
expressions coarse, and his numbers generally rough. He seems rather
to have studied to speak truth, by probing wounds to the bottom, than,
by embellishing his verification, to give it a more elegant keenness.
This, however, seems to have proceeded more from carelessness in that
particular, than want of ability: for the following lines in his True
Born Englishman, in which he makes Britannia rehearse the praises
of her hero, King William, are harmoniously beautiful, and elegantly
The fame of virtue 'tis for which I found,
And heroes with immortal triumphs crown'd.
Fame built on solid virtue swifter flies,
Back to Full Books