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Title: Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches — Volume 3
Author: Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron, 1800-1859
Language: English
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Contributions To The Encyclopaedia Britannica And Miscellaneous Poems,
Inscriptions, Etc.

By Thomas Babington Macaulay







Francis Atterbury. (December 1853)

John Bunyan. (May 1854)

Oliver Goldsmith. (February 1856)

Samuel Johnson. (December 1856)

William Pitt. (January 1859)


Epitaph on Henry Martyn. (1812)

Lines to the Memory of Pitt. (1813)

A Radical War Song. (1820)

The Battle of Moncontour. (1824)

The Battle of Naseby, by Obadiah
Bind-their-kings-in-chains-and-their-nobles-with-links-of-iron, Serjeant
in Ireton's Regiment. (1824)

Sermon in a Churchyard. (1825)

Translation of a Poem by Arnault. (1826)

Dies Irae. (1826)

The Marriage of Tirzah and Ahirad. (1827)

The Country Clergyman's Trip to Cambridge. An Election Ballad. (1827)

Song. (1827)

Political Georgics. (March 1828)

The Deliverance of Vienna. (1828)

The Last Buccaneer. (1839)

Epitaph on a Jacobite. (1845)

Lines Written in August, 1847.

Translation from Plautus. (1850)

Paraphrase of a Passage in the Chronicle of the Monk of St Gall. (1856)

Inscription on the Statue of Lord Wm. Bentinck, at Calcutta. (1835)

Epitaph on Sir Benjamin Heath Malkin, at Calcutta. (1837)

Epitaph on Lord Metcalfe. (1847)


FRANCIS ATTERBURY. (December 1853.)

Francis Atterbury, a man who holds a conspicuous place in the political,
ecclesiastical, and literary history of England, was born in the year
1662, at Middleton in Buckinghamshire, a parish of which his father was
rector. Francis was educated at Westminster School, and carried thence
to Christchurch a stock of learning which, though really scanty, he
through life exhibited with such judicious ostentation that superficial
observers believed his attainments to be immense. At Oxford, his parts,
his taste, and his bold, contemptuous, and imperious spirit, soon
made him conspicuous. Here he published at twenty, his first work,
a translation of the noble poem of Absalom and Achitophel into Latin
verse. Neither the style nor the versification of the young scholar
was that of the Augustan age. In English composition he succeeded much
better. In 1687 he distinguished himself among many able men who wrote
in defence of the Church of England, then persecuted by James II., and
calumniated by apostates who had for lucre quitted her communion. Among
these apostates none was more active or malignant than Obadiah Walker,
who was master of University College, and who had set up there, under
the royal patronage, a press for printing tracts against the established
religion. In one of these tracts, written apparently by Walker himself,
many aspersions were thrown on Martin Luther. Atterbury undertook to
defend the great Saxon Reformer, and performed that task in a manner
singularly characteristic. Whoever examines his reply to Walker will be
struck by the contrast between the feebleness of those parts which are
argumentative and defensive, and the vigour of those parts which are
rhetorical and aggressive. The Papists were so much galled by the
sarcasms and invectives of the young polemic that they raised a cry of
treason, and accused him of having, by implication, called King James a

After the Revolution, Atterbury, though bred in the doctrines of
non-resistance and passive obedience, readily swore fealty to the
new government. In no long time he took holy orders. He occasionally
preached in London with an eloquence which raised his reputation, and
soon had the honour of being appointed one of the royal chaplains.
But he ordinarily resided at Oxford, where he took an active part
in academical business, directed the classical studies of the
undergraduates of his college, and was the chief adviser and assistant
of Dean Aldrich, a divine now chiefly remembered by his catches,
but renowned among his contemporaries as a scholar, a Tory, and a
high-churchman. It was the practice, not a very judicious practice, of
Aldrich to employ the most promising youths of his college in editing
Greek and Latin books. Among the studious and well-disposed lads who
were, unfortunately for themselves, induced to become teachers of
philology when they should have been content to be learners, was Charles
Boyle, son of the Earl of Orrery, and nephew of Robert Boyle, the great
experimental philosopher. The task assigned to Charles Boyle was to
prepare a new edition of one of the most worthless books in existence.
It was a fashion, among those Greeks and Romans who cultivated rhetoric
as an art, to compose epistles and harangues in the names of eminent
men. Some of these counterfeits are fabricated with such exquisite taste
and skill that it is the highest achievement of criticism to distinguish
them from originals. Others are so feebly and rudely executed that they
can hardly impose on an intelligent schoolboy. The best specimen which
has come down to us is perhaps the oration for Marcellus, such an
imitation of Tully's eloquence as Tully would himself have read with
wonder and delight. The worst specimen is perhaps a collection of
letters purporting to have been written by that Phalaris who governed
Agrigentum more than 500 years before the Christian era. The evidence,
both internal and external, against the genuineness of these letters is
overwhelming. When, in the fifteenth century, they emerged, in company
with much that was far more valuable, from their obscurity, they were
pronounced spurious by Politian, the greatest scholar of Italy, and
by Erasmus, the greatest scholar on our side of the Alps. In truth,
it would be as easy to persuade an educated Englishman that one of
Johnson's Ramblers was the work of William Wallace as to persuade a
man like Erasmus that a pedantic exercise, composed in the trim and
artificial Attic of the time of Julian, was a despatch written by a
crafty and ferocious Dorian, who roasted people alive many years before
there existed a volume of prose in the Greek language. But, though
Christchurch could boast of many good Latinists, of many good English
writers, and of a greater number of clever and fashionable men of the
world than belonged to any other academic body, there was not then in
the college a single man capable of distinguishing between the infancy
and the dotage of Greek literature. So superficial indeed was the
learning of the rulers of this celebrated society that they were charmed
by an essay which Sir William Temple published in praise of the ancient
writers. It now seems strange that even the eminent public services, the
deserved popularity, and the graceful style of Temple should have saved
so silly a performance from universal contempt. Of the books which he
most vehemently eulogised his eulogies proved that he knew nothing.
In fact, he could not read a line of the language in which they were
written. Among many other foolish things, he said that the letters
of Phalaris were the oldest letters and also the best in the world.
Whatever Temple wrote attracted notice. People who had never heard of
the Epistles of Phalaris began to inquire about them. Aldrich, who knew
very little Greek, took the word of Temple who knew none, and desired
Boyle to prepare a new edition of these admirable compositions which,
having long slept in obscurity, had become on a sudden objects of
general interest.

The edition was prepared with the help of Atterbury, who was Boyle's
tutor, and of some other members of the college. It was an edition such
as might be expected from people who would stoop to edite such a book.
The notes were worthy of the text; the Latin version worthy of the Greek
original. The volume would have been forgotten in a month, had not a
misunderstanding about a manuscript arisen between the young editor and
the greatest scholar that had appeared in Europe since the revival of
letters, Richard Bentley. The manuscript was in Bentley's keeping. Boyle
wished it to be collated. A mischief-making bookseller informed him that
Bentley had refused to lend it, which was false, and also that Bentley
had spoken contemptuously of the letters attributed to Phalaris, and of
the critics who were taken in by such counterfeits, which was perfectly
true. Boyle, much provoked, paid, in his preface, a bitterly ironical
compliment to Bentley's courtesy. Bentley revenged himself by a short
dissertation, in which he proved that the epistles were spurious, and
the new edition of them worthless: but he treated Boyle personally with
civility as a young gentleman of great hopes, whose love of learning was
highly commendable, and who deserved to have had better instructors.

Few things in literary history are more extraordinary than the storm
which this little dissertation raised. Bentley had treated Boyle with
forbearance; but he had treated Christchurch with contempt; and the
Christchurch-men, wherever dispersed, were as much attached to their
college as a Scotchman to his country, or a Jesuit to his order. Their
influence was great. They were dominant at Oxford, powerful in the Inns
of Court and in the College of Physicians, conspicuous in Parliament and
in the literary and fashionable circles of London. Their unanimous
cry was, that the honour of the college must be vindicated, that the
insolent Cambridge pedant must be put down. Poor Boyle was unequal to
the task, and disinclined to it. It was, therefore, assigned to his
tutor, Atterbury.

The answer to Bentley, which bears the name of Boyle, but which was,
in truth, no more the work of Boyle than the letters to which the
controversy related were the work of Phalaris, is now read only by the
curious, and will in all probability never be reprinted again. But it
had its day of noisy popularity. It was to be found, not only in the
studies of men of letters, but on the tables of the most brilliant
drawing-rooms of Soho Square and Covent Garden. Even the beaus and
coquettes of that age, the Wildairs and the Lady Lurewells, the
Mirabells and the Millaments, congratulated each other on the way in
which the gay young gentleman, whose erudition sate so easily upon him,
and who wrote with so much pleasantry and good breeding about the Attic
dialect and the anapaestic measure, Sicilian talents and Thericlean
cups, had bantered the queer prig of a doctor. Nor was the applause of
the multitude undeserved. The book is, indeed, Atterbury's masterpiece,
and gives a higher notion of his powers than any of those works to
which he put his name. That he was altogether in the wrong on the main
question, and on all the collateral questions springing out of it, that
his knowledge of the language, the literature, and the history of Greece
was not equal to what many freshmen now bring up every year to Cambridge
and Oxford, and that some of his blunders seem rather to deserve a
flogging than a refutation, is true; and therefore it is that his
performance is, in the highest degree, interesting and valuable to a
judicious reader. It is good by reason of its exceeding badness. It is
the most extraordinary instance that exists of the art of making much
show with little substance. There is no difficulty, says the steward
of Moliere's miser, in giving a fine dinner with plenty of money: the
really great cook is he who can set out a banquet with no money at all.
That Bentley should have written excellently on ancient chronology and
geography, on the development of the Greek language, and the origin of
the Greek drama, is not strange. But that Atterbury should, during some
years, have been thought to have treated these subjects much better than
Bentley is strange indeed. It is true that the champion of Christchurch
had all the help which the most celebrated members of that society could
give him. Smalridge contributed some very good wit; Friend and others
some very bad archaeology and philology. But the greater part of the
volume was entirely Atterbury's: what was not his own was revised and
retouched by him: and the whole bears the mark of his mind, a mind
inexhaustibly rich in all the resources of controversy, and familiar
with all the artifices which make falsehood look like truth, and
ignorance like knowledge. He had little gold; but he beat that little
out to the very thinnest leaf, and spread it over so vast a surface that
to those who judged by a glance, and who did not resort to balances and
tests, the glittering heap of worthless matter which he produced seemed
to be an inestimable treasure of massy bullion. Such arguments as he had
he placed in the clearest light. Where he had no arguments, he resorted
to personalities, sometimes serious, generally ludicrous, always clever
and cutting. But, whether he was grave or merry, whether he reasoned or
sneered, his style was always pure, polished, and easy.

Party spirit then ran high; yet, though Bentley ranked among Whigs, and
Christchurch was a stronghold of Toryism, Whigs joined with Tories in
applauding Atterbury's volume. Garth insulted Bentley, and extolled
Boyle in lines which are now never quoted except to be laughed at.
Swift, in his "Battle of the Books," introduced with much pleasantry
Boyle, clad in armour, the gift of all the gods, and directed by Apollo
in the form of a human friend, for whose name a blank is left which may
easily be filled up. The youth, so accoutred, and so assisted, gains
an easy victory over his uncourteous and boastful antagonist. Bentley,
meanwhile, was supported by the consciousness of an immeasurable
superiority, and encouraged by the voices of the few who were really
competent to judge the combat. "No man," he said, justly and nobly, "was
ever written down but by himself." He spent two years in preparing a
reply, which will never cease to be read and prized while the literature
of ancient Greece is studied in any part of the world. This reply
proved, not only that the letters ascribed to Phalaris were spurious,
but that Atterbury, with all his wit, his eloquence, his skill in
controversial fence, was the most audacious pretender that ever wrote
about what he did not understand. But to Atterbury this exposure was
matter of indifference. He was now engaged in a dispute about matters
far more important and exciting than the laws of Zaleucus and the laws
of Charondas. The rage of religious factions was extreme. High church
and Low church divided the nation. The great majority of the clergy were
on the high-church side; the majority of King William's bishops were
inclined to latitudinarianism. A dispute arose between the two parties
touching the extent of the powers of the Lower House of Convocation.
Atterbury thrust himself eagerly into the front rank of the
high-churchmen. Those who take a comprehensive and impartial view of his
whole career will not be disposed to give him credit for religious zeal.
But it was his nature to be vehement and pugnacious in the cause
of every fraternity of which he was a member. He had defended the
genuineness of a spurious book simply because Christchurch had put forth
an edition of that book; he now stood up for the clergy against the
civil power, simply because he was a clergyman, and for the priests
against the episcopal order, simply because he was as yet only a priest.
He asserted the pretensions of the class to which he belonged in several
treatises written with much wit, ingenuity, audacity, and acrimony. In
this, as in his first controversy, he was opposed to antagonists whose
knowledge of the subject in dispute was far superior to his; but in
this, as in his first controversy, he imposed on the multitude by bold
assertion, by sarcasm, by declamation, and, above all, by his peculiar
knack of exhibiting a little erudition in such a manner as to make it
look like a great deal. Having passed himself off on the world as a
greater master of classical learning than Bentley, he now passed himself
off as a greater master of ecclesiastical learning than Wake or Gibson.
By the great body of the clergy he was regarded as the ablest and
most intrepid tribune that had ever defended their rights against the
oligarchy of prelates. The lower House of Convocation voted him thanks
for his services; the University of Oxford created him a doctor of
divinity; and soon after the accession of Anne, while the Tories still
had the chief weight in the government, he was promoted to the deanery
of Carlisle.

Soon after he had obtained this preferment, the Whig party rose to
ascendency in the state. From that party he could expect no favour. Six
years elapsed before a change of fortune took place. At length, in
the year 1710, the prosecution of Sacheverell produced a formidable
explosion of high-church fanaticism. At such a moment Atterbury could
not fail to be conspicuous. His inordinate zeal for the body to which
he belonged, his turbulent and aspiring temper, his rare talents for
agitation and for controversy, were again signally displayed. He bore a
chief part in framing that artful and eloquent speech which the accused
divine pronounced at the bar of the Lords, and which presents a singular
contrast to the absurd and scurrilous sermon which had very unwisely
been honoured with impeachment. During the troubled and anxious months
which followed the trial, Atterbury was among the most active of those
pamphleteers who inflamed the nation against the Whig ministry and the
Whig parliament. When the ministry had been changed and the parliament
dissolved, rewards were showered upon him. The Lower House of
Convocation elected him prolocutor. The Queen appointed him Dean of
Christchurch on the death of his old friend and patron Aldrich. The
college would have preferred a gentler ruler. Nevertheless, the new
head was received with every mark of honour. A congratulatory oration in
Latin was addressed to him in the magnificent vestibule of the hall; and
he in reply professed the warmest attachment to the venerable house in
which he had been educated, and paid many gracious compliments to those
over whom he was to preside. But it was not in his nature to be a mild
or an equitable governor. He had left the chapter of Carlisle distracted
by quarrels. He found Christchurch at peace; but in three months his
despotic and contentious temper did at Christchurch what it had done
at Carlisle. He was succeeded in both his deaneries by the humane and
accomplished Smalridge, who gently complained of the state in which both
had been left. "Atterbury goes before, and sets everything on fire.
I come after him with a bucket of water." It was said by Atterbury's
enemies that he was made a bishop because he was so bad a dean.
Under his administration Christchurch was in confusion, scandalous
altercations took place, opprobrious words were exchanged; and there
was reason to fear that the great Tory college would be ruined by the
tyranny of the great Tory doctor. He was soon removed to the bishopric
of Rochester, which was then always united with the deanery of
Westminster. Still higher dignities seemed to be before him. For, though
there were many able men on the episcopal bench, there was none who
equalled or approached him in parliamentary talents. Had his party
continued in power, it is not improbable that he would have been raised
to the archbishopric of Canterbury. The more splendid his prospects,
the more reason he had to dread the accession of a family which was
well-known to be partial to the Whigs. There is every reason to believe
that he was one of those politicians who hoped that they might be able,
during the life of Anne, to prepare matters in such a way that at her
decease there might be little difficulty in setting aside the Act of
Settlement and placing the Pretender on the throne. Her sudden death
confounded the projects of these conspirators. Atterbury, who wanted no
kind of courage, implored his confederates to proclaim James III., and
offered to accompany the heralds in lawn sleeves. But he found even
the bravest soldiers of his party irresolute, and exclaimed, not, it is
said, without interjections which ill became the mouth of a father of
the church, that the best of all causes and the most precious of all
moments had been pusillanimously thrown away. He acquiesced in what he
could not prevent, took the oaths to the House of Hanover, and at the
coronation officiated with the outward show of zeal, and did his best to
ingratiate himself with the royal family. But his servility was requited
with cold contempt. No creature is so revengeful as a proud man who
has humbled himself in vain. Atterbury became the most factious and
pertinacious of all the opponents of the government. In the House of
Lords his oratory, lucid, pointed, lively, and set off with every grace
of pronunciation and of gesture, extorted the attention and admiration
even of a hostile majority. Some of the most remarkable protests which
appear in the journals of the peers were drawn up by him; and in some of
the bitterest of those pamphlets which called on the English to stand up
for their country against the aliens who had come from beyond the seas
to oppress and plunder her, critics easily detected his style. When the
rebellion of 1715 broke out, he refused to sign the paper in which the
bishops of the province of Canterbury declared their attachment to the
Protestant succession. He busied himself in electioneering, especially
at Westminster, where, as dean, he possessed great influence; and
was, indeed, strongly suspected of having once set on a riotous mob to
prevent his Whig fellow-citizens from polling.

After having been long in indirect communication with the exiled family,
he, in 1717, began to correspond directly with the Pretender. The first
letter of the correspondence is extant. In that letter Atterbury boasts
of having, during many years past, neglected no opportunity of serving
the Jacobite cause. "My daily prayer," he says, "is that you may have
success. May I live to see that day, and live no longer than I do what
is in my power to forward it." It is to be remembered that he who wrote
thus was a man bound to set to the church of which he was overseer an
example of strict probity; that he had repeatedly sworn allegiance to
the House of Brunswick; that he had assisted in placing the crown on
the head of George I., and that he had abjured James III., "without
equivocation or mental reservation, on the true faith of a Christian."

It is agreeable to turn from his public to his private life. His
turbulent spirit, wearied with faction and treason, now and then
required repose, and found it in domestic endearments, and in the
society of the most illustrious of the living and of the dead. Of his
wife little is known: but between him and his daughter there was an
affection singularly close and tender. The gentleness of his manners
when he was in the company of a few friends was such as seemed hardly
credible to those who knew him only by his writings and speeches. The
charm of his "softer hour" has been commemorated by one of those friends
in imperishable verse. Though Atterbury's classical attainments were not
great, his taste in English literature was excellent; and his admiration
of genius was so strong that it overpowered even his political and
religious antipathies. His fondness for Milton, the mortal enemy of the
Stuarts and of the church, was such as to many Tories seemed a crime. On
the sad night on which Addison was laid in the chapel of Henry VII., the
Westminster boys remarked that Atterbury read the funeral service with a
peculiar tenderness and solemnity. The favourite companions, however,
of the great Tory prelate were, as might have been expected, men whose
politics had at least a tinge of Toryism. He lived on friendly terms
with Swift, Arbuthnot, and Gay. With Prior he had a close intimacy,
which some misunderstanding about public affairs at last dissolved.
Pope found in Atterbury, not only a warm admirer, but a most faithful,
fearless, and judicious adviser. The poet was a frequent guest at the
episcopal palace among the elms of Bromley, and entertained not the
slightest suspicion that his host, now declining in years, confined to
an easy chair by gout, and apparently devoted to literature, was deeply
concerned in criminal and perilous designs against the government.

The spirit of the Jacobites had been cowed by the events of 1715. It
revived in 1721. The failure of the South Sea project, the panic in the
money market, the downfall of great commercial houses, the distress
from which no part of the kingdom was exempt, had produced general
discontent. It seemed not improbable that at such a moment an
insurrection might be successful. An insurrection was planned. The
streets of London were to be barricaded; the Tower and the Bank were
to be surprised; King George, his family, and his chief captains and
councillors, were to be arrested; and King James was to be proclaimed.
The design became known to the Duke of Orleans, regent of France, who
was on terms of friendship with the House of Hanover. He put the English
government on its guard. Some of the chief malecontents were committed
to prison; and among them was Atterbury. No bishop of the Church of
England had been taken into custody since that memorable day when the
applauses and prayers of all London had followed the seven bishops to
the gate of the Tower. The Opposition entertained some hope that it
might be possible to excite among the people an enthusiasm resembling
that of their fathers, who rushed into the waters of the Thames to
implore the blessing of Sancroft. Pictures of the heroic confessor in
his cell were exhibited at the shop windows. Verses in his praise were
sung about the streets. The restraints by which he was prevented from
communicating with his accomplices were represented as cruelties worthy
of the dungeons of the Inquisition. Strong appeals were made to the
priesthood. Would they tamely permit so gross an insult to be offered to
their cloth? Would they suffer the ablest, the most eloquent member of
their profession, the man who had so often stood up for their rights
against the civil power, to be treated like the vilest of mankind?
There was considerable excitement; but it was allayed by a temperate
and artful letter to the clergy, the work, in all probability, of Bishop
Gibson, who stood high in the favour of Walpole, and shortly after
became minister for ecclesiastical affairs.

Atterbury remained in close confinement during some months. He had
carried on his correspondence with the exiled family so cautiously that
the circumstantial proofs of his guilt, though sufficient to produce
entire moral conviction, were not sufficient to justify legal
conviction. He could be reached only by a bill of pains and penalties.
Such a bill the Whig party, then decidedly predominant in both houses,
was quite prepared to support. Many hot-headed members of that party
were eager to follow the precedent which had been set in the case of
Sir John Fenwick, and to pass an act for cutting off the bishop's head.
Cadogan, who commanded the army, a brave soldier, but a headstrong
politician, is said to have exclaimed with great vehemence: "Fling him
to the lions in the Tower." But the wiser and more humane Walpole
was always unwilling to shed blood; and his influence prevailed.
When Parliament met, the evidence against the bishop was laid before
committees of both houses. Those committees reported that his guilt
was proved. In the Commons a resolution, pronouncing him a traitor, was
carried by nearly two to one. A bill was then introduced which provided
that he should be deprived of his spiritual dignities, that he should
be banished for life, and that no British subject should hold any
intercourse with him except by the royal permission.

This bill passed the Commons with little difficulty. For the bishop,
though invited to defend himself, chose to reserve his defence for the
assembly of which he was a member. In the Lords the contest was
sharp. The young Duke of Wharton, distinguished by his parts, his
dissoluteness, and his versatility, spoke for Atterbury with great
effect; and Atterbury's own voice was heard for the last time by that
unfriendly audience which had so often listened to him with mingled
aversion and delight. He produced few witnesses; nor did those witnesses
say much that could be of service to him. Among them was Pope. He was
called to prove that, while he was an inmate of the palace at Bromley,
the bishop's time was completely occupied by literary and domestic
matters, and that no leisure was left for plotting. But Pope, who
was quite unaccustomed to speak in public, lost his head, and, as he
afterwards owned, though he had only ten words to say, made two or three

The bill finally passed the Lords by eighty-three votes to forty-three.
The bishops, with a single exception, were in the majority. Their
conduct drew on them a sharp taunt from Lord Bathurst, a warm friend
of Atterbury and a zealous Tory. "The wild Indians," he said, "give
no quarter, because they believe that they shall inherit the skill and
prowess of every adversary whom they destroy. Perhaps the animosity of
the right reverend prelates to their brother may be explained in the
same way."

Atterbury took leave of those whom he loved with a dignity and
tenderness worthy of a better man. Three fine lines of his favourite
poet were often in his mouth:--

     "Some natural tears he dropped, but wiped them soon:
     The world was all before him, where to chuse
     His place of rest, and Providence his guide."

At parting he presented Pope with a Bible, and said, with a
disingenuousness of which no man who had studied the Bible to much
purpose would have been guilty: "If ever you learn that I have any
dealings with the Pretender, I give you leave to say that my punishment
is just." Pope at this time really believed the bishop to be an injured
man. Arbuthnot seems to have been of the same opinion. Swift, a few
months later, ridiculed with great bitterness, in the "Voyage to
Laputa," the evidence which had satisfied the two Houses of Parliament.
Soon, however, the most partial friends of the banished prelate ceased
to assert his innocence, and contented themselves with lamenting and
excusing what they could not defend. After a short stay at Brussels, he
had taken up his abode at Paris, and had become the leading man among
the Jacobite refugees who were assembled there. He was invited to Rome
by the Pretender, who then held his mock court under the immediate
protection of the Pope. But Atterbury felt that a bishop of the Church
of England would be strangely out of place at the Vatican, and declined
the invitation. During some months, however, he might flatter himself
that he stood high in the good graces of James. The correspondence
between the master and the servant was constant. Atterbury's merits were
warmly acknowledged; his advice was respectfully received; and he was,
as Bolingbroke had been before him, the prime minister of a king without
a kingdom. But the new favourite found, as Bolingbroke had found before
him, that it was quite as hard to keep the shadow of power under
a vagrant and mendicant prince as to keep the reality of power at
Westminster. Though James had neither territories nor revenues, neither
army nor navy, there was more faction and more intrigue among his
courtiers than among those of his successful rival. Atterbury soon
perceived that his counsels were disregarded, if not distrusted. His
proud spirit was deeply wounded. He quitted Paris, fixed his residence
at Montpellier, gave up politics, and devoted himself entirely to
letters. In the sixth year of his exile he had so severe an illness that
his daughter, herself in very delicate health, determined to run all
risks that she might see him once more. Having obtained a licence from
the English Government, she went by sea to Bordeaux, but landed there
in such a state that she could travel only by boat or in a litter. Her
father, in spite of his infirmities, set out from Montpellier to meet
her; and she, with the impatience which is often the sign of approaching
death, hastened towards him. Those who were about her in vain implored
her to travel slowly. She said that every hour was precious, that
she only wished to see her papa and to die. She met him at Toulouse,
embraced him, received from his hand the sacred bread and wine, and
thanked God that they had passed one day in each other's society before
they parted forever. She died that night.

It was some time before even the strong mind of Atterbury recovered from
this cruel blow. As soon as he was himself again he became eager
for action and conflict; for grief, which disposes gentle natures to
retirement, to inaction, and to meditation, only makes restless spirits
more restless. The Pretender, dull and bigoted as he was, had found out
that he had not acted wisely in parting with one who, though a heretic,
was, in abilities and accomplishments, the foremost man of the Jacobite
party. The bishop was courted back, and was without much difficulty
induced to return to Paris and to become once more the phantom minister
of a phantom monarchy. But his long and troubled life was drawing to a
close. To the last, however, his intellect retained all its keenness
and vigour. He learned, in the ninth year of his banishment, that he had
been accused by Oldmixon, as dishonest and malignant a scribbler as any
that has been saved from oblivion by the Dunciad, of having, in
concert with other Christchurchmen, garbled Clarendon's History of the
Rebellion. The charge, as respected Atterbury, had not the slightest
foundation: for he was not one of the editors of the History, and never
saw it till it was printed. He published a short vindication of himself,
which is a model in its kind, luminous, temperate, and dignified. A copy
of this little work he sent to the Pretender, with a letter singularly
eloquent and graceful. It was impossible, the old man said, that he
should write anything on such a subject without being reminded of the
resemblance between his own fate and that of Clarendon. They were the
only two English subjects that had ever been banished from their
country and debarred from all communication with their friends by act of
parliament. But here the resemblance ended. One of the exiles had been
so happy as to bear a chief part in the restoration of the Royal house.
All that the other could now do was to die asserting the rights of that
house to the last. A few weeks after this letter was written Atterbury
died. He had just completed his seventieth year.

His body was brought to England, and laid, with great privacy, under the
nave of Westminster Abbey. Only three mourners followed the coffin. No
inscription marks the grave. That the epitaph with which Pope honoured
the memory of his friend does not appear on the walls of the great
national cemetery is no subject of regret: for nothing worse was ever
written by Colley Cibber.

Those who wish for more complete information about Atterbury may easily
collect it from his sermons and his controversial writings, from the
report of the parliamentary proceedings against him, which will be found
in the State Trials, from the five volumes of his correspondence, edited
by Mr Nichols, and from the first volume of the Stuart papers, edited
by Mr Glover. A very indulgent but a very interesting account of the
bishop's political career will be found in Lord Mahon's valuable History
of England.


JOHN BUNYAN. (May 1854.)

John Bunyan, the most popular religious writer in the English language,
was born at Elstow, about a mile from Bedford, in the year 1628. He
may be said to have been born a tinker. The tinkers then formed an
hereditary caste, which was held in no high estimation. They were
generally vagrants and pilferers, and were often confounded with the
gipsies, whom in truth they nearly resembled. Bunyan's father was more
respectable than most of the tribe. He had a fixed residence, and was
able to send his son to a village school where reading and writing were

The years of John's boyhood were those during which the puritan spirit
was in the highest vigour all over England; and nowhere had that spirit
more influence than in Bedfordshire. It is not wonderful, therefore,
that a lad to whom nature had given a powerful imagination, and
sensibility which amounted to a disease, should have been early haunted
by religious terrors. Before he was ten, his sports were interrupted by
fits of remorse and despair; and his sleep was disturbed by dreams
of fiends trying to fly away with him. As he grew older, his mental
conflicts became still more violent. The strong language in which
he described them has strangely misled all his biographers except Mr
Southey. It has long been an ordinary practice with pious writers to
cite Bunyan as an instance of the supernatural power of divine grace to
rescue the human soul from the lowest depths of wickedness. He is called
in one book the most notorious of profligates; in another, the brand
plucked from the burning. He is designated in Mr Ivimey's History of the
Baptists as the depraved Bunyan, the wicked tinker of Elstow. Mr Ryland,
a man once of great note among the Dissenters, breaks out into the
following rhapsody:--"No man of common sense and common integrity can
deny that Bunyan was a practical atheist, a worthless contemptible
infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness, a common profligate, a
soul-despising, a soul-murdering, a soul-damning, thoughtless wretch as
could exist on the face of the earth. Now be astonished, O heavens, to
eternity! and wonder, O earth and hell! while time endures. Behold
this very man become a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom, goodness,
holiness, truth, and love." But whoever takes the trouble to examine the
evidence will find that the good men who wrote this had been deceived by
a phraseology which, as they had been hearing it and using it all their
lives, they ought to have understood better. There cannot be a greater
mistake than to infer, from the strong expressions in which a devout man
bemoans his exceeding sinfulness, that he has led a worse life than his
neighbours. Many excellent persons, whose moral character from
boyhood to old age has been free from any stain discernible to their
fellow-creatures, have, in their autobiographies and diaries, applied to
themselves, and doubtless with sincerity, epithets as severe as could be
applied to Titus Oates or Mrs Brownrigg. It is quite certain that
Bunyan was, at eighteen, what, in any but the most austerely puritanical
circles, would have been considered as a young man of singular gravity
and innocence. Indeed, it may be remarked that he, like many other
penitents who, in general terms, acknowledged themselves to have been
the worst of mankind, fired up and stood vigorously on his defence,
whenever any particular charge was brought against him by others. He
declares, it is true, that he had let loose the reins on the neck of his
lusts, that he had delighted in all transgressions against the divine
law, and that he had been the ringleader of the youth of Elstow in
all manner of vice. But, when those who wished him ill accused him of
licentious amours, he called on God and the angels to attest his purity.
No woman, he said, in heaven, earth, or hell, could charge him with
having ever made any improper advances to her. Not only had he been
strictly faithful to his wife; but he had even before his marriage, been
perfectly spotless. It does not appear from his own confessions, or from
the railings of his enemies, that he ever was drunk in his life. One
bad habit he contracted, that of using profane language; but he tells
us that a single reproof cured him so effectually that he never offended
again. The worst that can be laid to the charge of this poor youth,
whom it has been the fashion to represent as the most desperate of
reprobates, as a village Rochester, is that he had a great liking for
some diversions, quite harmless in themselves, but condemned by the
rigid precisians among whom he lived, and for whose opinion he had a
great respect. The four chief sins of which he was guilty were dancing,
ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at tipcat, and reading
the history of Sir Bevis of Southampton. A rector of the school of Laud
would have held such a young man up to the whole parish as a model. But
Bunyan's notions of good and evil had been learned in a very different
school; and he was made miserable by the conflict between his tastes and
his scruples.

When he was about seventeen, the ordinary course of his life was
interrupted by an event which gave a lasting colour to his thoughts.
He enlisted in the parliamentary army, and served during the decisive
campaign of 1645. All that we know of his military career is that, at
the siege of Leicester, one of his comrades, who had taken his post, was
killed by a shot from the town. Bunyan ever after considered himself as
having been saved from death by the special interference of Providence.
It may be observed that his imagination was strongly impressed by the
glimpse which he had caught of the pomp of war. To the last he loved to
draw his illustrations of sacred things from camps and fortresses, from
guns, drums, trumpets, flags of truce, and regiments arrayed, each under
its own banner. His Greatheart, his Captain Boanerges, and his Captain
Credence, are evidently portraits, of which the originals were among
those martial saints who fought and expounded in Fairfax's army.

In a few months Bunyan returned home and married. His wife had some
pious relations, and brought him as her only portion some pious books.
And now his mind, excitable by nature, very imperfectly disciplined
by education, and exposed, without any protection, to the infectious
virulence of the enthusiasm which was then epidemic in England, began
to be fearfully disordered. In outward things he soon became a strict
Pharisee. He was constant in attendance at prayers and sermons. His
favourite amusements were one after another relinquished, though not
without many painful struggles. In the middle of a game at tipcat he
paused, and stood staring wildly upwards with his stick in his hand. He
had heard a voice asking him whether he would leave his sins and go
to heaven, or keep his sins and go to hell; and he had seen an awful
countenance frowning on him from the sky. The odious vice of bellringing
he renounced; but he still for a time ventured to go to the church tower
and look on while others pulled the ropes. But soon the thought struck
him that, if he persisted in such wickedness, the steeple would fall
on his head; and he fled in terror from the accursed place. To give up
dancing on the village green was still harder; and some months elapsed
before he had the fortitude to part with this darling sin. When this
last sacrifice had been made, he was, even when tried by the maxims of
that austere time, faultless. All Elstow talked of him as an eminently
pious youth. But his own mind was more unquiet than ever. Having nothing
more to do in the way of visible reformation, yet finding in religion
no pleasures to supply the place of the juvenile amusements which he
had relinquished, he began to apprehend that he lay under some special
malediction; and he was tormented by a succession of fantasies which
seemed likely to drive him to suicide or to Bedlam.

At one time he took it into his head that all persons of Israelite blood
would be saved, and tried to make out that he partook of that blood; but
his hopes were speedily destroyed by his father, who seems to have had
no ambition to be regarded as a Jew.

At another time Bunyan was disturbed by a strange dilemma: "If I have
not faith, I am lost; if I have faith, I can work miracles." He was
tempted to cry to the puddles between Elstow and Bedford, "Be ye dry,"
and to stake his eternal hopes on the event.

Then he took up a notion that the day of grace for Bedford and the
neighbouring villages was past: that all who were to be saved in that
part of England were already converted; and that he had begun to pray
and strive some months too late.

Then he was harassed by doubts whether the Turks were not in the right,
and the Christians in the wrong. Then he was troubled by a maniacal
impulse which prompted him to pray to the trees, to a broom-stick, to
the parish bull. As yet, however, he was only entering the Valley of the
Shadow of Death. Soon the darkness grew thicker. Hideous forms floated
before him. Sounds of cursing and wailing were in his ears. His way ran
through stench and fire, close to the mouth of the bottomless pit. He
began to be haunted by a strange curiosity about the unpardonable sin,
and by a morbid longing to commit it. But the most frightful of all the
forms which his disease took was a propensity to utter blasphemy, and
especially to renounce his share in the benefits of the redemption.
Night and day, in bed, at table, at work, evil spirits, as he imagined,
were repeating close to his ear the words, "Sell him, sell him." He
struck at the hobgoblins; he pushed them from him; but still they were
ever at his side. He cried out in answer to them, hour after hour:
"Never, never; not for thousands of worlds, not for thousands." At
length, worn out by this long agony, he suffered the fatal words to
escape him, "Let him go, if he will." Then his misery became more
fearful than ever. He had done what could not be forgiven. He had
forfeited his part of the great sacrifice. Like Esau, he had sold his
birthright; and there was no longer any place for repentance. "None," he
afterwards wrote, "knows the terrors of those days but myself." He has
described his sufferings with singular energy, simplicity, and pathos.
He envied the brutes; he envied the very stones in the street, and the
tiles on the houses. The sun seemed to withhold its light and warmth
from him. His body, though cast in a sturdy mould, and though still in
the highest vigour of youth, trembled whole days together with the fear
of death and judgment. He fancied that this trembling was the sign set
on the worst reprobates, the sign which God had put on Cain. The unhappy
man's emotion destroyed his power of digestion. He had such pains
that he expected to burst asunder like Judas, whom he regarded as his

Neither the books which Bunyan read, nor the advisers whom he consulted,
were likely to do much good in a case like his. His small library had
received a most unseasonable addition, the account of the lamentable
end of Francis Spira. One ancient man of high repute for piety, whom the
sufferer consulted, gave an opinion which might well have produced fatal
consequences. "I am afraid," said Bunyan, "that I have committed the sin
against the Holy Ghost." "Indeed," said the old fanatic, "I am afraid
that you have."

At length the clouds broke; the light became clearer and clearer; and
the enthusiast, who had imagined that he was branded with the mark of
the first murderer, and destined to the end of the arch traitor, enjoyed
peace and a cheerful confidence in the mercy of God. Years elapsed,
however, before his nerves, which had been so perilously overstrained,
recovered their tone. When he had joined a Baptist society at Bedford,
and was for the first time admitted to partake of the Eucharist, it was
with difficulty that he could refrain from imprecating destruction on
his brethren while the cup was passing from hand to hand. After he had
been some time a member of the congregation, he began to preach; and
his sermons produced a powerful effect. He was indeed illiterate; but he
spoke to illiterate men. The severe training through which he had
passed had given him such an experimental knowledge of all the modes of
religious melancholy as he could never have gathered from books; and his
vigorous genius, animated by a fervent spirit of devotion, enabled him,
not only to exercise a great influence over the vulgar, but even to
extort the half contemptuous admiration of scholars. Yet it was long
before he ceased to be tormented by an impulse which urged him to utter
words of horrible impiety in the pulpit.

Counter-irritants are of as great use in moral as in physical diseases.
It should seem that Bunyan was finally relieved from the internal
sufferings which had embittered his life by sharp persecution from
without. He had been five years a preacher, when the Restoration put
it in the power of the Cavalier gentlemen and clergymen all over the
country to oppress the Dissenters; and of all the Dissenters whose
history is known to us, he was perhaps the most hardly treated. In
November 1660, he was flung into Bedford gaol; and there he remained,
with some intervals of partial and precarious liberty, during twelve
years. His persecutors tried to extort from him a promise that he would
abstain from preaching; but he was convinced that he was divinely set
apart and commissioned to be a teacher of righteousness; and he was
fully determined to obey God rather than man. He was brought before
several tribunals, laughed at, caressed, reviled, menaced, but in vain.
He was facetiously told that he was quite right in thinking that
he ought not to hide his gift; but that his real gift was skill in
repairing old kettles. He was compared to Alexander the coppersmith.
He was told that, if he would give up preaching, he should be instantly
liberated. He was warned that, if he persisted in disobeying the law,
he would be liable to banishment, and that, if he were found in England
after a certain time his neck would be stretched. His answer was, "If
you let me out to-day, I will preach again to-morrow." Year after year
he lay patiently in a dungeon, compared with which the worse prison
now to be found in the island is a palace. His fortitude is the more
extraordinary, because his domestic feelings were unusually strong.
Indeed, he was considered by his stern brethren as somewhat too fond
and indulgent a parent. He had several small children, and among them a
daughter who was blind, and whom he loved with peculiar tenderness. He
could not, he said, bear even to let the wind blow on her; and now she
must suffer cold and hunger; she must beg; she must be beaten; "yet,"
he added, "I must, I must do it." While he lay in prison he could do
nothing in the way of his old trade for the support of his family. He
determined, therefore, to take up a new trade. He learned to make long
tagged thread laces; and many thousands of these articles were furnished
by him to the hawkers. While his hands were thus busied, he had other
employment for his mind and his lips. He gave religious instruction to
his fellow-captives, and formed from among them a little flock, of which
he was himself the pastor. He studied indefatigably the few books which
he possessed. His two chief companions were the Bible and Fox's Book
of Martyrs. His knowledge of the Bible was such that he might have been
called a living concordance; and on the margin of his copy of the Book
of Martyrs are still legible the ill spelt lines of doggrel in which
he expressed his reverence for the brave sufferers, and his implacable
enmity to the mystical Babylon.

