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Title: Critical and Historical Essays, Volume III (of 3)
Author: Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron, 1800-1859
Language: English
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      in text file format only. See




In Three Volumes

[Illustration: The Riverside Press logo.]


Boston and New York
Houghton Mifflin Company
The Riverside Press Cambridge

Copyright, 1899, by Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
All Rights Reserved



  RANKE'S HISTORY OF THE POPES                      1


  LORD HOLLAND                                    101

  WARREN HASTINGS                                 114

  FREDERIC THE GREAT                              243



  BARÈRE                                          487

  THE EARL OF CHATHAM                             591

  INDEX TO THE ESSAYS                             689



_The Edinburgh Review_, October, 1840

It is hardly necessary for us to say that this is an excellent book
excellently translated. The original work of Professor Ranke is known
and esteemed wherever German literature is studied, and has been found
interesting even in a most inaccurate and dishonest French version. It
is, indeed, the work of a mind fitted both for minute researches and for
large speculations. It is written also in an admirable spirit, equally
remote from levity and bigotry, serious and earnest, yet tolerant and
impartial. It is, therefore, with the greatest pleasure that we now see
this book take its place among the English classics. Of the translation
we need only say that it is such as might be expected from the skill,
the taste, and the scrupulous integrity of the accomplished lady who, as
an interpreter between the mind of Germany and the mind of Britain, has
already deserved so well of both countries.

The subject of this book has always appeared to us singularly
interesting. How it was that Protestantism did so much, yet did no more,
how it was that the Church of Rome, having lost a large part of Europe,
not only ceased to lose, but actually regained nearly half of what she
had lost, is certainly a most curious and important question; and on
this question Professor Ranke has thrown far more light than any other
person who has written on it.

There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy
so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The
history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human
civilization. No other institution is left standing which carries the
mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the
Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian
amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when
compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back
in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the
nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far
beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in
the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity.
But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and
the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy
remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful
vigor. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends
of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with
Augustine, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with
which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than
in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than
compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency
extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the
Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which, a century hence, may not
improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits
Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a
hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all
other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions.
Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long
dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments
and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the
world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end
of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot
on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian
eloquence still flourished in Antioch, when idols were still worshipped
in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigor
when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast
solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the
ruins of St. Paul's.

We often hear it said that the world is constantly becoming more and
more enlightened, and that this enlightening must be favorable to
Protestantism and unfavorable to Catholicism. We wish that we could
think so. But we see great reason to doubt whether this be a
well-founded expectation. We see that during the last two hundred and
fifty years the human mind has been in the highest degree active, that
it has made great advances in every branch of natural philosophy, that
it has produced innumerable inventions tending to promote the
convenience of life, that medicine, surgery, chemistry, engineering,
have been very greatly improved, that government, police, and law have
been improved, though not to so great an extent as the physical
sciences. But we see that, during these two hundred and fifty years,
Protestantism has made no conquests worth speaking of. Nay, we believe
that, as far as there has been a change, that change has, on the whole,
been in favor of the Church of Rome. We cannot, therefore, feel
confident that the progress of knowledge will necessarily be fatal to a
system which has, to say the least, stood its ground in spite of the
immense progress made by the human race in knowledge since the days of
Queen Elizabeth.

Indeed, the argument which we are considering seems to us to be founded
on an entire mistake. There are branches of knowledge with respect to
which the law of the human mind is progress. In mathematics, when once a
proposition has been demonstrated, it is never afterwards contested.
Every fresh story is as solid a basis for a new superstructure as the
original foundation was. Here, therefore, there is a constant addition
to the stock of truth. In the inductive sciences again, the law is
progress. Every day furnishes new facts, and thus brings theory nearer
and nearer to perfection. There is no chance that, either in the purely
demonstrative or in the purely experimental sciences, the world will
ever go back or even remain stationary. Nobody ever heard of a reaction
against Taylor's theorem, or of a reaction against Harvey's doctrine of
the circulation of the blood.

But with theology the case is very different. As respects natural
religion,--revelation being for the present altogether left out of the
question,--it is not easy to see that a philosopher of the present day
is more favorably situated than Thales or Simonides. He has before him
just the same evidences of design in the structure of the universe which
the early Greeks had. We say just the same; for the discoveries of
modern astronomers and anatomists have really added nothing to the force
of that argument which a reflecting mind finds in every beast, bird,
insect, fish, leaf, flower, and shell. The reasoning by which Socrates,
in Xenophon's hearing, confuted the little atheist Aristodemus, is
exactly the reasoning of Paley's Natural Theology. Socrates makes
precisely the same use of the statues of Polycletus and the pictures of
Zeuxis which Paley makes of the watch. As to the other great question,
the question what becomes of man after death, we do not see that a
highly educated European, left to his unassisted reason, is more likely
to be in the right than a Blackfoot Indian. Not a single one of the many
sciences in which we surpass the Blackfoot Indians throws the smallest
light on the state of the soul after the animal life is extinct. In
truth all the philosophers, ancient and modern, who have attempted,
without the help of revelation, to prove the immortality of man, from
Plato down to Franklin, appear to us to have failed deplorably.

Then, again, all the great enigmas which perplex the natural theologian
are the same in all ages. The ingenuity of a people just emerging from
barbarism is quite sufficient to propound those enigmas. The genius of
Locke or Clarke is quite unable to solve them. It is a mistake to
imagine that subtle speculations touching the divine attributes, the
origin of evil, the necessity of human actions, the foundation of moral
obligation, imply any high degree of intellectual culture. Such
speculations, on the contrary, are in a peculiar manner the delight of
intelligent children and of half-civilized men. The number of boys is
not small who, at fourteen, have thought enough on these questions to be
fully entitled to the praise which Voltaire gives to Zadig. "Il en
savait ce qu'on en a su dans tous les âges; c'est-à-dire, fort peu de
chose." The Book of Job shows that, long before letters and arts were
known to Ionia, these vexing questions were debated with no common skill
and eloquence, under the tents of the Idumean Emirs; nor has human
reason, in the course of three thousand years, discovered any
satisfactory solution of the riddles which perplexed Eliphaz and Zophar.

Natural theology, then, is not a progressive science. That knowledge of
our origin and of our destiny which we derive from revelation is indeed
of very different clearness, and of very different importance. But
neither is revealed religion of the nature of a progressive science. All
divine truth is, according to the doctrine of the Protestant churches,
recorded in certain books. It is equally open to all who, in any age,
can read those books; nor can all the discoveries of all the
philosophers in the world add a single verse to any of those books. It
is plain, therefore, that in divinity there cannot be a progress
analogous to that which is constantly taking place in pharmacy, geology,
and navigation. A Christian of the fifth century with a Bible is neither
better nor worse situated than a Christian of the nineteenth century
with a Bible, candor and natural acuteness being, of course, supposed
equal. It matters not at all that the compass, printing, gunpowder,
steam, gas, vaccination, and a thousand other discoveries and
inventions, which were unknown in the fifth century, are familiar to the
nineteenth. None of these discoveries and inventions has the smallest
bearing on the question whether man is justified by faith alone, or
whether the invocation of saints is an orthodox practice. It seems to
us, therefore, that we have no security for the future against the
prevalence of any theological error that ever has prevailed in time past
among Christian men. We are confident that the world will never go back
to the solar system of Ptolemy; nor is our confidence in the least
shaken by the circumstance that even so great a man as Bacon rejected
the theory of Galileo with scorn; for Bacon had not all the means of
arriving at a sound conclusion which are within our reach, and which
secure people who would not have been worthy to mend his pens from
falling into his mistakes. But when we reflect that Sir Thomas More was
ready to die for the doctrine of transubstantiation, we cannot but feel
some doubt whether the doctrine of transubstantiation may not triumph
over all opposition. More was a man of eminent talents. He had all the
information on the subject that we have, or that, while the world lasts,
any human being will have. The text, "This is my body," was in his New
Testament as it is in ours. The absurdity of the literal interpretation
was as great and as obvious in the sixteenth century as it is now. No
progress that science has made, or will make, can add to what seems to
us the overwhelming force of the argument against the real presence. We
are, therefore, unable to understand why what Sir Thomas More believed
respecting transubstantiation may not be believed to the end of time by
men equal in abilities and honesty to Sir Thomas More. But Sir Thomas
More is one of the choice specimens of human wisdom and virtue; and the
doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which
stands that test will stand any test. The prophecies of Brothers and the
miracles of Prince Hohenlohe sink to trifles in the comparison.

One reservation, indeed, must be made. The books and traditions of a
sect may contain, mingled with propositions strictly theological, other
propositions, purporting to rest on the same authority, which relate to
physics. If new discoveries should throw discredit on the physical
propositions, the theological propositions, unless they can be separated
from the physical propositions, will share in that discredit. In this
way, undoubtedly, the progress of science may indirectly serve the cause
of religious truth. The Hindoo mythology, for example, is bound up with
a most absurd geography. Every young Brahmin, therefore, who learns
geography in our colleges learns to smile at the Hindoo mythology. If
Catholicism has not suffered to an equal degree from the papal decision
that the sun goes round the earth, this is because all intelligent
Catholics now hold, with Pascal, that, in deciding the point at all, the
Church exceeded her powers, and was, therefore, justly left destitute of
that supernatural assistance which, in the exercise of her legitimate
functions, the promise of her Founder authorized her to expect.

This reservation affects not at all the truth of our proposition, that
divinity, properly so called, is not a progressive science. A very
common knowledge of history, a very little observation of life, will
suffice to prove that no learning, no sagacity, affords a security
against the greatest errors on subjects relating to the invisible world.
Bayle and Chillingworth, two of the most skeptical of mankind, turned
Catholics from sincere conviction. Johnson, incredulous on all other
points, was a ready believer in miracles and apparitions. He would not
believe in Ossian; but he was willing to believe in the second sight. He
would not believe in the earthquake of Lisbon; but he was willing to
believe in the Cock Lane ghost.

For these reasons we have ceased to wonder at any vagaries of
superstition. We have seen men, not of mean intellect or neglected
education, but qualified by their talents and acquirements to attain
eminence either in active or speculative pursuits, well-read scholars,
expert logicians, keen observers of life and manners, prophesying,
interpreting, talking unknown tongues, working miraculous cures, coming
down with messages from God to the House of Commons. We have seen an old
woman, with no talents beyond the cunning of a fortuneteller, and with
the education of a scullion, exalted into a prophetess, and surrounded
by tens of thousands of devoted followers, many of whom were, in station
and knowledge, immeasurably her superiors; and all this in the
nineteenth century; and all this in London. Yet why not? For of the
dealings of God with man no more has been revealed to the nineteenth
century than to the first, or to London than to the wildest parish in
the Hebrides. It is true that, in those things which concern this life
and this world, man constantly becomes wiser and wiser. But it is no
less true that, as respects a higher power and a future state, man, in
the language of Goethe's scoffing fiend,

          "bleibt stets von gleichem Schlag,
    Und ist so wunderlich als wie am ersten Tag."

The history of Catholicism strikingly illustrates these observations.
During the last seven centuries the public mind of Europe has made
constant progress in every department of secular knowledge. But in
religion we can trace no constant progress. The ecclesiastical history
of that long period is a history of movement to and fro. Four times,
since the authority of the Church of Rome was established in Western
Christendom, has the human intellect risen up against her yoke. Twice
that Church remained completely victorious. Twice she came forth from
the conflict bearing the marks of cruel wounds, but with the principle
of life still strong within her. When we reflect on the tremendous
assaults which she has survived, we find it difficult to conceive in
what way she is to perish.

The first of these insurrections broke out in the region where the
beautiful language of _Oc_ was spoken. That country, singularly favored
by nature, was, in the twelfth century, the most flourishing and
civilized portion of Western Europe. It was in no wise a part of France.
It had a distinct political existence, a distinct national character,
distinct usages, and a distinct speech. The soil was fruitful and well
cultivated; and amidst the cornfields and vineyards rose many rich
cities, each of which was a little republic, and many stately castles,
each of which contained a miniature of an imperial court. It was there
that the spirit of chivalry first laid aside its terrors, first took a
humane and graceful form, first appeared as the inseparable associate of
art and literature, of courtesy and love. The other vernacular dialects
which, since the fifth century, had sprung up in the ancient provinces
of the Roman empire, were still rude and imperfect. The sweet Tuscan,
the rich and energetic English, were abandoned to artisans and
shepherds. No clerk had ever condescended to use such barbarous jargon
for the teaching of science, for the recording of great events, or for
the painting of life and manners. But the language of Provence was
already the language of the learned and polite, and was employed by
numerous writers, studious of all the arts of composition and
versification. A literature rich in ballads, in war-songs, in satire,
and, above all, in amatory poetry, amused the leisure of the knights and
ladies whose fortified mansions adorned the banks of the Rhone and
Garonne. With civilization had come freedom of thought. Use had taken
away the horror with which misbelievers were elsewhere regarded. No
Norman or Breton ever saw a Mussulman, except to give and receive blows
on some Syrian field of battle. But the people of the rich countries
which lay under the Pyrenees lived in habits of courteous and profitable
intercourse with the Moorish kingdoms of Spain, and gave a hospitable
welcome to skilful leeches and mathematicians who, in the schools of
Cordova and Granada, had become versed in all the learning of the
Arabians. The Greek, still preserving, in the midst of political
degradation, the ready wit and the inquiring spirit of his fathers,
still able to read the most perfect of human compositions, still
speaking the most powerful and flexible of human languages, brought to
the marts of Narbonne and Toulouse, together with the drugs and silks of
remote climates, bold and subtle theories long unknown to the ignorant
and credulous West. The Paulician theology, a theology in which, as it
should seem, many of the doctrines of the modern Calvinists were mingled
with some doctrines derived from the ancient Manichees, spread rapidly
through Provence and Languedoc. The clergy of the Catholic Church were
regarded with loathing and contempt. "Viler than a priest," "I would as
soon be a priest," became proverbial expressions. The Papacy had lost
all authority with all classes, from the great feudal princes down to
the cultivators of the soil.

The danger to the hierarchy was indeed formidable. Only one transalpine
nation had emerged from barbarism; and that nation had thrown off all
respect for Rome. Only one of the vernacular languages of Europe had
yet been extensively employed for literary purposes; and that language
was a machine in the hands of heretics. The geographical position of the
sectaries made the danger peculiarly formidable. They occupied a central
region communicating directly with France, with Italy, and with Spain.
The provinces which were still untainted were separated from each other
by this infected district. Under these circumstances, it seemed probable
that a single generation would suffice to spread the reformed doctrine
to Lisbon, to London, and to Naples. But this was not to be. Rome cried
for help to the warriors of northern France. She appealed at once to
their superstition and to their cupidity. To the devout believer she
promised pardons as ample as those with which she had rewarded the
deliverers of the Holy Sepulchre. To the rapacious and profligate she
offered the plunder of fertile plains and wealthy cities. Unhappily, the
ingenious and polished inhabitants of the Languedocian provinces were
far better qualified to enrich and embellish their country than to
defend it. Eminent in the arts of peace, unrivalled in the "gay
science," elevated above many vulgar superstitions, they wanted that
iron courage, and that skill in martial exercises, which distinguished
the chivalry of the region beyond the Loire, and were ill fitted to face
enemies who, in every country from Ireland to Palestine, had been
victorious against tenfold odds. A war, distinguished even among wars of
religion by merciless atrocity, destroyed the Albigensian heresy, and
with that heresy the prosperity, the civilization, the literature, the
national existence, of what was once the most opulent and enlightened
part of the great European family. Rome, in the meantime, warned by that
fearful danger from which the exterminating swords of her crusaders had
narrowly saved her, proceeded to revise and to strengthen her whole
system of polity. At this period were instituted the Order of Francis,
the Order of Dominic, the Tribunal of the Inquisition. The new
spiritual police was everywhere. No alley in a great city, no hamlet on
a remote mountain, was unvisited by the begging friar. The simple
Catholic, who was content to be no wiser than his fathers, found,
wherever he turned, a friendly voice to encourage him. The path of the
heretic was beset by innumerable spies; and the Church, lately in danger
of utter subversion, now appeared to be impregnably fortified by the
love, the reverence, and the terror of mankind.

A century and a half passed away; and then came the second great rising
up of the human intellect against the spiritual domination of Rome.
During the two generations which followed the Albigensian crusade, the
power of the Papacy had been at the height. Frederic the Second, the
ablest and most accomplished of the long line of German Cæsars, had in
vain exhausted all the resources of military and political skill in the
attempt to defend the rights of the civil power against the
encroachments of the Church. The vengeance of the priesthood had pursued
his house to the third generation. Manfred had perished on the field of
battle, Conradin on the scaffold. Then a turn took place. The secular
authority, long unduly depressed, regained the ascendant with startling
rapidity. The change is doubtless to be ascribed chiefly to the general
disgust excited by the way in which the Church had abused its power and
its success. But something must be attributed to the character and
situation of individuals. The man who bore the chief part in effecting
this revolution was Philip the Fourth of France, surnamed the Beautiful,
a despot by position, a despot by temperament, stern, implacable, and
unscrupulous, equally prepared for violence and for chicanery, and
surrounded by a devoted band of men of the sword and of men of law. The
fiercest and most high-minded of the Roman Pontiffs, while bestowing
kingdoms and citing great princes to his judgment-seat, was seized in
his palace by armed men, and so foully outraged that he died mad with
rage and terror. "Thus," sang the great Florentine poet, "was Christ, in
the person of his vicar, a second time seized by ruffians, a second time
mocked, a second time drenched with the vinegar and the gall." The seat
of the papal court was carried beyond the Alps, and the Bishops of Rome
became dependents of France. Then came the great schism of the West. Two
Popes, each with a doubtful title, made all Europe ring with their
mutual invectives and anathemas. Rome cried out against the corruptions
of Avignon; and Avignon, with equal justice, recriminated on Rome. The
plain Christian people, brought up in the belief that it was a sacred
duty to be in communion with the head of the Church, were unable to
discover, amidst conflicting testimonies and conflicting arguments, to
which of the two worthless priests, who were cursing and reviling each
other, the headship of the Church rightfully belonged. It was nearly at
this juncture that the voice of John Wickliffe began to make itself
heard. The public mind of England was soon stirred to its inmost depths;
and the influence of the new doctrines was soon felt, even in the
distant kingdom of Bohemia. In Bohemia, indeed, there had long been a
predisposition to heresy. Merchants from the Lower Danube were often
seen in the fairs of Prague; and the Lower Danube was peculiarly the
seat of the Paulician theology. The Church, torn by schism, and fiercely
assailed at once in England and in the German empire, was in a situation
scarcely less perilous than at the crisis which preceded the Albigensian

But this danger also passed by. The civil power gave its strenuous
support to the Church; and the Church made some show of reforming
itself. The Council of Constance put an end to the schism. The whole
Catholic world was again united under a single chief; and rules were
laid down which seemed to make it improbable that the power of that
chief would be grossly abused. The most distinguished teachers of the
new doctrine were slaughtered. The English government put down the
Lollards with merciless rigor; and, in the next generation, scarcely one
trace of the second great revolt against the Papacy could be found,
except among the rude population of the mountains of Bohemia.

Another century went by; and then began the third and the most memorable
struggle for spiritual freedom. The times were changed. The great
remains of Athenian and Roman genius were studied by thousands. The
Church had no longer a monopoly of learning. The powers of the modern
languages had at length been developed. The invention of printing had
given new facilities to the intercourse of mind with mind. With such
auspices commenced the great Reformation.

We will attempt to lay before our readers, in a short compass, what
appears to us to be the real history of the contest which began with the
preaching of Luther against the Indulgences, and which may, in one
sense, be said to have been terminated, a hundred and thirty years
later, by the treaty of Westphalia.

In the northern parts of Europe, the victory of Protestantism was rapid
and decisive. The dominion of the Papacy was felt by the nations of
Teutonic blood as the dominion of Italians, of foreigners, of men who
were aliens in language, manners, and intellectual constitution. The
large jurisdiction exercised by the spiritual tribunals of Rome seemed
to be a degrading badge of servitude. The sums which, under a thousand
pretexts, were exacted by a distant court, were regarded both as a
humiliating and as a ruinous tribute. The character of that court
excited the scorn and disgust of a grave, earnest, sincere, and devout
people. The new theology spread with a rapidity never known before. All
ranks, all varieties of character, joined the ranks of the innovators.
Sovereigns impatient to appropriate to themselves the prerogatives of
the Pope, nobles desirous to share the plunder of abbeys, suitors
exasperated by the extortions of the Roman Camera, patriots impatient of
a foreign rule, good men scandalized by the corruptions of the Church,
bad men desirous of the license inseparable from great moral
revolutions, wise men eager in the pursuit of truth, weak men allured by
the glitter of novelty, all were found on one side. Alone among the
northern nations the Irish adhered to the ancient faith: and the cause
of this seems to have been that the national feeling which, in happier
countries, was directed against Rome, was in Ireland directed against
England. Within fifty years from the day on which Luther publicly
renounced communion with the Papacy, and burned the bull of Leo before
the gates of Wittenberg, Protestantism attained its highest ascendency,
an ascendency which it soon lost, and which it has never regained.
Hundreds, who could well remember Brother Martin a devout Catholic,
lived to see the revolution of which he was the chief author, victorious
in half the states of Europe. In England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden,
Livonia, Prussia, Saxony, Hesse, Wurtemburg, the Palatinate, in several
cantons of Switzerland, in the Northern Netherlands, the Reformation had
completely triumphed; and in all the other countries on this side of the
Alps and the Pyrenees, it seemed on the point of triumphing.

But while this mighty work was proceeding in the north of Europe, a
revolution of a very different kind had taken place in the south. The
temper of Italy and Spain was widely different from that of Germany and
England. As the national feeling of the Teutonic nations impelled them
to throw off the Italian supremacy, so the national feeling of the
Italians impelled them to resist any change which might deprive their
country of the honors and advantages which she enjoyed as the seat of
the government of the Universal Church. It was in Italy that the
tributes were spent of which foreign nations so bitterly complained. It
was to adorn Italy that the traffic in Indulgences had been carried to
that scandalous excess which had roused the indignation of Luther. There
was among the Italians both much piety and much impiety; but, with very
few exceptions, neither the piety nor the impiety took the turn of
Protestantism. The religious Italians desired a reform of morals and
discipline, but not a reform of doctrine, and least of all a schism. The
irreligious Italians simply disbelieved Christianity, without hating it.
They looked at it as artists or as statesmen; and, so looking at it,
they liked it better in the established form than in any other. It was
to them what the old Pagan worship was to Trajan and Pliny. Neither the
spirit of Savonarola nor the spirit of Machiavelli had anything in
common with the spirit of the religious or political Protestants of the

Spain again was, with respect to the Catholic Church, in a situation
very different from that of the Teutonic nations. Italy was, in truth, a
part of the empire of Charles the Fifth; and the Court of Rome was, on
many important occasions, his tool. He had not, therefore, like the
distant princes of the North, a strong selfish motive for attacking the
Papacy. In fact, the very measures which provoked the Sovereign of
England to renounce all connection with Rome were dictated by the
Sovereign of Spain. The feeling of the Spanish people concurred with the
interest of the Spanish government. The attachment of the Castilian to
the faith of his ancestors was peculiarly strong and ardent. With that
faith were inseparably bound up the institutions, the independence, and
the glory of his country. Between the day when the last Gothic King was
vanquished on the banks of the Xeres, and the day when Ferdinand and
Isabella entered Granada in triumph, near eight hundred years had
elapsed; and during those years the Spanish nation had been engaged in a
desperate struggle against misbelievers. The Crusades had been merely an
episode in the history of other nations. The existence of Spain had
been one long Crusade. After fighting Mussulmans in the Old World, she
began to fight heathens in the New. It was under the authority of a
papal bull that her children steered into unknown seas. It was under the
standard of the cross that they marched fearlessly into the heart of
great kingdoms. It was with the cry of "St. James for Spain" that they
charged armies which outnumbered them a hundredfold. And men said that
the Saint had heard the call, and had himself, in arms, on a gray
war-horse, led the onset before which the worshippers of false gods had
given way. After the battle, every excess of rapacity or cruelty was
sufficiently vindicated by the plea that the sufferers were unbaptized.
Avarice stimulated zeal. Zeal consecrated avarice. Proselytes and gold
mines were sought with equal ardor. In the very year in which the
Saxons, maddened by the exactions of Rome, broke loose from her yoke,
the Spaniards, under the authority of Rome, made themselves masters of
the empire and of the treasures of Montezuma. Thus Catholicism which, in
the public mind of Northern Europe, was associated with spoliation and
oppression, was in the public mind of Spain associated with liberty,
victory, dominion, wealth, and glory.

It is not, therefore, strange that the effect of the great outbreak of
Protestantism in one part of Christendom should have been to produce an
equally violent outbreak of Catholic zeal in another. Two reformations
were pushed on at once with equal energy and effect, a reformation of
doctrine in the North, a reformation of manners and discipline in the
South. In the course of a single generation, the whole spirit of the
Church of Rome underwent a change. From the halls of the Vatican to the
most secluded hermitage of the Apennines, the great revival was
everywhere felt and seen. All the institutions anciently devised for the
propagation and defence of the faith were furbished up and made
efficient. Fresh engines of still more formidable power were
constructed. Everywhere old religious communities were remodelled and
new religious communities called into existence. Within a year after the
death of Leo, the order of Camaldoli was purified. The Capuchins
restored the old Franciscan discipline, the midnight prayer and the life
of silence. The Barnabites and the society of Somasca devoted themselves
to the relief and education of the poor. To the Theatine order a still
higher interest belongs. Its great object was the same with that of our
early Methodists, namely, to supply the deficiencies of the parochial
clergy. The Church of Rome, wiser than the Church of England, gave every
countenance to the good work. The members of the new brotherhood
preached to great multitudes in the streets and in the fields, prayed by
the beds of the sick, and administered the last sacraments to the dying.
Foremost among them in zeal and devotion was Gian Pietro Caraffa,
afterwards Pope Paul the Fourth. In the convent of the Theatines at
Venice, under the eye of Caraffa, a Spanish gentleman took up his abode,
tended the poor in the hospitals, went about in rags, starved himself
almost to death, and often sallied into the streets, mounted on stones,
and, waving his hat to invite the passers-by, began to preach in a
strange jargon of mingled Castilian and Tuscan. The Theatines were among
the most zealous and rigid of men; but to this enthusiastic neophyte
their discipline seemed lax, and their movements sluggish; for his own
mind, naturally passionate and imaginative, had passed through a
training which had given to all its peculiarities a morbid intensity and
energy. In his early life he had been the very prototype of the hero of
Cervantes. The single study of the young Hidalgo had been chivalrous
romance; and his existence had been one gorgeous day-dream of princesses
rescued and infidels subdued. He had chosen a Dulcinea, "no countess, no
duchess,"--these are his own words,--"but one of far higher station;"
and he flattered himself with the hope of laying at her feet the keys of
Moorish castles and the jewelled turbans of Asiatic kings. In the midst
of these visions of martial glory and prosperous love, a severe wound
stretched him on a bed of sickness. His constitution was shattered and
he was doomed to be a cripple for life. The palm of strength, grace, and
skill in knightly exercises was no longer for him. He could no longer
hope to strike down gigantic soldans, or to find favor in the sight of
beautiful women. A new vision then arose in his mind, and mingled itself
with his old delusions in a manner which to most Englishmen must seem
singular, but which those who know how close was the union between
religion and chivalry in Spain will be at no loss to understand. He
would still be a soldier, he would still be a knight errant; but the
soldier and knight errant of the spouse of Christ. He would smite the
Great Red Dragon. He would be the champion of the Woman clothed with the
Sun. He would break the charm under which false prophets held the souls
of men in bondage. His restless spirit led him to the Syrian deserts,
and to the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. Thence he wandered back to the
farthest West, and astonished the convents of Spain and the schools of
France by his penances and vigils. The same lively imagination which had
been employed in picturing the tumult of unreal battles, and the charms
of unreal queens, now peopled his solitude with saints and angels. The
Holy Virgin descended to commune with him. He saw the Saviour face to
face with the eye of flesh. Even those mysteries of religion which are
the hardest trial of faith were in his case palpable to sight. It is
difficult to relate without a pitying smile that, in the sacrifice of
the mass, he saw transubstantiation take place, and that, as he stood
praying on the steps of the Church of St. Dominic, he saw the Trinity in
Unity, and wept aloud with joy and wonder. Such was the celebrated
Ignatius Loyola, who, in the great Catholic reaction, bore the same
part which Luther bore in the great Protestant movement.

Dissatisfied with the system of the Theatines, the enthusiastic Spaniard
turned his face towards Rome. Poor, obscure, without a patron, without
recommendations, he entered the city where now two princely temples,
rich with painting and many-colored marble, commemorate his great
services to the Church; where his form stands sculptured in massive
silver; where his bones, enshrined amidst jewels, are placed beneath the
altar of God. His activity and zeal bore down all opposition; and under
his rule the Order of Jesuits began to exist, and grew rapidly to the
full measure of his gigantic powers. With what vehemence, with what
policy, with what exact discipline, with what dauntless courage, with
what self-denial, with what forgetfulness of the dearest private ties,
with what intense and stubborn devotion to a single end, with what
unscrupulous laxity and versatility in the choice of means, the Jesuits
fought the battle of their Church, is written in every page of the
annals of Europe during several generations. In the Order of Jesus was
concentrated the quintessence of the Catholic spirit; and the history of
the Order of Jesus is the history of the great Catholic reaction. That
order possessed itself at once of all the strongholds which command the
public mind, of the pulpit, of the press, of the confessional, of the
academies. Wherever the Jesuit preached, the church was too small for
the audience. The name of Jesuit on a title-page secured the circulation
of a book. It was in the ears of the Jesuit that the powerful, the
noble, and the beautiful, breathed the secret history of their lives. It
was at the feet of the Jesuit that the youth of the higher and middle
classes were brought up from childhood to manhood, from the first
rudiments to the courses of rhetoric and philosophy. Literature and
science, lately associated with infidelity or with heresy, now became
the allies of orthodoxy. Dominant in the south of Europe, the great
order soon went forth conquering and to conquer. In spite of oceans and
deserts, of hunger and pestilence, of spies and penal laws, of dungeons
and racks, of gibbets and quartering blocks, Jesuits were to be found
under every disguise, and in every country; scholars, physicians,
merchants, serving-men; in the hostile court of Sweden, in the old manor
houses of Cheshire, among the hovels of Connaught; arguing, instructing,
consoling, stealing away the hearts of the young, animating the courage
of the timid, holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying. Nor
was it less their office to plot against the thrones and lives of
apostate kings, to spread evil rumors, to raise tumults, to inflame
civil wars, to arm the hand of the assassin. Inflexible in nothing but
in their fidelity to the Church, they were equally ready to appeal in
her cause to the spirit of loyalty and to the spirit of freedom. Extreme
doctrines of obedience and extreme doctrines of liberty, the right of
rulers to misgovern the people, the right of every one of the people to
plunge his knife in the heart of a bad ruler, were inculcated by the
same man, according as he addressed himself to the subject of Philip or
to the subject of Elizabeth. Some described these divines as the most
rigid, others as the most indulgent of spiritual directors; and both
descriptions were correct. The truly devout listened with awe to the
high and saintly morality of the Jesuit. The gay cavalier who had run
his rival through the body, the frail beauty who had forgotten her
marriage-vow, found in the Jesuit an easy, well-bred man of the world,
who knew how to make allowance for the little irregularities of people
of fashion. The confessor was strict or lax, according to the temper of
the penitent. The first object was to drive no person out of the pale of
the Church. Since there were bad people, it was better that they should
be bad Catholics than bad Protestants. If a person was so unfortunate as
to be a bravo, a libertine, or a gambler, that was no reason for making
him a heretic too.

The Old World was not wide enough for this strange activity. The Jesuits
invaded all the countries which the great maritime discoveries of the
preceding age had laid open to European enterprise. They were to be
found in the depths of the Peruvian mines, at the marts of the African
slave-caravans, on the shores of the Spice Islands, in the observatories
of China. They made converts in regions which neither avarice nor
curiosity had tempted any of their countrymen to enter; and preached and
disputed in tongues of which no other native of the West understood a

The spirit which appeared so eminently in this order animated the whole
Catholic world. The Court of Rome itself was purified. During the
generation which preceded the Reformation, that court had been a scandal
to the Christian name. Its annals are black with treason, murder, and
incest. Even its more respectable members were utterly unfit to be
ministers of religion. They were men like Leo the Tenth; men who, with
the Latinity of the Augustan age, had acquired its atheistical and
scoffing spirit. They regarded those Christian mysteries, of which they
were stewards, just as the Augur Cicero and the High Pontiff Cæsar
regarded the Sibylline books and the pecking of the sacred chickens.
Among themselves, they spoke of the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and the
Trinity, in the same tone in which Cotta and Velleius talked of the
oracle of Delphi or of the voice of Faunus in the mountains. Their years
glided by in a soft dream of sensual and intellectual voluptuousness.
Choice cookery, delicious wines, lovely women, hounds, falcons, horses,
newly discovered manuscripts of the classics, sonnets and burlesque
romances in the sweetest Tuscan, just as licentious as a fine sense of
the graceful would permit, plate from the hand of Benvenuto, designs for
palaces by Michael Angelo, frescoes by Raphael, busts, mosaics, and gems
just dug up from among the ruins of ancient temples and villas, these
things were the delight and even the serious business of their lives.
Letters and the fine arts undoubtedly owe much to this not inelegant
sloth. But when the great stirring of the mind of Europe began, when
doctrine after doctrine was assailed, when nation after nation withdrew
from communion with the successor of St. Peter, it was felt that the
Church could not be safely confided to chiefs whose highest praise was
that they were good judges of Latin compositions, of paintings, and of
statues, whose severest studies had a Pagan character, and who were
suspected of laughing in secret at the sacraments which they
administered, and of believing no more of the Gospel than of the
Morgante Maggiore. Men of a very different class now rose to the
direction of ecclesiastical affairs, men whose spirit resembled that of
Dunstan and of Becket. The Roman Pontiffs exhibited in their own persons
all the austerity of the early anchorites of Syria. Paul the Fourth
brought to the papal throne the same fervent zeal which had carried him
into the Theatine convent. Pius the Fifth, under his gorgeous vestments,
wore day and night the hair shirt of a simple friar, walked barefoot in
the streets at the head of processions, found, even in the midst of his
most pressing avocations, time for private prayer, often regretted that
the public duties of his station were unfavorable to growth in holiness,
and edified his flock by innumerable instances of humility, charity, and
forgiveness of personal injuries, while, at the same time, he upheld the
authority of his see, and the unadulterated doctrines of his Church,
with all the stubbornness and vehemence of Hildebrand. Gregory the
Thirteenth exerted himself not only to imitate but to surpass Pius in
the severe virtues of his sacred profession. As was the head, such were
the members. The change in the spirit of the Catholic world may be
traced in every walk of literature and of art. It will be at once
perceived by every person who compares the poem of Tasso with that of
Ariosto, or the monuments of Sixtus the Fifth with those of Leo the

But it was not on moral influence alone that the Catholic Church relied.
The civil sword in Spain and Italy was unsparingly employed in her
support. The Inquisition was armed with new powers and inspired with a
new energy. If Protestantism, or the semblance of Protestantism, showed
itself in any quarter, it was instantly met, not by petty, teasing
persecution, but by persecution of that sort which bows down and crushes
all but a very few select spirits. Whoever was suspected of heresy,
whatever his rank, his learning, or his reputation, knew that he must
purge himself to the satisfaction of a severe and vigilant tribunal, or
die by fire. Heretical books were sought out and destroyed with similar
rigor. Works which were once in every house were so effectually
suppressed that no copy of them is now to be found in the most extensive
libraries. One book in particular, entitled Of the Benefits of the Death
of Christ, had this fate. It was written in Tuscan, was many times
reprinted, and was eagerly read in every part of Italy. But the
inquisitors detected in it the Lutheran doctrine of justification by
faith alone. They proscribed it; and it is now as hopelessly lost as the
second decade of Livy.

Thus, while the Protestant reformation proceeded rapidly at one
extremity of Europe, the Catholic revival went on as rapidly at the
other. About half a century after the great separation, there were
throughout the North Protestant governments and Protestant nations. In
the South were governments and nations actuated by the most intense zeal
for the ancient church. Between these two hostile regions lay, morally
as well as geographically, a great debatable land. In France, Belgium,
Southern Germany, Hungary, and Poland, the contest was still undecided.
The governments of those countries had not renounced their connection
with Rome; but the Protestants were numerous, powerful, bold, and
active. In France, they formed a commonwealth within the realm, held
fortresses, were able to bring great armies into the field, and had
treated with their sovereign on terms of equality. In Poland, the King
was still a Catholic; but the Protestants had the upper hand in the
Diet, filled the chief offices in the administration, and, in the large
towns, took possession of the parish churches. "It appeared," says the
papal nuncio, "that in Poland, Protestantism would completely supersede
Catholicism." In Bavaria, the state of things was nearly the same. The
Protestants had a majority in the Assembly of the States, and demanded
from the duke concessions in favor of their religion, as the price of
their subsidies. In Transylvania, the House of Austria was unable to
prevent the Diet from confiscating, by one sweeping decree, the estates
of the Church. In Austria proper it was generally said that only one
thirtieth part of the population could be counted on as good Catholics.
In Belgium the adherents of the new opinions were reckoned by hundreds
of thousands.

The history of the two succeeding generations is the history of the
struggle between Protestantism possessed of the North of Europe, and
Catholicism possessed of the South, for the doubtful territory which lay
between. All the weapons of carnal and of spiritual warfare were
employed. Both sides may boast of great talents and of great virtues.
Both have to blush for many follies and crimes. At first, the chances
seemed to be decidedly in favor of Protestantism; but the victory
remained with the Church of Rome. On every point she was successful. If
we overleap another half century, we find her victorious and dominant in
France, Belgium, Bavaria, Bohemia, Austria, Poland, and Hungary. Nor has
Protestantism, in the course of two hundred years, been able to
reconquer any portion of what was then lost.

It is, moreover, not to be dissembled that this triumph of the Papacy is
to be chiefly attributed, not to the force of arms, but to a great
reflux in public opinion. During the first half century after the
commencement of the Reformation, the current of feeling, in the
countries on this side of the Alps and of the Pyrenees, ran impetuously
towards the new doctrines. Then the tide turned, and rushed as fiercely
in the opposite direction. Neither during the one period, nor during the
other, did much depend upon the event of battles or sieges. The
Protestant movement was hardly checked for an instant by the defeat at
Muhlberg. The Catholic reaction went on at full speed in spite of the
destruction of the Armada. It is difficult to say whether the violence
of the first blow or of the recoil was the greater. Fifty years after
the Lutheran separation, Catholicism could scarcely maintain itself on
the shores of the Mediterranean. A hundred years after the separation,
Protestantism could scarcely maintain itself on the shores of the
Baltic. The causes of this memorable turn in human affairs well deserve
to be investigated.

The contest between the two parties bore some resemblance to the
fencing-match in Shakespeare: "Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in
scuffling, they change rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes." The war
between Luther and Leo was a war between firm faith and unbelief,
between zeal and apathy, between energy and indolence, between
seriousness and frivolity, between a pure morality and vice. Very
different was the war which degenerate Protestantism had to wage against
regenerate Catholicism. To the debauchees, the poisoners, the atheists,
who had worn the tiara during the generation which preceded the
Reformation, had succeeded Popes who, in religious fervor and severe
sanctity of manners, might bear a comparison with Cyprian or Ambrose.
The Order of Jesuits alone could show many men not inferior in
sincerity, constancy, courage, and austerity of life, to the Apostles of
the Reformation. But, while danger had thus called forth in the bosom of
the Church of Rome many of the highest qualities of the Reformers, the
Reformers had contracted some of the corruptions which had been justly
censured in the Church of Rome. They had become lukewarm and worldly.
Their great old leaders had been borne to the grave, and had left no
successors. Among the Protestant princes there was little or no hearty
Protestant feeling. Elizabeth herself was a Protestant rather from
policy than from firm conviction. James the First, in order to effect
his favorite object of marrying his son into one of the great
Continental houses, was ready to make immense concessions to Rome, and
even to admit a modified primacy in the Pope. Henry the Fourth twice
abjured the reformed doctrines from interested motives. The Elector of
Saxony, the natural head of the Protestant party in Germany, submitted
to become, at the most important crisis of the struggle, a tool in the
hands of the Papists. Among the Catholic sovereigns, on the other hand,
we find a religious zeal often amounting to fanaticism. Philip the
Second was a Papist in a very different sense from that in which
Elizabeth was a Protestant. Maximilian of Bavaria, brought up under the
teaching of the Jesuits, was a fervent missionary wielding the powers of
a prince. The Emperor Ferdinand the Second deliberately put his throne
to hazard over and over again, rather than make the smallest concession
to the spirit of religious innovation. Sigismund of Sweden lost a crown
which he might have preserved if he would have renounced the Catholic
faith. In short, everywhere on the Protestant side we see languor;
everywhere on the Catholic side we see ardor and devotion.

Not only was there, at this time, a much more intense zeal among the
Catholics than among the Protestants; but the whole zeal of the
Catholics was directed against the Protestants, while almost the whole
zeal of the Protestants was directed against each other. Within the
Catholic Church there were no serious disputes on points of doctrine.
The decisions of the Council of Trent were received; and the Jansenian
controversy had not yet arisen. The whole force of Rome was, therefore,
effective for the purpose of carrying on the war against the
Reformation. On the other hand, the force which ought to have fought the
battle of the Reformation was exhausted in civil conflict. While Jesuit
preachers, Jesuit confessors, Jesuit teachers of youth, overspread
Europe, eager to expend every faculty of their minds and every drop of
their blood in the cause of their Church, Protestant doctors were
confuting, and Protestant rulers were punishing, sectaries who were just
as good Protestants as themselves:--

    "Cumque superba foret Babylon spolianda tropæis,
    Bella geri placuit nullos habitura triumphos."

In the Palatinate, a Calvinistic prince persecuted the Lutherans. In
Saxony, a Lutheran prince persecuted the Calvinists. Everybody who
objected to any of the articles of the Confession of Augsburg was
banished from Sweden. In Scotland, Melville was disputing with other
Protestants on questions of ecclesiastical government. In England, the
jails were filled with men who, though zealous for the Reformation, did
not exactly agree with the Court on all points of discipline and
doctrine. Some were persecuted for denying the tenet of reprobation;
some for not wearing surplices. The Irish people might at that time have
been, in all probability, reclaimed from Popery, at the expense of half
the zeal and activity which Whitgift employed in oppressing Puritans,
and Martin Marprelate in reviling bishops.

As the Catholics in zeal and in union had a great advantage over the
Protestants, so had they also an infinitely superior organization. In
truth Protestantism, for aggressive purposes, had no organization at
all. The Reformed Churches were mere national Churches. The Church of
England existed for England alone. It was an institution as purely local
as the Court of Common Pleas, and was utterly without any machinery for
foreign operations. The Church of Scotland, in the same manner, existed
for Scotland alone. The operations of the Catholic Church, on the other
hand, took in the whole world. Nobody at Lambeth or at Edinburgh
troubled himself about what was doing in Poland or Bavaria. But Cracow
and Munich were at Rome objects of as much interest as the purlieus of
St. John Lateran. Our island, the head of the Protestant interest, did
not send out a single missionary or a single instructor of youth to the
scene of the great spiritual war. Not a single seminary was established
here for the purpose of furnishing a supply of such persons to foreign
countries. On the other hand, Germany, Hungary, and Poland were filled
with able and active Catholic emissaries of Spanish or Italian birth;
and colleges for the instruction of the northern youth were founded at
Rome. The spiritual force of Protestantism was a mere local militia,
which might be useful in case of an invasion, but could not be sent
abroad, and could therefore make no conquests. Rome had such a local
militia; but she had also a force disposable at a moment's notice for
foreign service, however dangerous or disagreeable. If it was thought at
headquarters that a Jesuit at Palermo was qualified by his talents and
character to withstand the Reformers in Lithuania, the order was
instantly given and instantly obeyed. In a month, the faithful servant
of the Church was preaching, catechising, confessing, beyond the Niemen.

It is impossible to deny that the polity of the Church of Rome is the
very masterpiece of human wisdom. In truth, nothing but such a polity
could, against such assaults, have borne up such doctrines. The
experience of twelve hundred eventful years, the ingenuity and patient
care of forty generations of statesmen, have improved that polity to
such perfection that, among the contrivances which have been devised for
deceiving and oppressing mankind, it occupies the highest place. The
stronger our conviction that reason and Scripture were decidedly on the
side of Protestantism, the greater is the reluctant admiration with
which we regard that system of tactics against which reason and
Scripture were employed in vain.

If we went at large into this most interesting subject we should fill
volumes. We will, therefore, at present, advert to only one important
part of the policy of the Church of Rome. She thoroughly understands,
what no other church has ever understood, how to deal with enthusiasts.
In some sects, particularly in infant sects, enthusiasm is suffered to
be rampant. In other sects, particularly in sects long established and
richly endowed, it is regarded with aversion. The Catholic Church
neither submits to enthusiasm nor proscribes it, but uses it. She
considers it as a great moving force which in itself, like the muscular
powers of a fine horse, is neither good nor evil, but which may be so
directed as to produce great good or great evil; and she assumes the
direction to herself. It would be absurd to run down a horse like a
wolf. It would be still more absurd to let him run wild, breaking fences
and trampling down passengers. The rational course is to subjugate his
will without impairing his vigor, to teach him to obey the rein, and
then to urge him to full speed. When once he knows his master, he is
valuable in proportion to his strength and spirit. Just such has been
the system of the Church of Rome with regard to enthusiasts. She knows
that, when religious feelings have obtained the complete empire of the
mind, they impart a strange energy, that they raise men above the
dominion of pain and pleasure, that obloquy becomes glory, that death
itself is contemplated only as the beginning of a higher and happier
life. She knows that a person in this state is no object of contempt. He
may be vulgar, ignorant, visionary, extravagant; but he will do and
suffer things which it is for her interest that somebody should do and
suffer, yet from which calm and sober-minded men would shrink. She
accordingly enlists him in her service, assigns to him some forlorn
hope, in which intrepidity and impetuosity are more wanted than judgment
and self-command, and sends him forth with her benedictions and her

In England it not unfrequently happens that a tinker or coal heaver
hears a sermon or falls in with a tract which alarms him about the state
of his soul. If he be a man of excitable nerves and strong imagination,
he thinks himself given over to the Evil Power. He doubts whether he has
not committed the unpardonable sin. He imputes every wild fancy that
springs up in his mind to the whisper of a fiend. His sleep is broken by
dreams of the great judgment-seat, the open books, and the unquenchable
fire. If, in order to escape from these vexing thoughts, he flies to
amusement or to licentious indulgence, the delusive relief only makes
his misery darker and more hopeless. At length a turn takes place. He is
reconciled to his offended Maker. To borrow the fine imagery of one who
had himself been thus tried, he emerges from the Valley of the Shadow of
Death, from the dark land of gins and snares, of quagmires and
precipices, of evil spirits and ravenous beasts. The sunshine is on his
path. He ascends the Delectable Mountains, and catches from their summit
a distant view of the shining city which is the end of his pilgrimage.
Then arises in his mind a natural and surely not a censurable desire, to
impart to others the thoughts of which his own heart is full, to warn
the careless, to comfort those who are troubled in spirit. The impulse
which urges him to devote his whole life to the teaching of religion is
a strong passion in the guise of a duty. He exhorts his neighbors; and,
if he be a man of strong parts, he often does so with great effect. He
pleads as if he were pleading for his life, with tears, and pathetic
gestures, and burning words; and he soon finds with delight, not perhaps
wholly unmixed with the alloy of human infirmity, that his rude
eloquence rouses and melts hearers who sleep very composedly while the
rector preaches on the apostolical succession. Zeal for God, love for
his fellow creatures, pleasure in the exercise of his newly discovered
powers, impel him to become a preacher. He has no quarrel with the
establishment, no objection to its formularies, its government, or its
vestments. He would gladly be admitted among its humblest ministers.
But, admitted or rejected, he feels that his vocation is determined. His
orders have come down to him, not through a long and doubtful series of
Arian and popish bishops, but direct from on high. His commission is the
same that on the Mountain of Ascension was given to the Eleven. Nor will
he, for lack of human credentials, spare to deliver the glorious message
with which he is charged by the true Head of the Church. For a man thus
minded, there is within the pale of the establishment no place. He has
been at no college; he cannot construe a Greek author or write a Latin
theme; and he is told that, if he remains in the communion of the
Church, he must do so as a hearer, and that, if he is resolved to be a
teacher, he must begin by being a schismatic. His choice is soon made.
He harangues on Tower Hill or in Smithfield. A congregation is formed. A
license is obtained. A plain brick building, with a desk and benches, is
run up, and named Ebenezer or Bethel. In a few weeks the Church has lost
forever a hundred families, not one of which entertained the least
scruple about her articles, her liturgy, her government, or her

Far different is the policy of Rome. The ignorant enthusiast whom the
Anglican Church makes an enemy, and, whatever the polite and learned may
think, a most dangerous enemy, the Catholic Church makes a champion. She
bids him nurse his beard, covers him with a gown and hood of coarse dark
stuff, ties a rope round his waist, and sends him forth to teach in her
name. He costs her nothing. He takes not a ducat away from the revenues
of her beneficed clergy. He lives by the alms of those who respect his
spiritual character, and are grateful for his instructions. He preaches,
not exactly in the style of Massillon, but in a way which moves the
passions of uneducated hearers; and all his influence is employed to
strengthen the Church of which he is a minister. To that Church he
becomes as strongly attached as any of the cardinals whose scarlet
carriages and liveries crowd the entrance of the palace on the Quirinal.
In this way the Church of Rome unites in herself all the strength of
establishment, and all the strength of dissent. With the utmost pomp of
a dominant hierarchy above, she has all the energy of the voluntary
system below. It would be easy to mention very recent instances in which
the hearts of hundreds of thousands, estranged from her by the
selfishness, sloth, and cowardice of the beneficed clergy, have been
brought back by the zeal of the begging friars.

Even for female agency there is a place in her system. To devout women
she assigns spiritual functions, dignities, and magistracies. In our
country, if a noble lady is moved by more than ordinary zeal for the
propagation of religion, the chance is that, though she may disapprove
of no doctrine or ceremony of the Established Church, she will end by
giving her name to a new schism. If a pious and benevolent woman enters
the cells of a prison to pray with the most unhappy and degraded of her
own sex, she does so without any authority from the Church. No line of
action is traced out for her, and it is well if the Ordinary does not
complain of her intrusion, and if the Bishop does not shake his head at
such irregular benevolence. At Rome, the Countess of Huntingdon would
have a place in the calendar as St. Selina, and Mrs. Fry would be
foundress and first Superior of the Blessed Order of Sisters of the

Place Ignatius Loyola at Oxford. He is certain to become the head of a
formidable secession. Place John Wesley at Rome. He is certain to be the
first General of a new society devoted to the interests and honor of the
Church. Place St. Theresa in London. Her restless enthusiasm ferments
into madness, not untinctured with craft. She becomes the prophetess,
the mother of the faithful, holds disputations with the devil, issues
sealed pardons to her adorers, and lies in of the Shiloh. Place Joanna
Southcote at Rome. She founds an order of barefooted Carmelites, every
one of whom is ready to suffer martyrdom for the Church: a solemn
service is consecrated to her memory; and her statue, placed over the
holy water, strikes the eye of every stranger who enters St. Peter's.

We have dwelt long on this subject, because we believe that, of the many
causes to which the Church of Rome owed her safety and her triumph at
the close of the sixteenth century, the chief was the profound policy
with which she used the fanaticism of such persons as St. Ignatius and
St. Theresa.

The Protestant party was now indeed vanquished and humbled. In France,
so strong had been the Catholic reaction that Henry the Fourth found it
necessary to choose between his religion and his crown. In spite of his
clear hereditary right, in spite of his eminent personal qualities, he
saw that, unless he reconciled himself to the Church of Rome, he could
not count on the fidelity even of those gallant gentlemen whose
impetuous valor had turned the tide of battle at Ivry. In Belgium,
Poland, and Southern Germany, Catholicism had obtained complete
ascendency. The resistance of Bohemia was put down. The Palatinate was
conquered. Upper and Lower Saxony were overflowed by Catholic invaders.
The King of Denmark stood forth as the Protector of the Reformed
Churches: he was defeated, driven out of the empire, and attacked in his
own possessions. The armies of the House of Austria pressed on,
subjugated Pomerania, and were stopped in their progress only by the
ramparts of Stralsund.

And now again the tide turned. Two violent outbreaks of religious
feeling in opposite directions had given a character to the history of a
whole century. Protestantism had at first driven back Catholicism to the
Alps and the Pyrenees. Catholicism had rallied, and had driven back
Protestantism even to the German Ocean. Then the great southern reaction
began to slacken, as the great northern movement had slackened before.
The zeal of the Catholics waxed cool. Their union was dissolved. The
paroxysm of religious excitement was over on both sides. One party had
degenerated as far from the spirit of Loyola as the other from the
spirit of Luther. During three generations religion had been the
mainspring of politics. The revolutions and civil wars of France,
Scotland, Holland, Sweden, the long struggle between Philip and
Elizabeth, the bloody competition for the Bohemian crown, had all
originated in theological disputes. But a great change now took place.
The contest which was raging in Germany lost its religious character. It
was now, on one side, less a contest for the spiritual ascendency of the
Church of Rome than for the temporal ascendency of the House of Austria.
On the other side, it was less a contest for the reformed doctrines than
for national independence. Governments began to form themselves into new
combinations, in which community of political interest was far more
regarded than community of religious belief. Even at Rome the progress
of the Catholic arms was observed with mixed feelings. The Supreme
Pontiff was a sovereign prince of the second rank, and was anxious about
the balance of power as well as about the propagation of truth. It was
known that he dreaded the rise of a universal monarchy even more than he
desired the prosperity of the Universal Church. At length a great event
announced to the world that the war of sects had ceased, and that the
war of states had succeeded. A coalition, including Calvinists,
Lutherans, and Catholics, was formed against the House of Austria. At
the head of that coalition were the first statesman and the first
warrior of the age; the former a prince of the Catholic Church,
distinguished by the vigor and success with which he had put down the
Huguenots; the latter a Protestant king who owed his throne to a
revolution caused by hatred of Popery. The alliance of Richelieu and
Gustavus marks the time at which the great religious struggle
terminated. The war which followed was a war for the equilibrium of
Europe. When, at length, the peace of Westphalia was concluded, it
appeared that the Church of Rome remained in full possession of a vast
dominion which in the middle of the preceding century she seemed to be
on the point of losing. No part of Europe remained Protestant, except
that part which had become thoroughly Protestant before the generation
which heard Luther preach had passed away.

Since that time there has been no religious war between Catholics and
Protestants as such. In the time of Cromwell, Protestant England was
united with Catholic France, then governed by a priest, against Catholic
Spain. William the Third, the eminently Protestant hero, was at the head
of a coalition which included many Catholic powers, and which was
secretly favored even by Rome, against the Catholic Lewis. In the time
of Anne, Protestant England and Protestant Holland joined with Catholic
Savoy and Catholic Portugal, for the purpose of transferring the crown
of Spain from one bigoted Catholic to another.

The geographical frontier between the two religions has continued to run
almost precisely where it ran at the close of the Thirty Years' War; nor
has Protestantism given any proofs of that "expansive power" which has
been ascribed to it. But the Protestant boasts, and boasts most justly,
that wealth, civilization, and intelligence have increased far more on
the northern than on the southern side of the boundary, and that
countries so little favored by nature as Scotland and Prussia are now
among the most flourishing and best governed portions of the world,
while the marble palaces of Genoa are deserted, while banditti infest
the beautiful shores of Campania, while the fertile seacoast of the
Pontifical State is abandoned to buffaloes and wild boars. It cannot be
doubted that, since the sixteenth century, the Protestant nations have
made decidedly greater progress than their neighbors. The progress made
by those nations in which Protestantism, though not finally successful,
yet maintained a long struggle, and left permanent traces, has generally
been considerable. But when we come to the Catholic Land, to the part of
Europe in which the first spark of reformation was trodden out as soon
as it appeared, and from which proceeded the impulse which drove
Protestantism back, we find, at best, a very slow progress, and on the
whole a retrogression. Compare Denmark and Portugal. When Luther began
to preach, the superiority of the Portuguese was unquestionable. At
present, the superiority of the Danes is no less so. Compare Edinburgh
and Florence. Edinburgh has owed less to climate, to soil, and to the
fostering care of rulers than any capital, Protestant or Catholic. In
all these respects, Florence has been singularly happy. Yet whoever
knows what Florence and Edinburgh were in the generation preceding the
Reformation, and what they are now, will acknowledge that some great
cause has, during the last three centuries, operated to raise one part
of the European family, and to depress the other. Compare the history of
England and that of Spain during the last century. In arms, arts,
sciences, letters, commerce, agriculture, the contrast is most striking.
The distinction is not confined to this side of the Atlantic. The
colonies planted by England in America have immeasurably outgrown in
power those planted by Spain. Yet we have no reason to believe that, at
the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Castilian was in any
respect inferior to the Englishman. Our firm belief is, that the North
owes its great civilization and prosperity chiefly to the moral effect
of the Protestant Reformation, and that the decay of the Southern
countries of Europe is to be mainly ascribed to the great Catholic

About a hundred years after the final settlement of the boundary line
between Protestantism and Catholicism, began to appear the signs of the
fourth great peril of the Church of Rome. The storm which was now rising
against her was of a very different kind from those which had preceded
it. Those who had formerly attacked her had questioned only a part of
her doctrines. A school was now growing up which rejected the whole. The
Albigenses, the Lollards, the Lutherans, the Calvinists, had a positive
religious system, and were strongly attached to it. The creed of the new
sectaries was altogether negative. They took one of their premises from
the Protestants, and one from the Catholics. From the latter they
borrowed the principle, that Catholicism was the only pure and genuine
Christianity. With the former, they held that some parts of the Catholic
system were contrary to reason. The conclusion was obvious. Two
propositions, each of which separately is compatible with the most
exalted piety, formed, when held in conjunction, the groundwork of a
system of irreligion. The doctrine of Bossuet, that transubstantiation
is affirmed in the Gospel, and the doctrine of Tillotson, that
transubstantiation is an absurdity, when put together, produced by
logical necessity the inferences of Voltaire.

Had the sect which was rising at Paris been a sect of mere scoffers, it
is very improbable that it would have left deep traces of its existence
in the institutions and manners of Europe. Mere negation, mere Epicurean
infidelity, as Lord Bacon most justly observes, has never disturbed the
peace of the world. It furnishes no motive for action. It inspires no
enthusiasm. It has no missionaries, no crusaders, no martyrs. If the
Patriarch of the Holy Philosophical Church had contented himself with
making jokes about Saul's asses and David's wives, and with criticising
the poetry of Ezekiel in the same narrow spirit in which he criticised
that of Shakespeare, Rome would have had little to fear. But it is due
to him and to his compeers to say that the real secret of their strength
lay in the truth which was mingled with their errors, and in the
generous enthusiasm which was hidden under their flippancy. They were
men who, with all their faults, moral and intellectual, sincerely and
earnestly desired the improvement of the condition of the human race,
whose blood boiled at the sight of cruelty and injustice, who made
manful war, with every faculty which they possessed, on what they
considered as abuses, and who on many signal occasions placed themselves
gallantly between the powerful and the oppressed. While they assailed
Christianity with a rancor and unfairness disgraceful to men who called
themselves philosophers, they yet had, in far greater measure than their
opponents, that charity towards men of all classes and races which
Christianity enjoins. Religious persecution, judicial torture, arbitrary
imprisonment, the unnecessary multiplication of capital punishments, the
delay and chicanery of tribunals, the exactions of farmers of the
revenue, slavery, the slave trade, were the constant subjects of their
lively satire and eloquent disquisitions. When an innocent man was
broken on the wheel at Toulouse, when a youth, guilty only of an
indiscretion, was beheaded at Abbeville, when a brave officer, borne
down by public injustice, was dragged, with a gag in his mouth, to die
on the Place de Grêve, a voice instantly went forth from the banks of
Lake Leman, which made itself heard from Moscow to Cadiz, and which
sentenced the unjust judges to the contempt and detestation of all
Europe. The really efficient weapons with which the philosophers
assailed the evangelical faith were borrowed from the evangelical
morality. The ethical and dogmatical parts of the Gospel were unhappily
turned against each other. On one side was a church boasting of the
purity of a doctrine derived from the Apostles, but disgraced by the
massacre of St. Bartholomew, by the murder of the best of kings, by the
war of Cevennes, by the destruction of Port Royal. On the other side was
a sect laughing at the Scriptures, shooting out the tongue at the
sacraments, but ready to encounter principalities and powers in the
cause of justice, mercy, and toleration.

Irreligion, accidentally associated with philanthropy, triumphed for a
time over religion accidentally associated with political and social
abuses. Everything gave way to the zeal and activity of the new
reformers. In France, every man distinguished in letters was found in
their ranks. Every year gave birth to works in which the fundamental
principles of the Church were attacked with argument, invective, and
ridicule. The Church made no defence, except by acts of power. Censures
were pronounced; books were seized; insults were offered to the remains
of infidel writers; but no Bossuet, no Pascal, came forth to encounter
Voltaire. There appeared not a single defence of the Catholic doctrine
which produced any considerable effect, or which is now even remembered.
A bloody and unsparing persecution, like that which put down the
Albigenses, might have put down the philosophers. But the time for De
Montforts and Dominics had gone by. The punishments which the priests
were still able to inflict were sufficient to irritate, but not
sufficient to destroy. The war was between power on one side and wit on
the other; and the power was under far more restraint than the wit.
Orthodoxy soon became a synonym for ignorance and stupidity. It was as
necessary to the character of an accomplished man that he should despise
the religion of his country, as that he should know his letters. The new
doctrines spread rapidly through Christendom. Paris was the capital of
the whole Continent. French was everywhere the language of polite
circles. The literary glory of Italy and Spain had departed. That of
Germany had not dawned. That of England shone, as yet, for the English
alone. The teachers of France were the teachers of Europe. The Parisian
opinions spread fast among the educated classes beyond the Alps; nor
could the vigilance of the Inquisition prevent the contraband
importation of the new heresy into Castile and Portugal. Governments,
even arbitrary governments, saw with pleasure the progress of this
philosophy. Numerous reforms, generally laudable, sometimes hurried on
without sufficient regard to time, to place, and to public feeling,
showed the extent of its influence. The rulers of Prussia, of Russia, of
Austria, and of many smaller states, were supposed to be among the

The Church of Rome was still, in outward show, as stately and splendid
as ever; but her foundation was undermined. No state had quitted her
communion or confiscated her revenues, but the reverence of the people
was everywhere departing from her.

The first great warning stroke was the fall of that society which, in
the conflict with Protestantism, had saved the Catholic Church from
destruction. The Order of Jesus had never recovered from the injury
received in the struggle with Port Royal. It was now still more rudely
assailed by the philosophers. Its spirit was broken; its reputation was
tainted. Insulted by all the men of genius in Europe, condemned by the
civil magistrate, feebly defended by the chiefs of the hierarchy, it
fell: and great was the fall of it.

The movement went on with increasing speed. The first generation of the
new sect passed away. The doctrines of Voltaire were inherited and
exaggerated by successors who bore to him the same relation which the
Anabaptists bore to Luther, or the Fifth Monarchy men to Pym. At length
the Revolution came. Down went the old Church of France, with all its
pomp and wealth. Some of its priests purchased a maintenance by
separating themselves from Rome, and by becoming the authors of a fresh
schism. Some, rejoicing in the new license, flung away their sacred
vestments, proclaimed that their whole life had been an imposture,
insulted and persecuted the religion of which they had been ministers,
and distinguished themselves, even in the Jacobin Club and the Commune
of Paris, by the excess of their impudence and ferocity. Others, more
faithful to their principles, were butchered by scores without a trial,
drowned, shot, hung on lamp-posts. Thousands fled from their country to
take sanctuary under the shade of hostile altars. The churches were
closed; the bells were silent; the shrines were plundered; the silver
crucifixes were melted down. Buffoons, dressed in copes and surplices,
came dancing the _carmagnole_ even to the bar of the Convention. The
bust of Marat was substituted for the statues of the martyrs of
Christianity. A prostitute, seated on a chair of state in the chancel of
Nôtre Dame, received the adoration of thousands, who exclaimed that at
length, for the first time, those ancient Gothic arches had resounded
with the accents of truth. The new unbelief was as intolerant as the old
superstition. To show reverence for religion was to incur the suspicion
of disaffection. It was not without imminent danger that the priest
baptized the infant, joined the hands of lovers, or listened to the
confession of the dying. The absurd worship of the Goddess of Reason
was, indeed, of short duration; but the deism of Robespierre and Lepaux
was not less hostile to the Catholic faith than the atheism of Clootz
and Chaumette.

Nor were the calamities of the Church confined to France. The
revolutionary spirit, attacked by all Europe, beat all Europe back,
became conqueror in its turn, and, not satisfied with the Belgian cities
and the rich domains of the spiritual electors, went raging over the
Rhine and through the passes of the Alps. Throughout the whole of the
great war against Protestantism, Italy and Spain had been the base of
the Catholic operations. Spain was now the obsequious vassal of the
infidels. Italy was subjugated by them. To her ancient principalities
succeeded the Cisalpine republic, and the Ligurian republic, and the
Parthenopean republic. The shrine of Loretto was stripped of the
treasures piled up by the devotion of six hundred years. The convents of
Rome were pillaged. The tricolored flag floated on the top of the Castle
of St. Angelo. The successor of St. Peter was carried away captive by
the unbelievers. He died a prisoner in their hands; and even the honors
of sepulture were long withheld from his remains.

It is not strange that, in the year 1799, even sagacious observers
should have thought that, at length, the hour of the Church of Rome was
come. An infidel power ascendant, the Pope dying in captivity, the most
illustrious prelates of France living in a foreign country on Protestant
alms, the noblest edifices which the munificence of former ages had
consecrated to the worship of God turned into temples of Victory,
or into banqueting-houses for political societies, or into
Theophilanthropic chapels,--such signs might well be supposed to
indicate the approaching end of that long domination.

But the end was not yet. Again doomed to death, the milk-white hind was
still fated not to die. Even before the funeral rites had been performed
over the ashes of Pius the Sixth, a great reaction had commenced, which,
after the lapse of more than forty years, appears to be still in
progress. Anarchy had had its day. A new order of things rose out of the
confusion, new dynasties, new laws, new titles; and amidst them emerged
the ancient religion. The Arabs have a fable that the Great Pyramid was
built by antediluvian kings, and alone, of all the works of men, bore
the weight of the Flood. Such as this was the fate of the Papacy. It had
been buried under the great inundation; but its deep foundations had
remained unshaken; and, when the waters abated, it appeared alone amidst
the ruins of a world which had passed away. The republic of Holland was
gone, and the empire of Germany, and the Great Council of Venice, and
the old Helvetian League, and the House of Bourbon, and the parliaments
and aristocracy of France. Europe was full of young creations, a French
empire, a kingdom of Italy, a Confederation of the Rhine. Nor had the
late events affected only territorial limits and political institutions.
The distribution of property, the composition and spirit of society,
had, through great part of Catholic Europe, undergone a complete change.
But the unchangeable Church was still there.

Some future historian, as able and temperate as Professor Ranke, will,
we hope, trace the progress of the Catholic revival of the nineteenth
century. We feel that we are drawing too near our own time, and that, if
we go on, we shall be in danger of saying much which may be supposed to
indicate, and which will certainly excite, angry feelings. We will,
therefore, make only one more observation, which, in our opinion, is
deserving of serious attention.

During the eighteenth century, the influence of the Church of Rome was
constantly on the decline. Unbelief made extensive conquests in all the
Catholic countries of Europe, and in some countries obtained a complete
ascendency. The Papacy was at length brought so low as to be an object
of derision to infidels, and of pity rather than of hatred to
Protestants. During the nineteenth century, this fallen Church has been
gradually rising from her depressed state and reconquering her old
dominion. No person who calmly reflects on what, within the last few
years, has passed in Spain, in Italy, in South America, in Ireland, in
the Netherlands, in Prussia, even in France, can doubt that the power of
this Church over the hearts and minds of men is now greater far than it
was when the Encyclopædia and the Philosophical Dictionary appeared. It
is surely remarkable that neither the moral revolution of the eighteenth
century nor the moral counter-revolution of the nineteenth should, in
any perceptible degree, have added to the domain of Protestantism.
During the former period, whatever was lost to Catholicism was lost also
to Christianity; during the latter, whatever was regained by
Christianity in Catholic countries was regained also by Catholicism. We
should naturally have expected that many minds, on the way from
superstition to infidelity, or on the way back from infidelity to
superstition, would have stopped at an intermediate point. Between the
doctrines taught in the schools of the Jesuits and those which were
maintained at the little supper parties of the Baron Holbach there is a
vast interval, in which the human mind, it should seem, might find for
itself some resting-place more satisfactory than either of the two
extremes. And, at the time of the Reformation, millions found such a
resting-place. Whole nations then renounced Popery without ceasing to
believe in a first cause, in a future life, or in the divine mission of
Jesus. In the last century, on the other hand, when a Catholic renounced
his belief in the real presence, it was a thousand to one that he
renounced his belief in the Gospel too; and, when the reaction took
place, with belief in the Gospel came back belief in the real presence.

We by no means venture to deduce from these phenomena any general law;
but we think it a most remarkable fact that no Christian nation which
did not adopt the principles of the Reformation before the end of the
sixteenth century, should ever have adopted them. Catholic communities
have, since that time, become infidel and become Catholic again; but
none has become Protestant.

Here we close this hasty sketch of one of the most important portions of
the history of mankind. Our readers will have great reason to feel
obliged to us if we have interested them sufficiently to induce them to
peruse Professor Ranke's book. We will only caution them against the
French translation, a performance which, in our opinion, is just as
discreditable to the moral character of the person from whom it proceeds
as a false affidavit or a forged bill of exchange would have been, and
advise them to study either the original, or the English version in
which the sense and spirit of the original are admirably preserved.


[1] The Ecclesiastical and Political History of the Popes of Rome,
during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. By Leopold Ranke,
Professor in the University of Berlin. Translated from the German by
Sarah Austin. 3 vols. 8vo. London: 1840.


_The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1841

We have a kindness for Mr. Leigh Hunt. We form our judgment of him,
indeed, only from events of universal notoriety, from his own works, and
from the works of other writers, who have generally abused him in the
most rancorous manner. But unless we are greatly mistaken, he is a very
clever, a very honest, and a very good-natured man. We can clearly
discern, together with many merits, many faults both in his writings and
in his conduct. But we really think that there is hardly a man living
whose merits have been so grudgingly allowed, and whose faults have been
so cruelly expiated.

In some respects Mr. Leigh Hunt is excellently qualified for the task
which he has now undertaken. His style, in spite of its mannerism, nay,
partly by reason of its mannerism, is well suited for light, garrulous,
desultory _ana_, half critical, half biographical. We do not always
agree with his literary judgments; but we find in him what is very rare
in our time, the power of justly appreciating and heartily enjoying good
things of very different kinds. He can adore Shakespeare and Spenser
without denying poetical genius to the author of Alexander's Feast, or
fine observation, rich fancy, and exquisite humor to him who imagined
Will Honeycomb and Sir Roger de Coverley. He has paid particular
attention to the history of the English drama, from the age of
Elizabeth down to our own time, and has every right to be heard with
respect on that subject.

The plays to which he now acts as introducer are, with few exceptions,
such as, in the opinion of many very respectable people, ought not to be
reprinted. In this opinion we can by no means concur. We cannot wish
that any work or class of works which has exercised a great influence on
the human mind, and which illustrates the character of an important
epoch in letters, politics, and morals, should disappear from the world.
If we err in this matter, we err with the gravest men and bodies of men
in the empire, and especially with the Church of England, and with the
great schools of learning which are connected with her. The whole
liberal education of our countrymen is conducted on the principle that
no book which is valuable, either by reason of the excellence of its
style, or by reason of the light which it throws on the history, polity,
and manners of nations, should be withheld from the student on account
of its impurity. The Athenian Comedies, in which there are scarcely a
hundred lines together without some passage of which Rochester would
have been ashamed, have been reprinted at the Pitt Press and the
Clarendon Press, under the direction of syndics and delegates appointed
by the Universities, and have been illustrated with notes by reverend,
very reverend, and right reverend commentators. Every year the most
distinguished young men in the kingdom are examined by bishops and
professors of divinity in such works as the Lysistrata of Aristophanes
and the Sixth Satire of Juvenal. There is certainly something a little
ludicrous in the idea, of a conclave of venerable fathers of the church
praising and rewarding a lad on account of his intimate acquaintance
with writings compared with which the loosest tale in Prior is modest.
But, for our own part, we have no doubt that the great societies which
direct the education of the English gentry have herein judged wisely.
It is unquestionable that an extensive acquaintance with ancient
literature enlarges and enriches the mind. It is unquestionable that a
man whose mind has been thus enlarged and enriched is likely to be far
more useful to the state and to the church than one who is unskilled, or
little skilled, in classical learning. On the other hand, we find it
difficult to believe that, in a world so full of temptation as this, any
gentleman whose life would have been virtuous if he had not read
Aristophanes and Juvenal will be made vicious by reading them. A man
who, exposed to all the influences of such a state of society as that in
which we live, is yet afraid of exposing himself to the influences of a
few Greek or Latin verses, acts, we think, much like the felon who
begged the sheriffs to let him have an umbrella held over his head from
the door of Newgate to the gallows, because it was a drizzling morning,
and he was apt to take cold.

The virtue which the world wants is a healthful virtue, not a
valetudinarian virtue, a virtue which can expose itself to the risks
inseparable from all spirited exertion, not a virtue which keeps out of
the common air for fear of infection, and eschews the common food as too
stimulating. It would be indeed absurd to attempt to keep men from
acquiring those qualifications which fit them to play their part in life
with honor to themselves and advantage to their country, for the sake of
preserving a delicacy which cannot be preserved, a delicacy which a walk
from Westminster to the Temple is sufficient to destroy.

But we should be justly chargeable with gross inconsistency if, while we
defend the policy which invites the youth of our country to study such
writers as Theocritus and Catullus, we were to set up a cry against a
new edition of the Country Wife or the Way of the World. The immoral
English writers of the seventeenth century are indeed much less
excusable than those of Greece and Rome. But the worst English writings
of the seventeenth century are decent, compared with much that has been
bequeathed to us by Greece and Rome. Plato, we have little doubt, was a
much better man than Sir George Etherege. But Plato has written things
at which Sir George Etherege would have shuddered. Buckhurst and Sedley,
even in those wild orgies at the Cock in Bow Street for which they were
pelted by the rabble and fined by the Court of King's Bench, would never
have dared to hold such discourse as passed between Socrates and Phædrus
on that fine summer day under the plane tree, while the fountain warbled
at their feet, and the cicadas chirped overhead. If it be, as we think
it is, desirable that an English gentleman should be well informed
touching the government and the manners of little commonwealths which
both in place and time are far removed from us, whose independence has
been more than two thousand years extinguished, whose language has not
been spoken for ages, and whose ancient magnificence is attested only by
a few broken columns and friezes, much more must it be desirable that he
should be intimately acquainted with the history of the public mind of
his own country, and with the causes, the nature, and the extent of
those revolutions of opinion and feeling which, during the last two
centuries, have alternately raised and depressed the standard of our
national morality. And knowledge of this sort is to be very sparingly
gleaned from parliamentary debates, from state papers, and from the
works of grave historians. It must either not be acquired at all, or it
must be acquired by the perusal of the light literature which has at
various periods been fashionable. We are therefore by no means disposed
to condemn this publication, though we certainly cannot recommend the
handsome volume before us as an appropriate Christmas present for young

We have said that we think the present publication perfectly
justifiable. But we can by no means agree with Mr. Leigh Hunt, who
seems to hold that there is little or no ground for the charge of
immorality so often brought against the literature of the Restoration.
We do not blame him for not bringing to the judgment-seat the merciless
rigor of Lord Angelo; but we really think that such flagitious and
impudent offenders as those who are now at the bar deserved at least the
gentle rebuke of Escalus. Mr. Leigh Hunt treats the whole matter a
little too much in the easy style of Lucio; and perhaps his exceeding
lenity disposes us to be somewhat too severe.

And yet it is not easy to be too severe. For in truth this part of our
literature is a disgrace to our language and our national character. It
is clever, indeed, and very entertaining; but it is, in the most
emphatic sense of the words, "earthly, sensual, devilish." Its
indecency, though perpetually such as is condemned not less by the rules
of good taste than by those of morality, is not, in our opinion, so
disgraceful a fault as its singularly inhuman spirit. We have here
Belial, not as when he inspired Ovid and Ariosto, "graceful and humane,"
but with the iron eye and cruel sneer of Mephistopheles. We find
ourselves in a world, in which the ladies are like very profligate,
impudent, and unfeeling men, and in which the men are too bad for any
place but Pandæmonium or Norfolk Island. We are surrounded by foreheads
of bronze, hearts like the nether millstone, and tongues set on fire of

Dryden defended or excused his own offences and those of his
contemporaries by pleading the example of the earlier English
dramatists; and Mr. Leigh Hunt seems to think that there is force in the
plea. We altogether differ from this opinion. The crime charged is not
mere coarseness of expression. The terms which are delicate in one age
become gross in the next. The diction of the English version of the
Pentateuch is sometimes such as Addison would not have ventured to
imitate; and Addison, the standard of moral purity in his own age, used
many phrases which are now proscribed. Whether a thing shall be
designated by a plain noun substantive or by a circumlocution is mere
matter of fashion. Morality is not at all interested in the question.
But morality is deeply interested in this, that what is immoral shall
not be presented to the imagination of the young and susceptible in
constant connection with what is attractive. For every person who has
observed the operation of the law of association in his own mind and in
the minds of others knows that whatever is constantly presented to the
imagination in connection with what is attractive will itself become
attractive. There is undoubtedly a great deal of indelicate writing in
Fletcher and Massinger, and more than might be wished even in Ben Jonson
and Shakespeare, who are comparatively pure. But it is impossible to
trace in their plays any systematic attempt to associate vice with those
things which men value most and desire most, and virtue with everything
ridiculous and degrading. And such a systematic attempt we find in the
whole dramatic literature of the generation which followed the return of
Charles the Second. We will take as an instance of what we mean, a
single subject of the highest importance to the happiness of mankind,
conjugal fidelity. We can at present hardly call to mind a single
English play, written before the Civil War, in which the character of a
seducer of married women is represented in a favorable light. We
remember many plays in which such persons are baffled, exposed, covered
with derision, and insulted by triumphant husbands. Such is the fate of
Falstaff, with all his wit and knowledge of the world. Such is the fate
of Brisac in Fletcher's Elder Brother, and of Ricardo and Ubaldo in
Massinger's Picture. Sometimes, as in the Fatal Dowry and Love's
Cruelty, the outraged honor of families is repaired by a bloody revenge.
If now and then the lover is represented as an accomplished man, and
the husband as a person of weak or odious character, this only makes the
triumph of female virtue the more signal, as in Jonson's Celia and Mrs.
Fitzdottrel, and in Fletcher's Maria. In general we will venture to say
that the dramatists of the age of Elizabeth and James the First either
treat the breach of the marriage vow as a serious crime, or, if they
treat it as matter for laughter, turn the laugh against the gallant.

On the contrary, during the forty years which followed the Restoration,
the whole body of the dramatists invariably represent adultery, we do
not say as a peccadillo, we do not say as an error which the violence of
passion may excuse, but as the calling of a fine gentleman, as a grace
without which his character would be imperfect. It is as essential to
his breeding and to his place in society that he should make love to the
wives of his neighbors as that he should know French, or that he should
have a sword at his side. In all this there is no passion, and scarcely
anything that can be called preference. The hero intrigues just as he
wears a wig; because, if he did not, he would be a queer fellow, a city
prig, perhaps a Puritan. All the agreeable qualities are always given to
the gallant. All the contempt and aversion are the portion of the
unfortunate husband. Take Dryden for example; and compare Woodall with
Brainsick, or Lorenzo with Gomez. Take Wycherley; and compare Horner
with Pinchwife. Take Vanbrugh; and compare Constant with Sir John Brute.
Take Farquhar; and compare Archer with Squire Sullen. Take Congreve; and
compare Bellmour with Fondlewife, Careless with Sir Paul Plyant, or
Scandal with Foresight. In all these cases, and in many more which might
be named, the dramatist evidently does his best to make the person who
commits the injury graceful, sensible, and spirited, and the person who
suffers it a fool, or a tyrant, or both.

Mr. Charles Lamb, indeed, attempted to set up a defence for this way of
writing. The dramatists of the latter part of the seventeenth century
are not, according to him, to be tried by the standard of morality which
exists, and ought to exist, in real life. Their world is a conventional
world. Their heroes and heroines belong, not to England, not to
Christendom, but to an Utopia of gallantry, to a Fairyland, where the
Bible and Burn's Justice are unknown, where a prank which on this earth
would be rewarded with the pillory is merely matter for a peal of elvish
laughter. A real Horner, a real Careless, would, it is admitted, be
exceedingly bad men. But to predicate morality or immorality of the
Horner of Wycherley and the Careless of Congreve is as absurd as it
would be to arraign a sleeper for his dreams. "They belong to the
regions of pure comedy, where no cold moral reigns. When we are among
them we are among a chaotic people. We are not to judge them by our
usages. No reverend institutions are insulted by their proceedings, for
they have none among them. No peace of families is violated, for no
family ties exist among them. There is neither right nor wrong,
gratitude or its opposite, claim or duty, paternity or sonship."

This is, we believe, a fair summary of Mr. Lamb's doctrine. We are sure
that we do not wish to represent him unfairly. For we admire his genius;
we love the kind nature which appears in all his writings; and we
cherish his memory as much as if we had known him personally. But we
must plainly say that his argument, though ingenious, is altogether

Of course we perfectly understand that it is possible for a writer to
create a conventional world in which things forbidden by the Decalogue
and the Statute Book shall be lawful, and yet that the exhibition may be
harmless, or even edifying. For example, we suppose, that the most
austere critics would not accuse Fénelon of impiety and immorality on
account of his Telemachus and his Dialogues of the Dead. In Telemachus
and the Dialogues of the Dead we have a false religion, and
consequently a morality which is in some points incorrect. We have a
right and a wrong differing from the right and the wrong of real life.
It is represented as the first duty of men to pay honor to Jove and
Minerva. Philocles, who employs his leisure in making graven images of
these deities, is extolled for his piety in a way which contrasts
singularly with the expressions of Isaiah on the same subject. The dead
are judged by Minos, and rewarded with lasting happiness for actions
which Fénelon would have been the first to pronounce splendid sins. The
same may be said of Mr. Southey's Mahommedan and Hindoo heroes and
heroines. In Thalaba, to speak in derogation of the Arabian impostor is
blasphemy; to drink wine is a crime; to perform ablutions and to pay
honor to the holy cities are works of merit. In the Curse of Kehama,
Kailyal is commended for her devotion to the statue of Mariataly, the
goddess of the poor. But certainly no person will accuse Mr. Southey of
having promoted or intended to promote either Islamism or Brahminism.

It is easy to see why the conventional worlds of Fénelon and Mr. Southey
are unobjectionable. In the first place, they are utterly unlike the
real world in which we live. The state of society, the laws even of the
physical world, are so different from those with which we are familiar,
that we cannot be shocked at finding the morality also very different.
But in truth the morality of these conventional worlds differs from the
morality of the real world only in points where there is no danger that
the real world will ever go wrong. The generosity and docility of
Telemachus, the fortitude, the modesty, the filial tenderness of
Kailyal, are virtues of all ages and nations. And there was very little
danger that the Dauphin would worship Minerva, or that an English damsel
would dance, with a bucket on her head, before the statue of Mariataly.

The case is widely different with what Mr. Charles Lamb calls the
conventional world of Wycherley and Congreve. Here the garb, the
manners, the topics of conversation, are those of the real town and of
the passing day. The hero is in all superficial accomplishments exactly
the fine gentleman whom every youth in the pit would gladly resemble.
The heroine is the fine lady whom every youth in the pit would gladly
marry. The scene is laid in some place which is as well known to the
audience as their own houses, in St. James's Park, or Hyde Park, or
Westminster Hall. The lawyer bustles about with his bag, between the
Common Pleas and the Exchequer. The Peer calls for his carriage to go to
the House of Lords on a private bill. A hundred little touches are
employed to make the fictitious world appear like the actual world. And
the immorality is of a sort which never can be out of date, and which
all the force of religion, law, and public opinion united can but
imperfectly restrain.

In the name of art, as well as in the name of virtue, we protest against
the principle that the world of pure comedy is one into which no moral
enters. If comedy be an imitation, under whatever conventions, of real
life, how is it possible that it can have no reference to the great rule
which directs life, and to feelings which are called forth by every
incident of life? If what Mr. Charles Lamb says were correct, the
inference would be that these dramatists did not in the least understand
the very first principles of their craft. Pure landscape-painting into
which no light or shade enters, pure portrait-painting into which no
expression enters, are phrases less at variance with sound criticism
than pure comedy into which no moral enters.

But it is not the fact that the world of these dramatists is a world
into which no moral enters. Morality constantly enters into that world,
a sound morality and an unsound morality: the sound morality to be
insulted, derided, associated with everything mean and hateful; the
unsound morality to be set off to every advantage, and inculcated by all
methods, direct and indirect. It is not the fact that none of the
inhabitants of this conventional world feel reverence for sacred
institutions and family ties. Fondlewife, Pinchwife, every person in
short of narrow understanding and disgusting manners, expresses that
reverence strongly. The heroes and heroines, too, have a moral code of
their own, an exceedingly bad one, but not, as Mr. Charles Lamb seems to
think, a code existing only in the imagination of dramatists. It is, on
the contrary, a code actually received and obeyed by great numbers of
people. We need not go to Utopia or Fairyland to find them. They are
near at hand. Every night some of them cheat at the hells in the
Quadrant, and others pace the Piazza in Covent Garden. Without flying to
Nephelococcygia or to the Court of Queen Mab, we can meet with sharpers,
bullies, hardhearted impudent debauchees, and women worthy of such
paramours. The morality of the Country Wife and the Old Bachelor is the
morality, not, as Mr. Charles Lamb maintains, of an unreal world, but of
a world which is a great deal too real. It is the morality, not of a
chaotic people, but of low town-rakes, and of those ladies whom the
newspapers call "dashing Cyprians." And the question is simply this,
whether a man of genius who constantly and systematically endeavors to
make this sort of character attractive, by uniting it with beauty,
grace, dignity, spirit, a high social position, popularity, literature,
wit, taste, knowledge of the world, brilliant success in every
undertaking, does or does not make an ill use of his powers. We own that
we are unable to understand how this question can be answered in any way
but one.

It must, indeed, be acknowledged, in justice to the writers of whom we
have spoken thus severely, that they were, to a great extent, the
creatures of their age. And if it be asked why that age encouraged
immorality which no other age would have tolerated, we have no
hesitation in answering that this great depravation of the national
taste was the effect of the prevalence of Puritanism under the

To punish public outrages on morals and religion is unquestionably
within the competence of rulers. But when a government, not content with
requiring decency, requires sanctity, it oversteps the bounds which mark
its proper functions. And it may be laid down as a universal rule that a
government which attempts more than it ought will reform less. A
lawgiver who, in order to protect distressed borrowers, limits the rate
of interest, either makes it impossible for the objects of his care to
borrow at all, or places them at the mercy of the worst class of
usurers. A lawgiver who, from tenderness for laboring men, fixes the
hours of their work and the amount of their wages, is certain to make
them far more wretched than he found them. And so a government which,
not content with repressing scandalous excesses, demands from its
subjects fervent and austere piety, will soon discover that, while
attempting to render an impossible service to the cause of virtue, it
has in truth only promoted vice.

For what are the means by which a government can effect its ends? Two
only, reward and punishment; powerful means, indeed, for influencing the
exterior act, but altogether impotent for the purpose of touching the
heart. A public functionary who is told that he will be promoted if he
is a devout Catholic, and turned out of his place if he is not, will
probably go to mass every morning, exclude meat from his table on
Fridays, shrive himself regularly, and perhaps let his superiors know
that he wears a hair shirt next his skin. Under a Puritan government, a
person who is apprised that piety is essential to thriving in the world
will be strict in the observance of the Sunday, or, as he will call it,
Sabbath, and will avoid a theatre as if it were plague-stricken. Such a
show of religion as this the hope of gain and the fear of loss will
produce, at a week's notice, in any abundance which a government may
require. But under this show, sensuality, ambition, avarice, and hatred
retain unimpaired power, and the seeming convert has only added to the
vices of a man of the world all the still darker vices which are
engendered by the constant practice of dissimulation. The truth cannot
be long concealed. The public discovers that the grave persons who are
proposed to it as patterns are more utterly destitute of moral principle
and of moral sensibility than avowed libertines. It sees that these
Pharisees are farther removed from real goodness than publicans and
harlots. And, as usual, it rushes to the extreme opposite to that which
it quits. It considers a high religious profession as a sure mark of
meanness and depravity. On the very first day on which the restraint of
fear is taken away, and on which men can venture to say what they think,
a frightful peal of blasphemy and ribaldry proclaims that the
short-sighted policy which aimed at making a nation of saints has made a
nation of scoffers.

It was thus in France about the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Louis the Fourteenth in his old age became religious: he determined that
his subjects should be religious, too: he shrugged his shoulders and
knitted his brows if he observed at his levee or near his dinner-table
any gentleman who neglected the duties enjoined by the Church, and
rewarded piety with blue ribbons, invitations to Marli, governments,
pensions, and regiments. Forthwith Versailles became, in everything but
dress, a convent. The pulpits and confessionals were surrounded by
swords and embroidery. The Marshals of France were much in prayer; and
there was hardly one among the Dukes and Peers who did not carry good
little books in his pocket, fast during Lent, and communicate at Easter.
Madame de Maintenon, who had a great share in the blessed work, boasted
that devotion had become quite the fashion. A fashion indeed it was; and
like a fashion it passed away. No sooner had the old king been carried
to St. Denis than the whole court unmasked. Every man hastened to
indemnify himself, by the excess of licentiousness and impudence, for
years of mortification. The same persons who, a few months before, with
meek voices and demure looks, had consulted divines about the state of
their souls now surrounded the midnight table, where, amidst the
bounding of champagne corks, a drunken prince, enthroned between Dubois
and Madame de Parabère, hiccoughed out atheistical arguments and obscene
jests. The early part of the reign of Louis the Fourteenth had been a
time of license; but the most dissolute men of that generation would
have blushed at the orgies of the Regency.

It was the same with our fathers in the time of the Great Civil War. We
are by no means unmindful of the great debt which mankind owes to the
Puritans of that time, the deliverers of England, the founders of the
American commonwealths. But in the day of their power, those men
committed one great fault, which left deep and lasting traces in the
national character and manners. They mistook the end and overrated the
force of government. They determined, not merely to protect religion and
public morals from insult,--an object for which the civil sword, in
discreet hands, may be beneficially employed,--but to make the people
committed to their rule truly devout. Yet, if they had only reflected on
events which they had themselves witnessed and in which they had
themselves borne a great part, they would have seen what was likely to
be the result of their enterprise. They had lived under a government
which, during a long course of years, did all that could be done, by
lavish bounty and by rigorous punishment, to enforce conformity to the
doctrine and discipline of the Church of England. No person suspected of
hostility to that church had the smallest chance of obtaining favor at
the court of Charles. Avowed dissent was punished by imprisonment, by
ignominious exposure, by cruel mutilations, and by ruinous fines. And
the event had been that the Church had fallen, and had, in its fall,
dragged down with it a monarchy which had stood six hundred years. The
Puritan might have learned, if from nothing else, yet from his own
recent victory, that governments which attempt things beyond their reach
are likely not merely to fail, but to produce an effect directly the
opposite of that which they contemplate as desirable.

All this was overlooked. The saints were to inherit the earth. The
theatres were closed. The fine arts were placed under absurd restraints.
Vices which had never before been even misdemeanors were made capital
felonies. It was solemnly resolved by Parliament "that no person shall
be employed but such as the House shall be satisfied of his real
godliness." The pious assembly had a Bible lying on the table for
reference. If they had consulted it they might have learned that the
wheat and the tares grow together inseparably, and must either be spared
together or rooted up together. To know whether a man was really godly
was impossible. But it was easy to know whether he had a plain dress,
lank hair, no starch in his linen, no gay furniture in his house;
whether he talked through his nose, and showed the whites of his eyes;
whether he named his children Assurance, Tribulation, and
Maher-shalal-hash-baz; whether he avoided Spring Garden when in town,
and abstained from hunting and hawking when in the country; whether he
expounded hard scriptures to his troop of dragoons, and talked in a
committee of ways and means about seeking the Lord. These were tests
which could easily be applied. The misfortune was that they were tests
which proved nothing. Such as they were, they were employed by the
dominant party. And the consequence was that a crowd of impostors, in
every walk of life, began to mimic and to caricature what were then
regarded as the outward signs of sanctity. The nation was not duped.
The restraints of that gloomy time were such as would have been
impatiently borne, if imposed by men who were universally believed to be
saints. Those restraints became altogether insupportable when they were
known to be kept up for the profit of hypocrites. It is quite certain
that, even if the royal family had never returned, even if Richard
Cromwell or Henry Cromwell had been at the head of the administration,
there would have been a great relaxation of manners. Before the
Restoration many signs indicated that a period of license was at hand.
The Restoration crushed for a time the Puritan party, and placed supreme
power in the hands of a libertine. The political counter-revolution
assisted the moral counter-revolution, and was in turn assisted by it. A
period of wild and desperate dissoluteness followed. Even in remote
manor-houses and hamlets the change was in some degree felt; but in
London the outbreak of debauchery was appalling; and in London the
places most deeply infected were the Palace, the quarters inhabited by
the aristocracy, and the Inns of Court. It was on the support of these
parts of the town that the playhouses depended. The character of the
drama became conformed to the character of its patrons. The comic poet
was the mouthpiece of the most deeply corrupted part of a corrupted
society. And in the plays before us we find, distilled and condensed,
the essential spirit of the fashionable world during the anti-Puritan

The Puritan had affected formality; the comic poet laughed at decorum.
The Puritan had frowned at innocent diversions; the comic poet took
under his patronage the most flagitious excesses. The Puritan had
canted; the comic poet blasphemed. The Puritan had made an affair of
gallantry felony without benefit of clergy; the comic poet represented
it as an honorable distinction. The Puritan spoke with disdain of the
low standard of popular morality; his life was regulated by a far more
rigid code; his virtue was sustained by motives unknown to men of the
world. Unhappily it had been amply proved in many cases, and might well
be suspected in many more, that these high pretensions were unfounded.
Accordingly, the fashionable circles, and the comic poets who were the
spokesmen of those circles, took up the notion that all professions of
piety and integrity were to be construed by the rule of contrary; that
it might well be doubted whether there was such a thing as virtue in the
world; but that, at all events, a person who affected to be better than
his neighbors was sure to be a knave.

In the old drama there had been much that was reprehensible. But whoever
compares even the least decorous plays of Fletcher with those contained
in the volume before us will see how much the profligacy which follows a
period of overstrained austerity goes beyond the profligacy which
precedes such a period. The nation resembled the demoniac in the New
Testament. The Puritans boasted that the unclean spirit was cast out.
The house was empty, swept, and garnished; and for a time the expelled
tenant wandered through dry places seeking rest and finding none. But
the force of the exorcism was spent. The fiend returned to his abode;
and returned not alone. He took to him seven other spirits more wicked
than himself. They entered in, and dwelt together: and the second
possession was worse than the first.

We will now, as far as our limits will permit, pass in review the
writers to whom Mr. Leigh Hunt has introduced us. Of the four, Wycherley
stands, we think, last in literary merit, but first in order of time,
and first, beyond all doubt, in immorality.

William Wycherley was born in 1640. He was the son of a Shropshire
gentleman of old family, and of what was then accounted a good estate.
The property was estimated at six hundred a year, a fortune which, among
the fortunes at that time, probably ranked as a fortune of two thousand
a year would rank in our days.

William was an infant when the Civil War broke out: and while he was
still in his rudiments, a Presbyterian hierarchy and a republican
government were established on the ruins of the ancient church and
throne. Old Mr. Wycherley was attached to the royal cause, and was not
disposed to entrust the education of his heir to the solemn Puritans who
now ruled the universities and public schools. Accordingly the young
gentleman was sent at fifteen to France. He resided some time in the
neighborhood of the Duke of Montausier, chief of one of the noblest
families of Touraine. The Duke's wife, a daughter of the house of
Rambouillet, was a finished specimen of those talents and
accomplishments for which her race was celebrated. The young foreigner
was introduced to the splendid circle which surrounded the duchess, and
there he appears to have learned some good and some evil. In a few years
he returned to his country a fine gentleman and a Papist. His
conversion, it may safely be affirmed, was the effect, not of any strong
impression on his understanding or feelings, but partly of intercourse
with an agreeable society in which the Church of Rome was the fashion,
and partly of that aversion to Calvinistic austerities which was then
almost universal among young Englishmen of parts and spirit, and which,
at one time, seemed likely to make one half of them Catholics and the
other half Atheists.

But the Restoration came. The universities were again in loyal hands;
and there was reason to hope that there would be again a national church
fit for a gentleman. Wycherley became a member of Queen's College,
Oxford, and abjured the errors of the Church of Rome. The somewhat
equivocal glory of turning, for a short time, a good-for-nothing Papist
into a good-for-nothing Protestant is ascribed to Bishop Barlow.

Wycherley left Oxford without taking a degree, and entered at the
Temple, where he lived gayly for some years, observing the humors of the
town, enjoying its pleasures, and picking up just as much law as was
necessary to make the character of a pettifogging attorney or of a
litigious client entertaining in a comedy.

From an early age he had been in the habit of amusing himself by
writing. Some wretched lines of his on the Restoration are still extant.
Had he devoted himself to the making of verses, he would have been
nearly as far below Tate and Blackmore as Tate and Blackmore are below
Dryden. His only chance for renown would have been that he might have
occupied a niche in a satire, between Flecknoe and Settle. There was,
however, another kind of composition in which his talents and
acquirements qualified him to succeed; and to that he judiciously betook

In his old age he used to say that he wrote Love in a Wood at nineteen,
the Gentleman Dancing-Master at twenty-one, the Plain Dealer at
twenty-five, and the Country Wife at one or two and thirty. We are
incredulous, we own, as to the truth of this story. Nothing that we know
of Wycherley leads us to think him incapable of sacrificing truth to
vanity. And his memory in the decline of his life played him such
strange tricks that we might question the correctness of his assertion
without throwing any imputation on his veracity. It is certain that none
of his plays was acted till 1672, when he gave Love in a Wood to the
public. It seems improbable that he should resolve on so important an
occasion as that of a first appearance before the world, to run his
chance with a feeble piece, written before his talents were ripe, before
his style was formed, before he had looked abroad into the world; and
this when he had actually in his desk two highly finished plays, the
fruit of his matured powers. When we look minutely at the pieces
themselves, we find in every part of them reason to suspect the accuracy
of Wycherley's statement. In the first scene of Love in a Wood, to go no
further, we find many passages which he could not have written when he
was nineteen. There is an allusion to gentlemen's periwigs, which first
came into fashion in 1663; an allusion to guineas, which were first
struck in 1663; an allusion to the vests which Charles ordered to be
worn at court in 1666; an allusion to the fire of 1666; and several
political allusions which must be assigned to times later than the year
of the Restoration, to times when the government and the city were
opposed to each other, and when the Presbyterian ministers had been
driven from the parish churches to the conventicles. But it is needless
to dwell on particular expressions. The whole air and spirit of the
piece belong to a period subsequent to that mentioned by Wycherley. As
to the Plain Dealer, which is said to have been written when he was
twenty-five, it contains one scene unquestionably written after 1675,
several which are later than 1668, and scarcely a line which can have
been composed before the end of 1666.

Whatever may have been the age at which Wycherley composed his plays, it
is certain that he did not bring them before the public till he was
upwards of thirty. In 1672 Love in a Wood was acted with more success
than it deserved, and this event produced a great change in the fortunes
of the author. The Duchess of Cleveland cast her eyes upon him, and was
pleased with his appearance. This abandoned woman, not content with her
complaisant husband and her royal keeper, lavished her fondness on a
crowd of paramours of all ranks, from dukes to rope-dancers. In the time
of the Commonwealth she commenced her career of gallantry, and
terminated it under Anne, by marrying, when a great-grandmother, that
worthless fop, Beau Fielding. It is not strange that she should have
regarded Wycherley with favor. His figure was commanding, his
countenance strikingly handsome, his look and deportment full of grace
and dignity. He had, as Pope said long after, "the true nobleman look,"
the look which seems to indicate superiority, and a not unbecoming
consciousness of superiority. His hair indeed, as he says in one of his
poems, was prematurely gray. But in that age of periwigs this misfortune
was of little importance. The Duchess admired him, and proceeded to make
love to him, after the fashion of the coarse-minded and shameless circle
to which she belonged. In the Ring, when the crowd of beauties and fine
gentlemen was thickest, she put her head out of her coach-window, and
bawled to him, "Sir, you are a rascal; you are a villain;" and, if she
is not belied, she added another phrase of abuse which we will not
quote, but of which we may say that it might most justly have been
applied to her own children. Wycherley called on her Grace the next day,
and with great humility begged to know in what way he had been so
unfortunate as to disoblige her. Thus began an intimacy from which the
poet probably expected wealth and honors. Nor were such expectations
unreasonable. A handsome young fellow about the court, known by the name
of Jack Churchill, was, about the same time, so lucky as to become the
object of a short-lived fancy of the Duchess. She had presented him with
five thousand pounds, the price, in all probability, of some title or
pardon. The prudent youth had lent the money on high interest and on
landed security; and this-judicious investment was the beginning of the
most splendid private fortune in Europe. Wycherley was not so lucky. The
partiality with which the great lady regarded him was indeed the talk of
the whole town; and sixty years later old men who remembered those days
told Voltaire that she often stole from the court to her lover's
chambers in the Temple, disguised like a country girl, with a straw hat
on her head, pattens on her feet, and a basket in her hand. The poet was
indeed too happy and proud to be discreet. He dedicated to the Duchess
the play which had led to their acquaintance, and in the dedication
expressed himself in terms which could not but confirm the reports which
had gone abroad. But at Whitehall such an affair was regarded in no
serious light. The lady was not afraid to bring Wycherley to court, and
to introduce him to a splendid society with which, as far as appears, he
had never before mixed. The easy king, who allowed to his mistresses the
same liberty which he claimed for himself, was pleased with the
conversation and manners of his new rival. So high did Wycherley stand
in the royal favor that once, when he was confined by a fever to his
lodgings in Bow Street, Charles, who, with all his faults, was certainly
a man of social and affable disposition, called on him, sat by his bed,
advised him to try change of air, and gave him a handsome sum of money
to defray the expense of a journey. Buckingham, then Master of the
Horse, and one of that infamous ministry known by the name of the Cabal,
had been one of the Duchess's innumerable paramours. He at first showed
some symptoms of jealousy; but he soon, after his fashion, veered round
from anger to fondness, and gave Wycherley a commission in his own
regiment and a place in the royal household.

It would be unjust to Wycherley's memory not to mention here the only
good action, as far as we know, of his whole life. He is said to have
made great exertions to obtain the patronage of Buckingham for the
illustrious author of Hudibras, who was now sinking into an obscure
grave, neglected by a nation proud of his genius, and by a court which
he had served too well. His Grace consented to see poor Butler; and an
appointment was made. But unhappily two pretty women passed by; the
volatile Duke ran after them; the opportunity was lost, and could never
be regained.

The second Dutch war, the most disgraceful war in the whole history of
England, was now raging. It was not in that age considered as by any
means necessary that a naval officer should receive a professional
education. Young men of rank, who were hardly able to keep their feet in
a breeze, served on board of the King's ships, sometimes with
commissions, and sometimes as volunteers. Mulgrave, Dorset, Rochester,
and many others, left the playhouses and the Mall for hammocks and salt
pork, and, ignorant as they were of the rudiments of naval service,
showed, at least, on the day of battle, the courage which is seldom
wanting in an English gentleman. All good judges of maritime affairs
complained that, under this system, the ships were grossly mismanaged,
and that the tarpaulins contracted the vices, without acquiring the
graces, of the court. But on this subject, as on every other where the
interests or whims of favorites were concerned, the government of
Charles was deaf to all remonstrances. Wycherley did not choose to be
out of the fashion. He embarked, was present at a battle, and celebrated
it, on his return, in a copy of verses too bad for the bellman.[3]

About the same time, he brought on the stage his second piece, the
Gentleman Dancing-Master. The biographers say nothing, as far as we
remember, about the fate of this play. There is, however, reason to
believe that, though certainly far superior to Love in a Wood, it was
not equally successful. It was first tried at the west end of the town,
and, as the poet confessed, "would scarce do there." It was then
performed in Salisbury Court, but, as it should seem, with no better
event. For, in the prologue to the Country Wife, Wycherley described
himself as "the late so baffled scribbler."

In 1675 the Country Wife was performed with brilliant success, which, in
a literary point of view, was not wholly unmerited. For, though one of
the most profligate and heartless of human compositions, it is the
elaborate production of a mind, not indeed rich, original, or
imaginative, but ingenious, observant, quick to seize hints, and patient
of the toil of polishing.

The Plain Dealer, equally immoral and equally well written, appeared in
1677. At first this piece pleased the people less than the critics; but
after a time its unquestionable merits and the zealous support of Lord
Dorset, whose influence in literary and fashionable society was
unbounded, established it in the public favor.

The fortune of Wycherley was now in the zenith, and began to decline. A
long life was still before him. But it was destined to be filled with
nothing but shame and wretchedness, domestic dissensions, literary
failures, and pecuniary embarrassments.

The King, who was looking about for an accomplished man to conduct the
education of his natural son, the young Duke of Richmond, at length
fixed on Wycherley. The poet, exulting in his good luck, went down to
amuse himself at Tunbridge Wells, looked into a bookseller's shop on the
Pantiles, and, to his great delight, heard a handsome woman ask for the
Plain Dealer, which had just been published. He made acquaintance with
the lady, who proved to be the Countess of Drogheda, a gay young widow,
with an ample jointure. She was charmed with his person and his wit,
and, after a short flirtation, agreed to become his wife. Wycherley
seems to have been apprehensive that this connection might not suit well
with the King's plans respecting the Duke of Richmond. He accordingly
prevailed on the lady to consent to a private marriage. All came out.
Charles thought the conduct of Wycherley both disrespectful and
disingenuous. Other causes probably assisted to alienate the sovereign
from the subject who had lately been so highly favored. Buckingham was
now in opposition, and had been committed to the Tower; not, as Mr.
Leigh Hunt supposes, on a charge of treason, but by an order of the
House of Lords for some expressions which he had used in debate.
Wycherley wrote some bad lines in praise of his imprisoned patron,
which, if they came to the knowledge of the King, would certainly have
made His Majesty very angry. The favor of the court was completely
withdrawn from the poet. An amiable woman with a large fortune might
indeed have been an ample compensation for the loss. But Lady Drogheda
was ill-tempered, imperious, and extravagantly jealous. She had herself
been a maid of honor at Whitehall. She well knew in what estimation
conjugal fidelity was held among the fine gentlemen there, and watched
her town husband as assiduously as Mr. Pinchwife watched his country
wife. The unfortunate wit was, indeed, allowed to meet his friends at a
tavern opposite to his own house. But on such occasions the windows were
always open, in order that her Ladyship, who was posted on the other
side of the street, might be satisfied that no woman was of the party.

The death of Lady Drogheda released the poet from this distress; but a
series of disasters, in rapid succession, broke down his health, his
spirits, and his fortune. His wife meant to leave him a good property,
and left him only a lawsuit. His father could not or would not assist
him. Wycherley was at length thrown into the Fleet, and languished there
during seven years, utterly forgotten, as it should seem, by the gay and
lively circle of which he had been a distinguished ornament. In the
extremity of his distress he implored the publisher who had been
enriched by the sale of his works to lend him twenty pounds, and was
refused. His comedies, however, still kept possession of the stage, and
drew great audiences which troubled themselves little about the
situation of the author. At length James the Second, who had now
succeeded to the throne, happened to go to the theatre on an evening
when the Plain Dealer was acted. He was pleased by the performance, and
touched by the fate of the writer, whom he probably remembered as one of
the gayest and handsomest of his brother's courtiers. The King
determined to pay Wycherley's debts, and to settle on the unfortunate
poet a pension of two hundred pounds a year. This munificence on the
part of a prince who was little in the habit of rewarding literary
merit, and whose whole soul was devoted to the interests of his church,
raises in us a surmise which Mr. Leigh Hunt will, we fear, pronounce
very uncharitable. We cannot help suspecting that it was at this time
that Wycherley returned to the communion of the Church of Rome. That he
did return to the communion of the Church of Rome is certain. The date
of his reconversion, as far as we know, has never been mentioned by any
biographer. We believe that, if we place it at this time, we do no
injustice to the character either of Wycherley or James.

Not long after, old Mr. Wycherley died; and his son, now past the middle
of life, came to the family estate. Still, however, he was not at his
ease. His embarrassments were great; his property was strictly tied up;
and he was on very bad terms with the heir-at-law. He appears to have
led, during a long course of years, that most wretched life, the life of
a vicious old boy about town. Expensive tastes with little money, and
licentious appetites with declining vigor, were the just penance for his
early irregularities. A severe illness had produced a singular effect on
his intellect. His memory played him pranks stranger than almost any
that are to be found in the history of that strange faculty. It seemed
to be at once preternaturally strong and preternaturally weak. If a
book was read to him before he went to bed, he would wake the next
morning with his mind full of the thoughts and expressions which he had
heard overnight; and he would write them down, without in the least
suspecting that they were not his own. In his verses the same ideas, and
even the same words, came over and over again several times in a short
composition. His fine person bore the marks of age, sickness, and
sorrow; and he mourned for his departed beauty with an effeminate
regret. He could not look without a sigh at the portrait which Lely had
painted of him when he was only twenty-eight, and often murmured,
_Quantum mutatus ab illo_. He was still nervously anxious about his
literary reputation, and not content with the fame which he still
possessed as a dramatist, was determined to be renowned as a satirist
and an amatory poet. In 1704, after twenty-seven years of silence, he
again appeared as an author. He put forth a large folio of miscellaneous
verses, which, we believe, has never been reprinted. Some of these
pieces had probably circulated through the town in manuscript. For,
before the volume appeared, the critics at the coffee-houses very
confidently predicted that it would be utterly worthless, and were in
consequence bitterly reviled by the poet in an ill-written, foolish, and
egotistical preface. The book amply vindicated the most unfavorable
prophecies that had been hazarded. The style and versification are
beneath criticism; the morals are those of Rochester. For Rochester,
indeed, there was some excuse. When his offences against decorum were
committed, he was a very young man, misled by a prevailing fashion.
Wycherley was sixty-four. He had long outlived the times when
libertinism was regarded as essential to the character of a wit and a
gentleman. Most of the rising poets, Addison, for example, John Philips,
and Rowe, were studious of decency. We can hardly conceive anything more
miserable than the figure which the ribald old man makes in the midst
of so many sober and well-conducted youths.

In the very year in which this bulky volume of obscene doggerel was
published, Wycherley formed an acquaintance of a very singular kind. A
little, pale, crooked, sickly, bright-eyed urchin, just turned of
sixteen, had written some copies of verses in which discerning judges
could detect the promise of future eminence. There was, indeed, as yet
nothing very striking or original in the conceptions of the young poet.
But he was already skilled in the art of metrical composition. His
diction and his music were not those of the great old masters; but that
which his ablest contemporaries were laboring to do he already did best.
His style was not richly poetical; but it was always neat, compact, and
pointed. His verse wanted variety of pause, of swell, and of cadence,
but never grated harshly on the ear, or disappointed it by a feeble
close. The youth was already free of the company of wits, and was
greatly elated at being introduced to the author of the Plain Dealer and
the Country Wife.

It is curious to trace the history of the intercourse which took place
between Wycherley and Pope, between the representative of the age that
was going out and the representative of the age that was coming in,
between the friend of Rochester and Buckingham and the friend of
Lyttelton and Mansfield. At first the boy was enchanted by the kindness
and condescension of so eminent a writer, haunted his door, and followed
him about like a spaniel from coffee-house to coffee-house. Letters full
of affection, humility, and fulsome flattery were interchanged between
the friends. But the first ardor of affection could not last. Pope,
though at no time scrupulously delicate in his writings or fastidious as
to the morals of his associates, was shocked by the indecency of a rake
who, at seventy, was still the representative of the monstrous
profligacy of the Restoration. As the youth grew older, as his mind
expanded and his fame rose, he appreciated both himself and Wycherley
more correctly. He felt a just contempt for the old gentleman's verses,
and was at no great pains to conceal his opinion. Wycherley, on the
other hand, though blinded by self-love to the imperfections of what he
called his poetry, could not but see that there was an immense
difference between his young companion's rhymes and his own. He was
divided between two feelings. He wished to have the assistance of so
skilful a hand to polish his lines; and yet he shrank from the
humiliation of being beholden for literary assistance to a lad who might
have been his grandson. Pope was willing to give assistance, but was by
no means disposed to give assistance and flattery too. He took the
trouble to retouch whole reams of feeble stumbling verses, and inserted
many vigorous lines which the least skilful reader will distinguish in
an instant. But he thought that by these services he acquired a right to
express himself in terms which would not, under ordinary circumstances,
become one who was addressing a man of four times his age. In one
letter, he tells Wycherley that "the worst pieces are such as, to render
them very good, would require almost the entire new writing of them." In
another, he gives the following account of his corrections: "Though the
whole be as short again as at first, there is not one thought omitted
but what is a repetition of something in your first volume, or in this
very paper; and the versification throughout is, I believe, such as
nobody can be shocked at. The repeated permission you give me of dealing
freely with you will, I hope, excuse what I have done; for, if I have
not spared you when I thought severity would do you a kindness, I have
not mangled you where I thought there was no absolute need of
amputation." Wycherley continued to return thanks for all this hacking
and hewing, which was, indeed, of inestimable service to his
compositions. But at last his thanks began to sound very like
reproaches. In private, he is said to have described Pope as a person
who could not cut out a suit, but who had some skill in turning old
coats. In his letters to Pope, while he acknowledged that the
versification of the poems had been greatly improved, he spoke of the
whole art of versification with scorn, and sneered at those who
preferred sound to sense. Pope revenged himself for this outbreak of
spleen by return of post. He had in his hands a volume of Wycherley's
rhymes, and he wrote to say that this volume was so full of faults that
he could not correct it without completely defacing the manuscript. "I
am," he said, "equally afraid of sparing you, and of offending you by
too impudent a correction." This was more than flesh and blood could
bear. Wycherley reclaimed his papers, in a letter in which resentment
shows itself plainly through the thin disguise of civility. Pope, glad
to be rid of a troublesome and inglorious task, sent back the deposit,
and, by way of a parting courtesy, advised the old man to turn his
poetry into prose, and assured him that the public would like his
thoughts much better without his versification. Thus ended this
memorable correspondence.

Wycherley lived some years after the termination of the strange
friendship which we have described. The last scene of his life was,
perhaps, the most scandalous. Ten days before his death, at
seventy-five, he married a young girl merely in order to injure his
nephew, an act which proves that neither years, nor adversity, nor what
he called his philosophy, nor either of the religions which he had at
different times professed, had taught him the rudiments of morality. He
died in December, 1715, and lies in the vault under the church of St.
Paul in Covent Garden.

His bride soon after married a Captain Shrimpton, who thus became
possessed of a large collection of manuscripts. These were sold to a
bookseller. They were so full of erasures and interlineations that no
printer could decipher them. It was necessary to call in the aid of a
professed critic; and Theobald, the editor of Shakespeare, and the hero
of the first Dunciad, was employed to ascertain the true reading. In
this way a volume of miscellanies in verse and prose was got up for the
market. The collection derives all its value from the traces of Pope's
hand, which are everywhere discernible.

Of the moral character of Wycherley it can hardly be necessary for us to
say more. His fame as a writer rests wholly on his comedies, and chiefly
on the last two. Even as a comic writer, he was neither of the best
school, nor highest in his school. He was in truth a worse Congreve. His
chief merit, like Congreve's, lies in the style of his dialogue. But the
wit which lights up the Plain Dealer and the Country Wife is pale and
flickering, when compared with the gorgeous blaze which dazzles us
almost to blindness in Love for Love and the Way of the World. Like
Congreve, and, indeed, even more than Congreve, Wycherley is ready to
sacrifice dramatic propriety to the liveliness of his dialogue. The poet
speaks out of the mouths of all his dunces and coxcombs, and makes them
describe themselves with a good sense and acuteness which puts them on a
level with the wits and heroes. We will give two instances, the first
which occur to us, from the Country Wife. There are in the world fools
who find the society of old friends insipid, and who are always running
after new companions. Such a character is a fair subject for comedy. But
nothing can be more absurd than to introduce a man of this sort saying
to his comrade, "I can deny you nothing: for though I have known thee a
great while, never go if I do not love thee as well as a new
acquaintance." That town wits, again, have always been rather a
heartless class, is true. But none of them, we will answer for it, ever
said to a young lady to whom he was making love, "We wits rail and make
love often, but to show our parts: as we have no affections, so we have
no malice."

Wycherley's plays are said to have been the produce of long and patient
labor. The epithet of "slow" was early given to him by Rochester, and
was frequently repeated. In truth his mind, unless we are greatly
mistaken, was naturally a very meagre soil, and was forced only by great
labor and outlay to bear fruit which, after all, was not of the highest
flavor. He has scarcely more claim to originality than Terence. It is
not too much to say that there is hardly anything of the least value in
his plays of which the hint is not to be found elsewhere. The best
scenes in the Gentleman Dancing-Master were suggested by Calderon's
Maestro de Danzar, not by any means one of the happiest comedies of the
great Castilian poet. The Country Wife is borrowed from the École des
Maris and the École des Femmes. The groundwork of the Plain Dealer is
taken from the Misanthrope of Molière. One whole scene is almost
translated from the Critique de l'École des Femmes. Fidelia is
Shakespeare's Viola stolen, and marred in the stealing; and the Widow
Blackacre, beyond comparison Wycherley's best comic character, is the
Countess in Racine's Plaideurs, talking the jargon of English instead of
that of French chicane.

The only thing original about Wycherley, the only thing which he could
furnish from his own mind in inexhaustible abundance, was profligacy. It
is curious to observe how everything that he touched, however pure and
noble, took in an instant the color of his own mind. Compare the École
des Femmes with the Country Wife. Agnes is a simple and amiable girl,
whose heart is indeed full of love, but of love sanctioned by honor,
morality, and religion. Her natural talents are great. They have been
hidden, and, as it might appear, destroyed by an education elaborately
bad. But they are called forth into full energy by a virtuous passion.
Her lover, while he adores her beauty, is too honest a man to abuse the
confiding tenderness of a creature so charming and inexperienced.
Wycherley takes this plot into his hands; and forthwith this sweet and
graceful courtship becomes a licentious intrigue of the lowest and least
sentimental kind, between an impudent London rake and the idiot wife of
a country squire. We will not go into details. In truth, Wycherley's
indecency is protected against the critics as a skunk is protected
against the hunters. It is safe, because it is too filthy to handle, and
too noisome even to approach.

It is the same with the Plain Dealer. How careful has Shakespeare been
in Twelfth Night to preserve the dignity and delicacy of Viola under her
disguise! Even when wearing a page's doublet and hose, she is never
mixed up with any transaction which the most fastidious mind could
regard as leaving a stain on her. She is employed by the Duke on an
embassy of love to Olivia, but on an embassy of the most honorable kind.
Wycherley borrows Viola; and Viola forthwith becomes a pandar of the
basest sort. But the character of Manly is the best illustration of our
meaning. Molière exhibited in his misanthrope a pure and noble mind,
which had been sorely vexed by the sight of perfidy and malevolence,
disguised under the forms of politeness. As every extreme naturally
generates its contrary, Alceste adopts a standard of good and evil
directly opposed to that of the society which surrounds him. Courtesy
seems to him a vice; and those stern virtues which are neglected by the
fops and coquettes of Paris become too exclusively the objects of his
veneration. He is often to blame; he is often ridiculous; but he is
always a good man; and the feeling which he inspires is regret that a
person so estimable should be so unamiable. Wycherley borrowed Alceste,
and turned him--we quote the words of so lenient a critic as Mr. Leigh
Hunt--into "a ferocious sensualist, who believed himself as great a
rascal as he thought everybody else." The surliness of Molière's hero is
copied and caricatured. But the most nauseous libertinism and the most
dastardly fraud are substituted for the purity and integrity of the
original. And, to make the whole complete, Wycherley does not seem to
have been aware that he was not drawing the portrait of an eminently
honest man. So depraved was his moral taste that, while he firmly
believed that he was producing a picture of virtue too exalted for the
commerce of this world, he was really delineating the greatest rascal
that is to be found, even in his own writings.