At length he began to write; and though it was some time before he
discovered where his strength lay, his writings were not unsuccessful.
They were coarse, indeed; but they showed a keen mother wit, a great
command of the homely mother tongue, an intimate knowledge of the
English Bible, and a vast and dearly-bought spiritual experience. They
therefore, when the corrector of the press had improved the syntax and
the spelling, were well received by the humbler class of Dissenters.

Much of Bunyan's time was spent in controversy. He wrote sharply against
the Quakers, whom he seems always to have held in utter abhorrence. It
is, however, a remarkable fact that he adopted one of their peculiar
fashions: his practice was to write, not November or December, but
eleventh month and twelfth month.

He wrote against the liturgy of the Church of England. No two things,
according to him, had less affinity than the form of prayer and the
spirit of prayer. Those, he said with much point, who have most of the
spirit of prayer are all to be found in gaol; and those who have most
zeal for the form of prayer are all to be found at the alehouse. The
doctrinal articles, on the other hand, he warmly praised, and
defended against some Arminian clergymen who had signed them. The most
acrimonious of all his works is his answer to Edward Fowler, afterwards
Bishop of Gloucester, an excellent man, but not free from the taint of

Bunyan had also a dispute with some of the chiefs of the sect to which
he belonged. He doubtless held with perfect sincerity the distinguishing
tenet of that sect; but he did not consider that tenet as one of high
importance, and willingly joined in communion with quiet Presbyterians
and Independents. The sterner Baptists, therefore, loudly pronounced him
a false brother. A controversy arose which long survived the original
combatants. In our own time the cause which Bunyan had defended with
rude logic and rhetoric against Kiffin and Danvers was pleaded by Robert
Hall with an ingenuity and eloquence such as no polemical writer has
ever surpassed.

During the years which immediately followed the Restoration, Bunyan's
confinement seems to have been strict. But, as the passions of 1660
cooled, as the hatred with which the Puritans had been regarded while
their reign was recent gave place to pity, he was less and less harshly
treated. The distress of his family, and his own patience, courage, and
piety softened the hearts of his persecutors. Like his own Christian in
the cage, he found protectors even among the crowd of Vanity Fair. The
bishop of the Diocese, Dr Barlow, is said to have interceded for him.
At length the prisoner was suffered to pass most of his time beyond the
walls of the gaol, on condition, as it should seem, that he remained
within the town of Bedford.

He owed his complete liberation to one of the worst acts of one of the
worst governments that England has ever seen. In 1671 the Cabal was in
power. Charles II. had concluded the treaty by which he bound himself to
set up the Roman Catholic religion in England. The first step which he
took towards that end was to annul, by an unconstitutional exercise of
his prerogative, all the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics;
and, in order to disguise his real design, he annulled at the same
time the penal statutes against Protestant nonconformists. Bunyan was
consequently set at large. In the first warmth of his gratitude he
published a tract in which he compared Charles to that humane and
generous Persian king who, though not himself blest with the light of
the true religion, favoured the chosen people, and permitted them after
years of captivity, to rebuild their beloved temple. To candid men, who
consider how much Bunyan had suffered, and how little he could guess the
secret designs of the court, the unsuspicious thankfulness with which
he accepted the precious boon of freedom will not appear to require any

Before he left his prison he had begun the book which has made his name
immortal. The history of that book is remarkable. The author was, as he
tells us, writing a treatise, in which he had occasion to speak of the
stages of the Christian progress. He compared that progress, as many
others had compared it, to a pilgrimage. Soon his quick wit discovered
innumerable points of similarity which had escaped his predecessors.
Images came crowding on his mind faster than he could put them into
words, quagmires and pits, steep hills, dark and horrible glens, soft
vales, sunny pastures, a gloomy castle of which the courtyard was strewn
with the skulls and bones of murdered prisoners, a town all bustle and
splendour, like London on the Lord Mayor's Day, and the narrow path,
straight as a rule could make it, running on up hill and down hill,
through city and through wilderness, to the Black River and the Shining
Gate. He had found out, as most people would have said, by accident, as
he would doubtless have said, by the guidance of Providence, where
his powers lay. He had no suspicion, indeed, that he was producing a
masterpiece. He could not guess what place his allegory would occupy in
English literature; for of English literature he knew nothing. Those who
suppose him to have studied the Fairy Queen might easily be confuted, if
this were the proper place for a detailed examination of the passages in
which the two allegories have been thought to resemble each other. The
only work of fiction, in all probability, with which he could compare
his Pilgrim, was his old favourite, the legend of Sir Bevis of
Southampton. He would have thought it a sin to borrow any time from the
serious business of his life, from his expositions, his controversies,
and his lace tags, for the purpose of amusing himself with what he
considered merely as a trifle. It was only, he assures us, at spare
moments that he returned to the House Beautiful, the Delectable
Mountains, and the Enchanted Ground. He had no assistance. Nobody but
himself saw a line, till the whole was complete. He then consulted his
pious friends. Some were pleased. Others were much scandalised. It was
a vain story, a mere romance, about giants, and lions, and goblins, and
warriors, sometimes fighting with monsters and sometimes regaled by fair
ladies in stately palaces. The loose atheistical wits at Will's might
write such stuff to divert the painted Jezebels of the court: but did it
become a minister of the gospel to copy the evil fashions of the world?
There had been a time when the cant of such fools would have made Bunyan
miserable. But that time was passed; and his mind was now in a firm and
healthy state. He saw that, in employing fiction to make truth clear
and goodness attractive, he was only following the example which every
Christian ought to propose to himself; and he determined to print.

The "Pilgrim's Progress" stole silently into the world. Not a single
copy of the first edition is known to be in existence. The year of
publication has not been ascertained. It is probable that, during
some months, the little volume circulated only among poor and obscure
sectaries. But soon the irresistible charm of a book which gratified
the imagination of the reader with all the action and scenery of a
fairy tale, which exercised his ingenuity by setting him to discover a
multitude of curious analogies, which interested his feelings for human
beings, frail like himself, and struggling with temptations from within
and from without, which every moment drew a smile from him by some
stroke of quaint yet simple pleasantry, and nevertheless left on his
mind a sentiment of reverence for God and of sympathy for man, began to
produce its effect. In puritanical circles, from which plays and novels
were strictly excluded, that effect was such as no work of genius,
though it were superior to the Iliad, to Don Quixote, or to Othello, can
ever produce on a mind accustomed to indulge in literary luxury. In 1678
came forth a second edition with additions; and then the demand became
immense. In the four following years the book was reprinted six times.
The eighth edition, which contains the last improvements made by the
author, was published in 1682, the ninth in 1684, the tenth in 1685. The
help of the engraver had early been called in; and tens of thousands
of children looked with terror and delight on execrable copper plates,
which represented Christian thrusting his sword into Apollyon, or
writhing in the grasp of Giant Despair. In Scotland, and in some of the
colonies, the Pilgrim was even more popular than in his native country.
Bunyan has told us, with very pardonable vanity, that in New England his
dream was the daily subject of the conversation of thousands, and was
thought worthy to appear in the most superb binding. He had numerous
admirers in Holland, and among the Huguenots of France. With the
pleasures, however, he experienced some of the pains of eminence.
Knavish booksellers put forth volumes of trash under his name; and
envious scribblers maintained it to be impossible that the poor ignorant
tinker should really be the author of the book which was called his.

He took the best way to confound both those who counterfeited him and
those who slandered him. He continued to work the gold-field which he
had discovered, and to draw from it new treasures, not indeed with quite
such ease and in quite such abundance as when the precious soil was
still virgin, but yet with success which left all competition far
behind. In 1684 appeared the second part of the "Pilgrim's Progress." It
was soon followed by the "Holy War," which, if the "Pilgrim's Progress"
did not exist, would be the best allegory that ever was written.

Bunyan's place in society was now very different from what it had been.
There had been a time when many Dissenting ministers, who could talk
Latin and read Greek, had affected to treat him with scorn. But his
fame and influence now far exceeded theirs. He had so great an authority
among the Baptists that he was popularly called Bishop Bunyan. His
episcopal visitations were annual. From Bedford he rode every year to
London, and preached there to large and attentive congregations. From
London he went his circuit through the country, animating the zeal of
his brethren, collecting and distributing alms, and making up quarrels.
The magistrates seem in general to have given him little trouble. But
there is reason to believe that, in the year 1685, he was in some danger
of again occupying his old quarters in Bedford gaol. In that year the
rash and wicked enterprise of Monmouth gave the Government a pretext for
persecuting the Nonconformists; and scarcely one eminent divine of the
Presbyterian, Independent, or Baptist persuasion remained unmolested.
Baxter was in prison: Howe was driven into exile: Henry was arrested.
Two eminent Baptists, with whom Bunyan had been engaged in controversy,
were in great peril and distress. Danvers was in danger of being hanged;
and Kiffin's grandsons were actually hanged. The tradition is that,
during those evil days, Bunyan was forced to disguise himself as a
waggoner, and that he preached to his congregation at Bedford in a
smoke-frock, with a cart-whip in his hand. But soon a great change took
place. James the Second was at open war with the Church, and found
it necessary to court the Dissenters. Some of the creatures of the
government tried to secure the aid of Bunyan. They probably knew that
he had written in praise of the indulgence of 1672, and therefore
hoped that he might be equally pleased with the indulgence of 1687. But
fifteen years of thought, observation, and commerce with the world
had made him wiser. Nor were the cases exactly parallel. Charles was
a professed Protestant: James was a professed Papist. The object of
Charles's indulgence was disguised; the object of James's indulgence
was patent. Bunyan was not deceived. He exhorted his hearers to prepare
themselves by fasting and prayer for the danger which menaced their
civil and religious liberties, and refused even to speak to the courtier
who came down to remodel the corporation of Bedford, and who, as was
supposed, had it in charge to offer some municipal dignity to the Bishop
of the Baptists.

Bunyan did not live to see the Revolution. In the summer of 1688 he
undertook to plead the cause of a son with an angry father, and at
length prevailed on the old man not to disinherit the young one. This
good work cost the benevolent intercessor his life. He had to ride
through heavy rain. He came drenched to his lodgings on Snow Hill, was
seized with a violent fever, and died in a few days. He was buried in
Bunhill Fields; and the spot where he lies is still regarded by the
Nonconformists with a feeling which seems scarcely in harmony with the
stern spirit of their theology. Many Puritans, to whom the respect paid
by Roman Catholics to the reliques and tombs of saints seemed childish
or sinful, are said to have begged with their dying breath that their
coffins might be placed as near as possible to the office of the author
of the "Pilgrim's Progress."

The fame of Bunyan during his life, and during the century which
followed his death, was indeed great, but was almost entirely confined
to religious families of the middle and lower classes. Very seldom
was he during that time mentioned with respect by any writer of great
literary eminence. Young coupled his prose with the poetry of the
wretched D'Urfey. In the Spiritual Quixote, the adventures of Christian
are ranked with those of Jack the Giant-Killer and John Hickathrift.
Cowper ventured to praise the great allegorist, but did not venture to
name him. It is a significant circumstance that, till a recent period,
all the numerous editions of the "Pilgrim's Progress" were evidently
meant for the cottage and the servants' hall. The paper, the printing,
the plates, were all of the meanest description. In general, when the
educated minority and the common people differ about the merit of
a book, the opinion of the educated minority finally prevails. The
"Pilgrim's Progress" is perhaps the only book about which, after the
lapse of a hundred years, the educated minority has come over to the
opinion of the common people.

The attempts which have been made to improve and to imitate this book
are not to be numbered. It has been done into verse: it has been
done into modern English. "The Pilgrimage of Tender Conscience,"
"The Pilgrimage of Good Intent," "The Pilgrimage of Seek Truth," "The
Pilgrimage of Theophilus," "The Infant Pilgrim," "The Hindoo Pilgrim,"
are among the many feeble copies of the great original. But the peculiar
glory of Bunyan is that those who most hated his doctrines have tried to
borrow the help of his genius. A Catholic version of his parable may be
seen with the head of the Virgin in the title-page. On the other hand,
those Antinomians for whom his Calvinism is not strong enough may study
the pilgrimage of Hephzibah, in which nothing will be found which can be
construed into an admission of free agency and universal redemption. But
the most extraordinary of all the acts of Vandalism by which a fine work
of art was ever defaced was committed so late as the year 1853. It was
determined to transform the "Pilgrim's Progress" into a Tractarian book.
The task was not easy: for it was necessary to make the two sacraments
the most prominent objects in the allegory; and of all Christian
theologians, avowed Quakers excepted, Bunyan was the one in whose system
the sacraments held the least prominent place. However, the Wicket Gate
became a type of Baptism, and the House Beautiful of the Eucharist. The
effect of this change is such as assuredly the ingenious person who made
it never contemplated. For, as not a single pilgrim passes through the
Wicket Gate in infancy, and as Faithful hurries past the House Beautiful
without stopping, the lesson which the fable in its altered shape
teaches, is that none but adults ought to be baptised, and that the
Eucharist may safely be neglected. Nobody would have discovered from the
original "Pilgrim's Progress" that the author was not a Paedobaptist.
To turn his book into a book against Paedobaptism was an achievement
reserved for an Anglo-Catholic divine. Such blunders must necessarily
be committed by every man who mutilates parts of a great work, without
taking a comprehensive view of the whole.


OLIVER GOLDSMITH. (February 1856.)

Oliver Goldsmith, one of the most pleasing English writers of the
eighteenth century. He was of a Protestant and Saxon family which had
been long settled in Ireland, and which had, like most other Protestant
and Saxon families, been, in troubled times, harassed and put in fear
by the native population. His father, Charles Goldsmith, studied in the
reign of Queen Anne at the diocesan school of Elphin, became attached to
the daughter of the schoolmaster, married her, took orders, and settled
at a place called Pallas in the county of Longford. There he with
difficulty supported his wife and children on what he could earn, partly
as a curate and partly as a farmer.

At Pallas Oliver Goldsmith was born in November 1728. That spot was
then, for all practical purposes, almost as remote from the busy and
splendid capital in which his later years were passed, as any clearing
in Upper Canada or any sheep-walk in Australasia now is. Even at this
day those enthusiasts who venture to make a pilgrimage to the birthplace
of the poet are forced to perform the latter part of their journey on
foot. The hamlet lies far from any high road, on a dreary plain which,
in wet weather, is often a lake. The lanes would break any jaunting
car to pieces; and there are ruts and sloughs through which the most
strongly built wheels cannot be dragged.

While Oliver was still a child, his father was presented to a living
worth about 200 pounds a year, in the county of Westmeath. The family
accordingly quitted their cottage in the wilderness for a spacious
house on a frequented road, near the village of Lissoy. Here the boy was
taught his letters by a maid-servant, and was sent in his seventh
year to a village school kept by an old quartermaster on half-pay, who
professed to teach nothing but reading, writing, and arithmetic, but
who had an inexhaustible fund of stories about ghosts, banshees,
and fairies, about the great Rapparee chiefs, Baldearg O'Donnell and
galloping Hogan, and about the exploits of Peterborough and Stanhope,
the surprise of Monjuich, and the glorious disaster of Brihuega.
This man must have been of the Protestant religion; but he was of the
aboriginal race, and not only spoke the Irish language, but could pour
forth unpremeditated Irish verses. Oliver early became, and through life
continued to be, a passionate admirer of the Irish music, and especially
of the compositions of Carolan, some of the last notes of whose harp
he heard. It ought to be added that Oliver, though by birth one of the
Englishry, and though connected by numerous ties with the Established
Church, never showed the least sign of that contemptuous antipathy
with which, in his days, the ruling minority in Ireland too generally
regarded the subject majority. So far indeed was he from sharing in
the opinions and feelings of the caste to which he belonged, that he
conceived an aversion to the Glorious and Immortal Memory, and, even
when George the Third was on the throne, maintained that nothing but the
restoration of the banished dynasty could save the country.

From the humble academy kept by the old soldier Goldsmith was removed
in his ninth year. He went to several grammar schools, and acquired some
knowledge of the ancient languages. His life at this time seems to have
been far from happy. He had, as appears from the admirable portrait of
him at Knowle, features harsh even to ugliness. The small-pox had set
its mark on him with more than usual severity. His stature was small,
and his limbs ill put together. Among boys little tenderness is shown to
personal defects; and the ridicule excited by poor Oliver's appearance
was heightened by a peculiar simplicity and a disposition to blunder
which he retained to the last. He became the common butt of boys and
masters, was pointed at as a fright in the play-ground, and flogged as
a dunce in the school-room. When he had risen to eminence, those who
had once derided him ransacked their memory for the events of his early
years, and recited repartees and couplets which had dropped from him,
and which, though little noticed at the time, were supposed, a quarter
of a century later, to indicate the powers which produced the "Vicar of
Wakefield" and the "Deserted Village."

In his seventeenth year Oliver went up to Trinity College, Dublin, as a
sizar. The sizars paid nothing for food and tuition, and very little for
lodging; but they had to perform some menial services from which they
have long been relieved. They swept the court: they carried up the
dinner to the fellows' table, and changed the plates and poured out the
ale of the rulers of the society. Goldsmith was quartered, not alone, in
a garret, on the window of which his name, scrawled by himself, is still
read with interest. (The glass on which the name is written has, as we
are informed by a writer in "Notes and Queries" (2d. S. ix. p. 91), been
inclosed in a frame and deposited in the Manuscript Room of the College
Library, where it is still to be seen.) From such garrets many men
of less parts than his have made their way to the woolsack or to the
episcopal bench. But Goldsmith, while he suffered all the humiliations,
threw away all the advantages, of his situation. He neglected the
studies of the place, stood low at the examinations, was turned down to
the bottom of his class for playing the buffoon in the lecture-room,
was severely reprimanded for pumping on a constable, and was caned by a
brutal tutor for giving a ball in the attic story of the college to some
gay youths and damsels from the city.

While Oliver was leading at Dublin a life divided between squalid
distress and squalid dissipation, his father died, leaving a mere
pittance. The youth obtained his bachelor's degree, and left the
university. During some time the humble dwelling to which his widowed
mother had retired was his home. He was now in his twenty-first year; it
was necessary that he should do something; and his education seemed to
have fitted him to do nothing but to dress himself in gaudy colours, of
which he was as fond as a magpie, to take a hand at cards, to sing Irish
airs, to play the flute, to angle in summer, and to tell ghost stories
by the fire in winter. He tried five or six professions in turn without
success. He applied for ordination; but, as he applied in scarlet
clothes, he was speedily turned out of the episcopal palace. He then
became tutor in an opulent family, but soon quitted his situation in
consequence of a dispute about play. Then he determined to emigrate to
America. His relations, with much satisfaction, saw him set out for Cork
on a good horse with thirty pounds in his pocket. But in six weeks he
came back on a miserable hack, without a penny, and informed his mother
that the ship in which he had taken his passage, having got a fair wind
while he was at a party of pleasure, had sailed without him. Then he
resolved to study the law. A generous kinsman advanced fifty pounds.
With this sum Goldsmith went to Dublin, was enticed into a gaming house,
and lost every shilling. He then thought of medicine. A small purse
was made up; and in his twenty-fourth year he was sent to Edinburgh. At
Edinburgh he passed eighteen months in nominal attendance on lectures,
and picked up some superficial information about chemistry and natural
history. Thence he went to Leyden, still pretending to study physic. He
left that celebrated university, the third university at which he had
resided, in his twenty-seventh year, without a degree, with the merest
smattering of medical knowledge, and with no property but his clothes
and his flute. His flute, however, proved a useful friend. He rambled
on foot through Flanders, France, and Switzerland, playing tunes which
everywhere set the peasantry dancing, and which often procured for him a
supper and a bed. He wandered as far as Italy. His musical performances,
indeed, were not to the taste of the Italians; but he contrived to live
on the alms which he obtained at the gates of the convents. It should,
however, be observed that the stories which he told about this part of
his life ought to be received with great caution; for strict veracity
was never one of his virtues; and a man who is ordinarily inaccurate in
narration is likely to be more than ordinarily inaccurate when he talks
about his own travels. Goldsmith, indeed, was so regardless of truth
as to assert in print that he was present at a most interesting
conversation between Voltaire and Fontenelle, and that this conversation
took place at Paris. Now it is certain that Voltaire never was within a
hundred leagues of Paris during the whole time which Goldsmith passed on
the Continent.

In 1756 the wanderer landed at Dover, without a shilling, without a
friend, and without a calling. He had, indeed, if his own unsupported
evidence may be trusted, obtained from the University of Padua a
doctor's degree; but this dignity proved utterly useless to him. In
England his flute was not in request: there were no convents; and he was
forced to have recourse to a series of desperate expedients. He turned
strolling player; but his face and figure were ill suited to the boards
even of the humblest theatre. He pounded drugs and ran about London with
phials for charitable chemists. He joined a swarm of beggars, which made
its nest in Axe Yard. He was for a time usher of a school, and felt the
miseries and humiliations of this situation so keenly that he thought
it a promotion to be permitted to earn his bread as a bookseller's hack;
but he soon found the new yoke more galling than the old one, and was
glad to become an usher again. He obtained a medical appointment in
the service of the East India Company; but the appointment was speedily
revoked. Why it was revoked we are not told. The subject was one on
which he never liked to talk. It is probable that he was incompetent to
perform the duties of the place. Then he presented himself at Surgeon's
Hall for examination, as mate to a naval hospital. Even to so humble
a post he was found unequal. By this time the schoolmaster whom he had
served for a morsel of food and the third part of a bed was no more.
Nothing remained but to return to the lowest drudgery of literature.
Goldsmith took a garret in a miserable court, to which he had to climb
from the brink of Fleet Ditch by a dizzy ladder of flagstones called
Breakneck Steps. The court and the ascent have long disappeared; but old
Londoners will remember both. (A gentleman, who states that he has known
the neighbourhood for thirty years, corrects this account, and informs
the present publisher that the Breakneck Steps, thirty-two in number,
divided into two flights, are still in existence, and that, according
to tradition, Goldsmith's house was not on the steps, but was the first
house at the head of the court, on the left hand, going from the Old
Bailey. See "Notes and Queries" (2d. S. ix. 280).) Here, at thirty, the
unlucky adventurer sat down to toil like a galley slave.

In the succeeding six years he sent to the press some things which have
survived and many which have perished. He produced articles for reviews,
magazines, and newspapers; children's books which, bound in gilt paper
and adorned with hideous woodcuts, appeared in the window of the once
far-famed shop at the corner of Saint Paul's Churchyard; "An Inquiry
into the State of Polite Learning in Europe," which, though of little
or no value, is still reprinted among his works; a "Life of Beau Nash,"
which is not reprinted, though it well deserves to be so (Mr Black has
pointed out that this is inaccurate: the life of Nash has been twice
reprinted; once in Mr Prior's edition (vol. iii. p. 249), and once in
Mr Cunningham's edition (vol. iv. p. 35).); a superficial and incorrect,
but very readable, "History of England," in a series of letters
purporting to be addressed by a nobleman to his son; and some very
lively and amusing "Sketches of London Society," in a series of letters
purporting to be addressed by a Chinese traveller to his friends. All
these works were anonymous; but some of them were well-known to be
Goldsmith's; and he gradually rose in the estimation of the booksellers
for whom he drudged. He was, indeed, emphatically a popular writer. For
accurate research or grave disquisition he was not well qualified by
nature or by education. He knew nothing accurately: his reading had been
desultory; nor had he meditated deeply on what he had read. He had seen
much of the world; but he had noticed and retained little more of what
he had seen than some grotesque incidents and characters which had
happened to strike his fancy. But, though his mind was very scantily
stored with materials, he used what materials he had in such a way as
to produce a wonderful effect. There have been many greater writers;
but perhaps no writer was ever more uniformly agreeable. His style was
always pure and easy, and, on proper occasions, pointed and energetic.
His narratives were always amusing, his descriptions always picturesque,
his humour rich and joyous, yet not without an occasional tinge of
amiable sadness. About everything that he wrote, serious or sportive,
there was a certain natural grace and decorum, hardly to be expected
from a man a great part of whose life had been passed among thieves and
beggars, street-walkers and merry andrews, in those squalid dens which
are the reproach of great capitals.

As his name gradually became known, the circle of his acquaintance
widened. He was introduced to Johnson, who was then considered as the
first of living English writers; to Reynolds, the first of English
painters; and to Burke, who had not yet entered parliament, but had
distinguished himself greatly by his writings and by the eloquence of
his conversation. With these eminent men Goldsmith became intimate.
In 1763 he was one of the nine original members of that celebrated
fraternity which has sometimes been called the Literary Club, but which
has always disclaimed that epithet, and still glories in the simple name
of The Club.

By this time Goldsmith had quitted his miserable dwelling at the top of
Breakneck Steps, and had taken chambers in the more civilised region of
the Inns of Court. But he was still often reduced to pitiable shifts.
Towards the close of 1764 his rent was so long in arrear that his
landlady one morning called in the help of a sheriff's officer. The
debtor, in great perplexity, despatched a messenger to Johnson; and
Johnson, always friendly, though often surly, sent back the messenger
with a guinea, and promised to follow speedily. He came, and found that
Goldsmith had changed the guinea, and was railing at the landlady over
a bottle of Madeira. Johnson put the cork into the bottle, and entreated
his friend to consider calmly how money was to be procured. Goldsmith
said that he had a novel ready for the press. Johnson glanced at
the manuscript, saw that there were good things in it, took it to a
bookseller, sold it for 60 pounds, and soon returned with the money.
The rent was paid; and the sheriff's officer withdrew. According to one
story, Goldsmith gave his landlady a sharp reprimand for her treatment
of him; according to another, he insisted on her joining him in a bowl
of punch. Both stories are probably true. The novel which was thus
ushered into the world was the "Vicar of Wakefield."

But, before the "Vicar of Wakefield" appeared in print, came the
great crisis of Goldsmith's literary life. In Christmas week, 1764, he
published a poem, entitled the "Traveller." It was the first work to
which he had put his name; and it at once raised him to the rank of a
legitimate English classic. The opinion of the most skilful critics was,
that nothing finer had appeared in verse since the fourth book of the
"Dunciad." In one respect the "Traveller" differs from all Goldsmith's
other writings. In general his designs were bad, and his execution good.
In the "Traveller," the execution, though deserving of much praise, is
far inferior to the design. No philosophical poem, ancient or modern,
has a plan so noble, and at the same time so simple. An English
wanderer, seated on a crag among the Alps, near the point where three
great countries meet, looks down on the boundless prospect, reviews
his long pilgrimage, recalls the varieties of scenery, of climate, of
government, of religion, of national character, which he has observed,
and comes to the conclusion just or unjust, that our happiness depends
little on political institutions, and much on the temper and regulation
of our own minds.

While the fourth edition of the "Traveller" was on the counters of the
booksellers, the "Vicar of Wakefield" appeared, and rapidly obtained a
popularity which has lasted down to our own time, and which is likely to
last as long as our language. The fable is indeed one of the worst that
ever was constructed. It wants, not merely that probability which ought
to be found in a tale of common English life, but that consistency which
ought to be found even in the wildest fiction about witches, giants,
and fairies. But the earlier chapters have all the sweetness of
pastoral poetry, together with all the vivacity of comedy. Moses and his
spectacles, the vicar and his monogamy, the sharper and his cosmogony,
the squire proving from Aristotle that relatives are related, Olivia
preparing herself for the arduous task of converting a rakish lover by
studying the controversy between Robinson Crusoe and Friday, the great
ladies with their scandal about Sir Tomkyn's amours and Dr Burdock's
verses, and Mr Burchell with his "Fudge," have caused as much harmless
mirth as has ever been caused by matter packed into so small a number of
pages. The latter part of the tale is unworthy of the beginning. As we
approach the catastrophe, the absurdities lie thicker and thicker; and
the gleams of pleasantry become rarer and rarer.

The success which had attended Goldsmith as a novelist emboldened him to
try his fortune as a dramatist. He wrote the "Goodnatured Man," a piece
which had a worse fate than it deserved. Garrick refused to produce it
at Drury Lane. It was acted at Covent Garden in 1768, but was coldly
received. The author, however, cleared by his benefit nights, and by the
sale of the copyright, no less than 500 pounds, five times as much as he
had made by the "Traveller" and the "Vicar of Wakefield" together. The
plot of the "Goodnatured Man" is, like almost all Goldsmith's plots,
very ill constructed. But some passages are exquisitely ludicrous; much
more ludicrous, indeed, than suited the taste of the town at that time.
A canting, mawkish play, entitled "False Delicacy," had just had an
immense run. Sentimentality was all the mode. During some years, more
tears were shed at comedies than at tragedies; and a pleasantry which
moved the audience to anything more than a grave smile was reprobated
as low. It is not strange, therefore, that the very best scene in the
"Goodnatured Man," that in which Miss Richland finds her lover attended
by the bailiff and the bailiff's follower in full court dresses, should
have been mercilessly hissed, and should have been omitted after the
first night.

In 1770 appeared the "Deserted Village." In mere diction and
versification this celebrated poem is fully equal, perhaps superior,
to the "Traveller;" and it is generally preferred to the "Traveller" by
that large class of readers who think, with Bayes in the "Rehearsal,"
that the only use of a plan is to bring in fine things. More discerning
judges, however, while they admire the beauty of the details, are
shocked by one unpardonable fault which pervades the whole. The fault we
mean is not that theory about wealth and luxury which has so often been
censured by political economists. The theory is indeed false: but the
poem, considered merely as a poem, is not necessarily the worse on
that account. The finest poem in the Latin language, indeed the finest
didactic poem in any language, was written in defence of the silliest
and meanest of all systems of natural and moral philosophy. A poet may
easily be pardoned for reasoning ill; but he cannot be pardoned for
describing ill, for observing the world in which he lives so carelessly
that his portraits bear no resemblance to the originals, for exhibiting
as copies from real life monstrous combinations of things which never
were and never could be found together. What would be thought of a
painter who should mix August and January in one landscape, who should
introduce a frozen river into a harvest scene? Would it be a sufficient
defence of such a picture to say that every part was exquisitely
coloured, that the green hedges, the apple-trees loaded with fruit, the
waggons reeling under the yellow sheaves, and the sun-burned reapers
wiping their foreheads, were very fine, and that the ice and the boys
sliding were also very fine? To such a picture the "Deserted Village"
bears a great resemblance. It is made up of incongruous parts. The
village in its happy days is a true English village. The village in its
decay is an Irish village. The felicity and the misery which Goldsmith
has brought close together belong to two different countries; and to two
different stages in the progress of society. He had assuredly never
seen in his native island such a rural paradise, such a seat of plenty,
content, and tranquillity, as his "Auburn." He had assuredly never seen
in England all the inhabitants of such a paradise turned out of their
homes in one day and forced to emigrate in a body to America. The hamlet
he had probably seen in Kent; the ejectment he had probably seen in
Munster: but, by joining the two, he has produced something which never
was and never will be seen in any part of the world.

In 1773 Goldsmith tried his chance at Covent Garden with a second play,
"She Stoops to Conquer." The manager was not without great difficulty
induced to bring this piece out. The sentimental comedy still reigned;
and Goldsmith's comedies were not sentimental. The "Goodnatured Man" had
been too funny to succeed; yet the mirth of the "Goodnatured Man" was
sober when compared with the rich drollery of "She Stoops to Conquer,"
which is, in truth, an incomparable farce in five acts. On this
occasion, however, genius triumphed. Pit, boxes, and galleries, were
in a constant roar of laughter. If any bigoted admirer of Kelly and
Cumberland ventured to hiss or groan, he was speedily silenced by a
general cry of "turn him out," or "throw him over." Two generations have
since confirmed the verdict which was pronounced on that night.

While Goldsmith was writing the "Deserted Village," and "She Stoops to
Conquer," he was employed on works of a very different kind, works from
which he derived little reputation but much profit. He compiled for
the use of schools a "History of Rome," by which he made 300 pounds,
a "History of England," by which he made 600 pounds, a "History of
Greece," for which he received 250 pounds, a "Natural History," for
which the booksellers covenanted to pay him 800 guineas. These works he
produced without any elaborate research, by merely selecting, abridging,
and translating into his own clear, pure, and flowing language what he
found in books well-known to the world, but too bulky or too dry for
boys and girls. He committed some strange blunders; for he knew nothing
with accuracy. Thus in his "History of England," he tells us that Naseby
is in Yorkshire; nor did he correct this mistake when the book was
reprinted. He was very nearly hoaxed into putting into the "History
of Greece" an account of the battle between Alexander the Great and
Montezuma. In his "Animated Nature" he relates, with faith and with
perfect gravity, all the most absurd lies which he could find in books
of travels about gigantic Patagonians, monkeys that preach sermons,
nightingales that repeat long conversations. "If he can tell a horse
from a cow," said Johnson, "that is the extent of his knowledge of
zoology." How little Goldsmith was qualified to write about the physical
sciences is sufficiently proved by two anecdotes. He on one occasion
denied that the sun is longer in the northern than in the southern
signs. It was vain to cite the authority of Maupertuis. "Maupertuis!" he
cried, "I understand those matters better than Maupertuis." On another
occasion he, in defiance of the evidence of his own senses, maintained
obstinately, and even angrily, that he chewed his dinner by moving his
upper jaw.

Yet, ignorant as Goldsmith was, few writers have done more to make the
first steps in the laborious road to knowledge easy and pleasant. His
compilations are widely distinguished from the compilations of ordinary
book-makers. He was a great, perhaps an unequalled, master of the arts
of selection and condensation. In these respects his histories of Rome
and of England, and still more his own abridgements of these histories,
well deserve to be studied. In general nothing is less attractive than
an epitome: but the epitomes of Goldsmith, even when most concise, are
always amusing; and to read them is considered by intelligent children,
not as a task, but as a pleasure.

Goldsmith might now be considered as a prosperous man. He had the means
of living in comfort, and even in what to one who had so often slept
in barns and on bulks must have been luxury. His fame was great and
was constantly rising. He lived in what was intellectually far the
best society of the kingdom, in a society in which no talent or
accomplishment was wanting, and in which the art of conversation was
cultivated with splendid success. There probably were never four talkers
more admirable in four different ways than Johnson, Burke, Beauclerk,
and Garrick; and Goldsmith was on terms of intimacy with all the four.
He aspired to share in their colloquial renown; but never was ambition
more unfortunate. It may seem strange that a man who wrote with so much
perspicuity, vivacity, and grace, should have been, whenever he took a
part in conversation, an empty, noisy, blundering rattle. But on this
point the evidence is overwhelming. So extraordinary was the contrast
between Goldsmith's published works and the silly things which he said,
that Horace Walpole described him as an inspired idiot. "Noll," said
Garrick, "wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll." Chamier
declared that it was a hard exercise of faith to believe that so foolish
a chatterer could have really written the "Traveller." Even Boswell
could say, with contemptuous compassion, that he liked very well to hear
honest Goldsmith run on. "Yes, sir," said Johnson, "but he should
not like to hear himself." Minds differ as rivers differ. There are
transparent and sparkling rivers from which it is delightful to drink as
they flow; to such rivers the minds of such men as Burke and Johnson may
be compared. But there are rivers of which the water when first drawn
is turbid and noisome, but becomes pellucid as crystal, and delicious to
the taste, if it be suffered to stand till it has deposited a sediment;
and such a river is a type of the mind of Goldsmith. His first thoughts
on every subject were confused even to absurdity; but they required
only a little time to work themselves clear. When he wrote they had that
time; and therefore his readers pronounced him a man of genius: but when
he talked he talked nonsense, and made himself the laughing-stock of his
hearers. He was painfully sensible of his inferiority in conversation;
he felt every failure keenly; yet he had not sufficient judgment and
self-command to hold his tongue. His animal spirits and vanity were
always impelling him to try to do the one thing which he could not do.
After every attempt he felt that he had exposed himself, and writhed
with shame and vexation; yet the next moment he began again.

His associates seem to have regarded him with kindness, which, in spite
of their admiration of his writings, was not unmixed with contempt.
In truth, there was in his character much to love, but very little to
respect. His heart was soft even to weakness: he was so generous that he
quite forgot to be just: he forgave injuries so readily that he might be
said to invite them; and was so liberal to beggars that he had nothing
left for his tailor and his butcher. He was vain, sensual, frivolous,
profuse, improvident. One vice of a darker shade was imputed to him,
envy. But there is not the least reason to believe that this bad
passion, though it sometimes made him wince and utter fretful
exclamations, ever impelled him to injure by wicked arts the reputation
of any of his rivals. The truth probably is, that he was not more
envious, but merely less prudent, than his neighbours. His heart was on
his lips. All those small jealousies, which are but too common among men
of letters, but which a man of letters who is also a man of the world
does his best to conceal, Goldsmith avowed with the simplicity of a
child. When he was envious, instead of affecting indifference, instead
of damning with faint praise, instead of doing injuries slily and in the
dark, he told everybody that he was envious. "Do not, pray, do not talk
of Johnson in such terms," he said to Boswell; "you harrow up my very
soul." George Steevens and Cumberland were men far too cunning to say
such a thing. They would have echoed the praises of the man whom they
envied, and then have sent to the newspapers anonymous libels upon him.
Both what was good and what was bad in Goldsmith's character was to his
associates a perfect security that he would never commit such villany.
He was neither ill natured enough, nor long headed enough, to be guilty
of any malicious act which required contrivance and disguise.

Goldsmith has sometimes been represented as a man of genius, cruelly
treated by the world, and doomed to struggle with difficulties which at
last broke his heart. But no representation can be more remote from the
truth. He did, indeed, go through much sharp misery before he had done
anything considerable in literature. But, after his name had appeared on
the title-page of the "Traveller," he had none but himself to blame for
his distresses. His average income, during the last seven years of
his life, certainly exceeded 400 pounds a year; and 400 pounds a year
ranked, among the incomes of that day, at least as high as 800 pounds a
year would rank at present. A single man living in the Temple with 400
pounds a year might then be called opulent. Not one in ten of the young
gentlemen of good families who were studying the law there had so much.
But all the wealth which Lord Clive had brought from Bengal, and Sir
Lawrence Dundas from Germany, joined together, would not have sufficed
for Goldsmith. He spent twice as much as he had. He wore fine clothes,
gave dinners of several courses, paid court to venal beauties. He had
also, it should be remembered, to the honour of his heart, though not of
his head, a guinea, or five or ten, according to the state of his purse,
ready for any tale of distress, true or false. But it was not in dress
or feasting, in promiscuous amours or promiscuous charities, that his
chief expense lay. He had been from boyhood a gambler, and at once the
most sanguine and the most unskilful of gamblers. For a time he put off
the day of inevitable ruin by temporary expedients. He obtained advances
from booksellers, by promising to execute works which he never began.
But at length this source of supply failed. He owed more than 2000
pounds; and he saw no hope of extrication from his embarrassments. His
spirits and health gave way. He was attacked by a nervous fever, which
he thought himself competent to treat. It would have been happy for him
if his medical skill had been appreciated as justly by himself as by
others. Notwithstanding the degree which he pretended to have received
at Padua, he could procure no patients. "I do not practise," he once
said; "I make it a rule to prescribe only for my friends." "Pray, dear
Doctor," said Beauclerk, "alter your rule; and prescribe only for your
enemies." Goldsmith now, in spite of this excellent advice, prescribed
for himself. The remedy aggravated the malady. The sick man was induced
to call in real physicians; and they at one time imagined that they had
cured the disease. Still his weakness and restlessness continued. He
could get no sleep. He could take no food. "You are worse," said one
of his medical attendants, "than you should be from the degree of fever
which you have. Is your mind at ease?" "No, it is not," were the last
recorded words of Oliver Goldsmith. He died on the third of April 1774,
in his forty-sixth year. He was laid in the churchyard of the Temple;
but the spot was not marked by any inscription, and is now forgotten.
The coffin was followed by Burke and Reynolds. Both these great men were
sincere mourners. Burke, when he heard of Goldsmith's death, had burst
into a flood of tears. Reynolds had been so much moved by the news that
he had flung aside his brush and palette for the day.