We pass a very severe censure on Wycherley, when we say that it is a
relief to turn from him to Congreve. Congreve's writings, indeed, are by
no means pure; nor was he, as far as we are able to judge, a
warm-hearted or high-minded man. Yet, in coming to him, we feel that the
worst is over, that we are one remove further from the Restoration, that
we are past the Nadir of national taste and morality.

William Congreve was born in 1670, at Bardsey, in the neighborhood of
Leeds. His father, a younger son of a very ancient Staffordshire family,
had distinguished himself among the Cavaliers in the Civil War, was set
down after the Restoration for the Order of the Royal Oak, and
subsequently settled in Ireland, under the patronage of the Earl of

Congreve passed his childhood and youth in Ireland. He was sent to
school at Kilkenny, and thence went to the University of Dublin. His
learning does great honor to his instructors. From his writings it
appears, not only that he was well acquainted with Latin literature, but
that his knowledge of the Greek poets was such as was not, in his time,
common even in a college.

When he had completed his academical studies, he was sent to London to
study the law, and was entered of the Middle Temple. He troubled
himself, however, very little about pleading or conveyancing, and gave
himself up to literature and society. Two kinds of ambition early took
possession of his mind, and often pulled it in opposite directions. He
was conscious of great fertility of thought and power of ingenious
combination. His lively conversation, his polished manners, and his
highly respectable connections had obtained for him ready access to the
best company. He longed to be a great writer. He longed to be a man of
fashion. Either object was within his reach. But could he secure both?
Was there not something vulgar in letters, something inconsistent with
the easy apathetic graces of a man of the mode? Was it aristocratical to
be confounded with creatures who lived in the cocklofts of Grub Street,
to bargain with publishers, to hurry printers' devils and be hurried by
them, to squabble with managers, to be applauded or hissed by pit,
boxes, and galleries? Could he forego the renown of being the first wit
of his age? Could he attain that renown without sullying what he valued
quite as much, his character for gentility? The history of his life is
the history of a conflict between these two impulses. In his youth the
desire of literary fame had the mastery; but soon the meaner ambition
overpowered the higher, and obtained supreme dominion over his mind.

His first work, a novel of no great value, he published under the
assumed name of Cleophil. His second was the Old Bachelor, acted in
1693, a play inferior indeed to his other comedies, but, in its own
line, inferior to them alone. The plot is equally destitute of interest
and of probability. The characters are either not distinguishable, or
are distinguished only by peculiarities of the most glaring kind. But
the dialogue is resplendent with wit and eloquence, which indeed are so
abundant that the fool comes in for an ample share, and yet preserves a
certain colloquial air, a certain indescribable ease, of which Wycherley
had given no example, and which Sheridan in vain attempted to imitate.
The author, divided between pride and shame,--pride at having written a
good play, and shame at having done an ungentlemanlike thing,--pretended
that he had merely scribbled a few scenes for his own amusement, and
affected to yield unwillingly to the importunities of those who pressed
him to try his fortune on the stage. The Old Bachelor was seen in
manuscript by Dryden, one of whose best qualities was a hearty and
generous admiration for the talents of others. He declared that he had
never read such a first play, and lent his services to bring it into a
form fit for representation. Nothing was wanting to the success of the
piece. It was so cast as to bring into play all the comic talent, and to
exhibit on the boards in one view all the beauty, which Drury-Lane
Theatre, then the only theatre in London, could assemble. The result was
a complete triumph; and the author was gratified with rewards more
substantial than the applauses of the pit. Montagu, then a lord of the
treasury, immediately gave him a place, and, in a short time, added the
reversion of another place of much greater value, which, however, did
not become vacant till many years had elapsed.

In 1694 Congreve brought out the Double Dealer, a comedy in which all
the powers which had produced the Old Bachelor showed themselves,
matured by time and improved by exercise. But the audience was shocked
by the characters of Maskwell and Lady Touchwood. And, indeed, there is
something strangely revolting in the way in which a group that seems to
belong to the house of Laius or of Pelops is introduced into the midst
of the Brisks, Froths, Carelesses, and Plyants. The play was unfavorably
received. Yet, if the praise of distinguished men could compensate an
author for the disapprobation of the multitude, Congreve had no reason
to repine. Dryden, in one of the most ingenious, magnificent, and
pathetic pieces that he ever wrote, extolled the author of the Double
Dealer in terms which now appear extravagantly hyperbolical. Till
Congreve came forth,--so ran this exquisite flattery,--the superiority
of the poets who preceded the civil wars was acknowledged:--

    "Theirs was the giant race before the flood."

Since the return of the Royal house, much art and ability had been
exerted, but the old masters had been still unrivalled:--

    "Our builders were with want of genius curst.
    The second temple was not like the first."

At length a writer had arisen who, just emerging from boyhood, had
surpassed the authors of the Knight of the Burning Pestle and of the
Silent Woman, and who had only one rival left to contend with:--

    "Heaven, that but once was prodigal before,
    To Shakespeare gave as much, she could not give him more."

Some lines near the end of the poem are singularly graceful and
touching, and sank deep into the heart of Congreve:--

    "Already am I worn with cares and age,
    And just abandoning the ungrateful stage;
    But you, whom every Muse and Grace adorn,
    Whom I foresee to better fortune horn,
    Be kind to my remains; and, oh, defend
    Against your judgment your departed friend.
    Let not the insulting foe my fame pursue,
    But guard those laurels which descend to you."

The crowd, as usual, gradually came over to the opinion of the men of
note; and the Double Dealer was before long quite as much admired,
though perhaps never so much liked, as the Old Bachelor.

In 1695 appeared Love for Love, superior both in wit and in scenic
effect to either of the preceding plays. It was performed at a new
theatre which Betterton and some other actors, disgusted by the
treatment which they had received in Drury-Lane, had just opened in a
tennis-court near Lincoln's Inn. Scarcely any comedy within the memory
of the oldest man had been equally successful. The actors were so elated
that they gave Congreve a share in their theatre; and he promised in
return to furnish them with a play every year, if his health would
permit. Two years passed, however, before he produced the Mourning
Bride, a play which, paltry as it is when compared, we do not say, with
Lear or Macbeth, but with the best dramas of Massinger and Ford, stands
very high among the tragedies of the age in which it was written. To
find anything so good we must go twelve years back to Venice Preserved,
or six years forward to the Fair Penitent. The noble passage which
Johnson, both in writing and in conversation, extolled above any other
in the English drama, had suffered greatly in the public estimation from
the extravagance of his praise. Had he contented himself with saying
that it was finer than anything in the tragedies of Dryden, Otway, Lee,
Rowe, Southern, Hughes, and Addison, than anything, in short, that had
been written for the stage since the days of Charles the First, he would
not have been in the wrong.

The success of the Mourning Bride was even greater than that of Love for
Love. Congreve was now allowed to be the first tragic as well as the
first comic dramatist of his time; and all this at twenty-seven. We
believe that no English writer except Lord Byron has, at so early an
age, stood so high in the estimation of his contemporaries.

At this time took place an event which deserves, in our opinion, a very
different sort of notice from that which has been bestowed on it by Mr.
Leigh Hunt. The nation had now nearly recovered from the demoralizing
effect of the Puritan austerity. The gloomy follies of the reign of the
saints were but faintly remembered. The evils produced by profaneness
and debauchery were recent and glaring. The Court, since the Revolution,
had ceased to patronize licentiousness. Mary was strictly pious; and the
vices of the cold, stern, and silent William were not obtruded on the
public eye. Discountenanced by the government, and falling in the favor
of the people, the profligacy of the Restoration still maintained its
ground in some parts of society. Its strongholds were the places where
men of wit and fashion congregated, and above all, the theatres. At
this conjuncture arose a great reformer whom, widely as we differ from
him in many important points, we can never mention without respect.

Jeremy Collier was a clergyman of the Church of England, bred at
Cambridge. His talents and attainments were such as might have been
expected to raise him to the highest honors of his profession. He had an
extensive knowledge of books; yet he had mingled much with polite
society, and is said not to have wanted either grace or vivacity in
conversation. There were few branches of literature to which he had not
paid some attention. But ecclesiastical antiquity was his favorite
study. In religious opinions he belonged to that section of the Church
of England which lies furthest from Geneva and nearest to home. His
notions touching Episcopal government, holy orders, the efficacy of the
sacraments, the authority of the Fathers, the guilt of schism, the
importance of vestments, ceremonies, and solemn days, differed little
from those which are now held by Dr. Pusey and Mr. Newman. Towards the
close of his life, indeed, Collier took some steps which brought him
still nearer to Popery, mixed water with the wine in the Eucharist, made
the sign of the cross in confirmation, employed oil in the visitation of
the sick, and offered up prayers for the dead. His politics were of a
piece with his divinity. He was a Tory of the highest sort, such as in
the cant of his age was called a Tantivy. Not even the persecution of
the bishops and the spoliation of the universities could shake his
steady loyalty. While the Convention was sitting, he wrote with
vehemence in defence of the fugitive king, and was in consequence
arrested. But his dauntless spirit was not to be so tamed. He refused to
take the oaths, renounced all his preferments, and, in a succession of
pamphlets written with much violence and with some ability, attempted to
excite the nation against its new masters. In 1692 he was again arrested
on suspicion of having been concerned in a treasonable plot. So
unbending were his principles that his friends could hardly persuade him
to let them bail him; and he afterwards expressed his remorse for having
been induced thus to acknowledge, by implication, the authority of a
usurping government. He was soon in trouble again. Sir John Friend and
Sir William Parkins were tried and convicted of high treason for
planning the murder of King William. Collier administered spiritual
consolation to them, attended them to Tyburn, and, just before they were
turned off, laid his hands on their heads, and by the authority which he
derived from Christ solemnly absolved them. This scene gave
indescribable scandal. Tories joined with Whigs in blaming the conduct
of the daring priest. Some acts, it was said, which fall under the
definition of treason are such that a good man may, in troubled times,
be led into them even by his virtues. It may be necessary for the
protection of society to punish such a man. But even in punishing him we
consider him as legally rather than morally guilty, and hope that his
honest error, though it cannot be pardoned here, will not be counted to
him for sin hereafter. But such was not the case of Collier's penitents.
They were concerned in a plot for waylaying and butchering in an hour of
security, one who, whether he were or were not their king, was at all
events their fellow creature. Whether the Jacobite theory about the
rights of governments and the duties of subjects were or were not well
founded, assassination must always be considered as a great crime. It is
condemned even by the maxims of worldly honor and morality. Much more
must it be an object of abhorrence to the pure Spouse of Christ. The
Church cannot surely, without the saddest and most mournful forbodings,
see one of her children who has been guilty of this great wickedness
pass into eternity without any sign of repentance. That these traitors
had given any sign of repentance was not alleged. It might be that they
had privately declared their contrition; and, if so, the minister of
religion might be justified in privately assuring them of the Divine
forgiveness. But a public remission ought to have been preceded by a
public atonement. The regret of these men, if expressed at all, had been
expressed in secret. The hands of Collier had been laid on them in the
presence of thousands. The inference which his enemies drew from his
conduct was that he did not consider the conspiracy against the life of
William as sinful. But this inference he very vehemently, and, we doubt
not, very sincerely denied.

The storm raged. The bishops put forth a solemn censure of the
absolution. The Attorney-General brought the matter before the Court of
King's Bench. Collier had now made up his mind not to give bail for his
appearance before any court which derived its authority from the
usurper. He accordingly absconded and was outlawed. He survived these
events about thirty years. The prosecution was not pressed; and he was
soon suffered to resume his literary pursuits in quiet. At a later
period, many attempts were made to shake his perverse integrity by
offers of wealth and dignity, but in vain. When he died, towards the end
of the reign of George the First, he was still under the ban of the law.

We shall not be suspected of regarding either the politics or the
theology of Collier with partiality; but we believe him to have been as
honest and courageous a man as ever lived. We will go further, and say
that, though passionate and often wrongheaded, he was a singularly fair
controversialist, candid, generous, too high-spirited to take mean
advantages even in the most exciting disputes, and pure from all taint
of personal malevolence. It must also be admitted that his opinions on
ecclesiastical and political affairs, though in themselves absurd and
pernicious, eminently qualified him to be the reformer of our lighter
literature. The libertinism of the press and of the stage was, as we
have said, the effect of a reaction against the Puritan strictness.
Profligacy was, like the oak leaf on the twenty-ninth of May, the badge
of a cavalier and a high churchman. Decency was associated with
conventicles and calves' heads. Grave prelates were too much disposed to
wink at the excesses of a body of zealous and able allies who covered
Roundheads and Presbyterians with ridicule. If a Whig raised his voice
against the impiety and licentiousness of the fashionable writers, his
mouth was instantly stopped by the retort, You are one of those who
groan at a light quotation from Scripture, and raise estates out of the
plunder of the Church, who shudder at a _double entendre_, and chop off
the heads of kings. A Baxter, a Burnet, even a Tillotson, would have
done little to purify our literature. But when a man fanatical in the
cause of episcopacy, and actually under outlawry for his attachment to
hereditary right, came forward as the champion of decency, the battle
was already half won.

In 1698 Collier published his Short View of the Profaneness and
Immorality of the English Stage, a book which threw the whole literary
world into commotion, but which is now much less read than it deserves.
The faults of the work, indeed, are neither few nor small. The
dissertations on the Greek and Latin drama do not at all help the
argument, and, whatever may have been thought of them by the generation
which fancied that Christ Church had refuted Bentley, are such as, in
the present day, a scholar of very humble pretensions may venture to
pronounce boyish, or rather babyish. The censures are not sufficiently
discriminating. The authors whom Collier accused had been guilty of such
gross sins against decency that he was certain to weaken instead of
strengthening his case, by introducing into his charge against them any
matter about which there could be the smallest dispute. He was, however,
so injudicious as to place among the outrageous offences which he justly
arraigned some things which are really quite innocent, and some slight
instances of levity which, though not perhaps strictly correct, could
easily be paralleled from the works of writers who had rendered great
services to morality and religion. Thus he blames Congreve, the number
and gravity of whose real transgressions made it quite unnecessary to
tax him with any that were not real, for using the words "martyr" and
"inspiration" in a light sense; as if an archbishop might not say that a
speech was inspired by claret, or that an alderman was a martyr to the
gout. Sometimes, again, Collier does not sufficiently distinguish
between the dramatist and the persons of the drama. Thus he blames
Vanbrugh for putting into Lord Foppington's mouth some contemptuous
expressions respecting the church service; though it is obvious that
Vanbrugh could not better express reverence than by making Lord
Foppington express contempt. There is also throughout the Short View too
strong a display of professional feeling. Collier is not content with
claiming for his order an immunity from indiscriminate scurrility; he
will not allow that, in any case, any word or act of a divine can be a
proper subject for ridicule: Nor does he confine this benefit of clergy
to the ministers of the Established Church. He extends the privilege to
Catholic priests, and, what in him is more surprising, to Dissenting
preachers. This, however, is a mere trifle. Imaums, Brahmins, priests of
Jupiter, priests of Baal, are all to be held sacred. Dryden is blamed
for making the Mufti in Don Sebastian talk nonsense. Lee is called to a
severe account for his incivility to Tiresias. But the most curious
passage is that in which Collier resents some uncivil reflections thrown
by Cassandra, in Dryden's Cleomenes, on the calf Apis and his
hierophants. The words "grass-eating, foddered god," words which really
are much in the style of several passages in the Old Testament, give as
much offence to this Christian divine as they could have given to the
priests of Memphis.

But, when all deductions have been made, great merit must be allowed to
this work. There is hardly any book of that time from which it would be
possible to select specimens of writing so excellent and so various. To
compare Collier with Pascal would indeed be absurd. Yet we hardly know
where, except in the Provincial Letters, we can find mirth so
harmoniously and becomingly blended with solemnity as in the Short View.
In truth, all the modes of ridicule, from broad fun to polished and
antithetical sarcasm, were at Collier's command. On the other hand, he
was complete master of the rhetoric of honest indignation. We scarcely
know any volume which contains so many bursts of that peculiar eloquence
which comes from the heart and goes to the heart. Indeed the spirit of
the book is truly heroic. In order fairly to appreciate it, we must
remember the situation in which the writer stood. He was under the frown
of power. His name was already a mark for the invectives of one half of
the writers of the age, when, in the cause of good taste, good sense,
and good morals, he gave battle to the other half. Strong as his
political prejudices were, he seems on this occasion to have entirely
laid them aside. He has forgotten that he is a Jacobite, and remembers
only that he is a citizen and a Christian. Some of his sharpest censures
are directed against poetry which had been hailed with delight by the
Tory party, and had inflicted a deep wound on the Whigs. It is
inspiriting to see how gallantly the solitary outlaw advances to attack
enemies, formidable separately, and, it might have been thought,
irresistible when combined, distributes his swashing blows right and
left among Wycherley, Congreve, and Vanbrugh, treads the wretched
D'Urfey down in the dirt beneath his feet, and strikes with all his
strength full at the towering crest of Dryden.

The effect produced by the Short View was immense. The nation was on the
side of Collier. But it could not be doubted that, in the great host
which he had defied, some champion would be found to lift the gauntlet.
The general belief was that Dryden would take the field; and all the
wits anticipated a sharp contest between two well-paired combatants. The
great poet had been singled out in the most marked manner. It was well
known that he was deeply hurt, that much smaller provocations had
formerly roused him to violent resentment, and that there was no
literary weapon, offensive or defensive, of which he was not master. But
his conscience smote him; he stood abashed, like the fallen archangel at
the rebuke of Zephon,--

    "And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
    Virtue in her shape how lovely; saw and pined
    His loss."

At a later period he mentioned the Short View in the preface to his
Fables. He complained, with some asperity, of the harshness with which
he had been treated, and urged some matters in mitigation. But, on the
whole, he frankly acknowledged that he had been justly reproved. "If,"
said he, "Mr. Collier be my enemy, let him triumph. If he be my friend,
as I have given him no personal occasion to be otherwise, he will be
glad of my repentance."

It would have been wise in Congreve to follow his master's example. He
was precisely in that situation in which it is madness to attempt a
vindication; for his guilt was so clear that no address or eloquence
could obtain an acquittal. On the other hand, there were in his case
many extenuating circumstances which, if he had acknowledged his error
and promised amendment, would have procured his pardon. The most rigid
censor could not but make great allowances for the faults into which so
young a man had been seduced by evil example, by the luxuriance of a
vigorous fancy, and by the inebriating effect of popular applause. The
esteem, as well as the admiration, of the public was still within his
reach. He might easily have effaced all memory of his transgressions,
and have shared with Addison the glory of showing that the most
brilliant wit may be the ally of virtue. But, in any case, prudence
should have restrained him from encountering Collier. The nonjuror was a
man thoroughly fitted by nature, education, and habit for polemical
dispute. Congreve's mind, though a mind of no common fertility and
vigor, was of a different class. No man understood so well the art of
polishing epigrams and repartees into the clearest effulgence, and
setting them neatly in easy and familiar dialogue. In this sort of
jewelry he attained to a mastery unprecedented and inimitable. But he
was altogether rude in the art of controversy; and he had a cause to
defend which scarcely any art could have rendered victorious.

The event was such as might have been foreseen. Congreve's answer was a
complete failure. He was angry, obscure, and dull. Even the green-room
and Will's Coffee-House were compelled to acknowledge that in wit, as
well as in argument, the parson had a decided advantage over the poet.
Not only was Congreve unable to make any show of a case where he was in
the wrong; but he succeeded in putting himself completely in the wrong
where he was in the right. Collier had taxed him with profaneness for
calling a clergyman Mr. Prig, and for introducing a coachman named Jehu,
in allusion to the King of Israel, who was known at a distance by his
furious driving. Had there been nothing worse in the Old Bachelor and
Double Dealer, Congreve might pass for as pure a writer as Cowper
himself, who, in poems revised by so austere a censor as John Newton,
calls a fox-hunting squire Nimrod, and gives to a chaplain the
disrespectful name of Smug. Congreve might with good effect have
appealed to the public whether it might not be fairly presumed that,
when such frivolous charges were made, there were no very serious
charges to make. Instead of doing this, he pretended that he meant no
allusion to the Bible by the name of Jehu, and no reflection by the name
of Prig. Strange, that a man of such parts should, in order to defend
himself against imputations which nobody could regard as important,
tell untruths which it was certain that nobody would believe!

One of the pleas which Congreve set up for himself and his brethren was
that, though they might be guilty of a little levity here and there,
they were careful to inculcate a moral, packed close into two or three
lines, at the end of every play. Had the fact been as he stated it, the
defence would be worth very little. For no man acquainted with human
nature could think that a sententious couplet would undo all the
mischief that five profligate acts had done. But it would have been wise
in Congreve to have looked again at his own comedies before he used this
argument. Collier did so, and found that the moral of the Old Bachelor,
the grave apophthegm which is to be a set-off against all the
libertinism of the piece, is contained in the following triplet:--

    "What rugged ways attend the noon of life!
    Our sun declines, and with what anxious strife,
    What pain, we tug that galling load--a wife."

"Love for Love," says Collier, "may have a somewhat better farewell, but
it would do a man little service should he remember it to his dying

    "The miracle to-day is, that we find
    A lover true, not that a woman's kind."

Collier's reply was severe and triumphant. One of his repartees we will
quote, not as a favorable specimen of his manner, but because it was
called forth by Congreve's characteristic affectation. The poet spoke of
the Old Bachelor as a trifle to which he attached no value, and which
had become public by a sort of accident. "I wrote it," he said, "to
amuse myself in a slow recovery from a fit of sickness." "What his
disease was," replied Collier, "I am not to inquire: but it must be a
very ill one to be worse than the remedy."

All that Congreve gained by coming forward on this occasion was that he
completely deprived himself of the excuse which he might with justice
have pleaded for his early offences. "Why," asked Collier, "should the
man laugh at the mischief of the boy, and make the disorders of his
nonage his own, by an after approbation?"

Congreve was not Collier's only opponent. Vanbrugh, Dennis, and Settle
took the field. And, from a passage in a contemporary satire, we are
inclined to think that among the answers to the Short View was one
written, or supposed to be written, by Wycherley. The victory remained
with Collier. A great and rapid reform in almost all the departments of
our lighter literature was the effect of his labors. A new race of wits
and poets arose, who generally treated with reverence the great ties
which bind society together, and whose very indecencies were decent when
compared with those of the school which flourished during the last forty
years of the seventeenth century.

This controversy probably prevented Congreve from fulfilling the
engagements into which he had entered with the actors. It was not till
1700 that he produced the Way of the World, the most deeply meditated
and the most brilliantly written of all his works. It wants, perhaps,
the constant movement, the effervescence of animal spirits, which we
find in Love for Love. But the hysterical rants of Lady Wishfort, the
meeting of Witwould and his brother, the country knight's courtship and
his subsequent revel, and, above all, the chase and surrender of
Millamant, are superior to anything that is to be found in the whole
range of English comedy from the civil war downwards. It is quite
inexplicable to us that this play should have failed on the stage. Yet
so it was; and the author, already sore with the wounds which Collier
had inflicted, was galled past endurance by this new stroke. He resolved
never again to expose himself to the rudeness of a tasteless audience,
and took leave of the theatre forever.

He lived twenty-eight years longer, without adding to the high literary
reputation which he had attained. He read much while he retained his
eyesight, and now and then wrote a short essay, or put an idle tale into
verse; but he appears never to have planned any considerable work. The
miscellaneous pieces which he published in 1710 are of little value, and
have long been forgotten.

The stock of fame which he had acquired by his comedies was sufficient,
assisted by the graces of his manner and conversation, to secure for him
a high place in the estimation of the world. During the winter he lived
among the most distinguished and agreeable people in London. His summers
were passed at the splendid country-seats of ministers and peers.
Literary envy and political faction, which in that age respected nothing
else, respected his repose. He professed to be one of the party of which
his patron Montagu, now Lord Halifax, was the head. But he had civil
words and small good offices for men of every shade of opinion. And men
of every shade of opinion spoke well of him in return.

His means were for a long time scanty. The place which he had in
possession barely enabled him to live with comfort. And, when the Tories
came into power, some thought that he would lose even this moderate
provision. But Harley, who was by no means disposed to adopt the
exterminating policy of the October club, and who, with all his faults
of understanding and temper, had a sincere kindness for men of genius,
reassured the anxious poet by quoting very gracefully and happily the
lines of Virgil,--

    "Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Poeni,
    Nec tam aversus equos Tyria Sol jungit ab urbe."

The indulgence with which Congreve was treated by the Tories was not
purchased by any concession on his part which could justly offend the
Whigs. It was his rare good fortune to share the triumph of his friends
without having shared their proscription. When the House of Hanover came
to the throne, he partook largely of the prosperity of those with whom
he was connected. The reversion to which he had been nominated twenty
years before fell in. He was made secretary to the island of Jamaica;
and his whole income amounted to twelve hundred a year, a fortune which,
for a single man, was in that age not only easy, but splendid. He
continued, however, to practise the frugality which he had learned when
he could scarce spare, as Swift tells us, a shilling to pay the chairmen
who carried him to Lord Halifax's. Though he had nobody to save for, he
laid up at least as much as he spent.

The infirmities of age came early upon him. His habits had been
intemperate; he suffered much from gout; and, when confined to his
chamber, he had no longer the solace of literature. Blindness, the most
cruel misfortune that can befall the lonely student, made his books
useless to him. He was thrown on society for all his amusement; and in
society his good breeding and vivacity made him always welcome.

By the rising men of letters he was considered not as a rival, but as a
classic. He had left their arena; he never measured his strength with
them; and he was always loud in applause of their exertions. They could,
therefore, entertain no jealousy of him, and thought no more of
detracting from his fame than of carping at the great men who had been
lying a hundred years in Poets' Corner. Even the inmates of Grub Street,
even the heroes of the Dunciad, were for once just to living merit.
There can be no stronger illustration of the estimation in which
Congreve was held than the fact that the English Iliad, a work which
appeared with more splendid auspices than any other in our language, was
dedicated to him. There was not a duke in the kingdom who would not have
been proud of such a compliment. Dr. Johnson expresses great admiration
for the independence of spirit which Pope showed on this occasion. "He
passed over peers and statesmen to inscribe his Iliad to Congreve, with
a magnanimity of which the praise had been complete, had his friend's
virtue been equal to his wit. Why he was chosen for so great an honor,
it is not now possible to know." It is certainly impossible to know; yet
we think it is possible to guess. The translation of the Iliad had been
zealously befriended by men of all political opinions. The poet who, at
an early age, had been raised to affluence by the emulous liberality of
Whigs and Tories, could not with propriety inscribe to a chief of either
party a work which had been munificently patronized by both. It was
necessary to find some person who was at once eminent and neutral. It
was therefore necessary to pass over peers and statesmen. Congreve had a
high name in letters. He had a high name in aristocratic circles. He
lived on terms of civility with men of all parties. By a courtesy paid
to him, neither the ministers nor the leaders of the opposition could be

The singular affectation which had from the first been characteristic of
Congreve grew stronger and stronger as he advanced in life. At last it
became disagreeable to him to hear his own comedies praised. Voltaire,
whose soul was burned up by the raging desire for literary renown, was
half puzzled and half disgusted by what he saw, during his visit to
England, of this extraordinary whim. Congreve disclaimed the character
of a poet, declared that his plays were trifles produced in an idle
hour, and begged that Voltaire would consider him merely as a gentleman.
"If you had been merely a gentleman," said Voltaire, "I should not have
come to see you."

Congreve was not a man of warm affections. Domestic ties he had none;
and in the temporary connections which he formed with a succession of
beauties from the green-room his heart does not appear to have been
interested. Of all his attachments that to Mrs. Bracegirdle lasted the
longest and was the most celebrated. This charming actress, who was,
during many years, the idol of all London, whose face caused the fatal
broil in which Mountfort fell, and for which Lord Mohun was tried by the
peers, and to whom the Earl of Scarsdale was said to have made honorable
addresses, had conducted herself, in very trying circumstances, with
extraordinary discretion. Congreve at length became her confidential
friend. They constantly rode out together and dined together. Some
people said that she was his mistress, and others that she would soon be
his wife. He was at last drawn away from her by the influence of a
wealthier and haughtier beauty. Henrietta, daughter of the great
Marlborough, and Countess of Godolphin, had, on her father's death,
succeeded to his dukedom, and to the greater part of his immense
property. Her husband was an insignificant man, of whom Lord
Chesterfield said that he came to the House of Peers only to sleep, and
that he might as well sleep on the right as on the left of the woolsack.
Between the Duchess and Congreve sprang up a most eccentric friendship.
He had a seat every day at her table, and assisted in the direction of
her concerts. That malignant old beldame, the Dowager Duchess Sarah, who
had quarrelled with her daughter as she had quarrelled with everybody
else, affected to suspect that there was something wrong. But the world
in general appears to have thought that a great lady might, without any
imputation on her character, pay marked attention to a man of eminent
genius who was near sixty years old, who was still older in appearance
and in constitution, who was confined to his chair by gout, and who was
unable to read from blindness.

In the summer of 1728, Congreve was ordered to try the Bath waters.
During his excursion he was overturned in his chariot, and received some
severe internal injury from which he never recovered. He came back to
London in a dangerous state, complained constantly of a pain in his
side, and continued to sink, till in the following January he expired.

He left ten thousand pounds, saved out of the emoluments of his
lucrative places. Johnson says that this money ought to have gone to the
Congreve family, which was then in great distress. Dr. Young and Mr.
Leigh Hunt, two gentlemen who seldom agree with each other, but with
whom, on this occasion, we are happy to agree, think that it ought to
have gone to Mrs. Bracegirdle. Congreve bequeathed two hundred pounds to
Mrs. Bracegirdle, and an equal sum to a certain Mrs. Jellat; but the
bulk of his accumulations went to the Duchess of Marlborough, in whose
immense wealth such a legacy was as a drop in the bucket. It might have
raised the fallen fortunes of a Staffordshire squire; it might have
enabled a retired actress to enjoy every comfort, and, in her sense,
every luxury; but it was hardly sufficient to defray the Duchess's
establishment for three months.

The great lady buried her friend with a pomp seldom seen at the funerals
of poets. The corpse lay in state under the ancient roof of the
Jerusalem Chamber, and was interred in Westminster Abbey. The pall was
borne by the Duke of Bridgewater, Lord Cobham, the Earl of Wilmington,
who had been Speaker, and was afterwards First Lord of the Treasury, and
other men of high consideration. Her Grace laid out her friend's bequest
in a superb diamond necklace, which she wore in honor of him, and, if
report is to be believed, showed her regard in ways much more
extraordinary. It is said that a statue of him in ivory, which moved by
clockwork, was placed daily at her table, that she had a wax doll made
in imitation of him, and that the feet of the doll were regularly
blistered and anointed by the doctors, as poor Congreve's feet had been
when he suffered from the gout. A monument was erected to the poet in
Westminster Abbey, with an inscription written by the Duchess; and Lord
Cobham honored him with a cenotaph, which seems to us, though that is a
bold word, the ugliest and most absurd of the buildings at Stowe.

We have said that Wycherley was a worse Congreve. There was, indeed, a
remarkable analogy between the writings and lives of these two men. Both
were gentleman liberally educated. Both led town lives, and knew human
nature only as it appears between Hyde Park and the Tower. Both were men
of wit. Neither had much imagination. Both at an early age produced
lively and profligate comedies. Both retired from the field while still
in early manhood, and owed to their youthful achievements in literature
whatever consideration they enjoyed in later life. Both, after they had
ceased to write for the stage, published volumes of miscellanies which
did little credit either to their talents or to their morals. Both,
during their declining years, hung loose upon society; and both, in
their last moments, made eccentric and unjustifiable dispositions of
their estates.

But in every point Congreve maintained his superiority to Wycherley.
Wycherley had wit; but the wit of Congreve far outshines that of every
comic writer, except Sheridan, who has arisen within the last two
centuries. Congreve had not, in a large measure, the poetical faculty;
but compared with Wycherley he might be called a great poet. Wycherley
had some knowledge of books; but Congreve was a man of real learning.
Congreve's offences against decorum, though highly culpable, were not so
gross as those of Wycherley; nor did Congreve, like Wycherley, exhibit
to the world the deplorable spectacle of a licentious dotage. Congreve
died in the enjoyment of high consideration; Wycherley forgotten or
despised. Congreve's will was absurd and capricious; but Wycherley's
last actions appear to have been prompted by obdurate malignity.

Here, at least for the present, we must stop. Vanbrugh and Farquhar are
not men to be hastily dismissed, and we have not left ourselves space to
do them justice.


[2] The Dramatic Works of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar,
with Biographical and Critical Notices. By Leigh Hunt. 8vo. London:

[3] Mr. Leigh Hunt supposes that the battle at which Wycherley was
present was that which the Duke of York gained over Opdam, in 1665. We
believe that it was one of the battles between Rupert and De Ruyter, in

The point is of no importance; and there cannot be said to be much
evidence either way. We offer, however, to Mr. Leigh Hunt's
consideration three arguments, of no great weight certainly, yet such as
ought, we think, to prevail in the absence of better. First, it is not
very likely that a young Templar, quite unknown in the world,--and
Wycherley was such in 1665,--should have quitted his chambers to go to
sea. On the other hand, it would be in the regular course of things,
that, when a courtier and an equerry, he should offer his services.
Secondly, his verses appear to have been written after a drawn battle,
like those of 1673, and not after a complete victory, like that of 1605.
Thirdly, in the epilogue to the Gentleman Dancing-Master, written in
1673, he says that "all gentlemen must pack to sea;" an expression which
makes it probable that he did not himself mean to stay behind.


_The Edinburgh Review_, July, 1841

Many reasons make it impossible for us to lay before our readers, at the
present moment, a complete view of the character and public career of
the late Lord Holland. But we feel that we have already deferred too
long the duty of paying some tribute to his memory. We feel that it is
more becoming to bring without further delay an offering, though
intrinsically of little value, than to leave his tomb longer without
some token of our reverence and love.

We shall say very little of the book which lies on our table. And yet it
is a book which, even if it had been the work of a less distinguished
man, or had appeared under circumstances less interesting, would have
well repaid an attentive perusal. It is valuable, both as a record of
principles and as a model of composition. We find in it all the great
maxims which, during more than forty years, guided Lord Holland's public
conduct, and the chief reasons on which those maxims rest, condensed
into the smallest possible space, and set forth with admirable
perspicuity, dignity, and precision. To his opinions on foreign policy
we for the most part cordially assent; but now and then we are inclined
to think them imprudently generous. We could not have signed the protest
against the detention of Napoleon. The Protest respecting the course
which England pursued at the Congress of Verona, though it contains much
that is excellent, contains also positions which, we are inclined to
think, Lord Holland would, at a later period, have admitted to be
unsound. But to all his doctrines on constitutional questions we give
our hearty approbation; and we firmly believe that no British Government
has ever deviated from that line of internal policy which he has traced,
without detriment to the public.

We will give, as a specimen of this little volume, a single passage, in
which a chief article of the political creed of the Whigs is stated and
explained, with singular clearness, force, and brevity. Our readers will
remember that, in 1825, the Catholic Association raised the cry of
emancipation with most formidable effect. The Tories acted after their
kind. Instead of removing the grievance they tried to put down the
agitation, and brought in a law, apparently sharp and stringent, but in
truth utterly impotent, for restraining the right of petition. Lord
Holland's Protest on that occasion is excellent.

    "We are," says he, "well aware that the privileges of the people,
    the rights of free discussion, and the spirit and letter of our
    popular institutions must render--and they are intended to
    render--the continuance of an extensive grievance, and of the
    dissatisfaction consequent thereupon, dangerous to the tranquillity
    of the country, and ultimately subversive of the authority of the
    state. Experience and theory alike forbid us to deny that effect of
    a free constitution; a sense of justice and a love of liberty
    equally deter us from lamenting it. But we have always been taught
    to look for the remedy of such disorders in the redress of the
    grievances which justify them, and in the removal of the
    dissatisfaction from which they flow--not in restraints on ancient
    privileges, not in inroads on the right of public discussion, nor in
    violations of the principles of a free government. If, therefore,
    the legal method of seeking redress, which has been resorted to by
    persons laboring under grievous disabilities, be fraught with
    immediate or remote danger to the state, we draw from that
    circumstance a conclusion long since foretold by great
    authority--namely, that the British constitution, and large
    exclusions, cannot subsist together; that the constitution must
    destroy them, or they will destroy the constitution."

It was not, however, of this little book, valuable and interesting as it
is, but of the author, that we meant to speak; and we will try to do so
with calmness and impartiality.

In order to fully appreciate the character of Lord Holland, it is
necessary to go far back into the history of his family; for he had
inherited something more than a coronet and an estate. To the house of
which he was the head belongs one distinction which we believe to be
without a parallel in our annals. During more than a century, there has
never been a time at which a Fox has not stood in a prominent station
among public men. Scarcely had the checkered career of the first Lord
Holland closed, when his son, Charles, rose to the head of the
Opposition, and to the first rank among English debaters. And before
Charles was borne to Westminster Abbey a third Fox had already become
one of the most conspicuous politicians in the kingdom.

It is impossible not to be struck by the strong family likeness which,
in spite of diversities arising from education and position, appears in
these three distinguished persons. In their faces and figures there was
a resemblance, such as is common enough in novels, where one picture is
good for ten generations, but such as in real life is seldom found. The
ample person, the massy and thoughtful forehead, the large eyebrows, the
full cheek and lip, the expression, so singularly compounded of sense,
humor, courage, openness, a strong will and a sweet temper, were common
to all. But the features of the founder of the house, as the pencil of
Reynolds and the chisel of Nollekens have handed them down to us, were
disagreeably harsh and exaggerated. In his descendants the aspect was
preserved, but it was softened, till it became, in the late lord, the
most gracious and interesting countenance that was ever lighted up by
the mingled lustre of intelligence and benevolence.

As it was with the faces of the men of this noble family, so was it also
with their minds. Nature had done much for them all. She had moulded
them all of that clay of which she is most sparing. To all she had given
strong reason and sharp wit, a quick relish for every physical and
intellectual enjoyment, constitutional intrepidity, and that frankness
by which constitutional intrepidity is generally accompanied, spirits
which nothing could depress, tempers easy, generous, and placable, and
that genial courtesy which has its seat in the heart, and of which
artificial politeness is only a faint and cold imitation. Such a
disposition is the richest inheritance that ever was entailed on any

But training and situation greatly modified the fine qualities which
nature lavished with such profusion on three generations of the house of
Fox. The first Lord Holland was a needy political adventurer. He entered
public life at a time when the standard of integrity among statesmen was
low. He started as the adherent of a minister who had indeed many titles
to respect, who possessed eminent talents both for administration and
for debate, who understood the public interest well, and who meant
fairly by the country, but who had seen so much perfidy and meanness
that he had become skeptical as to the existence of probity. Weary of
the cant of patriotism, Walpole had learned to talk a cant of a
different kind. Disgusted by that sort of hypocrisy which is at least a
homage to virtue, he was too much in the habit of practising the less
respectable hypocrisy which ostentatiously displays, and sometimes even
simulates vice. To Walpole Fox attached himself, politically and
personally, with the ardor which belonged to his temperament. And it is
not to be denied that in the school of Walpole he contracted faults
which destroyed the value of his many great endowments. He raised
himself, indeed, to the first consideration in the House of Commons; he
became a consummate master of the art of debate; he attained honors and
immense wealth; but the public esteem and confidence were withheld from
him. His private friends, indeed, justly extolled his generosity and
good-nature. They maintained that in those parts of his conduct which
they could least defend there was nothing sordid, and that, if he was
misled, he was misled by amiable feelings, by a desire to serve his
friends, and by anxious tenderness for his children. But by the nation
he was regarded as a man of insatiable rapacity and desperate ambition;
as a man ready to adopt, without scruple, the most immoral and the most
unconstitutional manners; as a man perfectly fitted, by all his opinions
and feelings, for the work of managing the Parliament by means of
secret-service money, and of keeping down the people with the bayonet.
Many of his contemporaries had a morality quite as lax as his: but very
few among them had his talents, and none had his hardihood and energy.
He could not, like Sandys and Doddington, find safety in contempt. He
therefore became an object of such general aversion as no statesman
since the fall of Strafford has incurred, of such general aversion as
was probably never in any country incurred by a man of so kind and
cordial a disposition. A weak mind would have sunk under such a load of
unpopularity. But that resolute spirit seemed to derive new firmness
from the public hatred. The only effect which reproaches appeared to
produce on him was to sour, in some degree, his naturally sweet temper.
The last acts of his public life were marked, not only by that audacity
which he had derived from nature, not only by that immorality which he
had learned in the school of Walpole, but by a harshness which almost
amounted to cruelty, and which had never been supposed to belong to his
character. His severity increased the unpopularity from which it had
sprung. The well-known lampoon of Gray may serve as a specimen of the
feeling of the country. All the images are taken from shipwrecks,
quicksands, and cormorants. Lord Holland is represented as complaining
that the cowardice of his accomplices had prevented him from putting
down the free spirit of the city of London by sword and fire, and as
pining for the time when birds of prey should make their nests in
Westminster Abbey, and unclean beasts burrow in St. Paul's.

Within a few months after the death of this remarkable man, his second
son Charles appeared at the head of the party opposed to the American
War. Charles had inherited the bodily and mental constitution of his
father, and had been much, far too much, under his father's influence.
It was indeed impossible that a son of so affectionate and noble a
nature should not have been warmly attached to a parent who possessed
many fine qualities, and who carried his indulgence and liberality
towards his children even to a culpable extent. Charles saw that the
person to whom he was bound by the strongest ties was, in the highest
degree, odious to the nation; and the effect was what might have been
expected from the strong passions and constitutional boldness of so
high-spirited a youth. He cast in his lot with his father, and took,
while still a boy, a deep part in the most unjustifiable and unpopular
measures that had been adopted since the reign of James the Second. In
the debates on the Middlesex election, he distinguished himself, not
only by his precocious powers of eloquence, but by the vehement and
scornful manner in which he bade defiance to public opinion. He was at
that time regarded as a man likely to be the most formidable champion of
arbitrary government that had appeared since the Revolution, to be a
Bute with far greater powers, a Mansfield with far greater courage.
Happily his father's death liberated him early from the pernicious
influence by which he had been misled. His mind expanded. His range of
observation became wider. His genius broke through early prejudices.
His natural benevolence and magnanimity had fair play. In a very short
time he appeared in a situation worthy of his understanding and of his
heart. From a family whose name was associated in the public mind with
tyranny and corruption, from a party of which the theory and the
practice were equally servile, from the midst of the Luttrells, the
Dysons, the Barringtons, came forth the greatest parliamentary defender
of civil and religious liberty.

The late Lord Holland succeeded to the talents and to the fine natural
dispositions of his house. But his situation was very different from
that of the two eminent men of whom we have spoken. In some important
respects it was better, in some it was worse than theirs. He had one
great advantage over them. He received a good political education. The
first lord was educated by Sir Robert Walpole. Mr. Fox was educated by
his father. The late lord was educated by Mr. Fox. The pernicious maxims
early imbibed by the first Lord Holland made his great talents useless,
and worse than useless, to the state. The pernicious maxims early
imbibed by Mr. Fox led him, at the commencement of his public life, into
great faults which, though afterwards nobly expiated, were never
forgotten. To the very end of his career, small men, when they had
nothing else to say in defence of their own tyranny, bigotry, and
imbecility, could always raise a cheer by some paltry taunt about the
election of Colonel Luttrell, the imprisonment of the lord mayor, and
other measures in which the great Whig leader had borne a part at the
age of one or two and twenty. On Lord Holland no such slur could be
thrown. Those who most dissent from his opinions must acknowledge that a
public life more consistent is not to be found in our annals. Every part
of it is in perfect harmony with every other part; and the whole is in
perfect harmony with the great principles of toleration and civil
freedom. This rare felicity is in a great measure to be attributed to
the influence of Mr. Fox. Lord Holland, as was natural in a person of
his talents and expectations, began at a very early age to take the
keenest interest in politics, and Mr. Fox found the greatest pleasure in
forming the mind of so hopeful a pupil. They corresponded largely on
political subjects when the young lord was only sixteen; and their
friendship and mutual confidence continued to the day of that mournful
separation at Chiswick. Under such training such a man as Lord Holland
was in no danger of falling into those faults which threw a dark shade
over the whole career of his grandfather, and from which the youth of
his uncle was not wholly free.

On the other hand, the late Lord Holland, as compared with his
grandfather and his uncle, labored under one great disadvantage. They
were members of the House of Commons. He became a Peer while still an
infant. When he entered public life, the House of Lords was a very small
and a very decorous assembly. The minority to which he belonged was
scarcely able to muster five or six votes on the most important nights,
when eighty or ninety lords were present. Debate had accordingly become
a mere form, as it was in the Irish House of Peers before the Union.
This was a great misfortune to a man like Lord Holland. It was not by
occasionally addressing fifteen or twenty solemn and unfriendly
auditors, that his grandfather and his uncle attained their unrivalled
parliamentary skill. The former had learned his art in "the great
Walpolean battles," on nights when Onslow was in the chair seventeen
hours without intermission, when the thick ranks on both sides kept
unbroken order till long after the winter sun had risen upon them, when
the blind were led out by the hand into the lobby and the paralytic laid
down in their bedclothes on the benches. The powers of Charles Fox were,
from the first, exercised in conflicts not less exciting. The great
talents of the late Lord Holland had no such advantage. This was the
more unfortunate, because the peculiar species of eloquence which
belonged to him in common with his family required much practice to
develop it. With strong sense, and the greatest readiness of wit, a
certain tendency to hesitation was hereditary in the line of Fox. This
hesitation arose, not from the poverty, but from the wealth of their
vocabulary. They paused, not from the difficulty of finding one
expression, but from the difficulty of choosing between several. It was
only by slow degrees and constant exercise that the first Lord Holland
and his son overcame the defect. Indeed neither of them overcame it

In statement, the late Lord Holland was not successful; his chief
excellence lay in reply. He had the quick eye of his house for the
unsound parts of an argument, and a great felicity in exposing them. He
was decidedly more distinguished in debate than any peer of his time who
had not sat in the House of Commons. Nay, to find his equal among
persons similarly situated, we must go back eighty years to Earl
Granville. For Mansfield, Thurlow, Loughborough, Grey, Grenville,
Brougham, Plunkett, and other eminent men, living and dead, whom we will
not stop to enumerate, carried to the Upper House an eloquence formed
and matured in the Lower. The opinion of the most discerning judges was
that Lord Holland's oratorical performances, though sometimes most
successful, afforded no fair measure of his oratorical powers, and that,
in an assembly of which the debates were frequent and animated, he would
have attained a very high order of excellence. It was, indeed,
impossible to listen to his conversation without seeing that he was born
a debater. To him, as to his uncle, the exercise of the mind in
discussion was a positive pleasure. With the greatest good nature and
good breeding, he was the very opposite to an assenter. The word
"disputatious" is generally used as a word of reproach; but we can
express our meaning only by saying that Lord Holland was most
courteously and pleasantly disputatious. In truth, his quickness in
discovering and apprehending distinctions and analogies was such as a
veteran judge might envy. The lawyers of the Duchy of Lancaster were
astonished to find in an unprofessional man so strong a relish for the
esoteric parts of their science, and complained that as soon as they had
split a hair, Lord Holland proceeded to split the filaments into
filaments still finer. In a mind less happily constituted, there might
have been a risk that this turn for subtilty would have produced serious
evil. But in the heart and understanding of Lord Holland there was ample
security against all such danger. He was not a man to be the dupe of his
own ingenuity. He put his logic to its proper use; and in him the
dialectician was always subordinate to the statesman.

His political life is written in the chronicles of his country. Perhaps,
as we have already intimated, his opinions on two or three great
questions of foreign policy were open to just objection. Yet even his
errors, if he erred, were amiable and respectable. We are not sure that
we do not love and admire him the more because he was now and then
seduced from what we regard as a wise policy by sympathy with the
oppressed, by generosity towards the fallen, by a philanthropy so
enlarged that it took in all nations, by love of peace,--a love which in
him was second only to the love of freedom,--and by the magnanimous
credulity of a mind which was as incapable of suspecting as of devising

To his views on questions of domestic policy the voice of his countrymen
does ample justice. They revere the memory of the man who was, during
forty years, the constant protector of all oppressed races and
persecuted sects; of the man whom neither the prejudices nor the
interests belonging to his station could seduce from the path of right;
of the noble, who in every great crisis cast in his lot with the
commons; of the planter, who made manful war on the slave trade; of the
landowner, whose whole heart was in the struggle against the corn-laws.

We have hitherto touched almost exclusively on those parts of Lord
Holland's character which were open to the observation of millions. How
shall we express the feelings with which his memory is cherished by
those who were honored with his friendship? Or in what language shall we
speak of that house, once celebrated for its rare attractions to the
furthest ends of the civilized world, and now silent and desolate as the
grave? To that house, a hundred and twenty years ago, a poet addressed
those tender and graceful lines, which have now acquired a new meaning
not less sad than that which they originally bore.

    "Thou hill, whose brow the antique structures grace,
    Reared by bold chiefs of Warwick's noble race,
    Why, once so loved, whene'er thy bower appears,
    O'er my dim eyeballs glance the sudden tears?
    How sweet were once thy prospects fresh and fair,
    Thy sloping walks and unpolluted air?
    How sweet the glooms beneath thine aged trees,
    Thy noon-tide shadow and thine evening breeze!
    His image thy forsaken bowers restore;
    Thy walks and airy prospects charm no more;
    No more the summer in thy glooms allayed,
    Thine evening breezes, and thy noon-day shade."

Yet a few years, and the shades and structures may follow their
illustrious masters. The wonderful city which, ancient and gigantic as
it is, still continues to grow as fast as a young town of logwood by a
water-privilege in Michigan, may soon displace those turrets and gardens
which are associated with so much that is interesting and noble, with
the courtly magnificence of Rich, with the loves of Ormond, with the
counsels of Cromwell, with the death of Addison. The time is coming
when, perhaps, a few old men, the last survivors of our generation, will
in vain seek, amidst new streets, and squares, and railway stations, for
the site of that dwelling which was in their youth the favorite resort
of wits and beauties, of painters and poets, of scholars, philosophers,
and statesmen. They will then remember, with strange tenderness, many
objects once familiar to them, the avenue and the terrace, the busts and
the paintings, the carving, the grotesque gilding, and the enigmatical
mottoes. With peculiar fondness they will recall that venerable chamber,
in which all the antique gravity of a college library was so singularly
blended with all that female grace and wit could devise to embellish a
drawing-room. They will recollect, not unmoved, those shelves loaded
with the varied learning of many lands and many ages, and those
portraits in which were preserved the features of the best and wisest
Englishmen of two generations. They will recollect how many men who have
guided the politics of Europe, who have moved great assemblies by reason
and eloquence, who have put life into bronze and canvas, or who have
left to posterity things so written as it shall not willingly let them
die, were there mixed with all that was loveliest and gayest in the
society of the most splendid of capitals. They will remember the
peculiar character which belonged to that circle, in which every talent
and accomplishment, every art and science, had its place. They will
remember how the last debate was discussed in one corner, and the last
comedy of Scribe in another; while Wilkie gazed with modest admiration
on Sir Joshua's Baretti; while Mackintosh turned over Thomas Aquinas to
verify a quotation; while Talleyrand related his conversations with
Barras at the Luxembourg, or his ride with Lannes over the field of
Austerlitz. They will remember, above all, the grace, and the kindness,
far more admirable than grace, with which the princely hospitality of
that ancient mansion was dispensed. They will remember the venerable and
benignant countenance and the cordial voice of him who bade them
welcome. They will remember that temper which years of pain, of
sickness, of lameness, of confinement, seemed only to make sweeter and
sweeter, and that frank politeness, which at once relieved all the
embarrassment of the youngest and most timid writer or artist, who found
himself for the first time among ambassadors and earls. They will
remember that constant flow of conversation, so natural, so animated, so
various, so rich with observation and anecdote; that wit which never
gave a wound; that exquisite mimicry which ennobled, instead of
degrading; that goodness of heart which appeared in every look and
accent, and gave additional value to every talent and acquirement. They
will remember, too, that he whose name they hold in reverence was not
less distinguished by the inflexible uprightness of his political
conduct than by his loving disposition and his winning manners. They
will remember that in the last lines which he traced, he expressed his
joy that he had done nothing unworthy of the friend of Fox and Grey; and
they will have reason to feel similar joy if, in looking back on many
troubled years, they cannot accuse themselves of having done anything
unworthy of men who were distinguished by the friendship of Lord


[4] The Opinions of Lord Holland, as recorded in the Journals of the
House of Lords, from 1797 to 1841. Collected and edited by D. C. Moylan,
of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister-at-Law. 8vo. London: 1841.


_The Edinburgh Review_, October, 1841

We are inclined to think that we shall best meet the wishes of our
readers if, instead of minutely examining this book, we attempt to give,
in a way necessarily hasty and imperfect, our own view of the life and
character of Mr. Hastings. Our feeling towards him is not exactly that
of the House of Commons which impeached him in 1787; neither is it that
of the House of Commons which uncovered and stood up to receive him in
1813. He had great qualities, and he rendered great services to the
state. But to represent him as a man of stainless virtue is to make him
ridiculous; and from a regard for his memory, if from no other feeling,
his friends would have done well to lend no countenance to such
adulation. We believe that, if he were now living, he would have
sufficient judgment and sufficient greatness of mind to wish to be shown
as he was. He must have known that there were dark spots on his fame. He
might also have felt with pride that the splendor of his fame would bear
many spots. He would have wished posterity to have a likeness of him,
though an unfavorable likeness, rather than a daub at once insipid and
unnatural, resembling neither him nor anybody else. "Paint me as I am,"
said Oliver Cromwell, while sitting to young Lely. "If you leave out the
scars and wrinkles, I will not pay you a shilling." Even in such a
trifle, the great Protector showed both his good sense and his
magnanimity. He did not wish all that was characteristic in his
countenance to be lost, in the vain attempt to give him the regular
features and smooth blooming cheeks of the curl-pated minions of James
the First. He was content that his face should go forth marked with all
the blemishes which had been put on it by time, by war, by sleepless
nights, by anxiety, perhaps by remorse; but with valor, policy,
authority, ind public care written in all its princely lines. If men
truly great knew their own interest, it is thus that they would wish
their minds to be portrayed.

Warren Hastings sprang from an ancient and illustrious race. It has been
affirmed that his pedigree can be traced back to the great Danish
sea-king, whose sails were long the terror of both coasts of the British
Channel, and who, after many fierce and doubtful struggles, yielded at
last to the valor and genius of Alfred. But the undoubted splendor of
the line of Hastings needs no illustration from fable. One branch of
that line wore, in the fourteenth century, the coronet of Pembroke. From
another branch sprang the renowned Chamberlain, the faithful adherent of
the White Rose, whose fate has furnished so striking a theme both to
poets and to historians. His family received from the Tudors the earldom
of Huntingdon, which, after long dispossession, was regained in our time
by a series of events scarcely paralleled in romance.

The lords of the manor of Daylesford, in Worcestershire, claimed to be
considered as the heads of this distinguished family. The main stock,
indeed, prospered less than some of the younger shoots. But the
Daylesford family, though not ennobled, was wealthy and highly
considered, till, about two hundred years ago, it was overwhelmed by the
great ruin of the civil war. The Hastings of that time was a zealous
cavalier. He raised money on his lands, sent his plate to the mint at
Oxford, joined the royal army, and, after spending half his property in
the cause of King Charles, was glad to ransom himself by making over
most of the remaining half to Speaker Lenthal. The old seat at
Daylesford still remained in the family; but it could no longer be kept
up; and in the following generation it was sold to a merchant of London.

Before this transfer took place, the last Hastings of Daylesford had
presented his second son to the rectory of the parish in which the
ancient residence of the family stood. The living was of little value;
and the situation of the poor clergyman, after the sale of the estate,
was deplorable. He was constantly engaged in lawsuits about his tithes
with the new lord of the manor, and was at length utterly ruined. His
eldest son, Howard, a well conducted young man, obtained a place in the
Customs. The second son, Pynaston, an idle, worthless boy, married
before he was sixteen, lost his wife in two years, and died in the West
Indies, leaving to the care of his unfortunate father a little orphan,
destined to strange and memorable vicissitudes of fortune.

Warren, the son of Pynaston, was born on the sixth of December, 1732.
His mother died a few days later, and he was left dependent on his
distressed grandfather. The child was early sent to the village school,
where he learned his letters on the same bench with the sons of the
peasantry. Nor did anything in his garb or fare indicate that his life
was to take a widely different course from that of the young rustics
with whom he studied and played. But no cloud could overcast the dawn of
so much genius and so much ambition. The very ploughmen observed, and
long remembered, how kindly little Warren took to his book. The daily
sight of the lands which his ancestors had possessed, and which had
passed into the hands of strangers, filled his young brain with wild
fancies and projects. He loved to hear stories of the wealth and
greatness of his progenitors, of their splendid housekeeping, their
loyalty, and their valor. On one bright summer day, the boy, then just
seven years old, lay on the bank of the rivulet which flows through the
old domain of his house to join the Isis. There, as threescore and ten
years later he told the tale, rose in his mind a scheme which, through
all the turns of his eventful career, was never abandoned. He would
recover the estate which had belonged to his fathers. He would be
Hastings of Daylesford. This purpose, formed in infancy and poverty,
grew stronger as his intellect expanded and as his fortune rose. He
pursued his plan with that calm but indomitable force of will which was
the most striking peculiarity of his character. When, under a tropical
sun, he ruled fifty millions of Asiatics, his hopes, amidst all the
cares of war, finance, and legislation, still pointed to Daylesford. And
when his long public life, so singularly checkered with good and evil,
with glory and obloquy, had at length closed forever, it was to
Daylesford that he retired to die.

When he was eight years old, his uncle Howard determined to take charge
of him, and to give him a liberal education. The boy went up to London,
and was sent to a school at Newington, where he was well taught but ill
fed. He always attributed the smallness of his stature to the hard and
scanty fare of this seminary. At ten he was removed to Westminster
school, then flourishing under the care of Dr. Nichols. Vinny Bourne, as
his pupils affectionately called him, was one of the masters. Churchill,
Colman, Lloyd, Cumberland, Cowper, were among the students. With Cowper,
Hastings formed a friendship which neither the lapse of time, nor a wide
dissimilarity of opinions and pursuits, could wholly dissolve. It does
not appear that they ever met after they had grown to manhood. But forty
years later, when the voices of many great orators were crying for
vengeance on the oppressor of India, the shy and secluded poet could
image to himself Hastings the Governor-General only as the Hastings with
whom he had rowed on the Thames and played in the cloister, and refused
to believe that so good-tempered a fellow could have done anything very
wrong. His own life had been spent in praying, musing, and rhyming among
the water-lilies of the Ouse. He had preserved in no common measure the
innocence of childhood. His spirit had indeed been severely tried, but
not by temptations which impelled him to any gross violation of the
rules of social morality. He had never been attacked by combinations of
powerful and deadly enemies. He had never been compelled to make a
choice between innocence and greatness, between crime and ruin. Firmly
as he held in theory the doctrine of human depravity, his habits were
such that he was unable to conceive how far from the path of right even
kind and noble natures may be hurried by the rage of conflict and the
lust of dominion.