A short time after Goldsmith's death, a little poem appeared, which
will, as long as our language lasts, associate the names of his two
illustrious friends with his own. It has already been mentioned that he
sometimes felt keenly the sarcasm which his wild blundering talk brought
upon him. He was, not long before his last illness, provoked into
retaliating. He wisely betook himself to his pen; and at that weapon he
proved himself a match for all his assailants together. Within a
small compass he drew with a singularly easy and vigorous pencil the
characters of nine or ten of his intimate associates. Though this little
work did not receive his last touches, it must always be regarded as a
masterpiece. It is impossible, however, not to wish that four or five
likenesses which have no interest for posterity were wanting to that
noble gallery; and that their places were supplied by sketches of
Johnson and Gibbon, as happy and vivid as the sketches of Burke and

Some of Goldsmith's friends and admirers honoured him with a cenotaph
in Westminster Abbey. Nollekens was the sculptor; and Johnson wrote the
inscription. It is much to be lamented that Johnson did not leave to
posterity a more durable and a more valuable memorial of his friend. A
life of Goldsmith would have been an inestimable addition to the Lives
of the Poets. No man appreciated Goldsmith's writings more justly than
Johnson; no man was better acquainted with Goldsmith's character and
habits; and no man was more competent to delineate with truth and spirit
the peculiarities of a mind in which great powers were found in company
with great weaknesses. But the lists of poets to whose works Johnson was
requested by the booksellers to furnish prefaces ended with Lyttleton,
who died in 1773. The line seems to have been drawn expressly for the
purpose of excluding the person whose portrait would have most fitly
closed the series. Goldsmith, however, has been fortunate in his
biographers. Within a few years his life has been written by Mr Prior,
by Mr Washington Irving, and by Mr Forster. The diligence of Mr Prior
deserves great praise; the style of Mr Washington Irving is always
pleasing; but the highest place must, in justice, be assigned to the
eminently interesting work of Mr Forster.


SAMUEL JOHNSON. (December 1856.)

Samuel Johnson, one of the most eminent English writers of the
eighteenth century, was the son of Michael Johnson, who was, at the
beginning of that century, a magistrate of Lichfield, and a bookseller
of great note in the midland counties. Michael's abilities and
attainments seem to have been considerable. He was so well acquainted
with the contents of the volumes which he exposed to sale, that the
country rectors of Staffordshire and Worcestershire thought him an
oracle on points of learning. Between him and the clergy, indeed,
there was a strong religious and political sympathy. He was a zealous
churchman, and, though he had qualified himself for municipal office
by taking the oaths to the sovereigns in possession, was to the last a
Jacobite in heart. At his house, a house which is still pointed out to
every traveller who visits Lichfield, Samuel was born on the 18th of
September 1709. In the child, the physical, intellectual, and moral
peculiarities which afterwards distinguished the man were plainly
discernible; great muscular strength accompanied by much awkwardness and
many infirmities; great quickness of parts, with a morbid propensity to
sloth and procrastination; a kind and generous heart, with a gloomy
and irritable temper. He had inherited from his ancestors a scrofulous
taint, which it was beyond the power of medicine to remove. His parents
were weak enough to believe that the royal touch was a specific for this
malady. In his third year he was taken up to London, inspected by the
court surgeon, prayed over by the court chaplains, and stroked and
presented with a piece of gold by Queen Anne. One of his earliest
recollections was that of a stately lady in a diamond stomacher and a
long black hood. Her hand was applied in vain. The boy's features, which
were originally noble and not irregular, were distorted by his malady.
His cheeks were deeply scarred. He lost for a time the sight of one eye;
and he saw but very imperfectly with the other. But the force of
his mind overcame every impediment. Indolent as he was, he acquired
knowledge with such ease and rapidity that at every school to which
he was sent he was soon the best scholar. From sixteen to eighteen he
resided at home, and was left to his own devices. He learned much at
this time, though his studies were without guidance and without plan. He
ransacked his father's shelves, dipped into a multitude of books, read
what was interesting, and passed over what was dull. An ordinary lad
would have acquired little or no useful knowledge in such a way: but
much that was dull to ordinary lads was interesting to Samuel. He read
little Greek: for his proficiency in that language was not such that he
could take much pleasure in the masters of Attic poetry and eloquence.
But he had left school a good Latinist; and he soon acquired, in the
large and miscellaneous library of which he now had the command, an
extensive knowledge of Latin literature. That Augustan delicacy of
taste which is the boast of the great public schools of England he never
possessed. But he was early familiar with some classical writers who
were quite unknown to the best scholars in the sixth form at Eton.
He was peculiarly attracted by the works of the great restorers of
learning. Once, while searching for some apples, he found a huge folio
volume of Petrarch's works. The name excited his curiosity; and
he eagerly devoured hundreds of pages. Indeed, the diction and
versification of his own Latin compositions show that he had paid at
least as much attention to modern copies from the antique as to the
original models.

While he was thus irregularly educating himself, his family was sinking
into hopeless poverty. Old Michael Johnson was much better qualified
to pore upon books, and to talk about them, than to trade in them. His
business declined; his debts increased; it was with difficulty that the
daily expenses of his household were defrayed. It was out of his power
to support his son at either university; but a wealthy neighbour offered
assistance; and, in reliance on promises which proved to be of very
little value, Samuel was entered at Pembroke College, Oxford. When the
young scholar presented himself to the rulers of that society, they were
amazed not more by his ungainly figure and eccentric manners than by
the quantity of extensive and curious information which he had picked up
during many months of desultory but not unprofitable study. On the first
day of his residence he surprised his teachers by quoting Macrobius; and
one of the most learned among them declared that he had never known a
freshman of equal attainments.

At Oxford, Johnson resided during about three years. He was poor, even
to raggedness; and his appearance excited a mirth and a pity which
were equally intolerable to his haughty spirit. He was driven from the
quadrangle of Christ Church by the sneering looks which the members
of that aristocratical society cast at the holes in his shoes. Some
charitable person placed a new pair at his door; but he spurned them
away in a fury. Distress made him, not servile, but reckless and
ungovernable. No opulent gentleman commoner, panting for one-and-twenty,
could have treated the academical authorities with more gross
disrespect. The needy scholar was generally to be seen under the gate
of Pembroke, a gate now adorned with his effigy, haranguing a circle of
lads, over whom, in spite of his tattered gown and dirty linen, his wit
and audacity gave him an undisputed ascendency. In every mutiny against
the discipline of the college he was the ringleader. Much was
pardoned, however, to a youth so highly distinguished by abilities and
acquirements. He had early made himself known by turning Pope's Messiah
into Latin verse. The style and rhythm, indeed, were not exactly
Virgilian; but the translation found many admirers, and was read with
pleasure by Pope himself.

The time drew near at which Johnson would, in the ordinary course of
things, have become a Bachelor of Arts: but he was at the end of his
resources. Those promises of support on which he had relied had not been
kept. His family could do nothing for him. His debts to Oxford tradesmen
were small indeed, yet larger than he could pay. In the autumn of 1731,
he was under the necessity of quitting the university without a
degree. In the following winter his father died. The old man left but a
pittance; and of that pittance almost the whole was appropriated to the
support of his widow. The property to which Samuel succeeded amounted to
no more than twenty pounds.

His life, during the thirty years which followed, was one hard struggle
with poverty. The misery of that struggle needed no aggravation, but
was aggravated by the sufferings of an unsound body and an unsound mind.
Before the young man left the university, his hereditary malady had
broken forth in a singularly cruel form. He had become an incurable
hypochondriac. He said long after that he had been mad all his life, or
at least not perfectly sane; and, in truth, eccentricities less strange
than his have often been thought grounds sufficient for absolving
felons, and for setting aside wills. His grimaces, his gestures, his
mutterings, sometimes diverted and sometimes terrified people who did
not know him. At a dinner table he would, in a fit of absence, stoop
down and twitch off a lady's shoe. He would amaze a drawing-room by
suddenly ejaculating a clause of the Lord's Prayer. He would conceive
an unintelligible aversion to a particular alley, and perform a great
circuit rather than see the hateful place. He would set his heart on
touching every post in the streets through which he walked. If by any
chance he missed a post, he would go back a hundred yards and repair the
omission. Under the influence of his disease, his senses became morbidly
torpid, and his imagination morbidly active. At one time he would
stand poring on the town clock without being able to tell the hour. At
another, he would distinctly hear his mother, who was many miles off,
calling him by his name. But this was not the worst. A deep melancholy
took possession of him, and gave a dark tinge to all his views of human
nature and of human destiny. Such wretchedness as he endured has driven
many men to shoot themselves or drown themselves. But he was under no
temptation to commit suicide. He was sick of life; but he was afraid of
death; and he shuddered at every sight or sound which reminded him of
the inevitable hour. In religion he found but little comfort during his
long and frequent fits of dejection; for his religion partook of his
own character. The light from heaven shone on him indeed, but not in a
direct line, or with its own pure splendour. The rays had to struggle
through a disturbing medium; they reached him refracted, dulled and
discoloured by the thick gloom which had settled on his soul; and,
though they might be sufficiently clear to guide him, were too dim to
cheer him.

With such infirmities of body and mind, this celebrated man was left, at
two-and-twenty, to fight his way through the world. He remained during
about five years in the midland counties. At Lichfield, his birthplace
and his early home, he had inherited some friends and acquired others.
He was kindly noticed by Henry Hervey, a gay officer of noble family,
who happened to be quartered there. Gilbert Walmesley, registrar of
the ecclesiastical court of the diocese, a man of distinguished parts,
learning, and knowledge of the world, did himself honour by patronising
the young adventurer, whose repulsive person, unpolished manners, and
squalid garb moved many of the petty aristocracy of the neighbourhood to
laughter or to disgust. At Lichfield, however, Johnson could find no
way of earning a livelihood. He became usher of a grammar school in
Leicestershire; he resided as a humble companion in the house of a
country gentleman; but a life of dependence was insupportable to his
haughty spirit. He repaired to Birmingham, and there earned a few
guineas by literary drudgery. In that town he printed a translation,
little noticed at the time, and long forgotten, of a Latin book about
Abyssinia. He then put forth proposals for publishing by subscription
the poems of Politian, with notes containing a history of modern Latin
verse: but subscriptions did not come in; and the volume never appeared.

While leading this vagrant and miserable life, Johnson fell in love. The
object of his passion was Mrs Elizabeth Porter, a widow who had children
as old as himself. To ordinary spectators, the lady appeared to be a
short, fat, coarse woman, painted half an inch thick, dressed in gaudy
colours, and fond of exhibiting provincial airs and graces which were
not exactly those of the Queensberrys and Lepels. To Johnson, however,
whose passions were strong, whose eyesight was too weak to distinguish
ceruse from natural bloom, and who had seldom or never been in the same
room with a woman of real fashion, his Titty, as he called her, was
the most beautiful, graceful, and accomplished of her sex. That his
admiration was unfeigned cannot be doubted; for she was as poor as
himself. She accepted, with a readiness which did her little honour,
the addresses of a suitor who might have been her son. The marriage,
however, in spite of occasional wranglings, proved happier than might
have been expected. The lover continued to be under the illusions of the
wedding-day till the lady died in her sixty-fourth year. On her monument
he placed an inscription extolling the charms of her person and of her
manners; and when, long after her decease, he had occasion to mention
her, he exclaimed, with a tenderness half ludicrous, half pathetic,
"Pretty creature!"

His marriage made it necessary for him to exert himself more strenuously
than he had hitherto done. He took a house in the neighbourhood of his
native town, and advertised for pupils. But eighteen months passed away;
and only three pupils came to his academy. Indeed, his appearance was
so strange, and his temper so violent, that his schoolroom must have
resembled an ogre's den. Nor was the tawdry painted grandmother whom
he called his Titty well qualified to make provision for the comfort of
young gentlemen. David Garrick, who was one of the pupils, used, many
years later, to throw the best company of London into convulsions of
laughter by mimicking the endearments of this extraordinary pair.

At length Johnson, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, determined to
seek his fortune in the capital as a literary adventurer. He set out
with a few guineas, three acts of the tragedy of Irene in manuscript,
and two or three letters of introduction from his friend Walmesley.

Never, since literature became a calling in England, had it been a less
gainful calling than at the time when Johnson took up his residence in
London. In the preceding generation a writer of eminent merit was sure
to be munificently rewarded by the government. The least that he could
expect was a pension or a sinecure place; and, if he showed any aptitude
for politics, he might hope to be a member of parliament, a lord of the
treasury, an ambassador, a secretary of state. It would be easy, on the
other hand, to name several writers of the nineteenth century of
whom the least successful has received forty thousand pounds from the
booksellers. But Johnson entered on his vocation in the most dreary
part of the dreary interval which separated two ages of prosperity.
Literature had ceased to flourish under the patronage of the great, and
had not begun to flourish under the patronage of the public. One man of
letters, indeed, Pope, had acquired by his pen what was then considered
as a handsome fortune, and lived on a footing of equality with nobles
and ministers of state. But this was a solitary exception. Even an
author whose reputation was established, and whose works were popular,
such an author as Thomson, whose Seasons were in every library, such an
author as Fielding, whose Pasquin had had a greater run than any drama
since The Beggar's Opera, was sometimes glad to obtain, by pawning his
best coat, the means of dining on tripe at a cookshop underground,
where he could wipe his hands, after his greasy meal, on the back of a
Newfoundland dog. It is easy, therefore, to imagine what humiliations
and privations must have awaited the novice who had still to earn a
name. One of the publishers to whom Johnson applied for employment
measured with a scornful eye that athletic though uncouth frame, and
exclaimed, "You had better get a porter's knot, and carry trunks." Nor
was the advice bad; for a porter was likely to be as plentifully fed,
and as comfortably lodged, as a poet.

Some time appears to have elapsed before Johnson was able to form any
literary connection from which he could expect more than bread for the
day which was passing over him. He never forgot the generosity with
which Hervey, who was now residing in London, relieved his wants during
this time of trial. "Harry Hervey," said the old philosopher many years
later, "was a vicious man; but he was very kind to me. If you call a dog
Hervey I shall love him." At Hervey's table Johnson sometimes enjoyed
feasts which were made more agreeable by contrast. But in general he
dined, and thought that he dined well, on sixpenny worth of meat, and a
pennyworth of bread, at an alehouse near Drury Lane.

The effect of the privations and sufferings which he endured at this
time was discernible to the last in his temper and his deportment. His
manners had never been courtly. They now became almost savage. Being
frequently under the necessity of wearing shabby coats and dirty shirts,
he became a confirmed sloven. Being often very hungry when he sat down
to his meals, he contracted a habit of eating with ravenous greediness.
Even to the end of his life, and even at the tables of the great, the
sight of food affected him as it affects wild beasts and birds of prey.
His taste in cookery, formed in subterranean ordinaries and alamode
beefshops, was far from delicate. Whenever he was so fortunate as to
have near him a hare that had been kept too long, or a meat pie made
with rancid butter, he gorged himself with such violence that his veins
swelled, and the moisture broke out on his forehead. The affronts which
his poverty emboldened stupid and low-minded men to offer to him would
have broken a mean spirit into sycophancy, but made him rude even to
ferocity. Unhappily the insolence which, while it was defensive,
was pardonable, and in some sense respectable, accompanied him into
societies where he was treated with courtesy and kindness. He was
repeatedly provoked into striking those who had taken liberties with
him. All the sufferers, however, were wise enough to abstain from
talking about their beatings, except Osborne, the most rapacious and
brutal of booksellers, who proclaimed everywhere that he had been
knocked down by the huge fellow whom he had hired to puff the Harleian

About a year after Johnson had begun to reside in London, he was
fortunate enough to obtain regular employment from Cave, an enterprising
and intelligent bookseller, who was proprietor and editor of the
"Gentleman's Magazine." That journal, just entering on the ninth year
of its long existence, was the only periodical work in the kingdom which
then had what would now be called a large circulation. It was, indeed,
the chief source of parliamentary intelligence. It was not then safe,
even during a recess, to publish an account of the proceedings of either
House without some disguise. Cave, however, ventured to entertain his
readers with what he called "Reports of the Debates of the Senate of
Lilliput." France was Blefuscu; London was Mildendo: pounds were sprugs:
the Duke of Newcastle was the Nardac secretary of State: Lord Hardwicke
was the Hurgo Hickrad: and William Pulteney was Wingul Pulnub. To write
the speeches was, during several years, the business of Johnson. He was
generally furnished with notes, meagre indeed, and inaccurate, of what
had been said; but sometimes he had to find arguments and eloquence both
for the ministry and for the opposition. He was himself a Tory, not
from rational conviction--for his serious opinion was that one form of
government was just as good or as bad as another--but from mere passion,
such as inflamed the Capulets against the Montagues, or the Blues of
the Roman circus against the Greens. In his infancy he had heard so much
talk about the villanies of the Whigs, and the dangers of the Church,
that he had become a furious partisan when he could scarcely speak.
Before he was three he had insisted on being taken to hear Sacheverell
preach at Lichfield Cathedral, and had listened to the sermon with
as much respect, and probably with as much intelligence, as any
Staffordshire squire in the congregation. The work which had been
begun in the nursery had been completed by the university. Oxford, when
Johnson resided there, was the most Jacobitical place in England;
and Pembroke was one of the most Jacobital colleges in Oxford. The
prejudices which he brought up to London were scarcely less absurd than
those of his own Tom Tempest. Charles II. and James II. were two of the
best kings that ever reigned. Laud, a poor creature who never did, said,
or wrote anything indicating more than the ordinary capacity of an
old woman, was a prodigy of parts and learning over whose tomb Art and
Genius still continued to weep. Hampden deserved no more honourable name
than that of "the zealot of rebellion." Even the ship money, condemned
not less decidedly by Falkland and Clarendon than by the bitterest
Roundheads, Johnson would not pronounce to have been an unconstitutional
impost. Under a government, the mildest that had ever been known in the
world--under a government, which allowed to the people an unprecedented
liberty of speech and action--he fancied that he was a slave; he
assailed the ministry with obloquy which refuted itself, and regretted
the lost freedom and happiness of those golden days in which a writer
who had taken but one-tenth part of the license allowed to him would
have been pilloried, mangled with the shears, whipped at the cart's
tail, and flung into a noisome dungeon to die. He hated dissenters
and stockjobbers, the excise and the army, septennial parliaments,
and continental connections. He long had an aversion to the Scotch, an
aversion of which he could not remember the commencement, but which, he
owned, had probably originated in his abhorrence of the conduct of the
nation during the Great Rebellion. It is easy to guess in what manner
debates on great party questions were likely to be reported by a
man whose judgment was so much disordered by party spirit. A show of
fairness was indeed necessary to the prosperity of the Magazine. But
Johnson long afterwards owned that, though he had saved appearances, he
had taken care that the Whig dogs should not have the best of it; and,
in fact, every passage which has lived, every passage which bears the
marks of his higher faculties, is put into the mouth of some member of
the opposition.

A few weeks after Johnson had entered on these obscure labours, he
published a work which at once placed him high among the writers of his
age. It is probable that what he had suffered during his first year in
London had often reminded him of some parts of that noble poem in which
Juvenal had described the misery and degradation of a needy man of
letters, lodged among the pigeons' nests in the tottering garrets which
overhung the streets of Rome. Pope's admirable imitations of Horace's
Satires and Epistles had recently appeared, were in every hand, and were
by many readers thought superior to the originals. What Pope had done
for Horace, Johnson aspired to do for Juvenal. The enterprise was bold
and yet judicious. For between Johnson and Juvenal there was much in
common, much more certainly than between Pope and Horace.

Johnson's London appeared without his name in May 1738. He received only
ten guineas for this stately and vigorous poem; but the sale was rapid,
and the success complete. A second edition was required within a
week. Those small critics who are always desirous to lower established
reputations ran about proclaiming that the anonymous satirist was
superior to Pope in Pope's own peculiar department of literature. It
ought to be remembered, to the honour of Pope, that he joined heartily
in the applause with which the appearance of a rival genius was
welcomed. He made inquiries about the author of London. Such a man, he
said, could not long be concealed. The name was soon discovered; and
Pope with great kindness, exerted himself to obtain an academical degree
and the mastership of a grammar school for the poor young poet. The
attempt failed; and Johnson remained a bookseller's hack.

It does not appear that these two men, the most eminent writer of the
generation which was going out, and the most eminent writer of the
generation which was coming in, ever saw each other. They lived in
very different circles, one surrounded by dukes and earls, the other by
starving pamphleteers and index makers. Among Johnson's associates at
this time may be mentioned Boyse, who, when his shirts were pledged,
scrawled Latin verses sitting up in bed with his arms through two holes
in his blanket; who composed very respectable sacred poetry when he
was sober; and who was at last run over by a hackney coach when he
was drunk: Hoole, surnamed the metaphysical tailor, who, instead of
attending to his measures, used to trace geometrical diagrams on the
board where he sate cross-legged; and the penitent impostor, George
Psalmanazar, who, after poring all day, in a humble lodging, on the
folios of Jewish rabbis and Christian fathers, indulged himself at night
with literary and theological conversation at an alehouse in the city.
But the most remarkable of the persons with whom at this time Johnson
consorted was Richard Savage, an earl's son, a shoemaker's apprentice,
who had seen life in all its forms, who had feasted among blue ribands
in Saint James's Square, and had lain with fifty-pounds' weight of iron
on his legs in the condemned ward of Newgate. This man had, after many
vicissitudes of fortune, sunk at last into abject and hopeless poverty.
His pen had failed him. His patrons had been taken away by death,
or estranged by the riotous profusion with which he squandered their
bounty, and the ungrateful insolence with which he rejected their
advice. He now lived by begging. He dined on venison and champagne
whenever he had been so fortunate as to borrow a guinea. If his questing
had been unsuccessful, he appeased the rage of hunger with some scraps
of broken meat, and lay down to rest under the Piazza of Covent Garden
in warm weather, and, in cold weather, as near as he could get to the
furnace of a glass house. Yet, in his misery, he was still an agreeable
companion. He had an inexhaustible store of anecdotes about that gay and
brilliant world from which he was now an outcast. He had observed the
great men of both parties in hours of careless relaxation, had seen the
leaders of opposition without the mask of patriotism, and had heard
the prime minister roar with laughter and tell stories not over decent.
During some months Savage lived in the closest familiarity with Johnson;
and then the friends parted, not without tears. Johnson remained in
London to drudge for Cave. Savage went to the West of England, lived
there as he had lived everywhere, and in 1743, died, penniless and
heart-broken, in Bristol gaol.

Soon after his death, while the public curiosity was strongly excited
about his extraordinary character, and his not less extraordinary
adventures, a life of him appeared widely different from the catchpenny
lives of eminent men which were then a staple article of manufacture in
Grub Street. The style was indeed deficient in ease and variety; and the
writer was evidently too partial to the Latin element of our language.
But the little work, with all its faults, was a masterpiece. No finer
specimen of literary biography existed in any language, living or dead;
and a discerning critic might have confidently predicted that the author
was destined to be the founder of a new school of English eloquence.

The life of Savage was anonymous; but it was well known in literary
circles that Johnson was the writer. During the three years which
followed, he produced no important work, but he was not, and indeed
could not be, idle. The fame of his abilities and learning continued to
grow. Warburton pronounced him a man of parts and genius; and the praise
of Warburton was then no light thing. Such was Johnson's reputation
that, in 1747, several eminent booksellers combined to employ him in the
arduous work of preparing a Dictionary of the English language, in two
folio volumes. The sum which they agreed to pay him was only fifteen
hundred guineas; and out of this sum he had to pay several poor men of
letters who assisted him in the humbler parts of his task.

The prospectus of the Dictionary he addressed to the Earl of
Chesterfield. Chesterfield had long been celebrated for the politeness
of his manners, the brilliancy of his wit, and the delicacy of his
taste. He was acknowledged to be the finest speaker in the House of
Lords. He had recently governed Ireland, at a momentous conjuncture,
with eminent firmness, wisdom, and humanity; and he had since become
Secretary of State. He received Johnson's homage with the most winning
affability, and requited it with a few guineas, bestowed doubtless in
a very graceful manner, but was by no means desirous to see all his
carpets blackened with the London mud, and his soups and wines thrown to
right and left over the gowns of fine ladies and the waistcoats of fine
gentlemen, by an absent, awkward scholar, who gave strange starts and
uttered strange growls, who dressed like a scarecrow, and ate like a
cormorant. During some time Johnson continued to call on his patron, but
after being repeatedly told by the porter that his lordship was not at
home, took the hint, and ceased to present himself at the inhospitable

Johnson had flattered himself that he should have completed his
Dictionary by the end of 1750; but it was not till 1755 that he at
length gave his huge volumes to the world. During the seven years which
he passed in the drudgery of penning definitions and making quotations
for transcription, he sought for relaxation in literary labour of a
more agreeable kind. In 1749 he published the Vanity of Human Wishes, an
excellent imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal. It is in truth not
easy to say whether the palm belongs to the ancient or to the modern
poet. The couplets in which the fall of Wolsey is described, though
lofty and sonorous, are feeble when compared with the wonderful lines
which bring before us all Rome in tumult on the day of the fall of
Sejanus, the laurels on the doorposts, the white bull stalking towards
the Capitol, the statues rolling down from their pedestals, the
flatterers of the disgraced minister running to see him dragged with a
hook through the streets, and to have a kick at his carcase before it
is hurled into the Tiber. It must be owned too that in the concluding
passage the Christian moralist has not made the most of his advantages,
and has fallen decidedly short of the sublimity of his Pagan model. On
the other hand, Juvenal's Hannibal must yield to Johnson's Charles;
and Johnson's vigorous and pathetic enumeration of the miseries of a
literary life must be allowed to be superior to Juvenal's lamentation
over the fate of Demosthenes and Cicero.

For the copyright of the Vanity of Human Wishes Johnson received only
fifteen guineas.

A few days after the publication of this poem, his tragedy, begun many
years before, was brought on the stage. His pupil, David Garrick, had,
in 1741, made his appearance on a humble stage in Goodman's Fields,
had at once risen to the first place among actors, and was now, after
several years of almost uninterrupted success, manager of Drury Lane
Theatre. The relation between him and his old preceptor was of a very
singular kind. They repelled each other strongly, and yet attracted
each other strongly. Nature had made them of very different clay; and
circumstances had fully brought out the natural peculiarities of both.
Sudden prosperity had turned Garrick's head. Continued adversity had
soured Johnson's temper. Johnson saw with more envy than became so great
a man the villa, the plate, the china, the Brussels carpet, which the
little mimic had got by repeating, with grimaces and gesticulations,
what wiser men had written; and the exquisitely sensitive vanity of
Garrick was galled by the thought that, while all the rest of the world
was applauding him, he could obtain from one morose cynic, whose opinion
it was impossible to despise, scarcely any compliment not acidulated
with scorn. Yet the two Lichfield men had so many early recollections in
common, and sympathised with each other on so many points on which they
sympathised with nobody else in the vast population of the capital,
that, though the master was often provoked by the monkey-like
impertinence of the pupil, and the pupil by the bearish rudeness of the
master, they remained friends till they were parted by death. Garrick
now brought Irene out, with alterations sufficient to displease the
author, yet not sufficient to make the piece pleasing to the audience.
The public, however, listened with little emotion, but with much
civility, to five acts of monotonous declamation. After nine
representations the play was withdrawn. It is, indeed, altogether
unsuited to the stage, and, even when perused in the closet, will be
found hardly worthy of the author. He had not the slightest notion of
what blank verse should be. A change in the last syllable of every other
line would make the versification of the Vanity of Human Wishes closely
resemble the versification of Irene. The poet, however, cleared, by his
benefit nights, and by the sale of the copyright of his tragedy, about
three hundred pounds, then a great sum in his estimation.

About a year after the representation of Irene, he began to publish a
series of short essays on morals, manners, and literature. This species
of composition had been brought into fashion by the success of the
Tatler, and by the still more brilliant success of the Spectator. A
crowd of small writers had vainly attempted to rival Addison. The Lay
Monastery, the Censor, the Freethinker, the Plain Dealer, the Champion,
and other works of the same kind, had had their short day. None of them
had obtained a permanent place in our literature; and they are now to be
found only in the libraries of the curious. At length Johnson undertook
the adventure in which so many aspirants had failed. In the thirty-sixth
year after the appearance of the last number of the Spectator appeared
the first number of the Rambler. From March 1750 to March 1752 this
paper continued to come out every Tuesday and Saturday.

From the first the Rambler was enthusiastically admired by a few eminent
men. Richardson, when only five numbers had appeared, pronounced it
equal, if not superior, to the Spectator. Young and Hartley expressed
their approbation not less warmly. Bubb Doddington, among whose many
faults indifference to the claims of genius and learning cannot be
reckoned, solicited the acquaintance of the writer. In consequence
probably of the good offices of Doddington, who was then the
confidential adviser of Prince Frederic, two of his Royal Highness's
gentlemen carried a gracious message to the printing office, and ordered
seven copies for Leicester House. But these overtures seem to have been
very coldly received. Johnson had had enough of the patronage of the
great to last him all his life, and was not disposed to haunt any other
door as he had haunted the door of Chesterfield.

By the public the Rambler was at first very coldly received. Though the
price of a number was only twopence, the sale did not amount to five
hundred. The profits were therefore very small. But as soon as the
flying leaves were collected and reprinted they became popular. The
author lived to see thirteen thousand copies spread over England alone.
Separate editions were published for the Scotch and Irish markets. A
large party pronounced the style perfect, so absolutely perfect that
in some essays it would be impossible for the writer himself to alter a
single word for the better. Another party, not less numerous, vehemently
accused him of having corrupted the purity of the English tongue. The
best critics admitted that his diction was too monotonous, too obviously
artificial, and now and then turgid even to absurdity. But they did
justice to the acuteness of his observations on morals and manners, to
the constant precision and frequent brilliancy of his language, to the
weighty and magnificent eloquence of many serious passages, and to
the solemn yet pleasing humour of some of the lighter papers. On the
question of precedence between Addison and Johnson, a question which,
seventy years ago, was much disputed, posterity has pronounced a
decision from which there is no appeal. Sir Roger, his chaplain and his
butler, Will Wimble and Will Honeycomb, the Vision of Mirza, the Journal
of the Retired Citizen, the Everlasting Club, the Dunmow Flitch, the
Loves of Hilpah and Shalum, the Visit to the Exchange, and the Visit
to the Abbey, are known to everybody. But many men and women, even of
highly cultivated minds, are unacquainted with Squire Bluster and Mrs
Busy, Quisquilius and Venustulus, the Allegory of Wit and Learning, the
Chronicle of the Revolutions of a Garret, and the sad fate of Aningait
and Ajut.

The last Rambler was written in a sad and gloomy hour. Mrs Johnson had
been given over by the physicians. Three days later she died. She left
her husband almost broken-hearted. Many people had been surprised to see
a man of his genius and learning stooping to every drudgery, and denying
himself almost every comfort, for the purpose of supplying a silly,
affected old woman with superfluities, which she accepted with but
little gratitude. But all his affection had been concentrated on her. He
had neither brother nor sister, neither son nor daughter. To him she was
beautiful as the Gunnings, and witty as Lady Mary. Her opinion of his
writings was more important to him than the voice of the pit of Drury
Lane Theatre or the judgment of the Monthly Review. The chief support
which had sustained him through the most arduous labour of his life
was the hope that she would enjoy the fame and the profit which
he anticipated from his Dictionary. She was gone; and in that vast
labyrinth of streets, peopled by eight hundred thousand human beings, he
was alone. Yet it was necessary for him to set himself, as he expressed
it, doggedly to work. After three more laborious years, the Dictionary
was at length complete.

It had been generally supposed that this great work would be dedicated
to the eloquent and accomplished nobleman to whom the prospectus
had been addressed. He well knew the value of such a compliment; and
therefore, when the day of publication drew near, he exerted himself
to soothe, by a show of zealous and at the same time of delicate and
judicious kindness, the pride which he had so cruelly wounded. Since
the Ramblers had ceased to appear, the town had been entertained by a
journal called the World, to which many men of high rank and fashion
contributed. In two successive numbers of the World the Dictionary was,
to use the modern phrase, puffed with wonderful skill. The writings of
Johnson were warmly praised. It was proposed that he should be invested
with the authority of a Dictator, nay, of a Pope, over our language, and
that his decisions about the meaning and the spelling of words should
be received as final. His two folios, it was said, would of course be
bought by everybody who could afford to buy them. It was soon known that
these papers were written by Chesterfield. But the just resentment of
Johnson was not to be so appeased. In a letter written with singular
energy and dignity of thought and language, he repelled the tardy
advances of his patron. The Dictionary came forth without a dedication.
In the preface the author truly declared that he owed nothing to the
great, and described the difficulties with which he had been left
to struggle so forcibly and pathetically that the ablest and most
malevolent of all the enemies of his fame, Horne Tooke, never could read
that passage without tears.

The public, on this occasion, did Johnson full justice, and something
more than justice. The best lexicographer may well be content if his
productions are received by the world with cold esteem. But Johnson's
Dictionary was hailed with an enthusiasm such as no similar work has
ever excited. It was indeed the first dictionary which could be read
with pleasure. The definitions show so much acuteness of thought and
command of language, and the passages quoted from poets, divines, and
philosophers are so skilfully selected, that a leisure hour may always
be very agreeably spent in turning over the pages. The faults of the
book resolve themselves, for the most part, into one great fault.
Johnson was a wretched etymologist. He knew little or nothing of any
Teutonic language except English, which indeed, as he wrote it, was
scarcely a Teutonic language; and thus he was absolutely at the mercy of
Junius and Skinner.

The Dictionary, though it raised Johnson's fame, added nothing to his
pecuniary means. The fifteen hundred guineas which the booksellers had
agreed to pay him had been advanced and spent before the last sheets
issued from the press. It is painful to relate that, twice in the course
of the year which followed the publication of this great work, he was
arrested and carried to spunging-houses, and that he was twice indebted
for his liberty to his excellent friend Richardson. It was still
necessary for the man who had been formally saluted by the highest
authority as Dictator of the English language to supply his wants by
constant toil. He abridged his Dictionary. He proposed to bring out
an edition of Shakspeare by subscription; and many subscribers sent in
their names and laid down their money; but he soon found the task so
little to his taste that he turned to more attractive employments. He
contributed many papers to a new monthly journal, which was called the
Literary Magazine. Few of these papers have much interest; but among
them was the very best thing that he ever wrote, a masterpiece both of
reasoning and of satirical pleasantry, the review of Jenyn's Inquiry
into the Nature and Origin of Evil.

In the spring of 1758 Johnson put forth the first of a series of essays,
entitled the Idler. During two years these essays continued to
appear weekly. They were eagerly read, widely circulated, and indeed,
impudently pirated, while they were still in the original form, and had
a large sale when collected into volumes. The Idler may be described as
a second part of the Rambler, somewhat livelier and somewhat weaker than
the first part.

While Johnson was busied with his Idlers, his mother, who had
accomplished her ninetieth year, died at Lichfield. It was long since
he had seen her; but he had not failed to contribute largely, out of
his small means, to her comfort. In order to defray the charges of her
funeral, and to pay some debts which she had left, he wrote a little
book in a single week, and sent off the sheets to the press without
reading them over. A hundred pounds were paid him for the copyright; and
the purchasers had great cause to be pleased with their bargain; for the
book was Rasselas.

The success of Rasselas was great, though such ladies as Miss Lydia
Languish must have been grievously disappointed when they found that
the new volume from the circulating library was little more than a
dissertation on the author's favourite theme, the Vanity of Human
Wishes; that the Prince of Abyssinia was without a mistress, and the
princess without a lover; and that the story set the hero and the
heroine down exactly where it had taken them up. The style was the
subject of much eager controversy. The Monthly Review and the Critical
Review took different sides. Many readers pronounced the writer a
pompous pedant, who would never use a word of two syllables where it was
possible to use a word of six, and who could not make a waiting woman
relate her adventures without balancing every noun with another noun,
and every epithet with another epithet. Another party, not less zealous,
cited with delight numerous passages in which weighty meaning was
expressed with accuracy and illustrated with splendour. And both the
censure and the praise were merited.

About the plan of Rasselas little was said by the critics; and yet the
faults of the plan might seem to invite severe criticism. Johnson has
frequently blamed Shakspeare for neglecting the proprieties of time and
place, and for ascribing to one age or nation the manners and opinions
of another. Yet Shakspeare has not sinned in this way more grievously
than Johnson. Rasselas and Imlac, Nekayah and Pekuah, are evidently
meant to be Abyssinians of the eighteenth century: for the Europe which
Imlac describes is the Europe of the eighteenth century; and the inmates
of the Happy Valley talk familiarly of that law of gravitation which
Newton discovered, and which was not fully received even at Cambridge
till the eighteenth century. What a real company of Abyssinians would
have been may be learned from Bruce's Travels. But Johnson, not content
with turning filthy savages, ignorant of their letters, and gorged
with raw steaks cut from living cows, into philosophers as eloquent and
enlightened as himself or his friend Burke, and into ladies as highly
accomplished as Mrs Lennox or Mrs Sheridan, transferred the whole
domestic system of England to Egypt. Into a land of harems, a land of
polygamy, a land where women are married without ever being seen, he
introduced the flirtations and jealousies of our ball-rooms. In a land
where there is boundless liberty of divorce, wedlock is described as the
indissoluble compact. "A youth and maiden meeting by chance, or brought
together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home,
and dream of each other. Such," says Rasselas, "is the common process
of marriage." Such it may have been, and may still be, in London, but
assuredly not at Cairo. A writer who was guilty of such improprieties
had little right to blame the poet who made Hector quote Aristotle, and
represented Julio Romano as flourishing in the days of the oracle of

By such exertions as have been described, Johnson supported himself till
the year 1762. In that year a great change in his circumstances took
place. He had from a child been an enemy of the reigning dynasty. His
Jacobite prejudices had been exhibited with little disguise both in
his works and in his conversation. Even in his massy and elaborate
Dictionary, he had, with a strange want of taste and judgment, inserted
bitter and contumelious reflections on the Whig party. The excise, which
was a favourite resource of Whig financiers, he had designated as
a hateful tax. He had railed against the commissioners of excise in
language so coarse that they had seriously thought of prosecuting him.
He had with difficulty been prevented from holding up the Lord Privy
Seal by name as an example of the meaning of the word "renegade." A
pension he had defined as pay given to a state hireling to betray his
country; a pensioner as a slave of state hired by a stipend to obey a
master. It seemed unlikely that the author of these definitions would
himself be pensioned. But that was a time of wonders. George the
Third had ascended the throne; and had, in the course of a few months,
disgusted many of the old friends and conciliated many of the old
enemies of his house. The city was becoming mutinous. Oxford was
becoming loyal. Cavendishes and Bentincks were murmuring. Somersets and
Wyndhams were hastening to kiss hands. The head of the treasury was
now Lord Bute, who was a Tory, and could have no objection to Johnson's
Toryism. Bute wished to be thought a patron of men of letters; and
Johnson was one of the most eminent and one of the most needy men of
letters in Europe. A pension of three hundred a year was graciously
offered, and with very little hesitation accepted.

This event produced a change in Johnson's whole way of life. For the
first time since his boyhood he no longer felt the daily goad urging him
to the daily toil. He was at liberty, after thirty years of anxiety and
drudgery, to indulge his constitutional indolence, to lie in bed till
two in the afternoon, and to sit up talking till four in the morning,
without fearing either the printer's devil or the sheriff's officer.

One laborious task indeed he had bound himself to perform. He had
received large subscriptions for his promised edition of Shakspeare;
he had lived on those subscriptions during some years: and he could not
without disgrace omit to perform his part of the contract. His friends
repeatedly exhorted him to make an effort; and he repeatedly resolved
to do so. But, notwithstanding their exhortations and his resolutions,
month followed month, year followed year, and nothing was done. He
prayed fervently against his idleness; he determined, as often as he
received the sacrament, that he would no longer doze away and trifle
away his time; but the spell under which he lay resisted prayer
and sacrament. His private notes at this time are made up of
self-reproaches. "My indolence," he wrote on Easter Eve in 1764,
"has sunk into grosser sluggishness. A kind of strange oblivion has
overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year."
Easter 1765 came, and found him still in the same state. "My time," he
wrote, "has been unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left
nothing behind. My memory grows confused, and I know not how the days
pass over me." Happily for his honour, the charm which held him captive
was at length broken by no gentle or friendly hand. He had been weak
enough to pay serious attention to a story about a ghost which haunted
a house in Cock Lane, and had actually gone himself with some of his
friends, at one in the morning, to St John's Church, Clerkenwell, in
the hope of receiving a communication from the perturbed spirit. But the
spirit, though adjured with all solemnity, remained obstinately silent;
and it soon appeared that a naughty girl of eleven had been amusing
herself by making fools of so many philosophers. Churchill, who,
confidant in his powers, drunk with popularity, and burning with party
spirit, was looking for some man of established fame and Tory politics
to insult, celebrated the Cock Lane Ghost in three cantos, nicknamed
Johnson Pomposo, asked where the book was which had been so long
promised and so liberally paid for, and directly accused the great
moralist of cheating. This terrible word proved effectual; and in
October 1765 appeared, after a delay of nine years, the new edition of

This publication saved Johnson's character for honesty, but added
nothing to the fame of his abilities and learning. The preface, though
it contains some good passages, is not in his best manner. The most
valuable notes are those in which he had an opportunity of showing
how attentively he had during many years observed human life and human
nature. The best specimen is the note on the character of Polonius.
Nothing so good is to be found even in Wilhelm Meister's admirable
examination of Hamlet. But here praise must end. It would be difficult
to name a more slovenly, a more worthless edition of any great classic.
The reader may turn over play after play without finding one happy
conjectural emendation, or one ingenious and satisfactory explanation of
a passage which had baffled preceding commentators. Johnson had, in his
prospectus, told the world that he was peculiarly fitted for the task
which he had undertaken, because he had, as a lexicographer, been under
the necessity of taking a wider view of the English language than any of
his predecessors. That his knowledge of our literature was extensive is
indisputable. But, unfortunately, he had altogether neglected that very
part of our literature with which it is especially desirable that an
editor of Shakspeare should be conversant. It is dangerous to assert a
negative. Yet little will be risked by the assertion, that in the two
folio volumes of the English Dictionary there is not a single passage
quoted from any dramatist of the Elizabethan age, except Shakspeare and
Ben. Even from Ben the quotations are few. Johnson might easily, in a
few months, have made himself well acquainted with every old play that
was extant. But it never seems to have occurred to him that this was
a necessary preparation for the work which he had undertaken. He would
doubtless have admitted that it would be the height of absurdity in a
man who was not familiar with the works of Aeschylus and Euripides to
publish an edition of Sophocles. Yet he ventured to publish an edition
of Shakspeare, without having ever in his life, as far as can be
discovered, read a single scene of Massinger, Ford, Decker, Webster,
Marlow, Beaumont, or Fletcher. His detractors were noisy and scurrilous.
Those who most loved and honoured him had little to say in praise of
the manner in which he had discharged the duty of a commentator. He
had, however, acquitted himself of a debt which had long lain on his
conscience; and he sank back into the repose from which the sting of
satire had roused him. He long continued to live upon the fame which
he had already won. He was honoured by the University of Oxford with a
Doctor's degree, by the Royal Academy with a professorship, and by the
King with an interview, in which his Majesty most graciously expressed
a hope that so excellent a writer would not cease to write. In the
interval, however, between 1765 and 1775 Johnson published only two or
three political tracks, the longest of which he could have produced in
forty-eight hours, if he had worked as he worked on the life of Savage
and on Rasselas.

But, though his pen was now idle, his tongue was active. The influence
exercised by his conversation, directly upon those with whom he lived,
and indirectly on the whole literary world, was altogether without a
parallel. His colloquial talents were indeed of the highest order. He
had strong sense, quick discernment, wit, humour, immense knowledge of
literature and of life, and an infinite store of curious anecdotes. As
respected style, he spoke far better than he wrote. Every sentence which
dropped from his lips was as correct in structure as the most nicely
balanced period of the Rambler. But in his talk there was no pompous
triads, and little more than a fair proportion of words in "osity" and
"ation". All was simplicity, ease, and vigour. He uttered his short,
weighty, and pointed sentences with a power of voice, and a justness
and energy of emphasis, of which the effect was rather increased than
diminished by the rollings of his huge form, and by the asthmatic
gaspings and puffings in which the peals of his eloquence generally
ended. Nor did the laziness which made him unwilling to sit down to his
desk prevent him from giving instruction or entertainment orally. To
discuss questions of taste, of learning, casuistry, in language so exact
and so forcible that it might have been printed without the alteration
of a word, was to him no exertion, but a pleasure. He loved, as he
said, to fold his legs and have his talk out. He was ready to bestow the
overflowings of his full mind on anybody who would start a subject, on a
fellow-passenger in a stage coach, or on the person who sate at the same
table with him in an eating-house. But his conversation was nowhere so
brilliant and striking as when he was surrounded by a few friends, whose
abilities and knowledge enabled them, as he once expressed it, to
send him back every ball that he threw. Some of these, in 1764, formed
themselves into a club, which gradually became a formidable power in the
commonwealth of letters. The verdicts pronounced by this conclave on new
books were speedily known over all London, and were sufficient to sell
off a whole edition in a day, or to condemn the sheets to the service
of the trunk-maker and the pastry-cook. Nor shall we think this strange
when we consider what great and various talents and acquirements met in
the little fraternity. Goldsmith was the representative of poetry and
light literature, Reynolds of the arts, Burke of political eloquence and
political philosophy. There, too, were Gibbon, the greatest historian,
and Jones, the greatest linguist, of the age. Garrick brought to the
meetings his inexhaustible pleasantry, his incomparable mimicry, and his
consummate knowledge of stage effect. Among the most constant attendants
were two high-born and high-bred gentlemen, closely bound together
by friendship, but of widely different characters and habits; Bennet
Langton, distinguished by his skill in Greek literature, by the
orthodoxy of his opinions, and by the sanctity of his life; and Topham
Beauclerk, renowned for his amours, his knowledge of the gay world,
his fastidious taste, and his sarcastic wit. To predominate over such a
society was not easy. Yet even over such a society Johnson predominated.
Burke might indeed have disputed the supremacy to which others were
under the necessity of submitting. But Burke, though not generally a
very patient listener, was content to take the second part when Johnson
was present; and the club itself, consisting of so many eminent men, is
to this day popularly designated as Johnson's Club.

Among the members of this celebrated body was one to whom it has owed
the greater part of its celebrity, yet who was regarded with little
respect by his brethren, and had not without difficulty obtained a seat
among them. This was James Boswell, a young Scotch lawyer, heir to an
honourable name and a fair estate. That he was a coxcomb and a bore,
weak, vain, pushing, curious, garrulous, was obvious to all who were
acquainted with him. That he could not reason, that he had no wit,
no humour, no eloquence, is apparent from his writings. And yet his
writings are read beyond the Mississippi, and under the Southern Cross,
and are likely to be read as long as the English exists, either as
a living or as a dead language. Nature had made him a slave and an
idolater. His mind resembles those creepers which the botanists call
parasites, and which can subsist only by clinging round the stems and
imbibing the juices of stronger plants. He must have fastened himself on
somebody. He might have fastened himself on Wilkes, and have become the
fiercest patriot in the Bill of Rights Society. He might have fastened
himself on Whitfield, and have become the loudest field preacher among
the Calvinistic Methodists. In a happy hour he fastened himself on
Johnson. The pair might seem ill matched. For Johnson had early been
prejudiced against Boswell's country. To a man of Johnson's strong
understanding and irritable temper, the silly egotism and adulation of
Boswell must have been as teasing as the constant buzz of a fly. Johnson
hated to be questioned; and Boswell was eternally catechising him on
all kinds of subjects, and sometimes propounded such questions as
"What would you do, sir, if you were locked up in a tower with a baby?"
Johnson was a water drinker; and Boswell was a wine-bibber, and indeed
little better than a habitual sot. It was impossible that there should
be perfect harmony between two such companions. Indeed, the great man
was sometimes provoked into fits of passion in which he said things
which the small man, during a few hours, seriously resented. Every
quarrel, however, was soon made up. During twenty years the disciple
continued to worship the master: the master continued to scold the
disciple, to sneer at him, and to love him. The two friends ordinarily
resided at a great distance from each other. Boswell practised in the
Parliament House of Edinburgh, and could pay only occasional visits to
London. During those visits his chief business was to watch Johnson,
to discover all Johnson's habits, to turn the conversation to subjects
about which Johnson was likely to say something remarkable, and to fill
quarto note books with minutes of what Johnson had said. In this way
were gathered the materials out of which was afterwards constructed the
most interesting biographical work in the world.

Soon after the club began to exist, Johnson formed a connection less
important indeed to his fame, but much more important to his happiness,
than his connection with Boswell. Henry Thrale, one of the most opulent
brewers in the kingdom, a man of sound and cultivated understanding,
rigid principles, and liberal spirit, was married to one of those
clever, kind-hearted, engaging, vain, pert young women, who are
perpetually doing or saying what is not exactly right, but who, do or
say what they may, are always agreeable. In 1765 the Thrales became
acquainted with Johnson; and the acquaintance ripened fast into
friendship. They were astonished and delighted by the brilliancy of
his conversation. They were flattered by finding that a man so widely
celebrated, preferred their house to any other in London. Even the
peculiarities which seemed to unfit him for civilised society, his
gesticulations, his rollings, his puffings, his mutterings, the strange
way in which he put on his clothes, the ravenous eagerness with which
he devoured his dinner, his fits of melancholy, his fits of anger, his
frequent rudeness, his occasional ferocity, increased the interest which
his new associates took in him. For these things were the cruel marks
left behind by a life which had been one long conflict with disease and
with adversity. In a vulgar hack writer such oddities would have excited
only disgust. But in a man of genius, learning, and virtue their effect
was to add pity to admiration and esteem. Johnson soon had an apartment
at the brewery in Southwark, and a still more pleasant apartment at the
villa of his friends on Streatham Common. A large part of every year he
passed in those abodes, abodes which must have seemed magnificent and
luxurious indeed, when compared with the dens in which he had generally
been lodged. But his chief pleasures were derived from what the
astronomer of his Abyssinian tale called "the endearing elegance of
female friendship." Mrs Thrale rallied him, soothed him, coaxed him,
and, if she sometimes provoked him by her flippancy, made ample amends
by listening to his reproofs with angelic sweetness of temper. When he
was diseased in body and in mind, she was the most tender of nurses.
No comfort that wealth could purchase, no contrivance that womanly
ingenuity, set to work by womanly compassion, could devise, was wanting
to his sick-room. He requited her kindness by an affection pure as the
affection of a father, yet delicately tinged with a gallantry, which,
though awkward, must have been more flattering than the attentions of a
crowd of the fools who gloried in the names, now obsolete, of Buck and
Maccaroni. It should seem that a full half of Johnson's life, during
about sixteen years, was passed under the roof of the Thrales. He
accompanied the family sometimes to Bath, and sometimes to Brighton,
once to Wales, and once to Paris. But he had at the same time a house in
one of the narrow and gloomy courts on the north of Fleet Street. In the
garrets was his library, a large and miscellaneous collection of books,
falling to pieces and begrimed with dust. On a lower floor he sometimes,
but very rarely, regaled a friend with a plain dinner, a veal pie, or
a leg of lamb and spinage, and a rice pudding. Nor was the dwelling
uninhabited during his long absences. It was the home of the most
extraordinary assemblage of inmates that ever was brought together.
At the head of the establishment Johnson had placed an old lady named
Williams, whose chief recommendations were her blindness and her
poverty. But, in spite of her murmurs and reproaches, he gave an asylum
to another lady who was as poor as herself, Mrs Desmoulins, whose family
he had known many years before in Staffordshire. Room was found for the
daughter of Mrs Desmoulins, and for another destitute damsel, who was
generally addressed as Miss Carmichael, but whom her generous host
called Polly. An old quack doctor named Levett, who bled and dosed
coal-heavers and hackney coachmen, and received for fees crusts of
bread, bits of bacon, glasses of gin, and sometimes a little copper,
completed this strange menagerie. All these poor creatures were at
constant war with each other, and with Johnson's negro servant Frank.
Sometimes, indeed, they transferred their hostilities from the servant
to the master, complained that a better table was not kept for them, and
railed or maundered till their benefactor was glad to make his escape
to Streatham, or to the Mitre Tavern. And yet he, who was generally
the haughtiest and most irritable of mankind, who was but too prompt to
resent anything which looked like a slight on the part of a purse-proud
bookseller, or of a noble and powerful patron, bore patiently from
mendicants, who, but for his bounty, must have gone to the workhouse,
insults more provoking than those for which he had knocked down Osborne
and bidden defiance to Chesterfield. Year after year Mrs Desmoulins,
Polly, and Levett, continued to torment him and to live upon him.

The course of life which has been described was interrupted in Johnson's
sixty-fourth year by an important event. He had early read an account of
the Hebrides, and had been much interested by learning that there was so
near him a land peopled by a race which was still as rude and simple as
in the middle ages. A wish to become intimately acquainted with a
state of society so utterly unlike all that he had ever seen frequently
crossed his mind. But it is not probable that his curiosity would have
overcome his habitual sluggishness, and his love of the smoke, the mud,
and the cries of London, had not Boswell importuned him to attempt the
adventure, and offered to be his squire. At length, in August 1773,
Johnson crossed the Highland line, and plunged courageously into what
was then considered, by most Englishmen, as a dreary and perilous
wilderness. After wandering about two months through the Celtic region,
sometimes in rude boats which did not protect him from the rain, and
sometimes on small shaggy ponies which could hardly bear his weight,
he returned to his old haunts with a mind full of new images and new
theories. During the following year he employed himself in recording his
adventures. About the beginning of 1775, his Journey to the Hebrides was
published, and was, during some weeks, the chief subject of conversation
in all circles in which any attention was paid to literature. The
book is still read with pleasure. The narrative is entertaining; the
speculations, whether sound or unsound, are always ingenious; and
the style, though too stiff and pompous, is somewhat easier and more
graceful than that of his early writings. His prejudice against the
Scotch had at length become little more than matter of jest; and
whatever remained of the old feeling had been effectually removed by the
kind and respectful hospitality with which he had been received in every
part of Scotland. It was, of course, not to be expected that an Oxonian
Tory should praise the Presbyterian polity and ritual, or that an eye
accustomed to the hedgerows and parks of England should not be struck
by the bareness of Berwickshire and East Lothian. But even in censure
Johnson's tone is not unfriendly. The most enlightened Scotchmen, with
Lord Mansfield at their head, were well pleased. But some foolish and
ignorant Scotchmen were moved to anger by a little unpalatable truth
which was mingled with much eulogy, and assailed him whom they chose
to consider as the enemy of their country with libels much more
dishonourable to their country than anything that he had ever said or
written. They published paragraphs in the newspapers, articles in the
magazines, sixpenny pamphlets, five-shilling books. One scribbler abused
Johnson for being blear-eyed; another for being a pensioner; a third
informed the world that one of the Doctor's uncles had been convicted
of felony in Scotland, and had found that there was in that country
one tree capable of supporting the weight of an Englishman. Macpherson,
whose Fingal had been proved in the Journey to be an impudent forgery,
threatened to take vengeance with a cane. The only effect of this
threat was that Johnson reiterated the charge of forgery in the most
contemptuous terms, and walked about, during some time, with a cudgel,
which, if the impostor had not been too wise to encounter it, would
assuredly have descended upon him, to borrow the sublime language of his
own epic poem, "like a hammer on the red son of the furnace."

Of other assailants Johnson took no notice whatever. He had early
resolved never to be drawn into controversy; and he adhered to his
resolution with a steadfastness which is the more extraordinary,
because he was, both intellectually and morally, of the stuff of which
controversialists are made. In conversation, he was a singularly eager,
acute, and pertinacious disputant. When at a loss for good reasons,
he had recourse to sophistry; and, when heated by altercation, he made
unsparing use of sarcasm and invective. But, when he took his pen in his
hand, his whole character seemed to be changed. A hundred bad writers
misrepresented him and reviled him; but not one of the hundred could
boast of having been thought by him worthy of a refutation, or even of
a retort. The Kenricks, Campbells, MacNicols, and Hendersons, did their
best to annoy him, in the hope that he would give them importance by
answering them. But the reader will in vain search his works for
any allusion to Kenrick or Campbell, to MacNicol or Henderson. One
Scotchman, bent on vindicating the fame of Scotch learning, defied him
to the combat in a detestable Latin hexameter.

     "Maxime, si tu vis, cupio contendere tecum."

But Johnson took no notice of the challenge. He had learned, both from
his own observation and from literary history, in which he was deeply
read, that the place of books in the public estimation is fixed, not by
what is written about them, but by what is written in them; and that
an author whose works are likely to live is very unwise if he stoops
to wrangle with detractors whose works are certain to die. He always
maintained that fame was a shuttlecock which could be kept up only by
being beaten back, as well as beaten forward, and which would soon fall
if there were only one battledore. No saying was oftener in his mouth
than that fine apophthegm of Bentley, that no man was ever written down
but by himself.

Unhappily, a few months after the appearance of the Journey to the
Hebrides, Johnson did what none of his envious assailants could have
done, and to a certain extent succeeded in writing himself down. The
disputes between England and her American colonies had reached a point
at which no amicable adjustment was possible. Civil war was evidently
impending; and the ministers seem to have thought that the eloquence of
Johnson might with advantage be employed to inflame the nation against
the opposition here, and against the rebels beyond the Atlantic. He
had already written two or three tracts in defence of the foreign and
domestic policy of the government; and those tracts, though hardly
worthy of him, were much superior to the crowd of pamphlets which lay on
the counters of Almon and Stockdale. But his Taxation No Tyranny was a
pitiable failure. The very title was a silly phrase, which can have been
recommended to his choice by nothing but a jingling alliteration which
he ought to have despised. The arguments were such as boys use in
debating societies. The pleasantry was as awkward as the gambols of a
hippopotamus. Even Boswell was forced to own that, in this unfortunate
piece, he could detect no trace of his master's powers. The general
opinion was that the strong faculties which had produced the Dictionary
and the Rambler were beginning to feel the effect of time and of
disease, and that the old man would best consult his credit by writing
no more.

But this was a great mistake. Johnson had failed, not because his mind
was less vigorous than when he wrote Rasselas in the evenings of a week,
but because he had foolishly chosen, or suffered others to choose for
him, a subject such as he would at no time have been competent to treat.
He was in no sense a statesman. He never willingly read or thought or
talked about affairs of state. He loved biography, literary history, the
history of manners; but political history was positively distasteful to
him. The question at issue between the colonies and the mother country
was a question about which he had really nothing to say. He failed,
therefore, as the greatest men must fail when they attempt to do that
for which they are unfit; as Burke would have failed if Burke had tried
to write comedies like those of Sheridan; as Reynolds would have failed
if Reynolds had tried to paint landscapes like those of Wilson. Happily,
Johnson soon had an opportunity of proving most signally that his
failure was not to be ascribed to intellectual decay.

On Easter Eve 1777, some persons, deputed by a meeting which consisted
of forty of the first booksellers in London, called upon him. Though he
had some scruples about doing business at that season, he received his
visitors with much civility. They came to inform him that a new edition
of the English poets, from Cowley downwards, was in contemplation, and
to ask him to furnish short biographical prefaces. He readily undertook
the task, a task for which he was pre-eminently qualified. His knowledge
of the literary history of England since the Restoration was unrivalled.
That knowledge he had derived partly from books, and partly from sources
which had long been closed; from old Grub Street traditions; from the
talk of forgotten poetasters and pamphleteers who had long been lying in
parish vaults; from the recollections of such men as Gilbert Walmesley,
who had conversed with the wits of Button; Cibber, who had mutilated the
plays of two generations of dramatists; Orrery, who had been admitted to
the society of Swift; and Savage, who had rendered services of no very
honourable kind to Pope. The biographer therefore sate down to his task
with a mind full of matter. He had at first intended to give only
a paragraph to every minor poet, and only four or five pages to the
greatest name. But the flood of anecdote and criticism overflowed the
narrow channel. The work, which was originally meant to consist only of
a few sheets, swelled into ten volumes, small volumes, it is true, and
not closely printed. The first four appeared in 1779, the remaining six
in 1781.

The Lives of the Poets are, on the whole, the best of Johnson's works.
The narratives are as entertaining as any novel. The remarks on life and
on human nature are eminently shrewd and profound. The criticisms are
often excellent, and, even when grossly and provokingly unjust, well
deserve to be studied. For, however erroneous they may be, they are
never silly. They are the judgments of a mind trammelled by prejudice
and deficient in sensibility, but vigorous and acute. They therefore
generally contain a portion of valuable truth which deserves to be
separated from the alloy; and, at the very worst, they mean something,
a praise to which much of what is called criticism in our time has no

Savage's Life Johnson reprinted nearly as it had appeared in 1744.
Whoever, after reading that life, will turn to the other lives will be
struck by the difference of style. Since Johnson had been at ease in
his circumstances he had written little and had talked much. When,
therefore, he, after the lapse of years, resumed his pen, the mannerism
which he had contracted while he was in the constant habit of elaborate
composition was less perceptible than formerly; and his diction
frequently had a colloquial ease which it had formerly wanted. The
improvement may be discerned by a skilful critic in the Journey to the
Hebrides, and in the Lives of the Poets is so obvious that it cannot
escape the notice of the most careless reader.

Among the lives the best are perhaps those of Cowley, Dryden, and Pope.
The very worst is, beyond all doubt, that of Gray.

This great work at once became popular. There was, indeed, much just
and much unjust censure: but even those who were loudest in blame were
attracted by the book in spite of themselves. Malone computed the gains
of the publishers at five or six thousand pounds. But the writer
was very poorly remunerated. Intending at first to write very
short prefaces, he had stipulated for only two hundred guineas. The
booksellers, when they saw how far his performance had surpassed his
promise, added only another hundred. Indeed, Johnson, though he did not
despise, or affect to despise, money, and though his strong sense
and long experience ought to have qualified him to protect his own
interests, seems to have been singularly unskilful and unlucky in his
literary bargains. He was generally reputed the first English writer of
his time. Yet several writers of his time sold their copyrights for sums
such as he never ventured to ask. To give a single instance, Robertson
received four thousand five hundred pounds for the History of Charles
V.; and it is no disrespect to the memory of Robertson to say that the
History of Charles V. is both a less valuable and a less amusing book
than the Lives of the Poets.

Johnson was now in his seventy-second year. The infirmities of age were
coming fast upon him. That inevitable event of which he never thought
without horror was brought near to him; and his whole life was
darkened by the shadow of death. He had often to pay the cruel price of
longevity. Every year he lost what could never be replaced. The strange
dependents to whom he had given shelter, and to whom, in spite of their
faults, he was strongly attached by habit, dropped off one by one;
and, in the silence of his home, he regretted even the noise of their
scolding matches. The kind and generous Thrale was no more; and it would
have been well if his wife had been laid beside him. But she survived to
be the laughing-stock of those who had envied her, and to draw from the
eyes of the old man who had loved her beyond anything in the world
tears far more bitter than he would have shed over her grave. With
some estimable and many agreeable qualities, she was not made to be
independent. The control of a mind more steadfast than her own was
necessary to her respectability. While she was restrained by her
husband, a man of sense and firmness, indulgent to her taste in trifles,
but always the undisputed master of his house, her worst offences had
been impertinent jokes, white lies, and short fits of pettishness ending
in sunny good humour. But he was gone; and she was left an opulent widow
of forty, with strong sensibility, volatile fancy, and slender judgment.
She soon fell in love with a music-master from Brescia, in whom nobody
but herself could discover anything to admire. Her pride, and perhaps
some better feelings, struggled hard against this degrading passion.
But the struggle irritated her nerves, soured her temper, and at length
endangered her health. Conscious that her choice was one which Johnson
could not approve, she became desirous to escape from his inspection.
Her manner towards him changed. She was sometimes cold and sometimes
petulant. She did not conceal her joy when he left Streatham; she never
pressed him to return; and, if he came unbidden, she received him in
a manner which convinced him that he was no longer a welcome guest. He
took the very intelligible hints which she gave. He read, for the last
time, a chapter of the Greek testament in the library which had been
formed by himself. In a solemn and tender prayer he commended the house
and its inmates to the Divine protection, and, with emotions which
choked his voice and convulsed his powerful frame, left for ever that
beloved home for the gloomy and desolate house behind Fleet Street,
where the few and evil days which still remained to him were to run out.
Here, in June 1783, he had a paralytic stroke, from which, however,
he recovered, and which does not appear to have at all impaired his
intellectual faculties. But other maladies came thick upon him. His
asthma tormented him day and night. Dropsical symptoms made their
appearance. While sinking under a complication of diseases, he heard
that the woman whose friendship had been the chief happiness of sixteen
years of his life had married an Italian fiddler; that all London was
crying shame upon her; and that the newspapers and magazines were filled
with allusions to the Ephesian matron, and the two pictures in Hamlet.
He vehemently said that he would try to forget her existence. He never
uttered her name. Every memorial of her which met his eye he flung
into the fire. She meanwhile fled from the laughter and hisses of her
countrymen and countrywomen to a land where she was unknown, hastened
across Mount Cenis, and learned, while passing a merry Christmas of
concerts and lemonade parties at Milan, that the great man with whose
name hers is inseparably associated had ceased to exist.

He had, in spite of much mental and much bodily affliction, clung
vehemently to life. The feeling described in that fine but gloomy paper
which closes the series of his Idlers seemed to grow stronger in him as
his last hour drew near. He fancied that he should be able to draw his
breath more easily in a southern climate, and would probably have set
out for Rome and Naples, but for his fear of the expense of the journey.
That expense, indeed, he had the means of defraying; for he had laid
up about two thousand pounds, the fruit of labours which had made the
fortune of several publishers. But he was unwilling to break in upon
this hoard; and he seems to have wished even to keep its existence a
secret. Some of his friends hoped that the government might be induced
to increase his pension to six hundred pounds a year: but this hope was
disappointed; and he resolved to stand one English winter more. That
winter was his last. His legs grew weaker; his breath grew shorter; the
fatal water gathered fast, in spite of incisions which he, courageous
against pain, but timid against death, urged his surgeons to make deeper
and deeper. Though the tender care which had mitigated his sufferings
during months of sickness at Streatham was withdrawn, he was not left
desolate. The ablest physicians and surgeons attended him, and refused
to accept fees from him. Burke parted from him with deep emotion.
Windham sate much in the sick room, arranged the pillows, and sent his
own servant to watch a night by the bed. Frances Burney, whom the old
man had cherished with fatherly kindness, stood weeping at the door;
while Langton, whose piety eminently qualified him to be an adviser and
comforter at such a time, received the last pressure of his friend's
hand within. When at length the moment, dreaded through so many years,
came close, the dark cloud passed away from Johnson's mind. His temper
became unusually patient and gentle; he ceased to think with terror of
death, and of that which lies beyond death; and he spoke much of the
mercy of God, and of the propitiation of Christ. In this serene frame of
mind he died on the 13th of December 1784. He was laid, a week later,
in Westminster Abbey, among the eminent men of whom he had been the
historian,--Cowley and Denham, Dryden and Congreve, Gay, Prior, and

Since his death the popularity of his works--the Lives of the Poets,
and, perhaps, the Vanity of Human Wishes, excepted--has greatly
diminished. His Dictionary has been altered by editors till it can
scarcely be called his. An allusion to his Rambler or his Idler is not
readily apprehended in literary circles. The fame even of Rasselas has
grown somewhat dim. But, though the celebrity of the writings may have
declined, the celebrity of the writer, strange to say, is as great as
ever. Boswell's book has done for him more than the best of his own
books could do. The memory of other authors is kept alive by their
works. But the memory of Johnson keeps many of his works alive. The old
philosopher is still among us in the brown coat with the metal buttons
and the shirt which ought to be at wash, blinking, puffing, rolling
his head, drumming with his fingers, tearing his meat like a tiger,
and swallowing his tea in oceans. No human being who has been more than
seventy years in the grave is so well known to us. And it is but just
to say that our intimate acquaintance with what he would himself have
called the anfractuosities of his intellect and of his temper serves
only to strengthen our conviction that he was both a great and a good


WILLIAM PITT. (January 1859.)

William Pitt, the second son of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, and of
Lady Hester Granville, daughter of Hester Countess Temple, was born on
the 28th of May 1759. The child inherited a name which, at the time
of his birth, was the most illustrious in the civilised world, and was
pronounced by every Englishman with pride, and by every enemy of England
with mingled admiration and terror. During the first year of his life,
every month had its illuminations and bonfires, and every wind brought
some messenger charged with joyful tidings and hostile standards. In
Westphalia the English infantry won a great battle which arrested the
armies of Louis the Fifteenth in the midst of a career of conquest;
Boscawen defeated one French fleet on the coast of Portugal; Hawke put
to flight another in the Bay of Biscay; Johnson took Niagara; Amherst
took Ticonderoga; Wolfe died by the most enviable of deaths under the
walls of Quebec; Clive destroyed a Dutch armament in the Hooghly, and
established the English supremacy in Bengal; Coote routed Lally at
Wandewash, and established the English supremacy in the Carnatic. The
nation, while loudly applauding the successful warriors, considered them
all, on sea and on land, in Europe, in America, and in Asia, merely as
instruments which received their direction from one superior mind.
It was the great William Pitt, the great commoner, who had vanquished
French marshals in Germany, and French admirals on the Atlantic; who
had conquered for his country one great empire on the frozen shores
of Ontario, and another under the tropical sun near the mouths of the
Ganges. It was not in the nature of things that popularity such as he
at this time enjoyed should be permanent. That popularity had lost
its gloss before his children were old enough to understand that their
father was a great man. He was at length placed in situations in which
neither his talents for administration nor his talents for debate
appeared to the best advantage. The energy and decision which had
eminently fitted him for the direction of war were not needed in time
of peace. The lofty and spirit-stirring eloquence which had made him
supreme in the House of Commons often fell dead on the House of Lords. A
cruel malady racked his joints, and left his joints only to fall on his
nerves and on his brain. During the closing years of his life, he was
odious to the court, and yet was not on cordial terms with the great
body of the opposition. Chatham was only the ruin of Pitt, but an
awful and majestic ruin, not to be contemplated by any man of sense
and feeling without emotions resembling those which are excited by the
remains of the Parthenon and of the Coliseum. In one respect the old
statesman was eminently happy. Whatever might be the vicissitudes of his
public life, he never failed to find peace and love by his own hearth.
He loved all his children, and was loved by them; and, of all his
children, the one of whom he was fondest and proudest was his second

The child's genius and ambition displayed themselves with a rare and
almost unnatural precocity. At seven, the interest which he took in
grave subjects, the ardour with which he pursued his studies, and the
sense and vivacity of his remarks on books and on events, amazed his
parents and instructors. One of his sayings of this date was reported to
his mother by his tutor. In August 1766, when the world was agitated
by the news that Mr Pitt had become Earl of Chatham, little William
exclaimed, "I am glad that I am not the eldest son. I want to speak
in the House of Commons like papa." A letter is extant in which Lady
Chatham, a woman of considerable abilities, remarked to her lord, that
their younger son at twelve had left far behind him his elder brother,
who was fifteen. "The fineness," she wrote, "of William's mind makes him
enjoy with the greatest pleasure what would be above the reach of any
other creature of his small age." At fourteen the lad was in intellect a
man. Hayley, who met him at Lyme in the summer of 1773, was astonished,
delighted, and somewhat overawed, by hearing wit and wisdom from so
young a mouth. The poet, indeed, was afterwards sorry that his shyness
had prevented him from submitting the plan of an extensive literary
work, which he was then meditating, to the judgment of this
extraordinary boy. The boy, indeed, had already written a tragedy, bad
of course, but not worse than the tragedies of his friend. This piece
is still preserved at Chevening, and is in some respects highly curious.
There is no love. The whole plot is political; and it is remarkable that
the interest, such as it is, turns on a contest about a regency. On one
side is a faithful servant of the Crown, on the other an ambitious and
unprincipled conspirator. At length the King, who had been missing,
reappears, resumes his power, and rewards the faithful defender of his
rights. A reader who should judge only by internal evidence would have
no hesitation in pronouncing that the play was written by some Pittite
poetaster at the time of the rejoicings for the recovery of George the
Third in 1789.

The pleasure with which William's parents observed the rapid development
of his intellectual powers was alloyed by apprehensions about his
health. He shot up alarmingly fast; he was often ill, and always weak;
and it was feared that it would be impossible to rear a stripling so
tall, so slender, and so feeble. Port wine was prescribed by his medical
advisers: and it is said that he was, at fourteen, accustomed to take
this agreeable physic in quantities which would, in our abstemious
age, be thought much more than sufficient for any full-grown man. This
regimen, though it would probably have killed ninety-nine boys out of
a hundred, seems to have been well suited to the peculiarities of
William's constitution; for at fifteen he ceased to be molested by
disease, and, though never a strong man, continued, during many years of
labour and anxiety, of nights passed in debate and of summers passed in
London, to be a tolerably healthy one. It was probably on account of the
delicacy of his frame that he was not educated like other boys of the
same rank. Almost all the eminent English statesmen and orators to whom
he was afterwards opposed or allied, North, Fox, Shelburne, Windham,
Grey, Wellesley, Grenville, Sheridan, Canning, went through the training
of great public schools. Lord Chatham had himself been a distinguished
Etonian: and it is seldom that a distinguished Etonian forgets his
obligations to Eton. But William's infirmities required a vigilance and
tenderness such as could be found only at home. He was therefore bred
under the paternal roof. His studies were superintended by a clergyman
named Wilson; and those studies, though often interrupted by illness,
were prosecuted with extraordinary success. Before the lad had completed
his fifteenth year, his knowledge both of the ancient languages and
of mathematics was such as very few men of eighteen then carried up to
college. He was therefore sent, towards the close of the year 1773,
to Pembroke Hall, in the university of Cambridge. So young a student
required much more than the ordinary care which a college tutor bestows
on undergraduates. The governor, to whom the direction of William's
academical life was confided, was a bachelor of arts named Pretyman, who
had been senior wrangler in the preceding year, and who, though not a
man of prepossessing appearance or brilliant parts, was eminently
acute and laborious, a sound scholar, and an excellent geometrician.
At Cambridge, Pretyman was, during more than two years, the inseparable
companion, and indeed almost the only companion of his pupil. A close
and lasting friendship sprang up between the pair. The disciple was
able, before he completed his twenty-eighth year, to make his preceptor
Bishop of Lincoln and Dean of St Paul's; and the preceptor showed
his gratitude by writing a life of the disciple, which enjoys the
distinction of being the worst biographical work of its size in the

Pitt, till he graduated, had scarcely one acquaintance, attended chapel
regularly morning and evening, dined every day in hall, and never went
to a single evening party. At seventeen, he was admitted, after the bad
fashion of those times, by right of birth, without any examination, to
the degree of the Master of Arts. But he continued during some years
to reside at college, and to apply himself vigorously, under Pretyman's
direction, to the studies of the place, while mixing freely in the best
academic society.

The stock of learning which Pitt laid in during this part of his life
was certainly very extraordinary. In fact, it was all that he ever
possessed; for he very early became too busy to have any spare time
for books. The work in which he took the greatest delight was Newton's
Principia. His liking for mathematics, indeed, amounted to a passion,
which, in the opinion of his instructors, themselves distinguished
mathematicians, required to be checked rather than encouraged. The
acuteness and readiness with which he solved problems was pronounced by
one of the ablest of the moderators, who in those days presided over
the disputations in the schools, and conducted the examinations of the
Senate House, to be unrivalled in the university. Nor was the youth's
proficiency in classical learning less remarkable. In one respect,
indeed, he appeared to disadvantage when compared with even second-rate
and third-rate men from public schools. He had never, while under
Wilson's care, been in the habit of composing in the ancient languages:
and he therefore never acquired that knack of versification which is
sometimes possessed by clever boys whose knowledge of the language and
literature of Greece and Rome is very superficial. It would have been
utterly out of his power to produce such charming elegiac lines as those
in which Wellesley bade farewell to Eton, or such Virgilian hexameters
as those in which Canning described the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it may
be doubted whether any scholar has ever, at twenty, had a more solid and
profound knowledge of the two great tongues of the old civilised world.
The facility with which he penetrated the meaning of the most intricate
sentences in the Attic writers astonished veteran critics. He had set
his heart on being intimately acquainted with all the extant poetry
of Greece, and was not satisfied till he had mastered Lycophron's
Cassandra, the most obscure work in the whole range of ancient
literature. This strange rhapsody, the difficulties of which have
perplexed and repelled many excellent scholars, "he read," says his
preceptor, "with an ease at first sight, which, if I had not witnessed
it, I should have thought beyond the compass of human intellect."

To modern literature Pitt paid comparatively little attention. He knew
no living language except French; and French he knew very imperfectly.
With a few of the best English writers he was intimate, particularly
with Shakspeare and Milton. The debate in Pandemonium was, as it well
deserved to be, one of his favourite passages; and his early friends
used to talk, long after his death, of the just emphasis and the
melodious cadence with which they had heard him recite the incomparable
speech of Belial. He had indeed been carefully trained from infancy in
the art of managing his voice, a voice naturally clear and deep-toned.
His father, whose oratory owed no small part of its effect to that art,
had been a most skilful and judicious instructor. At a later period,
the wits of Brookes's, irritated by observing, night after night, how
powerfully Pitt's sonorous elocution fascinated the rows of country
gentlemen, reproached him with having been "taught by his dad on a

His education, indeed, was well adapted to form a great parliamentary
speaker. One argument often urged against those classical studies which
occupy so large apart of the early life of every gentleman bred in the
south of our island is, that they prevent him from acquiring a command
of his mother tongue, and that it is not unusual to meet with a youth
of excellent parts, who writes Ciceronian Latin prose and Horatian Latin
Alcaics, but who would find it impossible to express his thoughts in
pure, perspicuous, and forcible English. There may perhaps be some truth
in this observation. But the classical studies of Pitt were carried
on in a peculiar manner, and had the effect of enriching his English
vocabulary, and of making him wonderfully expert in the art of
constructing correct English sentences. His practice was to look over
a page or two of a Greek or Latin author, to make himself master of
the meaning, and then to read the passage straightforward into his
own language. This practice, begun under his first teacher Wilson, was
continued under Pretyman. It is not strange that a young man of great
abilities, who had been exercised daily in this way during ten years,
should have acquired an almost unrivalled power of putting his thoughts,
without premeditation, into words well selected and well arranged.

Of all the remains of antiquity, the orations were those on which he
bestowed the most minute examination. His favourite employment was to
compare harangues on opposite sides of the same question, to analyse
them, and to observe which of the arguments of the first speaker were
refuted by the second, which were evaded, and which were left untouched.
Nor was it only in books that he at this time studied the art
of parliamentary fencing. When he was at home, he had frequent
opportunities of hearing important debates at Westminster; and he heard
them, not only with interest and enjoyment, but with a close scientific
attention resembling that with which a diligent pupil at Guy's Hospital
watches every turn of the hand of a great surgeon through a difficult
operation. On one of these occasions, Pitt, a youth whose abilities
were as yet known only to his own family and to a small knot of college
friends, was introduced on the steps of the throne in the House of Lords
to Fox, who was his senior by eleven years, and who was already the
greatest debater, and one of the greatest orators, that had appeared
in England. Fox used afterwards to relate that, as the discussion
proceeded, Pitt repeatedly turned to him, and said, "But surely, Mr
Fox, that might be met thus;" or, "Yes; but he lays himself open to this
retort." What the particular criticisms were Fox had forgotten; but he
said that he was much struck at the time by the precocity of the lad
who, through the whole sitting, seemed to be thinking only how all the
speeches on both sides could be answered.