Hastings had another associate at Westminster of whom we shall have
occasion to make frequent mention, Elijah Impey. We know little about
their school-days. But, we think, we may safely venture to guess that,
whenever Hastings wished to play any trick more than usually naughty, he
hired Impey with a tart or a ball to act as fag in the worst part of the

Warren was distinguished among his comrades as an excellent swimmer,
boatman, and scholar. At fourteen he was first in the examination for
the foundation. His name in gilded letters on the walls of the dormitory
still attests his victory over many older competitors. He stayed two
years longer at the school, and was looking forward to a studentship at
Christ Church, when an event happened which changed the whole course of
his life. Howard Hastings died, bequeathing his nephew to the care of a
friend and distant relation, named Chiswick. This gentleman, though he
did not absolutely refuse the charge, was desirous to rid himself of it
as soon as possible. Dr. Nichols made strong remonstrances against the
cruelty of interrupting the studies of a youth who seemed likely to be
one of the first scholars of the age. He even offered to bear the
expense of sending his favorite pupil to Oxford. But Mr. Chiswick was
inflexible. He thought the years which had already been wasted on
hexameters and pentameters quite sufficient. He had it in his power to
obtain for the lad a writership in the service of the East India
Company. Whether the young adventurer, when once shipped off, made a
fortune, or died of a liver complaint, he equally ceased to be a burden
to anybody. Warren was accordingly removed from Westminster school, and
placed for a few months at a commercial academy, to study arithmetic and
book-keeping. In January, 1750, a few days after he had completed his
seventeenth year, he sailed for Bengal, and arrived at his destination
in the October following.

He was immediately placed at a desk in the Secretary's office at
Calcutta, and labored there during two years. Fort William was then a
purely commercial settlement. In the south of India the encroaching
policy of Dupleix had transformed the servants of the English Company,
against their will, into diplomatists and generals. The war of the
succession was raging in the Carnatic; and the tide had been suddenly
turned against the French by the genius of young Robert Clive. But in
Bengal the European settlers, at peace with the natives and with each
other, were wholly occupied with ledgers and bills of lading.

After two years passed in keeping accounts at Calcutta, Hastings was
sent up the country to Cossimbazar, a town which lies on the Hoogley,
about a mile from Moorshedabad, and which then bore to Moorshedabad a
relation, if we may compare small things with great, such as the city of
London bears to Westminster. Moorshedabad was the abode of the prince
who, by an authority ostensibly derived from the Mogul, but really
independent, ruled the three great provinces of Bengal, Orissa, and
Bahar. At Moorshedabad were the court, the haram, and the public
offices. Cossimbazar was a port and a place of trade, renowned for the
quantity and excellence of the silks which were sold in its marts, and
constantly receiving and sending forth fleets of richly laden barges. At
this important point, the Company had established a small factory
subordinate to that of Fort William. Here, during several years,
Hastings was employed in making bargains for stuffs with native brokers.
While he was thus engaged, Surajah Dowlah succeeded to the government,
and declared war against the English. The defenceless settlement of
Cossimbazar, lying close to the tyrant's capital, was instantly seized.
Hastings was sent a prisoner to Moorshedabad, but, in consequence of the
humane intervention of the servants of the Dutch Company, was treated
with indulgence. Meanwhile the Nabob marched on Calcutta; the governor
and the commandant fled; the town and citadel were taken, and most of
the English prisoners perished in the Black Hole.

In these events originated the greatness of Warren Hastings. The
fugitive governor and his companions had taken refuge on the dreary
islet of Fulda, near the mouth of the Hoogley. They were naturally
desirous to obtain full information respecting the proceedings of the
Nabob; and no person seemed so likely to furnish it as Hastings, who was
a prisoner at large in the immediate neighborhood of the court. He thus
became a diplomatic agent, and soon established a high character for
ability and resolution. The treason which at a later period was fatal to
Surajah Dowlah was already in progress; and Hastings was admitted to the
deliberations of the conspirators. But the time for striking had not
arrived. It was necessary to postpone the execution of the design; and
Hastings, who was now in extreme peril, fled to Fulda.

Soon after his arrival at Fulda, the expedition from Madras, commanded
by Clive, appeared in the Hoogley. Warren, young, intrepid, and excited
probably by the example of the Commander of the Forces, who, having
like himself been a mercantile agent of the Company, had been turned by
public calamities into a soldier, determined to serve in the ranks.
During the early operations of the war he carried a musket. But the
quick eye of Clive soon perceived that the head of the young volunteer
would be more useful than his arm. When, after the battle of Plassey,
Meer Jaffier was proclaimed Nabob of Bengal, Hastings was appointed to
reside at the court of the new prince as agent for the Company.

He remained at Moorshedabad till the year 1761, when he became a member
of Council, and was consequently forced to reside at Calcutta. This was
during the interval between Clive's first and second administration, an
interval which has left on the fame of the East India Company a stain,
not wholly effaced by many years of just and humane government. Mr.
Vansittart, the Governor, was at the head of a new and anomalous empire.
On the one side was a band of English functionaries, daring,
intelligent, eager to be rich. On the other side was a great native
population, helpless, timid, accustomed to crouch under oppression. To
keep the stronger race from preying on the weaker was an undertaking
which tasked to the utmost the talents and energy of Clive. Vansittart,
with fair intentions, was a feeble and inefficient ruler. The master
caste, as was natural, broke loose from all restraint; and then was seen
what we believe to be the most frightful of all spectacles, the strength
of civilization without its mercy. To all other despotism there is a
check, imperfect indeed, and liable to gross abuse, but still sufficient
to preserve society from the last extreme of misery. A time comes when
the evils of submission are obviously greater than those of resistance,
when fear itself begets a sort of courage, when a convulsive burst of
popular rage and despair warns tyrants not to presume too far on the
patience of mankind. But against misgovernment such as then afflicted
Bengal it was impossible to struggle. The superior intelligence and
energy of the dominant class made their power irresistible. A war of
Bengalese against Englishmen was like a war of sheep against wolves, of
men against demons. The only protection which the conquered could find
was in the moderation, the clemency, the enlarged policy of the
conquerors. That protection, at a later period, they found. But at first
English power came among them unaccompanied by English morality. There
was an interval between the time at which they became our subjects, and
the time at which we began to reflect that we were bound to discharge
towards them the duties of rulers. During that interval the business of
a servant of the Company was simply to wring out of the natives a
hundred or two hundred thousand pounds as speedily as possible, that he
might return home before his constitution had suffered from the heat, to
marry a peer's daughter, to buy rotten boroughs in Cornwall, and to give
balls in St. James's Square. Of the conduct of Hastings at this time
little is known; but the little that is known, and the circumstance that
little is known, must be considered as honorable to him. He could not
protect the natives: all that he could do was to abstain from plundering
and oppressing them; and this he appears to have done. It is certain
that at this time he continued poor; and it is equally certain, that by
cruelty and dishonesty he might easily have become rich. It is certain
that he was never charged with having borne a share in the worst abuses
which then prevailed; and it is almost equally certain that, if he had
borne a share in those abuses, the able and bitter enemies who
afterwards persecuted him would not have failed to discover and to
proclaim his guilt. The keen, severe, and even malevolent scrutiny to
which his whole public life was subjected, a scrutiny unparalleled, as
we believe, in the history of mankind, is in one respect advantageous to
his reputation. It brought many lamentable blemishes to light; but it
entitles him to be considered pure from every blemish which has not been
brought to light.

The truth is that the temptations to which so many English functionaries
yielded in the time of Mr. Vansittart were not temptations addressed to
the ruling passions of Warren Hastings. He was not squeamish in
pecuniary transactions; but he was neither sordid nor rapacious. He was
far too enlightened a man to look on a great empire merely as a
buccaneer would look on a galleon. Had his heart been much worse than it
was, his understanding would have preserved him from that extremity of
baseness. He was an unscrupulous, perhaps an unprincipled statesman; but
still he was a statesman, and not a freebooter.

In 1764 Hastings returned to England. He had realized only a very
moderate fortune; and that moderate fortune was soon reduced to nothing,
partly by his praiseworthy liberality, and partly by his mismanagement.
Towards his relations he appears to have acted very generously. The
greater part of his savings he left in Bengal, hoping probably to obtain
the high usury of India. But high usury and bad security generally go
together; and Hastings lost both interest and principal.

He remained four years in England. Of his life at this time very little
is known. But it has been asserted, and is highly probable, that liberal
studies and the society of men of letters occupied a great part of his
time. It is to be remembered to his honor, that in days when the
languages of the East were regarded by other servants of the Company
merely as the means of communicating with weavers and money-changers,
his enlarged and accomplished mind sought in Asiatic learning for new
forms of intellectual enjoyment, and for new views of government and
society. Perhaps, like most persons who have paid much attention to
departments of knowledge which lie out of the common track, he was
inclined to overrate the value of his favorite studies. He conceived
that the cultivation of Persian literature might with advantage be made
a part of the liberal education of an English gentleman; and he drew up
a plan with that view. It is said that the University of Oxford, in
which Oriental learning had never, since the revival of letters, been
wholly neglected, was to be the seat of the institution which he
contemplated. An endowment was expected from the munificence of the
Company; and professors thoroughly competent to interpret Hafiz and
Ferdusi were to be engaged in the East. Hastings called on Johnson, with
the hope, as it should seem, of interesting in this project a man who
enjoyed the highest literary reputation, and who was particularly
connected with Oxford. The interview appears to have left on Johnson's
mind a most favorable impression of the talents and attainments of his
visitor. Long after, when Hastings was ruling the immense population of
British India, the old philosopher wrote to him, and referred in the
most courtly terms, though with great dignity, to their short but
agreeable intercourse.

Hastings soon began to look again towards India. He had little to attach
him to England; and his pecuniary embarrassments were great. He
solicited his old masters the Directors for employment. They acceded to
his request, with high compliments both to his abilities and to his
integrity, and appointed him a Member of Council at Madras. It would be
unjust not to mention that, though forced to borrow money for his
outfit, he did not withdraw any portion of the sum which he had
appropriated to the relief of his distressed relations. In the spring of
1769 he embarked on board of the Duke of Grafton, and commenced a voyage
distinguished by incidents which might furnish matter for a novel.

Among the passengers in the Duke of Grafton was a German of the name of
Imhoff. He called himself a baron; but he was in distressed
circumstances, and was going out to Madras as a portrait-painter, in the
hope of picking up some of the pagodas which were then lightly got and
as lightly spent by the English in India. The baron was accompanied by
his wife, a native, we have somewhere read, of Archangel. This young
woman who, born under the Arctic circle, was destined to play the part
of a Queen under the tropic of Cancer, had an agreeable person, a
cultivated mind, and manners in the highest degree engaging. She
despised her husband heartily, and, as the story which we have to tell
sufficiently proves, not without reason. She was interested by the
conversation and flattered by the attentions of Hastings. The situation
was indeed perilous. No place is so propitious to the formation either
of close friendships or of deadly enmities as an Indiaman. There are
very few people who do not find a voyage which lasts several months
insupportably dull. Anything is welcome which may break that long
monotony, a sail, a shark, an albatross, a man overboard. Most
passengers find some resource in eating twice as many meals as on land.
But the great devices for killing the time are quarrelling and flirting.
The facilities for both these exciting pursuits are great. The inmates
of the ship are thrown together far more than in any country-seat or
boarding-house. None can escape from the rest except by imprisoning
himself in a cell in which he can hardly turn. All food, all exercise,
is taken in company. Ceremony is to a great extent banished. It is every
day in the power of a mischievous person to inflict innumerable
annoyances; it is every day in the power of an amiable person to confer
little services. It not seldom happens that serious distress and danger
call forth in genuine beauty and deformity heroic virtues and abject
vices which, in the ordinary intercourse of good society, might remain
during many years unknown even to intimate associates. Under such
circumstances met Warren Hastings and the Baroness Imhoff, two persons
whose accomplishments would have attracted notice in any court of
Europe. The gentleman had no domestic ties. The lady was tied to a
husband for whom she had no regard, and who had no regard for his own
honor. An attachment sprang up, which was soon strengthened by events
such as could hardly have occurred on land. Hastings fell ill. The
baroness nursed him with womanly tenderness, gave him his medicines with
her own hand, and even sat up in his cabin while he slept. Long before
the Duke of Grafton reached Madras, Hastings was in love. But his love
was of a most characteristic description. Like his hatred, like his
ambition, like all his passions, it was strong, but not impetuous. It
was calm, deep, earnest, patient of delay, unconquerable by time. Imhoff
was called into council by his wife and his wife's lover. It was
arranged that the baroness should institute a suit for a divorce in the
courts of Franconia, that the baron should afford every facility to the
proceeding, and that, during the years which might elapse before the
sentence should be pronounced, they should continue to live together. It
was also agreed that Hastings should bestow some very substantial marks
of gratitude on the complaisant husband, and should, when the marriage
was dissolved, make the lady his wife, and adopt the children whom she
had already borne to Imhoff.

At Madras, Hastings found the trade of the Company in a very
disorganized state. His own tastes would have led him rather to
political than to commercial pursuits; but he knew that the favor of his
employers depended chiefly on their dividends, and that their dividends
depended chiefly on the investment. He therefore, with great judgment,
determined to apply his vigorous mind for a time to this department of
business, which had been much neglected, since the servants of the
Company had ceased to be clerks, and had become warriors and

In a very few months he effected an important reform. The Directors
notified to him their high approbation, and were so much pleased with
his conduct that they determined to place him at the head of the
government of Bengal. Early in 1772 he quitted Fort St. George for his
new post. The Imhoffs, who were still man and wife, accompanied him, and
lived at Calcutta on the same plan which they had already followed
during more than two years.

When Hastings took his seat at the head of the council board, Bengal was
still governed according to the system which Clive had devised,--a
system which was, perhaps, skilfully contrived for the purpose of
facilitating and concealing a great revolution, but which, when that
revolution was complete and irrevocable, could produce nothing but
inconvenience. There were two governments, the real and the ostensible.
The supreme power belonged to the Company, and was in truth the most
despotic power that can be conceived. The only restraint on the English
masters of the country was that which their own justice and humanity
imposed on them. There was no constitutional check on their will, and
resistance to them was utterly hopeless.

But, though thus absolute in reality, the English had not yet assumed
the style of sovereignty. They held their territories as vassals of the
throne of Delhi; they raised their revenues as collectors appointed by
the imperial commission; their public seal was inscribed with the
imperial titles; and their mint struck only the imperial coin.

There was still a nabob of Bengal, who stood to the English rulers of
his country in the same relation in which Augustulus stood to Odoacer,
or the last Merovingians to Charles Martel and Pepin. He lived at
Moorshedabad, surrounded by princely magnificence. He was approached
with outward marks of reverence, and his name was used in public
instruments. But in the government of the country he had less real share
than the youngest writer or cadet in the Company's service.

The English council which represented the Company at Calcutta was
constituted on a very different plan from that which has since been
adopted. At present the Governor is, as to all executive measures,
absolute. He can declare war, conclude peace, appoint public
functionaries or remove them, in opposition to the unanimous sense of
those who sit with him in council. They are, indeed, entitled to know
all that is done, to discuss all that is done, to advise, to
remonstrate, to send protests to England. But it is with the Governor
that the supreme power resides, and on him that the whole responsibility
rests. This system, which was introduced by Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas in
spite of the strenuous opposition of Mr. Burke, we conceive to be on the
whole the best that was ever devised for the government of a country
where no materials can be found for a representative constitution. In
the time of Hastings the Governor had only one vote in council, and, in
case of an equal division, a casting vote. It therefore happened not
unfrequently that he was overruled on the gravest questions; and it was
possible that he might be wholly excluded, for years together, from the
real direction of public affairs.

The English functionaries at Fort William had as yet paid little or no
attention to the internal government of Bengal. The only branch of
politics about which they much busied themselves was negotiation with
the native princes. The police, the administration of justice, the
details of the collection of revenue, were almost entirely neglected. We
may remark that the phraseology of the Company's servants still bears
the traces of this state of things. To this day they always use the word
"political" as synonymous with "diplomatic." We could name that
gentleman still living, who was described by the highest authority as an
invaluable public servant, eminently fit to be at the head of the
internal administration of a whole presidency, but unfortunately quite
ignorant of all political business.

The internal government of Bengal the English rulers delegated to a
great native minister, who was stationed at Moorshedabad. All military
affairs, and with the exception of what pertains to mere ceremonial all
foreign affairs, were withdrawn from his control; but the other
departments of the administration were entirely confided to him. His own
stipend amounted to near a hundred thousand pounds sterling a year. The
personal allowance of the Nabob, amounting to more than three hundred
thousand pounds a year, passed through the minister's hands, and was, to
a great extent, at his disposal. The collection of the revenue, the
administration of justice, the maintenance of order, were left to this
high functionary; and for the exercise of his immense power he was
responsible to none but the British masters of the country.

A situation so important, lucrative, and splendid was naturally an
object of ambition to the ablest and most powerful natives. Clive had
found it difficult to decide between conflicting pretensions. Two
candidates stood out prominently from the crowd, each of them the
representative of a race and of a religion.

One of these was Mahommed Reza Khan, a Mussulman of Persian extraction,
able, active, religious after the fashion of his people, and highly
esteemed by them. In England he might perhaps have been regarded as a
corrupt and greedy politician. But, tried by the lower standard of
Indian morality, he might be considered as a man of integrity and honor.

His competitor was a Hindoo Brahmin whose name has, by a terrible and
melancholy event, been inseparably associated with that of Warren
Hastings, the Maharajah Nuncomar. This man had played an important part
in all the revolutions which, since the time of Surajah Dowlah, had
taken place in Bengal. To the consideration which in that country
belongs to high and pure caste, he added the weight which is derived
from wealth, talents, and experience. Of his moral character it is
difficult to give a notion to those who are acquainted with human
nature only as it appears in our island. What the Italian is to the
Englishman, what the Hindoo is to the Italian, what the Bengalee is to
other Hindoos, that was Nuncomar to other Bengalese. The physical
organization of the Bengalee is feeble even to effeminacy. He lives in a
constant vapor bath. His pursuits are sedentary, his limbs delicate, his
movements languid. During many ages he has been trampled upon by men of
bolder and more hardy breeds. Courage, independence, veracity, are
qualities to which his constitution and his situation are equally
unfavorable. His mind bears a singular analogy to his body. It is weak
even to helplessness, for purposes of manly resistance; but its
suppleness and its tact move the children of sterner climates to
admiration not unmingled with contempt. All those arts which are the
natural defence of the weak are more familiar to this subtle race than
to the Ionian of the time of Juvenal, or to the Jew of the dark ages.
What the horns are to the buffalo, what the paw is to the tiger, what
the sting is to the bee, what beauty, according to the old Greek song,
is to woman, deceit is to the Bengalee. Large promises, smooth excuses,
elaborate tissues of circumstantial falsehood, chicanery, perjury,
forgery, are the weapons, offensive and defensive, of the people of the
Lower Ganges. All those millions do not furnish one sepoy to the armies
of the Company. But as usurers, as money-changers, as sharp legal
practitioners, no class of human beings can bear a comparison with them.
With all his softness, the Bengalee is by no means placable in his
enmities or prone to pity. The pertinacity with which he adheres to his
purposes yields only to the immediate pressure of fear. Nor does he lack
a certain kind of courage which is often wanting to his masters. To
inevitable evils he is sometimes found to oppose a passive fortitude,
such as the Stoics attributed to their ideal sage. A European warrior
who rushes on a battery of cannon with a loud hurrah will sometimes
shriek under the surgeon's knife, and fall into an agony of despair at
the sentence of death. But the Bengalee who would see his country
overrun, his house laid in ashes, his children murdered or dishonored,
without having the spirit to strike one blow, has yet been known to
endure torture with the firmness of Mucius, and to mount the scaffold
with the steady step and even pulse of Algernon Sydney.

In Nuncomar the national character was strongly and with exaggeration
personified. The Company's servants had repeatedly detected him in the
most criminal intrigues. On one occasion he brought a false charge
against another Hindoo, and tried to substantiate it by producing forged
documents. On another occasion it was discovered that, while professing
the strongest attachment to the English, he was engaged in several
conspiracies against them, and in particular that he was the medium of a
correspondence between the court of Delhi and the French authorities in
the Carnatic. For these and similar practices he had been long detained
in confinement. But his talents and influence had not only procured his
liberation, but had obtained for him a certain degree of consideration
even among the British rulers of his country.

Clive was extremely unwilling to place a Mussulman at the head of the
administration of Bengal. On the other hand, he could not bring himself
to confer immense power on a man to whom every sort of villainy had
repeatedly been brought home. Therefore, though the Nabob, over whom
Nuncomar had by intrigue acquired great influence, begged that the
artful Hindoo might be entrusted with the government, Clive, after some
hesitation, decided honestly and wisely in favor of Mahommed Reza Khan.
When Hastings became Governor, Mahommed Reza Khan had held power seven
years. An infant son of Meer Jaffier was now nabob; and the guardianship
of the young prince's person had been confided to the minister.

Nuncomar, stimulated at once by cupidity and malice, had been constantly
attempting to hurt his successful rival. This was not difficult. The
revenues of Bengal, under the administration established by Clive, did
not yield such a surplus as had been anticipated by the Company; for at
that time, the most absurd notions were entertained in England
respecting the wealth of India. Palaces of porphyry, hung with the
richest brocade, heaps of pearls and diamonds, vaults from which pagodas
and gold mohurs were measured out by the bushel, filled the imagination
even of men of business. Nobody seemed to be aware of what nevertheless
was most undoubtedly the truth, that India was a poorer country than
countries which in Europe are reckoned poor, than Ireland, for example,
or than Portugal. It was confidently believed by lords of the treasury
and members for the city that Bengal would not only defray its own
charges, but would afford an increased dividend to the proprietors of
India stock, and large relief to the English finances. These absurd
expectations were disappointed; and the directors, naturally enough,
chose to attribute the disappointment rather to the mismanagement of
Mahommed Reza Khan than to their own ignorance of the country entrusted
to their care. They were confirmed in their error by the agents of
Nuncomar; for Nuncomar had agents even in Leadenhall Street. Soon after
Hastings reached Calcutta, he received a letter addressed by the Court
of Directors, not to the council generally, but to himself in
particular. He was directed to remove Mahommed Reza Khan, to arrest him,
together with all his family and all his partisans, and to institute a
strict inquiry into the whole administration of the province. It was
added that the Governor would do well to avail himself of the assistance
of Nuncomar in the investigation. The vices of Nuncomar were
acknowledged. But even from his vices, it was said, much advantage might
at such a conjuncture be derived; and, though he could not safely be
trusted, it; might still be proper to encourage him by hopes of reward.

The Governor bore no good will to Nuncomar. Many years before, they had
known each other at Moorshedabad; and then a quarrel had risen between
them which all the authority of their superiors could hardly compose.
Widely as they differed in most points, they resembled each other in
this, that both were men of unforgiving natures. To Mahommed Reza Khan,
on the other hand, Hastings had no feelings of hostility. Nevertheless
he proceeded to execute the instructions of the Company with an alacrity
which he never showed except when instructions were in perfect
conformity with his own views. He had, wisely, as we think, determined
to get rid of the system of double government in Bengal. The orders of
the Directors furnished him with the means of effecting his purpose, and
dispensed him from the necessity of discussing the matter with his
council. He took his measures with his usual vigor and dexterity. At
midnight, the palace of Mahommed Reza Khan at Moorshedabad was
surrounded by a battalion of sepoys. The minister was roused from his
slumbers, and informed that he was a prisoner. With the Mussulman
gravity, he bent his head and submitted himself to the will of God. He
fell not alone. A chief named Schitab Roy had been entrusted with the
government of Bahar. His valor and his attachment to the English had
more than once been signally proved. On that memorable day on which the
people of Patna saw from their walls the whole army of the Mogul
scattered by the little band of Captain Knox, the voice of the British
conquerors assigned the palm of gallantry to the brave Asiatic. "I
never," said Knox, when he introduced Schitab Roy, covered with blood
and dust, to the English functionaries assembled in the factory,--"I
never saw a native fight so before." Schitab Roy was involved in the
ruin of Mahommed Reza Khan, was removed from office, and was placed
under arrest. The members of the council received no intimation of
these measures till the prisoners were on their road to Calcutta.

The inquiry into the conduct of the minister was postponed on different
pretences. He was detained in an easy confinement during many months. In
the meantime, the great revolution which Hastings had planned was
carried into effect. The office of minister was abolished. The internal
administration was transferred to the servants of the Company. A system,
a very imperfect system, it is true, of civil and criminal justice,
under English superintendence, was established. The Nabob was no longer
to have even an ostensible share in the government; but he was still to
receive a considerable annual allowance, and to be surrounded with the
state of sovereignty. As he was an infant, it was necessary to provide
guardians for his person and property. His person was entrusted to a
lady of his father's haram, known by the name of the Munny Begum. The
office of treasurer of the household was bestowed on a son of Nuncomar,
named Goordas. Nuncomar's services were wanted, yet he could not safely
be trusted with power; and Hastings thought it a master stroke of policy
to reward the able and unprincipled parent by promoting the inoffensive

The revolution completed, the double government dissolved, the Company
installed in the full sovereignty of Bengal, Hastings had no motive to
treat the late ministers with rigor. Their trial had been put off on
various pleas till the new organization was complete. They were then
brought before a committee, over which the Governor presided. Schitab
Roy was speedily acquitted with honor. A formal apology was made to him
for the restraint to which he had been subjected. All the Eastern marks
of respect were bestowed on him. He was clothed in a robe of state,
presented with jewels and with a richly harnessed elephant, and sent
back to his government at Patna. But his health had suffered from
confinement; his high spirit had been cruelly wounded; and soon after
his liberation he died of a broken heart.

The innocence of Mahommed Reza Khan was not so clearly established. But
the Governor was not disposed to deal harshly. After a long hearing, in
which Nuncomar appeared as the accuser, and displayed both the art and
the inveterate rancor which distinguished him, Hastings pronounced that
the charges had not been made out, and ordered the fallen minister to be
set at liberty.

Nuncomar had purposed to destroy the Mussulman administration, and to
rise on its ruin. Both his malevolence and his cupidity had been
disappointed. Hastings had made him a tool, had used him for the purpose
of accomplishing the transfer of the government from Moorshedabad to
Calcutta, from native to European hands. The rival, the enemy, so long
envied, so implacably persecuted, had been dismissed unhurt. The
situation so long and ardently desired had been abolished. It was
natural that the Governor should be from that time an object of the most
intense hatred to the vindictive Brahmin. As yet, however, it was
necessary to suppress such feelings. The time was coming when that long
animosity was to end in a desperate and deadly struggle.

In the meantime, Hastings was compelled to turn his attention to foreign
affairs. The object of his diplomacy was at this time simply to get
money. The finances of his government were in an embarrassed state; and
this embarrassment he was determined to relieve by some means, fair or
foul. The principle which directed all his dealings with his neighbors
is fully expressed by the old motto of one of the great predatory
families of Teviotdale, "Thou shalt want ere I want." He seems to have
laid it down, as a fundamental proposition which could not be disputed,
that when he had not as many lacs of rupees as the public service
required, he was to take them from anybody who had. One thing, indeed,
is to be said in excuse for him. The pressure applied to him by his
employers at home was such as only the highest virtue could have
withstood, such as left him no choice except to commit great wrongs, or
to resign his high post, and with that post all his hopes of fortune and
distinction. The Directors, it is true, never enjoined or applauded any
crime. Far from it. Whoever examines their letters written at that time
will find there many just and humane sentiments, many excellent
precepts, in short, an admirable code of political ethics. But every
exhortation is modified or nullified by a demand for money. "Govern
leniently, and send more money; practise strict justice and moderation
towards neighboring powers, and send more money;" this is in truth the
sum of almost all the instructions that Hastings ever received from
home. Now these instructions, being interpreted, mean simply, "Be the
father and the oppressor of the people; be just and unjust, moderate and
rapacious." The Directors dealt with India as the church, in the good
old times, dealt with a heretic. They delivered the victim over to the
executioners, with an earnest request that all possible tenderness might
be shown. We by no means accuse or suspect those who framed these
despatches of hypocrisy. It is probable that, writing fifteen thousand
miles from the place where their orders were to be carried into effect,
they never perceived the gross inconsistency of which they were guilty.
But the inconsistency was at once manifest to their vicegerent at
Calcutta, who, with an empty treasury, with an unpaid army, with his own
salary often in arrear, with deficient crops, with government tenants
daily running away, was called upon to remit home another half million
without fail. Hastings saw that it was absolutely necessary for him to
disregard either the moral discourses or the pecuniary requisitions of
his employers. Being forced to disobey them in something, he had to
consider what kind of disobedience they would most readily pardon; and
he correctly judged that the safest course would be to neglect the
sermons and to find the rupees.

A mind so fertile as his, and so little restrained by conscientious
scruples, speedily discovered several modes of relieving the financial
embarrassments of the government. The allowance of the Nabob of Bengal
was reduced at a stroke from three hundred and twenty thousand pounds a
year to half that sum. The Company had bound itself to pay near three
hundred thousand pounds a year to the Great Mogul, as a mark of homage
for the provinces which he had entrusted to their care; and they had
ceded to him the districts of Corah and Allahabad. On the plea that the
Mogul was not really independent, but merely a tool in the hands of
others, Hastings determined to retract these concessions. He accordingly
declared that the English would pay no more tribute, and sent troops to
occupy Allahabad and Corah. The situation of these places was such that
there would be little advantage and great expense in retaining them.
Hastings, who wanted money and not territory, determined to sell them. A
purchaser was not wanting. The rich province of Oude had, in the general
dissolution of the Mogul Empire, fallen to the share of the great
Mussulman house by which it is still governed. About twenty years ago,
this house, by the permission of the British government, assumed the
royal title; but, in the time of Warren Hastings, such an assumption
would have been considered by the Mahommedans of India as a monstrous
impiety. The Prince of Oude, though he held the power, did not venture
to use the style of sovereignty. To the appellation of Nabob or Viceroy,
he added that of Vizier of the monarchy of Hindostan, just as in the
last century the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, though independent
of the Emperor, and often in arms against him, were proud to style
themselves his Grand Chamberlain and Grand Marshal. Sujah Dowlah, then
Nabob Vizier, was on excellent terms with the English. He had a large
treasure. Allahabad and Corah were so situated that they might be of use
to him and could be of none to the Company. The buyer and seller soon
came to an understanding; and the provinces which had been torn from the
Mogul were made over to the government of Oude for about half a million

But there was another matter still more important to be settled by the
Vizier and the Governor. The fate of a brave people was to be decided.
It was decided in a manner which has left a lasting stain on the fame of
Hastings and of England.

The people of Central Asia had always been to the inhabitants of India
what the warriors of the German forests were to the subjects of the
decaying monarchy of Rome. The dark, slender, and timid Hindoo shrank
from a conflict with the strong muscle and resolute spirit of the fair
race, which dwelt beyond the passes. There is reason to believe that, at
a period anterior to the dawn of regular history, the people who spoke
the rich and flexible Sanskrit came from regions lying far beyond the
Hyphasis and the Hystaspes, and imposed their yoke on the children of
the soil. It is certain that, during the last ten centuries, a
succession of invaders descended from the west on Hindostan; nor was the
course of conquest ever turned back towards the setting sun, till that
memorable campaign in which the cross of St. George was planted on the
walls of Ghizni.

The Emperors of Hindostan themselves came from the other side of the
great mountain ridge; and it had always been their practice to recruit
their army from the hardy and valiant race from which their own
illustrious house sprang. Among the military adventurers who were
allured to the Mogul standards from the neighborhood of Cabul and
Candahar were conspicuous several gallant bands, known by the name of
the Rohillas. Their services had been rewarded with large tracts of
land, fiefs of the spear, if we may use an expression drawn from an
analogous state of things, in that fertile plain through which the
Ramgunga flows from the snowy heights of Kumaon to join the Ganges. In
the general confusion which followed the death of Aurungzebe, the
warlike colony became virtually independent. The Rohillas were
distinguished from the other inhabitants of India by a peculiarly fair
complexion. They were more honorably distinguished by courage in war,
and by skill in the arts of peace. While anarchy raged from Lahore to
Cape Comorin, their little territory enjoyed the blessings of repose
under the guardianship of valor. Agriculture and commerce nourished
among them; nor were they negligent of rhetoric and poetry. Many persons
now living have heard aged men talk with regret of the golden days when
the Afghan princes ruled in the vale of Rohilcund.

Sujah Dowlah had set his heart on adding this rich district to his own
principality. Right, or show of right, he had absolutely none. His claim
was in no respect better founded than that of Catherine to Poland, or
that of the Bonaparte family to Spain. The Rohillas held their country
by exactly the same title by which he held his, and had governed their
country far better than his had ever been governed. Nor were they a
people whom it was perfectly safe to attack. Their land was indeed an
open plain, destitute of natural defences; but their veins were full of
the high blood of Afghanistan. As soldiers, they had not the steadiness
which is seldom found except in company with strict discipline; but
their impetuous valor had been proved on many fields of battle. It was
said that their chiefs, when united by common peril, could bring eighty
thousand men into the field. Sujah Dowlah had himself seen them fight,
and wisely shrank from a conflict with them. There was in India one
army, and only one, against which even those proud Caucasian tribes
could not stand. It had been abundantly proved that neither tenfold
odds, nor the martial ardor of the boldest Asiatic nations, could avail
aught against English science and resolution. Was it possible to induce
the Governor of Bengal to let out to hire the irresistible energies of
the imperial people, the skill against which the ablest chiefs of
Hindostan were helpless as infants, the discipline which had so often
triumphed over the frantic struggles of fanaticism and despair, the
unconquerable British courage which is never so sedate and stubborn as
towards the close of a doubtful and murderous day?

This was what the Nabob Vizier asked, and what Hastings granted. A
bargain was soon struck. Each of the negotiators had what the other
wanted. Hastings was in need of funds to carry on the government of
Bengal, and to send remittances to London; and Sujah Dowlah had an ample
revenue. Sujah Dowlah was bent on subjugating the Rohillas; and Hastings
had at his disposal the only force by which the Rohillas could be
subjugated. It was agreed that an English army should be lent to the
Nabob Vizier, and that, for the loan, he should pay four hundred
thousand pounds sterling, besides defraying all the charge of the troops
while employed in his service.

"I really cannot see," says Mr. Gleig, "upon what grounds, either of
political or moral justice, this proposition deserves to be stigmatized
as infamous." If we understand the meaning of words, it is infamous to
commit a wicked action for hire, and it is wicked to engage in war
without provocation. In this particular war, scarcely one aggravating
circumstance was wanting. The object of the Rohilla war was this, to
deprive a large population, who had never done us the least harm, of a
good government, and to place them, against their will, under an
execrably bad one. Nay, even this is not all. England now descended far
below the level even of those petty German princes who, about the same
time, sold us troops to fight the Americans. The hussar-mongers of Hesse
and Anspach had at least the assurance that the expeditions on which
their soldiers were to be employed would be conducted in conformity with
the humane rules of civilized warfare. Was the Rohilla war likely to be
so conducted? Did the Governor stipulate that it should be so conducted?
He well knew what Indian warfare was. He well knew that the power which
he covenanted to put into Sujah Dowlah's hands would, in all
probability, be atrociously abused; and he required no guarantee, no
promise that it should not be so abused. He did not even reserve to
himself the right of withdrawing his aid in case of abuse, however
gross. We are almost ashamed to notice Major Scott's absurd plea, that
Hastings was justified in letting out English troops to slaughter the
Rohillas, because the Rohillas were not of Indian race, but a colony
from a distant country. What were the English themselves? Was it for
them to proclaim a crusade for the expulsion of all intruders from the
countries watered by the Ganges? Did it lie in their mouths to contend
that a foreign settler who establishes an empire in India is a _caput
lupinum_? What would they have said if any other power had, on such a
ground, attacked Madras or Calcutta, without the slightest provocation?
Such a defence was wanting to make the infamy of the transaction
complete. The atrocity of the crime, and the hypocrisy of the apology,
are worthy of each other.

One of the three brigades of which the Bengal army consisted was sent
under Colonel Champion to join Sujah Dowlah's forces. The Rohillas
expostulated, entreated, offered a large ransom, but in vain. They then
resolved to defend themselves to the last. A bloody battle was fought.
"The enemy," says Colonel Champion, "gave proof of a good share of
military knowledge; and it is impossible to describe a more obstinate
firmness of resolution than they displayed." The dastardly sovereign of
Oude fled from the field. The English were left unsupported; but their
fire and their charge were irresistible. It was not, however, till the
most distinguished chiefs had fallen, fighting bravely at the head of
their troops, that the Rohilla ranks gave way. Then the Nabob Vizier and
his rabble made their appearance, and hastened to plunder the camp of
the valiant enemies, whom they had never dared to look in the face. The
soldiers of the Company, trained in an exact discipline, kept unbroken
order, while the tents were pillaged by these worthless allies. But many
voices were heard to exclaim, "We have had all the fighting, and those
rogues are to have all the profit!"

Then the horrors of Indian war were let loose on the fair valleys and
cities of Rohilcund. The whole country was in a blaze. More than a
hundred thousand people fled from their homes to pestilential jungles,
preferring famine, and fever, and the haunts of tigers, to the tyranny
of him to whom an English and a Christian government had, for shameful
lucre, sold their substance, and their blood, and the honor of their
wives and daughters. Colonel Champion remonstrated with the Nabob
Vizier, and sent strong representations to Fort William; but the
Governor had made no conditions as to the mode in which the war was to
be carried on. He had troubled himself about nothing but his forty lacs;
and, though he might disapprove of Sujah Dowlah's wanton barbarity, he
did not think himself entitled to interfere, except by offering advice.
This delicacy excites the admiration of the biographer. "Mr. Hastings,"
he says, "could not himself dictate to the Nabob, nor permit the
commander of the Company's troops to dictate how the war was to be
carried on." No, to be sure. Mr. Hastings had only to put down by main
force the brave struggles of innocent men fighting for their liberty.
Their military resistance crushed, his duties ended; and he had then
only to fold his arms and look on, while their villages were burned,
their children butchered, and their women violated. Will Mr. Gleig
seriously maintain this opinion? Is any rule more plain than this, that
whoever voluntarily gives to another irresistible power over human
beings is bound to take order that such power shall not be barbarously
abused? But we beg pardon of our readers for arguing a point so clear.

We hasten to the end of this sad and disgraceful story. The war ceased.
The finest population in India was subjected to a greedy, cowardly,
cruel tyrant. Commerce and agriculture languished. The rich province
which had tempted the cupidity of Sujah Dowlah became the most miserable
part even of his miserable dominions. Yet is the injured nation not
extinct. At long intervals gleams of its ancient spirit have flashed
forth; and even at this day, valor, and self-respect, and a chivalrous
feeling rare among Asiatics, and a bitter remembrance of the great crime
of England, distinguish that noble Afghan race. To this day they are
regarded as the best of all sepoys at the cold steel; and it was very
recently remarked, by one who had enjoyed great opportunities of
observation, that the only natives of India to whom the word "gentleman"
can with perfect propriety be applied are to be found among the

Whatever we may think of the morality of Hastings, it cannot be denied
that the financial results of his policy did honor to his talents. In
less than two years after he assumed the government, he had, without
imposing any additional burdens on the people subject to his authority,
added about four hundred and fifty thousand pounds to the annual income
of the Company, besides procuring about a million in ready money. He had
also relieved the finances of Bengal from military expenditure,
amounting to near a quarter of a million a year, and had thrown that
charge on the Nabob of Oude. There can be no doubt that this was a
result which, if it had been obtained by honest means, would have
entitled him to the warmest gratitude of his country, and which, by
whatever means obtained, proved that he possessed great talents for

In the meantime, Parliament had been engaged in long and grave
discussions on Asiatic affairs. The ministry of Lord North, in the
session of 1773, introduced a measure which made a considerable change
in the constitution of the Indian government. This law, known by the
name of the Regulating Act, provided that the presidency of Bengal
should exercise a control over the other possessions of the Company;
that the chief of that presidency should be styled Governor-General;
that he should be assisted by four Councillors; and that a supreme court
of judicature, consisting of a chief justice and three inferior judges,
should be established at Calcutta. This court was made independent of
the Governor-General and Council, and was entrusted with a civil and
criminal jurisdiction of immense and, at the same time, of undefined

The Governor-General and Councillors were named in the act, and were to
hold their situations for five years. Hastings was to be the first
Governor-General. One of the four new Councillors, Mr. Barwell, an
experienced servant of the Company, was then in India. The other three,
General Clavering, Mr. Monson, and Mr. Francis, were sent out from

The ablest of the new Councillors was, beyond all doubt, Philip Francis.
His acknowledged compositions prove that he possessed considerable
eloquence and information. Several years passed in the public offices
had formed him to habits of business. His enemies have never denied that
he had a fearless and manly spirit; and his friends, we are afraid, must
acknowledge that his estimate of himself was extravagantly high, that
his temper was irritable, that his deportment was often rude and
petulant, and that his hatred was of intense bitterness and long

It is scarcely possible to mention this eminent man without adverting
for a moment to the question which his name at once suggests to every
mind. Was he the author of the Letters of Junius? Our own firm belief
is that he was. The evidence is, we think, such as would support a
verdict in a civil, nay, in a criminal proceeding. The handwriting of
Junius is the very peculiar handwriting of Francis, slightly disguised.
As to the position, pursuits, and connections of Junius, the following
are the most important facts which can be considered as clearly proved:
first, that he was acquainted with the technical forms of the secretary
of state's office; secondly, that he was intimately acquainted with the
business of the war office; thirdly, that he, during the year 1770,
attended debates in the House of Lords, and took notes of speeches,
particularly of the speeches of Lord Chatham; fourthly, that he bitterly
resented the appointment of Mr. Chamier to the place of deputy
secretary-at-war; fifthly, that he was bound by some strong tie to the
first Lord Holland. Now, Francis passed some years in the secretary of
state's office. He was subsequently chief clerk of the war office. He
repeatedly mentioned that he had himself, in 1770, heard speeches of
Lord Chatham; and some of these speeches were actually printed from his
notes. He resigned his clerkship at the war office from resentment at
the appointment of Mr. Chamier. It was by Lord Holland that he was first
introduced into the public service. Now, here are five marks, all of
which ought to be found in Junius. They are all five found in Francis.
We do not believe that more than two of them can be found in any other
person whatever. If this argument does not settle the question, there is
an end of all reasoning on circumstantial evidence.

The internal evidence seems to us to point the same way. The style of
Francis bears a strong resemblance to that of Junius; nor are we
disposed to admit, what is generally taken for granted, that the
acknowledged compositions of Francis are very decidedly inferior to the
anonymous letters. The argument from inferiority, at all events, is one
which may be urged with at least equal force against every claimant
that has ever been mentioned, with the single exception of Burke; and it
would be a waste of time to prove that Burke was not Junius. And what
conclusion, after all, can be drawn from mere inferiority? Every writer
must produce his best work; and the interval between his best work and
his second best work may be very wide indeed. Nobody will say that the
best letters of Junius are more decidedly superior to the acknowledged
works of Francis than three or four of Corneille's tragedies to the
rest, than three or four of Ben Jonson's comedies to the rest, than the
Pilgrim's Progress to the other works of Bunyan, than Don Quixote to the
other works of Cervantes. Nay, it is certain that Junius, whoever he may
have been, was a most unequal writer. To go no further than the letters
which bear the signature of Junius--the letter to the king, and the
letters to Horne Tooke, have little in common, except the asperity; and
asperity was an ingredient seldom wanting either in the writings or in
the speeches of Francis.

Indeed one of the strongest reasons for believing that Francis was
Junius is the moral resemblance between the two men. It is not
difficult, from the letters which, under various signatures, are known
to have been written by Junius, and from his dealings with Woodfall and
others, to form a tolerably correct notion of his character. He was
clearly a man not destitute of real patriotism and magnanimity, a man
whose vices were not of a sordid kind. But he must also have been a man
in the highest degree arrogant and insolent, a man prone to malevolence,
and prone to the error of mistaking his malevolence for public virtue.
"Doest thou well to be angry?" was the question asked in old time of the
Hebrew prophet. And he answered, "I do well." This was evidently the
temper of Junius; and to this cause we attribute the savage cruelty
which disgraces several of his letters. No man is so merciless as he
who, under a strong self-delusion, confounds his antipathies with his
duties. It may be added that Junius, though allied with the democratic
party by common enmities, was the very opposite of a democratic
politician. While attacking individuals with a ferocity which
perpetually violated all the laws of literary warfare, he regarded the
most defective parts of old institutions with a respect amounting to
pedantry, pleaded the cause of Old Sarum with fervor, and contemptuously
told the capitalists of Manchester and Leeds that, if they wanted votes,
they might buy land and become freeholders of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
All this, we believe, might stand, with scarcely any change, for a
character of Philip Francis.

It is not strange that the great anonymous writer should have been
willing at that time to leave the country which had been so powerfully
stirred by his eloquence. Everything had gone against him. That party
which he clearly preferred to every other, the party of George
Grenville, had been scattered by the death of its chief; and Lord
Suffolk had led the greater part of it over to the ministerial benches.
The ferment produced by the Middlesex election had gone down. Every
faction must have been alike an object of aversion to Junius. His
opinions on domestic affairs separated him from the ministry; his
opinions on colonial affairs from the opposition. Under such
circumstances, he had thrown down his pen in misanthropical despair. His
farewell letter to Woodfall bears date the nineteenth of January, 1773.
In that letter, he declared that he must be an idiot to write again;
that he had meant well by the cause and the public; that both were given
up; that there were not ten men who would act steadily together on any
question. "But it is all alike," he added, "vile and contemptible. You
have never flinched that I know of; and I shall always rejoice to hear
of your prosperity." These were the last words of Junius. In a year from
that time, Philip Francis was on his voyage to Bengal.

With the three new Councillors came out the judges of the Supreme
Court. The chief justice was Sir Elijah Impey. He was an old
acquaintance of Hastings; and it is probable that the Governor-General,
if he had searched through all the inns of court, could not have found
an equally serviceable tool. But the members of Council were by no means
in an obsequious mood. Hastings greatly disliked the new form of
government, and had no very high opinion of his coadjutors. They had
heard of this, and were disposed to be suspicious and punctilious. When
men are in such a frame of mind, any trifle is sufficient to give
occasion for dispute. The members of Council expected a salute of
twenty-one guns from the batteries of Fort William. Hastings allowed
them only seventeen. They landed in ill-humor. The first civilities were
exchanged with cold reserve. On the morrow commenced that long quarrel
which, after distracting British India, was renewed in England, and in
which all the most eminent statesmen and orators of the age took active
part on one or the other side.

Hastings was supported by Barwell. They had not always been friends. But
the arrival of the new members of Council from England naturally had the
effect of uniting the old servants of the Company. Clavering, Monson,
and Francis formed the majority. They instantly wrested the government
out of the hands of Hastings; condemned, certainly not without justice,
his late dealings with the Nabob Vizier; recalled the English agent from
Oude, and sent thither a creature of their own; ordered the brigade
which had conquered the unhappy Rohillas to return to the Company's
territories; and instituted a severe inquiry into the conduct of the
war. Next, in spite of the Governor-General's remonstrances, they
proceeded to exercise, in the most indiscreet manner, their new
authority over the subordinate presidencies; threw all the affairs of
Bombay into confusion; and interfered, with an incredible union of
rashness and feebleness, in the intestine disputes of the Mahratta
government. At the same time, they fell on the internal administration
of Bengal, and attacked the whole fiscal and judicial system, a system
which was undoubtedly defective, but which it was very improbable that
gentlemen fresh from England would be competent to amend. The effect of
their reforms was that all protection to life and property was
withdrawn, and that gangs of robbers plundered and slaughtered with
impunity in the very suburbs of Calcutta. Hastings continued to live in
the Government House, and to draw the salary of Governor-General. He
continued even to take the lead at the council board in the transaction
of ordinary business; for his opponents could not but feel that he knew
much of which they were ignorant, and that he decided, both surely and
speedily, many questions which to them would have been hopelessly
puzzling. But the higher powers of government and the most valuable
patronage had been taken from him.

The natives soon found this out. They considered him as a fallen man;
and they acted after their kind. Some of our readers may have seen, in
India, a cloud of crows pecking a sick vulture to death, no bad type of
what happens in that country as often as fortune deserts one who has
been great and dreaded. In an instant, all the sycophants who had lately
been ready to lie for him, to forge for him, to pander for him, to
poison for him, hasten to purchase the favor of his victorious enemies
by accusing him. An Indian government has only to let it be understood
that it wishes a particular man to be ruined, and in twenty-four hours
it will be furnished with grave charges, supported by depositions so
full and circumstantial that any person unaccustomed to Asiatic
mendacity would regard them as decisive. It is well if the signature of
the destined victim is not counterfeited at the foot of some illegal
compact, and if some treasonable paper is not slipped into a
hiding-place in his house. Hastings was now regarded as helpless. The
power to make or mar the fortune of every man in Bengal had passed, as
it seemed, into the hands of the new Councillors. Immediately charges
against the Governor-General began to pour in. They were eagerly
welcomed by the majority, who, to do them justice, were men of too much
honor knowingly to countenance false accusations, but who were not
sufficiently acquainted with the East to be aware that, in that part of
the world, a very little encouragement from power will call forth, in a
week, more Oateses, and Bedloes, and Dangerfields, than Westminster Hall
sees in a century.

It would have been strange indeed if, at such a juncture, Nuncomar had
remained quiet. That bad man was stimulated at once by malignity, by
avarice, and by ambition. Now was the time to be avenged on his old
enemy, to wreak a grudge of seventeen years, to establish himself in the
favor of the majority of the Council, to become the greatest native in
Bengal. From the time of the arrival of the new Councillors, he had paid
the most marked court to them, and had in consequence been excluded,
with all indignity, from the Government House. He now put into the hands
of Francis, with great ceremony, a paper containing several charges of
the most serious description. By this document Hastings was accused of
putting offices up to sale, and of receiving bribes for suffering
offenders to escape. In particular, it was alleged that Mahommed Reza
Khan had been dismissed with impunity, in consideration of a great sum
paid to the Governor-General.

Francis read the paper in Council. A violent altercation followed.
Hastings complained in bitter terms of the way in which he was treated,
spoke with contempt of Nuncomar and of Nuncomar's accusation, and denied
the right of the Council to sit in judgment on the Governor. At the next
meeting of the board, another communication from Nuncomar was produced.
He requested that he might be permitted to attend the Council, and that
he might be heard in support of his assertions. Another tempestuous
debate took place. The Governor-General maintained that the council-room
was not a proper place for such an investigation; that from persons who
were heated by daily conflict with him he could not expect the fairness
of judges; and that he could not, without betraying the dignity of his
post, submit to be confronted with such a man as Nuncomar. The majority,
however, resolved to go into the charges. Hastings rose, declared the
sitting at an end, and left the room, followed by Barwell. The other
members kept their seats, voted themselves a council, put Clavering in
the chair, and ordered Nuncomar to be called in. Nuncomar not only
adhered to the original charges, but, after the fashion of the East,
produced a large supplement. He stated that Hastings had received a
great sum for appointing Rajah Goordas treasurer of the Nabob's
household, and for committing the care of his Highness's person to the
Munny Begum. He put in a letter purporting to bear the seal of the Munny
Begum, for the purpose of establishing the truth of his story. The seal,
whether forged, as Hastings affirmed, or genuine, as we are rather
inclined to believe, proved nothing. Nuncomar, as everybody knows who
knows India, had only to tell the Munny Begum that such a letter would
give pleasure to the majority of the Council, in order to procure her
attestation. The majority, however, voted that the charge was made out;
that Hastings had corruptly received between thirty and forty thousand
pounds; and that he ought to be compelled to refund.

The general feeling among the English in Bengal was strongly in favor of
the Governor-General. In talents for business, in knowledge of the
country, in general courtesy of demeanor, he was decidedly superior to
his persecutors. The servants of the Company were naturally disposed to
side with the most distinguished member of their own body against a
clerk from the war office, who, profoundly ignorant of the native
languages and of the native character, took on himself to regulate every
department of the administration. Hastings, however, in spite of the
general sympathy of his countrymen, was in a most painful situation.
There was still an appeal to higher authority in England. If that
authority took part with his enemies, nothing was left to him but to
throw up his office. He accordingly placed his resignation in the hands
of his agent in London, Colonel Macleane. But Macleane was instructed
not to produce the resignation, unless it should be fully ascertained
that the feeling at the India House was adverse to the Governor-General.

The triumph of Nuncomar seemed to be complete. He held a daily levee, to
which his countrymen resorted in crowds, and to which, on one occasion,
the majority of the Council condescended to repair. His house was an
office for the purpose of receiving charges against the
Governor-General. It was said that, partly by threats, and partly by
wheedling, the villainous Brahmin had induced many of the wealthiest men
of the province to send in complaints. But he was playing a perilous
game. It was not safe to drive to despair a man of such resources and of
such determination as Hastings. Nuncomar, with all his acuteness, did
not understand the nature of the institutions under which he lived. He
saw that he had with him the majority of the body which made treaties,
gave places, raised taxes. The separation between political and judicial
functions was a thing of which he had no conception. It had probably
never occurred to him that there was in Bengal an authority perfectly
independent of the Council, an authority which could protect one whom
the Council wished to destroy, and send to the gibbet one whom the
Council wished to protect. Yet such was the fact. The Supreme Court was,
within the sphere of its own duties, altogether independent of the
Government. Hastings, with his usual sagacity, had seen how much
advantage he might derive from possessing himself of this stronghold;
and he had acted accordingly. The Judges, especially the Chief Justice,
were hostile to the majority of the Council. The time had now come for
putting this formidable machinery into action.

On a sudden, Calcutta was astounded by the news that Nuncomar had been
taken up on a charge of felony, committed, and thrown into the common
jail. The crime imputed to him was that six years before he had forged a
bond. The ostensible prosecutor was a native. But it was then, and still
is, the opinion of everybody, idiots and biographers excepted, that
Hastings was the real mover in the business.

The rage of the majority rose to the highest point. They protested
against the proceedings of the Supreme Court, and sent several urgent
messages to the Judges, demanding that Nuncomar should be admitted to
bail. The Judges returned haughty and resolute answers. All that the
Council could do was to heap honors and emoluments on the family of
Nuncomar; and this they did. In the meantime the assizes commenced; a
true bill was found; and Nuncomar was brought before Sir Elijah Impey
and a jury composed of Englishmen. A great quantity of contradictory
swearing, and the necessity of having every word of the evidence
interpreted, protracted the trial to a most unusual length. At last a
verdict of guilty was returned, and the Chief Justice pronounced
sentence of death on the prisoner.

That Impey ought to have respited Nuncomar we hold to be perfectly
clear. Whether the whole proceeding was not illegal is a question. But
it is certain that, whatever may have been, according to technical rules
of construction, the effect of the statute under which the trial took
place, it was most unjust to hang a Hindoo for forgery. The law which
made forgery capital in England was passed without the smallest
reference to the state of society in India. It was unknown to the
natives of India. It had never been put in execution among them,
certainly not for want of delinquents. It was in the highest degree
shocking to all their notions. They were not accustomed to the
distinction which many circumstances, peculiar to our own state of
society, have led us to make between forgery and other kinds of
cheating. The counterfeiting of a seal was, in their estimation, a
common act of swindling; nor had it ever crossed their minds that it was
to be punished as severely as gang-robbery or assassination. A just
judge would, beyond all doubt, have reserved the case for the
consideration of the sovereign. But Impey would not hear of mercy or

The excitement among all classes was great. Francis and Francis's few
English adherents described the Governor-General and the Chief Justice
as the worst of murderers. Clavering, it was said, swore that, even at
the foot of the gallows, Nuncomar should be rescued. The bulk of the
European society, though strongly attached to the Governor-General,
could not but feel compassion for a man who, with all his crimes, had so
long filled so large a space in their sight, who had been great and
powerful before the British empire in India began to exist, and to whom,
in the old times, governors and members of council, then mere commercial
factors, had paid court for protection. The feeling of the Hindoos was
infinitely stronger. They were, indeed, not a people to strike one blow
for their countryman. But his sentence filled them with sorrow and
dismay. Tried even by their low standard of morality, he was a bad man.
But, bad as he was, he was the head of their race and religion, a
Brahmin of the Brahmins. He had inherited the purest and highest caste.
He had practised with the greatest punctuality all those ceremonies to
which the superstitious Bengalese ascribe far more importance than to
the correct discharge of the social duties. They felt, therefore, as a
devout Catholic in the dark ages would have felt at seeing a prelate of
the highest dignity sent to the gallows by a secular tribunal.
According to their old national laws, a Brahmin could not be put to
death for any crime whatever. And the crime for which Nuncomar was about
to die was regarded by them in much the same light in which the selling
of an unsound horse for a sound price is regarded by a Yorkshire jockey.

The Mussulmans alone appear to have seen with exultation the fate of the
powerful Hindoo, who had attempted to rise by means of the ruin of
Mahommed Reza Khan. The Mahommedan historian of those times takes
delight in aggravating the charge. He assures us that in Nuncomar's
house a casket was found containing counterfeits of the seals of all the
richest men of the province. We have never fallen in with any other
authority for this story, which in itself is by no means improbable.

The day drew near; and Nuncomar prepared himself to die with that quiet
fortitude with which the Bengalee, so effeminately timid in personal
conflict, often encounters calamities for which there is no remedy. The
sheriff, with the humanity which is seldom wanting in an English
gentleman, visited the prisoner on the eve of the execution, and assured
him that no indulgence, consistent with the law, should be refused to
him. Nuncomar expressed his gratitude with great politeness and
unaltered composure. Not a muscle of his face moved. Not a sigh broke
from him. He put his finger to his forehead, and calmly said that fate
would have its way, and that there was no resisting the pleasure of God.
He sent his compliments to Francis, Clavering, and Monson, and charged
them to protect Rajah Goordas, who was about to become the head of the
Brahmins of Bengal. The sheriff withdrew, greatly agitated by what had
passed, and Nuncomar sat composedly down to write notes and examine

The next morning, before the sun was in his power, an immense concourse
assembled round the place where the gallows had been set up. Grief and
horror were on every face; yet to the last the multitude could hardly
believe that the English really purposed to take the life of the great
Brahmin. At length the mournful procession came through the crowd.
Nuncomar sat up in his palanquin, and looked round him with unaltered
serenity. He had just parted from those who were most nearly connected
with him. Their cries and contortions had appalled the European
ministers of justice, but had not produced the smallest effect on the
iron stoicism of the prisoner. The only anxiety which he expressed was
that men of his own priestly caste might be in attendance to take charge
of his corpse. He again desired to be remembered to his friends in the
Council, mounted the scaffold with firmness, and gave the signal to the
executioner. The moment that the drop fell, a howl of sorrow and despair
rose from the innumerable spectators. Hundreds turned away their faces
from the polluting sight, fled with loud wailings towards the Hoogley,
and plunged into its holy waters, as if to purify themselves from the
guilt of having looked on such a crime. These feelings were not confined
to Calcutta. The whole province was greatly excited; and the population
of Dacca, in particular, gave strong signs of grief and dismay.

Of Impey's conduct it is impossible to speak too severely. We have
already said that, in our opinion, he acted unjustly in refusing to
respite Nuncomar. No rational man can doubt that he took this course in
order to gratify the Governor-General. If we had ever had any doubts on
that point, they would have been dispelled by a letter which Mr. Gleig
has published. Hastings, three or four years later, described Impey as
the man "to whose support he was at one time indebted for the safety of
his fortune, honor, and reputation." These strong words can refer only
to the case of Nuncomar; and they must mean that Impey hanged Nuncomar
in order to support Hastings. It is, therefore, our deliberate opinion
that Impey, sitting as a judge, put a man unjustly to death in order to
serve a political purpose.

But we look on the conduct of Hastings in a somewhat different light. He
was struggling for fortune, honor, liberty, all that makes life
valuable. He was beset by rancorous and unprincipled enemies. From his
colleagues he could expect no justice. He cannot be blamed for wishing
to crush his accusers. He was indeed bound to use only legitimate means
for that end. But it was not strange that he should have thought any
means legitimate which were pronounced legitimate by the sages of the
law, by men whose peculiar duty it was to deal justly between
adversaries, and whose education might be supposed to have peculiarly
qualified them for the discharge of that duty. Nobody demands from a
party the unbending equity of a judge. The reason that judges are
appointed is, that even a good man cannot be trusted to decide a cause
in which he is himself concerned. Not a day passes on which an honest
prosecutor does not ask for what none but a dishonest tribunal would
grant. It is too much to expect that any man, when his dearest interests
are at stake, and his strongest passions excited, will, as against
himself, be more just than the sworn dispensers of justice. To take an
analogous case from the history of our own island: suppose that Lord
Stafford, when in the Tower on suspicion of being concerned in the
Popish Plot, had been apprised that Titus Oates had done something which
might, by a questionable construction, be brought under the head of
felony. Should we severely blame Lord Stafford, in the supposed case,
for causing a prosecution to be instituted, for furnishing funds, for
using all his influence to intercept the mercy of the Crown? We think
not. If a judge, indeed, from favor to the Catholic lords, were to
strain the law in order to hang Oates, such a judge would richly deserve
impeachment. But it does not appear to us that the Catholic lord, by
bringing the case before the judge for decision, would materially
overstep the limits of a just self-defence.