One of the young man's visits to the House of Lords was a sad and
memorable era in his life. He had not quite completed his nineteenth
year, when, on the 7th of April 1778, he attended his father to
Westminster. A great debate was expected. It was known that France had
recognised the independence of the United States. The Duke of Richmond
was about to declare his opinion that all thought of subjugating those
states ought to be relinquished. Chatham had always maintained that the
resistance of the colonies to the mother country was justifiable. But he
conceived, very erroneously, that on the day on which their independence
should be acknowledged the greatness of England would be at an end.
Though sinking under the weight of years and infirmities, he determined,
in spite of the entreaties of his family, to be in his place. His son
supported him to a seat. The excitement and exertion were too much for
the old man. In the very act of addressing the peers, he fell back in
convulsions. A few weeks later his corpse was borne, with gloomy pomp,
from the Painted Chamber to the Abbey. The favourite child and namesake
of the deceased statesman followed the coffin as chief mourner, and saw
it deposited in the transept where his own was destined to lie.

His elder brother, now Earl of Chatham, had means sufficient, and barely
sufficient, to support the dignity of the peerage. The other members of
the family were poorly provided for. William had little more than three
hundred a year. It was necessary for him to follow a profession. He had
already begun to eat his terms. In the spring of 1780 he came of age.
He then quitted Cambridge, was called to the bar, took chambers in
Lincoln's Inn, and joined the western circuit. In the autumn of
that year a general election took place; and he offered himself as a
candidate for the university; but he was at the bottom of the poll. It
is said that the grave doctors, who then sate robed in scarlet, on the
benches of Golgotha, thought it great presumption in so young a man
to solicit so high a distinction. He was, however, at the request of a
hereditary friend, the Duke of Rutland, brought into Parliament by Sir
James Lowther for the borough of Appleby.

The dangers of the country were at that time such as might well have
disturbed even a constant mind. Army after army had been sent in vain
against the rebellious colonists of North America. On pitched fields of
battle the advantage had been with the disciplined troops of the mother
country. But it was not on pitched fields of battle that the event of
such a contest could be decided. An armed nation, with hunger and the
Atlantic for auxiliaries, was not to be subjugated. Meanwhile the House
of Bourbon, humbled to the dust a few years before by the genius and
vigour of Chatham, had seized the opportunity of revenge. France and
Spain were united against us, and had recently been joined by Holland.
The command of the Mediterranean had been for a time lost. The British
flag had been scarcely able to maintain itself in the British Channel.
The northern powers professed neutrality; but their neutrality had a
menacing aspect. In the East, Hyder had descended on the Carnatic, had
destroyed the little army of Baillie, and had spread terror even to the
ramparts of Fort Saint George. The discontents of Ireland threatened
nothing less than civil war. In England the authority of the government
had sunk to the lowest point. The King and the House of Commons were
alike unpopular. The cry for parliamentary reform was scarcely less
loud and vehement than in the autumn of 1830. Formidable associations,
headed, not by ordinary demagogues, but by men of high rank, stainless
character, and distinguished ability, demanded a revision of the
representative system. The populace, emboldened by the impotence and
irresolution of the government, had recently broken loose from all
restraint, besieged the chambers of the legislature, hustled peers,
hunted bishops, attacked the residences of ambassadors, opened prisons,
burned and pulled down houses. London had presented during some days
the aspect of a city taken by storm; and it had been necessary to form a
camp among the trees of Saint James's Park.

In spite of dangers and difficulties abroad and at home, George the
Third, with a firmness which had little affinity with virtue or with
wisdom, persisted in his determination to put down the American rebels
by force of arms; and his ministers submitted their judgment to his.
Some of them were probably actuated merely by selfish cupidity; but
their chief, Lord North, a man of high honour, amiable temper, winning
manners, lively wit, and excellent talents both for business and for
debate, must be acquitted of all sordid motives. He remained at a post
from which he had long wished and had repeatedly tried to escape, only
because he had not sufficient fortitude to resist the entreaties and
reproaches of the King, who silenced all arguments by passionately
asking whether any gentleman, any man of spirit, could have the heart to
desert a kind master in the hour of extremity.

The opposition consisted of two parties which had once been hostile to
each other, and which had been very slowly, and, as it soon appeared,
very imperfectly reconciled, but which at this conjuncture seemed to act
together with cordiality. The larger of these parties consisted of the
great body of the Whig aristocracy. Its head was Charles, Marquess of
Rockingham, a man of sense and virtue, and in wealth and parliamentary
interest equalled by very few of the English nobles, but afflicted with
a nervous timidity which prevented him from taking a prominent part in
debate. In the House of Commons, the adherents of Rockingham were led
by Fox, whose dissipated habits and ruined fortunes were the talk of the
whole town, but whose commanding genius, and whose sweet, generous, and
affectionate disposition, extorted the admiration and love of those who
most lamented the errors of his private life. Burke, superior to Fox in
largeness of comprehension, in extent of knowledge, and in splendour of
imagination, but less skilled in that kind of logic and in that kind of
rhetoric which convince and persuade great assemblies, was willing to be
the lieutenant of a young chief who might have been his son.

A smaller section of the opposition was composed of the old followers
of Chatham. At their head was William, Earl of Shelburne, distinguished
both as a statesman and as a lover of science and letters. With him were
leagued Lord Camden, who had formerly held the Great Seal, and whose
integrity, ability, and constitutional knowledge commanded the public
respect; Barre, an eloquent and acrimonious declaimer; and Dunning, who
had long held the first place at the English bar. It was to this party
that Pitt was naturally attracted.

On the 26th of February 1781, he made his first speech, in favour of
Burke's plan of economical reform. Fox stood up at the same moment,
but instantly gave way. The lofty yet animated deportment of the young
member, his perfect self-possession, the readiness with which he replied
to the orators who had preceded him, the silver tones of his voice,
the perfect structure of his unpremeditated sentences, astonished and
delighted his hearers. Burke, moved even to tears, exclaimed, "It is not
a chip of the old block; it is the old block itself." "Pitt will be one
of the first men in Parliament," said a member of the opposition to Fox.
"He is so already," answered Fox, in whose nature envy had no place.
It is a curious fact, well remembered by some who were very recently
living, that soon after this debate Pitt's name was put up by Fox at

On two subsequent occasions during that session Pitt addressed the
House, and on both fully sustained the reputation which he had acquired
on his first appearance. In the summer, after the prorogation, he again
went the western circuit, held several briefs, and acquitted himself in
such a manner that he was highly complimented by Buller from the bench,
and by Dunning at the bar.

On the 27th of November the Parliament reassembled. Only forty-eight
hours before had arrived tidings of the surrender of Cornwallis and
his army; and it had consequently been necessary to rewrite the royal
speech. Every man in the kingdom, except the King, was now convinced
that it was mere madness to think of conquering the United States.
In the debate on the report of the address, Pitt spoke with even
more energy and brilliancy than on any former occasion. He was warmly
applauded by his allies; but it was remarked that no person on his
own side of the house was so loud in eulogy as Henry Dundas, the Lord
Advocate of Scotland, who spoke from the ministerial ranks. That able
and versatile politician distinctly foresaw the approaching downfall of
the government with which he was connected, and was preparing to make
his own escape from the ruin. From that night dates his connection with
Pitt, a connection which soon became a close intimacy, and which lasted
till it was dissolved by death.

About a fortnight later, Pitt spoke in the committee of supply on
the army estimates. Symptoms of dissension had begun to appear on the
Treasury bench. Lord George Germaine, the Secretary of State, who was
especially charged with the direction of the war in America, had held
language not easily to be reconciled with declarations made by the First
Lord of the Treasury. Pitt noticed the discrepancy with much force and
keenness. Lord George and Lord North began to whisper together; and
Welbore Ellis, an ancient placeman who had been drawing salary almost
every quarter since the days of Henry Pelham, bent down between them to
put in a word. Such interruptions sometimes discompose veteran speakers.
Pitt stopped, and, looking at the group, said, with admirable readiness,
"I shall wait till Nestor has composed the dispute between Agamemnon and

After several defeats, or victories hardly to be distinguished from
defeats, the ministry resigned. The King, reluctantly and ungraciously,
consented to accept Rockingham as first minister. Fox and Shelburne
became Secretaries of State. Lord John Cavendish, one of the most
upright and honourable of men, was made Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Thurlow, whose abilities and force of character had made him the
dictator of the House of Lords, continued to hold the great seal.

To Pitt was offered, through Shelburne, the Vice-Treasurership of
Ireland, one of the easiest and most highly paid places in the gift of
the crown; but the offer was, without hesitation, declined. The young
statesman had resolved to accept no post which did not entitle him to
a seat in the cabinet: and, in a few days later, he announced that
resolution in the House of Commons. It must be remembered that the
cabinet was then a much smaller and more select body than at present. We
have seen cabinets of sixteen. In the time of our grandfathers a cabinet
of ten or eleven was thought inconveniently large. Seven was an usual
number. Even Burke, who had taken the lucrative office of paymaster, was
not in the cabinet. Many therefore thought Pitt's declaration indecent.
He himself was sorry that he had made it. The words, he said in private,
had escaped him in the heat of speaking; and he had no sooner uttered
them than he would have given the world to recall them. They, however,
did him no harm with the public. The second William Pitt, it was said,
had shown that he had inherited the spirit, as well as the genius, of
the first. In the son, as in the father, there might perhaps be too much
pride; but there was nothing low or sordid. It might be called arrogance
in a young barrister, living in chambers on three hundred a year, to
refuse a salary of five thousand a year, merely because he did not
choose to bind himself to speak or vote for plans which he had no share
in framing; but surely such arrogance was not very far removed from

Pitt gave a general support to the administration of Rockingham, but
omitted, in the meantime, no opportunity of courting that Ultra-Whig
party which the persecution of Wilkes and the Middlesex election had
called into existence, and which the disastrous events of the war, and
the triumph of republican principles in America, had made formidable
both in numbers and in temper. He supported a motion for shortening the
duration of Parliaments. He made a motion for a committee to examine
into the state of the representation, and, in the speech, by which that
motion was introduced, avowed himself the enemy of the close boroughs,
the strongholds of that corruption to which he attributed all the
calamities of the nation, and which, as he phrased it in one of those
exact and sonorous sentences of which he had a boundless command, had
grown with the growth of England and strengthened with her strength,
but had not diminished with her diminution or decayed with her decay.
On this occasion he was supported by Fox. The motion was lost by
only twenty votes in a house of more than three hundred members. The
reformers never again had so good a division till the year 1831.

The new administration was strong in abilities, and was more popular
than any administration which had held office since the first year of
George the Third, but was hated by the King, hesitatingly supported by
the Parliament, and torn by internal dissensions. The Chancellor
was disliked and distrusted by almost all his colleagues. The two
Secretaries of State regarded each other with no friendly feeling. The
line between their departments had not been traced with precision; and
there were consequently jealousies, encroachments, and complaints. It
was all that Rockingham could do to keep the peace in his cabinet; and,
before the cabinet had existed three months, Rockingham died.

In an instant all was confusion. The adherents of the deceased statesman
looked on the Duke of Portland as their chief. The King placed Shelburne
at the head of the Treasury. Fox, Lord John Cavendish, and Burke,
immediately resigned their offices; and the new prime minister was left
to constitute a government out of very defective materials. His own
parliamentary talents were great; but he could not be in the place where
parliamentary talents were most needed. It was necessary to find some
member of the House of Commons who could confront the great orators of
the opposition; and Pitt alone had the eloquence and the courage which
were required. He was offered the great place of Chancellor of
the Exchequer; and he accepted it. He had scarcely completed his
twenty-third year.

The Parliament was speedily prorogued. During the recess, a negotiation
for peace which had been commenced under Rockingham was brought to a
successful termination. England acknowledged the independence of her
revolted colonies; and she ceded to her European enemies some places
in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf of Mexico. But the terms which she
obtained were quite as advantageous and honourable as the events of
the war entitled her to expect, or as she was likely to obtain by
persevering in a contest against immense odds. All her vital parts, all
the real sources of her power, remained uninjured. She preserved even
her dignity: for she ceded to the House of Bourbon only part of what she
had won from that House in previous wars. She retained her Indian
empire undiminished; and, in spite of the mightiest efforts of two great
monarchies, her flag still waved on the rock of Gibraltar. There is not
the slightest reason to believe that Fox, if he had remained in office,
would have hesitated one moment about concluding a treaty on such
conditions. Unhappily that great and most amiable man was, at this
crisis, hurried by his passions into an error which made his genius
and his virtues, during a long course of years, almost useless to his

He saw that the great body of the House of Commons was divided into
three parties, his own, that of North, and that of Shelburne; that none
of those three parties was large enough to stand alone; that,
therefore, unless two of them united, there must be a miserably feeble
administration, or more probably, a rapid succession of miserably
feeble administrations, and this at a time when a strong government was
essential to the prosperity and respectability of the nation. It was
then necessary and right that there should be a coalition. To every
possible coalition there were objections. But, of all possible
coalitions, that to which there were the fewest objections was
undoubtedly a coalition between Shelburne and Fox. It would have been
generally applauded by the followers of both. It might have been
made without any sacrifice of public principle on the part of either.
Unhappily, recent bickerings had left in the mind of Fox a profound
dislike and distrust of Shelburne. Pitt attempted to mediate, and was
authorised to invite Fox to return to the service of the Crown. "Is Lord
Shelburne," said Fox, "to remain prime minister?" Pitt answered in the
affirmative. "It is impossible that I can act under him," said Fox.
"Then negotiation is at an end," said Pitt; "for I cannot betray him."
Thus the two statesmen parted. They were never again in a private room

As Fox and his friends would not treat with Shelburne, nothing
remained to them but to treat with North. That fatal coalition which is
emphatically called "The Coalition" was formed. Not three quarters of
a year had elapsed since Fox and Burke had threatened North with
impeachment, and had described him, night after night, as the most
arbitrary, the most corrupt, the most incapable of ministers. They now
allied themselves with him for the purpose of driving from office a
statesman with whom they cannot be said to have differed as to any
important question. Nor had they even the prudence and the patience to
wait for some occasion on which they might, without inconsistency, have
combined with their old enemies in opposition to the government. That
nothing might be wanting to the scandal, the great orators, who had,
during seven years, thundered against the war, determined to join with
the authors of that war in passing a vote of censure on the peace.

The Parliament met before Christmas 1782. But it was not till January
1783 that the preliminary treaties were signed. On the 17th of February
they were taken into consideration by the House of Commons. There
had been, during some days, floating rumours that Fox and North had
coalesced; and the debate indicated but too clearly that those rumours
were not unfounded. Pit was suffering from indisposition: he did not
rise till his own strength and that of his hearers were exhausted; and
he was consequently less successful than on any former occasion. His
admirers owned that his speech was feeble and petulant. He so far forgot
himself as to advise Sheridan to confine himself to amusing theatrical
audiences. This ignoble sarcasm gave Sheridan an opportunity of
retorting with great felicity. "After what I have seen and heard
to-night," he said, "I really feel strongly tempted to venture on a
competition with so great an artist as Ben Jonson, and to bring on the
stage a second Angry Boy." On a division, the address proposed by the
supporters of the government was rejected by a majority of sixteen.

But Pitt was not a man to be disheartened by a single failure, or to
be put down by the most lively repartee. When a few days later, the
opposition proposed a resolution directly censuring the treaties, he
spoke with an eloquence, energy, and dignity which raised his fame
and popularity higher than ever. To the coalition of Fox and North
he alluded in language which drew forth tumultuous applause from his
followers. "If," he said, "this ill-omened and unnatural marriage be
not yet consummated, I know of a just and lawful impediment; and, in the
name of the public weal, I forbid the banns."

The ministers were again left in a minority; and Shelburne consequently
tendered his resignation. It was accepted; but the King struggled long
and hard before he submitted to the terms dictated by Fox, whose faults
he detested, and whose high spirit and powerful intellect he detested
still more. The first place at the board of Treasury was repeatedly
offered to Pitt; but the offer, though tempting, was steadfastly
declined. The young man, whose judgment was as precocious as his
eloquence, saw that his time was coming, but was not come, and was deaf
to royal importunities and reproaches. His Majesty, bitterly complaining
of Pitt's faintheartedness, tried to break the coalition. Every art of
seduction was practised on North, but in vain. During several weeks the
country remained without a government. It was not till all devices had
failed, and till the aspect of the House of Commons became threatening,
that the King gave way. The Duke of Portland was declared First Lord of
the Treasury. Thurlow was dismissed. Fox and North became Secretaries of
State, with power ostensibly equal. But Fox was the real prime minister.

The year was far advanced before the new arrangements were completed;
and nothing very important was done during the remainder of the session.
Pitt, now seated on the opposition bench, brought the question of
parliamentary reform a second time under the consideration of the
Commons. He proposed to add to the House at once a hundred county
members and several members for metropolitan districts, and to enact
that every borough of which an election committee should report that the
majority of voters appeared to be corrupt should lose the franchise. The
motion was rejected by 293 votes to 149.

After the prorogation, Pitt visited the Continent for the first and last
time. His travelling companion was one of his most intimate friends,
a young man of his own age, who had already distinguished himself in
Parliament by an engaging natural eloquence, set off by the sweetest
and most exquisitely modulated of human voices, and whose affectionate
heart, caressing manners, and brilliant wit, made him the most
delightful of companions, William Wilberforce. That was the time of
Anglomania in France; and at Paris the son of the great Chatham was
absolutely hunted by men of letters and women of fashion, and forced,
much against his will, into political disputation. One remarkable saying
which dropped from him during this tour has been preserved. A French
gentleman expressed some surprise at the immense influence which Fox, a
man of pleasure, ruined by the dice-box and the turf, exercised over the
English nation. "You have not," said Pitt, "been under the wand of the

In November 1783 the Parliament met again. The government had
irresistible strength in the House of Commons, and seemed to be scarcely
less strong in the House of Lords, but was, in truth, surrounded on
every side by dangers. The King was impatiently waiting for the moment
at which he could emancipate himself from a yoke which galled him so
severely that he had more than once seriously thought of retiring to
Hanover; and the King was scarcely more eager for a change than the
nation. Fox and North had committed a fatal error. They ought to have
known that coalitions between parties which have long been hostile can
succeed only when the wish for coalition pervades the lower ranks of
both. If the leaders unite before there is any disposition to union
among the followers, the probability is that there will be a mutiny in
both camps, and that the two revolted armies will make a truce with each
other, in order to be revenged on those by whom they think that they
have been betrayed. Thus it was in 1783. At the beginning of that
eventful year, North had been the recognised head of the old Tory party,
which, though for a moment prostrated by the disastrous issue of the
American war, was still a great power in the state. To him the clergy,
the universities, and that large body of country gentlemen whose
rallying cry was "Church and King," had long looked up with respect and
confidence. Fox had, on the other hand, been the idol of the Whigs,
and of the whole body of Protestant dissenters. The coalition at once
alienated the most zealous Tories from North, and the most zealous Whigs
from Fox. The University of Oxford, which had marked its approbation of
North's orthodoxy by electing him chancellor, the city of London, which
had been during two and twenty years at war with the Court, were equally
disgusted. Squires and rectors, who had inherited the principles of the
cavaliers of the preceding century, could not forgive their old leader
for combining with disloyal subjects in order to put a force on the
sovereign. The members of the Bill of Rights Society and of the Reform
Associations were enraged by learning that their favourite orator now
called the great champion of tyranny and corruption his noble friend.
Two great multitudes were at once left without any head, and both at
once turned their eyes on Pitt. One party saw in him the only man who
could rescue the King; the other saw in him the only man who could
purify the Parliament. He was supported on one side by Archbishop
Markham, the preacher of divine right, and by Jenkinson, the captain of
the Praetorian band of the King's friends; on the other side by Jebb and
Priestley, Sawbridge and Cartwright, Jack Wilkes and Horne Tooke. On the
benches of the House of Commons, however, the ranks of the ministerial
majority were unbroken; and that any statesman would venture to brave
such a majority was thought impossible. No prince of the Hanoverian
line had ever, under any provocation, ventured to appeal from the
representative body to the constituent body. The ministers, therefore,
notwithstanding the sullen looks and muttered words of displeasure with
which their suggestions were received in the closet, notwithstanding the
roar of obloquy which was rising louder and louder every day from every
corner of the island, thought themselves secure.

Such was their confidence in their strength that, as soon as the
Parliament had met, they brought forward a singularly bold and original
plan for the government of the British territories in India. What was
proposed was that the whole authority, which till that time had been
exercised over those territories by the East India Company, should be
transferred to seven Commissioners who were to be named by Parliament,
and were not to be removable at the pleasure of the Crown. Earl
Fitzwilliam, the most intimate personal friend of Fox, was to be
chairman of this board; and the eldest son of North was to be one of the

As soon as the outlines of the scheme were known, all the hatred which
the coalition had excited burst forth with an astounding explosion. The
question which ought undoubtedly to have been considered as paramount to
every other was, whether the proposed change was likely to be beneficial
or injurious to the thirty millions of people who were subject to the
Company. But that question cannot be said to have been even seriously
discussed. Burke, who, whether right or wrong in the conclusions to
which he came, had at least the merit of looking at the subject in
the right point of view, vainly reminded his hearers of that mighty
population whose daily rice might depend on a vote of the British
Parliament. He spoke, with even more than his wonted power of thought
and language, about the desolation of Rohilcund, about the spoliation
of Benares, about the evil policy which had suffered the tanks of the
Carnatic to go to ruin; but he could scarcely obtain a hearing. The
contending parties, to their shame it must be said, would listen to none
but English topics. Out of doors the cry against the ministry was almost
universal. Town and country were united. Corporations exclaimed against
the violation of the charter of the greatest corporation in the realm.
Tories and democrats joined in pronouncing the proposed board an
unconstitutional body. It was to consist of Fox's nominees. The effect
of his bill was to give, not to the Crown, but to him personally,
whether in office or in opposition, an enormous power, a patronage
sufficient to counterbalance the patronage of the Treasury and of the
Admiralty, and to decide the elections for fifty boroughs. He knew,
it was said, that he was hateful alike to King and people; and he had
devised a plan which would make him independent of both. Some nicknamed
him Cromwell, and some Carlo Khan. Wilberforce, with his usual felicity
of expression, and with very unusual bitterness of feeling, described
the scheme as the genuine offspring of the coalition, as marked by the
features of both its parents, the corruption of one and the violence of
the other. In spite of all opposition, however, the bill was supported
in every stage by great majorities, was rapidly passed and was sent up
to the Lords. To the general astonishment, when the second reading was
moved in the Upper House, the opposition proposed an adjournment, and
carried it by eighty-seven votes to seventy-nine. The cause of this
strange turn of fortune was soon known. Pitt's cousin, Earl Temple, had
been in the royal closet, and had there been authorised to let it be
known that His Majesty would consider all who voted for the bill as his
enemies. The ignominious commission was performed; and instantly a troop
of Lords of the Bedchamber, of Bishops who wished to be translated, and
of Scotch peers who wished to be re-elected, made haste to change
sides. On a later day, the Lords rejected the bill. Fox and North were
immediately directed to send their seals to the palace by their Under
Secretaries; and Pitt was appointed First Lord of the Treasury and
Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The general opinion was, that there would be an immediate dissolution.
But Pitt wisely determined to give the public feeling time to gather
strength. On this point he differed from his kinsman Temple. The
consequence was, that Temple, who had been appointed one of the
Secretaries of State, resigned his office forty-eight hours after he had
accepted it, and thus relieved the new government from a great load of
unpopularity; for all men of sense and honour, however strong might be
their dislike of the India Bill, disapproved of the manner in which that
bill had been thrown out. Temple carried away with him the scandal which
the best friends of the new government could not but lament. The fame of
the young prime minister preserved its whiteness. He could declare with
perfect truth that, if unconstitutional machinations had been employed,
he had been no party to them.

He was, however, surrounded by difficulties and dangers. In the House of
Lords, indeed, he had a majority; nor could any orator of the opposition
in that assembly be considered as a match for Thurlow, who was now again
Chancellor, or for Camden, who cordially supported the son of his old
friend Chatham. But in the other House there was not a single eminent
speaker among the official men who sate round Pitt. His most useful
assistant was Dundas, who, though he had not eloquence, had sense,
knowledge, readiness, and boldness. On the opposite benches was a
powerful majority, led by Fox, who was supported by Burke, North, and
Sheridan. The heart of the young minister, stout as it was, almost died
within him. He could not once close his eyes on the night which followed
Temple's resignation. But, whatever his internal emotions might be, his
language and deportment indicated nothing but unconquerable firmness and
haughty confidence in his own powers. His contest against the House of
Commons lasted from the 17th of December 1783, to the 8th of March 1784.
In sixteen divisions the opposition triumphed. Again and again the King
was requested to dismiss his ministers. But he was determined to go to
Germany rather than yield. Pitt's resolution never wavered. The cry of
the nation in his favour became vehement and almost furious. Addresses
assuring him of public support came up daily from every part of the
kingdom. The freedom of the city of London was presented to him in a
gold box. He went in state to receive this mark of distinction. He was
sumptuously feasted in Grocers' Hall; and the shopkeepers of the Strand
and Fleet Street illuminated their houses in his honour. These things
could not but produce an effect within the walls of Parliament. The
ranks of the majority began to waver; a few passed over to the enemy;
some skulked away; many were for capitulating while it was still
possible to capitulate with the honours of war. Negotiations were opened
with the view of forming an administration on a wide basis; but they had
scarcely been opened when they were closed. The opposition demanded,
as a preliminary article of the treaty, that Pitt should resign the
Treasury; and with this demand Pit steadfastly refused to comply. While
the contest was raging, the Clerkship of the Pells, a sinecure place for
life, worth three thousand a year, and tenable with a seat in the House
of Commons, became vacant. The appointment was with the Chancellor of
the Exchequer: nobody doubted that he would appoint himself; and nobody
could have blamed him if he had done so: for such sinecure offices
had always been defended on the ground that they enabled a few men of
eminent abilities and small incomes to live without any profession, and
to devote themselves to the service of the state. Pitt, in spite of
the remonstrances of his friends, gave the Pells to his father's old
adherent, Colonel Barre, a man distinguished by talent and eloquence,
but poor and afflicted with blindness. By this arrangement a pension
which the Rockingham administration had granted to Barre was saved to
the public. Never was there a happier stroke of policy. About treaties,
wars, expeditions, tariffs, budgets, there will always be room for
dispute. The policy which is applauded by half the nation may be
condemned by the other half. But pecuniary disinterestedness everybody
comprehends. It is a great thing for a man who has only three hundred a
year to be able to show that he considers three thousand a year as mere
dirt beneath his feet, when compared with the public interest and
the public esteem. Pitt had his reward. No minister was ever more
rancorously libelled; but, even when he was known to be overwhelmed with
debt, when millions were passing through his hands, when the wealthiest
magnates of the realm were soliciting him for marquisates and garters,
his bitterest enemies did not dare to accuse him of touching unlawful

At length the hard fought fight ended. A final remonstrance, drawn up by
Burke with admirable skill, was carried on the 8th of March by a single
vote in a full House. Had the experiment been repeated, the supporters
of the coalition would probably have been in a minority. But the
supplies had been voted; the Mutiny Bill had been passed; and the
Parliament was dissolved.

The popular constituent bodies all over the country were in general
enthusiastic on the side of the new government. A hundred and sixty of
the supporters of the coalition lost their seats. The First Lord of the
Treasury himself came in at the head of the poll for the University
of Cambridge. His young friend, Wilberforce, was elected knight of
the great shire of York, in opposition to the whole influence of the
Fitzwilliams, Cavendishes, Dundases, and Saviles. In the midst of such
triumphs Pitt completed his twenty-fifth year. He was now the greatest
subject that England had seen during many generations. He domineered
absolutely over the cabinet, and was the favourite at once of the
Sovereign, of the Parliament, and of the nation. His father had never
been so powerful, nor Walpole, nor Marlborough.

This narrative has now reached a point, beyond which a full history of
the life of Pitt would be a history of England, or rather of the whole
civilised world; and for such a history this is not the proper place.
Here a very slight sketch must suffice; and in that sketch prominence
will be given to such points as may enable a reader who is already
acquainted with the general course of events to form a just notion of
the character of the man on whom so much depended.

If we wish to arrive at a correct judgment of Pitt's merits and defects,
we must never forget that he belonged to a peculiar class of statesmen,
and that he must be tried by a peculiar standard. It is not easy to
compare him fairly with such men as Ximenes and Sully, Richelieu and
Oxenstiern, John de Witt, and Warren Hastings. The means by which those
politicians governed great communities were of quite a different
kind from those which Pitt was under the necessity of employing. Some
talents, which they never had any opportunity of showing that they
possessed, were developed in him to an extraordinary degree. In some
qualities, on the other hand, to which they owe a large part of their
fame, he was decidedly their inferior. They transacted business in their
closets, or at boards where a few confidential councillors sate. It was
his lot to be born in an age and in a country in which parliamentary
government was completely established. His whole training from infancy
was such as fitted him to bear a part in parliamentary government;
and, from the prime of his manhood to his death, all the powers of
his vigorous mind were almost constantly exerted in the work of
parliamentary government. He accordingly became the greatest master
of the whole art of parliamentary government that has ever existed, a
greater than Montague or Walpole, a greater than his father Chatham,
or his rival Fox, a greater than either of his illustrious successors,
Canning and Peel.

Parliamentary government, like every other contrivance of man, has its
advantages and disadvantages. On the advantages there is no need to
dilate. The history of England during the hundred and seventy years
which have elapsed since the House of Commons became the most powerful
body in the state, her immense and still growing prosperity, her
freedom, her tranquillity, her greatness in arts, in sciences, and in
arms, her maritime ascendency, the marvels of her public credit, her
American, her African, her Australian, her Asiatic empires, sufficiently
prove the excellence of her institutions. But those institutions,
though excellent, are assuredly not perfect. Parliamentary government is
government by speaking. In such a government, the power of speaking
is the most highly prized of all the qualities which a politician
can possess: and that power may exist, in the highest degree, without
judgment, without fortitude, without skill in reading the characters of
men or the signs of the times, without any knowledge of the principles
of legislation or of political economy, and without any skill in
diplomacy or in the administration of war. Nay, it may well happen that
those very intellectual qualities which give a peculiar charm to the
speeches of a public man may be incompatible with the qualities
which would fit him to meet a pressing emergency with promptitude and
firmness. It was thus with Charles Townshend. It was thus with Windham.
It was a privilege to listen to those accomplished and ingenious
orators. But in a perilous crisis they would have been found far
inferior in all the qualities of rulers to such a man as Oliver
Cromwell, who talked nonsense, or as William the Silent, who did not
talk at all. When parliamentary government is established, a Charles
Townshend or a Windham will almost always exercise much greater
influence than such men as the great Protector of England, or as
the founder of the Batavian commonwealth. In such a government,
parliamentary talent, though quite distinct from the talents of a
good executive or judicial officer, will be a chief qualification for
executive and judicial office. From the Book of Dignities a curious list
might be made out of Chancellors ignorant of the principles of
equity, and First Lords of the Admiralty ignorant of the principles of
navigation, of Colonial ministers who could not repeat the names of
the Colonies, of Lords of the Treasury who did not know the difference
between funded and unfunded debt, and of Secretaries of the India Board
who did not know whether the Mahrattas were Mahometans or Hindoos. On
these grounds, some persons, incapable of seeing more than one side of a
question, have pronounced parliamentary government a positive evil, and
have maintained that the administration would be greatly improved if the
power, now exercised by a large assembly, were transferred to a single
person. Men of sense will probably think the remedy very much worse than
the disease, and will be of opinion that there would be small gain in
exchanging Charles Townshend and Windham for the Prince of the Peace, or
the poor slave and dog Steenie.

Pitt was emphatically the man of parliamentary government, the type of
his class, the minion, the child, the spoiled child, of the House of
Commons. For the House of Commons he had a hereditary, an infantine
love. Through his whole boyhood, the House of Commons was never out of
his thoughts, or out of the thoughts of his instructors. Reciting at his
father's knee, reading Thucydides and Cicero into English, analysing the
great Attic speeches on the Embassy and on the Crown, he was constantly
in training for the conflicts of the House of Commons. He was a
distinguished member of the House of Commons at twenty-one. The ability
which he had displayed in the House of Commons made him the most
powerful subject in Europe before he was twenty-five. It would have
been happy for himself and for his country if his elevation had been
deferred. Eight or ten years, during which he would have had leisure and
opportunity for reading and reflection, for foreign travel, for social
intercourse and free exchange of thought on equal terms with a great
variety of companions, would have supplied what, without any fault
on his part, was wanting to his powerful intellect. He had all the
knowledge that he could be expected to have; that is to say, all the
knowledge that a man can acquire while he is a student at Cambridge, and
all the knowledge that a man can acquire when he is First Lord of the
Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the stock of general
information which he brought from college, extraordinary for a boy, was
far inferior to what Fox possessed, and beggarly when compared with the
massy, the splendid, the various treasures laid up in the large mind of
Burke. After Pitt became minister, he had no leisure to learn more than
was necessary for the purposes of the day which was passing over him.
What was necessary for those purposes such a man could learn with little
difficulty. He was surrounded by experienced and able public servants.
He could at any moment command their best assistance. From the stores
which they produced his vigorous mind rapidly collected the materials
for a good parliamentary case; and that was enough. Legislation and
administration were with him secondary matters. To the work of framing
statutes, of negotiating treaties, of organising fleets and armies, of
sending forth expeditions, he gave only the leavings of his time and the
dregs of his fine intellect. The strength and sap of his mind were all
drawn in a different direction. It was when the House of Commons was to
be convinced and persuaded that he put forth all his powers.

Of those powers we must form our estimate chiefly from tradition; for of
all the eminent speakers of the last age Pitt has suffered most from
the reporters. Even while he was still living, critics remarked that
his eloquence could not be preserved, that he must be heard to be
appreciated. They more than once applied to him the sentence in which
Tacitus describes the fate of a senator whose rhetoric was admired in
the Augustan age: "Haterii canorum illud et profluens cum ipso simul
exstinctum est." There is, however, abundant evidence that nature had
bestowed on Pitt the talents of a great orator; and those talents had
been developed in a very peculiar manner, first by his education, and
secondly by the high official position to which he rose early, and in
which he passed the greater part of his public life.

At his first appearance in Parliament he showed himself superior to all
his contemporaries in command of language. He could pour forth a long
succession of round and stately periods, without premeditation, without
ever pausing for a word, without ever repeating a word, in a voice of
silver clearness, and with a pronunciation so articulate that not a
letter was slurred over. He had less amplitude of mind and less richness
of imagination than Burke, less ingenuity than Windham, less wit than
Sheridan, less perfect mastery of dialectical fence, and less of that
highest sort of eloquence which consists of reason and passion fused
together, than Fox. Yet the almost unanimous judgment of those who were
in the habit of listening to that remarkable race of men placed Pitt,
as a speaker, above Burke, above Windham, above Sheridan, and not below
Fox. His declamation was copious, polished, and splendid. In power of
sarcasm he was probably not surpassed by any speaker, ancient or modern;
and of this formidable weapon he made merciless use. In two parts of the
oratorical art which are of the highest value to a minister of state he
was singularly expert. No man knew better how to be luminous or how to
be obscure. When he wished to be understood, he never failed to make
himself understood. He could with ease present to his audience, not
perhaps an exact or profound, but a clear, popular, and plausible view
of the most extensive and complicated subject. Nothing was out of place;
nothing was forgotten; minute details, dates, sums of money, were all
faithfully preserved in his memory. Even intricate questions of finance,
when explained by him, seemed clear to the plainest man among his
hearers. On the other hand, when he did not wish to be explicit,--and no
man who is at the head of affairs always wishes to be explicit,--he
had a marvellous power of saying nothing in language which left on his
audience the impression that he had said a great deal. He was at once
the only man who could open a budget without notes, and the only man
who, as Windham said, could speak that most elaborately evasive and
unmeaning of human compositions, a King's speech, without premeditation.

The effect of oratory will always to a great extent depend on the
character of the orator. There perhaps never were two speakers whose
eloquence had more of what may be called the race, more of the flavour
imparted by moral qualities, than Fox and Pitt. The speeches of Fox owe
a great part of their charm to that warmth and softness of heart, that
sympathy with human suffering, that admiration for everything great and
beautiful, and that hatred of cruelty and injustice, which interest and
delight us even in the most defective reports. No person, on the other
hand, could hear Pitt without perceiving him to be a man of high,
intrepid, and commanding spirit, proudly conscious of his own rectitude
and of his own intellectual superiority, incapable of the low vices of
fear and envy, but too prone to feel and to show disdain. Pride, indeed,
pervaded the whole man, was written in the harsh, rigid lines of his
face, was marked by the way in which he walked, in which he sate,
in which he stood, and, above all, in which he bowed. Such pride, of
course, inflicted many wounds. It may confidently be affirmed that there
cannot be found, in all the ten thousand invectives written against Fox,
a word indicating that his demeanour had ever made a single personal
enemy. On the other hand, several men of note who had been partial to
Pitt, and who to the last continued to approve his public conduct and
to support his administration, Cumberland, for example, Boswell, and
Matthias, were so much irritated by the contempt with which he treated
them, that they complained in print of their wrongs. But his pride,
though it made him bitterly disliked by individuals, inspired the great
body of his followers in Parliament and throughout the country with
respect and confidence. They took him at his own valuation. They saw
that his self-esteem was not that of an upstart, who was drunk with
good luck and with applause, and who, if fortune turned, would sink from
arrogance into abject humility. It was that of the magnanimous man
so finely described by Aristotle in the Ethics, of the man who thinks
himself worthy of great things, being in truth worthy. It sprang from
a consciousness of great powers and great virtues, and was never so
conspicuously displayed as in the midst of difficulties and dangers
which would have unnerved and bowed down any ordinary mind. It was
closely connected, too, with an ambition which had no mixture of low
cupidity. There was something noble in the cynical disdain with which
the mighty minister scattered riches and titles to right and left among
those who valued them, while he spurned them out of his own way. Poor
himself, he was surrounded by friends on whom he had bestowed three
thousand, six thousand, ten thousand a year. Plain Mister himself, he
had made more lords than any three ministers that had preceded him. The
garter, for which the first dukes in the kingdom were contending, was
repeatedly offered to him, and offered in vain.

The correctness of his private life added much to the dignity of his
public character. In the relations of son, brother, uncle, master,
friend, his conduct was exemplary. In the small circle of his intimate
associates, he was amiable, affectionate, even playful. They loved him
sincerely; they regretted him long; and they would hardly admit that
he who was so kind and gentle with them could be stern and haughty with
others. He indulged, indeed, somewhat too freely in wine, which he had
early been directed to take as a medicine, and which use had made a
necessary of life to him. But it was very seldom that any indication of
undue excess could be detected in his tones or gestures; and, in truth,
two bottles of port were little more to him than two dishes of tea.
He had, when he was first introduced into the clubs of Saint James's
Street, shown a strong taste for play; but he had the prudence and the
resolution to stop before this taste had acquired the strength of habit.
From the passion which generally exercises the most tyrannical dominion
over the young he possessed an immunity, which is probably to be
ascribed partly to his temperament and partly to his situation. His
constitution was feeble; he was very shy; and he was very busy. The
strictness of his morals furnished such buffoons as Peter Pindar and
Captain Morris with an inexhaustible theme for merriment of no very
delicate kind. But the great body of the middle class of Englishmen
could not see the joke. They warmly praised the young statesman for
commanding his passions, and for covering his frailties, if he had
frailties, with decorous obscurity, and would have been very far indeed
from thinking better of him if he had vindicated himself from the taunts
of his enemies by taking under his protection a Nancy Parsons or a
Marianne Clark.

No part of the immense popularity which Pitt long enjoyed is to be
attributed to the eulogies of wits and poets. It might have been
naturally expected that a man of genius, of learning, of taste,
an orator whose diction was often compared to that of Tully, the
representative, too, of a great university, would have taken a peculiar
pleasure in befriending eminent writers, to whatever political party
they might have belonged. The love of literature had induced Augustus
to heap benefits on Pompeians, Somers to be the protector of nonjurors,
Harley to make the fortunes of Whigs. But it could not move Pitt to show
any favour even to Pittites. He was doubtless right in thinking that,
in general, poetry, history, and philosophy ought to be suffered, like
calico and cutlery, to find their proper price in the market, and
that to teach men of letters to look habitually to the state for their
recompense is bad for the state and bad for letters. Assuredly nothing
can be more absurd or mischievous than to waste the public money in
bounties for the purpose of inducing people who ought to be weighing out
grocery or measuring out drapery to write bad or middling books. But,
though the sound rule is that authors should be left to be remunerated
by their readers, there will, in every generation, be a few exceptions
to this rule. To distinguish these special cases from the mass is an
employment well worthy of the faculties of a great and accomplished
ruler; and Pitt would assuredly have had little difficulty in finding
such cases. While he was in power, the greatest philologist of the age,
his own contemporary at Cambridge, was reduced to earn a livelihood by
the lowest literary drudgery, and to spend in writing squibs for the
"Morning Chronicle" years to which we might have owed an all but
perfect text of the whole tragic and comic drama of Athens. The greatest
historian of the age, forced by poverty to leave his country, completed
his immortal work on the shores of Lake Leman. The political heterodoxy
of Porson, and the religious heterodoxy of Gibbon, may perhaps be
pleaded in defence of the minister by whom those eminent men were
neglected. But there were other cases in which no such excuse could be
set up. Scarcely had Pitt obtained possession of unbounded power when
an aged writer of the highest eminence, who had made very little by his
writings, and who was sinking into the grave under a load of infirmities
and sorrows, wanted five or six hundred pounds to enable him, during the
winter or two which might still remain to him, to draw his breath more
easily in the soft climate of Italy. Not a farthing was to be obtained;
and before Christmas the author of the English Dictionary and of the
Lives of the Poets had gasped his last in the river fog and coal smoke
of Fleet Street. A few months after the death of Johnson appeared the
Task, incomparably the best poem that any Englishman then living had
produced--a poem, too, which could hardly fail to excite in a well
constituted mind a feeling of esteem and compassion for the poet, a man
of genius and virtue, whose means were scanty, and whom the most
cruel of all the calamities incident to humanity had made incapable
of supporting himself by vigorous and sustained exertion. Nowhere had
Chatham been praised with more enthusiasm, or in verse more worthy of
the subject, than in the Task. The son of Chatham, however, contented
himself with reading and admiring the book, and left the author to
starve. The pension which, long after, enabled poor Cowper to close his
melancholy life, unmolested by duns and bailiffs, was obtained for him
by the strenuous kindness of Lord Spencer. What a contrast between the
way in which Pitt acted towards Johnson and the way in which Lord
Grey acted towards his political enemy Scott, when Scott, worn out by
misfortune and disease, was advised to try the effect of the Italian
air! What a contrast between the way in which Pitt acted towards Cowper
and the way in which Burke, a poor man and out of place, acted towards
Crabbe! Even Dundas, who made no pretensions to literary taste, and
was content to be considered as a hardheaded and somewhat coarse man of
business, was, when compared with his eloquent and classically educated
friend, a Maecenas or a Leo. Dundas made Burns an exciseman, with
seventy pounds a year; and this was more than Pitt, during his long
tenure of power, did for the encouragement of letters. Even those who
may think that it is, in general, no part of the duty of a government to
reward literary merit will hardly deny that a government, which has much
lucrative church preferment in its gift, is bound, in distributing that
preferment, not to overlook divines whose writings have rendered great
service to the cause of religion. But it seems never to have occurred to
Pitt that he lay under any such obligation. All the theological works of
all the numerous bishops whom he made and translated are not, when
put together, worth fifty pages of the Horae Paulinae, of the Natural
Theology, or of the View of the Evidences of Christianity. But on Paley
the all-powerful minister never bestowed the small benefice. Artists
Pitt reasoned as contemptuously as writers. For painting he did simply
nothing. Sculptors, who had been selected to execute monuments voted by
Parliament, had to haunt the ante-chambers of the Treasury during many
years before they could obtain a farthing from him. One of them, after
vainly soliciting the minister for payment during fourteen years, had
the courage to present a memorial to the King, and thus obtained tardy
and ungracious justice. Architects it was absolutely necessary to
employ; and the worst that could be found seem to have been employed.
Not a single fine public building of any kind or in any style was
erected during his long administration. It may be confidently affirmed
that no ruler whose abilities and attainments would bear any comparison
with his has ever shown such cold disdain for what is excellent in arts
and letters.

His first administration lasted seventeen years. That long period is
divided by a strongly marked line into two almost exactly equal parts.
The first part ended and the second began in the autumn of 1792.
Throughout both parts Pitt displayed in the highest degree the talents
of a parliamentary leader. During the first part he was a fortunate and,
in many respects, a skilful administrator. With the difficulties which
he had to encounter during the second part he was altogether incapable
of contending: but his eloquence and his perfect mastery of the tactics
of the House of Commons concealed his incapacity from the multitude.

The eight years which followed the general election of 1784 were as
tranquil and prosperous as any eight years in the whole history of
England. Neighbouring nations which had lately been in arms against
her, and which had flattered themselves that, in losing her American
colonies, she had lost a chief source of her wealth and of her power,
saw, with wonder and vexation, that she was more wealthy and more
powerful than ever. Her trade increased. Her manufactures flourished.
Her exchequer was full to overflowing. Very idle apprehensions were
generally entertained, that the public debt, though much less than a
third of the debt which we now bear with ease, would be found too heavy
for the strength of the nation. Those apprehensions might not perhaps
have been easily quieted by reason. But Pitt quieted them by a juggle.
He succeeded in persuading first himself, and then the whole nation,
his opponents included, that a new sinking fund, which, so far as it
differed from former sinking funds, differed for the worse, would, by
virtue of some mysterious power of propagation belonging to money, put
into the pocket of the public creditor great sums not taken out of the
pocket of the tax-payer. The country, terrified by a danger which was no
danger, hailed with delight and boundless confidence a remedy which was
no remedy. The minister was almost universally extolled as the greatest
of financiers. Meanwhile both the branches of the House of Bourbon
found that England was as formidable an antagonist as she had ever been.
France had formed a plan for reducing Holland to vassalage. But England
interposed; and France receded. Spain interrupted by violence the trade
of our merchants with the regions near the Oregon. But England armed;
and Spain receded. Within the island there was profound tranquillity.
The King was, for the first time, popular. During the twenty-three years
which had followed his accession he had not been loved by his subjects.
His domestic virtues were acknowledged. But it was generally thought
that the good qualities by which he was distinguished in private
life were wanting to his political character. As a Sovereign, he was
resentful, unforgiving, stubborn, cunning. Under his rule the country
had sustained cruel disgraces and disasters; and every one of those
disgraces and disasters was imputed to his strong antipathies, and
to his perverse obstinacy in the wrong. One statesman after another
complained that he had been induced by royal caresses, intreaties,
and promises, to undertake the direction of affairs at a difficult
conjuncture, and that, as soon as he had, not without sullying his
fame, and alienating his best friends, served the turn for which he
was wanted, his ungrateful master began to intrigue against him, and
to canvass against him. Grenville, Rockingham, Chatham, men of widely
different characters, but all three upright and high-spirited, agreed
in thinking that the Prince under whom they had successively held the
highest place in government was one of the most insincere of mankind.
His confidence was reposed, they said, not in those known and
responsible counsellors to whom he had delivered the seals of office,
but in secret advisers who stole up the back stairs into his closet. In
Parliament his ministers, while defending themselves against the attacks
of the opposition in front, were perpetually, at his instigation,
assailed on the flank or in the rear by a vile band of mercenaries who
called themselves his friends. These men constantly, while in possession
of lucrative places in his service, spoke and voted against bills which
he had authorised the First Lord of the Treasury or the Secretary of
State to bring in. But from the day on which Pitt was placed at the
head of affairs there was an end of secret influence. His haughty and
aspiring spirit was not to be satisfied with the mere show of power.
Any attempt to undermine him at Court, any mutinous movement among his
followers in the House of Commons, was certain to be at once put down.
He had only to tender his resignation; and he could dictate his own
terms. For he, and he alone, stood between the King and the Coalition.
He was therefore little less than Mayor of the Palace. The nation loudly
applauded the King for having the wisdom to repose entire confidence
in so excellent a minister. His Majesty's private virtues now began to
produce their full effect. He was generally regarded as the model of a
respectable country gentleman, honest, good-natured, sober, religious.
He rose early: he dined temperately: he was strictly faithful to his
wife: he never missed church; and at church he never missed a response.
His people heartily prayed that he might long reign over them; and they
prayed the more heartily because his virtues were set off to the best
advantage by the vices and follies of the Prince of Wales, who lived in
close intimacy with the chiefs of the opposition.

How strong this feeling was in the public mind appeared signally on
one great occasion. In the autumn of 1788 the King became insane.
The opposition, eager for office, committed the great indiscretion
of asserting that the heir apparent had, by the fundamental laws of
England, a right to be Regent with the full powers of royalty. Pitt, on
the other hand, maintained it to be the constitutional doctrine
that, when a Sovereign is, by reason of infancy, disease, or absence,
incapable of exercising the regal functions, it belongs to the Estates
of the realm to determine who shall be the vicegerent and with what
portion of the executive authority such vicegerent shall be entrusted.
A long and violent contest followed, in which Pitt was supported by the
great body of the people with as much enthusiasm as during the first
months of his administration. Tories with one voice applauded him for
defending the sick-bed of a virtuous and unhappy Sovereign against a
disloyal faction and an undutiful son. Not a few Whigs applauded him
for asserting the authority of Parliaments and the principles of the
Revolution, in opposition to a doctrine which seemed to have too much
affinity with the servile theory of indefeasible hereditary right. The
middle class, always zealous on the side of decency and the domestic
virtues, looked forward with dismay to a reign resembling that of
Charles II. The palace, which had now been, during thirty years, the
pattern of an English home, would be a public nuisance, a school of
profligacy. To the good King's repast of mutton and lemonade, despatched
at three o'clock, would succeed midnight banquets, from which the guests
would be carried home speechless. To the backgammon board at which the
good King played for a little silver with his equerries, would succeed
faro tables from which young patricians who had sate down rich would
rise up beggars. The drawing-room, from which the frown of the Queen had
repelled a whole generation of frail beauties, would now be again what
it had been in the days of Barbara Palmer and Louisa de Querouaille.
Nay, severely as the public reprobated the Prince's many illicit
attachments, his one virtuous attachment was reprobated more severely
still. Even in grave and pious circles his Protestant mistresses
gave less scandal than his Popish wife. That he must be Regent nobody
ventured to deny. But he and his friends were so unpopular that Pitt
could, with general approbation, propose to limit the powers of the
Regent by restrictions to which it would have been impossible to subject
a Prince beloved and trusted by the country. Some interested men, fully
expecting a change of administration, went over to the opposition.
But the majority, purified by these desertions, closed its ranks, and
presented a more firm array than ever to the enemy. In every division
Pitt was victorious. When at length, after a stormy interregnum of three
months, it was announced, on the very eve of the inauguration of the
Regent, that the King was himself again, the nation was wild with
delight. On the evening of the day on which His Majesty resumed his
functions, a spontaneous illumination, the most general that had ever
been seen in England, brightened the whole vast space from Highgate
to Tooting, and from Hammersmith to Greenwich. On the day on which he
returned thanks in the cathedral of his capital, all the horses
and carriages within a hundred miles of London were too few for the
multitudes which flocked to see him pass through the streets. A
second illumination followed, which was even superior to the first in
magnificence. Pitt with difficulty escaped from the tumultuous kindness
of an innumerable multitude which insisted on drawing his coach from
Saint Paul's Churchyard to Downing Street. This was the moment at
which his fame and fortune may be said to have reached the zenith. His
influence in the closet was as great as that of Carr or Villiers had
been. His dominion over the Parliament was more absolute than that
of Walpole of Pelham had been. He was at the same time as high in the
favour of the populace as ever Wilkes or Sacheverell had been.
Nothing did more to raise his character than his noble poverty. It was
well-known that, if he had been dismissed from office after more than
five years of boundless power, he would hardly have carried out with
him a sum sufficient to furnish the set of chambers in which, as he
cheerfully declared, he meant to resume the practice of the law. His
admirers, however, were by no means disposed to suffer him to depend on
daily toil for his daily bread. The voluntary contributions which were
awaiting his acceptance in the city of London alone would have sufficed
to make him a rich man. But it may be doubted whether his haughty spirit
would have stooped to accept a provision so honourably earned and so
honourably bestowed.

To such a height of power and glory had this extraordinary man risen
at twenty-nine years of age. And now the tide was on the turn. Only ten
days after the triumphal procession to Saint Paul's, the States-General
of France, after an interval of a hundred and seventy-four years, met at

The nature of the great Revolution which followed was long very
imperfectly understood in this country. Burke saw much further than any
of his contemporaries: but whatever his sagacity descried was refracted
and discoloured by his passions and his imagination. More than three
years elapsed before the principles of the English administration
underwent any material change. Nothing could as yet be milder or more
strictly constitutional than the minister's domestic policy. Not a
single act indicating an arbitrary temper or a jealousy of the people
could be imputed to him. He had never applied to Parliament for any
extraordinary powers. He had never used with harshness the ordinary
powers entrusted by the constitution to the executive government. Not a
single state prosecution which would even now be called oppressive had
been instituted by him. Indeed, the only oppressive state prosecution
instituted during the first eight years of his administration was that
of Stockdale, which is to be attributed not to the government, but to
the chiefs of the opposition. In office Pitt had redeemed the pledges
which he had, at his entrance into public life, given to the supporters
of parliamentary reform. He had, in 1785, brought forward a judicious
plan for the improvement of the representative system, and had prevailed
on the King, not only to refrain from talking against that plan, but to
recommend it to the Houses in a speech from the throne. (The speech with
which the King opened the session of 1785, concluded with an assurance
that His Majesty would heartily concur in every measure which could tend
to secure the true principles of the constitution. These words were
at the time understood to refer to Pitt's Reform Bill.) This attempt
failed; but there can be little doubt that, if the French Revolution
had not produced a violent reaction of public feeling, Pitt would have
performed, with little difficulty and no danger, that great work which,
at a later period, Lord Grey could accomplish only by means which for
a time loosened the very foundations of the commonwealth. When the
atrocities of the slave trade were first brought under the consideration
of Parliament, no abolitionist was more zealous than Pitt. When sickness
prevented Wilberforce from appearing in public, his place was most
efficiently supplied by his friend the minister. A humane bill, which
mitigated the horrors of the middle passage, was, in 1788, carried by
the eloquence and determined spirit of Pitt, in spite of the opposition
of some of his own colleagues; and it ought always to be remembered
to his honour that, in order to carry that bill, he kept the Houses
sitting, in spite of many murmurs, long after the business of the
government had been done, and the Appropriation Act passed. In 1791 he
cordially concurred with Fox in maintaining the sound constitutional
doctrine, that an impeachment is not terminated by a dissolution. In the
course of the same year the two great rivals contended side by side in
a far more important cause. They are fairly entitled to divide the high
honour of having added to our statute-book the inestimable law which
places the liberty of the press under the protection of juries. On
one occasion, and one alone, Pitt, during the first half of his long
administration, acted in a manner unworthy of an enlightened Whig. In
the debate on the Test Act, he stooped to gratify the master whom he
served, the university which he represented, and the great body of
clergymen and country gentlemen on whose support he rested, by talking,
with little heartiness, indeed, and with no asperity, the language of
a Tory. With this single exception, his conduct from the end of 1783 to
the middle of 1792 was that of an honest friend of civil and religious

Nor did anything, during that period, indicate that he loved war, or
harboured any malevolent feeling against any neighbouring nation. Those
French writers who have represented him as a Hannibal sworn in childhood
by his father to bear eternal hatred to France, as having by mysterious
intrigues and lavish bribes, instigated the leading Jacobins to commit
those excesses which dishonoured the Revolution, as having been the real
author of the first coalition, know nothing of his character or of his
history. So far was he from being a deadly enemy to France, that his
laudable attempts to bring about a closer connection with that country
by means of a wise and liberal treaty of commerce brought on him the
severe censure of the opposition. He was told in the House of Commons
that he was a degenerate son, and that his partiality for the hereditary
foes of our island was enough to make his great father's bones stir
under the pavement of the Abbey.

And this man, whose name, if he had been so fortunate as to die in
1792, would now have been associated with peace, with freedom, with
philanthropy, with temperate reform, with mild and constitutional
administration, lived to associate his name with arbitrary government,
with harsh laws harshly executed, with alien bills, with gagging bills,
with suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act, with cruel punishments
inflicted on some political agitators, with unjustifiable prosecutions
instituted against others, and with the most costly and most sanguinary
wars of modern times. He lived to be held up to obloquy as the stern
oppressor of England, and the indefatigable disturber of Europe. Poets,
contrasting his earlier with his later years, likened him sometimes to
the apostle who kissed in order to betray, and sometimes to the evil
angels who kept not their first estate. A satirist of great genius
introduced the fiends of Famine, Slaughter, and Fire, proclaiming that
they had received their commission from One whose name was formed of
four letters, and promising to give their employer ample proofs of
gratitude. Famine would gnaw the multitude till they should rise up
against him in madness. The demon of slaughter would impel them to tear
him from limb to limb. But Fire boasted that she alone could reward him
as he deserved, and that she would cling round him to all eternity. By
the French press and the French tribune every crime that disgraced and
every calamity that afflicted France was ascribed to the monster Pitt
and his guineas. While the Jacobins were dominant, it was he who had
corrupted the Gironde, who had raised Lyons and Bordeaux against the
Convention, who had suborned Paris to assassinate Lepelletier, and
Cecilia Regnault to assassinate Robespierre. When the Thermidorian
reaction came, all the atrocities of the Reign of Terror were imputed to
him. Collet D'Herbois and Fouquier Tinville had been his pensioners. It
was he who had hired the murderers of September, who had dictated the
pamphlets of Marat and the Carmagnoles of Barere, who had paid Lebon to
deluge Arras with blood, and Carrier to choke the Loire with corpses.

The truth is, that he liked neither war nor arbitrary government. He was
a lover of peace and freedom, driven, by a stress against which it was
hardly possible for any will or any intellect to struggle, out of the
course to which his inclinations pointed, and for which his abilities
and acquirements fitted him, and forced into a policy repugnant to his
feelings and unsuited to his talents.

The charge of apostasy is grossly unjust. A man ought no more to be
called an apostate because his opinions alter with the opinions of the
great body of his contemporaries than he ought to be called an oriental
traveller because he is always going round from west to east with the
globe and everything that is upon it. Between the spring of 1789 and the
close of 1792, the public mind of England underwent a great change. If
the change of Pitt's sentiments attracted peculiar notice, it was not
because he changed more than his neighbours; for in fact he changed less
than most of them; but because his position was far more conspicuous
than theirs, because he was, till Bonaparte appeared, the individual
who filled the greatest space in the eyes of the inhabitants of the
civilised world. During a short time the nation, and Pitt, as one of the
nation, looked with interest and approbation on the French Revolution.
But soon vast confiscations, the violent sweeping away of ancient
institutions, the domination of clubs, the barbarities of mobs maddened
by famine and hatred, produced a reaction here. The court, the nobility,
the gentry, the clergy, the manufacturers, the merchants, in short,
nineteen-twentieths of those who had good roofs over their heads and
good coats on their backs, became eager and intolerant Antijacobins.
This feeling was at least as strong among the minister's adversaries as
among his supporters. Fox in vain attempted to restrain his followers.
All his genius, all his vast personal influence, could not prevent them
from rising up against him in general mutiny. Burke set the example
of revolt; and Burke was in no long time joined by Portland, Spencer,
Fitzwilliam, Loughborough, Carlisle, Malmesbury, Windham, Elliot. In the
House of Commons, the followers of the great Whig statesman and orator
diminished from about a hundred and sixty to fifty. In the House of
Lords he had but ten or twelve adherents left. There can be no doubt
that there would have been a similar mutiny on the ministerial benches
if Pitt had obstinately resisted the general wish. Pressed at once by
his master and by his colleagues, by old friends and by old opponents,
he abandoned, slowly and reluctantly, the policy which was dear to his
heart. He laboured hard to avert the European war. When the European war
broke out, he still flattered himself that it would not be necessary for
this country to take either side. In the spring of 1792 he congratulated
the Parliament on the prospect of long and profound peace, and proved
his sincerity by proposing large remissions of taxation. Down to the end
of that year he continued to cherish the hope that England might be able
to preserve neutrality. But the passions which raged on both sides of
the Channel were not to be restrained. The republicans who ruled France
were inflamed by a fanaticism resembling that of the Mussulmans who,
with the Koran in one hand and the sword in the other, went forth,
conquering and converting, eastward to the Bay of Bengal, and westward
to the Pillars of Hercules. The higher and middle classes of England
were animated by zeal not less fiery than that of the Crusaders who
raised the cry of Deus vult at Clermont. The impulse which drove the two
nations to a collision was not to be arrested by the abilities or by the
authority of any single man. As Pitt was in front of his fellows, and
towered high above them, he seemed to lead them. But in fact he was
violently pushed on by them, and, had he held back but a little more
than he did, would have been thrust out of their way or trampled under
their feet.

He yielded to the current: and from that day his misfortunes began. The
truth is that there were only two consistent courses before him. Since
he did not choose to oppose himself, side by side with Fox, to the
public feeling, he should have taken the advice of Burke, and should
have availed himself of that feeling to the full extent. If it was
impossible to preserve peace, he should have adopted the only policy
which could lead to victory. He should have proclaimed a Holy War for
religion, morality, property, order, public law, and should have thus
opposed to the Jacobins an energy equal to their own. Unhappily he tried
to find a middle path; and he found one which united all that was
worst in both extremes. He went to war: but he would not understand the
peculiar character of that war. He was obstinately blind to the plain
fact, that he was contending against a state which was also a sect, and
that the new quarrel between England and France was of quite a different
kind from the old quarrels about colonies in America and fortresses
in the Netherlands. He had to combat frantic enthusiasm, boundless
ambition, restless activity, the wildest and most audacious spirit of
innovation; and he acted as if he had to deal with the harlots and fops
of the old Court of Versailles, with Madame de Pompadour and the Abbe
de Bernis. It was pitiable to hear him, year after year, proving to an
admiring audience that the wicked Republic was exhausted, that she could
not hold out, that her credit was gone, and her assignats were not worth
more than the paper of which they were made; as if credit was necessary
to a government of which the principle was rapine, as if Alboin could
not turn Italy into a desert till he had negotiated a loan at five
per cent., as if the exchequer bills of Attila had been at par. It was
impossible that a man who so completely mistook the nature of a contest
could carry on that contest successfully. Great as Pitt's abilities
were, his military administration was that of a driveller. He was at the
head of a nation engaged in a struggle for life and death, of a nation
eminently distinguished by all the physical and all the moral qualities
which make excellent soldiers. The resources at his command were
unlimited. The Parliament was even more ready to grant him men and money
than he was to ask for them. In such an emergency, and with such means,
such a statesman as Richelieu, as Louvois, as Chatham, as Wellesley,
would have created in a few months one of the finest armies in the
world, and would soon have discovered and brought forward generals
worthy to command such an army. Germany might have been saved by another
Blenheim; Flanders recovered by another Ramilies; another Poitiers might
have delivered the Royalist and Catholic provinces of France from a yoke
which they abhorred, and might have spread terror even to the barriers
of Paris. But the fact is, that, after eight years of war, after a vast
destruction of life, after an expenditure of wealth far exceeding the
expenditure of the American war, of the Seven Years' War, of the war
of the Austrian Succession, and of the war of the Spanish Succession,
united, the English army, under Pitt, was the laughing-stock of all
Europe. It could not boast of one single brilliant exploit. It had
never shown itself on the Continent but to be beaten, chased, forced
to re-embark, or forced to capitulate. To take some sugar island in the
West Indies, to scatter some mob of half-naked Irish peasants, such
were the most splendid victories won by the British troops under Pitt's

The English navy no mismanagement could ruin. But during a long period
whatever mismanagement could do was done. The Earl of Chatham, without
a single qualification for high public trust, was made, by fraternal
partiality, First Lord of the Admiralty, and was kept in that great
post during two years of a war in which the very existence of the state
depended on the efficiency of the fleet. He continued to doze away and
trifle away the time which ought to have been devoted to the public
service, till the whole mercantile body, though generally disposed
to support the government, complained bitterly that our flag gave no
protection to our trade. Fortunately he was succeeded by George Earl
Spencer, one of those chiefs of the Whig party who, in the great schism
caused by the French Revolution, had followed Burke. Lord Spencer,
though inferior to many of his colleagues as an orator, was decidedly
the best administrator among them. To him it was owing that a long
and gloomy succession of days of fasting, and, most emphatically, of
humiliation, was interrupted, twice in the short space of eleven months,
by days of thanksgiving for great victories.

It may seem paradoxical to say that the incapacity which Pitt showed in
all that related to the conduct of the war is, in some sense, the most
decisive proof that he was a man of very extraordinary abilities. Yet
this is the simple truth. For assuredly one-tenth part of his errors
and disasters would have been fatal to the power and influence of any
minister who had not possessed, in the highest degree, the talents of
a parliamentary leader. While his schemes were confounded, while his
predictions were falsified, while the coalitions which he had laboured
to form were falling to pieces, while the expeditions which he had sent
forth at enormous cost were ending in rout and disgrace, while the
enemy against whom he was feebly contending was subjugating Flanders and
Brabant, the Electorate of Mentz, and the Electorate of Treves, Holland,
Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, his authority over the House of Commons was
constantly becoming more and more absolute. There was his empire. There
were his victories, his Lodi and his Arcola, his Rivoli and his Marengo.
If some great misfortune, a pitched battle lost by the allies, the
annexation of a new department to the French Republic, a sanguinary
insurrection in Ireland, a mutiny in the fleet, a panic in the city, a
run on the bank, had spread dismay through the ranks of his majority,
that dismay lasted only till he rose from the Treasury bench, drew up
his haughty head, stretched his arm with commanding gesture, and
poured forth, in deep and sonorous tones, the lofty language of
inextinguishable hope and inflexible resolution. Thus, through a long
and calamitous period, every disaster that happened without the walls of
Parliament was regularly followed by a triumph within them. At length he
had no longer an opposition to encounter. Of the great party which had
contended against him during the first eight years of his administration
more than one half now marched under his standard, with his old
competitor the Duke of Portland at their head; and the rest had, after
many vain struggles, quitted the field in despair. Fox had retired to
the shades of St Anne's Hill, and had there found, in the society of
friends whom no vicissitude could estrange from him, of a woman whom he
tenderly loved, and of the illustrious dead of Athens, of Rome, and of
Florence, ample compensation for all the misfortunes of his public
life. Session followed session with scarcely a single division. In the
eventful year 1799, the largest minority that could be mustered against
the government was twenty-five.

In Pitt's domestic policy there was at this time assuredly no want of
vigour. While he offered to French Jacobinism a resistance so feeble
that it only encouraged the evil which he wished to suppress, he put
down English Jacobinism with a strong hand. The Habeas Corpus Act
was repeatedly suspended. Public meetings were placed under severe
restraints. The government obtained from parliament power to send out
of the country aliens who were suspected of evil designs; and that power
was not suffered to be idle. Writers who propounded doctrines adverse to
monarchy and aristocracy were proscribed and punished without mercy. It
was hardly safe for a republican to avow his political creed over
his beefsteak and his bottle of port at a chop-house. The old laws of
Scotland against sedition, laws which were considered by Englishmen as
barbarous, and which a succession of governments had suffered to rust,
were now furbished up and sharpened anew. Men of cultivated minds and
polished manners were, for offences which at Westminster would have been
treated as mere misdemeanours, sent to herd with felons at Botany Bay.
Some reformers, whose opinions were extravagant, and whose language was
intemperate, but who had never dreamed of subverting the government by
physical force, were indicted for high treason, and were saved from the
gallows only by the righteous verdicts of juries. This severity was at
the time loudly applauded by alarmists whom fear had made cruel, but
will be seen in a very different light by posterity. The truth is, that
the Englishmen who wished for a revolution were, even in number,
not formidable, and in everything but number, a faction utterly
contemptible, without arms, or funds, or plans, or organisation, or
leader. There can be no doubt that Pitt, strong as he was in the
support of the great body of the nation, might easily have repressed
the turbulence of the discontented minority by firmly yet temperately
enforcing the ordinary law. Whatever vigour he showed during this
unfortunate part of his life was vigour out of place and season. He was
all feebleness and langour in his conflict with the foreign enemy who
was really to be dreaded, and reserved all his energy and resolution for
the domestic enemy who might safely have been despised.

One part only of Pitt's conduct during the last eight years of the
eighteenth century deserves high praise. He was the first English
minister who formed great designs for the benefit of Ireland. The manner
in which the Roman Catholic population of that unfortunate country had
been kept down during many generations seemed to him unjust and cruel;
and it was scarcely possible for a man of his abilities not to perceive
that, in a contest against the Jacobins, the Roman Catholics were
his natural allies. Had he been able to do all that he wished, it is
probable that a wise and liberal policy would have averted the rebellion
of 1798. But the difficulties which he encountered were great, perhaps
insurmountable; and the Roman Catholics were, rather by his misfortune
than by his fault, thrown into the hands of the Jacobins. There was a
third great rising of the Irishry against the Englishry, a rising
not less formidable than the risings of 1641 and 1689. The Englishry
remained victorious, and it was necessary for Pitt, as it had been
necessary for Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange before him, to
consider how the victory should be used. It is only just to his memory
to say that he formed a scheme of policy, so grand and so simple, so
righteous and so humane, that it would alone entitle him to a high place
among statesmen. He determined to make Ireland one kingdom with England,
and, at the same time, to relieve the Roman Catholic laity from civil
disabilities, and to grant a public maintenance to the Roman Catholic
clergy. Had he been able to carry these noble designs into effect, the
Union would have been an Union indeed. It would have been inseparably
associated in the minds of the great majority of Irishmen with civil and
religious freedom; and the old Parliament in College Green would have
been regretted only by a small knot of discarded jobbers and oppressors,
and would have been remembered by the body of the nation with the
loathing and contempt due to the most tyrannical and the most corrupt
assembly that had ever sate in Europe. But Pitt could execute only one
half of what he had projected. He succeeded in obtaining the consent of
the Parliaments of both kingdoms to the Union; but that reconciliation
of races and sects, without which the Union could exist only in name,
was not accomplished. He was well aware that he was likely to find
difficulties in the closet. But he flattered himself, that by cautious
and dexterous management, those difficulties might be overcome.
Unhappily, there were traitors and sycophants in high place who did
not suffer him to take his own time, and his own way, but prematurely
disclosed his scheme to the King, and disclosed it in the manner most
likely to irritate and alarm a weak and diseased mind. His Majesty
absurdly imagined that his Coronation oath bound him to refuse
his assent to any bill for relieving Roman Catholics from civil
disabilities. To argue with him was impossible. Dundas tried to explain
the matter, but was told to keep his Scotch metaphysics to himself.
Pitt, and Pitt's ablest colleagues, resigned their offices. It was
necessary that the King should make a new arrangement. But by this time
his anger and distress had brought back the malady which had, many
years before, incapacitated him for the discharge of his functions. He
actually assembled his family, read the Coronation oath to them, and
told them that, if he broke it, the Crown would immediately pass to the
House of Savoy. It was not until after an interregnum of several
weeks that he regained the full use of his small faculties, and that a
ministry after his own heart was at length formed.

The materials out of which he had to construct a government were neither
solid nor splendid. To that party, weak in numbers, but strong in every
kind of talent, which was hostile to the domestic and foreign policy of
his late advisers, he could not have recourse. For that party, while it
differed from his late advisers on every point on which they had been
honoured with his approbation, cordially agreed with them as to the
single matter which had brought on them his displeasure. All that was
left to him was to call up the rear ranks of the old ministry to form
the front rank of a new ministry. In an age pre-eminently fruitful of
parliamentary talents, a cabinet was formed containing hardly a single
man who, in parliamentary talents, could be considered as even of the
second rate. The most important offices in the state were bestowed on
decorous and laborious mediocrity. Henry Addington was at the head of
the Treasury. He had been an early, indeed a hereditary, friend of Pitt,
and had by Pitt's influence been placed, while still a young man, in the
chair of the House of Commons. He was universally admitted to have been
the best speaker that had sate in that chair since the retirement of
Onslow. But nature had not bestowed on him very vigorous faculties; and
the highly respectable situation which he had long occupied with honour
had rather unfitted than fitted him for the discharge of his new
duties. His business had been to bear himself evenly between contending
factions. He had taken no part in the war of words; and he had always
been addressed with marked deference by the great orators who thundered
against each other from his right and from his left. It was not strange
that, when, for the first time, he had to encounter keen and vigorous
antagonists, who dealt hard blows without the smallest ceremony, he
should have been awkward and unready, or that the air of dignity and
authority which he had acquired in his former post, and of which he had
not divested himself, should have made his helplessness laughable and
pitiable. Nevertheless, during many months, his power seemed to stand
firm. He was a favourite with the King, whom he resembled in narrowness
of mind, and to whom he was more obsequious than Pitt had ever been.
The nation was put into high good humour by a peace with France. The
enthusiasm with which the upper and middle classes had rushed into the
war had spent itself. Jacobinism was no longer formidable. Everywhere
there was a strong reaction against what was called the atheistical and
anarchical philosophy of the eighteenth century. Bonaparte, now First
Consul, was busied in constructing out of the ruins of old institutions
a new ecclesiastical establishment and a new order of knighthood.
That nothing less than the dominion of the whole civilised world would
satisfy his selfish ambition was not yet suspected; nor did even wise
men see any reason to doubt that he might be as safe a neighbour as
any prince of the House of Bourbon had been. The treaty of Amiens
was therefore hailed by the great body of the English people with
extravagant joy. The popularity of the minister was for the moment
immense. His want of parliamentary ability was, as yet, of little
consequence: for he had scarcely any adversary to encounter. The old
opposition, delighted by the peace, regarded him with favour. A new
opposition had indeed been formed by some of the late ministers, and was
led by Grenville in the House of Lords, and by Windham in the House of
Commons. But the new opposition could scarcely muster ten votes, and was
regarded with no favour by the country. On Pitt the ministers relied
as on their firmest support. He had not, like some of his colleagues,
retired in anger. He had expressed the greatest respect for the
conscientious scruple which had taken possession of the royal mind; and
he had promised his successors all the help in his power. In private his
advice was at their service. In Parliament he took his seat on the bench
behind them; and, in more than one debate, defended them with powers far
superior to their own. The King perfectly understood the value of such
assistance. On one occasion, at the palace, he took the old minister and
the new minister aside. "If we three," he said, "keep together, all will
go well."

But it was hardly possible, human nature being what it is, and, more
especially, Pitt and Addington being what they were, that this union
should be durable. Pitt, conscious of superior powers, imagined that the
place which he had quitted was now occupied by a mere puppet which he
had set up, which he was to govern while he suffered it to remain,
and which he was to fling aside as soon as he wished to resume his old
position. Nor was it long before he began to pine for the power which
he had relinquished. He had been so early raised to supreme authority
in the state, and had enjoyed that authority so long, that it had become
necessary to him. In retirement his days passed heavily. He could not,
like Fox, forget the pleasures and cares of ambition in the company of
Euripides or Herodotus. Pride restrained him from intimating, even to
his dearest friends, that he wished to be again minister. But he thought
it strange, almost ungrateful, that his wish had not been divined, that
it had not been anticipated, by one whom he regarded as his deputy.

Addington, on the other hand, was by no means inclined to descend from
his high position. He was, indeed, under a delusion much resembling that
of Abon Hassan in the Arabian tale. His brain was turned by his short
and unreal Caliphate. He took his elevation quite seriously, attributed
it to his own merit, and considered himself as one of the great
triumvirate of English statesmen, as worthy to make a third with Pitt
and Fox.

Such being the feelings of the late minister and of the present
minister, a rupture was inevitable; and there was no want of persons
bent on making that rupture speedy and violent. Some of these persons
wounded Addington's pride by representing him as a lacquey, sent to keep
a place on the Treasury bench till his master should find it convenient
to come. Others took every opportunity of praising him at Pitt's
expense. Pitt had waged a long, a bloody, a costly, an unsuccessful
war. Addington had made peace. Pitt had suspended the constitutional
liberties of Englishmen. Under Addington those liberties were again
enjoyed. Pitt had wasted the public resources. Addington was carefully
nursing them. It was sometimes but too evident that these compliments
were not unpleasing to Addington. Pitt became cold and reserved. During
many months he remained at a distance from London. Meanwhile his
most intimate friends, in spite of his declarations that he made no
complaint, and that he had no wish for office, exerted themselves to
effect a change of ministry. His favourite disciple, George Canning,
young, ardent, ambitious, with great powers and great virtues, but with
a temper too restless and a wit too satirical for his own happiness, was
indefatigable. He spoke; he wrote; he intrigued; he tried to induce a
large number of the supporters of the government to sign a round
robin desiring a change; he made game of Addington and of Addington's
relations in a succession of lively pasquinades. The minister's
partisans retorted with equal acrimony, if not with equal vivacity. Pitt
could keep out of the affray only by keeping out of politics altogether;
and this it soon became impossible for him to do. Had Napoleon, content
with the first place among the Sovereigns of the Continent, and with
a military reputation surpassing that of Marlborough or of Turenne,
devoted himself to the noble task of making France happy by mild
administration and wise legislation, our country might have long
continued to tolerate a government of fair intentions and feeble
abilities. Unhappily, the treaty of Amiens had scarcely been signed,
when the restless ambition and the insupportable insolence of the First
Consul convinced the great body of the English people that the peace, so
eagerly welcomed, was only a precarious armistice. As it became clearer
and clearer that a war for the dignity, the independence, the very
existence of the nation was at hand, men looked with increasing
uneasiness on the weak and languid cabinet which would have to contend
against an enemy who united more than the power of Louis the Great to
more than the genius of Frederick the Great. It is true that Addington
might easily have been a better war minister than Pitt, and could not
possibly have been a worse. But Pitt had cast a spell on the public
mind. The eloquence, the judgment, the calm and disdainful firmness,
which he had, during many years, displayed in Parliament, deluded the
world into the belief that he must be eminently qualified to superintend
every department of politics, and they imagined, even after the
miserable failures of Dunkirk, of Quiberon, and of the Helder, that he
was the only statesman who could cope with Bonaparte. This feeling was
nowhere stronger than among Addington's own colleagues. The pressure put
on him was so strong that he could not help yielding to it; yet, even in
yielding, he showed how far he was from knowing his own place. His first
proposition was, that some insignificant nobleman should be First Lord
of the Treasury and nominal head of the administration, and that the
real power should be divided between Pitt and himself, who were to be
secretaries of state. Pitt, as might have been expected, refused even
to discuss such a scheme, and talked of it with bitter mirth. "Which
secretaryship was offered to you?" his friend Wilberforce asked.
"Really," said Pitt, "I had not the curiosity to inquire." Addington
was frightened into bidding higher. He offered to resign the Treasury
to Pitt, on condition that there should be no extensive change in the
government. But Pitt would listen to no such terms. Then came a dispute
such as often arises after negotiations orally conducted, even when the
negotiators are men of strict honour. Pitt gave one account of what had
passed; Addington gave another: and though the discrepancies were not
such as necessarily implied any intentional violation of truth on either
side, both were greatly exasperated.