While, therefore, we have not the least doubt that this memorable
execution is to be attributed to Hastings, we doubt whether it can with
justice be reckoned among his crimes. That his conduct was dictated by a
profound policy is evident. He was in a minority in Council. It was
possible that he might long be in a minority. He knew the native
character well. He knew in what abundance accusations are certain to
flow in against the most innocent inhabitant of India who is under the
frown of power. There was not in the whole black population of Bengal a
place-holder, a place-hunter, a government tenant, who did not think
that he might better himself by sending up a deposition against the
Governor-General. Under these circumstances, the persecuted statesman
resolved to teach the whole crew of accusers and witnesses that, though
in a minority at the council board, he was still to be feared. The
lesson which he gave them was indeed a lesson not to be forgotten. The
head of the combination which had been formed against him, the richest,
the most powerful, the most artful of the Hindoos, distinguished by the
favor of those who then held the government, fenced round by the
superstitious reverence of millions, was hanged in broad day before many
thousands of people. Everything that could make the warning impressive,
dignity in the sufferer, solemnity in the proceeding, was found in this
case. The helpless rage and vain struggles of the Council made the
triumph more signal. From that moment the conviction of every native was
that it was safer to take the part of Hastings in a minority than that
of Francis in a majority, and that he who was so venturous as to join in
running down the Governor-General might chance, in the phrase of the
Eastern poet, to find a tiger, while beating the jungle for a deer. The
voices of a thousand informers were silenced in an instant. From that
time, whatever difficulties Hastings might have to encounter, he was
never molested by accusations from natives of India.

It is a remarkable circumstance that one of the letters of Hastings to
Dr. Johnson bears date a very few hours after the death of Nuncomar.
While the whole settlement was in commotion, while a mighty and ancient
priesthood were weeping over the remains of their chief, the conqueror
in that deadly grapple sat down, with characteristic self-possession, to
write about the Tour to the Hebrides, Jones's Persian Grammar, and the
history, traditions, arts, and natural productions of India.

In the meantime, intelligence of the Rohilla war, and of the first
disputes between Hastings and his colleagues, had reached London. The
Directors took part with the majority, and sent out a letter filled with
severe reflections on the conduct of Hastings. They condemned, in strong
but just terms, the iniquity of undertaking offensive wars merely for
the sake of pecuniary advantages. But they utterly forgot that, if
Hastings had by illicit means obtained pecuniary advantages, he had done
so, not for his own benefit, but in order to meet their demands. To
enjoin honesty, and to insist on having what could not be honestly got,
was then the constant practice of the Company. As Lady Macbeth says of
her husband, they "would not play false, and yet would wrongly win."

The Regulating Act, by which Hastings had been appointed
Governor-General for five years, empowered the Crown to remove him on an
address from the Company. Lord North was desirous to procure such an
address. The three members of Council who had been sent out from England
were men of his own choice. General Clavering, in particular, was
supported by a large parliamentary connection, such as no cabinet could
be inclined to disoblige. The wish of the Minister was to displace
Hastings, and to put Clavering at the head of the government. In the
Court of Directors parties were very nearly balanced. Eleven voted
against Hastings; ten for him. The Court of Proprietors was then
convened. The great saleroom presented a singular appearance. Letters
had been sent by the Secretary of the Treasury, exhorting all the
supporters of government who held India stock to be in attendance. Lord
Sandwich marshalled the friends of the administration with his usual
dexterity and alertness. Fifty peers and privy councillors, seldom seen
so far eastward, were counted in the crowd. The debate lasted till
midnight. The opponents of Hastings had a small superiority on the
division; but a ballot was demanded; and the result was that the
Governor-General triumphed by a majority of above a hundred votes over
the combined efforts of the Directors and the Cabinet. The ministers
were greatly exasperated by this defeat. Even Lord North lost his
temper, no ordinary occurrence with him, and threatened to convoke
Parliament before Christmas, and to bring in a bill for depriving the
Company of all political power, and for restricting it to its old
business of trading in silks and teas.

Colonel Macleane, who through all this conflict had zealously supported
the cause of Hastings, now thought that his employer was in imminent
danger of being turned out, branded with parliamentary censure, perhaps
prosecuted. The opinion of the crown lawyers had already been taken
respecting some parts of the Governor-General's conduct. It seemed to be
high time to think of securing an honorable retreat. Under these
circumstances, Macleane thought himself justified in producing the
resignation with which he had been entrusted. The instrument was not in
very accurate form; but the Directors were too eager to be scrupulous.
They accepted the resignation, fixed on Mr. Wheler, one of their own
body, to succeed Hastings, and sent out orders that General Clavering,
as senior member of Council, should exercise the functions of
Governor-General till Mr. Wheler should arrive.

But, while these things were passing in England, a great change had
taken place in Bengal. Monson was no more. Only four members of the
government were left. Clavering and Francis were on one side, Barwell
and the Governor-General on the other; and the Governor-General had the
casting vote. Hastings, who had been during two years destitute of all
power and patronage, became at once absolute. He instantly proceeded to
retaliate on his adversaries. Their measures were reversed, their
creatures were displaced. A new valuation of the lands of Bengal, for
the purposes of taxation, was ordered; and it was provided that the
whole inquiry should be conducted by the Governor-General, and that all
the letters relating to it should run in his name. He began, at the same
time, to revolve vast plans of conquest and dominion, plans which he
lived to see realized, though not by himself. His project was to form
subsidiary alliances with the native princes, particularly with those of
Oude and Berar, and thus to make Britain the paramount power in India.
While he was meditating these great designs, arrived the intelligence
that he had ceased to be Governor-General, that his resignation had been
accepted, that Wheler was coming out immediately, and that, till Wheler
arrived, the chair was to be filled by Clavering.

Had Hastings still been in a minority, he would probably have retired
without a struggle; but he was now the real master of British India, and
he was not disposed to quit his high place. He asserted that he had
never given any instructions which could warrant the steps taken at
home. What his instructions had been, he owned he had forgotten. If he
had kept a copy of them he had mislaid it. But he was certain that he
had repeatedly declared to the Directors that he would not resign. He
could not see how the court, possessed of that declaration from himself,
could receive his resignation from the doubtful hands of an agent. If
the resignation were invalid, all the proceedings which were founded on
that resignation were null, and Hastings was still Governor-General.

He afterwards affirmed that, though his agents had not acted in
conformity with his instructions, he would nevertheless have held
himself bound by their acts, if Clavering had not attempted to seize the
supreme power by violence. Whether this assertion were or were not true,
it cannot be doubted that the imprudence of Clavering gave Hastings an
advantage. The General sent for the keys of the fort and of the
treasury, took possession of the records, and held a council at which
Francis attended. Hastings took the chair in another apartment, and
Barwell sat with him. Each of the two parties had a plausible show of
right. There was no authority entitled to their obedience within fifteen
thousand miles. It seemed that there remained no way of settling the
dispute except an appeal to arms; and from such an appeal Hastings,
confident of his influence over his countrymen in India, was not
inclined to shrink. He directed the officers of the garrison of Fort
William and of all the neighboring stations to obey no orders but his.
At the same time, with admirable judgment, he offered to submit the case
to the Supreme Court, and to abide by its decision. By making this
proposition he risked nothing; yet it was a proposition which his
opponents could hardly reject. Nobody could be treated as a criminal for
obeying what the judges should solemnly pronounce to be the lawful
government. The boldest man would shrink from taking arms in defence of
what the judges should pronounce to be usurpation. Clavering and
Francis, after some delay, unwillingly consented to abide by the award
of the court. The court pronounced that the resignation was invalid, and
that therefore Hastings was still Governor-General under the Regulating
Act; and the defeated members of the Council, finding that the sense of
the whole settlement was against them, acquiesced in the decision.

About this time arrived the news that, after a suit which had lasted
several years, the Franconian courts had decreed a divorce between
Imhoff and his wife. The Baron left Calcutta, carrying with him the
means of buying an estate in Saxony. The lady became Mrs. Hastings. The
event was celebrated by great festivities; and all the most conspicuous
persons at Calcutta, without distinction of parties, were invited to the
Government House. Clavering, as the Mahommedan chronicler tells the
story, was sick in mind and body, and excused himself from joining the
splendid assembly. But Hastings, whom, as it should seem, success in
ambition and in love had put into high good-humor, would take no denial.
He went himself to the General's house, and at length brought his
vanquished rival in triumph to the gay circle which surrounded the
bride. The exertion was too much for a frame broken by mortification as
well as by disease. Clavering died a few days later.

Wheler, who came out expecting to be Governor-General, and was forced to
content himself with a seat at the council board, generally voted with
Francis. But the Governor-General, with Barwell's help and his own
casting vote, was still the master. Some change took place at this time
in the feeling both of the Court of Directors and of the Ministers of
the Crown. All designs against Hastings were dropped; and, when his
original term of five years expired, he was quietly reappointed. The
truth is that the fearful dangers to which the public interests in every
quarter were now exposed made both Lord North and the Company unwilling
to part with a Governor whose talents, experience, and resolution enmity
itself was compelled to acknowledge.

The crisis was indeed formidable. That great and victorious empire, on
the throne of which George the Third had taken his seat eighteen years
before, with brighter hopes than had attended the accession of any of
the long line of English sovereigns, had, by the most senseless
misgovernment, been brought to the verge of ruin. In America millions of
Englishmen were at war with the country from which their blood, their
language, their religion, and their institutions were derived, and to
which, but a short time before, they had been as strongly attached as
the inhabitants of Norfolk and Leicestershire. The great powers of
Europe, humbled to the dust by the vigor and genius which had guided the
councils of George the Second, now rejoiced in the prospect of a signal
revenge. The time was approaching when our island, while struggling to
keep down the United States of America, and pressed with a still nearer
danger by the too just discontents of Ireland, was to be assailed by
France, Spain, and Holland, and to be threatened by the armed neutrality
of the Baltic; when even our maritime supremacy was to be in jeopardy;
when hostile fleets were to command the Straits of Calpe and the Mexican
Sea; when the British flag was to be scarcely able to protect the
British Channel. Great as were the faults of Hastings, it was happy for
our country that at that conjuncture, the most terrible through which
she has ever passed, he was the ruler of her Indian dominions.

An attack by sea on Bengal was little to be apprehended. The danger was
that the European enemies of England might form an alliance with some
native power, might furnish that power with troops, arms, and
ammunition, and might thus assail our possessions on the side of the
land. It was chiefly from the Mahrattas that Hastings anticipated
danger. The original seat of that singular people was the wild range of
hills which runs along the western coast of India. In the reign of
Aurungzebe the inhabitants of those regions, led by the great Sevajee,
began to descend on the possessions of their wealthier and less warlike
neighbors. The energy, ferocity, and cunning of the Mahrattas soon made
them the most conspicuous among the new powers which were generated by
the corruption of the decaying monarchy. At first they were only
robbers. They soon rose to the dignity of conquerors. Half the provinces
of the empire were turned into Mahratta principalities. Freebooters,
sprung from low castes, and accustomed to menial employments, became
mighty Rajahs. The Bonslas, at the head of a band of plunderers,
occupied the vast region of Berar. The Guicowar, which is, being
interpreted, the Herdsman, founded that dynasty which still reigns in
Guzerat. The houses of Scindia and Holkar waxed great in Malwa. One
adventurous captain made his nest on the impregnable rock of Gooti.
Another became the lord of the thousand villages which are scattered
among the green rice-fields of Tanjore.

That was the time, throughout India, of double government. The form and
the power were everywhere separated. The Mussulman nabobs who had become
sovereign princes, the Vizier in Oude, and the Nizam at Hyderabad, still
called themselves the viceroys of the house of Tamerlane. In the same
manner the Mahratta states, though really independent of each other,
pretended to be members of one empire. They all acknowledged, by words
and ceremonies, the supremacy of the heir of Sevajee, a _roi fainéant_
who chewed bhang and toyed with dancing girls in a state prison at
Sattara, and of his Peshwa or mayor of the palace, a great hereditary
magistrate, who kept a court with kingly state at Poonah, and whose
authority was obeyed in the spacious provinces of Aurungabad and

Some months before war was declared in Europe the government of Bengal
was alarmed by the news that a French adventurer, who passed for a man
of quality, had arrived at Poonah. It was said that he had been received
there with great distinction, that he had delivered to the Peshwa
letters and presents from Louis the Sixteenth, and that a treaty,
hostile to England, had been concluded between France and the Mahrattas.

Hastings immediately resolved to strike the first blow. The title of the
Peshwa was not undisputed. A portion of the Mahratta nation was
favorable to a pretender. The Governor-General determined to espouse
this pretender's interest, to move an army across the peninsula of
India, and to form a close alliance with the chief of the house of
Bonsla, who ruled Berar, and who, in power and dignity, was inferior to
none of the Mahratta princes.

The army had marched, and the negotiations with Berar were in progress,
when a letter from the English consul at Cairo brought the news that war
had been proclaimed both in London and Paris. All the measures which the
crisis required were adopted by Hastings without a moment's delay. The
French factories in Bengal were seized. Orders were sent to Madras that
Pondicherry should instantly be occupied. Near Calcutta, works were
thrown up which were thought to render the approach of a hostile force
impossible. A maritime establishment was formed for the defence of the
river. Nine new battalions of sepoys were raised, and a corps of native
artillery was formed out of the hardy Lascars of the Bay of Bengal.
Having made these arrangements, the Governor-General with calm
confidence pronounced his presidency secure from all attack, unless the
Mahrattas should march against it in conjunction with the French.

The expedition which Hastings had sent westward was not so speedily or
completely successful as most of his undertakings. The commanding
officer procrastinated. The authorities at Bombay blundered. But the
Governor-General persevered. A new commander repaired the errors of his
predecessor. Several brilliant actions spread the military renown of the
English through regions where no European flag had ever been seen. It is
probable that, if a new and more formidable danger had not compelled
Hastings to change his whole policy, his plans respecting the Mahratta
empire would have been carried into complete effect.

The authorities in England had wisely sent out to Bengal, as commander
of the forces and member of the Council, one of the most distinguished
soldiers of that time. Sir Eyre Coote had, many years before, been
conspicuous among the founders of the British empire in the East. At the
council of war which preceded the battle of Plassey, he earnestly
recommended, in opposition to the majority, that daring course which,
after some hesitation, was adopted, and which was crowned with such
splendid success. He subsequently commanded in the south of India
against the brave and unfortunate Lally, gained the decisive battle of
Wandewash over the French and their native allies, took Pondicherry, and
made the English power supreme in the Carnatic. Since those great
exploits near twenty years had elapsed. Coote had no longer the bodily
activity which he had shown in earlier days; nor was the vigor of his
mind altogether unimpaired. He was capricious and fretful, and required
much coaxing to keep him in good-humor. It must, we fear, be added, that
the love of money had grown upon him, and that he thought more about his
allowances, and less about his duties, than might have been expected
from so eminent a member of so noble a profession. Still he was perhaps
the ablest officer that was then to be found in the British army. Among
the native soldiers his name was great and his influence unrivalled. Nor
is he yet forgotten by them. Now and then a white-bearded old sepoy may
still be found, who loves to talk of Porto Novo and Pollilore. It is but
a short time since one of those aged men came to present a memorial to
an English officer, who holds one of the highest employments in India. A
print of Coote hung in the room. The veteran recognized at once that
face and figure which he had not seen for more than half a century, and,
forgetting his salam to the living, halted, drew himself up, lifted his
hand, and with solemn reverence paid his military obeisance to the dead.

Coote, though he did not, like Barwell, vote constantly with the
Governor-General, was by no means inclined to join in systematic
opposition, and on most questions concurred with Hastings, who did his
best, by assiduous courtship, and by readily granting the most
exorbitant allowances, to gratify the strongest passions of the old

It seemed likely at this time that a general reconciliation would put an
end to the quarrels which had, during some years, weakened and disgraced
the government of Bengal. The dangers of the empire might well induce
men of patriotic feeling--and of patriotic feeling neither Hastings nor
Francis was destitute--to forget private enmities, and to coöperate
heartily for the general good. Coote had never been concerned in
faction. Wheler was thoroughly tired of it. Barwell had made an ample
fortune, and, though he had promised that he would not leave Calcutta
while his help was needed in Council, was most desirous to return to
England, and exerted himself to promote an arrangement which would set
him at liberty. A compact was made, by which Francis agreed to desist
from opposition, and Hastings engaged that the friends of Francis should
be admitted to a fair share of the honors and emoluments of the service.
During a few months after this treaty there was apparent harmony at the
council board.

Harmony, indeed, was never more necessary; for at this moment internal
calamities, more formidable than war itself, menaced Bengal. The authors
of the Regulating Act of 1773 had established two independent powers,
the one judicial, the other political; and, with a carelessness
scandalously common in English legislation, had omitted to define the
limits of either. The judges took advantage of the indistinctness, and
attempted to draw to themselves supreme authority, not only within
Calcutta, but through the whole of the great territory subject to the
presidency of Fort William. There are few Englishmen who will not admit
that the English law, in spite of modern improvements, is neither so
cheap nor so speedy as might be wished. Still, it is a system which has
grown up among us. In some points, it has been fashioned to suit our
feelings; in others, it has gradually fashioned our feelings to suit
itself. Even to its worst evils we are accustomed; and therefore, though
we may complain of them, they do not strike us with the horror and
dismay which would be produced by a new grievance of smaller severity.
In India the case is widely different. English law, transplanted to that
country, has all the vices from which we suffer here; it has them all in
a far higher degree; and it has other vices, compared with which the
worst vices from which we suffer are trifles. Dilatory here, it is far
more dilatory in a land where the help of an interpreter is needed by
every judge and by every advocate. Costly here, it is far more costly in
a land into which the legal practitioners must be imported from an
immense distance. All English labor in India, from the labor of the
Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief, down to that of a groom or
a watchmaker, must be paid for at a higher rate than at home. No man
will be banished, and banished to the torrid zone, for nothing. The rule
holds good with respect to the legal profession. No English barrister
will work, fifteen thousand miles from all his friends, with the
thermometer at ninety-six in the shade, for the emoluments which will
content him in chambers that overlook the Thames. Accordingly, the fees
at Calcutta are about three times as great as the fees of Westminster
Hall; and this, though the people of India are, beyond all comparison,
poorer than the people of England. Yet the delay and the expense,
grievous as they are, form the smallest part of the evil which English
law, imported without modifications into India, could not fail to
produce. The strongest feelings of our nature, honor, religion, female
modesty, rose up against the innovation. Arrest on mesne process was the
first step in most civil proceedings; and to a native of rank arrest was
not merely a restraint, but a foul personal indignity. Oaths were
required in every stage of every suit; and the feeling of a Quaker
about an oath is hardly stronger than that of a respectable native. That
the apartments of a woman of quality should be entered by strange men,
or that her face should be seen by them, are, in the East, intolerable
outrages,--outrages which are more dreaded than death, and which can be
expiated only by the shedding of blood. To these outrages the most
distinguished families of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, were now exposed.
Imagine what the state of our own country would be, if a jurisprudence
were on a sudden introduced among us, which should be to us what our
jurisprudence was to our Asiatic subjects. Imagine what the state of our
country would be, if it were enacted that any man, by merely swearing
that a debt was due to him, should acquire a right to insult the persons
of men of the most honorable and sacred callings and of women of the
most shrinking delicacy, to horsewhip a general officer, to put a bishop
in the stocks, to treat ladies in the way which called forth the blow of
Wat Tyler. Something like this was the effect of the attempt which the
Supreme Court made to extend its jurisprudence over the whole of the
Company's territory.

A reign of terror began, of terror heightened by mystery: for even that
which was endured was less horrible than that which was anticipated. No
man knew what was next to be expected from this strange tribunal. It
came from beyond the black water, as the people of India, with
mysterious horror, call the sea. It consisted of judges not one of whom
was familiar with the usages of the millions over whom they claimed
boundless authority. Its records were kept in unknown characters; its
sentences were pronounced in unknown sounds. It had already collected
round itself an army of the worst part of the native population,
informers, and false witnesses, and common barrators, and agents of
chicane, and, above all, a banditti of bailiffs' followers, compared
with whom the retainers of the worst English sponging-houses, in the
worst times, might be considered as upright and tender-hearted. Many
natives, highly considered among their countrymen, were seized, hurried
up to Calcutta, flung into the common jail, not for any crime even
imputed, not for any debt that had been proved, but merely as a
precaution till their cause should come to trial. There were instances
in which men of the most venerable dignity, persecuted without a cause
by extortioners, died of rage and shame in the gripe of the vile
alguazils of Impey. The harams of noble Mahommedans, sanctuaries
respected in the East by governments which respected nothing else, were
burst open by gangs of bailiffs. The Mussulmans, braver and less
accustomed to submission than the Hindoos, sometimes stood on their
defence; and there were instances in which they shed their blood in the
doorway, while defending, sword in hand, the sacred apartments of their
women. Nay, it seemed as if even the faint-hearted Bengalee, who had
crouched at the feet of Surajah Dowlah, who had been mute during the
administration of Vansittart, would at length find courage in despair.
No Mahratta invasion had ever spread through the province such dismay as
this inroad of English lawyers. All the injustice of former oppressors,
Asiatic and European, appeared as a blessing when compared with the
justice of the Supreme Court.

Every class of the population, English and native, with the exception of
the ravenous pettifoggers who fattened on the misery and terror of an
immense community, cried out loudly against this fearful oppression. But
the judges were immovable. If a bailiff was resisted, they ordered the
soldiers to be called out. If a servant of the Company, in conformity
with the orders of the government, withstood the miserable catchpoles
who, with Impey's writs in their hands, exceeded the insolence and
rapacity of gang-robbers, he was flung into prison for a contempt. The
lapse of sixty years, the virtue and wisdom of many eminent magistrates
who have during that time administered justice in the Supreme Court,
have not effaced from the minds of the people of Bengal the recollection
of those evil days.

The members of the government were, on this subject, united as one man.
Hastings had courted the judges; he had found them useful instruments.
But he was not disposed to make them his own masters, or the masters of
India. His mind was large; his knowledge of the native character most
accurate. He saw that the system pursued by the Supreme Court was
degrading to the government and ruinous to the people; and he resolved
to oppose it manfully. The consequence was, that the friendship, if that
be the proper word for such a connection, which had existed between him
and Impey, was for a time completely dissolved. The government placed
itself firmly between the tyrannical tribunal and the people. The Chief
Justice proceeded to the wildest excesses. The Governor-General and all
the members of Council were served with writs, calling on them to appear
before the King's justices, and to answer for their public acts. This
was too much. Hastings, with just scorn, refused to obey the call, set
at liberty the persons wrongfully detained by the Court, and took
measures for resisting the outrageous proceedings of the sheriffs'
officers, if necessary, by the sword. But he had in view another device
which might prevent the necessity of an appeal to arms. He was seldom at
a loss for an expedient; and he knew Impey well. The expedient, in this
case, was a very simple one, neither more nor less than a bribe. Impey
was, by act of Parliament, a judge, independent of the government of
Bengal, and entitled to a salary of eight thousand a year. Hastings
proposed to make him also a judge in the Company's service, removable at
the pleasure of the government of Bengal; and to give him, in that
capacity, about eight thousand a year more. It was understood that, in
consideration of this new salary, Impey would desist from urging the
high pretensions of his court. If he did urge these pretensions, the
government could, at a moment's notice, eject him from the new place
which had been created for him. The bargain was struck; Bengal was
saved; an appeal to force was averted; and the Chief Justice was rich,
quiet, and infamous.

Of Impey's conduct it is unnecessary to speak. It was of a piece with
almost every part of his conduct that comes under the notice of history.
No other such judge has dishonored the English ermine, since Jeffreys
drank himself to death in the Tower. But we cannot agree with those who
have blamed Hastings for this transaction. The case stood thus. The
negligent manner in which the Regulating Act had been framed put it in
the power of the Chief Justice to throw a great country into the most
dreadful confusion. He was determined to use his power to the utmost,
unless he was paid to be still; and Hastings consented to pay him. The
necessity was to be deplored. It is also to be deplored that pirates
should be able to exact ransom by threatening to make their captives
walk the plank. But to ransom a captive from pirates has always been
held a humane and Christian act; and it would be absurd to charge the
payer of the ransom with corrupting the virtue of the corsair. This, we
seriously think, is a not unfair illustration of the relative position
of Impey, Hastings, and the people of India. Whether it was right in
Impey to demand or to accept a price for powers which, if they really
belonged to him, he could not abdicate, which, if they did not belong to
him, he ought never to have usurped, and which in neither case he could
honestly sell, is one question. It is quite another question, whether
Hastings was not right to give any sum, however large, to any man,
however worthless, rather than either surrender millions of human beings
to pillage, or rescue them by civil war.

Francis strongly opposed this arrangement. It may, indeed, be suspected
that personal aversion to Impey was as strong a motive with Francis as
regard for the welfare of the province. To a mind burning with
resentment, it might seem better to leave Bengal to the oppressors than
to redeem it by enriching them. It is not improbable, on the other hand,
that Hastings may have been the more willing to resort to an expedient
agreeable to the Chief Justice, because that high functionary had
already been so serviceable, and might, when existing dissensions were
composed, be serviceable again.

But it was not on this point alone that Francis was now opposed to
Hastings. The peace between them proved to be only a short and hollow
truce, during which their mutual aversion was constantly becoming
stronger. At length an explosion took place. Hastings publicly charged
Francis with having deceived him, and with having induced Barwell to
quit the service by insincere promises. Then came a dispute, such as
frequently arises even between honorable men, when they may make
important agreements by mere verbal communication. An impartial
historian will probably be of opinion that they had misunderstood each
other; but their minds were so much embittered that they imputed to each
other nothing less than deliberate villainy. "I do not," said Hastings,
in a minute recorded on the Consultations of the Government, "I do not
trust to Mr. Francis's promises of candor, convinced that he is
incapable of it. I judge of his public conduct by his private, which I
have found to be void of truth and honor." After the Council had risen,
Francis put a challenge into the Governor-General's hand. It was
instantly accepted. They met, and fired. Francis was shot through the
body. He was carried to a neighboring house, where it appeared that the
wound, though severe, was not mortal. Hastings inquired repeatedly after
his enemy's health, and proposed to call on him; but Francis coldly
declined the visit. He had a proper sense, he said, of the
Governor-General's politeness, but could not consent to any private
interview. They could meet only at the council board.

In a very short time it was made signally manifest to how great a danger
the Governor-General had, on this occasion, exposed his country. A
crisis arrived with which he, and he alone, was competent to deal. It is
not too much to say that, if he had been taken from the head of affairs,
the years 1780 and 1781 would have been as fatal to our power in Asia as
to our power in America.

The Mahrattas had been the chief objects of apprehension to Hastings.
The measures which he had adopted for the purpose of breaking their
power had at first been frustrated by the errors of those whom he was
compelled to employ; but his perseverance and ability seemed likely to
be crowned with success, when a far more formidable danger showed itself
in a distant quarter.

About thirty years before this time, a Mahommedan soldier had begun to
distinguish himself in the wars of Southern India. His education had
been neglected; his extraction was humble. His father had been a petty
officer of revenue; his grandfather a wandering dervise. But though thus
meanly descended, though ignorant even of the alphabet, the adventurer
had no sooner been placed at the head of a body of troops than he
approved himself a man born for conquest and command. Among the crowd of
chiefs who were struggling for a share of India, none could compare with
him in the qualities of the captain and the statesman. He became a
general; he became a sovereign. Out of the fragments of old
principalities, which had gone to pieces in the general wreck, he formed
for himself a great, compact, and vigorous empire. That empire he ruled
with the ability, severity, and vigilance of Louis the Eleventh.
Licentious in his pleasures, implacable in his revenge, he had yet
enlargement of mind enough to perceive how much the prosperity of
subjects adds to the strength of governments. He was an oppressor; but
he had at least the merit of protecting his people against all
oppression except his own. He was now in extreme old age; but his
intellect was as clear, and his spirit as high, as in the prime of
manhood. Such was the great Hyder Ali, the founder of the Mahommedan
kingdom of Mysore, and the most formidable enemy with whom the English
conquerors of India have ever had to contend.

Had Hastings been governor of Madras, Hyder would have been either made
a friend, or vigorously encountered as an enemy. Unhappily the English
authorities in the south provoked their powerful neighbor's hostility,
without being prepared to repel it. On a sudden, an army of ninety
thousand men, far superior in discipline and efficiency to any other
native force that could be found in India, came pouring through those
wild passes which, worn by mountain torrents, and dark with jungle, lead
down from the table-land of Mysore to the plains of the Carnatic. This
great army was accompanied by a hundred pieces of cannon; and its
movements were guided by many French officers, trained in the best
military schools of Europe.

Hyder was everywhere triumphant. The sepoys in many British garrisons
flung down their arms. Some forts were surrendered by treachery, and
some by despair. In a few days the whole open country north of the
Coleroon had submitted. The English inhabitants of Madras could already
see by night, from the top of Mount St. Thomas, the eastern sky reddened
by a vast semicircle of blazing villages. The white villas, to which our
countrymen retire after the daily labors of government and of trade,
when the cool evening breeze springs up from the bay, were now left
without inhabitants; for bands of the fierce horsemen of Mysore had
already been seen prowling among the tulip trees, and near the gay
verandas. Even the town was not thought secure, and the British
merchants and public functionaries made haste to crowd themselves behind
the cannon of Fort St. George.

There were the means indeed of assembling an army which might have
defended the presidency, and even driven the invader back to his
mountains. Sir Hector Munro was at the head of one considerable force;
Baillie was advancing with another. United, they might have presented a
formidable front even to such an enemy as Hyder. But the English
commanders, neglecting those fundamental rules of the military art of
which the propriety is obvious even to men who had never received a
military education, deferred their junction, and were separately
attacked. Baillie's detachment was destroyed. Munro was forced to
abandon his baggage, to fling his guns into the tanks, and to save
himself by a retreat which might be called a flight. In three weeks from
the commencement of the war, the British empire in Southern India had
been brought to the verge of ruin. Only a few fortified places remained
to us. The glory of our arms had departed. It was known that a great
French expedition might soon be expected on the coast of Coromandel.
England, beset by enemies on every side, was in no condition to protect
such remote dependencies.

Then it was that the fertile genius and serene courage of Hastings
achieved their most signal triumph. A swift ship, flying before the
southwest monsoon, brought the evil tidings in a few days to Calcutta.
In twenty-four hours the Governor-General had framed a complete plan of
policy adapted to the altered state of affairs. The struggle with Hyder
was a struggle, for life and death. All minor objects must be sacrificed
to the preservation of the Carnatic. The disputes with the Mahrattas
must be accommodated. A large military force and a supply of money must
be instantly sent to Madras. But even these measures would be
insufficient, unless the war, hitherto so grossly mismanaged, were
placed under the direction of a vigorous mind. It was no time for
trifling. Hastings determined to resort to an extreme exercise of power,
to suspend the incapable governor of Fort St. George, to send Sir Eyre
Coote to oppose Hyder, and to entrust that distinguished general with
the whole administration of the war.

In spite of the sullen opposition of Francis, who had now recovered from
his wound, and had returned to the Council, the Governor-General's wise
and firm policy was approved by the majority of the board. The
reinforcements were sent off with great expedition, and reached Madras
before the French armament arrived in the Indian seas. Coote, broken by
age and disease, was no longer the Coote of Wandewash; but he was still
a resolute and skilful commander. The progress of Hyder was arrested;
and in a few months the great victory of Porto Novo retrieved the honor
of the English arms.

In the meantime Francis had returned to England, and Hastings was now
left perfectly unfettered. Wheler had gradually been relaxing in his
opposition, and, after the departure of his vehement and implacable
colleague, coöperated heartily with the Governor-General, whose
influence over the British in India, always great, had, by the vigor and
success of his recent measures, been considerably increased.

But, though the difficulties arising from factions within the Council
were at an end, another class of difficulties had become more pressing
than ever. The financial embarrassment was extreme. Hastings had to find
the means, not only of carrying on the government of Bengal, but of
maintaining a most costly war against both Indian and European enemies
in the Carnatic, and of making remittances to England. A few years
before this time he had obtained relief by plundering the Mogul and
enslaving the Rohillas; nor were the resources of his fruitful mind by
any means exhausted.

His first design was on Benares, a city which in wealth, population,
dignity, and sanctity, was among the foremost of Asia. It was commonly
believed that half a million of human beings was crowded into that
labyrinth of lofty alleys, rich with shrines, and minarets, and
balconies, and carved oriels, to which the sacred apes clung by
hundreds. The traveller could scarcely make his way through the press of
holy mendicants and not less holy bulls. The broad and stately flights
of steps which descended from these swarming haunts to the
bathing-places along the Ganges were worn every day by the footsteps of
an innumerable multitude of worshippers. The schools and temples drew
crowds of pious Hindoos from every province where the Brahminical faith
was known. Hundreds of devotees came thither every month to die: for it
was believed that a peculiarly happy fate awaited the man who should
pass from the sacred city into the sacred river. Nor was superstition
the only motive which allured strangers to that great metropolis.
Commerce had as many pilgrims as religion. All along the shores of the
venerable stream lay great fleets of vessels laden with rich
merchandise. From the looms of Benares went forth the most delicate
silks that adorned the balls of St. James's and of Versailles; and, in
the bazaars, the muslins of Bengal and the sabres of Oude were mingled
with the jewels of Golconda and the shawls of Cashmere. This rich
capital, and the surrounding tract, had long been under the immediate
rule of a Hindoo Prince, who rendered homage to the Mogul emperors.
During the great anarchy of India, the lords of Benares became
independent of the court of Delhi, but were compelled to submit to the
authority of the Nabob of Oude. Oppressed by this formidable neighbor,
they invoked the protection of the English. The English protection was
given; and at length the Nabob Vizier, by a solemn treaty, ceded all his
rights over Benares to the Company. From that time the Rajah was the
vassal of the government of Bengal, acknowledged its supremacy, and
engaged to send an annual tribute to Fort William. This tribute Cheyte
Sing, the reigning prince, had paid with strict punctuality.

About the precise nature of the legal relation between the Company and
the Rajah of Benares there has been much warm and acute controversy. On
the one side, it has been maintained that Cheyte Sing was merely a great
subject on whom the superior power had a right to call for aid in the
necessities of the empire. On the other side, it has been contended that
he was an independent prince, that the only claim which the Company had
upon him was for a fixed tribute, and that while the fixed tribute was
regularly paid, as it assuredly was, the English had no more right to
exact any further contribution from him than to demand subsidies from
Holland or Denmark. Nothing is easier than to find precedents and
analogies in favor of either view.

Our own impression is that neither view is correct. It was too much the
habit of English politicians to take it for granted that there was in
India a known and definite constitution by which questions of this kind
were to be decided. The truth is that, during the interval which elapsed
between the fall of the house of Tamerlane and the establishment of the
British ascendency, there was no such constitution. The old order of
things had passed away; the new order of things was not yet formed. All
was transition, confusion, obscurity. Everybody kept his head as he best
might, and scrambled for whatever he could get. There have been similar
seasons in Europe. The time of the dissolution of the Carlovingian
empire is an instance. Who would think of seriously discussing the
question, What extent of pecuniary aid and of obedience Hugh Capet had a
constitutional right to demand from the Duke of Brittany or the Duke of
Normandy? The words "constitutional right" had, in that state of
society, no meaning. If Hugh Capet laid hands on all the possessions of
the Duke of Normandy, this might be unjust and immoral; but it would not
be illegal, in the sense in which the ordinances of Charles the Tenth
were illegal. If, on the other hand, the Duke of Normandy made war on
Hugh Capet, this might be unjust and immoral; but it would not be
illegal, in the sense in which the expedition of Prince Louis Bonaparte
was illegal.

Very similar to this was the state of India sixty years ago. Of the
existing governments not a single one could lay claim to legitimacy, or
could plead any other title than recent occupation. There was scarcely a
province in which the real sovereignty and the nominal sovereignty were
not disjoined. Titles and forms were still retained which implied that
the heir of Tamerlane was an absolute ruler, and that the Nabobs of the
provinces were his lieutenants. In reality, he was a captive. The Nabobs
were in some places independent princes. In other places, as in Bengal
and the Carnatic, they had, like their master, become mere phantoms, and
the Company was supreme. Among the Mahrattas, again, the heir of Sevajee
still kept the title of Rajah; but he was a prisoner, and his prime
minister, the Peshwa, had become the hereditary chief of the state. The
Peshwa, in his turn, was fast sinking into the same degraded situation
to which he had reduced the Rajah. It was, we believe, impossible to
find, from the Himalayas to Mysore, a single government which was at
once a government _de facto_ and a government _de jure_, which possessed
the physical means of making itself feared by its neighbors and
subjects, and which had at the same time the authority derived from law
and long prescription.

Hastings clearly discerned, what was hidden from most of his
contemporaries, that such a state of things gave immense advantages to a
ruler of great talents and few scruples. In every international question
that could arise, he had his option between the _de facto_ ground and
the _de jure_ ground; and the probability was that one of those grounds
would sustain any claim that it might be convenient for him to make, and
enable him to resist any claim made by others. In every controversy,
accordingly, he resorted to the plea which suited his immediate
purpose, without troubling himself in the least about consistency; and
thus he scarcely ever failed to find what, to persons of short memories
and scanty information, seemed to be a justification for what he wanted
to do. Sometimes the Nabob of Bengal is a shadow, sometimes a monarch.
Sometimes the Vizier is a mere deputy, sometimes an independent
potentate. If it is expedient for the Company to show some legal title
to the revenues of Bengal, the grant under the seal of the Mogul is
brought forward as an instrument of the highest authority. When the
Mogul asks for the rents which were reserved to him by that very grant,
he is told that he is a mere pageant, that the English power rests on a
very different foundation from a charter given by him, that he is
welcome to play at royalty as long as he likes, but that he must expect
no tribute from the real masters of India.

It is true that it was in the power of others, as well as of Hastings,
to practise this legerdemain; but in the controversies of governments,
sophistry is of little use unless it be backed by power. There is a
principle which Hastings was fond of asserting in the strongest terms,
and on which he acted with undeviating steadiness. It is a principle
which, we must own, though it may be grossly abused, can hardly be
disputed in the present state of public law. It is this, that where an
ambiguous question arises between two governments, there is, if they
cannot agree, no appeal except to force, and that the opinion of the
stronger must prevail. Almost every question was ambiguous in India. The
English government was the strongest in India. The consequences are
obvious. The English government might do exactly what it chose.

The English government now chose to wring money out of Cheyte Sing. It
had formerly been convenient to treat him as a sovereign prince; it was
now convenient to treat him as a subject. Dexterity inferior to that of
Hastings could easily find, in the general chaos of laws and customs,
arguments for either course. Hastings wanted a great supply. It was
known that Cheyte Sing had a large revenue, and it was suspected that he
had accumulated a treasure. Nor was he a favorite at Calcutta. He had,
when the Governor-General was in great difficulties, courted the favor
of Francis and Clavering. Hastings, who, less, perhaps, from evil
passions than from policy, seldom left an injury unpunished, was not
sorry that the fate of Cheyte Sing should teach neighboring princes the
same lesson which the fate of Nuncomar had already impressed on the
inhabitants of Bengal.

In 1778, on the first breaking out of the war with France, Cheyte Sing
was called upon to pay, in addition to his fixed tribute, an
extraordinary contribution of fifty thousand pounds. In 1779 an equal
sum was exacted. In 1780 the demand was renewed. Cheyte Sing, in the
hope of obtaining some indulgence, secretly offered the Governor-General
a bribe of twenty thousand pounds. Hastings took the money, and his
enemies have maintained that he took it intending to keep it. He
certainly concealed the transaction, for a time, both from the Council
in Bengal and from the Directors at home; nor did he ever give any
satisfactory reason for the concealment. Public spirit, or the fear of
detection, at last, determined him to withstand the temptation. He paid
over the bribe to the Company's treasury, and insisted that the Rajah
should instantly comply with the demands of the English government. The
Rajah, after the fashion of his countrymen, shuffled, solicited, and
pleaded poverty. The grasp of Hastings was not to be so eluded. He added
to the requisition another ten thousand pounds as a fine for delay, and
sent troops to exact the money.

The money was paid. But this was not enough. The late events in the
south of India had increased the financial embarrassments of the
Company. Hastings was determined to plunder Cheyte Sing, and, for that
end, to fasten a quarrel on him. Accordingly, the Rajah was now required
to keep a body of cavalry for the service of the British government. He
objected and evaded. This was exactly what the Governor-General wanted.
He had now a pretext for treating the wealthiest of his vassals as a
criminal. "I resolved"--these are the words of Hastings himself--"to
draw from his guilt the means of relief of the Company's distresses, to
make him pay largely for his pardon, or to exact a severe vengeance for
past delinquency." The plan was simply this, to demand larger and larger
contributions till the Rajah should be driven to remonstrate, then to
call his remonstrance a crime, and to punish him by confiscating all his

Cheyte Sing was in the greatest dismay. He offered two hundred thousand
pounds to propitiate the British government. But Hastings replied that
nothing less than half a million would be accepted. Nay, he began to
think of selling Benares to Oude, as he had formerly sold Allahabad and
Rohilcund. The matter was one which could not be well managed at a
distance; and Hastings resolved to visit Benares.

Cheyte Sing received his liege lord with every mark of reverence, came
near sixty miles, with his guards, to meet and escort the illustrious
visitor, and expressed his deep concern at the displeasure of the
English. He even took off his turban, and laid it in the lap of
Hastings, a gesture which in India marks the most profound submission
and devotion. Hastings behaved with cold and repulsive severity. Having
arrived at Benares, he sent to the Rajah a paper containing the demands
of the government of Bengal. The Rajah, in reply, attempted to clear
himself from the accusations brought against him. Hastings, who wanted
money and not excuses, was not to be put off by the ordinary artifices
of Eastern negotiation. He instantly ordered the Rajah to be arrested
and placed under the custody of two companies of sepoys.

In taking these strong measures, Hastings scarcely showed his usual
judgment. It is possible that, having had little opportunity of
personally observing any part of the population of India, except the
Bengalese, he was not fully aware of the difference between their
character and that of the tribes which inhabit the upper provinces. He
was now in a land far more favorable to the vigor of the human frame
than the Delta of the Ganges; in a land fruitful of soldiers, who have
been found worthy to follow English battalions to the charge and into
the breach. The Rajah was popular among his subjects. His administration
had been mild; and the prosperity of the district which he governed
presented a striking contrast to the depressed state of Bahar under our
rule, and a still more striking contrast to the misery of the provinces
which were cursed by the tyranny of the Nabob Vizier. The national and
religious prejudices with which the English were regarded throughout
India were peculiarly intense in the metropolis of the Brahminical
superstition. It can therefore scarcely be doubted that the
Governor-General before he outraged the dignity of Cheyte Sing by an
arrest, ought to have assembled a force capable of bearing down all
opposition. This had not been done. The handful of sepoys who attended
Hastings would probably have been sufficient to overawe Moorshedabad, or
the Black Town of Calcutta. But they were unequal to a conflict with the
hardy rabble of Benares. The streets surrounding the palace were filled
by an immense multitude, of whom a large proportion, as is usual in
Upper India, wore arms. The tumult became a fight, and the fight a
massacre. The English officers defended themselves with desperate
courage against overwhelming numbers, and fell, as became them, sword in
hand. The sepoys were butchered. The gates were forced. The captive
prince, neglected by his jailers during the confusion, discovered an
outlet which opened on the precipitous bank of the Ganges, let himself
down to the water by a string made of the turbans of his attendants,
found a boat, and escaped to the opposite shore.

If Hastings had, by indiscreet violence, brought himself into a
difficult and perilous situation, it is only just to acknowledge that he
extricated himself with even more than his usual ability and presence of
mind. He had only fifty men with him. The building in which he had taken
up his residence was on every side blockaded by the insurgents. But his
fortitude remained unshaken. The Rajah from the other side of the river
sent apologies and liberal offers. They were not even answered. Some
subtle and enterprising men were found who undertook to pass through the
throng of enemies, and to convey the intelligence of the late events to
the English cantonments. It is the fashion of the natives of India to
wear large earrings of gold. When they travel, the rings are laid aside,
lest the precious metal should tempt some gang of robbers; and, in place
of the ring, a quill or a roll of paper is inserted in the orifice to
prevent it from closing. Hastings placed in the ears of his messengers
letters rolled up in the smallest compass. Some of these letters were
addressed to the commanders of the English troops. One was written to
assure his wife of his safety. One was to the envoy whom he had sent to
negotiate with the Mahrattas. Instructions for the negotiation were
needed; and the Governor-General framed them in that situation of
extreme danger with as much composure as if he had been writing in his
palace at Calcutta.

Things, however, were not yet at the worst. An English officer of more
spirit than judgment, eager to distinguish himself, made a premature
attack on the insurgents beyond the river. His troops were entangled in
narrow streets, and assailed by a furious population. He fell, with many
of his men; and the survivors were forced to retire.

This event produced the effect which has never failed to follow every
check, however slight, sustained in India by the English arms. For
hundreds of miles round, the whole country was in commotion. The entire
population of the district of Benares took arms. The fields were
abandoned by the husbandmen, who thronged to defend their prince. The
infection spread to Oude. The oppressed people of that province rose up
against the Nabob Vizier, refused to pay their imposts, and put the
revenue officers to flight. Even Bahar was ripe for revolt. The hopes of
Cheyte Sing began to rise. Instead of imploring mercy in the humble
style of a vassal, he began to talk the language of a conqueror, and
threatened, it was said, to sweep the white usurpers out of the land.
But the English troops were now assembling fast. The officers, and even
the private men, regarded the Governor-General with enthusiastic
attachment, and flew to his aid with an alacrity which, as he boasted,
had never been shown on any other occasion. Major Popham, a brave and
skilful soldier, who had highly distinguished himself in the Mahratta
war, and in whom the Governor-General reposed the greatest confidence,
took the command. The tumultuary army of the Rajah was put to rout. His
fastnesses were stormed. In a few hours, above thirty thousand men left
his standard, and returned to their ordinary avocations. The unhappy
prince fled from his country forever. His fair domain was added to the
British dominions. One of his relations indeed was appointed rajah; but
the Rajah of Benares was henceforth to be, like the Nabob of Bengal, a
mere pensioner.

By this revolution, an addition of two hundred thousand pounds a year
was made to the revenues of the Company. But the immediate relief was
not as great as had been expected. The treasure laid up by Cheyte Sing
had been popularly estimated at a million sterling. It turned out to be
about a fourth part of that sum; and, such as it was, it was seized by
the army, and divided as prize-money.

Disappointed in his expectations from Benares, Hastings was more violent
than he would otherwise have been, in his dealings with Oude. Sujah
Dowlah had long been dead. His son and successor, Asaph-ul-Dowlah, was
one of the weakest and most vicious even of Eastern princes. His life
was divided between torpid repose and the most odious forms of
sensuality. In his court there was boundless waste, throughout his
dominions wretchedness and disorder. He had been, under the skilful
management of the English government, gradually sinking from the rank of
an independent prince to that of a vassal of the Company. It was only by
the help of a British brigade that he could be secure from the
aggressions of neighbors who despised his weakness, and from the
vengeance of subjects who detested his tyranny. A brigade was furnished;
and he engaged to defray the charge of paying and maintaining it. From
that time his independence was at an end. Hastings was not a man to lose
the advantage which he had thus gained. The Nabob soon began to complain
of the burden which he had undertaken to bear. His revenues, he said,
were falling off; his servants were unpaid; he could no longer support
the expense of the arrangement which he had sanctioned. Hastings would
not listen to these representations. The Vizier, he said, had invited
the government of Bengal to send him troops, and had promised to pay for
them. The troops had been sent. How long the troops were to remain in
Oude was a matter not settled by the treaty. It remained, therefore, to
be settled between the contracting parties. But the contracting parties
differed. Who then must decide? The stronger.

Hastings also argued that, if the English force was withdrawn, Oude
would certainly become a prey to anarchy, and would probably be overrun
by a Mahratta army. That the finances of Oude were embarrassed he
admitted. But he contended, not without reason, that the embarrassment
was to be attributed to the incapacity and vices of Asaph-ul-Dowlah
himself, and that, if less were spent on the troops, the only effect
would be that more would be squandered on worthless favorites.

Hastings had intended, after settling the affairs of Benares, to visit
Lucknow, and there to confer with Asaph-ul-Dowlah. But the obsequious
courtesy of the Nabob Vizier prevented this visit. With a small train he
hastened to meet the Governor-General. An interview took place in the
fortress which, from the crest of the precipitous rock of Chunar, looks
down on the waters of the Ganges.

At first sight it might appear impossible that the negotiation should
come to an amicable close. Hastings wanted an extraordinary supply of
money. Asaph-ul-Dowlah wanted to obtain a remission of what he already
owed. Such a difference seemed to admit of no compromise. There was,
however, one course satisfactory to both sides, one course by which it
was possible to relieve the finances both of Oude and of Bengal; and
that course was adopted. It was simply this, that the Governor-General
and the Nabob Vizier should join to rob a third party; and the third
party whom they determined to rob was the parent of one of the robbers.

The mother of the late Nabob, and his wife, who was the mother of the
present Nabob, were known as the Begums or Princesses of Oude. They had
possessed great influence over Sujah Dowlah, and had, at his death, been
left in possession of a splendid dotation. The domains of which they
received the rents and administered the government were of wide extent.
The treasure hoarded by the late Nabob, a treasure which was popularly
estimated at near three millions sterling, was in their hands. They
continued to occupy his favorite palace at Fyzabad, the Beautiful
Dwelling; while Asaph-ul-Dowlah held his court in the stately Lucknow,
which he had built for himself on the shores of the Goomti, and had
adorned with noble mosques and colleges.

Asaph-ul-Dowlah had already extorted considerable sums from his mother.
She had at length appealed to the English; and the English had
interfered. A solemn compact had been made, by which she consented to
give her son some pecuniary assistance, and he in his turn promised
never to commit any further invasion of her rights. This compact was
formally guaranteed by the government of Bengal. But times had changed;
money was wanted; and the power which had given the guarantee was not
ashamed to instigate the spoiler to excesses such that even he shrank
from them.

It was necessary to find some pretext for a confiscation inconsistent,
not merely with plighted faith, not merely with the ordinary rules of
humanity and justice, but also with that great law of filial piety
which, even in the wildest tribes of savages, even in those more
degraded communities which wither under the influence of a corrupt half
civilization, retains a certain authority over the human mind. A pretext
was the last thing that Hastings was likely to want. The insurrection at
Benares had produced disturbances in Oude. These disturbances it was
convenient to impute to the Princesses. Evidence for the imputation
there was scarcely any; unless reports wandering from one mouth to
another, and gaining something by every transmission, may be called
evidence. The accused were furnished with no charge; they were permitted
to make no defence; for the Governor-General wisely considered that, if
he tried them, he might not be able to find a ground for plundering
them. It was agreed between him and the Nabob Vizier that the noble
ladies should, by a sweeping act of confiscation, be stripped of their
domains and treasures for the benefit of the Company, and that the sums
thus obtained should be accepted by the government of Bengal in
satisfaction of its claims on the government of Oude.

While Asaph-ul-Dowlah was at Chunar, he was completely subjugated by the
clear and commanding intellect of the English statesman. But when they
had separated, the Vizier began to reflect with uneasiness on the
engagement into which he had entered. His mother and grandmother
protested and implored. His heart, deeply corrupted by absolute power
and licentious pleasures, yet not naturally unfeeling, failed him in
this crisis. Even the English resident at Lucknow, though hitherto
devoted to Hastings, shrank from extreme measures. But the
Governor-General was inexorable. He wrote to the resident in terms of
the greatest severity, and declared that, if the spoliation which had
been agreed upon were not instantly carried into effect, he would
himself go to Lucknow, and do that from which feebler minds recoil with
dismay. The resident, thus menaced, waited on His Highness and insisted
that the treaty of Chunar should be carried into full and immediate
effect. Asaph-ul-Dowlah yielded, making at the same time a solemn
protestation that he yielded to compulsion. The lands were resumed; but
the treasure was not so easily obtained. It was necessary to use
violence. A body of the Company's troops marched to Fyzabad, and forced
the gates of the palace. The Princesses were confined to their own
apartments. But still they refused to submit. Some more stringent mode
of coercion was to be found. A mode was found of which, even at this
distance of time, we cannot speak without shame and sorrow.

There were at Fyzabad two ancient men, belonging to that unhappy class
which a practice, of immemorial antiquity in the East, has excluded from
the pleasures of love and from the hope of posterity. It has always been
held in Asiatic courts that beings thus estranged from sympathy with
their kind are those whom princes may most safely trust. Sujah Dowlah
had been of this opinion. He had given his entire confidence to the two
eunuchs; and after his death they remained at the head of the household
of his widow.

These men were, by the orders of the British government, seized,
imprisoned, ironed, starved almost to death, in order to extort money
from the Princesses. After they had been two months in confinement,
their health gave way. They implored permission to take a little
exercise in the garden of their prison. The officer who was in charge of
them stated that, if they were allowed this indulgence, there was not
the smallest chance of their escaping, and that their irons really added
nothing to the security of the custody in which they were kept. He did
not understand the plan of his superiors. Their object in these
inflictions was not security but torture; and all mitigation was
refused. Yet this was not the worst. It was resolved by an English
government that these two infirm old men should be delivered to the
tormentors. For that purpose they were removed to Lucknow. What horrors
their dungeon there witnessed can only be guessed. But there remains on
the records of Parliament this letter, written by a British resident to
a British soldier:--

"Sir, the Nabob having determined to inflict corporal punishment upon
the prisoners under your guard, this is to desire that his officers,
when they shall come, may have free access to the prisoners, and be
permitted to do with them as they shall see proper."

While these barbarities were perpetrated at Lucknow, the Princesses were
still under duress at Fyzabad. Food was allowed to enter their
apartments only in such scanty quantities that their female attendants
were in danger of perishing with hunger. Month after month this cruelty
continued, till at length, after twelve hundred thousand pounds had been
wrung out of the Princesses, Hastings began to think that he had really
got to the bottom of their coffers, and that no rigor could extort more.
Then at length the wretched men who were detained at Lucknow regained
their liberty. When their irons were knocked off and the doors of their
prison opened, their quivering lips, the tears which ran down their
cheeks, and the thanksgivings which they poured forth to the common
Father of Mussulmans and Christians, melted even the stout hearts of the
English warriors who stood by.

But we must not forget to do justice to Sir Elijah Impey's conduct on
this occasion. It was not indeed easy for him to intrude himself into a
business so entirely alien from all his official duties. But there was
something inexpressibly alluring, we must suppose, in the peculiar
rankness of the infamy which was then to be got at Lucknow. He hurried
thither as fast as relays of palanquin-bearers could carry him. A crowd
of people came before him with affidavits against the Begums, ready
drawn in their hands. Those affidavits he did not read. Some of them,
indeed, he could not read; for they were in the dialects of Northern
India, and no interpreter was employed. He administered the oath to the
deponents, with all possible expedition, and asked not a single
question, not even whether they had perused the statements to which they
swore. This work performed, he got again into his palanquin, and posted
back to Calcutta, to be in time for the opening of term. The cause was
one which, by his own confession, lay altogether out of his
jurisdiction. Under the charter of justice, he had no more right to
inquire into crimes committed by Asiatics in Oude than the Lord
President of the Court of Session of Scotland to hold an assize at
Exeter. He had no right to try the Begums, nor did he pretend to try
them. With what object, then, did he undertake so long a journey?
Evidently in order that he might give, in an irregular manner, that
sanction which in a regular manner he could not give, to the crimes of
those who had recently hired him; and in order that a confused mass of
testimony which he did not sift, which he did not even read, might
acquire an authority not properly belonging to it, from the signature of
the highest judicial functionary in India.

The time was approaching, however, when he was to be stripped of that
robe which has never, since the Revolution, been disgraced so foully as
by him. The state of India had for some time occupied much of the
attention of the British Parliament. Towards the close of the American
war, two committees of the Commons sat on Eastern affairs. In one Edmund
Burke took the lead. The other was under the presidency of the able and
versatile Henry Dundas, then Lord Advocate of Scotland. Great as are the
changes which, during the last sixty years, have taken place in our
Asiatic dominions, the reports which those committees laid on the table
of the House will still be found most interesting and instructive.

There was as yet no connection between the Company and either of the
great parties in the state. The ministers had no motive to defend Indian
abuses. On the contrary, it was for their interest to show, if possible,
that the government and patronage of our Oriental empire might, with
advantage, be transferred to themselves. The votes, therefore, which, in
consequence of the reports made by the two committees, were passed by
the Commons, breathed the spirit of stern and indignant justice. The
severest epithets were applied to several of the measures of Hastings,
especially to the Rohilla war; and it was resolved, on the motion of Mr.
Dundas, that the Company ought to recall a Governor-General who had
brought such calamities on the Indian people, and such dishonor on the
British name. An act was passed for limiting the jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court. The bargain which Hastings had made with the Chief
Justice was condemned in the strongest terms; and an address was
presented to the King, praying that Impey might be ordered home to
answer for his misdeeds.

Impey was recalled by a letter from the Secretary of State. But the
proprietors of India Stock resolutely refused to dismiss Hastings from
their service, and passed a resolution affirming, what was undeniably
true, that they were entrusted by law with the right of naming and
removing their Governor-General, and that they were not bound to obey
the directions of a single branch of the legislature with respect to
such nomination or removal.

Thus supported by his employers, Hastings remained at the head of the
government of Bengal till the spring of 1785. His administration, so
eventful and stormy, closed in almost perfect quiet. In the Council
there was no regular opposition to his measures. Peace was restored to
India. The Mahratta war had ceased. Hyder was no more. A treaty had been
concluded with his son Tippoo; and the Carnatic had been evacuated by
the armies of Mysore. Since the termination of the American war, England
had no European enemy or rival in the Eastern seas.

On a general review of the long administration of Hastings, it is
impossible to deny that, against the great crimes by which it is
blemished, we have to set off great public services. England had passed
through a perilous crisis. She still, indeed, maintained her place in
the foremost rank of European powers; and the manner in which she had
defended herself against fearful odds had inspired surrounding nations
with a high opinion both of her spirit and of her strength.
Nevertheless, in every part of the world, except one, she had been a
loser. Not only had she been compelled to acknowledge the independence
of thirteen colonies peopled by her children, and to conciliate the
Irish by giving up the right of legislating for them; but, in the
Mediterranean, in the Gulf of Mexico, on the coast of Africa, on the
continent of America, she had been compelled to cede the fruits of her
victories in former wars. Spain regained Minorca and Florida; France
regained Senegal, Goree, and several West Indian Islands. The only
quarter of the world in which Britain had lost nothing was the quarter
in which her interests had been committed to the care of Hastings. In
spite of the utmost exertions both of European and Asiatic enemies, the
power of our country in the East had been greatly augmented. Benares was
subjected; the Nabob Vizier reduced to vassalage. That our influence had
been thus extended, nay, that Fort William and Fort St. George had not
been occupied by hostile armies, was owing, if we may trust the general
voice of the English in India, to the skill and resolution of Hastings.

His internal administration, with all its blemishes, gives him a title
to be considered as one of the most remarkable men in our history. He
dissolved the double government. He transferred the direction of affairs
to English hands. Out of a frightful anarchy, he educed at least a rude
and imperfect order. The whole organization by which justice was
dispensed, revenue collected, peace maintained throughout a territory
not inferior in population to the dominions of Louis the Sixteenth or of
the Emperor Joseph, was formed and superintended by him. He boasted that
every public office, without exception, which existed when he left
Bengal was his creation. It is quite true that this system, after all
the improvements suggested by the experience of sixty years, still needs
improvement, and that it was at first far more defective than it now is.
But whoever seriously considers what it is to construct from the
beginning the whole of a machine so vast and complex as a government
will allow that what Hastings effected deserves high admiration. To
compare the most celebrated European ministers to him seems to us as
unjust as it would be to compare the best baker in London with Robinson
Crusoe, who, before he could bake a single loaf, had to make his plough
and his harrow, his fences and his scarecrows, his sickle and his flail,
his mill and his oven.