Meanwhile the quarrel with the First Consul had come to a crisis. On
the 16th of May, 1803, the King sent a message calling on the House of
Commons to support him in withstanding the ambitious and encroaching
policy of France; and, on the 22d, the House took the message into

Pitt had now been living many months in retirement. There had been a
general election since he had spoken in Parliament; and there were
two hundred members who had never heard him. It was known that on this
occasion he would be in his place; and curiosity was wound up to the
highest point. Unfortunately the short-hand writers were, in consequence
of some mistake, shut out on that day from the gallery, so that the
newspapers contained only a very meagre report of the proceedings. But
several accounts of what passed are extant; and of those accounts the
most interesting is contained in an unpublished letter, written by a
very young member, John William Ward, afterwards Earl of Dudley. When
Pitt rose, he was received with loud cheering. At every pause in his
speech there was a burst of applause. The peroration is said to have
been one of the most animated and magnificent ever heard in Parliament.
"Pitt's speech," Fox wrote a few days later, "was admired very much, and
very justly. I think it was the best he ever made in that style." The
debate was adjourned; and on the second night Fox replied in an oration
which, as the most zealous Pittites were forced to acknowledge, left the
palm of eloquence doubtful. Addington made a pitiable appearance between
the two great rivals; and it was observed that Pitt, while exhorting the
Commons to stand resolutely by the executive government against France,
said not a word indicating esteem or friendship for the Prime Minister.

War was speedily declared. The first consul threatened to invade England
at the head of the conquerors of Belgium and Italy, and formed a great
camp near the Straits of Dover. On the other side of those Straits
the whole population of our island was ready to rise up as one man
in defence of the soil. At this conjuncture, as at some other great
conjunctures in our history, the conjuncture of 1660, for example, and
the conjuncture of 1688, there was a general disposition among honest
and patriotic men to forget old quarrels, and to regard as a friend
every person who was ready, in the existing emergency, to do his part
towards the saving of the state. A coalition of all the first men in the
country would, at that moment, have been as popular as the coalition
of 1783 had been unpopular. Alone in the kingdom the King looked with
perfect complacency on a cabinet in which no man superior to himself in
genius was to be found, and was so far from being willing to admit all
his ablest subjects to office that he was bent on excluding them all.

A few months passed before the different parties which agreed
in regarding the government with dislike and contempt came to an
understanding with each other. But in the spring of 1804 it became
evident that the weakest of ministries would have to defend itself
against the strongest of oppositions, an opposition made up of three
oppositions, each of which would, separately, have been formidable from
ability, and which, when united, were also formidable from number. The
party which had opposed the peace, headed by Grenville and Windham,
and the party which had opposed the renewal of the war, headed by Fox,
concurred in thinking that the men now in power were incapable of either
making a good peace or waging a vigorous war. Pitt had, in 1802, spoken
for peace against the party of Grenville, and had, in 1803, spoken for
war against the party of Fox. But of the capacity of the cabinet, and
especially of its chief, for the conduct of great affairs, he thought as
meanly as either Fox or Grenville. Questions were easily found on which
all the enemies of the government could act cordially together. The
unfortunate First Lord of the Treasury, who had, during the earlier
months of his administration, been supported by Pitt on one side, and by
Fox on the other, now had to answer Pitt, and to be answered by Fox. Two
sharp debates, followed by close divisions, made him weary of his post.
It was known, too, that the Upper House was even more hostile to him
than the Lower, that the Scotch representative peers wavered, that there
were signs of mutiny among the bishops. In the cabinet itself there was
discord, and, worse than discord, treachery. It was necessary to give
way: the ministry was dissolved; and the task of forming a government
was entrusted to Pitt.

Pitt was of opinion that there was now an opportunity, such as had never
before offered itself, and such as might never offer itself again, of
uniting in the public service, on honourable terms, all the eminent
talents of the kingdom. The passions to which the French revolution had
given birth were extinct. The madness of the innovator and the madness
of the alarmist had alike had their day. Jacobinism and anti-Jacobinism
had gone out of fashion together. The most liberal statesman did not
think that season propitious for schemes of parliamentary reform; and
the most conservative statesman could not pretend that there was any
occasion for gagging bills and suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act. The
great struggle for independence and national honour occupied all minds;
and those who were agreed as to the duty of maintaining that struggle
with vigour might well postpone to a more convenient time all disputes
about matters comparatively unimportant. Strongly impressed by these
considerations, Pitt wished to form a ministry including all the first
men in the country. The Treasury he reserved for himself; and to Fox he
proposed to assign a share of power little inferior to his own.

The plan was excellent; but the King would not hear of it. Dull,
obstinate, unforgiving, and, at that time half mad, he positively
refused to admit Fox into his service. Anybody else, even men who had
gone as far as Fox, or further than Fox, in what his Majesty considered
as Jacobinism, Sheridan, Grey, Erskine, should be graciously received;
but Fox never. During several hours Pitt laboured in vain to reason down
this senseless antipathy. That he was perfectly sincere there can be
no doubt: but it was not enough to be sincere; he should have been
resolute. Had he declared himself determined not to take office without
Fox, the royal obstinacy would have given way, as it gave way, a
few months later, when opposed to the immutable resolution of Lord
Grenville. In an evil hour Pitt yielded. He flattered himself with the
hope that, though he consented to forego the aid of his illustrious
rival, there would still remain ample materials for the formation of an
efficient ministry. That hope was cruelly disappointed. Fox entreated
his friends to leave personal considerations out of the question, and
declared that he would support, with the utmost cordiality, an efficient
and patriotic ministry from which he should be himself excluded. Not
only his friends, however, but Grenville, and Grenville's adherents,
answered, with one voice, that the question was not personal, that a
great constitutional principle was at stake, and that they would not
take office while a man eminently qualified to render service to the
commonwealth was placed under a ban merely because he was disliked at
Court. All that was left to Pitt was to construct a government out of
the wreck of Addington's feeble administration. The small circle of
his personal retainers furnished him with a very few useful assistants,
particularly Dundas, who had been created Viscount Melville, Lord
Harrowby, and Canning.

Such was the inauspicious manner in which Pitt entered on his second
administration. The whole history of that administration was of a piece
with the commencement. Almost every month brought some new disaster or
disgrace. To the war with France was soon added a war with Spain. The
opponents of the minister were numerous, able, and active. His most
useful coadjutors he soon lost. Sickness deprived him of the help of
Lord Harrowby. It was discovered that Lord Melville had been guilty of
highly culpable laxity in transactions relating to public money. He was
censured by the House of Commons, driven from office, ejected from the
Privy Council, and impeached of high crimes and misdemeanours. The blow
fell heavy on Pitt. It gave him, he said in Parliament, a deep pang;
and, as he uttered the word pang, his lip quivered, his voice shook, he
paused, and his hearers thought that he was about to burst into tears.
Such tears shed by Eldon would have moved nothing but laughter. Shed by
the warm-hearted and open-hearted Fox, they would have moved sympathy,
but would have caused no surprise. But a tear from Pitt would have been
something portentous. He suppressed his emotion, however, and proceeded
with his usual majestic self-possession.

His difficulties compelled him to resort to various expedients. At one
time Addington was persuaded to accept office with a peerage; but he
brought no additional strength to the government. Though he went through
the form of reconciliation, it was impossible for him to forget the
past. While he remained in place he was jealous and punctilious; and he
soon retired again. At another time Pitt renewed his efforts to overcome
his master's aversion to Fox; and it was rumoured that the King's
obstinacy was gradually giving way. But, meanwhile, it was impossible
for the minister to conceal from the public eye the decay of his health,
and the constant anxiety which gnawed at his heart. His sleep was
broken. His food ceased to nourish him. All who passed him in the Park,
all who had interviews with him in Downing Street, saw misery written in
his face. The peculiar look which he wore during the last months of his
life was often pathetically described by Wilberforce, who used to call
it the Austerlitz look.

Still the vigour of Pitt's intellectual faculties, and the intrepid
haughtiness of his spirit, remained unaltered. He had staked everything
on a great venture. He had succeeded in forming another mighty coalition
against the French ascendency. The united forces of Austria, Russia,
and England might, he hoped, oppose an insurmountable barrier to the
ambition of the common enemy. But the genius and energy of Napoleon
prevailed. While the English troops were preparing to embark for
Germany, while the Russian troops were slowly coming up from Poland, he,
with rapidity unprecedented in modern war, moved a hundred thousand men
from the shores of the Ocean to the Black Forest, and compelled a great
Austrian army to surrender at Ulm. To the first faint rumours of this
calamity Pitt would give no credit. He was irritated by the alarms of
those around him. "Do not believe a word of it," he said: "It is all
a fiction." The next day he received a Dutch newspaper containing the
capitulation. He knew no Dutch. It was Sunday; and the public offices
were shut. He carried the paper to Lord Malmesbury, who had been
minister in Holland; and Lord Malmesbury translated it. Pitt tried to
bear up; but the shock was too great; and he went away with death in his

The news of the battle of Trafalgar arrived four days later, and seemed
for a moment to revive him. Forty-eight hours after that most glorious
and most mournful of victories had been announced to the country came
the Lord Mayor's day; and Pitt dined at Guildhall. His popularity had
declined. But on this occasion the multitude, greatly excited by the
recent tidings, welcomed him enthusiastically, took off his horses in
Cheapside, and drew his carriage up King Street. When his health was
drunk, he returned thanks in two or three of those stately sentences of
which he had a boundless command. Several of those who heard him laid
up his words in their hearts; for they were the last words that he ever
uttered in public: "Let us hope that England, having saved herself by
her energy, may save Europe by her example."

This was but a momentary rally. Austerlitz soon completed what Ulm had
begun. Early in December Pitt had retired to Bath, in the hope that he
might there gather strength for the approaching session. While he was
languishing there on his sofa arrived the news that a decisive battle
had been fought and lost in Moravia, that the coalition was dissolved,
that the Continent was at the feet of France. He sank down under the
blow. Ten days later he was so emaciated that his most intimate friends
hardly knew him. He came up from Bath by slow journeys, and, on the 11th
of January 1806, reached his villa at Putney. Parliament was to meet on
the 21st. On the 20th was to be the parliamentary dinner at the house
of the First Lord of the Treasury in Downing Street; and the cards were
already issued. But the days of the great minister were numbered. The
only chance for his life, and that a very slight chance, was that he
should resign his office, and pass some months in profound repose. His
colleagues paid him very short visits, and carefully avoided political
conversation. But his spirit, long accustomed to dominion, could not,
even in that extremity, relinquish hopes which everybody but himself
perceived to be vain. On the day on which he was carried into his
bedroom at Putney, the Marquess Wellesley, whom he had long loved, whom
he had sent to govern India, and whose administration had been eminently
able, energetic, and successful, arrived in London after an absence
of eight years. The friends saw each other once more. There was an
affectionate meeting, and a last parting. That it was a last parting
Pitt did not seem to be aware. He fancied himself to be recovering,
talked on various subjects cheerfully, and with an unclouded mind, and
pronounced a warm and discerning eulogium on the Marquess's brother
Arthur. "I never," he said, "met with any military man with whom it
was so satisfactory to converse." The excitement and exertion of this
interview were too much for the sick man. He fainted away; and Lord
Wellesley left the house, convinced that the close was fast approaching.

And now members of Parliament were fast coming up to London. The chiefs
of the opposition met for the purpose of considering the course to be
taken on the first day of the session. It was easy to guess what would
be the language of the King's speech, and of the address which would be
moved in answer to that speech. An amendment condemning the policy of
the government had been prepared, and was to have been proposed in the
House of Commons by Lord Henry Petty, a young nobleman who had already
won for himself that place in the esteem of his country which, after the
lapse of more than half a century, he still retains. He was unwilling,
however, to come forward as the accuser of one who was incapable of
defending himself. Lord Grenville, who had been informed of Pitt's
state by Lord Wellesley, and had been deeply affected by it, earnestly
recommended forbearance; and Fox, with characteristic generosity and
good nature, gave his voice against attacking his now helpless rival.
"Sunt lacrymae rerum," he said, "et mentem mortalia tangunt." On the
first day, therefore, there was no debate. It was rumoured that evening
that Pitt was better. But on the following morning his physicians
pronounced that there were no hopes. The commanding faculties of which
he had been too proud were beginning to fail. His old tutor and friend,
the Bishop of Lincoln, informed him of his danger, and gave such
religious advice and consolation as a confused and obscured mind could
receive. Stories were told of devout sentiments fervently uttered by the
dying man. But these stories found no credit with anybody who knew him.
Wilberforce pronounced it impossible that they could be true. "Pitt," he
added, "was a man who always said less than he thought on such topics."
It was asserted in many after-dinner speeches, Grub Street elegies, and
academic prize poems and prize declamations, that the great minister
died exclaiming, "Oh my country!" This is a fable; but it is true that
the last words which he uttered, while he knew what he said, were broken
exclamations about the alarming state of public affairs. He ceased to
breathe on the morning of the 23rd of January, 1806, the twenty-fifth
anniversary of the day on which he first took his seat in Parliament. He
was in his forty-seventh year, and had been, during near nineteen years,
First Lord of the Treasury, and undisputed chief of the administration.
Since parliamentary government was established in England, no English
statesman has held supreme power so long. Walpole, it is true, was First
Lord of the Treasury during more than twenty years: but it was not till
Walpole had been some time First Lord of the Treasury that he could be
properly called Prime Minister.

It was moved in the House of Commons that Pitt should be honoured with a
public funeral and a monument. The motion was opposed by Fox in a speech
which deserves to be studied as a model of good taste and good feeling.
The task was the most invidious that ever an orator undertook: but
it was performed with a humanity and delicacy which were warmly
acknowledged by the mourning friends of him who was gone. The motion was
carried by 288 votes to 89.

The 22d of February was fixed for the funeral. The corpse having lain in
state during two days in the Painted Chamber, was borne with great pomp
to the northern transept of the Abbey. A splendid train of princes,
nobles, bishops, and privy councillors followed. The grave of Pitt had
been made near to the spot where his great father lay, near also to
the spot where his great rival was soon to lie. The sadness of the
assistants was beyond that of ordinary mourners. For he whom they were
committing to the dust had died of sorrows and anxieties of which none
of the survivors could be altogether without a share. Wilberforce, who
carried the banner before the hearse, described the awful ceremony with
deep feeling. As the coffin descended into the earth, he said, the eagle
face of Chatham from above seemed to look down with consternation into
the dark house which was receiving all that remained of so much power
and glory.

All parties in the House of Commons readily concurred in voting forty
thousand pounds to satisfy the demands of Pitt's creditors. Some of his
admirers seemed to consider the magnitude of his embarrassments as a
circumstance highly honourable to him; but men of sense will probably
be of a different opinion. It is far better, no doubt, that a great
minister should carry his contempt of money to excess than that he
should contaminate his hands with unlawful gain. But it is neither right
nor becoming in a man to whom the public has given an income more than
sufficient for his comfort and dignity to bequeath to that public a
great debt, the effect of mere negligence and profusion. As first Lord
of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Pitt never had less
than six thousand a year, besides an excellent house. In 1792 he was
forced by his royal master's friendly importunity to accept for life
the office of Warden of the Cinque Ports, with near four thousand a year
more. He had neither wife nor child; he had no needy relations: he had
no expensive tastes: he had no long election bills. Had he given but a
quarter of an hour a week to the regulation of his household, he would
have kept his expenditure within bounds. Or, if he could not spare even
a quarter of an hour a week for that purpose, he had numerous friends,
excellent men of business, who would have been proud to act as his
stewards. One of those friends, the chief of a great commercial house in
the city, made an attempt to put the establishment in Downing Street to
rights; but in vain. He found that the waste of the servants' hall was
almost fabulous. The quantity of butcher's meat charged in the bills was
nine hundredweight a week. The consumption of poultry, of fish, and of
tea was in proportion. The character of Pitt would have stood higher
if with the disinterestedness of Pericles and of De Witt, he had united
their dignified frugality.

The memory of Pitt has been assailed, times innumerable, often justly,
often unjustly; but it has suffered much less from his assailants than
from his eulogists. For, during many years, his name was the rallying
cry of a class of men with whom, at one of those terrible conjunctures
which confound all ordinary distinctions, he was accidentally and
temporarily connected, but to whom, on almost all great questions of
principle, he was diametrically opposed. The haters of parliamentary
reform called themselves Pittites, not choosing to remember that Pitt
made three motions for parliamentary reform, and that, though he thought
that such a reform could not safely be made while the passions excited
by the French revolution were raging, he never uttered a word indicating
that he should not be prepared at a more convenient season to bring the
question forward a fourth time. The toast of Protestant ascendency was
drunk on Pitt's birthday by a set of Pittites who could not but be aware
that Pitt had resigned his office because he could not carry Catholic
emancipation. The defenders of the Test Act called themselves Pittites,
though they could not be ignorant that Pitt had laid before George the
Third unanswerable reasons for abolishing the Test Act. The enemies of
free trade called themselves Pittites, though Pitt was far more deeply
imbued with the doctrines of Adam Smith than either Fox or Grey. The
very negro-drivers invoked the name of Pitt, whose eloquence was never
more conspicuously displayed than when he spoke of the wrongs of the
negro. This mythical Pitt, who resembles the genuine Pitt as little as
Charlemagne of Ariosto resembles the Charlemagne of Eginhard, has had
his day. History will vindicate the real man from calumny disguised
under the semblance of adulation, and will exhibit him as what he was,
a minister of great talents, honest intentions, and liberal opinions,
pre-eminently qualified, intellectually and morally, for the part of
a parliamentary leader, and capable of administering with prudence and
moderation the government of a prosperous and tranquil country, but
unequal to surprising and terrible emergencies, and liable, in such
emergencies, to err grievously, both on the side of weakness and on the
side of violence.




     Here Martyn lies.  In Manhood's early bloom
     The Christian Hero finds a Pagan tomb.
     Religion, sorrowing o'er her favourite son,
     Points to the glorious trophies that he won.
     Eternal trophies! not with carnage red,
     Not stained with tears by hapless captives shed,
     But trophies of the Cross! for that dear name,
     Through every form of danger, death, and shame,
     Onward he journeyed to a happier shore,
     Where danger, death, and shame assault no more.



    Oh Britain! dear Isle, when the annals of story
    Shall tell of the deeds that thy children have done,
    When the strains of each poet shall sing of their glory,
    And the triumphs their skill and their valour have won.

    When the olive and palm in thy chaplet are blended,
    When thy arts, and thy fame, and thy commerce increase,
    When thy arms through the uttermost coasts are extended,
    And thy war is triumphant, and happy thy peace;

    When the ocean, whose waves like a rampart flow round thee,
    Conveying thy mandates to every shore,
    And the empire of nature no longer can bound thee,
    And the world be the scene of thy conquests no more:

    Remember the man who in sorrow and danger,
    When thy glory was set, and thy spirit was low,
    When thy hopes were o'erturned by the arms of the stranger,
    And thy banners displayed in the halls of the foe,

    Stood forth in the tempest of doubt and disaster,
    Unaided, and single, the danger to brave.
    Asserted thy claims, and the rights of his master,
    Preserved thee to conquer, and saved thee to save.



     Awake, arise, the hour is come,
     For rows and revolutions;
     There's no receipt like pike and drum
     For crazy constitutions.
     Close, close the shop!  Break, break the loom,
     Desert your hearths and furrows,
     And throng in arms to seal the doom
     Of England's rotten boroughs.

     We'll stretch that tort'ring Castlereagh
     On his own Dublin rack, sir;
     We'll drown the King in Eau de vie,
     The Laureate in his sack, sir,
     Old Eldon and his sordid hag
     In molten gold we'll smother,
     And stifle in his own green bag
     The Doctor and his brother.

     In chains we'll hang in fair Guildhall
     The City's famed recorder,
     And next on proud St Stephen's fall,
     Though Wynne should squeak to order.
     In vain our tyrants then shall try
     To 'scape our martial law, sir;
     In vain the trembling Speaker cry
     That "Strangers must withdraw," sir.

     Copley to hang offends no text;
     A rat is not a man, sir:
     With schedules, and with tax bills next
     We'll bury pious Van, sir.
     The slaves who loved the income Tax,
     We'll crush by scores, like mites, sir,
     And him, the wretch who freed the blacks,
     And more enslaved the whites, sir.

     The peer shall dangle from his gate,
     The bishop from his steeple,
     Till all recanting, own, the State
     Means nothing but the People.
     We'll fix the church's revenues
     On Apostolic basis,
     One coat, one scrip, one pair of shoes
     Shall pay their strange grimaces.

     We'll strap the bar's deluding train
     In their own darling halter,
     And with his big church bible brain
     The parson at the altar.
     Hail glorious hour, when fair Reform
     Shall bless our longing nation,
     And Hunt receive commands to form
     A new administration.

     Carlisle shall sit enthroned, where sat
     Our Cranmer and our Secker;
     And Watson show his snow-white hat
     In England's rich Exchequer.
     The breast of Thistlewood shall wear
     Our Wellesley's star and sash, man:
     And many a mausoleum fair
     Shall rise to honest Cashman.

     Then, then beneath the nine-tailed cat
     Shall they who used it writhe, sir;
     And curates lean, and rectors fat,
     Shall dig the ground they tithe, sir.
     Down with your Bayleys, and your Bests,
     Your Giffords, and your Gurneys:
     We'll clear the island of the pests,
     Which mortals name attorneys.

     Down with your sheriffs, and your mayors,
     Your registrars, and proctors,
     We'll live without the lawyer's cares,
     And die without the doctor's.
     No discontented fair shall pout
     To see her spouse so stupid;
     We'll tread the torch of Hymen out,
     And live content with Cupid.

     Then, when the high-born and the great
     Are humbled to our level,
     On all the wealth of Church and State,
     Like aldermen, we'll revel.
     We'll live when hushed the battle's din,
     In smoking and in cards, sir,
     In drinking unexcised gin,
     And wooing fair Poissardes, sir.



     Oh, weep for Moncontour!  Oh! weep for the hour,
     When the children of darkness and evil had power,
     When the horsemen of Valois triumphantly trod
     On the bosoms that bled for their rights and their God.

     Oh, weep for Moncontour!  Oh! weep for the slain,
     Who for faith and for freedom lay slaughtered in vain;
     Oh, weep for the living, who linger to bear
     The renegade's shame, or the exile's despair.

     One look, one last look, to our cots and our towers,
     To the rows of our vines, and the beds of our flowers,
     To the church where the bones of our fathers decayed,
     Where we fondly had deemed that our own would be laid.

     Alas! we must leave thee, dear desolate home,
     To the spearmen of Uri, the shavelings of Rome,
     To the serpent of Florence, the vulture of Spain,
     To the pride of Anjou, and the guile of Lorraine.

     Farewell to thy fountains, farewell to thy shades,
     To the song of thy youths, and the dance of thy maids,
     To the breath of thy gardens, the hum of thy bees,
     And the long waving line of the blue Pyrenees.

     Farewell, and for ever.  The priest and the slave
     May rule in the halls of the free and the brave.
     Our hearths we abandon; our lands we resign;
     But, Father, we kneel to no altar but thine.




  Oh! wherefore come ye forth, in triumph from the North,
  With your hands, and your feet, and your raiment all red?
  And wherefore doth your rout send forth a joyous shout?
  And whence be the grapes of the wine-press which ye tread?

  Oh evil was the root, and bitter was the fruit,
  And crimson was the juice of the vintage that we trod;
  For we trampled on the throng of the haughty and the strong,
  Who sate in the high places, and slew the saints of God.

  It was about the noon of a glorious day of June,
  That we saw their banners dance, and their cuirasses shine,
  And the Man of Blood was there, with his long essenced hair,
  And Astley, and Sir Marmaduke, and Rupert of the Rhine.

  Like a servant of the Lord, with his Bible and his sword,
  The General rode along us to form us to the fight,
  When a murmuring sound broke out, and swell'd into a shout,
  Among the godless horsemen upon the tyrant's right.

  And hark! like the roar of the billows on the shore,
  The cry of battle rises along their charging line!
  For God! for the Cause! for the Church! for the Laws!
  For Charles King of England and Rupert of the Rhine!

  The furious German comes, with his clarions and his drums,
  His bravoes of Alsatia, and pages of Whitehall;
  They are bursting on our flanks.  Grasp your pikes, close your
  For Rupert never comes but to conquer or to fall.

  They are here!  They rush on!  We are broken!  We are gone!
  Our left is borne before them like stubble on the blast.
  O Lord, put forth thy might!  O Lord, defend the right!
  Stand back to back, in God's name, and fight it to the last.

  Stout Skippon hath a wound; the centre hath given ground:
  Hark! hark!--What means the trampling of horsemen on our rear?
  Whose banner do I see, boys?  'Tis he, thank God, 'tis he, boys,
  Bear up another minute:  brave Oliver is here.

  Their heads all stooping low, their points all in a row,
  Like a whirlwind on the trees, like a deluge on the dykes,
  Our cuirassiers have burst on the ranks of the Accurst,
  And at a shock have scattered the forest of his pikes.

  Fast, fast, the gallants ride, in some safe nook to hide
  Their coward heads, predestined to rot on Temple Bar;
  And he--he turns, he flies:--shame on those cruel eyes
  That bore to look on torture, and dare not look on war.

  Ho! comrades, scour the plain; and, ere ye strip the slain,
  First give another stab to make your search secure,
  Then shake from sleeves and pockets their broad-pieces and
  The tokens of the wanton, the plunder of the poor.

  Fools! your doublets shone with gold, and your hearts were gay
  and bold,
  When you kissed your lily hands to your lemans to-day;
  And to-morrow shall the fox, from her chambers in the rocks,
  Lead forth her tawny cubs to howl above the prey.

  Where be your tongues that late mocked at heaven and hell and
  And the fingers that once were so busy with your blades,
  Your perfum'd satin clothes, your catches and your oaths,
  Your stage-plays and your sonnets, your diamonds and your spades?

  Down, down, for ever down with the mitre and the crown,
  With the Belial of the Court and the Mammon of the Pope;
  There is woe in Oxford halls:  there is wail in Durham's Stalls:
  The Jesuit smites his bosom:  the Bishop rends his cope.

  And She of the seven hills shall mourn her children's ills,
  And tremble when she thinks on the edge of England's sword;
  And the Kings of earth in fear shall shudder when they hear
  What the hand of God hath wrought for the Houses and the Word.



     Let pious Damon take his seat,
     With mincing step and languid smile,
     And scatter from his 'kerchief sweet,
     Sabaean odours o'er the aisle;
     And spread his little jewelled hand,
     And smile round all the parish beauties,
     And pat his curls, and smooth his band,
     Meet prelude to his saintly duties.

     Let the thronged audience press and stare,
     Let stifled maidens ply the fan,
     Admire his doctrines, and his hair,
     And whisper, "What a good young man!"
     While he explains what seems most clear,
     So clearly that it seems perplexed,
     I'll stay and read my sermon here;
     And skulls, and bones, shall be the text.

     Art thou the jilted dupe of fame?
     Dost thou with jealous anger pine
     Whene'er she sounds some other name,
     With fonder emphasis than thine?
     To thee I preach; draw near; attend!
     Look on these bones, thou fool, and see
     Where all her scorns and favours end,
     What Byron is, and thou must be.

     Dost thou revere, or praise, or trust
     Some clod like those that here we spurn;
     Some thing that sprang like thee from dust,
     And shall like thee to dust return?
     Dost thou rate statesmen, heroes, wits,
     At one sear leaf, or wandering feather?
     Behold the black, damp narrow pits,
     Where they and thou must lie together.

     Dost thou beneath the smile or frown
     Of some vain woman bend thy knee?
     Here take thy stand, and trample down
     Things that were once as fair as she.
     Here rave of her ten thousand graces,
     Bosom, and lip, and eye, and chin,
     While, as in scorn, the fleshless faces
     Of Hamiltons and Waldegraves grin.

     Whate'er thy losses or thy gains,
     Whate'er thy projects or thy fears,
     Whate'er the joys, whate'er the pains,
     That prompt thy baby smiles and tears;
     Come to my school, and thou shalt learn,
     In one short hour of placid thought,
     A stoicism, more deep, more stern,
     Than ever Zeno's porch hath taught.

     The plots and feats of those that press
     To seize on titles, wealth, or power,
     Shall seem to thee a game of chess,
     Devised to pass a tedious hour.
     What matters it to him who fights
     For shows of unsubstantial good,
     Whether his Kings, and Queens, and Knights,
     Be things of flesh, or things of wood?

     We check, and take; exult, and fret;
     Our plans extend, our passions rise,
     Till in our ardour we forget
     How worthless is the victor's prize.
     Soon fades the spell, soon comes the night:
     Say will it not be then the same,
     Whether we played the black or white,
     Whether we lost or won the game?

     Dost thou among these hillocks stray,
     O'er some dear idol's tomb to moan?
     Know that thy foot is on the clay
     Of hearts once wretched as thy own.
     How many a father's anxious schemes,
     How many rapturous thoughts of lovers,
     How many a mother's cherished dreams,
     The swelling turf before thee covers!

     Here for the living, and the dead,
     The weepers and the friends they weep,
     Hath been ordained the same cold bed,
     The same dark night, the same long sleep;
     Why shouldest thou writhe, and sob, and rave
     O'er those with whom thou soon must be?
     Death his own sting shall cure--the grave
     Shall vanquish its own victory.

     Here learn that all the griefs and joys,
     Which now torment, which now beguile,
     Are children's hurts, and children's toys,
     Scarce worthy of one bitter smile.
     Here learn that pulpit, throne, and press,
     Sword, sceptre, lyre, alike are frail,
     That science is a blind man's guess,
     And History a nurse's tale.

     Here learn that glory and disgrace,
     Wisdom and folly, pass away,
     That mirth hath its appointed space,
     That sorrow is but for a day;
     That all we love, and all we hate,
     That all we hope, and all we fear,
     Each mood of mind, each turn of fate,
     Must end in dust and silence here.



"Fables": Livre v. "Fable" 16.

     Thou poor leaf, so sear and frail,
     Sport of every wanton gale,
     Whence, and whither, dost thou fly,
     Through this bleak autumnal sky?
     On a noble oak I grew,
     Green, and broad, and fair to view;
     But the Monarch of the shade
     By the tempest low was laid.
     From that time, I wander o'er
     Wood, and valley, hill, and moor,
     Wheresoe'er the wind is blowing,
     Nothing caring, nothing knowing:
     Thither go I, whither goes,
     Glory's laurel, Beauty's rose.


     --De ta tige detachee,
     Pauvre feuille dessechee
     Ou vas tu?--Je n'en sais rien.
     L'orage a frappe le chene
     Qui seul etait mon soutien.
     De son inconstante haleine,
     Le zephyr ou l'aquilon
     Depuis ce jour me promene
     De la foret a la plaine,
     De la montagne au vallon.
     Je vais ou le vent me mene,
     Sans me plaindre ou m'effrayer,
     Je vais ou va toute chose
     Ou va la feuille de rose
     Et la feuille de laurier.


DIES IRAE. (1826.)

     On that great, that awful day,
     This vain world shall pass away.
     Thus the sibyl sang of old,
     Thus hath holy David told.
     There shall be a deadly fear
     When the Avenger shall appear,
     And unveiled before his eye
     All the works of man shall lie.
     Hark! to the great trumpet's tones
     Pealing o'er the place of bones:
     Hark! it waketh from their bed
     All the nations of the dead,--
     In a countless throng to meet,
     At the eternal judgment seat.
     Nature sickens with dismay,
     Death may not retain its prey;
     And before the Maker stand
     All the creatures of his hand.
     The great book shall be unfurled,
     Whereby God shall judge the world;
     What was distant shall be near,
     What was hidden shall be clear.
     To what shelter shall I fly?
     To what guardian shall I cry?
     Oh, in that destroying hour,
     Source of goodness, Source of power,
     Show thou, of thine own free grace,
     Help unto a helpless race.
     Though I plead not at thy throne
     Aught that I for thee have done,
     Do not thou unmindful be,
     Of what thou hast borne for me:
     Of the wandering, of the scorn,
     Of the scourge, and of the thorn.
     JESUS, hast THOU borne the pain,
     And hath all been borne in vain?
     Shall thy vengeance smite the head
     For whose ransom thou hast bled?
     Thou, whose dying blessing gave
     Glory to a guilty slave:
     Thou, who from the crew unclean
     Didst release the Magdalene:
     Shall not mercy vast and free,
     Evermore be found in thee?
     Father, turn on me thine eyes,
     See my blushes, hear my cries;
     Faint though be the cries I make,
     Save me for thy mercy's sake,
     From the worm, and from the fire,
     From the torments of thine ire.
     Fold me with the sheep that stand
     Pure and safe at thy right hand.
     Hear thy guilty child implore thee,
     Rolling in the dust before thee.
     Oh the horrors of that day!
     When this frame of sinful clay,
     Starting from its burial place,
     Must behold thee face to face.
     Hear and pity, hear and aid,
     Spare the creatures thou hast made.
     Mercy, mercy, save, forgive,
     Oh, who shall look on thee and live?




     It is the dead of night:
     Yet more than noonday light
     Beams far and wide from many a gorgeous hall.
     Unnumbered harps are tinkling,
     Unnumbered lamps are twinkling,
     In the great city of the fourfold wall.
     By the brazen castle's moat,
     The sentry hums a livelier note.
     The ship-boy chaunts a shriller lay
     From the galleys in the bay.
     Shout, and laugh, and hurrying feet
     Sound from mart and square and street,
     From the breezy laurel shades,
     From the granite colonnades,
     From the golden statue's base,
     From the stately market-place,
     Where, upreared by captive hands,
     The great Tower of Triumph stands,
     All its pillars in a blaze
     With the many-coloured rays,
     Which lanthorns of ten thousand dyes
     Shed on ten thousand panoplies.
     But closest is the throng,
     And loudest is the song,
     In that sweet garden by the river side,
     The abyss of myrtle bowers,
     The wilderness of flowers,
     Where Cain hath built the palace of his pride.
     Such palace ne'er shall be again
     Among the dwindling race of men.
     From all its threescore gates the light
     Of gold and steel afar was thrown;
     Two hundred cubits rose in height
     The outer wall of polished stone.
     On the top was ample space
     For a gallant chariot race,
     Near either parapet a bed
     Of the richest mould was spread,
     Where amidst flowers of every scent and hue
     Rich orange trees, and palms, and giant cedars grew.

     In the mansion's public court
     All is revel, song, and sport;
     For there, till morn shall tint the east,
     Menials and guards prolong the feast.
     The boards with painted vessels shine;
     The marble cisterns foam with wine.
     A hundred dancing girls are there
     With zoneless waists and streaming hair;
     And countless eyes with ardour gaze,
     And countless hands the measure beat,
     As mix and part in amorous maze
     Those floating arms and bounding feet.
     But none of all the race of Cain,
     Save those whom he hath deigned to grace
     With yellow robe and sapphire chain,
     May pass beyond that outer space.
     For now within the painted hall
     The Firstborn keeps high festival.
     Before the glittering valves all night
     Their post the chosen captains hold.
     Above the portal's stately height
     The legend flames in lamps of gold:
     "In life united and in death
     "May Tirzah and Ahirad be,
     "The bravest he of all the sons of Seth,
     "Of all the house of Cain the loveliest she."

     Through all the climates of the earth
     This night is given to festal mirth.
     The long continued war is ended.
     The long divided lines are blended.
     Ahirad's bow shall now no more
     Make fat the wolves with kindred gore.
     The vultures shall expect in vain
     Their banquet from the sword of Cain.
     Without a guard the herds and flocks
     Along the frontier moors and rocks
     From eve to morn may roam:
     Nor shriek, nor shout, nor reddened sky,
     Shall warn the startled hind to fly
     From his beloved home.
     Nor to the pier shall burghers crowd
     With straining necks and faces pale,
     And think that in each flitting cloud
     They see a hostile sail.
     The peasant without fear shall guide
     Down smooth canal or river wide
     His painted bark of cane,
     Fraught, for some proud bazaar's arcades,
     With chestnuts from his native shades,
     And wine, and milk, and grain.
     Search round the peopled globe to-night,
     Explore each continent and isle,
     There is no door without a light,
     No face without a smile.
     The noblest chiefs of either race,
     From north and south, from west and east,
     Crowd to the painted hall to grace
     The pomp of that atoning feast.
     With widening eyes and labouring breath
     Stand the fair-haired sons of Seth,
     As bursts upon their dazzled sight
     The endless avenue of light,
     The bowers of tulip, rose, and palm,
     The thousand cressets fed with balm,
     The silken vests, the boards piled high
     With amber, gold, and ivory,
     The crystal founts whence sparkling flow
     The richest wines o'er beds of snow,
     The walls where blaze in living dyes
     The king's three hundred victories.
     The heralds point the fitting seat
     To every guest in order meet,
     And place the highest in degree
     Nearest th' imperial canopy.
     Beneath its broad and gorgeous fold,
     With naked swords and shields of gold,
     Stood the seven princes of the tribes of Nod.
     Upon an ermine carpet lay
     Two tiger cubs in furious play,
     Beneath the emerald throne where sat the signed of God.

     Over that ample forehead white
     The thousandth year returneth.
     Still, on its commanding height,
     With a fierce and blood-red light,
     The fiery token burneth.
     Wheresoe'er that mystic star
     Blazeth in the van of war,
     Back recoil before its ray
     Shield and banner, bow and spear,
     Maddened horses break away
     From the trembling charioteer.
     The fear of that stern king doth lie
     On all that live beneath the sky:
     All shrink before the mark of his despair,
     The seal of that great curse which he alone can bear.
     Blazing in pearls and diamonds' sheen.
     Tirzah, the young Ahirad's bride,
     Of humankind the destined queen,
     Sits by her great forefather's side.
     The jetty curls, the forehead high,
     The swan like neck, the eagle face,
     The glowing cheek, the rich dark eye,
     Proclaim her of the elder race.
     With flowing locks of auburn hue,
     And features smooth, and eye of blue,
     Timid in love as brave in arms,
     The gentle heir of Seth askance
     Snatches a bashful, ardent glance
     At her majestic charms;
     Blest when across that brow high musing flashes
     A deeper tint of rose,
     Thrice blest when from beneath the silken lashes
     Of her proud eye she throws
     The smile of blended fondness and disdain
     Which marks the daughters of the house of Cain.

     All hearts are light around the hall
     Save his who is the lord of all.
     The painted roofs, the attendant train,
     The lights, the banquet, all are vain.
     He sees them not.  His fancy strays
     To other scenes and other days.
     A cot by a lone forest's edge,
     A fountain murmuring through the trees,
     A garden with a wildflower hedge,
     Whence sounds the music of the bees,
     A little flock of sheep at rest
     Upon a mountain's swarthy breast.
     On his rude spade he seems to lean
     Beside the well remembered stone,
     Rejoicing o'er the promised green
     Of the first harvest man hath sown.
     He sees his mother's tears;
     His father's voice he hears,
     Kind as when first it praised his youthful skill.
     And soon a seraph-child,
     In boyish rapture wild,
     With a light crook comes bounding from the hill,
     Kisses his hands, and strokes his face,
     And nestles close in his embrace.
     In his adamantine eye
     None might discern his agony;
     But they who had grown hoary next his side,
     And read his stern dark face with deepest skill,
     Could trace strange meanings in that lip of pride,
     Which for one moment quivered and was still.
     No time for them to mark or him to feel
     Those inward stings; for clarion, flute, and lyre,
     And the rich voices of a countless quire,
     Burst on the ear in one triumphant peal.
     In breathless transport sits the admiring throng,
     As sink and swell the notes of Jubal's lofty song.

     "Sound the timbrel, strike the lyre,
     Wake the trumpet's blast of fire,
     Till the gilded arches ring.
     Empire, victory, and fame,
     Be ascribed unto the name
     Of our father and our king.
     Of the deeds which he hath done,
     Of the spoils which he hath won,
     Let his grateful children sing.
     When the deadly fight was fought,
     When the great revenge was wrought,
     When on the slaughtered victims lay
     The minion stiff and cold as they,
     Doomed to exile, sealed with flame,
     From the west the wanderer came.
     Six score years and six he strayed
     A hunter through the forest shade.
     The lion's shaggy jaws he tore,
     To earth he smote the foaming boar,
     He crushed the dragon's fiery crest,
     And scaled the condor's dizzy nest;
     Till hardy sons and daughters fair
     Increased around his woodland lair.
     Then his victorious bow unstrung
     On the great bison's horn he hung.
     Giraffe and elk he left to hold
     The wilderness of boughs in peace,
     And trained his youth to pen the fold,
     To press the cream, and weave the fleece.
     As shrunk the streamlet in its bed,
     As black and scant the herbage grew,
     O'er endless plains his flocks he led
     Still to new brooks and postures new.
     So strayed he till the white pavilions
     Of his camp were told by millions,
     Till his children's households seven
     Were numerous as the stars of heaven.
     Then he bade us rove no more;
     And in the place that pleased him best,
     On the great river's fertile shore,
     He fixed the city of his rest.
     He taught us then to bind the sheaves,
     To strain the palm's delicious milk,
     And from the dark green mulberry leaves
     To cull the filmy silk.
     Then first from straw-built mansions roamed
     O'er flower-beds trim the skilful bees;
     Then first the purple wine vats foamed
     Around the laughing peasant's knees;
     And olive-yards, and orchards green,
     O'er all the hills of Nod were seen.

     "Of our father and our king
     Let his grateful children sing.
     From him our race its being draws,
     His are our arts, and his our laws.
     Like himself he bade us be,
     Proud, and brave, and fierce, and free.
     True, through every turn of fate,
     In our friendship and our hate.
     Calm to watch, yet prompt to dare;
     Quick to feel, yet firm to bear;
     Only timid, only weak,
     Before sweet woman's eye and cheek.
     We will not serve, we will not know,
     The God who is our father's foe.
     In our proud cities to his name
     No temples rise, no altars flame.
     Our flocks of sheep, our groves of spice,
     To him afford no sacrifice.
     Enough that once the House of Cain
     Hath courted with oblation vain
     The sullen power above.
     Henceforth we bear the yoke no more;
     The only gods whom we adore
     Are glory, vengeance, love.

     "Of our father and our king
     Let his grateful children sing.
     What eye of living thing may brook
     On his blazing brow to look?
     What might of living thing may stand
     Against the strength of his right hand?
     First he led his armies forth
     Against the Mammoths of the north,
     What time they wasted in their pride
     Pasture and vineyard far and wide.
     Then the White River's icy flood
     Was thawed with fire and dyed with blood,
     And heard for many a league the sound
     Of the pine forests blazing round,
     And the death-howl and trampling din
     Of the gigantic herd within.
     From the surging sea of flame
     Forth the tortured monsters came;
     As of breakers on the shore
     Was their onset and their roar;
     As the cedar-trees of God
     Stood the stately ranks of Nod.
     One long night and one short day
     The sword was lifted up to slay.
     Then marched the firstborn and his sons
     O'er the white ashes of the wood,
     And counted of that savage brood
     Nine times nine thousand skeletons.

     "On the snow with carnage red
     The wood is piled, the skins are spread.
     A thousand fires illume the sky;
     Round each a hundred warriors lie.
     But, long ere half the night was spent,
     Forth thundered from the golden tent
     The rousing voice of Cain.
     A thousand trumps in answer rang
     And fast to arms the warriors sprang
     O'er all the frozen plain.
     A herald from the wealthy bay
     Hath come with tidings of dismay.
     From the western ocean's coast
     Seth hath led a countless host,
     And vows to slay with fire and sword
     All who call not on the Lord.
     His archers hold the mountain forts;
     His light armed ships blockade the ports;
     His horsemen tread the harvest down.
     On twelve proud bridges he hath passed
     The river dark with many a mast,
     And pitched his mighty camp at last
     Before the imperial town.

     "On the south and on the west,
     Closely was the city prest.
     Before us lay the hostile powers.
     The breach was wide between the towers.
     Pulse and meal within were sold
     For a double weight of gold.
     Our mighty father had gone forth
     Two hundred marches to the north.
     Yet in that extreme of ill
     We stoutly kept his city still;
     And swore beneath his royal wall,
     Like his true sons to fight and fall.

     "Hark, hark, to gong and horn,
     Clarion, and fife, and drum,
     The morn, the fortieth morn,
     Fixed for the great assault is come.
     Between the camp and city spreads
     A waving sea of helmed heads.
     From the royal car of Seth
     Was hung the blood-reg flag of death:
     At sight of that thrice-hallowed sign
     Wide flew at once each banner's fold;
     The captains clashed their arms of gold;
     The war cry of Elohim rolled
     Far down their endless line.
     On the northern hills afar
     Pealed an answering note of war.
     Soon the dust in whirlwinds driven,
     Rushed across the northern heaven.
     Beneath its shroud came thick and loud
     The tramp as of a countless crowd;
     And at intervals were seen
     Lance and hauberk glancing sheen;
     And at intervals were heard
     Charger's neigh and battle word.

     "Oh what a rapturous cry
     From all the city's thousand spires arose,
     With what a look the hollow eye
     Of the lean watchman glared upon the foes,
     With what a yell of joy the mother pressed
     The moaning baby to her withered breast;
     When through the swarthy cloud that veiled the plain
     Burst on his children's sight the flaming brow of Cain!"

     There paused perforce that noble song;
     For from all the joyous throng,
     Burst forth a rapturous shout which drowned
     Singer's voice and trumpet's sound.
     Thrice that stormy clamour fell,
     Thrice rose again with mightier swell.
     The last and loudest roar of all
     Had died along the painted wall.
     The crowd was hushed; the minstrel train
     Prepared to strike the chords again;
     When on each ear distinctly smote
     A low and wild and wailing note.
     It moans again.  In mute amaze
     Menials, and guests, and harpers gaze.
     They look above, beneath, around,
     No shape doth own that mournful sound.
     It comes not from the tuneful quire;
     It comes not from the feasting peers.
     There is no tone of earthly lyre
     So soft, so sad, so full of tears.
     Then a strange horror came on all
     Who sate at that high festival.
     The far famed harp, the harp of gold,
     Dropped from Jubal's trembling hold.
     Frantic with dismay the bride
     Clung to her Ahirad's side.
     And the corpse-like hue of dread
     Ahirad's haughty face o'erspread.
     Yet not even in that agony of awe
     Did the young leader of the fair-haired race
     From Tirzah's shuddering grasp his hand withdraw,
     Or turn his eyes from Tirzah's livid face.
     The tigers to their lord retreat,
     And crouch and whine beneath his feet.
     Prone sink to earth the golden shielded seven.
     All hearts are cowed save his alone
     Who sits upon the emerald throne;
     For he hath heard Elohim speak from heaven.
     Still thunders in his ear the peal;
     Still blazes on his front the seal:
     And on the soul of the proud king
     No terror of created thing
     From sky, or earth, or hell, hath power
     Since that unutterable hour.

     He rose to speak, but paused, and listening stood,
     Not daunted, but in sad and curious mood,
     With knitted brow, and searching eye of fire.
     A deathlike silence sank on all around,
     And through the boundless space was heard no sound,
     Save the soft tones of that mysterious lyre.
     Broken, faint, and low,
     At first the numbers flow.
     Louder, deeper, quicker, still
     Into one fierce peal they swell,
     And the echoing palace fill
     With a strange funereal yell.
     A voice comes forth.  But what, or where?
     On the earth, or in the air?
     Like the midnight winds that blow
     Round a lone cottage in the snow,
     With howling swell and sighing fall,
     It wails along the trophied hall.
     In such a wild and dreary moan
     The watches of the Seraphim
     Poured out all night their plaintive hymn
     Before the eternal throne.
     Then, when from many a heavenly eye
     Drops as of earthly pity fell
     For her who had aspire too high,
     For him who loved too well.
     When, stunned by grief, the gentle pair
     From the nuptial garden fair,
     Linked in a sorrowful caress,
     Strayed through the untrodden wilderness;
     And close behind their footsteps came
     The desolating sword of flame,
     And drooped the cedared alley's pride,
     And fountains shrank, and roses died.

     "Rejoice, O Son of God, rejoice,"
     Sang that melancholy voice,
     "Rejoice, the maid is fair to see;
     The bower is decked for her and thee;
     The ivory lamps around it throw
     A soft and pure and mellow glow.
     Where'er the chastened lustre falls
     On roof or cornice, floor or walls,
     Woven of pink and rose appear
     Such words as love delights to hear.
     The breath of myrrh, the lute's soft sound,
     Float through the moonlight galleries round.
     O'er beds of violet and through groves of spice,
     Lead thy proud bride into the nuptial bower;
     For thou hast bought her with a fearful price,
     And she hath dowered thee with a fearful dower.
     The price is life.  The dower is death.
     Accursed loss!  Accursed gain!
     For her thou givest the blessedness of Seth,
     And to thine arms she brings the curse of Cain.

     Round the dark curtains of the fiery throne
     Pauses awhile the voice of sacred song:
     From all the angelic ranks goes forth a groan,
     'How long, O Lord, how long?'
     The still small voice makes answer, 'Wait and see,
     Oh sons of glory, what the end shall be.'

     "But, in the outer darkness of the place
     Where God hath shown his power without his grace,
     Is laughter and the sound of glad acclaim,
     Loud as when, on wings of fire,
     Fulfilled of his malign desire,
     From Paradise the conquering serpent came.
     The giant ruler of the morning star
     From off his fiery bed
     Lifts high his stately head,
     Which Michael's sword hath marked with many a scar.
     At his voice the pit of hell
     Answers with a joyous yell,
     And flings her dusky portals wide
     For the bridegroom and the bride.

     "But louder still shall be the din
     In the halls of Death and Sin,
     When the full measure runneth o'er,
     When mercy can endure no more,
     When he who vainly proffers grace,
     Comes in his fury to deface
     The fair creation of his hand;
     When from the heaven streams down amain
     For forty days the sheeted rain;
     And from his ancient barriers free,
     With a deafening roar the sea
     Comes foaming up the land.
     Mother, cast thy babe aside:
     Bridegroom, quit thy virgin bride:
     Brother, pass thy brother by:
     'Tis for life, for life, ye fly.
     Along the drear horizon raves
     The swift advancing line of waves.
     On:  on:  their frothy crests appear
     Each moment nearer, and more near.
     Urge the dromedary's speed;
     Spur to death the reeling steed;
     If perchance ye yet may gain
     The mountains that o'erhang the plain.

     "Oh thou haughty land of Nod,
     Hear the sentence of thy God.
     Thou hast said, 'Of all the hills
     Whence, after autumn rains, the rills
     In silver trickle down,
     The fairest is that mountain white
     Which intercepts the morning light
     From Cain's imperial town.
     On its first and gentlest swell
     Are pleasant halls where nobles dwell;
     And marble porticoes are seen
     Peeping through terraced gardens green.
     Above are olives, palms, and vines;
     And higher yet the dark-blue pines;
     And highest on the summit shines
     The crest of everlasting ice.
     Here let the God of Abel own
     That human art hath wonders shown
     Beyond his boasted paradise.'

     "Therefore on that proud mountain's crown
     Thy few surviving sons and daughters
     Shall see their latest sun go down
     Upon a boundless waste of waters.
     None salutes and none replies;
     None heaves a groan or breathes a prayer
     They crouch on earth with tearless eyes,
     And clenched hands, and bristling hair.
     The rain pours on:  no star illumes
     The blackness of the roaring sky.
     And each successive billow booms
     Nigher still and still more nigh.
     And now upon the howling blast
     The wreaths of spray come thick and fast;
     And a great billow by the tempest curled
     Falls with a thundering crash; and all is o'er.
     In what is left of all this glorious world?
     A sky without a beam, a sea without a shore.

     "Oh thou fair land, where from their starry home
     Cherub and seraph oft delight to roam,
     Thou city of the thousand towers,
     Thou palace of the golden stairs,
     Ye gardens of perennial flowers,
     Ye moted gates, ye breezy squares;
     Ye parks amidst whose branches high
     Oft peers the squirrel's sparkling eye;
     Ye vineyards, in whose trellised shade
     Pipes many a youth to many a maid;
     Ye ports where rides the gallant ship,
     Ye marts where wealthy burghers meet;
     Ye dark green lanes which know the trip
     Of woman's conscious feet;
     Ye grassy meads where, when the day is done,
     The shepherd pens his fold;
     Ye purple moors on which the setting sun
     Leaves a rich fringe of gold;
     Ye wintry deserts where the larches grow;
     Ye mountains on whose everlasting snow
     No human foot hath trod;
     Many a fathom shall ye sleep
     Beneath the grey and endless deep,
     In the great day of the revenge of God."



      As I sate down to breakfast in state,
      At my living of Tithing-cum-Boring,
      With Betty beside me to wait,
      Came a rap that almost beat the door in.
      I laid down my basin of tea,
      And Betty ceased spreading the toast,
      "As sure as a gun, sir," said she,
      "That must be the knock of the post."

      A letter--and free--bring it here--
      I have no correspondent who franks.
      No!  Yes!  Can it be?  Why, my dear,
      'Tis our glorious, our Protestant Bankes.
      "Dear sir, as I know you desire
      That the Church should receive due protection,
      I humbly presume to require
      Your aid at the Cambridge election.

      "It has lately been brought to my knowledge,
      That the Ministers fully design
      To suppress each cathedral and college,
      And eject every learned divine.
      To assist this detestable scheme
      Three nuncios from Rome are come over;
      They left Calais on Monday by steam,
      And landed to dinner at Dover.

      "An army of grim Cordeliers,
      Well furnished with relics and vermin,
      Will follow, Lord Westmoreland fears,
      To effect what their chiefs may determine.
      Lollard's bower, good authorities say,
      Is again fitting up for a prison;
      And a wood-merchant told me to-day
      'Tis a wonder how faggots have risen.

      "The finance scheme of Canning contains
      A new Easter-offering tax;
      And he means to devote all the gains
      To a bounty on thumb-screws and racks.
      Your living, so neat and compact--
      Pray, don't let the news give you pain!--
      Is promised, I know for a fact,
      To an olive-faced Padre from Spain."

      I read, and I felt my heart bleed,
      Sore wounded with horror and pity;
      So I flew, with all possible speed,
      To our Protestant champion's committee.
      True gentlemen, kind and well-bred!
      No fleering! no distance! no scorn!
      They asked after my wife who is dead,
      And my children who never were born.

      They then, like high-principled Tories,
      Called our Sovereign unjust and unsteady,
      And assailed him with scandalous stories,
      Till the coach for the voters was ready.
      That coach might be well called a casket
      Of learning and brotherly love:
      There were parsons in boot and in basket;
      There were parsons below and above.

      There were Sneaker and Griper, a pair
      Who stick to Lord Mulesby like leeches;
      A smug chaplain of plausible air,
      Who writes my Lord Goslingham's speeches.
      Dr Buzz, who alone is a host,
      Who, with arguments weighty as lead,
      Proves six times a week in the Post
      That flesh somehow differs from bread.

      Dr Nimrod, whose orthodox toes
      Are seldom withdrawn from the stirrup;
      Dr Humdrum, whose eloquence flows,
      Like droppings of sweet poppy syrup;
      Dr Rosygill puffing and fanning,
      And wiping away perspiration;
      Dr Humbug who proved Mr Canning
      The beast in St John's Revelation.

      A layman can scarce form a notion
      Of our wonderful talk on the road;
      Of the learning, the wit, and devotion,
      Which almost each syllable showed:
      Why divided allegiance agrees
      So ill with our free constitution;
      How Catholics swear as they please,
      In hope of the priest's absolution;

      How the Bishop of Norwich had bartered
      His faith for a legate's commission;
      How Lyndhurst, afraid to be martyr'd,
      Had stooped to a base coalition;
      How Papists are cased from compassion
      By bigotry, stronger than steel;
      How burning would soon come in fashion,
      And how very bad it must feel.

      We were all so much touched and excited
      By a subject so direly sublime,
      That the rules of politeness were slighted,
      And we all of us talked at a time;
      And in tones, which each moment grew louder,
      Told how we should dress for the show,
      And where we should fasten the powder,
      And if we should bellow or no.

      Thus from subject to subject we ran,
      And the journey passed pleasantly o'er,
      Till at last Dr Humdrum began;
      From that time I remember no more.
      At Ware he commenced his prelection,
      In the dullest of clerical drones;
      And when next I regained recollection
      We were rambling o'er Trumpington stones.


SONG. (1827.)

     O stay, Madonna! stay;
     'Tis not the dawn of day
     That marks the skies with yonder opal streak:
     The stars in silence shine;
     Then press thy lips to mine,
     And rest upon my neck thy fervid cheek.

     O sleep, Madonna! sleep;
     Leave me to watch and weep
     O'er the sad memory of departed joys,
     O'er hope's extinguished beam,
     O'er fancy's vanished dream;
     O'er all that nature gives and man destroys.

     O wake, Madonna! wake;
     Even now the purple lake
     Is dappled o'er with amber flakes of light;
     A glow is on the hill;
     And every trickling rill
     In golden threads leaps down from yonder height.

     O fly, Madonna! fly,
     Lest day and envy spy
     What only love and night may safely know:
     Fly, and tread softly, dear!
     Lest those who hate us hear
     The sounds of thy light footsteps as they go.



     "Quid faciat laetas segetes," etc.

     How cabinets are formed, and how destroy'd,
     How Tories are confirmed, and Whigs decoy'd,
     How in nice times a prudent man should vote,
     At what conjuncture he should turn his coat,
     The truths fallacious, and the candid lies,
     And all the lore of sleek majorities,
     I sing, great Premier.  Oh, mysterious two,
     Lords of our fate, the Doctor and the Jew,
     If, by your care enriched, the aspiring clerk
     Quits the close alley for the breezy park,
     And Dolly's chops and Reid's entire resigns
     For odorous fricassees and costly wines;
     And you, great pair, through Windsor's shades who rove,
     The Faun and Dryad of the conscious grove;
     All, all inspire me, for of all I sing,
     Doctor and Jew, and M--s and K--g.
     Thou, to the maudlin muse of Rydal dear;
     Thou more than Neptune, Lowther, lend thine ear.
     At Neptune's voice the horse, with flowing mane
     And pawing hoof, sprung from the obedient plain;
     But at thy word the yawning earth, in fright,
     Engulf'd the victor steed from mortal sight.
     Haste from thy woods, mine Arbuthnot, with speed,
     Rich woods, where lean Scotch cattle love to feed:
     Let Gaffer Gooch and Boodle's patriot band,
     Fat from the leanness of a plundered land,
     True Cincinnati, quit their patent ploughs,
     Their new steam-harrows, and their premium sows;
     Let all in bulky majesty appear,
     Roll the dull eye, and yawn th' unmeaning cheer.
     Ye veteran Swiss, of senatorial wars,
     Who glory in your well-earned sticks and stars;
     Ye diners-out from whom we guard our spoons;
     Ye smug defaulters; ye obscene buffoons;
     Come all, of every race and size and form,
     Corruption's children, brethren of the worm;
     From those gigantic monsters who devour
     The pay of half a squadron in an hour,
     To those foul reptiles, doomed to night and scorn,
     Of filth and stench equivocally born;
     From royal tigers down to toads and lice;
     From Bathursts, Clintons, Fanes, to H-- and P--;
     Thou last, by habit and by nature blest
     With every gift which serves a courtier best,
     The lap-dog spittle, the hyaena bile,
     The maw of shark, the tear of crocodile,
     Whate'er high station, undetermined yet,
     Awaits thee in the longing Cabinet,--
     Whether thou seat thee in the room of Peel,
     Or from Lord Prig extort the Privy Seal,
     Or our Field-marshal-Treasurer fix on thee,
     A legal admiral, to rule the sea,
     Or Chancery-suits, beneath thy well known reign,
     Turn to their nap of fifty years again;
     (Already L--, prescient of his fate,
     Yields half his woolsack to thy mightier weight;)
     Oh! Eldon, in whatever sphere thou shine,
     For opposition sure will ne'er be thine,
     Though scowls apart the lonely pride of Grey,
     Though Devonshire proudly flings his staff away,
     Though Lansdowne, trampling on his broken chain,
     Shine forth the Lansdowne of our hearts again,
     Assist me thou; for well I deem, I see
     An abstract of my ample theme in thee.
     Thou, as thy glorious self hath justly said,
     From earliest youth, wast pettifogger bred,
     And, raised to power by fortune's fickle will,
     Art head and heart a pettifogger still.
     So, where once Fleet-ditch ran confessed, we vie
     A crowded mart and stately avenue;
     But the black stream beneath runs on the same,
     Still brawls in W--'s key,--still stinks like H--'s name.




(Published in the "Winter's Wreath," Liverpool, 1828.)

     "Le corde d'oro elette," etc.

     The chords, the sacred chords of gold,
     Strike, O Muse, in measure bold;
     And frame a sparkling wreath of joyous songs
     For that great God to whom revenge belongs.
     Who shall resist his might,
     Who marshals for the fight
     Earthquake and thunder, hurricane and flame?
     He smote the haughty race
     Of unbelieving Thrace,
     And turned their rage to fear, their pride to shame.
     He looked in wrath from high,
     Upon their vast array;
     And, in the twinkling of an eye,
     Tambour, and trump, and battle-cry,
     And steeds, and turbaned infantry,
     Passed like a dream away.
     Such power defends the mansions of the just:
     But, like a city without walls,
     The grandeur of the mortal falls
     Who glories in his strength, and makes not God his trust.
     The proud blasphemers thought all earth their own;
     They deemed that soon the whirlwind of their ire
     Would sweep down tower and palace, dome and spire,
     The Christian altars and the Augustan throne.
     And soon, they cried, shall Austria bow
     To the dust her lofty brow.
     The princedoms of Almayne
     Shall wear the Phrygian chain;
     In humbler waves shall vassal Tiber roll;
     And Rome a slave forlorn,
     Her laurelled tresses shorn,
     Shall feel our iron in her inmost soul.
     Who shall bid the torrent stay?
     Who shall bar the lightning's way?
     Who arrest the advancing van
     Of the fiery Ottoman?

     As the curling smoke-wreaths fly
     When fresh breezes clear the sky,
     Passed away each swelling boast
     Of the misbelieving host.
     From the Hebrus rolling far
     Came the murky cloud of war,
     And in shower and tempest dread
     Burst on Austria's fenceless head.
     But not for vaunt or threat
     Didst Thou, O Lord, forget
     The flock so dearly bought, and loved so well.

     Even in the very hour
     Of guilty pride and power
     Full on the circumcised Thy vengeance fell.
     Then the fields were heaped with dead,
     Then the streams with gore were red,
     And every bird of prey, and every beast,
     From wood and cavern thronged to Thy great feast.

     What terror seized the fiends obscene of Nile!
     How wildly, in his place of doom beneath,
     Arabia's lying prophet gnashed his teeth,
     And cursed his blighted hopes and wasted guile!
     When, at the bidding of Thy sovereign might,
     Flew on their destined path
     Thy messages of wrath,
     Riding on storms and wrapped in deepest night.
     The Phthian mountains saw,
     And quaked with mystic awe:
     The proud Sultana of the Straits bowed down
     Her jewelled neck and her embattled crown.
     The miscreants, as they raised their eyes
     Glaring defiance on Thy skies,
     Saw adverse winds and clouds display
     The terrors of their black array;--
     Saw each portentous star
     Whose fiery aspect turned of yore to flight
     The iron chariots of the Canaanite
     Gird its bright harness for a deadlier war.

     Beneath Thy withering look
     Their limbs with palsy shook;
     Scattered on earth the crescent banners lay;
     Trembled with panic fear
     Sabre and targe and spear,
     Through the proud armies of the rising day.
     Faint was each heart, unnerved each hand;
     And, if they strove to charge or stand
     Their efforts were as vain
     As his who, scared in feverish sleep
     By evil dreams, essays to leap,
     Then backward falls again.
     With a crash of wild dismay,
     Their ten thousand ranks gave way;
     Fast they broke, and fast they fled;
     Trampled, mangled, dying, dead,
     Horse and horsemen mingled lay;
     Till the mountains of the slain
     Raised the valleys to the plain.
     Be all the glory to Thy name divine!
     The swords were our's; the arm, O Lord, was Thine.
     Therefore to Thee, beneath whose footstool wait
     The powers which erring man calls Chance and Fate,
     To Thee who hast laid low
     The pride of Europe's foe,
     And taught Byzantium's sullen lords to fear,
     I pour my spirit out
     In a triumphant shout,
     And call all ages and all lands to hear.
     Thou who evermore endurest,
     Loftiest, mightiest, wisest, purest,
     Thou whose will destroys or saves,
     Dread of tyrants, hope of slaves,
     The wreath of glory is from Thee,
     And the red sword of victory.

     There where exulting Danube's flood
     Runs stained with Islam's noblest blood
     From that tremendous field,
     There where in mosque the tyrants met,
     And from the crier's minaret
     Unholy summons pealed,
     Pure shrines and temples now shall be
     Decked for a worship worthy Thee.
     To Thee thy whole creation pays
     With mystic sympathy its praise,
     The air, the earth, the seas:
     The day shines forth with livelier beam;
     There is a smile upon the stream,
     An anthem on the breeze.
     Glory, they cry, to Him whose might
     Hath turned the barbarous foe to flight,
     Whose arm protects with power divine
     The city of his favoured line.
     The caves, the woods, the rocks, repeat the sound;
     The everlasting hills roll the long echoes round.

     But, if Thy rescued church may dare
     Still to besiege Thy throne with prayer,
     Sheathe not, we implore Thee, Lord,
     Sheathe not Thy victorious sword.
     Still Panonia pines away,
     Vassal of a double sway:
     Still Thy servants groan in chains,
     Still the race which hates Thee reigns:
     Part the living from the dead:
     Join the members to the head:
     Snatch Thine own sheep from yon fell monster's hold;
     Let one kind shepherd rule one undivided fold.

     He is the victor, only he
     Who reaps the fruits of victory.
     We conquered once in vain,
     When foamed the Ionian waves with gore,
     And heaped Lepanto's stormy shore
     With wrecks and Moslem slain.
     Yet wretched Cyprus never broke
     The Syrian tyrant's iron yoke.
     Shall the twice vanquished foe
     Again repeat his blow?
     Shall Europe's sword be hung to rust in peace?
     No--let the red-cross ranks
     Of the triumphant Franks
     Bear swift deliverance to the shrines of Greece
     And in her inmost heart let Asia feel
     The avenging plagues of Western fire and steel.

     Oh God! for one short moment raise
     The veil which hides those glorious days.
     The flying foes I see Thee urge
     Even to the river's headlong verge.

     Close on their rear the loud uproar
     Of fierce pursuit from Ister's shore
     Comes pealing on the wind;
     The Rab's wild waters are before,
     The Christian sword behind.
     Sons of perdition, speed your flight,
     No earthly spear is in the rest;
     No earthly champion leads to fight
     The warriors of the West.
     The Lord of Host asserts His old renown,
     Scatters, and smites, and slays, and tramples down.
     Fast, fast beyond what mortal tongue can say,
     Or mortal fancy dream,
     He rushes on his prey:
     Till, with the terrors of the wondrous theme
     Bewildered, and appalled, I cease to sing,
     And close my dazzled eye, and rest my wearied wing.



     The winds were yelling, the waves were swelling,
     The sky was black and drear,
     When the crew with eyes of flame brought the ship without a name
     Alongside the last Buccaneer.

     "Whence flies your sloop full sail before so fierce a gale,
     When all others drive bare on the seas?
     Say, come ye from the shore of the holy Salvador,
     Or the gulf of the rich Caribbees?"

     "From a shore no search hath found, from a gulf no line can
     Without rudder or needle we steer;
     Above, below, our bark, dies the sea-fowl and the shark,
     As we fly by the last Buccaneer.

     "To-night there shall be heard on the rocks of Cape de Verde,
     A loud crash, and a louder roar;
     And to-morrow shall the deep, with a heavy moaning, sweep
     The corpses and wreck to the shore."

     The stately ship of Clyde securely now may ride,
     In the breath of the citron shades;
     And Severn's towering mast securely now flies fast,
     Through the sea of the balmy Trades.

     From St Jago's wealthy port, from Havannah's royal fort,
     The seaman goes forth without fear;
     For since that stormy night not a mortal hath had sight
     Of the flag of the last Buccaneer.



     To my true king I offered free from stain
     Courage and faith; vain faith, and courage vain.
     For him, I threw lands, honours, wealth, away.
     And one dear hope, that was more prized than they.
     For him I languished in a foreign clime,
     Grey-haired with sorrow in my manhood's prime;
     Heard on Lavernia Scargill's whispering trees,
     And pined by Arno for my lovelier Tees;
     Beheld each night my home in fevered sleep,
     Each morning started from the dream to weep;
     Till God who saw me tried too sorely, gave
     The resting place I asked, an early grave.
     Oh thou, whom chance leads to this nameless stone,
     From that proud country which was once mine own,
     By those white cliffs I never more must see,
     By that dear language which I spake like thee,
     Forget all feuds, and shed one English tear
     O'er English dust.  A broken heart lies here.



     The day of tumult, strife, defeat, was o'er;
     Worn out with toil, and noise, and scorn, and spleen,
     I slumbered, and in slumber saw once more
     A room in an old mansion, long unseen.

     That room, methought, was curtained from the light;
     Yet through the curtains shone the moon's cold ray
     Full on a cradle, where, in linen white,
     Sleeping life's first soft sleep, an infant lay.

     Pale flickered on the hearth the dying flame,
     And all was silent in that ancient hall,
     Save when by fits on the low night-wind came
     The murmur of the distant waterfall.

     And lo! the fairy queens who rule our birth
     Drew nigh to speak the new-born baby's doom:
     With noiseless step, which left no trace on earth,
     From gloom they came, and vanished into gloom.

     Not deigning on the boy a glance to cast
     Swept careless by the gorgeous Queen of Gain;
     More scornful still, the Queen of Fashion passed,
     With mincing gait and sneer of cold disdain.

     The Queen of Power tossed high her jewelled head,
     And o'er her shoulder threw a wrathful frown;
     The Queen of Pleasure on the pillow shed
     Scarce one stray rose-leaf from her fragrant crown.

     Still Fay in long procession followed Fay;
     And still the little couch remained unblest:
     But, when those wayward sprites had passed away,
     Came One, the last, the mightiest, and the best.

     Oh glorious lady, with the eyes of light
     And laurels clustering round thy lofty brow,
     Who by the cradle's side didst watch that night,
     Warbling a sweet, strange music, who wast thou?

     "Yes, darling; let them go;" so ran the strain:
     "Yes; let them go, gain, fashion, pleasure, power,
     And all the busy elves to whose domain
     Belongs the nether sphere, the fleeting hour.

     "Without one envious sigh, one anxious scheme,
     The nether sphere, the fleeting hour resign.
     Mine is the world of thought, the world of dream,
     Mine all the past, and all the future mine.

     "Fortune, that lays in sport the mighty low,
     Age, that to penance turns the joys of youth,
     Shall leave untouched the gifts which I bestow,
     The sense of beauty and the thirst of truth.

     "Of the fair brotherhood who share my grace,
     I, from thy natal day, pronounce thee free;
     And, if for some I keep a nobler place,
     I keep for none a happier than for thee.

     "There are who, while to vulgar eyes they seem
     Of all my bounties largely to partake,
     Of me as of some rival's handmaid deem
     And court me but for gain's, power's, fashion's sake.

     "To such, though deep their lore, though wide their fame,
     Shall my great mysteries be all unknown:
     But thou, through good and evil, praise and blame,
     Wilt not thou love me for myself alone?

     "Yes; thou wilt love me with exceeding love;
     And I will tenfold all that love repay,
     Still smiling, though the tender may reprove,
     Still faithful, though the trusted may betray.

     "For aye mine emblem was, and aye shall be,
     The ever-during plant whose bough I wear,
     Brightest and greenest then, when every tree
     That blossoms in the light of Time is bare.

     "In the dark hour of shame, I deigned to stand
     Before the frowning peers at Bacon's side:
     On a far shore I smoothed with tender hand,
     Through months of pain, the sleepless bed of Hyde:

     "I brought the wise and brave of ancient days
     To cheer the cell where Raleigh pined alone:
     I lighted Milton's darkness with the blaze
     Of the bright ranks that guard the eternal throne.

     "And even so, my child, it is my pleasure
     That thou not then alone shouldst feel me nigh,
     When in domestic bliss and studious leisure,
     Thy weeks uncounted come, uncounted fly;

     "Not then alone, when myriads, closely pressed
     Around thy car, the shout of triumph raise;
     Nor when, in gilded drawing rooms, thy breast
     Swells at the sweeter sound of woman's praise.

     "No:  when on restless night dawns cheerless morrow,
     When weary soul and wasting body pine,
     Thine am I still, in danger, sickness, sorrow,
     In conflict, obloquy, want, exile, thine;

     "Thine, where on mountain waves the snowbirds scream,
     Where more than Thule's winter barbs the breeze,
     Where scarce, through lowering clouds, one sickly gleam
     Lights the drear May-day of Antarctic seas;

     "Thine, when around thy litter's track all day
     White sandhills shall reflect the blinding glare;
     Thine, when, through forests breathing death, thy way
     All night shall wind by many a tiger's lair;

     "Thine most, when friends turn pale, when traitors fly,
     When, hard beset, thy spirit, justly proud,
     For truth, peace, freedom, mercy, dares defy
     A sullen priesthood and a raving crowd.

     "Amidst the din of all things fell and vile,
     Hate's yell, and envy's hiss, and folly's bray,
     Remember me; and with an unforced smile
     See riches, baubles, flatterers, pass away.

     "Yes:  they will pass away; nor deem it strange:
     They come and go, as comes and goes the sea:
     And let them come and go:  thou, through all change,
     Fix thy firm gaze on virtue and on me."



[The author passed a part of the summer and autumn of 1850 at Ventnor,
in the Isle of Wight. He usually, when walking alone, had with him
a book. On one occasion, as he was loitering in the landslip near
Bonchurch, reading the Rudens of Plautus, it struck him that it might be
an interesting experiment to attempt to produce something which might be
supposed to resemble passages in the lost Greek drama of Diphilus, from
which the Rudens appears to have been taken. He selected one passage
in the Rudens, of which he then made the following version, which he
afterwards copied out at the request of a friend to whom he had repeated

     Act IV. Sc. vii.

     O Gripe, Gripe, in aetate hominum plurimae
     Fiunt transennae, ubi decipiuntur dolis;
     Atque edepol in eas plerumque esca imponitur.
     Quam si quis avidus pascit escam avariter,
     Decipitur in transenna avaritia sua.
     Ille, qui consulte, docte, atque astute cavet,
     Diutine uti bene licet partum bene.
     Mi istaec videtur praeda praedatum irier:
     Ut cum majore dote abeat, quam advenerit.
     Egone ut, quod ad me adlatum esse alienum sciam,
     Celem?  Minime istuc faciet noster Daemones.
     Semper cavere hoc sapientes aequissimum est,
     Ne conscii sint ipsi maleficiis suis.
     Ego, mihi quum lusi, nil moror ullum lucrum.

     Spectavi ego pridem Comicos ad istum modum
     Sapienter dicta dicere, atque iis plaudier,
     Quum illos sapientis mores monstrabant poplo;
     Sed quum inde suam quisque ibant diversi domum,
     Nullus erat illo pacto, ut illi jusserant.

     O Gripe, Gripe, pleista pagidon schemata
     idoi tis an pepegmen en thneton bio,
     kai pleist ep autois deleath, on epithumia
     oregomenos tis en kakois alisketai
     ostis d apistei kai sophos phulattetai
     kalos apolauei ton kalos peporismenon.
     arpagma d ouch arpagm o larvax outosi,
     all autos, oimai, mallon arpaxei tina.
     tond andra kleptein tallotri--euphemei, talan
     tauten ye me mainoito manian Daimones.
     tode gar aei sophoisin eulabeteon,
     me ti poth eauto tis adikema sunnoe
     kerde d emoige panth osois euphrainomai,
     kerdos d akerdes o toumon algunei kear.

     kago men ede komikon akekoa
     semnos legonton toiade, tous de theomenous
     krotein, mataiois edomenous sophismasin
     eith, os apelth ekastos oikad, oudeni
     ouden paremeine ton kalos eiremenon.



[In the summer of 1856, the author travelled with a friend through
Lombardy. As they were on the road between Novara and Milan, they were
conversing on the subject of the legends relating to that country. The
author remarked to his companion that Mr Panizzi, in the Essay on the
Romantic Narrative Poetry of the Italians, prefixed to his edition of
Bojardo, had pointed out an instance of the conversion of ballad poetry
into prose narrative which strongly confirmed the theory of Perizonius
and Niebuhr, upon which "The Lays of Ancient Rome" are founded; and,
after repeating an extract which Mr Panizzi has given from the chronicle
of "The Monk of St Gall," he proceeded to frame a metrical paraphrase.
The note in Mr Panizzi's work (volume i. page 123, note b) is here
copied verbatim.]

"The monk says that Oger was with Desiderius, King of Lombardy, watching
the advance of Charlemagne's army. The king often asked Oger where
was Charlemagne. Quando videris, inquit, segetem campis inhorrescere,
ferreum Padum et Ticinum marinis fluctibus ferro nigrantibus muros
civitatis inundantes, tunc est spes Caroli venientis. His nedum expletis
primum ad occasum Circino vel Borea coepit apparere, quasi nubes
tenebrosa, quae diem clarissimam horrentes convertit in umbras. Sed
propiante Imperatore, ex armorum splendore, dies omni nocte tenebrosior
oborta est inclusis. Tunc visus est ipse ferreus Carolus ferrea galea
cristatus, ferreis manicis armillatus, etc., etc. His igitur, quae ego
balbus et edentulus, non ut debui circuitu tardiore diutius explicare
tentavi, veridicus speculator Oggerus celerrimo visu contuitus dixit ad
Desiderium: Ecce, habes quem tantopere perquisisti. Et haec dicens, pene
exanimis cecidit.--"Monach. Sangal." de Reb. Bel. Caroli Magni. lib.
ii. para xxvi. Is this not evidently taken from poetical effusions?"


     To Oggier spake King Didier:
     "When cometh Charlemagne?
     We looked for him in harvest:
     We looked for him in rain.
     Crops are reaped; and floods are past;
     And still he is not here.
     Some token show, that we may know
     That Charlemagne is near."

     Then to the King made answer
     Oggier, the christened Dane:
     "When stands the iron harvest,
     Ripe on the Lombard plain,
     That stiff harvest which is reaped
     With sword of knight and peer,
     Then by that sign ye may divine
     That Charlemagne is near.

     "When round the Lombard cities
     The iron flood shall flow,
     A swifter flood than Ticin,
     A broader flood than Po,
     Frothing white with many a plume,
     Dark blue with many a spear,
     Then by that sign ye may divine
     That Charlemagne is near."



     Who, during seven years, ruled India with eminent
     Prudence, Integrity, and Benevolence:
     Who, placed at the head of a great
     Empire, never laid aside
     The simplicity and moderation of a private citizen:
     Who infused into Oriental despotism the spirit of British
     Who never forgot that the end of Government is
     The happiness of the Governed:
     Who abolished cruel rites:
     Who effaced humiliating distinctions:
     Who gave liberty to the expression of public opinion:
     Whose constant study it was, to elevate the intellectual
     And moral character of
     The Nations committed to his charge:
     This Monument
     Was erected by men,
     Who, differing in Race, in
     Manners, in Language, and in Religion,
     Cherish, with equal veneration and gratitude,
     The memory of his wise, upright, and Paternal Administration.



     This monument
     Is sacred to the memory
     One of the Judges of
     The Supreme Court of Judicature:
     A man eminently distinguished
     By his literary and scientific attainments,
     By his professional learning and ability,
     By the clearness and accuracy of his intellect,
     By diligence, by patience, by firmness, by love of truth,
     By public spirit, ardent and disinterested,
     Yet always under the guidance of discretion,
     By rigid uprightness, by unostentatious piety,
     By the serenity of his temper,
     And by the benevolence of his heart.

     He was born on the 29th September 1797.
     He died on the 21st October 1837.



     Near this stone is laid
     A Statesman tried in many high offices,
     And difficult conjunctures,
     And found equal to all.
     The three greatest Dependencies of the British Crown
     Were successively entrusted to his care.
     In India, his fortitude, his wisdom,
     His probity, and his moderation,
     Are held in honourable remembrance
     By men of many races, languages, and religions.
     In Jamaica, still convulsed by a social revolution,
     His prudence calmed the evil passions
     Which long suffering had engendered in one class
     And long domination in another.
     In Canada, not yet recovered from the calamities of civil war,
     He reconciled contending factions to each other,
     And to the Mother Country.
     Costly monuments in Asiatic and American cities
     Attest the gratitude of the nations which he ruled.
     This tablet records the sorrow and the pride
     With which his memory is cherished by his family.

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