The just fame of Hastings rises still higher when we reflect that he was
not bred a statesman; that he was sent from school to a counting-house;
and that he was employed during the prime of his manhood as a commercial
agent, far from all intellectual society.

Nor must we forget that all, or almost all, to whom, when placed at the
head of affairs, he could apply for assistance were persons who owed as
little as himself, or less than himself, to education. A minister in
Europe finds himself, on the first day on which he commences his
functions, surrounded by experienced public servants, the depositaries
of official traditions. Hastings had no such help. His own reflection,
his own energy, were to supply the place of all Downing Street and
Somerset House. Having had no facilities for learning, he was forced to
teach. He had first to form himself, and then to form his instruments;
and this not in a single department, but in all the departments of the

It must be added that, while engaged in this most arduous task, he was
constantly trammelled by orders from home, and frequently borne down by
a majority in Council. The preservation of an empire from a formidable
combination of foreign enemies, the construction of a government in all
its parts, were accomplished by him, while every ship brought out bales
of censure from his employers, and while the records of every
consultation were filled with acrimonious minutes by his colleagues. We
believe that there never was a public man whose temper was so severely
tried; not Marlborough, when thwarted by the Dutch Deputies: not
Wellington, when he had to deal at once with the Portuguese Regency, the
Spanish Juntas, and Mr. Perceval. But the temper of Hastings was equal
to almost any trial. It was not sweet; but it was calm. Quick and
vigorous as his intellect was, the patience with which he endured the
most cruel vexations, till a remedy could be found, resembled the
patience of stupidity. He seems to have been capable of resentment,
bitter and long-enduring; yet his resentment so seldom hurried him into
any blunder that it may be doubted whether what appeared to be revenge
was anything but policy.

The effect of this singular equanimity was that he always had the full
command of all the resources of one of the most fertile minds that ever
existed. Accordingly no complication of perils and embarrassments could
perplex him. For every difficulty he had a contrivance ready; and,
whatever may be thought of the justice and humanity of some of his
contrivances, it is certain that they seldom failed to serve the purpose
for which they were designed.

Together with this extraordinary talent for devising expedients,
Hastings possessed, in a very high degree, another talent scarcely less
necessary to a man in his situation, we mean the talent for conducting
political controversy. It is as necessary to an English statesman in the
East that he should be able to write, as it is to a minister in this
country that he should be able to speak. It is chiefly by the oratory of
a public man here that the nation judges of his powers. It is from the
letters and reports of a public man in India that the dispensers of
patronage form their estimate of him. In each case, the talent which
receives peculiar encouragement is developed, perhaps at the expense of
the other powers. In this country, we sometimes hear men speak above
their abilities. It is not very unusual to find gentlemen in the Indian
service who write above their abilities. The English politician is a
little too much of a debater; the Indian politician a little too much of
an essayist.

Of the numerous servants of the Company who have distinguished
themselves as framers of minutes and dispatches, Hastings stands at the
head. He was indeed the person who gave to the official writing of the
Indian governments the character which it still retains. He was matched
against no common antagonist. But even Francis was forced to
acknowledge, with sullen and resentful candor, that there was no
contending against the pen of Hastings. And, in truth, the
Governor-General's power of making out a case, of perplexing what it was
inconvenient that people should understand, and of setting in the
clearest point of view whatever would bear the light, was incomparable.
His style must be praised with some reservation. It was in general
forcible, pure, and polished; but it was sometimes, though not often,
turgid, and, on one or two occasions, even bombastic. Perhaps the
fondness of Hastings for Persian literature may have tended to corrupt
his taste.

And since we have referred to his literary tastes, it would be most
unjust not to praise the judicious encouragement which, as a ruler, he
gave to liberal studies and curious researches. His patronage was
extended, with prudent generosity, to voyages, travels, experiments,
publications. He did little, it is true, towards introducing into India
the learning of the West. To make the young natives of Bengal familiar
with Milton and Adam Smith, to substitute the geography, astronomy, and
surgery of Europe for the dotages of the Brahminical superstition, or
for the imperfect science of ancient Greece transfused through Arabian
expositions--this was a scheme reserved to crown the beneficent
administration of a far more virtuous ruler. Still, it is impossible to
refuse high commendation to a man who, taken from a ledger to govern an
empire, overwhelmed by public business, surrounded by people as busy as
himself, and separated by thousands of leagues from almost all literary
society, gave, both by his example and by his munificence, a great
impulse to learning. In Persian and Arabic literature he was deeply
skilled. With the Sanskrit he was not himself acquainted; but those who
first brought that language to the knowledge of European students owed
much to his encouragement. It was under his protection that the Asiatic
Society commenced its honorable career. That distinguished body selected
him to be its first president; but, with excellent taste and feeling, he
declined the honor in favor of Sir William Jones. But the chief
advantage which the students of Oriental letters derived from his
patronage remains to be mentioned. The Pundits of Bengal had always
looked with great jealousy on the attempts of foreigners to pry into
those mysteries which were locked up in the sacred dialect. The
Brahminical religion had been persecuted by the Mahommedans. What the
Hindoos knew of the spirit of the Portuguese government might warrant
them in apprehending persecution from Christians. That apprehension, the
wisdom and moderation of Hastings removed. He was the first foreign
ruler who succeeded in gaining the confidence of the hereditary priests
of India, and who induced them to lay open to English scholars the
secrets of the old Brahminical theology and jurisprudence.

It is indeed impossible to deny that, in the great art of inspiring
large masses of human beings with confidence and attachment, no ruler
ever surpassed Hastings. If he had made himself popular with the English
by giving up the Bengalese to extortion and oppression, or if, on the
other hand, he had conciliated the Bengalese and alienated the English,
there would have been no cause for wonder. What is peculiar to him is
that, being the chief of a small band of strangers who exercised
boundless power over a great indigenous population, he made himself
beloved both by the subject many and by the dominant few. The affection
felt for him by the civil service was singularly ardent and constant.
Through all his disasters and perils, his brethren stood by him with
steadfast loyalty. The army, at the same time, loved him as armies have
seldom loved any but the greatest chiefs who have led them to victory.
Even in his disputes with distinguished military men, he could always
count on the support of the military profession. While such was his
empire over the hearts of his countrymen, he enjoyed among the natives a
popularity such as other governors have perhaps better merited, but such
as no other governor has been able to attain. He spoke their vernacular
dialects with facility and precision. He was intimately acquainted with
their feelings and usages. On one or two occasions, for great ends, he
deliberately acted in defiance of their opinion; but on such occasions
he gained more in their respect than he lost in their love. In general,
he carefully avoided all that could shock their national or religious
prejudices. His administration was indeed in many respects faulty; but
the Bengalee standard of good government was not high. Under the Nabobs,
the hurricane of Mahratta cavalry had passed annually over the rich
alluvial plain. But even the Mahratta shrank from a conflict with the
mighty children of the sea; and the immense rice harvests of the Lower
Ganges were safely gathered in, under the protection of the English
sword. The first English conquerors had been more rapacious and
merciless even than the Mahrattas; but that generation had passed away.
Defective as was the police, heavy as were the public burdens, it is
probable that the oldest man in Bengal could not recollect a season of
equal security and prosperity. For the first time within living memory,
the province was placed under a government strong enough to prevent
others from robbing, and not inclined to play the robber itself. These
things inspired good will. At the same time, the constant success of
Hastings and the manner in which he extricated himself from every
difficulty made him an object of superstitious admiration; and the more
than regal splendor which he sometimes displayed dazzled a people who
have much in common with children. Even now, after the lapse of more
than fifty years, the natives of India still talk of him as the greatest
of the English; and nurses sing children to sleep with a jingling ballad
about the fleet horses and richly caparisoned elephants of Sahib Warren

The gravest offences of which Hastings was guilty did not affect his
popularity with the people of Bengal; for those offences were committed
against neighboring states. Those offences, as our readers must have
perceived, we are not disposed to vindicate; yet, in order that the
censure may be justly apportioned to the transgression, it is fit that
the motive of the criminal should be taken into consideration. The
motive which prompted the worst acts of Hastings was misdirected and
ill-regulated public spirit. The rules of justice, the sentiments of
humanity, the plighted faith of treaties, were in his view as nothing
when opposed to the immediate interest of the state. This is no
justification, according to the principles either of morality, or of
what we believe to be identical with morality, namely, far-sighted
policy. Nevertheless, the common sense of mankind, which in questions of
this sort seldom goes far wrong, will always recognize a distinction
between crimes which originate in an inordinate zeal for the
commonwealth, and crimes which originate in selfish cupidity. To the
benefit of this distinction Hastings is fairly entitled. There is, we
conceive, no reason to suspect that the Rohilla war, the revolution of
Benares, or the spoliation of the Princesses of Oude, added a rupee to
his fortune. We will not affirm that, in all pecuniary dealings, he
showed that punctilious integrity, that dread of the faintest appearance
of evil, which is now the glory of the Indian civil service. But when
the school in which he had been trained and the temptations to which he
was exposed are considered, we are more inclined to praise him for his
general uprightness with respect to money, than rigidly to blame him for
a few transactions which would now be called indelicate and irregular,
but which even now would hardly be designated as corrupt. A rapacious
man he certainly was not. Had he been so he would infallibly have
returned to his country the richest subject in Europe. We speak within
compass when we say that, without applying any extraordinary pressure,
he might easily have obtained from the zemindars of the Company's
provinces and from neighboring princes, in the course of thirteen years,
more than three millions sterling, and might have outshone the splendor
of Carlton House and of the Palais Royal. He brought home a fortune such
as a Governor-General, fond of state and careless of thrift, might
easily, during so long a tenure of office, save out of his legal salary.
Mrs. Hastings, we are afraid, was less scrupulous. It was generally
believed that she accepted presents with great alacrity, and that she
thus formed, without the connivance of her husband, a private hoard
amounting to several lacs of rupees. We are the more inclined to give
credit to this story because Mr. Gleig, who cannot but have heard it,
does not, as far as we have observed, notice or contradict it.

The influence of Mrs. Hastings over her husband was indeed such that she
might easily have obtained much larger sums than she was ever accused of
receiving. At length her health began to give way; and the
Governor-General, much against his will, was compelled to send her to
England. He seems to have loved her with that love which is peculiar to
men of strong minds, to men whose affection is not easily won or widely
diffused. The talk of Calcutta ran for some time on the luxurious manner
in which he fitted up the round-house of an Indiaman for her
accommodation, on the profusion of sandal-wood and carved ivory which
adorned her cabin, and on the thousands of rupees which had been
expended in order to procure for her the society of an agreeable female
companion during the voyage. We may remark here that the letters of
Hastings to his wife are exceedingly characteristic. They are tender,
and full of indications of esteem and confidence: but, at the same time,
a little more ceremonious than is usual in so intimate a relation. The
solemn courtesy with which he compliments his "elegant Marian" reminds
us now and then of the dignified air with which Sir Charles Grandison
bowed over Miss Byron's hand in the cedar parlor.

After some months Hastings prepared to follow his wife to England. When
it was announced that he was about to quit his office, the feeling of
the society which he had so long governed manifested itself by many
signs. Addresses poured in from Europeans and Asiatics, from civil
functionaries, soldiers, and traders. On the day on which he delivered
up the keys of office, a crowd of friends and admirers formed a lane to
the quay where he embarked. Several barges escorted him far down the
river; and some attached friends refused to quit him till the low coast
of Bengal was fading from the view, and till the pilot was leaving the

Of his voyage little is known, except that he amused himself with books
and with his pen; and that among the compositions by which he beguiled
the tediousness of that long leisure, was a pleasing imitation of
Horace's Otium Divos rogat. This little poem was inscribed to Mr. Shore,
afterwards Lord Teignmouth, a man of whose integrity, humanity, and
honor it is impossible to speak too highly; but who, like some other
excellent members of the civil service, extended to the conduct of his
friend Hastings an indulgence of which his own conduct never stood in

The voyage was, for those times, very speedy. Hastings was little more
than four months on the sea. In June, 1785, he landed at Plymouth,
posted to London, appeared at Court, paid his respects in Leadenhall
Street, and then retired with his wife to Cheltenham.

He was greatly pleased with his reception. The King treated him with
marked distinction. The Queen, who had already incurred much censure on
account of the favor which, in spite of the ordinary severity of her
virtue, she had shown to the "elegant Marian," was not less gracious to
Hastings. The Directors received him in a solemn sitting; and their
chairman read to him a vote of thanks which they had passed without one
dissentient voice. "I find myself," said Hastings, in a letter written
about a quarter of a year after his arrival in England,--"I find myself
everywhere, and universally, treated with evidences, apparent even to my
own observation, that I possess the good opinion of my country."

The confident and exulting tone of his correspondence about this time is
the more remarkable, because he had already received ample notice of the
attack which was in preparation. Within a week after he landed at
Plymouth, Burke gave notice in the House of Commons of a motion
seriously affecting a gentleman lately returned from India. The session,
however, was then so far advanced that it was impossible to enter on so
extensive and important a subject.

Hastings, it is clear, was not sensible of the danger of his position.
Indeed that sagacity, that judgment, that readiness in devising
expedients, which had distinguished him in the East, seemed now to have
forsaken him; not that his abilities were at all impaired; not that he
was not still the same man who had triumphed over Francis and Nuncomar,
who had made the Chief Justice and the Nabob Vizier his tools, who had
deposed Cheyte Sing, and repelled Hyder Ali. But an oak, as Mr. Grattan
finely said, should not be transplanted at fifty. A man who, having left
England when a boy, returns to it after thirty or forty years passed in
India, will find, be his talents what they may, that he has much both to
learn and to unlearn before he can take a place among English statesmen.
The working of a representative system, the war of parties, the arts of
debate, the influence of the press, are startling novelties to him.
Surrounded on every side by new machines and new tactics, he is as much
bewildered as Hannibal would have been at Waterloo, or Themistocles at
Trafalgar. His very acuteness deludes him. His very vigor causes him to
stumble. The more correct his maxims, when applied to the state of
society to which he is accustomed, the more certain they are to lead him
astray. This was strikingly the case with Hastings. In India he had a
bad hand; but he was master of the game, and he won every stake. In
England he held excellent cards, if he had known how to play them; and
it was chiefly by his own errors that he was brought to the verge of

Of all his errors the most serious was perhaps the choice of a champion.
Clive, in similar circumstances, had made a singularly happy selection.
He put himself into the hands of Wedderburn, afterwards Lord
Loughborough, one of the few great advocates who have also been great in
the House of Commons. To the defence of Clive, therefore, nothing was
wanting, neither learning nor knowledge of the world, neither forensic
acuteness nor that eloquence which charms political assemblies. Hastings
entrusted his interests to a very different person, a major in the
Bengal army, named Scott. This gentleman had been sent over from India
some time before as the agent of the Governor-General. It was rumored
that his services were rewarded with Oriental munificence; and we
believe that he received much more than Hastings could conveniently
spare. The Major obtained a seat in Parliament, and was there regarded
as the organ of his employer. It was evidently impossible that a
gentleman so situated could speak with the authority which belongs to an
independent position. Nor had the agent of Hastings the talents
necessary for obtaining the ear of an assembly which, accustomed to
listen to great orators, had naturally become fastidious. He was always
on his legs; he was very tedious; and he had only one topic, the merits
and wrongs of Hastings. Everybody who knows the House of Commons will
easily guess what followed. The Major was soon considered as the
greatest bore of his time. His exertions were not confined to
Parliament. There was hardly a day on which the newspapers did not
contain some puff upon Hastings, signed Asiaticus or Bengalensis, but
known to be written by the indefatigable Scott; and hardly a month in
which some bulky pamphlet on the same subject, and from the same pen,
did not pass to the trunk-makers and the pastry-cooks. As to this
gentleman's capacity for conducting a delicate question through
Parliament, our readers will want no evidence beyond that which they
will find in letters preserved in these volumes. We will give a single
specimen of his temper and judgment. He designated the greatest man
then living as "that reptile Mr. Burke."

In spite, however, of this unfortunate choice, the general aspect of
affairs was favorable to Hastings. The King was on his side. The Company
and its servants were zealous in his cause. Among public men he had many
ardent friends. Such were Lord Mansfield, who had outlived the vigor of
his body, but not that of his mind; and Lord Lansdowne, who, though
unconnected with any party, retained the importance which belongs to
great talents and knowledge. The ministers were generally believed to be
favorable to the late Governor-General. They owed their power to the
clamor which had been raised against Mr. Fox's East India Bill. The
authors of that bill, when accused of invading vested rights, and of
setting up powers unknown to the Constitution, had defended themselves
by pointing to the crimes of Hastings, and by arguing that abuses so
extraordinary justified extraordinary measures. Those who, by opposing
that bill, had raised themselves to the head of affairs would naturally
be inclined to extenuate the evils which had been made the plea for
administering so violent a remedy; and such, in fact, was their general
disposition. The Lord Chancellor Thurlow, in particular, whose great
place and force of intellect gave him a weight in the government
inferior only to that of Mr. Pitt, espoused the cause of Hastings with
indecorous violence. Mr. Pitt, though he had censured many parts of the
Indian system, had studiously abstained from saying a word against the
late chief of the Indian government. To Major Scott, indeed, the young
minister had in private extolled Hastings as a great, a wonderful man,
who had the highest claims on the government. There was only one
objection to granting all that so eminent a servant of the public could
ask. The resolution of censure still remained on the Journals of the
House of Commons. That resolution was, indeed, unjust; but, till it was
rescinded, could the minister advise the King to bestow any mark of
approbation on the person censured? If Major Scott is to be trusted, Mr.
Pitt declared that this was the only reason which prevented the advisers
of the Crown from conferring a peerage on the late Governor-General. Mr.
Dundas was the only important member of the administration who was
deeply committed to a different view of the subject. He had moved the
resolution which created the difficulty; but even from him little was to
be apprehended. Since he had presided over the committee on Eastern
affairs, great changes had taken place. He was surrounded by new allies;
he had fixed his hopes on new objects; and whatever may have been his
good qualities,--and he had many,--flattery itself never reckoned rigid
consistency in the number.

From the ministry, therefore, Hastings had every reason to expect
support; and the ministry was very powerful. The Opposition was loud and
vehement against him. But the Opposition, though formidable from the
wealth and influence of some of its members, and from the admirable
talents and eloquence of others, was outnumbered in Parliament, and
odious throughout the country. Nor, as far as we can judge, was the
Opposition generally desirous to engage in so serious an undertaking as
the impeachment of an Indian Governor. Such an impeachment must last for
years. It must impose on the chiefs of the party an immense load of
labor. Yet it could scarcely, in any manner, affect the event of the
great political game. The followers of the coalition were therefore more
inclined to revile Hastings than to prosecute him. They lost no
opportunity of coupling his name with the names of the most hateful
tyrants of whom history makes mention. The wits of Brooks's aimed their
keenest sarcasms both at his public and at his domestic life. Some fine
diamonds which he had presented, as it was rumored, to the royal family,
and a certain richly carved ivory bed which the Queen had done him the
honor to accept from him, were favorite subjects of ridicule. One lively
poet proposed that the great acts of the fair Marian's present husband
should be immortalized by the pencil of his predecessor; and that Imhoff
should be employed to embellish the House of Commons with paintings of
the bleeding Rohillas, of Nuncomar swinging, of Cheyte Sing letting
himself down to the Ganges. Another, in an exquisitely humorous parody
of Virgil's third eclogue, propounded the question what that mineral
could be of which the rays had power to make the most austere of
princesses the friend of a wanton. A third described, with gay
malevolence, the gorgeous appearance of Mrs. Hastings at St. James's,
the galaxy of jewels, torn from Indian Begums, which adorned her
headdress, her necklace gleaming with future votes, and the depending
questions that shone upon her ears. Satirical attacks of this
description, and perhaps a motion for a vote of censure, would have
satisfied the great body of the Opposition. But there were two men whose
indignation was not to be so appeased, Philip Francis and Edmund Burke.

Francis had recently entered the House of Commons, and had already
established a character there for industry and ability. He labored
indeed under one most unfortunate defect, want of fluency. But he
occasionally expressed himself with a dignity and energy worthy of the
greatest orators. Before he had been many days in Parliament, he
incurred the bitter dislike of Pitt, who constantly treated him with as
much asperity as the laws of debate would allow. Neither lapse of years
nor change of scene had mitigated the enmities which Francis had brought
back from the East. After his usual fashion, he mistook his malevolence
for virtue, nursed it, as preachers tell us that we ought to nurse our
good dispositions, and paraded it, on all occasions, with Pharisaical

The zeal of Burke was still fiercer; but it was far purer. Men unable to
understand the elevation of his mind have tried to find out some
discreditable motive for the vehemence and pertinacity which he showed
on this occasion. But they have altogether failed. The idle story that
he had some private slight to revenge has long been given up, even by
the advocates of Hastings. Mr. Gleig supposes that Burke was actuated by
party spirit, that he retained a bitter remembrance of the fall of the
coalition, that he attributed that fall to the exertions of the East
India interest, and that he considered Hastings as the head and the
representative of that interest. This explanation seems to be
sufficiently refuted by a reference to dates. The hostility of Burke to
Hastings commenced long before the coalition, and lasted long after
Burke had become a strenuous supporter of those by whom the coalition
had been defeated. It began when Burke and Fox, closely allied together,
were attacking the influence of the Crown, and calling for peace with
the American republic. It continued till Burke, alienated from Fox, and
loaded with the favors of the Crown, died, preaching a crusade against
the French republic. We surely cannot attribute to the events of 1784 an
enmity which began in 1781, and which retained undiminished force long
after persons far more deeply implicated than Hastings in the events of
1784 had been cordially forgiven. And why should we look for any other
explanation of Burke's conduct than that which we find on the surface?
The plain truth is that Hastings had committed some great crimes, and
that the thought of those crimes made the blood of Burke boil in his
veins. For Burke was a man in whom compassion for suffering and hatred
of injustice and tyranny were as strong as in Las Casas or Clarkson. And
although in him, as in Las Casas and in Clarkson, these noble feelings
were alloyed with the infirmity which belongs to human nature, he is,
like them, entitled to this great praise, that he devoted years of
intense labor to the service of a people with whom he had neither blood
nor language, neither religion nor manners, in common, and from whom no
requital, no thanks, no applause could be expected.

His knowledge of India was such as few, even of those Europeans who have
passed many years in that country, have attained, and such as certainly
was never attained by any public man who had not quitted Europe. He had
studied the history, the laws, and the usages of the East with an
industry such as is seldom found united to so much genius and so much
sensibility. Others have perhaps been equally laborious, and have
collected an equal mass of materials. But the manner in which Burke
brought his higher powers of intellect to work on statements of facts,
and on tables of figures, was peculiar to himself. In every part of
those huge bales of Indian information which repelled almost all other
readers, his mind, at once philosophical and poetical, found something
to instruct or to delight. His reason analyzed and digested those vast
and shapeless masses; his imagination animated and colored them. Out of
darkness, and dulness, and confusion, he formed a multitude of ingenious
theories and vivid pictures. He had, in the highest degree, that noble
faculty whereby man is able to live in the past and in the future, in
the distant and in the unreal. India and its inhabitants were not to
him, as to most Englishmen, mere names and abstractions, but a real
country and a real people. The burning sun, the strange vegetation of
the palm and the cocoa tree, the rice-field, the tank, the huge trees,
older than the Mogul empire, under which the village crowds assemble,
the thatched roof of the peasant's hut, the rich tracery of the mosque
where the imaum prays with his face to Mecca, the drums, and banners,
and gaudy idols, the devotee swinging in the air, the graceful maiden,
with the pitcher on her head, descending the steps to the riverside, the
black faces, the long beards, the yellow streaks of sect, the turbans
and the flowing robes, the spears and the silver maces, the elephants
with their canopies of state, the gorgeous palanquin of the prince, and
the close litter of the noble lady,--all these things were to him as the
objects amidst which his own life had been passed, as the objects which
lay on the road between Beaconsfield and St. James's Street. All India
was present to the eye of his mind, from the halls where suitors laid
gold and perfumes at the feet of sovereigns to the wild moor where the
gypsy camp was pitched, from the bazaar, humming like a beehive with the
crowd of buyers and sellers, to the jungle where the lonely courier
shakes his bunch of iron rings to scare away the hyenas. He had just as
lively an idea of the insurrection at Benares as of Lord George Gordon's
riots, and of the execution of Nuncomar as of the execution of Dr. Dodd.
Oppression in Bengal was to him the same thing as oppression in the
streets of London.

He saw that Hastings had been guilty of some most unjustifiable acts.
All that followed was natural and necessary in a mind like Burke's. His
imagination and his passions, once excited, hurried him beyond the
bounds of justice and good sense. His reason, powerful as it was, became
the slave of feelings which it should have controlled. His indignation,
virtuous in its origin, acquired too much of the character of personal
aversion. He could see no mitigating circumstance, no redeeming merit.
His temper, which, though generous and affectionate, had always been
irritable, had now been made almost savage by bodily infirmities and
mental vexations. Conscious of great powers and great virtues, he found
himself, in age and poverty, a mark for the hatred of a perfidious court
and a deluded people. In Parliament his eloquence was out of date. A
young generation, which knew him not, had filled the House. Whenever he
rose to speak, his voice was drowned by the unseemly interruption of
lads who were in their cradles when his orations on the Stamp Act called
forth the applause of the great Earl of Chatham. These things had
produced on his proud and sensitive spirit an effect at which we cannot
wonder. He could no longer discuss any question with calmness, or make
allowance for honest differences of opinion. Those who think that he was
more violent and acrimonious in debates about India than on other
occasions are ill informed respecting the last years of his life. In the
discussions on the Commercial Treaty with the Court of Versailles, on
the Regency, on the French Revolution, he showed even more virulence
than in conducting the impeachment. Indeed, it may be remarked that the
very persons who called him a mischievous maniac, for condemning in
burning words the Rohilla war and the spoliation of the Begums, exalted
him into a prophet as soon as he began to declaim, with greater
vehemence, and not with greater reason, against the taking of the
Bastile and the insults offered to Marie Antoinette. To us he appears to
have been neither a maniac in the former case nor a prophet in the
latter, but in both cases a great and good man, led into extravagance by
a sensibility which domineered over all his faculties.

It may be doubted whether the personal antipathy of Francis, or the
nobler indignation of Burke, would have led their party to adopt extreme
measures against Hastings, if his own conduct had been judicious. He
should have felt that, great as his public services had been, he was not
faultless; and should have been content to make his escape, without
aspiring to the honors of a triumph. He and his agent took a different
view. They were impatient for the rewards which, as they conceived, were
deferred only till Burke's attack should be over. They accordingly
resolved to force on a decisive action with an enemy for whom, if they
had been wise, they would have made a bridge of gold. On the first day
of the session of 1786, Major Scott reminded Burke of the notice given
in the preceding year, and asked whether it was seriously intended to
bring any charge against the late Governor-General. This challenge left
no course open to the Opposition, except to come forward as accusers, or
to acknowledge themselves calumniators. The administration of Hastings
had not been so blameless, nor was the great party of Fox and North so
feeble, that it could be prudent to venture on so bold a defiance. The
leaders of the Opposition instantly returned the only answer which they
could with honor return; and the whole party was irrevocably pledged to
a prosecution.

Burke began his operations by applying for Papers. Some of the documents
for which he asked were refused by the ministers, who, in the debate,
held language such as strongly confirmed the prevailing opinion that
they intended to support Hastings. In April the charges were laid on the
table. They had been drawn by Burke with great ability, though in a form
too much resembling that of a pamphlet. Hastings was furnished with a
copy of the accusation; and it was intimated to him that he might, if he
thought fit, be heard in his own defence at the bar of the Commons.

Here again Hastings was pursued by the same fatality which had attended
him ever since the day when he set foot on English ground. It seemed to
be decreed that this man, so politic and so successful in the East,
should commit nothing but blunders in Europe. Any judicious adviser
would have told him that the best thing which he could do would be to
make an eloquent, forcible, and affecting oration at the bar of the
House; but that, if he could not trust himself to speak, and found it
necessary to read, he ought to be as concise as possible. Audiences
accustomed to extemporaneous debating of the highest excellence are
always impatient of long written compositions. Hastings, however, sat
down as he would have done at the Government House in Bengal, and
prepared a paper of immense length. That paper, if recorded on the
consultations of an Indian administration, would have been justly
praised as a very able minute. But it was now out of place. It fell
flat, as the best written defence must have fallen flat, on an assembly
accustomed to the animated and strenuous conflicts of Pitt and Fox. The
members, as soon as their curiosity about the face and demeanor of so
eminent a stranger was satisfied, walked away to dinner, and left
Hastings to tell his story till midnight to the clerks and the

All preliminary steps having been duly taken, Burke, in the beginning of
June, brought forward the charge relating to the Rohilla war. He acted
discreetly in placing this accusation in the van; for Dundas had
formerly moved, and the House had adopted, a resolution condemning, in
the most severe terms, the policy followed by Hastings with regard to
Rohilcund. Dundas had little, or rather nothing, to say in defence of
his own consistency; but he put a bold face on the matter, and opposed
the motion. Among other things, he declared that, though he still
thought the Rohilla war unjustifiable, he considered the services which
Hastings had subsequently rendered to the state as sufficient to atone
even for so great an offence. Pitt did not speak, but voted with Dundas;
and Hastings was absolved by a hundred and nineteen votes against

Hastings was now confident of victory. It seemed, indeed, that he had
reason to be so. The Rohilla war was, of all his measures, that which
his accusers might with greatest advantage assail. It had been condemned
by the Court of Directors. It had been condemned by the House of
Commons. It had been condemned by Mr. Dundas, who had since become the
chief minister of the Crown for Indian affairs. Yet Burke, having chosen
this strong ground, had been completely defeated on it. That, having
failed here, he should succeed on any point, was generally thought
impossible. It was rumored at the clubs and coffee-houses that one or
perhaps two more charges would be brought forward, that if, on those
charges, the sense of the House of Commons should be against
impeachment, the Opposition would let the matter drop, that Hastings
would be immediately raised to the peerage, decorated with the star of
the Bath, sworn of the Privy Council, and invited to lend the assistance
of his talents and experience to the India board. Lord Thurlow, indeed,
some months before, had spoken with contempt of the scruples which
prevented Pitt from calling Hastings to the House of Lords; and had even
said, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer was afraid of the Commons,
there was nothing to prevent the Keeper of the Great Seal from taking
the royal pleasure about a patent of peerage. The very title was chosen.
Hastings was to be Lord Daylesford. For, through all changes of scene
and changes of fortune, remained unchanged his attachment to the spot
which had witnessed the greatness and the fall of his family, and which
had borne so great a part in the first dreams of his young ambition.

But in a very few days these fair prospects were overcast. On the
thirteenth of June, Mr. Fox brought forward, with great ability and
eloquence, the charge respecting the treatment of Cheyte Sing. Francis
followed on the same side. The friends of Hastings were in high spirits
when Pitt rose. With his usual abundance and felicity of language, the
Minister gave his opinion on the case. He maintained that the
Governor-General was justified in calling on the Rajah of Benares for
pecuniary assistance, and in imposing a fine when that assistance was
contumaciously withheld. He also thought that the conduct of the
Governor-General during the insurrection had been distinguished by
ability and presence of mind. He censured, with great bitterness, the
conduct of Francis, both in India and in Parliament, as most dishonest
and malignant. The necessary inference from Pitt's arguments seemed to
be that Hastings ought to be honorably acquitted; and both the friends
and the opponents of the Minister expected from him a declaration to
that effect. To the astonishment of all parties, he concluded by saying
that, though he thought it right in Hastings to fine Cheyte Sing for
contumacy, yet the amount of the fine was too great for the occasion. On
this ground, and on this ground alone, did Mr. Pitt, applauding every
other part of the conduct of Hastings with regard to Benares, declare
that he should vote in favor of Mr. Fox's motion.

The House was thunderstruck; and it well might be so. For the wrong done
to Cheyte Sing, even had it been as flagitious as Fox and Francis
contended, was a trifle when compared with the horrors which had been
inflicted on Rohilcund. But if Mr. Pitt's view of the case of Cheyte
Sing were correct, there was no ground for an impeachment, or even for a
vote of censure. If the offence of Hastings was really no more than
this, that, having a right to impose a mulct, the amount of which mulct
was not defined, but was left to be settled by his discretion, he had,
not for his own advantage, but for that of the state, demanded too much,
was this an offence which required a criminal proceeding of the highest
solemnity,--a criminal proceeding to which, during sixty years, no
public functionary had been subjected? We can see, we think, in what way
a man of sense and integrity might have been induced to take any course
respecting Hastings except the course which Mr. Pitt took. Such a man
might have thought a great example necessary, for the preventing of
injustice and for the vindicating the national honor, and might, on that
ground, have voted for impeachment both on the Rohilla charge and on the
Benares charge. Such a man might have thought that the offences of
Hastings had been atoned for by great services, and might, on that
ground, have voted against the impeachment, on both charges. With great
diffidence, we give it as our opinion that the most correct course
would, on the whole, have been to impeach on the Rohilla charge, and to
acquit on the Benares charge. Had the Benares charge appeared to us in
the same light in which it appeared to Mr. Pitt, we should, without
hesitation, have voted for acquittal on that charge. The one course
which it is inconceivable that any man of a tenth part of Mr. Pitt's
abilities can have honestly taken was the course which he took. He
acquitted Hastings on the Rohilla charge. He softened down the Benares
charge till it became no charge at all; and then he pronounced that it
contained matter for impeachment.

Nor must it be forgotten that the principal reason assigned by the
ministry for not impeaching Hastings on account of the Rohilla war was
this, that the delinquencies of the early part of his administration had
been atoned for by the excellence of the later part. Was it not most
extraordinary that men who had held this language could afterwards vote
that the later part of his administration furnished matter for no less
than twenty articles of impeachment? They first represented the conduct
of Hastings in 1780 and 1781 as so highly meritorious that, like works
of supererogation in the Catholic theology, it ought to be efficacious
for the cancelling of former offences; and they then prosecuted him for
his conduct in 1780 and 1781.

The general astonishment was the greater because, only twenty-four hours
before, the members on whom the Minister could depend had received the
usual notes from the Treasury, begging them to be in their places and to
vote against Mr. Fox's motion. It was asserted by Mr. Hastings that,
early on the morning of the very day on which the debate took place,
Dundas called on Pitt, woke him, and was closeted with him many hours.
The result of this conference was a determination to give up the late
Governor-General to the vengeance of the Opposition. It was impossible
even for the most powerful minister to carry all his followers with him
in so strange a course. Several persons high in office, the
Attorney-General, Mr. Grenville, and Lord Mulgrave, divided against Mr.
Pitt. But the devoted adherents who stood by the head of the government
without asking questions were sufficiently numerous to turn the scale. A
hundred and nineteen members voted for Mr. Fox's motion; seventy-nine
against it. Dundas silently followed Pitt.

That good and great man, the late William Wilberforce, often related the
events of this remarkable night. He described the amazement of the
House, and the bitter reflections which were muttered against the Prime
Minister by some of the habitual supporters of government. Pitt himself
appeared to feel that his conduct required some explanation. He left the
treasury bench, sat for some time next to Mr. Wilberforce, and very
earnestly declared that he had found it impossible, as a man of
conscience, to stand any longer by Hastings. The business, he said, was
too bad. Mr. Wilberforce, we are bound to add, fully believed that his
friend was sincere, and that the suspicions to which this mysterious
affair gave rise were altogether unfounded.

Those suspicions, indeed, were such as it is painful to mention. The
friends of Hastings, most of whom, it is to be observed, generally
supported the administration, affirmed that the motive of Pitt and
Dundas was jealousy. Hastings was personally a favorite with the King.
He was the idol of the East India Company and of its servants. If he
were absolved by the Commons, seated among the Lords, admitted to the
Board of Control, closely allied with the strong-minded and imperious
Thurlow, was it not almost certain that he would soon draw to himself
the entire management of Eastern affairs? Was it not possible that he
might become a formidable rival in the cabinet? It had probably got
abroad that very singular communications had taken place between Thurlow
and Major Scott, and that, if the first Lord of the Treasury was afraid
to recommend Hastings for a peerage, the Chancellor was ready to take
the responsibility of that step on himself. Of all ministers, Pitt was
the least likely to submit with patience to such an encroachment on his
functions. If the Commons impeached Hastings, all danger was at an end.
The proceeding, however it might terminate, would probably last some
years. In the meantime, the accused person would be excluded from honors
and public employments, and could scarcely venture even to pay his duty
at court. Such were the motives attributed by a great part of the public
to the young minister, whose ruling passion was generally believed to be
avarice of power.

The prorogation soon interrupted the discussions respecting Hastings. In
the following year, those discussions were resumed. The charge touching
the spoliation of the Begums was brought forward by Sheridan, in a
speech which was so imperfectly reported that it may be said to be
wholly lost, but which was, without doubt, the most elaborately
brilliant of all the productions of his ingenious mind. The impression
which it produced was such as has never been equalled. He sat down, not
merely amidst cheering, but amidst the loud clapping of hands, in which
the Lords below the bar and the strangers in the gallery joined. The
excitement of the House was such that no other speaker could obtain a
hearing; and the debate was adjourned. The ferment spread fast through
the town. Within four and twenty hours, Sheridan was offered a thousand
pounds for the copyright of the speech, if he would himself correct it
for the press. The impression made by this remarkable display of
eloquence on severe and experienced critics, whose discernment may be
supposed to have been quickened by emulation, was deep and permanent.
Mr. Windham, twenty years later, said that the speech deserved all its
fame, and was, in spite of some faults of taste, such as were seldom
wanting either in the literary or in the parliamentary performances of
Sheridan, the finest that had been delivered within the memory of man.
Mr. Fox, about the same time, being asked by the late Lord Holland what
was the best speech ever made in the House of Commons, assigned the
first place, without hesitation, to the great oration of Sheridan on the
Oude charge.

When the debate was resumed, the tide ran so strongly against the
accused that his friends were coughed and scraped down. Pitt declared
himself for Sheridan's motion; and the question was carried by a hundred
and seventy-five votes against sixty-eight.

The Opposition, flushed with victory and strongly supported by the
public sympathy, proceeded to bring forward a succession of charges
relating chiefly to pecuniary transactions. The friends of Hastings were
discouraged, and, having now no hope of being able to avert an
impeachment, were not very strenuous in their exertions. At length the
House, having agreed to twenty articles of charge, directed Burke to go
before the Lords, and to impeach the late Governor-General of High
Crimes and Misdemeanors. Hastings was at the same time arrested by the
Sergeant-at-arms, and carried to the bar of the Peers.

The session was now within ten days of its close. It was, therefore,
impossible that any progress could be made in the trial till the next
year. Hastings was admitted to bail; and further proceedings were
postponed till the Houses should reassemble.

When Parliament met in the following winter, the Commons proceeded to
elect a committee for managing the impeachment. Burke stood at the head;
and with him were associated most of the leading members of the
Opposition. But when the name of Francis was read a fierce contention
arose. It was said that Francis and Hastings were notoriously on bad
terms, that they had been at feud during many years, that on one
occasion their mutual aversion had impelled them to seek each other's
lives, and that it would be improper and indelicate to select a private
enemy to be a public accuser. It was urged on the other side with great
force, particularly by Mr. Windham, that impartiality, though the first
duty of a judge, had never been reckoned among the qualities of an
advocate; that in the ordinary administration of criminal justice among
the English, the aggrieved party, the very last person who ought to be
admitted into the jury-box, is the prosecutor; that what was wanted in a
manager was, not that he should be free from bias, but that he should be
able, well informed, energetic, and active. The ability and information
of Francis were admitted; and the very animosity with which he was
reproached, whether a virtue or a vice, was at least a pledge for his
energy and activity. It seems difficult to refute these arguments. But
the inveterate hatred borne by Francis to Hastings had excited general
disgust. The House decided that Francis should not be a manager. Pitt
voted with the majority, Dundas with the minority.

In the meantime, the preparations for the trial had proceeded rapidly;
and on the thirteenth of February, 1788, the sittings of the Court
commenced. There have been spectacles more dazzling to the eye, more
gorgeous with jewelry and cloth of gold, more attractive to grown-up
children, than that which was then exhibited at Westminster; but,
perhaps, there never was a spectacle so well calculated to strike a
highly cultivated, a reflecting, an imaginative mind. All the various
kinds of interest which belong to the near and to the distant, to the
present and to the past, were collected on one spot, and in one hour.
All the talents and all the accomplishments which are developed by
liberty and civilization were now displayed, with every advantage that
could be derived both from coöperation and from contrast. Every step in
the proceedings carried the mind either backward, through many troubled
centuries, to the days when the foundations of our Constitution were
laid, or far away, over boundless seas and deserts, to dusky nations
living under strange stars, worshipping strange gods, and writing
strange characters from right to left. The High Court of Parliament was
to sit, according to forms handed down from the days of the
Plantagenets, on an Englishman accused of exercising tyranny over the
lord of the holy city of Benares, and over the ladies of the princely
House of Oude.

The place was worthy of such a trial. It was the great hall of William
Rufus, the hall which had resounded with acclamations at the
inauguration of thirty kings, the hall which had witnessed the just
sentence of Bacon and the just absolution of Somers, the hall where the
eloquence of Strafford had for a moment awed and melted a victorious
party inflamed with just resentment, the hall where Charles had
confronted the High Court of Justice with the placid courage which has
half redeemed his fame. Neither military nor civil pomp was wanting. The
avenues were lined with grenadiers. The streets were kept clear by
cavalry. The peers, robed in gold and ermine, were marshalled by the
heralds under Garter King-at-arms. The judges in their vestments of
state attended to give advice on points of law. Near a hundred and
seventy lords, three fourths of the Upper House as the Upper House then
was, walked in solemn order from their usual place of assembling to the
tribunal. The junior baron present led the way, George Eliott, Lord
Heathfield, recently ennobled for his memorable defence of Gibraltar
against the fleets and armies of France and Spain. The long procession
was closed by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of the realm, by the
great dignitaries, and by the brothers and sons of the King. Last of all
came the Prince of Wales, conspicuous by his fine person and noble
bearing. The gray old walls were hung with scarlet. The long galleries
were crowded by an audience such as has rarely excited the fears or the
emulation of an orator. There were gathered together, from all parts of
a great, free, enlightened, and prosperous empire, grace and female
loveliness, wit and learning, the representatives of every science and
of every art. There were seated round the Queen the fair-haired young
daughters of the House of Brunswick. There the Ambassadors of great
Kings and Commonwealths gazed with admiration on a spectacle which no
other country in the world could present. There Siddons, in the prime of
her majestic beauty, looked with emotion on a scene surpassing all the
imitations of the stage. There the historian of the Roman empire thought
of the days when Cicero pleaded the cause of Sicily against Verres, and
when, before a senate which still retained some show of freedom, Tacitus
thundered against the oppressor of Africa. There were seen, side by
side, the greatest painter and the greatest scholar of the age. The
spectacle had allured Reynolds from that easel which has preserved to us
the thoughtful foreheads of so many writers and statesmen, and the sweet
smiles of so many noble matrons. It had induced Parr to suspend his
labors in that dark and profound mine from which he had extracted a vast
treasure of erudition, a treasure too often buried in the earth, too
often paraded with injudicious and inelegant ostentation, but still
precious, massive, and splendid. There appeared the voluptuous charms of
her to whom the heir of the throne had in secret plighted his faith.
There too was she, the beautiful mother of a beautiful race, the St.
Cecilia whose delicate features, lighted up by love and music, art has
rescued from the common decay. There were the members of that brilliant
society which quoted, criticised, and exchanged repartees, under the
rich peacock hangings of Mrs. Montague. And there the ladies whose lips,
more persuasive than those of Fox himself, had carried the Westminster
election against palace and treasury shone round Georgiana, Duchess of

The Sergeants made proclamation. Hastings advanced to the bar, and bent
his knee. The culprit was indeed not unworthy of that great presence. He
had ruled an extensive and populous country, had made laws and
treaties, had sent forth armies, had set up and pulled down princes.
And in his high place he had so borne himself that all had feared him,
that most had loved him, and that hatred itself could deny him no title
to glory, except virtue. He looked like a great man, and not like a bad
man. A person small and emaciated, yet deriving dignity from a carriage
which, while it indicated deference to the Court, indicated also
habitual self-possession and self-respect, a high and intellectual
forehead, a brow pensive but not gloomy, a mouth of inflexible decision,
a face pale and worn, but serene, on which was written, as legibly as
under the picture in the council chamber at Calcutta, _Mens æqua in
arduis_; such was the aspect with which the great proconsul presented
himself to his judges.

His counsel accompanied him, men all of whom were afterwards raised by
their talents and learning to the highest posts in their profession, the
bold and strong-minded Law, afterwards Chief Justice of the King's
Bench; the more humane and eloquent Dallas, afterwards Chief Justice of
the Common Pleas: and Plomer who, near twenty years later, successfully
conducted in the same high court the defence of Lord Melville, and
subsequently became Vice-Chancellor and Master of the Rolls.

But neither the culprit nor his advocates attracted so much notice as
the accusers. In the midst of the blaze of red drapery, a space had been
fitted up with green benches and tables for the Commons. The managers,
with Burke at their head, appeared in full dress. The collectors of
gossip did not fail to remark that even Fox, generally so regardless of
his appearance, had paid to the illustrious tribunal the compliment of
wearing a bag and sword. Pitt had refused to be one of the conductors of
the impeachment; and his commanding, copious, and sonorous eloquence was
wanting to that great muster of various talents. Age and blindness had
unfitted Lord North for the duties of a public prosecutor; and his
friends were left without the help of his excellent sense, his tact,
and his urbanity. But, in spite of the absence of these two
distinguished members of the Lower House, the box in which the managers
stood contained an array of speakers such as perhaps had not appeared
together since the great age of Athenian eloquence. There were Fox and
Sheridan, the English Demosthenes and the English Hyperides. There was
Burke, ignorant, indeed, or negligent of the art of adapting his
reasonings and his style to the capacity and taste of his hearers, but
in amplitude of comprehension and richness of imagination superior to
every orator, ancient or modern. There, with eyes reverentially fixed on
Burke, appeared the finest gentleman of the age, his form developed by
every manly exercise, his face beaming with intelligence and spirit, the
ingenious, the chivalrous, the high-souled Windham. Nor, though
surrounded by such men, did the youngest manager pass unnoticed. At an
age when most of those who distinguish themselves in life are still
contending for prizes and fellowships at collage, he had won for himself
a conspicuous place in Parliament. No advantage of fortune or connection
was wanting that could set off to the height his splendid talents and
his unblemished honor. At twenty-three he had been thought worthy to be
ranked with the veteran statesmen who appeared as the delegates of the
British Commons, at the bar of the British nobility. All who stood at
that bar, save him alone, are gone, culprit, advocates, accusers. To the
generation which is now in the vigor of life, he is the sole
representative of a great age which has passed away. But those who,
within the last ten years, have listened with delight, till the morning
sun shone on the tapestries of the House of Lords, to the lofty and
animated eloquence of Charles Earl Grey are able to form some estimate
of the powers of a race of men among whom he was not the foremost.

The charges and the answers of Hastings were first read. The ceremony
occupied two whole days, and was rendered less tedious than it would
otherwise have been by the silver voice and just emphasis of Cowper, the
clerk of the court, a near relation of the amiable poet. On the third
day Burke rose. Four sittings were occupied by his opening speech, which
was intended to be a general introduction to all the charges. With an
exuberance of thought and a splendor of diction which more than
satisfied the highly raised expectation of the audience, he described
the character and institutions of the natives of India, recounted the
circumstances in which the Asiatic empire of Britain had originated, and
set forth the constitution of the Company and of the English
Presidencies. Having thus attempted to communicate to his hearers an
idea of Eastern society, as vivid as that which existed in his own mind,
he proceeded to arraign the administration of Hastings as systematically
conducted in defiance of morality and public law. The energy and pathos
of the great orator extorted expressions of unwonted admiration from the
stern and hostile Chancellor, and, for a moment, seemed to pierce even
the resolute heart of the defendant. The ladies in the galleries,
unaccustomed to such displays of eloquence, excited by the solemnity of
the occasion, and perhaps not unwilling to display their taste and
sensibility, were in a state of uncontrollable emotion. Handkerchiefs
were pulled out; smelling-bottles were handed round; hysterical sobs and
screams were heard; and Mrs. Sheridan was carried out in a fit. At
length the orator concluded. Raising his voice till the old arches of
Irish oak resounded, "Therefore," said he, "hath it with all confidence
been ordered by the Commons of Great Britain, that I impeach Warren
Hastings of high crimes and misdemeanors. I impeach him in the name of
the Commons' House of Parliament, whose trust he has betrayed. I impeach
him in the name of the English nation, whose ancient honor he has
sullied. I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose rights
he has trodden under foot, and whose country he has turned into a
desert. Lastly, in the name of human nature itself, in the name of both
sexes, in the name of every age, in the name of every rank, I impeach
the common enemy and oppressor of all."

When the deep murmur of various emotions had subsided, Mr. Fox rose to
address the Lords respecting the course of proceeding to be followed.
The wish of the accusers was that the Court would bring to a close the
investigation of the first charge before the second was opened. The wish
of Hastings and of his counsel was that the managers should open all the
charges, and produce all the evidence for the prosecution, before the
defence began. The Lords retired to their own House to consider the
question. The Chancellor took the side of Hastings. Lord Loughborough,
who was now in opposition, supported the demand of the managers. The
division showed which way the inclination of the tribunal leaned. A
majority of near three to one decided in favor of the course for which
Hastings contended.

When the Court sat again, Mr. Fox, assisted by Mr. Grey, opened the
charge respecting Cheyte Sing, and several days were spent in reading
papers and hearing witnesses. The next article was that relating to the
Princesses of Oude. The conduct of this part of the case was entrusted
to Sheridan. The curiosity of the public to hear him was unbounded. His
sparkling and highly finished declamation lasted two days; but the hall
was crowded to suffocation during the whole time. It was said that fifty
guineas had been paid for a single ticket. Sheridan, when he concluded,
contrived, with a knowledge of stage effect which his father might have
envied, to sink back, as if exhausted, into the arms of Burke, who
hugged him with the energy of generous admiration.

June was now far advanced. The session could not last much longer; and
the progress which had been made in the impeachment was not very
satisfactory. There were twenty charges. On two only of these had even
the case for the prosecution been heard; and it was now a year since
Hastings had been admitted to bail.

The interest taken by the public in the trial was great when the Court
began to sit, and rose to the height when Sheridan spoke on the charge
relating to the Begums. From that time the excitement went down fast.
The spectacle had lost the attraction of novelty. The great displays of
rhetoric were over. What was behind was not of a nature to entice men of
letters from their books in the morning, or to tempt ladies who had left
the masquerade at two to be out of bed before eight. There remained
examinations and cross-examinations. There remained statements of
accounts. There remained the reading of papers, filled with words
unintelligible to English ears, with lacs and crores, zemindars and
aumils, sunnuds and perwannahs, jaghires and nuzzurs. There remained
bickerings, not always carried on with the best taste or with the best
temper, between the managers of the impeachment and the counsel for the
defence, particularly between Mr. Burke and Mr. Law. There remained the
endless marches and countermarches of the Peers between their House and
the hall: for as often as a point of law was to be discussed, their
Lordships retired to discuss it apart; and the consequence was, as a
Peer wittily said, that the Judges walked and the trial stood still.

It is to be added that, in the spring of 1788, when the trial commenced,
no important question, either of domestic or foreign policy, occupied
the public mind. The proceeding in Westminster Hall, therefore,
naturally attracted most of the attention of Parliament and of the
public. It was the one great event of that season. But in the following
year the King's illness, the debates on the Regency, the expectation of
a change of Ministry, completely diverted public attention from Indian
affairs; and within a fortnight after George the Third had returned
thanks in St. Paul's for his recovery, the States-General of France met
at Versailles. In the midst of the agitation produced by these events,
the impeachment was for a time almost forgotten.

The trial in the hall went on languidly. In the session of 1788, when
the proceedings had the interest of novelty, and when the Peers had
little other business before them, only thirty-five days were given to
the impeachment. In 1789 the Regency Bill occupied the Upper House till
the session was far advanced. When the King recovered the circuits were
beginning. The Judges left town; the Lords waited for the return of the
oracles of jurisprudence; and the consequence was that during the whole
year only seventeen days were given to the case of Hastings. It was
clear that the matter would be protracted to a length unprecedented in
the annals of criminal law.

In truth, it is impossible to deny that impeachment, though it is a fine
ceremony, and though it may have been useful in the seventeenth century,
is not a proceeding from which much good can now be expected. Whatever
confidence may be placed in the decision of the Peers on an appeal
arising out of ordinary litigation, it is certain that no man has the
least confidence in their impartiality when a great public functionary,
charged with a great state crime, is brought to their bar. They are all
politicians. There is hardly one among them whose vote on an impeachment
may not be confidently predicted before a witness has been examined;
and, even if it were possible to rely on their justice, they would still
be quite unfit to try such a cause as that of Hastings. They sit only
during half the year. They have to transact much legislative and much
judicial business. The law lords, whose advice is required to guide the
unlearned majority, are employed daily in administering justice
elsewhere. It is impossible, therefore, that during a busy session, the
Upper House should give more than a few days to an impeachment. To
expect that their Lordships would give up partridge-shooting, in order
to bring the greatest delinquent to speedy justice, or to relieve
accused innocence by speedy acquittal, would be unreasonable indeed. A
well-constituted tribunal, sitting regularly six days in the week, and
nine hours in the day, would have brought the trial of Hastings to a
close in less than three months. The Lords had not finished their work
in seven years.

The result ceased to be matter of doubt, from the time when the Lords
resolved that they would be guided by the rules of evidence which are
received in the inferior courts of the realm. Those rules, it is well
known, exclude much information which would be quite sufficient to
determine the conduct of any reasonable man, in the most important
transactions of private life. These rules, at every assizes, save scores
of culprits whom judges, jury, and spectators, firmly believe to be
guilty. But when those rules were rigidly applied to offences committed
many years before, at the distance of many thousands of miles,
conviction was, of course, out of the question. We do not blame the
accused and his counsel for availing themselves of every legal advantage
in order to obtain an acquittal. But it is clear that an acquittal so
obtained cannot be pleaded in bar of the judgment of history.

Several attempts were made by the friends of Hastings to put a stop to
the trial. In 1789 they proposed a vote of censure upon Burke, for some
violent language which he had used respecting the death of Nuncomar and
the connection between Hastings and Impey. Burke was then unpopular in
the last degree both with the House and with the country. The asperity
and indecency of some expressions which he had used during the debates
on the Regency had annoyed even his warmest friends. The vote of censure
was carried; and those who had moved it hoped that the managers would
resign in disgust. Burke was deeply hurt. But his zeal for what he
considered as the cause of justice and mercy triumphed over his personal
feelings. He received the censure of the House with dignity and
meekness, and declared that no personal mortification or humiliation
should induce him to flinch from the sacred duty which he had

In the following year the Parliament was dissolved, and the friends of
Hastings entertained a hope that the new House of Commons might not be
disposed to go on with the impeachment. They began by maintaining that
the whole proceeding was terminated by the dissolution. Defeated on this
point, they made a direct motion that the impeachment should be dropped;
but they were defeated by the combined forces of the Government and the
Opposition. It was, however, resolved that, for the sake of expedition,
many of the articles should be withdrawn. In truth, had not some such
measure been adopted, the trial would have lasted till the defendant was
in his grave.

At length, in the spring of 1795, the decision was pronounced, near
eight years after Hastings had been brought by the Sergeant-at-arms of
the Commons to the bar of the Lords. On the last day of this great
procedure the public curiosity, long suspended, seemed to be revived.
Anxiety about the judgment there could be none; for it had been fully
ascertained that there was a great majority for the defendant.
Nevertheless, many wished to see the pageant, and the hall was as much
crowded as on the first day. But those who, having been present on the
first day, now bore a part in the proceedings of the last, were few; and
most of those few were altered men.

As Hastings himself said, the arraignment had taken place before one
generation, and the judgment was pronounced by another. The spectator
could not look at the woolsack, or at the red benches of the Peers, or
at the green benches of the Commons, without seeing something that
reminded him of the instability of all human things, of the instability
of power and fame and life, of the more lamentable instability of
friendship. The Great Seal was borne before Lord Loughborough who, when
the trial commenced, was a fierce opponent of Mr. Pitt's government, and
who was now a member of that government, while Thurlow, who presided in
the Court when it first sat, estranged from all his old allies, sat
scowling among the junior barons. Of about a hundred and sixty nobles
who walked in the procession on the first day, sixty had been laid in
their family vaults. Still more affecting must have been the sight of
the managers' box. What had become of that fair fellowship, so closely
bound together by public and private ties, so resplendent with every
talent and accomplishment? It had been scattered by calamities more
bitter than the bitterness of death. The great chiefs were still living,
and still in the full vigor of their genius. But their friendship was at
an end. It had been violently and publicly dissolved, with tears and
stormy reproaches. If those men, once so dear to each other, were now
compelled to meet for the purpose of managing the impeachment, they met
as strangers whom public business had brought together, and behaved to
each other with cold and distant civility. Burke had in his vortex
whirled away Windham. Fox had been followed by Sheridan and Grey.

Only twenty-nine Peers voted. Of these only six found Hastings guilty on
the charges relating to Cheyte Sing and to the Begums. On other charges,
the majority in his favor was still greater. On some, he was unanimously
absolved. He was then called to the bar, was informed from the woolsack
that the Lords had acquitted him, and was solemnly discharged. He bowed
respectfully and retired.

We have said that the decision had been fully expected. It was also
generally approved. At the commencement of the trial there had been a
strong and indeed unreasonable feeling against Hastings. At the close
of the trial there was a feeling equally strong and equally unreasonable
in his favor. One cause of the change was, no doubt, what is commonly
called the fickleness of the multitude, but what seems to us to be
merely the general law of human nature. Both in individuals and in
masses violent excitement is always followed by remission, and often by
reaction. We are all inclined to depreciate whatever we have
overpraised, and, on the other hand, to show undue indulgence where we
have shown undue rigor. It was thus in the case of Hastings. The length
of his trial, moreover, made him an object of compassion. It was
thought, and not without reason, that, even if he was guilty, he was
still an ill-used man, and that an impeachment of eight years was more
than a sufficient punishment. It was also felt that, though, in the
ordinary course of criminal law, a defendant is not allowed to set off
his good actions against his crimes, a great political cause should be
tried on different principles, and that a man who had governed an empire
during thirteen years might have done some very reprehensible things,
and yet might be on the whole deserving of rewards and honors rather
than of fine and imprisonment. The press, an instrument neglected by the
prosecutors, was used by Hastings and his friends with great effect.
Every ship, too, that arrived from Madras or Bengal, brought a cuddy
full of his admirers. Every gentleman from India spoke of the late
Governor-General as having deserved better, and having been treated
worse, than any man living. The effect of this testimony, unanimously
given by all persons who knew the East, was naturally very great.
Retired members of the Indian services, civil and military, were settled
in all corners of the kingdom. Each of them was, of course, in his own
little circle, regarded as an oracle on an Indian question; and they
were, with scarcely one exception, the zealous advocates of Hastings. It
is to be added that the numerous addresses to the late Governor-General,
which his friends in Bengal obtained from the natives and transmitted
to England, made a considerable impression. To these addresses we attach
little or no importance. That Hastings was beloved by the people whom he
governed is true; but the eulogies of pundits, zemindars, Mahommedan
doctors, do not prove it to be true. For an English collector or judge
would have found it easy to induce any native who could write to sign a
panegyric on the most odious ruler that ever was in India. It was said
that at Benares, the very place at which the acts set forth in the first
article of impeachment had been committed, the natives had erected a
temple to Hastings; and this story excited a strong sensation in
England. Burke's observations on the apotheosis were admirable. He saw
no reason for astonishment, he said, in the incident which had been
represented as so striking. He knew something of the mythology of the
Brahmins. He knew that as they worshipped some gods from love, so they
worshipped others from fear. He knew that they erected shrines, not only
to the benignant deities of light and plenty, but also to the fiends who
preside over smallpox and murder. Nor did he at all dispute the claim of
Mr. Hastings to be admitted into such a Pantheon. This reply has always
struck us as one of the finest that ever was made in Parliament. It is a
grave and forcible argument, decorated by the most brilliant wit and

Hastings was, however, safe. But in everything except character, he
would have been far better off if, when first impeached, he had at once
pleaded guilty, and paid a fine of fifty thousand pounds. He was a
ruined man. The legal expenses of his defence had been enormous. The
expenses which did not appear in his attorney's bill were perhaps larger
still. Great sums had been paid to Major Scott. Great sums had been laid
out in bribing newspapers, rewarding pamphleteers, and circulating
tracts. Burke, so early as 1790, declared in the House of Commons that
twenty thousand pounds had been employed in corrupting the press. It is
certain that no controversial weapon, from the gravest reasoning to the
coarsest ribaldry, was left unemployed. Logan defended the accused
governor with great ability in prose. For the lovers of verse, the
speeches of the managers were burlesqued in Simpkin's letters. It is, we
are afraid, indisputable that Hastings stooped so low as to court the
aid of that malignant and filthy baboon John Williams, who called
himself Anthony Pasquin. It was necessary to subsidize such allies
largely. The private hoards of Mrs. Hastings had disappeared. It is said
that the banker to whom they had been entrusted had failed. Still if
Hastings had practised strict economy, he would, after all his losses,
have had a moderate competence; but in the management of his private
affairs he was imprudent. The dearest wish of his heart had always been
to regain Daylesford. At length, in the very year in which his trial
commenced, the wish was accomplished; and the domain, alienated more
than seventy years before, returned to the descendant of its old lords.
But the manor house was a ruin; and the grounds round it had, during
many years, been utterly neglected. Hastings proceeded to build, to
plant, to form a sheet of water, to excavate a grotto; and, before he
was dismissed from the bar of the House of Lords, he had expended more
than forty thousand pounds in adorning his seat.

The general feeling both of the Directors and of the proprietors of the
East India Company was that he had great claims on them, that his
services to them had been eminent, and that his misfortunes had been the
effect of his zeal for their interest. His friends in Leadenhall Street
proposed to reimburse him for the costs of his trial, and to settle on
him an annuity of five thousand pounds a year. But the consent of the
Board of Control was necessary; and at the head of the Board of Control
was Mr. Dundas, who had himself been a party to the impeachment, who
had, on that account, been reviled with great bitterness by the
adherents of Hastings, and who, therefore, was not in a very complying
mood. He refused to consent to what the Directors suggested. The
Directors remonstrated. A long controversy followed. Hastings, in the
meantime, was reduced to such distress that he could hardly pay his
weekly bills. At length a compromise was made. An annuity for life of
four thousand pounds was settled on Hastings; and in order to enable him
to meet pressing demands, he was to receive ten years' annuity in
advance. The Company was also permitted to lend him fifty thousand
pounds, to be repaid by instalments without interest. This relief,
though given in the most absurd manner, was sufficient to enable the
retired governor to live in comfort, and even in luxury, if he had been
a skilful manager. But he was careless and profuse, and was more than
once under the necessity of applying to the Company for assistance,
which was liberally given.

He had security and affluence, but not the power and dignity which, when
he landed from India, he had reason to expect. He had then looked
forward to a coronet, a red ribbon, a seat at the council board, an
office at Whitehall. He was then only fifty-two, and might hope for many
years of bodily and mental vigor. The case was widely different when he
left the bar of the Lords. He was now too old a man to turn his mind to
a new class of studies and duties. He had no chance of receiving any
mark of royal favor while Mr. Pitt remained in power; and, when Mr. Pitt
retired, Hastings was approaching his seventieth year.

Once, and only once, after his acquittal, he interfered in politics; and
that interference was not much to his honor. In 1804 he exerted himself
strenuously to prevent Mr. Addington, against whom Fox and Pitt had
combined, from resigning the Treasury. It is difficult to believe that a
man so able and energetic as Hastings can have thought that, when
Bonaparte was at Boulogne with a great army, the defence of our island
could safely be entrusted to a ministry which did not contain a single
person whom flattery could describe as a great statesman. It is also
certain that, on the important question which had raised Mr. Addington
to power, and on which he differed from both Fox and Pitt, Hastings, as
might have been expected, agreed with Fox and Pitt, and was decidedly
opposed to Addington. Religious intolerance has never been the vice of
the Indian service, and certainly was not the vice of Hastings. But Mr.
Addington had treated him with marked favor. Fox had been a principal
manager of the impeachment. To Pitt it was owing that there had been an
impeachment; and Hastings, we fear, was on this occasion guided by
personal considerations rather than by a regard to the public interest.

The last twenty-four years of his life were chiefly passed at
Daylesford. He amused himself with embellishing his grounds, riding fine
Arab horses, fattening prize-cattle, and trying to rear Indian animals
and vegetables in England. He sent for seeds of a very fine
custard-apple, from the garden of what had once been his own villa,
among the green hedgerows of Allipore. He tried also to naturalize in
Worcestershire the delicious leechee, almost the only fruit of Bengal
which deserves to be regretted even amidst the plenty of Covent Garden.
The Mogul emperors, in the time of their greatness, had in vain
attempted to introduce into Hindostan the goat of the table-land of
Thibet, whose down supplies the looms of Cashmere with the materials of
the finest shawls. Hastings tried, with no better fortune, to rear a
breed at Daylesford; nor does he seem to have succeeded better with the
cattle of Bootan, whose tails are in high esteem as the best fans for
brushing away the mosquitoes.

Literature divided his attention with his conservatories and his
menagerie. He had aways loved books, and they were now necessary to
him. Though not a poet, in any high sense of the word, he wrote neat and
polished lines with great facility, and was fond of exercising this
talent. Indeed, if we must speak out, he seems to have been more of a
Trissotin than was to be expected from the powers of his mind and from
the great part which he had played in life. We are assured in these
Memoirs that the first thing which he did in the morning was to write a
copy of verses. When the family and guests assembled, the poem made its
appearance as regularly as the eggs and rolls; and Mr. Gleig requires us
to believe that if from any accident Hastings came to the
breakfast-table without one of his charming performances in his hand,
the omission was felt by all as a grievous disappointment. Tastes differ
widely. For ourselves we must say that, however good the breakfasts at
Daylesford may have been,--and we are assured that the tea was of the
most aromatic flavor, and that neither tongue nor venison-pasty was
wanting,--we should have thought the reckoning high if we had been
forced to earn our repast by listening every day to a new madrigal or
sonnet composed by our host. We are glad, however, that Mr. Gleig has
preserved this little feature of character, though we think it by no
means a beauty. It is good to be often reminded of the inconsistency of
human nature, and to learn to look without wonder or disgust on the
weaknesses which are found in the strongest minds. Dionysius in old
times, Frederic in the last century, with capacity and vigor equal to
the conduct of the greatest affairs, united all the little vanities and
affectations of provincial blue-stockings. These great examples may
console the admirers of Hastings for the affliction of seeing him
reduced to the level of the Hayleys and Sewards.

When Hastings had passed many years in retirement, and had long outlived
the common age of men, he again became for a short time an object of
general attention. In 1813 the charter of the East India Company was
renewed; and much discussion about Indian affairs took place in
Parliament. It was determined to examine witnesses at the bar of the
Commons; and Hastings was ordered to attend. He had appeared at that bar
once before. It was when he read his answer to the charges which Burke
had laid on the table. Since that time twenty-seven years had elapsed;
public feeling had undergone a complete change; the nation had now
forgotten his faults, and remembered only his services. The
reappearance, too, of a man who had been among the most distinguished of
a generation that had passed away, who now belonged to history, and who
seemed to have risen from the dead, could not but produce a solemn and
pathetic effect. The Commons received him with acclamations, ordered a
chair to be set for him, and, when he retired, rose and uncovered. There
were, indeed, a few who did not sympathize with the general feeling. One
or two of the managers of the impeachment were present. They sat in the
same seats which they had occupied when they had been thanked for the
services which they had rendered in Westminster Hall: for, by the
courtesy of the House, a member who has been thanked in his place is
considered as having a right always to occupy that place. These
gentlemen were not disposed to admit that they had employed several of
the best years of their lives in persecuting an innocent man. They
accordingly kept their seats, and pulled their hats over their brows;
but the exceptions only made the prevailing enthusiasm more remarkable.
The Lords received the old man with similar tokens of respect. The
University of Oxford conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws; and,
in the Sheldonian Theatre, the undergraduates welcomed him with
tumultuous cheering.

These marks of public esteem were soon followed by marks of royal favor.
Hastings was sworn of the Privy Council, and was admitted to a long
private audience of the Prince Regent, who treated him very graciously.
When the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia visited England,
Hastings appeared in their train both at Oxford and in the Guildhall of
London, and, though surrounded by a crowd of princes and great warriors,
was everywhere received with marks of respect and admiration. He was
presented by the Prince Regent both to Alexander and to Frederic
William; and his Royal Highness went so far as to declare in public that
honors far higher than a seat in the Privy Council were due, and would
soon be paid, to the man who had saved the British dominions in Asia.
Hastings now confidently expected a peerage; but, from some unexplained
cause, he was again disappointed.

He lived about four years longer, in the enjoyment of good spirits, of
faculties not impaired to any painful or degrading extent, and of health
such as is rarely enjoyed by those who attain such an age. At length, on
the twenty-second of August, 1818, in the eighty-sixth year of his age,
he met death with the same tranquil and decorous fortitude which he had
opposed to all the trials of his various and eventful life.

With all his faults,--and they were neither few nor small,--only one
cemetery was worthy to contain his remains. In that temple of silence
and reconciliation where the enmities of twenty generations lie buried,
in the Great Abbey which has during many ages afforded a quiet
resting-place to those whose minds and bodies have been shattered by the
contentions of the Great Hall, the dust of the illustrious accused
should have mingled with the dust of the illustrious accusers. This was
not to be. Yet the place of interment was not ill chosen. Behind the
chancel of the parish church of Daylesford, in earth which already held
the bones of many chiefs of the House of Hastings, was laid the coffin
of the greatest man who has ever borne that ancient and widely extended
name. On that very spot probably, fourscore years before, the little
Warren, meanly clad and scantily fed, had played with the children of
ploughmen. Even then his young mind had revolved plans which might be
called romantic. Yet, however romantic, it is not likely that they had
been so strange as the truth. Not only had the poor orphan retrieved the
fallen fortunes of his line. Not only had he repurchased the old lands,
and rebuilt the old dwelling. He had preserved and extended an empire.
He had founded a polity. He had administered government and war with
more than the capacity of Richelieu. He had patronized learning with the
judicious liberality of Cosmo. He had been attacked by the most
formidable combination of enemies that ever sought the destruction of a
single victim; and over that combination, after a struggle of ten years,
he had triumphed. He had at length gone down to his grave in the fulness
of age, in peace after so many troubles, in honor after so much obloquy.

Those who look on his character without favor or malevolence will
pronounce that, in the two great elements of all social virtue, in
respect for the rights of others, and in sympathy for the sufferings of
others, he was deficient. His principles were somewhat lax. His heart
was somewhat hard. But though we cannot with truth describe him either
as a righteous or as a merciful ruler, we cannot regard without
admiration the amplitude and fertility of his intellect, his rare
talents for command, for administration, and for controversy, his
dauntless courage, his honorable poverty, his fervent zeal for the
interests of the state, his noble equanimity, tried by both extremes of
fortune, and never disturbed by either.


[5] Memoirs of the Life of Warren Hastings, first Governor-General of
Bengal. Compiled from Original Papers, by the Rev. G. R. Gleig, M. A. 3
vols. 8vo. London: 1841.


_The Edinburgh Review_, April, 1842

This work, which has the high honor of being introduced to the world by
the author of Lochiel and Hohenlinden, is not wholly unworthy of so
distinguished a chaperon. It professes, indeed, to be no more than a
compilation; but it is an exceedingly amusing compilation, and we shall
be glad to have more of it. The narrative comes down at present only to
the commencement of the Seven Years' War, and therefore does not
comprise the most interesting portion of Frederic's reign.

It may not be unacceptable to our readers that we should take this
opportunity of presenting them with a slight sketch of the life of the
greatest king that has, in modern times, succeeded by right of birth to
a throne. It may, we fear, be impossible to compress so long and
eventful a story within the limits which we must prescribe to ourselves.
Should we be compelled to break off, we may perhaps, when the
continuation of this work appears, return to the subject.

The Prussian monarchy, the youngest of the great European states, but in
population and revenue the fifth among them, and in art, science, and
civilization entitled to the third, if not to the second place, sprang
from a humble origin. About the beginning of the fifteenth century, the
marquisate of Brandenburg was bestowed by the Emperor Sigismund on the
noble family of Hohenzollern. In the sixteenth century that family
embraced the Lutheran doctrines. It obtained from the King of Poland,
early in the seventeenth century, the investiture of the Duchy of
Prussia. Even after this accession of territory, the chiefs of the House
of Hohenzollern hardly ranked with the Electors of Saxony and Bavaria.
The soil of Brandenburg was for the most part sterile. Even round
Berlin, the capital of the province, and round Potsdam, the favorite
residence of the Margraves, the country was a desert. In some places,
the deep sand could with difficulty be forced by assiduous tillage to
yield thin crops of rye and oats. In other places, the ancient forests,
from which the conquerors of the Roman empire had descended on the
Danube, remained untouched by the hand of man. Where the soil was rich
it was generally marshy, and its insalubrity repelled the cultivators
whom its fertility attracted. Frederic William, called the Great
Elector, was the prince to whose policy his successors have agreed to
ascribe their greatness. He acquired by the peace of Westphalia several
valuable possessions, and among them the rich city and district of
Magdeburg; and he left to his son Frederic a principality as
considerable as any which was not called a kingdom.

Frederic aspired to the style of royalty. Ostentatious and profuse,
negligent of his true interests and of his high duties, insatiably eager
for frivolous distinctions, he added nothing to the real weight of the
state which he governed: perhaps he transmitted his inheritance to his
children impaired rather than augmented in value; but he succeeded in
gaining the great object of his life, the title of King. In the year
1700 he assumed this new dignity. He had on that occasion to undergo all
the mortifications which fall to the lot of ambitious upstarts. Compared
with the other crowned heads of Europe, he made a figure resembling that
which a Nabob or a Commissary, who had bought a title, would make in the
company of Peers whose ancestors had been attainted for treason against
the Plantagenets. The envy of the class which Frederic quitted, and the
civil scorn of the class into which he intruded himself, were marked in
very significant ways. The Elector of Saxony at first refused to
acknowledge the new Majesty. Louis the Fourteenth looked down on his
brother King with an air not unlike that with which the Count in
Molière's play regards Monsieur Jourdain, just fresh from the mummery of
being made a gentleman. Austria exacted large sacrifices in return for
her recognition, and at last gave it ungraciously.

Frederic was succeeded by his son, Frederic William, a prince who must
be allowed to have possessed some talents for administration, but whose
character was disfigured by odious vices, and whose eccentricities were
such as had never before been seen out of a madhouse. He was exact and
diligent in the transacting of business; and he was the first who formed
the design of obtaining for Prussia a place among the European powers,
altogether out of proportion to her extent and population, by means of a
strong military organization. Strict economy enabled him to keep up a
peace establishment of sixty thousand troops. These troops were
disciplined in such a manner that, placed beside them, the household
regiments of Versailles and St. James's would have appeared an awkward
squad. The master of such a force could not but be regarded by all his
neighbors as a formidable enemy and a valuable ally.

But the mind of Frederic William was so ill regulated that all his
inclinations became passions, and all his passions partook of the
character of moral and intellectual disease. His parsimony degenerated
into sordid avarice. His taste for military pomp and order became a
mania, like that of a Dutch burgomaster for tulips, or that of a member
of the Roxburghe Club for Caxtons. While the envoys of the Court of
Berlin were in a state of such squalid poverty as moved the laughter of
foreign capitals, while the food placed before the princes and
princesses of the blood-royal of Prussia was too scanty to appease
hunger, and so bad that even hunger loathed it, no price was thought too
extravagant for tall recruits. The ambition of the King was to form a
brigade of giants, and every country was ransacked by his agents for men
above the ordinary stature. These researches were not confined to
Europe. No head that towered above the crowd in the bazaars of Aleppo,
of Cairo, or of Surat, could escape the crimps of Frederic William. One
Irishman more than seven feet high, who was picked up in London by the
Prussian ambassador, received a bounty of near thirteen hundred pounds
sterling, very much more than the ambassador's salary. This extravagance
was the more absurd because a stout youth of five feet eight, who might
have been procured for a few dollars, would in all probability have been
a much more valuable soldier. But to Frederic William, this huge
Irishman was what a brass Otho, or a Vinegar Bible, is to a collector of
a different kind.

It is remarkable that though the main end of Frederic William's
administration was to have a great military force, though his reign
forms an important epoch in the history of military discipline, and
though his dominant passion was the love of military display, he was yet
one of the most pacific of princes. We are afraid that his aversion to
war was not the effect of humanity, but was merely one of his thousand
whims. His feeling about his troops seems to have resembled a miser's
feeling about his money. He loved to collect them, to count them, to see
them increase; but he could not find it in his heart to break in upon
the precious hoard. He looked forward to some future time when his
Patagonian battalions were to drive hostile infantry before them like
sheep; but this future time was always receding; and it is probable
that, if his life had been prolonged thirty years, his superb army would
never have seen any harder service than a sham fight in the fields near
Berlin. But the great military means which he had collected were
destined to be employed by a spirit far more daring and inventive than
his own.

Frederic, surnamed the Great, son of Frederic William, was born in
January, 1712. It may safely be pronounced that he had received from
nature a strong and sharp understanding, and a rare firmness of temper
and intensity of will. As to the other parts of his character, it is
difficult to say whether they are to be ascribed to nature, or to the
strange training which he underwent. The history of his boyhood is
painfully interesting. Oliver Twist in the parish workhouse, Smike at
Dotheboys Hall, were petted children when compared with this wretched
heir apparent of a crown. The nature of Frederic William was hard and
bad, and the habit of exercising arbitrary power had made him
frightfully savage. His rage constantly vented itself to right and left
in curses and blows. When his Majesty took a walk, every human being
fled before him, as if a tiger had broken loose from a menagerie. If he
met a lady in the street, he gave her a kick, and told her to go home
and mind her brats. If he saw a clergyman staring at the soldiers, he
admonished the reverend gentleman to betake himself to study and prayer,
and enforced this pious advice by a sound caning, administered on the
spot. But it was in his own house that he was most unreasonable and
ferocious. His palace was hell, and he the most execrable of fiends, a
cross between Moloch and Puck. His son Frederic and his daughter
Wilhelmina, afterwards Margravine of Baireuth, were in an especial
manner objects of his aversion. His own mind was uncultivated. He
despised literature. He hated infidels, papists, and metaphysicians, and
did not very well understand in what they differed from each other. The
business of life, according to him, was to drill and to be drilled. The
recreations suited to a prince were to sit in a cloud of tobacco smoke,
to sip Swedish beer between the puffs of the pipe, to play backgammon
for three half-pence a rubber, to kill wild hogs, and to shoot
partridges by the thousand. The Prince Royal showed little inclination
either for the serious employments or for the amusements of his father.
He shirked the duties of the parade; he detested the fume of tobacco; he
had no taste either for backgammon or for field sports. He had an
exquisite ear, and performed skilfully on the flute. His earliest
instructors had been French refugees, and they had awakened in him a
strong passion for French literature and French society. Frederic
William regarded these tastes as effeminate and contemptible, and, by
abuse and persecution, made them still stronger. Things became worse
when the Prince Royal attained that time of life at which the great
revolution in the human mind and body takes place. He was guilty of some
youthful indiscretions, which no good and wise parent would regard with
severity. At a later period he was accused, truly or falsely, of vices
from which History averts her eyes, and which even Satire blushes to
name, vices such that, to borrow the energetic language of Lord Keeper
Coventry, "the depraved nature of man, which of itself carrieth man to
all other sin, abhorreth them." But the offences of his youth were not
characterized by any peculiar turpitude. They excited, however,
transports of rage in the King, who hated all faults except those to
which he was himself inclined, and who conceived that he made ample
atonement to Heaven for his brutality by holding the softer passions in
detestation. The Prince Royal, too, was not one of those who are content
to take their religion on trust. He asked puzzling questions, and
brought forward arguments which seemed to savor of something different
from pure Lutheranism. The King suspected that his son was inclined to
be a heretic of some sort or other, whether Calvinist or Atheist his
Majesty did not very well know. The ordinary malignity of Frederic
William was bad enough. He now thought malignity a part of his duty as a
Christian man, and all the conscience that he had stimulated his
hatred. The flute was broken; the French books were sent out of the
palace; the Prince was kicked and cudgelled, and pulled by the hair. At
dinner the plates were hurled at his head; sometimes he was restricted
to bread and water; sometimes he was forced to swallow food so nauseous
that he could not keep it on his stomach. Once his father knocked him
down, dragged him along the floor to a window, and was with difficulty
prevented from strangling him with the cord of the curtain. The Queen,
for the crime of not wishing to see her son murdered, was subjected to
the grossest indignities. The Princess Wilhelmina, who took her
brother's part, was treated almost as ill as Mrs. Brownrigg's
apprentices. Driven to despair, the unhappy youth tried to run away.
Then the fury of the old tyrant rose to madness. The Prince was an
officer in the army: his flight was therefore desertion; and in the
moral code of Frederic William, desertion was the highest of all crimes.
"Desertion," says this royal theologian, in one of his half crazy
letters, "is from hell. It is a work of the children of the Devil. No
child of God could possibly be guilty of it." An accomplice of the
Prince, in spite of the recommendation of a court martial, was
mercilessly put to death. It seemed probable that the Prince himself
would suffer the same fate. It was with difficulty that the intercession
of the States of Holland, of the Kings of Sweden and Poland, and of the
Emperor of Germany, saved the House of Brandenburg from the stain of an
unnatural murder. After months of cruel suspense, Frederic learned that
his life would be spared. He remained, however, long a prisoner; but he
was not on that account to be pitied. He found in his jailers a
tenderness which he had never found in his father; his table was not
sumptuous, but he had wholesome food in sufficient quantity to appease
hunger; he could read the Henriade without being kicked, and could play
on his flute without having it broken over his head.

When his confinement terminated he was a man. He had nearly completed
his twenty-first year, and could scarcely be kept much longer under the
restraints which had made his boyhood miserable. Suffering had matured
his understanding, while it had hardened his heart and soured his
temper. He had learnt self-command and dissimulation: he affected to
conform to some of his father's views, and submissively accepted a wife,
who was a wife only in name, from his father's hand. He also served with
credit, though without any opportunity of acquiring brilliant
distinction, under the command of Prince Eugene, during a campaign
marked by no extraordinary events. He was now permitted to keep a
separate establishment, and was therefore able to indulge with caution
his own tastes. Partly in order to conciliate the king, and partly, no
doubt, from inclination, he gave up a portion of his time to military
and political business, and thus gradually acquired such an aptitude for
affairs as his most intimate associates were not aware that he

His favorite abode was at Rheinsberg, near the frontier which separates
the Prussian dominions from the Duchy of Mecklenburg. Rheinsberg is a
fertile and smiling spot, in the midst of the sandy waste of the
Marquisate. The mansion, surrounded by woods of oak and beech, looks out
upon a spacious lake. There Frederic amused himself by laying out
gardens in regular alleys and intricate mazes, by building obelisks,
temples, and conservatories, and by collecting rare fruits and flowers.
His retirement was enlivened by a few companions, among whom he seems to
have preferred those who, by birth or extraction, were French. With
these inmates he dined and supped well, drank freely, and amused himself
sometimes with concerts, and sometimes with holding chapters of a
fraternity which he called the Order of Bayard; but literature was his
chief resource.

His education had been entirely French. The long ascendency which Louis
the Fourteenth had enjoyed, and the eminent merit of the tragic and
comic dramatists, of the satirists, and of the preachers who had
flourished under that magnificent prince, had made the French language
predominant in Europe. Even in countries which had a national
literature, and which could boast of names greater than those of Racine,
of Molière, and of Massillon, in the country of Dante, in the country of
Cervantes, in the country of Shakespeare and Milton, the intellectual
fashions of Paris had been to a great extent adopted. Germany had not
yet produced a single masterpiece of poetry or eloquence. In Germany,
therefore, the French taste reigned without rival and without limit.
Every youth of rank was taught to speak and write French. That he should
speak and write his own tongue with politeness, or even with accuracy
and facility, was regarded as comparatively an unimportant object. Even
Frederic William, with all his rugged Saxon prejudices, thought it
necessary that his children should know French, and quite unnecessary
that they should be well versed in German. The Latin was positively
interdicted. "My son," his Majesty wrote, "shall not learn Latin; and,
more than that, I will not suffer anybody even to mention such a thing
to me." One of the preceptors ventured to read the Golden Bull in the
original with the Prince Royal. Frederic William entered the room, and
broke out in his usual kingly style:--

"Rascal, what are you at there?"

"Please your Majesty," answered the preceptor, "----was explaining the
Golden Bull to his Royal Highness."

"I'll Golden Bull you, you rascal!" roared the Majesty of Prussia. Up
went the King's cane; away ran the terrified instructor; and Frederic's
classical studies ended forever. He now and then affected to quote Latin
sentences, and produced such exquisitely Ciceronian phrases as these:
"Stante pede morire;" "De gustibus non est disputandus;" "Tot verbas tot
spondera." Of Italian he had not enough to read a page of Metastasio
with ease; and of the Spanish and English, he did not, as far as we are
aware, understand a single word.

As the highest human compositions to which he had access were those of
the French writers, it is not strange that his admiration for those
writers should have been unbounded. His ambitious and eager temper early
prompted him to imitate what he admired. The wish, perhaps, dearest to
his heart was that he might rank among the masters of French rhetoric
and poetry. He wrote prose and verse as indefatigably as if he had been
a starving hack of Cave or Osborn; but Nature, which had bestowed on
him, in a large measure, the talents of a captain and of an
administrator, had withheld from him those higher and rarer gifts,
without which industry labors in vain to produce immortal eloquence and
song. And, indeed, had he been blessed with more imagination, wit, and
fertility of thought than he appears to have had, he would still have
been subject to one great disadvantage, which would, in all probability,
have forever prevented him from taking a high place among men of
letters. He had not the full command of any language. There was no
machine of thought which he could employ with perfect ease, confidence,
and freedom. He had German enough to scold his servants, or to give the
word of command to his grenadiers; but his grammar and pronunciation
were extremely bad. He found it difficult to make out the meaning even
of the simplest German poetry. On one occasion a version of Racine's
Iphigénie was read to him. He held the French original in his hand; but
was forced to own that even with such help he could not understand the
translation. Yet though he had neglected his mother tongue in order to
bestow all his attention on French, his French was, after all, the
French of a foreigner. It was necessary for him to have always at his
beck some men of letters from Paris to point out the solecisms and false
rhymes of which, to the last, he was frequently guilty. Even had he
possessed the poetic faculty, of which, as far as we can judge, he was
utterly destitute, the want of a language would have prevented him from
being a great poet. No noble work of imagination, as far as we
recollect, was ever composed by any man, except in a dialect which he
had learned without remembering how or when, and which he had spoken
with perfect ease before he had ever analyzed its structure. Romans of
great abilities wrote Greek verses; but how many of those verses have
deserved to live? Many men of eminent genius have, in modern times,
written Latin poems; but, as far as we are aware, none of those poems,
not even Milton's, can be ranked in the first class of art, or even very
high in the second. It is not strange, therefore, that, in the French
verses of Frederic, we can find nothing beyond the reach of any man of
good parts and industry, nothing above the level of Newdigate and
Seatonian poetry. His best pieces may perhaps rank with the worst in
Dodsley's collection. In history, he succeeded better. We do not indeed
find in any part of his voluminous Memoirs either deep reflection or
vivid painting. But the narrative is distinguished by clearness,
conciseness, good sense, and a certain air of truth and simplicity,
which is singularly graceful in a man who, having done great things,
sits down to relate them. On the whole, however, none of his writings
are so agreeable to us as his Letters, particularly those which are
written with earnestness, and are not embroidered with verses.

It is not strange that a young man devoted to literature, and acquainted
only with the literature of France, should have looked with profound
veneration on the genius of Voltaire. "A man who has never seen the
sun," says Calderon, in one of his charming comedies, "cannot be blamed
for thinking that no glory can exceed that of the moon. A man who has
seen neither moon nor sun cannot be blamed for talking of the unrivalled
brightness of the morning star." Had Frederic been able to read Homer
and Milton, or even Virgil and Tasso, his admiration of the Henriade
would prove that he was utterly destitute of the power of discerning
what is excellent in art. Had he been familiar with Sophocles or
Shakespeare, we should have expected him to appreciate Zaire more
justly. Had he been able to study Thucydides and Tacitus in the original
Greek and Latin, he would have known that there were heights in the
eloquence of history far beyond the reach of the author of the Life of
Charles the Twelfth. But the finest heroic poem, several of the most
powerful tragedies, and the most brilliant and picturesque historical
work that Frederic had ever read were Voltaire's. Such high and various
excellence moved the young Prince almost to adoration. The opinions of
Voltaire on religious and philosophical questions had not yet been fully
exhibited to the public. At a later period, when an exile from his
country, and at open war with the Church, he spoke out. But when
Frederic was at Rheinsberg, Voltaire was still a courtier; and, though
he could not always curb his petulant wit, he had as yet published
nothing that could exclude him from Versailles, and little that a divine
of the mild and generous school of Grotius and Tillotson might not read
with pleasure. In the Henriade, in Zaire, and in Alzire, Christian piety
is exhibited in the most amiable form; and, some years after the period
of which we are writing, a Pope condescended to accept the dedication of
Mahomet. The real sentiments of the poet, however, might be clearly
perceived by a keen eye through the decent disguise with which he veiled
them, and could not escape the sagacity of Frederic, who held similar
opinions, and had been accustomed to practise similar dissimulation.

The Prince wrote to his idol in the style of a worshipper; and Voltaire
replied with exquisite grace and address. A correspondence followed,
which may be studied with advantage by those who wish to become
proficients in the ignoble art of flattery. No man ever paid
compliments better than Voltaire. His sweetest confectionery had always
a delicate, yet stimulating flavor, which was delightful to palates
wearied by the coarse preparations of inferior artists. It was only from
his hand that so much sugar could be swallowed without making the
swallower sick. Copies of verses, writing desks, trinkets of amber, were
exchanged between the friends. Frederic confided his writings to
Voltaire; and Voltaire applauded, as if Frederic had been Racine and
Bossuet in one. One of his Royal Highness's performances was a
refutation of Machiavelli. Voltaire undertook to convey it to the press.
It was entitled the Anti-Machiavel, and was an edifying homily against
rapacity, perfidy, arbitrary government, unjust war, in short, against
almost everything for which its author is now remembered among men.

The old King uttered now and then a ferocious growl at the diversions of
Rheinsberg. But his health was broken; his end was approaching; and his
vigor was impaired. He had only one pleasure left, that of seeing tall
soldiers. He could always be propitiated by a present of a grenadier of
six feet four or six feet five; and such presents were from time to time
judiciously offered by his son.

Early in the year 1740 Frederic William met death with a firmness and
dignity worthy of a better and wiser man; and Frederic, who had just
completed his twenty-eighth year, became King of Prussia. His character
was little understood. That he had good abilities, indeed, no person who
had talked with him, or corresponded with him, could doubt. But the easy
Epicurean life which he had led, his love of good cookery and good wine,
of music, of conversation, of light literature, led many to regard him
as a sensual and intellectual voluptuary. His habit of canting about
moderation, peace, liberty, and the happiness which a good mind derives
from the happiness of others, had imposed on some who should have known
better. Those who thought best of him, expected a Telemachus after
Fénelon's pattern. Others predicted the approach of a Medicean age,--an
age propitious to learning and art, and not unpropitious to pleasure.
Nobody had the least suspicion that a tyrant of extraordinary military
and political talents, of industry more extraordinary still, without
fear, without faith, and without mercy, had ascended the throne.

The disappointment of Falstaff at his old boon companion's coronation
was not more bitter than that which awaited some of the inmates of
Rheinsberg. They had long looked forward to the accession of their
patron, as to the event from which their own prosperity and greatness
was to date. They had at last reached the promised land,--the land which
they had figured to themselves as flowing with milk and honey; and they
found it a desert. "No more of these fooleries," was the short, sharp
admonition given by Frederic to one of them. It soon became plain that,
in the most important points, the new sovereign bore a strong family
likeness to his predecessor. There was indeed a wide difference between
the father and the son as respected extent and vigor of intellect,
speculative opinions, amusements, studies, outward demeanor. But the
groundwork of the character was the same in both. To both were common
the love of order, the love of business, the military taste, the
parsimony, the imperious spirit, the temper irritable even to ferocity,
the pleasure in the pain and humiliation of others. But these
propensities had in Frederic William partaken of the general unsoundness
of his mind, and wore a very different aspect when found in company with
the strong and cultivated understanding of his successor. Thus, for
example, Frederic was as anxious as any prince could be about the
efficiency of his army. But this anxiety never degenerated into a
monomania, like that which led his father to pay fancy prices for
giants. Frederic was as thrifty about money as any prince or any private
man ought to be. But he did not conceive, like his father, that it was
worth while to eat unwholesome cabbages for the purpose of saving four
or five rix-dollars in the year. Frederic was, we fear, as malevolent as
his father; but Frederic's wit enabled him often to show his malevolence
in ways more decent than those to which his father resorted, and to
inflict misery and degradation by a taunt instead of a blow. Frederic,
it is true, by no means relinquished his hereditary privilege of kicking
and cudgelling. His practice, however, as to that matter, differed in
some important respects from his father's. To Frederic William, the mere
circumstance that any persons whatever, men, women, or children,
Prussians or foreigners, were within reach of his toes and of his cane,
appeared to be a sufficient reason for proceeding to belabor them.
Frederic required provocation as well as vicinity; nor was he ever known
to inflict this paternal species of correction on any but his born
subjects; though on one occasion M. Thiébault had reason, during a few
seconds, to anticipate the high honor of being an exception to this
general rule.

The character of Frederic was still very imperfectly understood either
by his subjects or by his neighbors, when events occurred which
exhibited it in a strong light. A few months after his accession died
Charles the Sixth, Emperor of Germany, the last descendant, in the male
line, of the House of Austria.

Charles left no son, and had, long before his death, relinquished all
hopes of male issue. During the latter part of his life, his principal
object had been to secure to his descendants in the female line the many
crowns of the House of Hapsburg. With this view he had promulgated a new
law of succession, widely celebrated throughout Europe under the name of
the Pragmatic Sanction. By virtue of this law, his daughter, the
Archduchess Maria Theresa, wife of Francis of Lorraine, succeeded to the
dominions of her ancestors.

No sovereign has ever taken possession of a throne by a clearer title.
All the politics of the Austrian cabinet had, during twenty years, been
directed to one single end, the settlement of the succession. From every
person whose rights could be considered as injuriously affected,
renunciations in the most solemn form had been obtained. The new law had
been ratified by the Estates of all the kingdoms and principalities
which made up the great Austrian monarchy. England, France, Spain,
Russia, Poland, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, the Germanic body, had bound
themselves by treaty to maintain the Pragmatic Sanction. That instrument
was placed under the protection of the public faith of the whole
civilized world.

Even if no positive stipulations on this subject had existed, the
arrangement was one which no good man would have been willing to
disturb. It was a peaceable arrangement. It was an arrangement
acceptable to the great population whose happiness was chiefly
concerned. It was an arrangement which made no change in the
distribution of power among the states of Christendom. It was an
arrangement which could be set aside only by means of a general war;
and, if it were set aside, the effect would be that the equilibrium of
Europe would be deranged, that the loyal and patriotic feelings of
millions would be cruelly outraged, and that great provinces which had
been united for centuries would be torn from each other by main force.

The sovereigns of Europe were therefore bound, by every obligation which
those who are entrusted with power over their fellow creatures ought to
hold most sacred, to respect and defend the rights of the Archduchess.
Her situation and her personal qualities were such as might be expected
to move the mind of any generous man to pity, admiration, and chivalrous
tenderness. She was in her twenty-fourth year. Her form was majestic,
her features beautiful, her countenance sweet and animated, her voice
musical, her deportment gracious and dignified. In all domestic
relations she was without reproach. She was married to a husband whom
she loved, and was on the point of giving birth to a child when death
deprived her of her father. The loss of a parent and the new cares of
empire were too much for her in the delicate state of her health. Her
spirits were depressed, and her cheek lost its bloom. Yet it seemed that
she had little cause for anxiety. It seemed that justice, humanity, and
the faith of treaties would have their due weight, and that the
settlement so solemnly guaranteed would be quietly carried into effect.
England, Russia, Poland, and Holland declared in form their intention to
adhere to their engagements. The French ministers made a verbal
declaration to the same effect. But from no quarter did the young Queen
of Hungary receive stronger assurances of friendship and support than
from the King of Prussia.

Yet the King of Prussia, the Anti-Machiavel, had already fully
determined to commit the great crime of violating his plighted faith, of
robbing the ally whom he was bound to defend, and of plunging all Europe
into a long, bloody, and desolating war; and all this for no end
whatever, except that he might extend his dominions, and see his name in
the gazettes. He determined to assemble a great army with speed and
secrecy, to invade Silesia before Maria Theresa should be apprised of
his design, and to add that rich province to his kingdom.

We will not condescend to refute at length the pleas which the compiler
of the Memoirs before us has copied from Doctor Preuss. They amount to
this, that the House of Brandenburg had some ancient pretensions to
Silesia, and had in the previous century been compelled, by hard usage
on the part of the Court of Vienna, to waive those pretensions. It is
certain that, whoever might originally have been in the right, Prussia
had submitted. Prince after prince of the House of Brandenburg had
acquiesced in the existing arrangement. Nay, the Court of Berlin had
recently been allied with that of Vienna, and had guaranteed the
integrity of the Austrian states. Is it not perfectly clear that, if
antiquated claims are to be set up against recent treaties and long
possession, the world can never be at peace for a day? The laws of all
nations have wisely established a time of limitation, after which
titles, however illegitimate in their origin, cannot be questioned. It
is felt by everybody, that to eject a person from his estate on the
ground of some injustice committed in the time of the Tudors would
produce all the evils which result from arbitrary confiscation, and
would make all property insecure. It concerns the commonwealth--so runs
the legal maxim--that there be an end of litigation. And surely this
maxim is at least equally applicable to the great commonwealth of
states; for in that commonwealth litigation means the devastation of
provinces, the suspension of trade and industry, sieges like those of
Badajoz and St. Sebastian, pitched fields like those of Eylau and
Borodino. We hold that the transfer of Norway from Denmark to Sweden was
an unjustifiable proceeding; but would the King of Denmark be therefore
justified in landing, without any new provocation, in Norway, and
commencing military operations there? The King of Holland thinks, no
doubt, that he was unjustly deprived of the Belgian provinces. Grant
that it were so. Would he, therefore, be justified in marching with an
army on Brussels? The case against Frederic was still stronger, inasmuch
as the injustice of which he complained had been committed more than a
century before. Nor must it be forgotten that he owed the highest
personal obligations to the House of Austria. It may be doubted whether
his life had not been preserved by the intercession of the prince whose
daughter he was about to plunder.

To do the King justice, he pretended to no more virtue than he had. In
manifestoes he might, for form's sake, insert some idle stories about
his antiquated claim on Silesia; but in his conversations and Memoirs he
took a very different tone. His own words are: "Ambition, interest, the
desire of making people talk about me, carried the day; and I decided
for war."

Having resolved on his course, he acted with ability and vigor. It was
impossible wholly to conceal his preparations; for throughout the
Prussian territories regiments, guns, and baggage were in motion. The
Austrian envoy at Berlin apprised his court of these facts, and
expressed a suspicion of Frederic's designs; but the ministers of Maria
Theresa refused to give credit to so black an imputation on a young
prince who was known chiefly by his high professions of integrity and
philanthropy. "We will not," they wrote, "we cannot, believe it."

In the meantime the Prussian forces had been assembled. Without any
declaration of war, without any demand for reparation, in the very act
of pouring forth compliments and assurances of good will, Frederic
commenced hostilities. Many thousands of his troops were actually in
Silesia before the Queen of Hungary knew that he had set up any claim to
any part of her territories. At length he sent her a message which could
be regarded only as an insult. If she would but let him have Silesia, he
would, he said, stand by her against any power which should try to
deprive her of her other dominions; as if he was not already bound to
stand by her, or as if his new promise could be of more value than the
old one.

It was the depth of winter. The cold was severe, and the roads heavy
with mire. But the Prussians pressed on. Resistance was impossible. The
Austrian army was then neither numerous nor efficient. The small portion
of that army which lay in Silesia was unprepared for hostilities. Glogau
was blockaded; Breslau opened its gates; Ohlau was evacuated. A few
scattered garrisons still held out; but the whole open country was
subjugated: no enemy ventured to encounter the King in the field; and,
before the end of January, 1741, he returned to receive the
congratulations of his subjects at Berlin.

Had the Silesian question been merely a question between Frederic and
Maria Theresa, it would be impossible to acquit the Prussian King of
gross perfidy. But when we consider the effects which his policy
produced, and could not fail to produce, on the whole community of
civilized nations, we are compelled to pronounce a condemnation still
more severe. Till he began the war, it seemed possible, even probable,
that the peace of the world would be preserved. The plunder of the great
Austrian heritage was indeed a strong temptation; and in more than one
cabinet ambitious schemes were already meditated. But the treaties by
which the Pragmatic Sanction had been guaranteed were express and
recent. To throw all Europe into confusion for a purpose clearly unjust,
was no light matter. England was true to her engagements. The voice of
Fleury had always been for peace. He had a conscience. He was now in
extreme old age, and was unwilling, after a life which, when his
situation was considered, must be pronounced singularly pure, to carry
the fresh stain of a great crime before the tribunal of his God. Even
the vain and unprincipled Belle-Isle, whose whole life was one wild
day-dream of conquest and spoliation, felt that France, bound as she was
by solemn stipulations, could not, without disgrace, make a direct
attack on the Austrian dominions. Charles, Elector of Bavaria, pretended
that he had a right to a large part of the inheritance which the
Pragmatic Sanction gave to the Queen of Hungary; but he was not
sufficiently powerful to move without support. It might, therefore, not
unreasonably be expected that, after a short period of restlessness, all
the potentates of Christendom would acquiesce in the arrangements made
by the late Emperor. But the selfish rapacity of the King of Prussia
gave the signal to his neighbors. His example quieted their sense of
shame. His success led them to underrate the difficulty of dismembering
the Austrian monarchy. The whole world sprang to arms. On the head of
Frederic is all the blood which was shed in a war which raged during
many years and in every quarter of the globe,--the blood of the column
of Fontenoy, the blood of the mountaineers who were slaughtered at
Culloden. The evils produced by his wickedness were felt in lands where
the name of Prussia was unknown; and, in order that he might rob a
neighbor whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast
of Coromandel, and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of
North America.

Silesia had been occupied without a battle; but the Austrian troops were
advancing to the relief of the fortresses which still held out. In the
spring Frederic rejoined his army. He had seen little of war, and had
never commanded any great body of men in the field. It is not,
therefore, strange that his first military operations showed little of
that skill which, at a later period, was the admiration of Europe. What
connoisseurs say of some pictures painted by Raphael in his youth may be
said of this campaign. It was in Frederic's early bad manner.
Fortunately for him, the generals to whom he was opposed were men of
small capacity. The discipline of his own troops, particularly of the
infantry, was unequalled in that age; and some able and experienced
officers were at hand to assist him with their advice. Of these, the
most distinguished was Field-Marshal Schwerin, a brave adventurer of
Pomeranian extraction, who had served half the governments in Europe,
had borne the commissions of the States General of Holland and of the
Duke of Mecklenburg, had fought under Marlborough at Blenheim, and had
been with Charles the Twelfth at Bender.

Frederic's first battle was fought at Molwitz; and never did the career
of a great commander open in a more inauspicious manner. His army was
victorious. Not only, however, did he not establish his title to the
character of an able general; but he was so unfortunate as to make it
doubtful whether he possessed the vulgar courage of a soldier. The
cavalry, which he commanded in person, was put to flight. Unaccustomed
to the tumult and carnage of a field of battle, he lost his
self-possession, and listened too readily to those who urged him to save
himself. His English gray carried him many miles from the field, while
Schwerin, though wounded in two places, manfully upheld the day. The
skill of the old Field-Marshal and the steadiness of the Prussian
battalions prevailed; and the Austrian army was driven from the field
with the loss of eight thousand men.

The news was carried late at night to a mill in which the King had taken
shelter. It gave him a bitter pang. He was successful; but he owed his
success to dispositions which others had made, and to the valor of men
who had fought while he was flying. So unpromising was the first
appearance of the greatest warrior of that age.

The battle of Molwitz was the signal for a general explosion throughout
Europe. Bavaria took up arms. France, not yet declaring herself a
principal in the war, took part in it as an ally of Bavaria. The two
great statesmen to whom mankind had owed many years of tranquillity
disappeared about this time from the scene, but not till they had both
been guilty of the weakness of sacrificing their sense of justice and
their love of peace to the vain hope of preserving their power. Fleury,
sinking under age and infirmity, was borne down by the impetuosity of
Belle-Isle. Walpole retired from the service of his ungrateful country
to his woods and paintings at Houghton; and his power devolved on the
daring and eccentric Carteret. As were the ministers, so were the
nations. Thirty years during which Europe had, with few interruptions,
enjoyed repose had prepared the public mind for great military efforts.
A new generation had grown up, which could not remember the siege of
Turin or the slaughter of Malplaquet; which knew war by nothing but its
trophies; and which, while it looked with pride on the tapestries at
Blenheim, or the statue in the Place of Victories, little thought by
what privations, by what waste of private fortunes, by how many bitter
tears, conquests must be purchased.

For a time fortune seemed adverse to the Queen of Hungary. Frederic
invaded Moravia. The French and Bavarians penetrated into Bohemia, and
were there joined by the Saxons. Prague was taken. The Elector of
Bavaria was raised by the suffrages of his colleagues to the Imperial
throne,--a throne which the practice of centuries had almost entitled
the House of Austria to regard as a hereditary possession.

Yet was the spirit of the haughty daughter of the Cæsars unbroken.
Hungary was still hers by an unquestionable title; and although her
ancestors had found Hungary the most mutinous of all their kingdoms, she
resolved to trust herself to the fidelity of a people, rude indeed,
turbulent, and impatient of oppression, but brave, generous, and
simple-hearted. In the midst of distress and peril she had given birth
to a son, afterwards the Emperor Joseph the Second. Scarcely had she
risen from her couch, when she hastened to Presburg. There, in the sight
of an innumerable multitude, she was crowned with the crown and robed
with the robe of St. Stephen. No spectator could restrain his tears when
the beautiful young mother, still weak from child-bearing, rode, after
the fashion of her fathers, up the Mount of Defiance, unsheathed the
ancient sword of state, shook it towards north and south, east and west,
and, with a glow on her pale face, challenged the four corners of the
world to dispute her rights and those of her boy. At the first sitting
of the Diet she appeared clad in deep mourning for her father, and in
pathetic and dignified words implored her people to support her just
cause. Magnates and deputies sprang up, half drew their sabres, and with
eager voices vowed to stand by her with their lives and fortunes. Till
then, her firmness had never once forsaken her before the public eye;
but at that shout she sank down upon her throne, and wept aloud. Still
more touching was the sight when, a few days later, she came again
before the Estates of her realm, and held up before them the little
Archduke in her arms. Then it was that the enthusiasm of Hungary broke
forth into that war-cry which soon resounded throughout Europe, "Let us
die for our King, Maria Theresa!"

In the meantime, Frederic was meditating a change of policy. He had no
wish to raise France to supreme power on the Continent, at the expense
of the House of Hapsburg. His first object was to rob the Queen of
Hungary. His second object was that, if possible, nobody should rob her
but himself. He had entered into engagements with the powers leagued
against Austria; but these engagements were in his estimation of no more
force than the guarantee formerly given to the Pragmatic Sanction. His
plan now was to secure his share of the plunder by betraying his
accomplices. Maria Theresa was little inclined to listen to any such
compromise; but the English government represented to her so strongly
the necessity of buying off Frederic that she agreed to negotiate. The
negotiation would not, however, have ended in a treaty, had not the arms
of Frederic been crowned with a second victory. Prince Charles of
Lorraine, brother-in-law to Maria Theresa, a bold and active though
unfortunate general, gave battle to the Prussians at Chotusitz, and was
defeated. The King was still only a learner of the military art. He
acknowledged, at a later period, that his success on this occasion was
to be attributed, not at all to his own generalship, but solely to the
valor and steadiness of his troops. He completely effaced, however, by
his personal courage and energy, the stain which Molwitz had left on his

A peace, concluded under the English mediation, was the fruit of this
battle. Maria Theresa ceded Silesia, Frederic abandoned his allies;
Saxony followed his example; and the Queen was left at liberty to turn
her whole force against France and Bavaria. She was everywhere
triumphant. The French were compelled to evacuate Bohemia, and with
difficulty effected their escape. The whole line of their retreat might
be tracked by the corpses of thousands who had died of cold, fatigue,
and hunger. Many of those who reached their country carried with them
the seeds of death. Bavaria was overrun by bands of ferocious warriors
from that bloody debatable land which lies on the frontier between
Christendom and Islam. The terrible names of the Pandoor, the Croat, and
the Hussar, then first became familiar to western Europe. The
unfortunate Charles of Bavaria, vanquished by Austria, betrayed by
Prussia, driven from his hereditary states, and neglected by his allies,
was hurried by shame and remorse to an untimely end. An English army
appeared in the heart of Germany, and defeated the French at Dettingen.
The Austrian captains already began to talk of completing the work of
Marlborough and Eugene, and of compelling France to relinquish Alsace
and the Three Bishoprics.

The Court of Versailles, in this peril, looked to Frederic for help. He
had been guilty of two great treasons: perhaps he might be induced to
commit a third. The Duchess of Chateauroux then held the chief influence
over the feeble Louis. She determined to send an agent to Berlin; and
Voltaire was selected for the mission. He eagerly undertook the task;
for, while his literary fame filled all Europe, he was troubled with a
childish craving for political distinction. He was vain, and not without
reason, of his address, and of his insinuating eloquence; and he
flattered himself that he possessed boundless influence over the King of
Prussia. The truth was that he knew, as yet, only one corner of
Frederic's character. He was well acquainted with all the petty vanities
and affectations of the poetaster, but was not aware that these foibles
were united with all the talents and vices which lead to success in
active life, and that the unlucky versifier who pestered him with reams
of middling Alexandrines was the most vigilant, suspicious, and severe
of politicians.

Voltaire was received with every mark of respect and friendship, was
lodged in the palace, and had a seat daily at the royal table. The
negotiation was of an extraordinary description. Nothing can be
conceived more whimsical than the conferences which took place between
the first literary man and the first practical man of the age, whom a
strange weakness had induced to exchange their parts. The great poet
would talk of nothing but treaties and guarantees, and the great King of
nothing but metaphors and rhymes. On one occasion Voltaire put into his
Majesty's hands a paper on the state of Europe, and received it back
with verses scrawled on the margin. In secret they both laughed at each
other. Voltaire did not spare the King's poems; and the King has left on
record his opinion of Voltaire's diplomacy. "He had no credentials,"
says Frederic, "and the whole mission was a joke, a mere farce."

But what the influence of Voltaire could not effect, the rapid progress
of the Austrian arms effected. If it should be in the power of Maria
Theresa and George the Second to dictate terms of peace to France, what
chance was there that Prussia would long retain Silesia? Frederic's
conscience told him that he had acted perfidiously and inhumanly towards
the Queen of Hungary. That her resentment was strong she had given ample
proof; and of her respect for treaties he judged by his own. Guarantees,
he said, were mere filigree, pretty to look at, but too brittle to bear
the slightest pressure. He thought it his safest course to ally himself
closely to France, and again to attack the Empress Queen. Accordingly in
the autumn of 1744, without notice, without any decent pretext, he
recommenced hostilities, marched through the electorate of Saxony
without troubling himself about the permission of the Elector, invaded
Bohemia, took Prague, and even menaced Vienna.

It was now that, for the first time, he experienced the inconstancy of
fortune. An Austrian army under Charles of Lorraine threatened his
communications with Silesia. Saxony was all in arms behind him. He found
it necessary to save himself by a retreat. He afterwards owned that his
failure was the natural effect of his own blunders. No general, he said,
had ever committed greater faults. It must be added that to the reverses
of this campaign he always ascribed his subsequent successes. It was in
the midst of difficulty and disgrace that he caught the first clear
glimpse of the principles of the military art.

The memorable year 1745 followed. The war raged by sea and land, in
Italy, in Germany, and in Flanders; and even England, after many years
of profound internal quiet, saw, for the last time, hostile armies set
in battle array against each other. This year is memorable in the life
of Frederic as the date at which his novitiate in the art of war may be
said to have terminated. There have been great captains whose precocious
and self-taught military skill resembled intuition. Condé, Clive, and
Napoleon are examples. But Frederic was not one of these brilliant
portents. His proficiency in military science was simply the proficiency
which a man of vigorous faculties makes in any science to which he
applies his mind with earnestness and industry. It was at Hohenfriedberg
that he first proved how much he had profited by his errors, and by
their consequences. His victory on that day was chiefly due to his
skilful dispositions, and convinced Europe that the prince who, a few
years before, had stood aghast in the rout of Molwitz, had attained in
the military art a mastery equalled by none of his contemporaries, or
equalled by Saxe alone. The victory of Hohenfriedberg was speedily
followed by that of Sorr.

In the meantime the arms of France had been victorious in the Low
Countries. Frederic had no longer reason to fear that Maria Theresa
would be able to give law to Europe, and he began to meditate a fourth
breach of his engagements. The Court of Versailles was alarmed and
mortified. A letter of earnest expostulation, in the handwriting of
Louis, was sent to Berlin; but in vain. In the autumn of 1745, Frederic
made peace with England, and, before the close of the year, with Austria
also. The pretensions of Charles of Bavaria could present no obstacle to
an accommodation. That unhappy prince was no more; and Francis of
Lorraine, the husband of Maria Theresa, was raised, with the general
assent of the Germanic body, to the Imperial throne.

Prussia was again at peace; but the European war lasted till, in the
year 1748, it was terminated by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Of all
the powers that had taken part in it, the only gainer was Frederic. Not
only had he added to his patrimony the fine province of Silesia: he had,
by his unprincipled dexterity, succeeded so well in alternately
depressing the scale of Austria and that of France, that he was
generally regarded as holding the balance of Europe, a high dignity for
one who ranked lowest among kings, and whose great-grandfather had been
no more than a Margrave. By the public, the King of Prussia was
considered as a politician destitute alike of morality and decency,
insatiably rapacious, and shamelessly false; nor was the public much in
the wrong. He was at the same time allowed to be a man of parts, a
rising general, a shrewd negotiator and administrator. Those qualities
wherein he surpassed all mankind were as yet unknown to others or to
himself; for they were qualities which shine out only on a dark ground.
His career had hitherto, with little interruption, been prosperous; and
it was only in adversity, in adversity which seemed without hope or
resource, in adversity which would have overwhelmed even men celebrated
for strength of mind, that his real greatness could be shown.

He had, from the commencement of his reign, applied himself to public
business after a fashion unknown among kings. Louis the Fourteenth,
indeed, had been his own prime minister, and had exercised a general
superintendence over all the departments of the government; but this was
not sufficient for Frederic. He was not content with being his own prime
minister: he would be his own sole minister. Under him there was no
room, not merely for a Richelieu or a Mazarin, but for a Colbert, a
Louvois, or a Torcy. A love of labor for its own sake, a restless and
insatiable longing to dictate, to intermeddle, to make his power felt, a
profound scorn and distrust of his fellow creatures, made him unwilling
to ask counsel, to confide important secrets, to delegate ample powers.
The highest functionaries under his government were mere clerks, and
were not so much trusted by him as valuable clerks are often trusted by
the heads of departments. He was his own treasurer, his own
commander-in-chief, his own intendant of public works, his own minister
for trade and justice, for home affairs and foreign affairs, his own
master of the horse, steward, and chamberlain. Matters of which no chief
of an office in any other government would ever hear were, in this
singular monarchy, decided by the King in person. If a traveller wished
for a good place to see a review, he had to write to Frederic, and
received next day, from a royal messenger, Frederic's answer signed by
Frederic's own hand. This was an extravagant, a morbid activity. The
public business would assuredly have been better done if each department
had been put under a man of talents and integrity, and if the King had
contented himself with a general control. In this manner the advantages
which belong to unity of design, and the advantages which belong to the
division of labor, would have been to a great extent combined. But such
a system would not have suited the peculiar temper of Frederic. He could
tolerate no will, no reason, in the state save his own. He wished for
no abler assistance, than that of penmen who had just understanding
enough to translate and transcribe, to make out his scrawls, and to put
his concise Yes and No into an official form. Of the higher intellectual
faculties, there is as much in a copying machine, or a lithographic
press, as he required from a secretary of the cabinet.

His own exertions were such as were hardly to be expected from a human
body or a human mind. At Potsdam, his ordinary residence, he rose at
three in summer and four in winter. A page soon appeared, with a large
basket full of all the letters which had arrived for the King by the
last courier, dispatches from ambassadors, reports from officers of
revenue, plans of buildings, proposals for draining marshes, complaints
from persons who thought themselves aggrieved, applications from persons
who wanted titles, military commissions, and civil situations. He
examined the seals with a keen eye; for he was never for a moment free
from the suspicion that some fraud might be practised on him. Then he
read the letters, divided them into several packets, and signified his
pleasure, generally by a mark, often by two or three words, now and then
by some cutting epigram. By eight he had generally finished this part of
his task. The adjutant-general was then in attendance, and received
instructions for the day as to all the military arrangements of the
kingdom. Then the King went to review his guards, not as kings
ordinarily review their guards, but with the minute attention and
severity of an old drill-sergeant. In the meantime the four cabinet
secretaries had been employed in answering the letters on which the King
had that morning signified his will. These unhappy men were forced to
work all the year round like negro slaves in the time of the sugar crop.
They never had a holiday. They never knew what it was to dine. It was
necessary that, before they stirred, they should finish the whole of
their work. The King, always on his guard against treachery, took from
the heap a handful of letters at random, and looked into them to see
whether his instructions had been exactly followed. This was no bad
security against foul play on the part of the secretaries; for if one of
them were detected in a trick, he might think himself fortunate if he
escaped with five years of imprisonment in a dungeon. Frederic then
signed the replies, and all were sent off the same evening.

The general principles on which this strange government was conducted
deserve attention. The policy of Frederic was essentially the same as
his father's; but Frederic, while he carried that policy to lengths to
which his father never thought of carrying it, cleared it at the same
time from the absurdities with which his father had encumbered it. The
King's first object was to have a great, efficient, and well-trained
army. He had a kingdom which in extent and population was hardly in the
second rank of European powers; and yet he aspired to a place not
inferior to that of the sovereigns of England, France, and Austria. For
that end it was necessary that Prussia should be all sting. Louis the
Fifteenth, with five times as many subjects as Frederic, and more than
five times as large a revenue, had not a more formidable army. The
proportion which the soldiers in Prussia bore to the people seems hardly
credible. Of the males in the vigor of life, a seventh part were
probably under arms; and this great force had, by drilling, by
reviewing, and by the unsparing use of cane and scourge, been taught to
perform all evolutions with a rapidity and a precision which would have
astonished Villars or Eugene. The elevated feelings which are necessary
to the best kind of army were then wanting to the Prussian service. In
those ranks were not found the religious and political enthusiasm which
inspired the pikemen of Cromwell, the patriotic ardor, the thirst of
glory, the devotion to a great leader, which inflamed the Old Guard of
Napoleon. But in all the mechanical parts of the military calling, the
Prussians were as superior to the English and French troops of that day
as the English and French troops to a rustic militia.

Though the pay of the Prussian soldier was small, though every
rix-dollar of extraordinary charge was scrutinized by Frederic with a
vigilance and suspicion such as Mr. Joseph Hume never brought to the
examination of an army estimate, the expense of such an establishment
was, for the means of the country, enormous. In order that it might not
be utterly ruinous, it was necessary that every other expense should be
cut down to the lowest possible point. Accordingly Frederic, though his
dominions bordered on the sea, had no navy. He neither had nor wished to
have colonies. His judges, his fiscal officers, were meanly paid. His
ministers at foreign courts walked on foot, or drove shabby old
carriages till the axletrees gave way. Even to his highest diplomatic
agents, who resided at London and Paris, he allowed less than a thousand
pounds sterling a year. The royal household was managed with a frugality
unusual in the establishments of opulent subjects, unexampled in any
other palace. The King loved good eating and drinking, and during great
part of his life took pleasure in seeing his table surrounded by guests;
yet the whole charge of his kitchen was brought within the sum of two
thousand pounds sterling a year. He examined every extraordinary item
with a care which might be thought to suit the mistress of a boarding
house better than a great prince. When more than four rix-dollars were
asked of him for a hundred oysters, he stormed as if he had heard that
one of his generals had sold a fortress to the Empress Queen. Not a
bottle of champagne was uncorked without his express order. The game of
the royal parks and forests, a serious head of expenditure in most
kingdoms, was to him a source of profit. The whole was farmed out; and
though the farmers were almost ruined by their contract, the King would
grant them no remission. His wardrobe consisted of one fine gala dress,
which lasted him all his life; of two or three old coats fit for
Monmouth Street, of yellow waistcoats soiled with snuff, and of huge
boots embrowned by time. One taste alone sometimes allured him beyond
the limits of parsimony, nay, even beyond the limits of prudence, the
taste for building. In all other things his economy was such as we might
call by a harsher name, if we did not reflect that his funds were drawn
from a heavily taxed people, and that it was impossible for him, without
excessive tyranny, to keep up at once a formidable army and a splendid

Considered as an administrator, Frederic had undoubtedly many titles to
praise. Order was strictly maintained throughout his dominions. Property
was secure. A great liberty of speaking and of writing was allowed.
Confident in the irresistible strength derived from a great army, the
King looked down on malcontents and libellers with a wise disdain; and
gave little encouragement to spies and informers. When he was told of
the disaffection of one of his subjects, he merely asked, "How many
thousand men can he bring into the field?" He once saw a crowd staring
at something on a wall. He rode up, and found that the object of
curiosity was a scurrilous placard against himself. The placard had been
posted up so high that it was not easy to read it. Frederic ordered his
attendants to take it down and put it lower. "My people and I," he said,
"have come to an agreement which satisfies us both. They are to say what
they please, and I am to do what I please." No person would have dared
to publish in London satires on George the Second approaching to the
atrocity of those satires on Frederic, which the booksellers at Berlin
sold with impunity. One bookseller sent to the palace a copy of the most
stinging lampoon that perhaps was ever written in the world, the Memoirs
of Voltaire, published by Beaumarchais, and asked for his Majesty's
orders. "Do not advertise it in an offensive manner," said the King,
"but sell it by all means. I hope it will pay you well." Even among
statesmen accustomed to the license of a free press, such steadfastness
of mind as this is not very common.

It is due also to the memory of Frederic to say that he earnestly
labored to secure to his people the great blessing of cheap and speedy
justice. He was one of the first rulers who abolished the cruel and
absurd practice of torture. No sentence of death, pronounced by the
ordinary tribunals, was executed without his sanction; and his sanction,
except in cases of murder, was rarely given. Towards his troops he acted
in a very different manner. Military offences were punished with such
barbarous scourging that to be shot was considered by the Prussian
soldier as a secondary punishment. Indeed, the principle which pervaded
Frederic's whole policy was this, that the more severely the army is
governed, the safer it is to treat the rest of the community with

Religious persecution was unknown under his government, unless some
foolish and unjust restrictions which lay upon the Jews may be regarded
as forming an exception. His policy with respect to the Catholics of
Silesia presented an honorable contrast to the policy which, under very
similar circumstances, England long followed with respect to the
Catholics of Ireland. Every form of religion and irreligion found an
asylum in his states. The scoffer whom the parliaments of France had
sentenced to a cruel death was consoled by a commission in the Prussian
service. The Jesuit who could show his face nowhere else, who in Britain
was still subject to penal laws, who was proscribed by France, Spain,
Portugal, and Naples, who had been given up even by the Vatican, found
safety and the means of subsistence in the Prussian dominions.

Most of the vices of Frederic's administration resolve themselves into
one vice,--the spirit of meddling. The indefatigable activity of his
intellect, his dictatorial temper, his military habits, all inclined him
to this great fault. He drilled his people as he drilled his
grenadiers. Capital and industry were diverted from their natural
direction by a crowd of preposterous regulations. There was a monopoly
of coffee, a monopoly of tobacco, a monopoly of refined sugar. The
public money, of which the King was generally so sparing, was lavishly
spent in ploughing bogs, in planting mulberry trees amidst the sand, in
bringing sheep from Spain to improve the Saxon wool, in bestowing prizes
for fine yarn, in building manufactories of porcelain, manufactories of
carpets, manufactories of hardware, manufactories of lace. Neither the
experience of other rulers, nor his own, could ever teach him that
something more than an edict and a grant of public money was required to
create a Lyons, a Brussels, or a Birmingham.

For his commercial policy, however, there was some excuse. He had on his
side illustrious examples and popular prejudice. Grievously as he erred,
he erred in company with his age. In other departments his meddling was
altogether without apology. He interfered with the course of justice as
well as with the course of trade; and set up his own crude notions of
equity against the law as expounded by the unanimous voice of the
gravest magistrates. It never occurred to him that men whose lives were
passed in adjudicating on questions of civil right were more likely to
form correct opinions on such questions than a prince whose attention
was divided among a thousand objects, and who had never read a law book
through. The resistance opposed to him by the tribunals inflamed him to
fury. He reviled his Chancellor. He kicked the shins of his Judges. He
did not, it is true, intend to act unjustly. He firmly believed that he
was doing right, and defending the cause of the poor against the
wealthy. Yet this well-meant meddling probably did far more harm than
all the explosions of his evil passions during the whole of his long
reign. We could make shift to live under a debauchee or a tyrant; but
to be ruled by a busybody is more than human nature can bear.

The same passion for directing and regulating appeared in every part of
the King's policy. Every lad of a certain station in life was forced to
go to certain schools within the Prussian dominions. If a young Prussian
repaired, though but for a few weeks, to Leyden or Göttingen, for the
purpose of study, the offence was punished with civil disabilities, and
sometimes with the confiscation of property. Nobody was to travel
without the royal permission. If the permission were granted, the pocket
money of the tourist was fixed by royal ordinance. A merchant might take
with him two hundred and fifty rix-dollars in gold, a noble was allowed
to take four hundred; for it may be observed, in passing, that Frederic
studiously kept up the old distinction between the nobles and the
community. In speculation, he was a French philosopher, but in action, a
German prince. He talked and wrote about the privileges of blood in the
style of Siêyes; but in practice no chapter in the empire looked with a
keener eye to genealogies and quarterings.

Such was Frederic the Ruler. But there was another Frederic,--the
Frederic of Rheinsberg, the fiddler and flute-player, the poetaster and
metaphysician. Amidst the cares of state the King had retained his
passion for music, for reading, for writing, for literary society. To
these amusements he devoted all the time that he could snatch from the
business of war and government; and perhaps more light is thrown on his
character by what passed during his hours of relaxation than by his
battles or his laws.

It was the just boast of Schiller that, in his country, no Augustus, no
Lorenzo, had watched over the infancy of poetry. The rich and energetic
language of Luther, driven by the Latin from the schools of pedants, and
by the French from the palaces of kings, had taken refuge among the
people. Of the powers of that language Frederic had no notion. He
generally spoke of it, and of those who used it, with the contempt of
ignorance. His library consisted of French books; at his table nothing
was heard but French conversation. The associates of his hours of
relaxation were, for the most part, foreigners. Britain furnished to the
royal circle two distinguished men, born in the highest rank, and driven
by civil dissensions from the land to which, under happier
circumstances, their talents and virtues might have been a source of
strength and glory. George Keith, Earl Marischal of Scotland, had taken
arms for the House of Stuart in 1715; and his younger brother James,
then only seventeen years old, had fought gallantly by his side. When
all was lost they retired together to the Continent, roved from country
to country, served under various standards, and so bore themselves as to
win the respect and good will of many who had no love for the Jacobite
cause. Their long wanderings terminated at Potsdam; nor had Frederic any
associates who deserved or obtained so large a share of his esteem. They
were not only accomplished men, but nobles and warriors, capable of
serving him in war and diplomacy, as well as of amusing him at supper.
Alone of all his companions they appear never to have had reason to
complain of his demeanor towards them. Some of those who knew the palace
best pronounced that Lord Marischal was the only human being whom
Frederic ever really loved.

Italy sent to the parties at Potsdam the ingenious and amiable
Algarotti, and Bastiani, the most crafty, cautious, and servile of
Abbés. But the greater part of the society which Frederic had assembled
round him was drawn from France. Maupertuis had acquired some celebrity
by the journey which he had made to Lapland, for the purpose of
ascertaining, by actual measurement, the shape of our planet. He was
placed in the Chair of the Academy of Berlin, a humble imitation of the
renowned Academy of Paris. Baculard d'Arnaud, a young poet who was
thought to have given promise of great things, had been induced to quit
his country, and to reside at the Prussian Court. The Marquess D'Argens
was among the King's favorite companions, on account, as it should seem,
of the strong opposition between their characters. The parts of D'Argens
were good, and his manners those of a finished French gentleman; but his
whole soul was dissolved in sloth, timidity, and self-indulgence. His
was one of that abject class of minds which are superstitious without
being religious. Hating Christianity with a rancor which made him
incapable of rational inquiry, unable to see in the harmony and beauty
of the universe the traces of divine power and wisdom, he was the slave
of dreams and omens, would not sit down to table with thirteen in
company, turned pale if the salt fell towards him, begged his guests not
to cross their knives and forks on their plates, and would not for the
world commence a journey on Friday. His health was a subject of constant
anxiety to him. Whenever his head ached, or his pulse beat quick, his
dastardly fears and effeminate precautions were the jest of all Berlin.
All this suited the King's purpose admirably. He wanted somebody by whom
he might be amused, and whom he might despise. When he wished to pass
half an hour in easy polished conversation, D'Argens was an excellent
companion; when he wanted to vent his spleen and contempt, D'Argens was
an excellent butt.

With these associates, and others of the same class, Frederic loved to
spend the time which he could steal from public cares. He wished his
supper parties to be gay and easy. He invited his guests to lay aside
all restraint, and to forget that he was at the head of a hundred and
sixty thousand soldiers, and was absolute master of the life and liberty
of all who sat at meat with him. There was, therefore, at these parties
the outward show of ease. The wit and learning of the company were
ostentatiously displayed. The discussions on history and literature
were often highly interesting. But the absurdity of all the religions
known among men was the chief topic of conversation; and the audacity
with which doctrines and names venerated throughout Christendom were
treated on these occasions startled even persons accustomed to the
society of French and English freethinkers. Real liberty, however, or
real affection, was in this brilliant society not to be found. Absolute
kings seldom have friends; and Frederic's faults were such as, even
where perfect equality exists, make friendship exceedingly precarious.
He had indeed many qualities which, on a first acquaintance, were
captivating. His conversation was lively; his manners, to those whom he
desired to please, were even caressing. No man could flatter with more
delicacy. No man succeeded more completely in inspiring those who
approached him with vague hopes of some great advantage from his
kindness. But under this fair exterior he was a tyrant, suspicious,
disdainful, and malevolent. He had one taste which may be pardoned in a
boy, but which when habitually and deliberately indulged by a man of
mature age and strong understanding, is almost invariably the sign of a
bad heart,--a taste for severe practical jokes. If a courtier was fond
of dress, oil was flung over his richest suit. If he was fond of money,
some prank was invented to make him disburse more than he could spare.
If he was hypochondriacal, he was made to believe that he had the
dropsy. If he had particularly set his heart on visiting a place, a
letter was forged to frighten him from going thither. These things, it
may be said, are trifles. They are so; but they are indications, not to
be mistaken, of a nature to which the sight of human suffering and human
degradation is an agreeable excitement.

Frederic had a keen eye for the foibles of others, and loved to
communicate his discoveries. He had some talent for sarcasm, and
considerable skill in detecting the sore places where sarcasm would be
most acutely felt. His vanity, as well as his malignity, found
gratification in the vexation and confusion of those who smarted under
his caustic jests. Yet in truth his success on these occasions belonged
quite as much to the king as to the wit. We read that Commodus
descended, sword in hand, into the arena against a wretched gladiator,
armed only with a foil of lead, and after shedding the blood of the
helpless victim, struck medals to commemorate the inglorious victory.
The triumphs of Frederic in the war of repartee were of much the same
kind. How to deal with him was the most puzzling of questions. To appear
constrained in his presence was to disobey his commands, and to spoil
his amusement. Yet if his associates were enticed by his graciousness to
indulge in the familiarity of a cordial intimacy, he was certain to make
them repent of their presumption by some cruel humiliation. To resent
his affronts was perilous; yet not to resent them was to deserve and to
invite them. In his view, those who mutinied were insolent and
ungrateful; those who submitted were curs made to receive bones and
kickings with the same fawning patience. It is, indeed, difficult to
conceive how anything short of the rage of hunger should have induced
men to bear the misery of being the associates of the Great King. It was
no lucrative post. His Majesty was as severe and economical in his
friendships as in the other charges of his establishment, and as
unlikely to give a rix-dollar too much for his guests as for his
dinners. The sum which he allowed to a poet or a philosopher was the
very smallest sum for which such poet or philosopher could be induced to
sell himself into slavery; and the bondsman might think himself
fortunate, if what had been so grudgingly given was not, after years of
suffering, rudely and arbitrarily withdrawn.

Potsdam was, in truth, what it was called by one of its most illustrious
inmates, the Palace of Alcina. At the first glance it seemed to be a
delightful spot, where every intellectual and physical enjoyment awaited
the happy adventurer. Every newcomer was received with eager
hospitality, intoxicated with flattery, encouraged to expect prosperity
and greatness. It was in vain that a long succession of favorites who
had entered that abode with delight and hope, and who, after a short
term of delusive happiness, had been doomed to expiate their folly by
years of wretchedness and degradation, raised their voices to warn the
aspirant who approached the charmed threshold. Some had wisdom enough to
discover the truth early, and spirit enough to fly without looking back;
others lingered on to a cheerless and unhonored old age. We have no
hesitation in saying that the poorest author of that time in London,
sleeping on a bulk, dining in a cellar, with a cravat of paper, and a
skewer for a shirt-pin, was a happier man than any of the literary
inmates of Frederic's court.

But of all who entered the enchanted garden in the inebriation of
delight, and quitted it in agonies of rage and shame, the most
remarkable was Voltaire. Many circumstances had made him desirous of
finding a home at a distance from his country. His fame had raised him
up enemies. His sensibility gave them a formidable advantage over him.
They were, indeed, contemptible assailants. Of all that they wrote
against him, nothing has survived except what he has himself preserved.
But the constitution of his mind resembled the constitution of those
bodies in which the slightest scratch of a bramble, or the bite of a
gnat, never fails to fester. Though his reputation was rather raised
than lowered by the abuse of such writers as Fréron and Desfontaines,
though the vengeance which he took on Fréron and Desfontaines was such
that scourging, branding, pillorying, would have been a trifle to it,
there is reason to believe that they gave him far more pain than he ever
gave them. Though he enjoyed during his own lifetime the reputation of a
classic, though he was extolled by his contemporaries above all poets,
philosophers, and historians, though his works were read with as much
delight and admiration at Moscow and Westminster, at Florence and
Stockholm, as at Paris itself, he was yet tormented by that restless
jealousy which should seem to belong only to minds burning with the
desire of fame, and yet conscious of impotence. To men of letters who
could by no possibility be his rivals, he was, if they behaved well to
him, not merely just, not merely courteous, but often a hearty friend
and a munificent benefactor. But to every writer who rose to a celebrity
approaching his own, he became either a disguised or an avowed enemy. He
slyly depreciated Montesquieu and Buffon. He publicly, and with violent
outrage, made war on Rousseau. Nor had he the art of hiding his feelings
under the semblance of good humor or of contempt. With all his great
talents, and all his long experience of the world, he had no more
self-command than a petted child or an hysterical woman. Whenever he was
mortified, he exhausted the whole rhetoric of anger and sorrow to
express his mortification. His torrents of bitter words, his stamping
and cursing, his grimaces and his tears of rage, were a rich feast to
those abject natures whose delight is in the agonies of powerful spirits
and in the abasement of immortal names. These creatures had now found
out a way of galling him to the very quick. In one walk, at least, it
had been admitted by envy itself that he was without a living
competitor. Since Racine had been laid among the great men whose dust
made the holy precinct of Port Royal holier, no tragic poet had appeared
who could contest the palm with the author of Zaire, of Alzire, and of
Merope. At length a rival was announced. Old Crébillon, who many years
before had obtained some theatrical success, and who had long been
forgotten, came forth from his garret in one of the meanest lanes near
the Rue St. Antoine, and was welcomed by the acclamations of envious men
of letters, and of a capricious populace. A thing called Catiline, which
he had written in his retirement, was acted with boundless applause. Of
this execrable piece it is sufficient to say that the plot turns on a
love affair, carried on in all the forms of Scudery, between Catiline,
whose confidant is the Prætor Lentulus, and Tullia, the daughter of
Cicero. The theatre resounded with acclamations. The king pensioned the
successful poet; and the coffee-houses pronounced that Voltaire was a
clever man, but that the real tragic inspiration, the celestial fire
which had glowed in Corneille and Racine, was to be found in Crébillon

The blow went to Voltaire's heart. Had his wisdom and fortitude been in
proportion to the fertility of his intellect, and to the brilliancy of
his wit, he would have seen that it was out of the power of all the
puffers and detractors in Europe to put Catiline above Zaire; but he had
none of the magnanimous patience with which Milton and Bentley left
their claims to the unerring judgment of time. He eagerly engaged in an
undignified competition with Crébillon, and produced a series of plays
on the same subjects which his rival had treated. These pieces were
coolly received. Angry with the court, angry with the capital, Voltaire
began to find pleasure in the prospect of exile. His attachment for
Madame du Châtelet long prevented him from executing his purpose. Her
death set him at liberty; and he determined to take refuge at Berlin.

To Berlin he was invited by a series of letters, couched in terms of the
most enthusiastic friendship and admiration. For once the rigid
parsimony of Frederic seemed to have relaxed. Orders, honorable offices,
a liberal pension, a well-served table, stately apartments under a royal
roof, were offered in return for the pleasure and honor which were
expected from the society of the first wit of the age. A thousand louis
were remitted for the charges of the journey. No ambassador setting out
from Berlin for a court of the first rank had ever been more amply
supplied. But Voltaire was not satisfied. At a later period, when he
possessed an ample fortune, he was one of the most liberal of men; but
till his means had become equal to his wishes, his greediness for lucre
was unrestrained either by justice or by shame. He had the effrontery to
ask for a thousand louis more, in order to enable him to bring his
niece, Madame Denis, the ugliest of coquettes, in his company. The
indelicate rapacity of the poet produced its natural effect on the
severe and frugal King. The answer was a dry refusal. "I did not," said
his Majesty, "solicit the honor of the lady's society." On this,
Voltaire went off into a paroxysm of childish rage. "Was there ever such
avarice? He has hundreds of tubs full of dollars in his vaults, and
haggles with me about a poor thousand louis." It seemed that the
negotiation would be broken off; but Frederic, with great dexterity,
affected indifference, and seemed inclined to transfer his idolatry to
Baculard d'Arnaud. His Majesty even wrote some bad verses, of which the
sense was, that Voltaire was a setting sun, and that Arnaud was rising.
Good-natured friends soon carried the lines to Voltaire. He was in his
bed. He jumped out in his shirt, danced about the room with rage, and
sent for his passport and his post-horses. It was not difficult to
foresee the end of a connection which had such a beginning.

It was in the year 1750 that Voltaire left the great capital, which he
was not to see again till, after the lapse of near thirty years, he
returned, bowed down by extreme old age, to die in the midst of a
splendid and ghastly triumph. His reception in Prussia was such as might
well have elated a less vain and excitable mind. He wrote to his friends
at Paris that the kindness and the attention with which he had been
welcomed surpassed description, that the King was the most amiable of
men, that Potsdam was the paradise of philosophers. He was created
chamberlain, and received, together with his gold key, the cross of an
order, and a patent insuring to him a pension of eight hundred pounds
sterling a year for life. A hundred and sixty pounds a year were
promised to his niece if she survived him. The royal cooks and coachmen
were put at his disposal. He was lodged in the same apartments in which
Saxe had lived, when, at the height of power and glory, he visited
Prussia. Frederic, indeed, stooped for a time even to use the language
of adulation. He pressed to his lips the meagre hand of the little
grinning skeleton, whom he regarded as the dispenser of immortal renown.
He would add, he said, to the titles which he owed to his ancestors and
his sword, another title, derived from his last and proudest
acquisition. His style should run thus: Frederic, King of Prussia,
Margrave of Brandenburg, Sovereign Duke of Silesia, Possessor of
Voltaire. But even amidst the delights of the honeymoon, Voltaire's
sensitive vanity began to take alarm. A few days after his arrival, he
could not help telling his niece that the amiable King had a trick of
giving a sly scratch with one hand, while patting and stroking with the
other. Soon came hints not the less alarming, because mysterious. "The
supper parties are delicious. The King is the life of the company.
But--I have operas and comedies, reviews and concerts, my studies and
books. But--but--Berlin is fine, the princesses charming, the maids of
honor handsome. But"--

This eccentric friendship was fast cooling. Never had there met two
persons so exquisitely fitted to plague each other. Each of them had
exactly the fault of which the other was most impatient; and they were,
in different ways, the most impatient of mankind. Frederic was frugal,
almost niggardly. When he had secured his plaything, he began to think
that he had bought it too dear. Voltaire, on the other hand, was greedy,
even to the extent of impudence and knavery; and conceived that the
favorite of a monarch who had barrels full of gold and silver laid up in
cellars ought to make a fortune which a receiver-general might envy.
They soon discovered each other's feelings. Both were angry; and a war
began, in which Frederic stooped to the part of Harpagon, and Voltaire
to that of Scapin. It is humiliating to relate, that the great warrior
and statesman gave orders that his guest's allowance of sugar and
chocolate should be curtailed. It is, if possible, a still more
humiliating fact that Voltaire indemnified himself by pocketing the wax
candles in the royal antechamber. Disputes about money, however, were
not the most serious disputes of these extraordinary associates. The
sarcasms of the King soon galled the sensitive temper of the poet.
D'Arnaud and D'Argens, Guichard and La Métrie, might, for the sake of a
morsel of bread, be willing to bear the insolence of a master; but
Voltaire was of another order. He knew that he was a potentate as well
as Frederic, that his European reputation, and his incomparable power of
covering whatever he hated with ridicule, made him an object of dread
even to the leaders of armies and the rulers of nations. In truth, of
all the intellectual weapons which have ever been wielded by man, the
most terrible was the mockery of Voltaire. Bigots and tyrants, who had
never been moved by the wailing and cursing of millions, turned pale at
his name. Principles unassailable by reason, principles which had
withstood the fiercest attacks of power, the most valuable truths, the
most generous sentiments, the noblest and most graceful images, the
purest reputations, the most august institutions, began to look mean and
loathsome as soon as that withering smile was turned upon them. To every
opponent, however strong in his cause and his talents, in his station
and his character, who ventured to encounter the great scoffer, might be
addressed the caution which was given of old to the Archangel:--

                          "I forewarn thee, shun
    His deadly arrow; neither vainly hope
    To be invulnerable in those bright arms,
    Though temper'd heavenly; for that fatal dint,
    Save Him who reigns above, none can resist."

We cannot pause to recount how often that rare talent was exercised
against rivals worthy of esteem; how often it was used to crush and
torture enemies worthy only of silent disdain; how often it was
perverted to the more noxious purpose of destroying the last solace of
earthly misery, and the last restraint on earthly power. Neither can we
pause to tell how often it was used to vindicate justice, humanity, and
toleration, the principles of sound philosophy, the principles of free
government. This is not the place for a full character of Voltaire.

Causes of quarrel multiplied fast. Voltaire, who, partly from love of
money, and partly from love of excitement, was always fond of
stockjobbing, became implicated in transactions of at least a dubious
character. The King was delighted at having such an opportunity to
humble his guest; and bitter reproaches and complaints were exchanged.
Voltaire, too, was soon at war with the other men of letters who
surrounded the King; and this irritated Frederic, who, however, had
himself chiefly to blame; for, from that love of tormenting which was in
him a ruling passion, he perpetually lavished extravagant praises on
small men and bad books, merely in order that he might enjoy the
mortification and rage which, on such occasions, Voltaire took no pains
to conceal. His Majesty, however, soon had reason to regret the pains
which he had taken to kindle jealousy among the members of his
household. The whole palace was in a ferment with literary intrigues and
cabals. It was to no purpose that the imperial voice, which kept a
hundred and sixty thousand soldiers in order, was raised to quiet the
contention of the exasperated wits. It was far easier to stir up such a
storm than to lull it. Nor was Frederic, in his capacity of wit, by any
means without his own share of vexations. He had sent a large quantity
of verses to Voltaire, and requested that they might be returned with
remarks and corrections. "See," exclaimed Voltaire, "what a quantity of
his dirty linen the King has sent me to wash!" Talebearers were not
wanting to carry the sarcasm to the royal ear; and Frederic was as much
incensed as a Grub Street writer who had found his name in the Dunciad.

This could not last. A circumstance which, when the mutual regard of the
friends was in its first glow, would merely have been matter for
laughter produced a violent explosion. Maupertuis enjoyed as much of
Frederic's good will as any man of letters. He was President of the
Academy of Berlin; and he stood second to Voltaire, though at an immense
distance, in the literary society which had been assembled at the
Prussian Court. Frederic had, by playing for his own amusement on the
feelings of the two jealous and vainglorious Frenchmen, succeeded in
producing a bitter enmity between them. Voltaire resolved to set his
mark--a mark never to be effaced;--on the forehead of Maupertuis, and
wrote the exquisitely ludicrous Diatribe of Doctor Akakia. He showed
this little piece to Frederic, who had too much taste and too much
malice not to relish such delicious pleasantry. In truth, even at this
time of day, it is not easy for any person who has the least perception
of the ridiculous to read the jokes on the Latin city, the Patagonians,
and the hole to the centre of the earth, without laughing till he cries.
But though Frederic was diverted by this charming pasquinade, he was
unwilling that it should get abroad. His self-love was interested. He
had selected Maupertuis to fill the chair of his Academy. If all Europe
were taught to laugh at Maupertuis, would not the reputation of the
Academy, would not even the dignity of its royal patron, be in some
degree compromised? The King, therefore, begged Voltaire to suppress
this performance. Voltaire promised to do so, and broke his word. The
Diatribe was published, and received with shouts of merriment and
applause by all who could read the French language. The King stormed.
Voltaire, with his usual disregard of truth, asserted his innocence,
and made up some lie about a printer or an amanuensis. The King was not
to be so imposed upon. He ordered the pamphlet to be burned by the
common hangman, and insisted upon having an apology from Voltaire,
couched in the most abject terms. Voltaire sent back to the King his
cross, his key, and the patent of his pension. After this burst of rage,
the strange pair began to be ashamed of their violence, and went through
the forms of reconciliation. But the breach was irreparable; and
Voltaire took his leave of Frederic forever. They parted with cold
civility; but their hearts were big with resentment. Voltaire had in his
keeping a volume of the King's poetry, and forgot to return it. This
was, we believe, merely one of the oversights which men setting out upon
a journey often commit. That Voltaire could have meditated plagiarism is
quite incredible. He would not, we are confident, for the half of
Frederic's kingdom have consented to father Frederic's verses. The King,
however, who rated his own writings much above their value, and who was
inclined to see all Voltaire's actions in the worst light, was enraged
to think that his favorite compositions were in the hands of an enemy,
as thievish as a daw and as mischievous as a monkey. In the anger
excited by this thought, he lost sight of reason and decency, and
determined on committing an outrage at once odious and ridiculous.

Voltaire had reached Frankfort. His niece, Madame Denis, came thither to
meet him. He conceived himself secure from the power of his late master,
when he was arrested by order of the Prussian president. The precious
volume was delivered up. But the Prussian agents had, no doubt, been
instructed not to let Voltaire escape without some gross indignity. He
was confined twelve days in a wretched hovel. Sentinels with fixed
bayonets kept guard over him. His niece was dragged through the mire by
the soldiers. Sixteen hundred dollars were extorted from him by his
insolent jailers. It is absurd to say that this outrage is not to be
attributed to the King. Was anybody punished for it? Was anybody called
in question for it? Was it not consistent with Frederic's character? Was
it not of a piece with his conduct on other similar occasions? Is it not
notorious that he repeatedly gave private directions to his officers to
pillage and demolish the houses of persons against whom he had a grudge,
charging them at the same time to take their measures in such a way that
his name might not be compromised? He acted thus towards Count Bruhl in
the Seven Years' War. Why should we believe that he would have been more
scrupulous with regard to Voltaire?

When at length the illustrious prisoner regained his liberty, the
prospect before him was but dreary. He was an exile both from the
country of his birth and from the country of his adoption. The French
government had taken offence at his journey to Prussia, and would not
permit him to return to Paris; and in the vicinity of Prussia it was not
safe for him to remain.

He took refuge on the beautiful shores of Lake Leman. There, loosed from
every tie which had hitherto restrained him, and having little to hope
or to fear from courts and churches, he began his long war against all
that, whether for good or evil, had authority over man; for what Burke
said of the Constituent Assembly was eminently true of this its great
forerunner: Voltaire could not build; he could only pull down; he was
the very Vitruvius of ruin. He has bequeathed to us not a single
doctrine to be called by his name, not a single addition to the stock of
our positive knowledge. But no human teacher ever left behind him so
vast and terrible a wreck of truths and falsehoods, of things noble and
things base, of things useful and things pernicious. From the time when
his sojourn beneath the Alps commenced, the dramatist, the wit, the
historian, was merged in a more important character. He was now the
patriarch, the founder of a sect, the chief of a conspiracy, the prince
of a wide intellectual commonwealth. He often enjoyed a pleasure dear
to the better part of his nature, the pleasure of vindicating innocence
which had no other helper, of repairing cruel wrongs, of punishing
tyranny in high places. He had also the satisfaction, not less
acceptable to his ravenous vanity, of hearing terrified Capuchins call
him the Anti-christ. But whether employed in works of benevolence, or in
works of mischief, he never forgot Potsdam and Frankfort; and he
listened anxiously to every murmur which indicated that a tempest was
gathering in Europe, and that his vengeance was at hand.

He soon had his wish. Maria Theresa had never for a moment forgotten the
great wrong which she had received at the hand of Frederic. Young and
delicate, just left an orphan, just about to be a mother, she had been
compelled to fly from the ancient capital of her race; she had seen her
fair inheritance dismembered by robbers, and of those robbers he had
been the foremost. Without a pretext, without a provocation, in defiance
of the most sacred engagements, he had attacked the helpless ally whom
he was bound to defend. The Empress Queen had the faults as well as the
virtues which are connected with quick sensibility and a high spirit.
There was no peril which she was not ready to brave, no calamity which
she was not ready to bring on her subjects, or on the whole human race,
if only she might once taste the sweetness of a complete revenge.
Revenge, too, presented itself to her narrow and superstitious mind in
the guise of duty. Silesia had been wrested not only from the House of
Austria, but from the Church of Rome. The conqueror had indeed permitted
his new subjects to worship God after their own fashion; but this was
not enough. To bigotry it seemed an intolerable hardship that the
Catholic Church, having long enjoyed ascendency, should be compelled to
content itself with equality. Nor was this the only circumstance which
led Maria Theresa to regard her enemy as the enemy of God. The
profaneness of Frederic's writings and conversation, and the frightful
rumors which were circulated respecting the immorality of his private
life, naturally shocked a woman who believed with the firmest faith all
that her confessor told her, and who, though surrounded by temptations,
though young and beautiful, though ardent in all her passions, though
possessed of absolute power, had preserved her fame unsullied even by
the breath of slander.

To recover Silesia, to humble the dynasty of Hohenzollern to the dust,
was the great object of her life. She toiled during many years for this
end, with zeal as indefatigable as that which the poet ascribes to the
stately goddess who tired out her immortal horses in the work of raising
the nations against Troy, and who offered to give up to destruction her
darling Sparta and Mycenæ, if only she might once see the smoke going up
from the palace of Priam. With even such a spirit did the proud Austrian
Juno strive to array against her foe a coalition such as Europe had
never seen. Nothing would content her but that the whole civilized
world, from the White Sea to the Adriatic, from the Bay of Biscay to the
pastures of the wild horses of the Tanais, should be combined in arms
against one petty state.

She early succeeded by various arts in obtaining the adhesion of Russia.
An ample share of spoil was promised to the King of Poland; and that
prince, governed by his favorite, Count Bruhl, readily promised the
assistance of the Saxon forces. The great difficulty was with France.
That the Houses of Bourbon and of Hapsburg should ever cordially
coöperate in any great scheme of European policy had long been thought,
to use the strong expression of Frederic, just as impossible as that
fire and water should amalgamate. The whole history of the Continent,
during two centuries and a half, had been the history of the mutual
jealousies and enmities of France and Austria. Since the administration
of Richelieu, above all, it had been considered as the plain policy of
the Most Christian King to thwart on all occasions the Court of Vienna,
and to protect every member of the Germanic body who stood up against
the dictation of the Cæsars. Common sentiments of religion had been
unable to mitigate this strong antipathy. The rulers of France, even
while clothed in the Roman purple, even while persecuting the heretics
of Rochelle and Auvergne, had still looked with favor on the Lutheran
and Calvinistic princes who were struggling against the chief of the
empire. If the French ministers paid any respect to the traditional
rules handed down to them through many generations, they would have
acted towards Frederic as the greatest of their predecessors acted
towards Gustavus Adolphus. That there was deadly enmity between Prussia
and Austria was of itself a sufficient reason for close friendship
between Prussia and France. With France Frederic could never have any
serious controversy. His territories were so situated that his ambition,
greedy and unscrupulous as it was, could never impel him to attack her
of his own accord. He was more than half a Frenchman; he wrote, spoke,
read nothing but French; he delighted in French society; the admiration
of the French he proposed to himself as the best reward of all his
exploits. It seemed incredible that any French government, however
notorious for levity or stupidity, could spurn away such an ally.

The Court of Vienna, however, did not despair. The Austrian diplomatists
propounded a new scheme of politics, which, it must be owned, was not
altogether without plausibility. The great powers, according to this
theory, had long been under a delusion. They had looked on each other as
natural enemies, while in truth they were natural allies. A succession
of cruel wars had devastated Europe, had thinned the population, had
exhausted the public resources, had loaded governments with an immense
burden of debt; and when, after two hundred years of murderous hostility
or of hollow truce, the illustrious Houses whose enmity had distracted
the world sat down to count their gains, to what did the real advantage
on either side amount? Simply to this, that they had kept each other
from thriving. It was not the King of France, it was not the Emperor,
who had reaped the fruits of the Thirty Years' War, or of the War of the
Pragmatic Sanction. Those fruits had been pilfered by states of the
second and third rank, which, secured against jealousy by their
insignificance, had dexterously aggrandized themselves while pretending
to serve the animosity of the great chiefs of Christendom. While the
lion and tiger were tearing each other, the jackal had run off into the
jungle with the prey. The real gainer by the Thirty Years' War had been
neither France nor Austria, but Sweden. The real gainer by the war of
the Pragmatic Sanction had been neither France nor Austria, but the
upstart of Brandenburg. France had made great efforts, had added largely
to her military glory, and largely to her public burdens; and for what
end? Merely that Frederic might rule Silesia. For this, and this alone,
one French army, wasted by sword and famine, had perished in Bohemia;
and another had purchased, with floods of the noblest blood, the barren
glory of Fontenoy. And this prince, for whom France had suffered so
much, was he a grateful, was he even an honest ally? Had he not been as
false to the Court of Versailles as to the Court of Vienna? Had he not
played, on a large scale, the same part which, in private life, is
played by the vile agent of chicane who sets his neighbors quarrelling,
involves them in costly and interminable litigation, and betrays them to
each other all round, certain that, whoever may be ruined, he shall be
enriched? Surely the true wisdom of the great powers was to attack, not
each other, but this common barrator, who, by inflaming the passions of
both, by pretending to serve both, and by deserting both, had raised
himself above the station to which he was born. The great object of
Austria was to regain Silesia; the great object of France was to obtain
an accession of territory on the side of Flanders. If they took opposite
sides, the result would probably be that, after a war of many years,
after the slaughter of many thousands of brave men, after the waste of
many millions of crowns, they would lay down their arms without having
achieved either object; but, if they came to an understanding, there
would be no risk and no difficulty. Austria would willingly make in
Belgium such cessions as France could not expect to obtain by ten
pitched battles. Silesia would easily be annexed to the monarchy of
which it had long been a part. The union of two such powerful
governments would at once overawe the King of Prussia. If he resisted,
one short campaign would settle his fate. France and Austria, long
accustomed to rise from the game of war both losers, would, for the
first time, both be gainers. There could be no room for jealousy between
them. The power of both would be increased at once; the equilibrium
between them would be preserved; and the only sufferer would be a
mischievous and unprincipled buccaneer, who deserved no tenderness from

These doctrines, attractive from their novelty and ingenuity, soon
became fashionable at the supper parties and in the coffee-houses of
Paris, and were espoused by every gay marquis and every facetious abbé
who was admitted to see Madame de Pompadour's hair curled and powdered.
It was not, however, to any political theory that the strange coalition
between France and Austria owed its origin. The real motive which
induced the great Continental powers to forget their old animosities and
their old state maxims was personal aversion to the King of Prussia.
This feeling was strongest in Maria Theresa; but it was by no means
confined to her. Frederic, in some respects a good master, was
emphatically a bad neighbor. That he was hard in all dealings, and quick
to take all advantages, was not his most odious fault. His bitter and
scoffing speech had inflicted keener wounds than his ambition. In his
character of wit he was under less restraint than even in his character
of ruler. Satirical verses against all the princes and ministers of
Europe were ascribed to his pen. In his letters and conversation he
alluded to the greatest potentates of the age in terms which would have
better suited Collé, in a war of repartee with young Crébillon at
Pelletier's table, than a great sovereign speaking of great sovereigns.
About women he was in the habit of expressing himself in a manner which
it was impossible for the meekest of women to forgive; and,
unfortunately for him, almost the whole Continent was then governed by
women who were by no means conspicuous for meekness. Maria Theresa
herself had not escaped his scurrilous jests. The Empress Elizabeth of
Russia knew that her gallantries afforded him a favorite theme for
ribaldry and invective. Madame de Pompadour, who was really the head of
the French government, had been even more keenly galled. She had
attempted, by the most delicate flattery, to propitiate the King of
Prussia; but her messages had drawn from him only dry and sarcastic
replies. The Empress Queen took a very different course. Though the
haughtiest of princesses, though the most austere of matrons, she forgot
in her thirst for revenge both the dignity of her race and the purity of
her character, and condescended to flatter the low-born and low-minded
concubine, who, having acquired influence by prostituting herself,
retained it by prostituting others. Maria Theresa actually wrote with
her own hand a note, full of expressions of esteem and friendship, to
her dear cousin, the daughter of the butcher Poisson, the wife of the
publican D'Etioles, the kidnapper of young girls for the haram of an old
rake, a strange cousin for the descendant of so many Emperors of the
West! The mistress was completely gained over, and easily carried her
point with Louis, who had, indeed, wrongs of his own to resent. His
feelings were not quick; but contempt, says the Eastern proverb,
pierces even through the shell of the tortoise; and neither prudence nor
decorum had ever restrained Frederic from expressing his measureless
contempt for the sloth, the imbecility, and the baseness of Louis.
France was thus induced to join the coalition; and the example of France
determined the conduct of Sweden, then completely subject to French

The enemies of Frederic were surely strong enough to attack him openly;
but they were desirous to add to all their other advantages the
advantage of a surprise. He was not, however, a man to be taken off his
guard. He had tools in every court; and he now received from Vienna,
from Dresden, and from Paris accounts so circumstantial and so
consistent that he could not doubt of his danger. He learnt that he was
to be assailed at once by France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and
the Germanic body; that the greater part of his dominions was to be
portioned out among his enemies; that France, which from her
geographical position could not directly share in his spoils, was to
receive an equivalent in the Netherlands; that Austria was to have
Silesia, and the Czarina East Prussia; that Augustus of Saxony expected
Magdeburg; and that Sweden would be rewarded with part of Pomerania. If
these designs succeeded, the House of Brandenburg would at once sink in
the European system to a place lower than that of the Duke of Würtemberg
or the Margrave of Baden.

And what hope was there that these designs would fail? No such union of
the Continental powers had been seen for ages. A less formidable
confederacy had in a week conquered all the provinces of Venice, when
Venice was at the height of power, wealth, and glory. A less formidable
confederacy had compelled Louis the Fourteenth to bow down his haughty
head to the very earth. A less formidable confederacy has, within our
own memory, subjugated a still mightier empire, and abased a still
prouder name. Such odds had never been heard of in war. The people whom
Frederic ruled were not five millions. The population of the countries
which were leagued against him amounted to a hundred millions. The
disproportion in wealth was at least equally great. Small communities,
actuated by strong sentiments of patriotism or loyalty, have sometimes
made head against great monarchies weakened by factions and discontents.
But small as was Frederic's kingdom, it probably contained a greater
number of disaffected subjects than were to be found in all the states
of his enemies. Silesia formed a fourth part of his dominions; and from
the Silesians, born under Austrian princes, the utmost that he could
expect was apathy. From the Silesian Catholics he could hardly expect
anything but resistance.

Some states have been enabled, by their geographical position, to defend
themselves with advantage against immense force. The sea has repeatedly
protected England against the fury of the whole Continent. The Venetian
government, driven from its possessions on the land, could still bid
defiance to the confederates of Cambray from the Arsenal amidst the
lagoons. More than one great and well-appointed army, which regarded the
shepherds of Switzerland as an easy prey, has perished in the passes of
the Alps. Frederic had no such advantage. The form of his states, their
situation, the nature of the ground, all were against him. His long,
scattered, straggling territory seemed to have been shaped with an
express view to the convenience of invaders, and was protected by no
sea, by no chain of hills. Scarcely any corner of it was a week's march
from the territory of the enemy. The capital itself, in the event of
war, would be constantly exposed to insult. In truth there was hardly a
politician or a soldier in Europe who doubted that the conflict would be
terminated in a very few days by the prostration of the House of

Nor was Frederic's own opinion very different. He anticipated nothing
short of his own ruin, and of the ruin of his family. Yet there was
still a chance, a slender chance, of escape. His states had at least the
advantage of a central position; his enemies were widely separated from
each other, and could not conveniently unite their overwhelming forces
on one point. They inhabited different climates, and it was probable
that the season of the year which would be best suited to the military
operations of one portion of the league would be unfavorable to those of
another portion. The Prussian monarchy, too, was free from some
infirmities which were found in empires far more extensive and
magnificent. Its effective strength for a desperate struggle was not to
be measured merely by the number of square miles or the number of
people. In that spare but well-knit and well-exercised body there was
nothing but sinew, and muscle, and bone. No public creditors looked for
dividends. No distant colonies required defence. No court, filled with
flatterers and mistresses, devoured the pay of fifty battalions. The
Prussian army, though far inferior in number to the troops which were
about to be opposed to it, was yet strong out of all proportion to the
extent of the Prussian dominions. It was also admirably trained and
admirably officered, accustomed to obey and accustomed to conquer. The
revenue was not only unencumbered by debt, but exceeded the ordinary
outlay in time of peace. Alone of all the European princes, Frederic had
a treasure laid up for a day of difficulty. Above all, he was one, and
his enemies were many. In their camps would certainly be found the
jealousy, the dissension, the slackness inseparable from coalitions; on
his side was the energy, the unity, the secrecy of a strong
dictatorship. To a certain extent the deficiency of military means might
be supplied by the resources of military art. Small as the King's army
was, when compared with the six hundred thousand men whom the
confederates could bring into the field, celerity of movement might in
some degree compensate for deficiency of bulk. It was thus just
possible that genius, judgment, resolution, and good luck united might
protract the struggle during a campaign or two; and to gain even a month
was of importance. It could not be long before the vices which are found
in all extensive confederacies would begin to show themselves. Every
member of the league would think his own share of the war too large, and
his own share of the spoils too small. Complaints and recriminations
would abound. The Turk might stir on the Danube; the statesmen of France
might discover the error which they had committed in abandoning the
fundamental principles of their national policy. Above all, death might
rid Prussia of its most formidable enemies. The war was the effect of
the personal aversion with which three or four sovereigns regarded
Frederic; and the decease of any one of those sovereigns might produce a
complete revolution in the state of Europe.

In the midst of a horizon generally dark and stormy Frederic could
discern one bright spot. The peace which had been concluded between
England and France in 1748, had been in Europe no more than an
armistice; and had not even been an armistice in the other quarters of
the globe. In India the sovereignty of the Carnatic was disputed between
two great Mussulman houses; Fort St. George had taken one side,
Pondicherry the other; and in a series of battles and sieges the troops
of Lawrence and Clive had been opposed to those of Dupleix. A struggle
less important in its consequences, but not less likely to produce
irritation, was carried on between those French and English adventurers
who kidnapped negroes and collected gold dust on the coast of Guinea.
But it was in North America that the emulation and mutual aversion of
the two nations were most conspicuous. The French attempted to hem in
the English colonists by a chain of military posts, extending from the
Great Lakes to the mouth of the Mississippi. The English took arms. The
wild aboriginal tribes appeared on each side mingled with the Pale
Faces. Battles were fought; forts were stormed; and hideous stories
about stakes, scalpings, and death-songs reached Europe, and inflamed
that national animosity which the rivalry of ages had produced. The
disputes between France and England came to a crisis at the very time
when the tempest which had been gathering was about to burst on Prussia.
The tastes and interests of Frederic would have led him, if he had been
allowed an option, to side with the House of Bourbon. But the folly of
the Court of Versailles left him no choice. France became the tool of
Austria; and Frederic was forced to become the ally of England. He could
not, indeed, expect that a power which covered the sea with its fleets,
and which had to make war at once on the Ohio and the Ganges, would be
able to spare a large number of troops for operations in Germany. But
England, though poor compared with the England of our time, was far
richer than any country on the Continent. The amount of her revenue, and
the resources which she found in her credit, though they may be thought
small by a generation which has seen her raise a hundred and thirty
millions in a single year, appeared miraculous to the politicians of
that age. A very moderate portion of her wealth, expended by an able and
economical prince, in a country where prices were low, would be
sufficient to equip and maintain a formidable army.

Such was the situation in which Frederic found himself. He saw the whole
extent of his peril. He saw that there was still a faint possibility of
escape; and, with prudent temerity, he determined to strike the first
blow. It was in the month of August, 1756, that the great war of the
Seven Years commenced. The King demanded of the Empress Queen a distinct
explanation of her intentions, and plainly told her that he should
consider a refusal as a declaration of war. "I want," he said, "no
answer in the style of an oracle." He received an answer at once haughty
and evasive. In an instant the rich electorate of Saxony was overflowed
by sixty thousand Prussian troops. Augustus with his army occupied a
strong position at Pirna. The Queen of Poland was at Dresden. In a few
days Pirna was blockaded and Dresden was taken. The first object of
Frederic was to obtain possession of the Saxon State Papers; for those
papers, he well knew, contained ample proofs that, though apparently an
aggressor, he was really acting in self-defence. The Queen of Poland, as
well acquainted as Frederic with the importance of those documents, had
packed them up, had concealed them in her bedchamber, and was about to
send them off to Warsaw, when a Prussian officer made his appearance. In
the hope that no soldier would venture to outrage a lady, a queen, the
daughter of an emperor, the mother-in-law of a dauphin, she placed
herself before the trunk, and at length sat down on it. But all
resistance was vain. The papers were carried to Frederic, who found in
them, as he expected, abundant evidence of the designs of the coalition.
The most important documents were instantly published, and the effect of
the publication was great. It was clear that, of whatever sins the King
of Prussia might formerly have been guilty, he was now the injured
party, and had merely anticipated a blow intended to destroy him.

The Saxon camp at Pirna was in the meantime closely invested; but the
besieged were not without hopes of succor. A great Austrian army under
Marshal Brown was about to pour through the passes which separate
Bohemia from Saxony. Frederic left at Pirna a force sufficient to deal
with the Saxons, hastened into Bohemia, encountered Brown at Lowositz,
and defeated him. This battle decided the fate of Saxony. Augustus and
his favorite Bruhl fled to Poland. The whole army of the electorate
capitulated. From that time till the end of the war, Frederic treated
Saxony as a part of his dominions, or, rather, he acted towards the
Saxons in a manner which may serve to illustrate the whole meaning of
that tremendous sentence, "subjectos tanquam suos, viles tanquam
alienos." Saxony was as much in his power as Brandenburg; and he had no
such interest in the welfare of Saxony as he had in the welfare of
Brandenburg. He accordingly levied troops and exacted contributions
throughout the enslaved province, with far more rigor than in any part
of his own dominions. Seventeen thousand men who had been in the camp at
Pirna were half compelled, half persuaded to enlist under their
conqueror. Thus, within a few weeks from the commencement of
hostilities, one of the confederates had been disarmed, and his weapons
were now pointed against the rest.

The winter put a stop to military operations. All had hitherto gone
well. But the real tug of war was still to come. It was easy to foresee
that the year 1757 would be a memorable era in the history of Europe.

The King's scheme for the campaign was simple, bold, and judicious. The
Duke of Cumberland with an English and Hanoverian army was in Western
Germany, and might be able to prevent the French troops from attacking
Prussia. The Russians, confined by their snows, would probably not stir
till the spring was far advanced. Saxony was prostrated. Sweden could do
nothing very important. During a few months Frederic would have to deal
with Austria alone. Even thus the odds were against him. But ability and
courage have often triumphed against odds still more formidable.

Early in 1757 the Prussian army in Saxony began to move. Through four
defiles in the mountains they came pouring into Bohemia. Prague was the
King's first mark; but the ulterior object was probably Vienna. At
Prague lay Marshal Brown with one great army. Daun, the most cautious
and fortunate of the Austrian captains, was advancing with another.
Frederic determined to overwhelm Brown before Daun should arrive. On
the sixth of May was fought, under those walls which, a hundred and
thirty years before, had witnessed the victory of the Catholic league
and the flight of the unhappy Palatine, a battle more bloody than any
which Europe saw during the long interval between Malplaquet and Eylau.
The King and Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick were distinguished on that
day by their valor and exertions. But the chief glory was with Schwerin.
When the Prussian infantry wavered, the stout old marshal snatched the
colors from an ensign, and, waving them in the air, led back his
regiment to the charge. Thus at seventy-two years of age he fell in the
thickest battle, still grasping the standard which bears the black eagle
on the field argent. The victory remained with the King; but it had been
dearly purchased. Whole columns of his bravest warriors had fallen. He
admitted that he had lost eighteen thousand men. Of the enemy,
twenty-four thousand had been killed, wounded, or taken.

Part of the defeated army was shut up in Prague. Part fled to join the
troops which, under the command of Daun, were now close at hand.
Frederic determined to play over the same game which had succeeded at
Lowositz. He left a large force to besiege Prague, and at the head of
thirty thousand men he marched against Daun. The cautious Marshal,
though he had a great superiority in numbers, would risk nothing. He
occupied at Kolin a position almost impregnable, and awaited the attack
of the King.

It was the eighteenth of June,--a day which, if the Greek superstition
still retained its influence, would be held sacred to Nemesis,--a day on
which the two greatest princes of modern times were taught, by a
terrible experience, that neither skill nor valor can fix the
inconstancy of fortune. The battle began before noon; and part of the
Prussian army maintained the contest till after the midsummer sun had
gone down. But at length the King found that his troops, having been
repeatedly driven back with frightful carnage, could no longer be led to
the charge. He was with difficulty persuaded to quit the field. The
officers of his personal staff were under the necessity of expostulating
with him, and one of them took the liberty to say, "Does your Majesty
mean to storm the batteries alone?" Thirteen thousand of his bravest
followers had perished. Nothing remained for him but to retreat in good
order, to raise the siege of Prague, and to hurry his army by different
routes out of Bohemia.

This stroke seemed to be final. Frederic's situation had at best been
such that only an uninterrupted run of good luck could save him, as it
seemed, from ruin. And now, almost in the outset of the contest, he had
met with a check which, even in a war between equal powers, would have
been felt as serious. He had owed much to the opinion which all Europe
entertained of his army. Since his accession, his soldiers had in many
successive battles been victorious over the Austrians. But the glory had
departed from his arms. All whom his malevolent sarcasms had wounded
made haste to avenge themselves by scoffing at the scoffer. His soldiers
had ceased to confide in his star. In every part of his camp his
dispositions were severely criticised. Even in his own family he had
detractors. His next brother, William, heir-presumptive, or rather, in
truth, heir-apparent to the throne, and great-grandfather of the present
king, could not refrain from lamenting his own fate and that of the
House of Hohenzollern, once so great and so prosperous, but now, by the
rash ambition of its chief, made a byword to all nations. These
complaints, and some blunders which William committed during the retreat
from Bohemia, called forth the bitter displeasure of the inexorable
King. The prince's heart was broken by the cutting reproaches of his
brother; he quitted the army, retired to a country seat, and in a short
time died of shame and vexation.

It seemed that the King's distress could hardly be increased. Yet at
this moment another blow not less terrible than that of Kolin fell upon
him. The French under Marshal D'Estrées had invaded Germany. The Duke of
Cumberland had given them battle at Hastembeck, and had been defeated.
In order to save the electorate of Hanover from entire subjugation, he
had made, at Closter Seven, an arrangement with the French generals,
which left them at liberty to turn their arms against the Prussian

That nothing might be wanting to Frederic's distress, he lost his mother
just at this time; and he appears to have felt the loss more than was to
be expected from the hardness and severity of his character. In truth,
his misfortunes had now cut to the quick. The mocker, the tyrant, the
most rigorous, the most imperious, the most cynical of men, was very
unhappy. His face was so haggard and his form so thin, that when on his
return from Bohemia he passed through Leipsic, the people hardly knew
him again. His sleep was broken; the tears, in spite of himself, often
started into his eyes; and the grave began to present itself to his
agitated mind as the best refuge from misery and dishonor. His
resolution was fixed never to be taken alive, and never to make peace on
condition of descending from his place among the powers of Europe. He
saw nothing left for him except to die; and he deliberately chose his
mode of death. He always carried about with him a sure and speedy poison
in a small glass case; and to the few in whom he placed confidence he
made no mystery of his resolution.

But we should very imperfectly describe the state of Frederic's mind, if
we left out of view the laughable peculiarities which contrasted so
singularly with the gravity, energy, and harshness of his character. It
is difficult to say whether the tragic or the comic predominated in the
strange scene which was then acting. In the midst of all the great
King's calamities, his passion for writing indifferent poetry grew
stronger and stronger. Enemies all round him, despair in his heart,
pills of corrosive sublimate hidden in his clothes, he poured forth
hundreds upon hundreds of lines, hateful to gods and men, the insipid
dregs of Voltaire's Hippocrene, the faint echo of the lyre of Chaulieu.
It is amusing to compare what he did during the last months of 1757 with
what he wrote during the same time. It may be doubted whether any equal
portion of the life of Hannibal, of Cæsar, or of Napoleon, will bear a
comparison with that short period, the most brilliant in the history of
Prussia and of Frederic. Yet at this very time the scanty leisure of the
illustrious warrior was employed in producing odes and epistles, a
little better than Cibber's, and a little worse than Hayley's. Here and
there a manly sentiment which deserves to be in prose makes its
appearance in company with Prometheus and Orpheus, Elysium and Acheron,
the plaintive Philomel, the poppies of Morpheus, and all the other
frippery which, like a robe tossed by a proud beauty to her
waiting-woman, has long been contemptuously abandoned by genius to
mediocrity. We hardly know any instance of the strength and weakness of
human nature so striking, and so grotesque, as the character of this
haughty, vigilant, resolute, sagacious blue-stocking, half Mithridates
and half Trissotin, bearing up against a world in arms, with an ounce of
poison in one pocket and a quire of bad verses in the other.

Frederic had some time before made advances towards a reconciliation
with Voltaire; and some civil letters had passed between them. After the
battle of Kolin their epistolary intercourse became, at least in
seeming, friendly and confidential. We do not know any collection of
letters which throws so much light on the darkest and most intricate
parts of human nature as the correspondence of these strange beings
after they had exchanged forgiveness. Both felt that the quarrel had
lowered them in the public estimation. They admired each other. They
stood in need of each other. The great King wished to be handed down to
posterity by the great Writer. The great Writer felt himself exalted by
the homage of the great King. Yet the wounds which they had inflicted on
each other were too deep to be effaced, or even perfectly healed. Not
only did the scars remain; the sore places often festered and bled
afresh. The letters consisted for the most part of compliments, thanks,
offers of service, assurances of attachment. But if anything brought
back to Frederic's recollection the cunning and mischievous pranks by
which Voltaire had provoked him, some expression of contempt and
displeasure broke forth in the midst of eulogy. It was much worse when
anything recalled to the mind of Voltaire the outrages which he and his
kinswoman had suffered at Frankfort. All at once his flowing panegyric
was turned into invective. "Remember how you behaved to me. For your
sake I have lost the favor of my native king. For your sake I am an
exile from my country. I loved you. I trusted myself to you. I had no
wish but to end my life in your service. And what was my reward?
Stripped of all that you had bestowed on me, the key, the order, the
pension, I was forced to fly from your territories. I was hunted as if I
had been a deserter from your grenadiers. I was arrested, insulted,
plundered. My niece was dragged through the mud of Frankfort by your
soldiers, as if she had been some wretched follower of your camp. You
have great talents. You have good qualities. But you have one odious
vice. You delight in the abasement of your fellow creatures. You have
brought disgrace on the name of philosopher. You have given some color
to the slanders of the bigots, who say that no confidence can be placed
in the justice or humanity of those who reject the Christian faith."
Then the King answers, with less heat but equal severity: "You know that
you behaved shamefully in Prussia. It was well for you that you had to
deal with a man so indulgent to the infirmities of genius as I am. You
richly deserved to see the inside of a dungeon. Your talents are not
more widely known than your faithlessness and your malevolence. The
grave itself is no asylum from your spite. Maupertuis is dead; but you
still go on calumniating and deriding him, as if you had not made him
miserable enough while he was living. Let us have no more of this. And,
above all, let me hear no more of your niece. I am sick to death of her
name. I can bear with your faults for the sake of your merits; but she
has not written Mahomet or Merope."

An explosion of this kind, it might be supposed, would necessarily put
an end to all amicable communication. But it was not so. After every
outbreak of ill humor this extraordinary pair became more loving than
before, and exchanged compliments and assurances of mutual regard with a
wonderful air of sincerity.

It may well be supposed that men who wrote thus to each other were not
very guarded in what they said of each other. The English ambassador,
Mitchell, who knew that the King of Prussia was constantly writing to
Voltaire with the greatest freedom on the most important subjects, was
amazed to hear his Majesty designate this highly favored correspondent
as a bad-hearted fellow, the greatest rascal on the face of the earth.
And the language which the poet held about the King was not much more

It would probably have puzzled Voltaire himself to say what was his real
feeling towards Frederic. It was compounded of all sentiments, from
enmity to friendship, and from scorn to admiration; and the proportions
in which these elements were mixed changed every moment. The old
patriarch resembled the spoiled child who screams, stamps, cuffs,
laughs, kisses, and cuddles within one quarter of an hour. His
resentment was not extinguished; yet he was not without sympathy for his
old friend. As a Frenchman, he wished success to the arms, of his
country. As a philosopher, he was anxious for the stability of a throne
on which a philosopher sat. He longed both to save and to humble
Frederic. There was one way, and only one, in which all his conflicting
feelings could at once be gratified. If Frederic were preserved by the
interference of France, if it were known that for that interference he
was indebted to the mediation of Voltaire, this would indeed be
delicious revenge; this would indeed be to heap coals of fire on that
haughty head. Nor did the vain and restless poet think it impossible
that he might, from his hermitage near the Alps, dictate peace to
Europe. D'Estrées had quitted Hanover, and the command of the French
army had been entrusted to the Duke of Richelieu, a man whose chief
distinction was derived from his success in gallantry. Richelieu was in
truth the most eminent of that race of seducers by profession, who
furnished Crébillon the younger and La Clos with models for their
heroes. In his earlier days the royal house itself had not been secure
from his presumptuous love. He was believed to have carried his
conquests into the family of Orleans; and some suspected that he was not
unconcerned in the mysterious remorse which embittered the last hours of
the charming mother of Louis the Fifteenth. But the Duke was now sixty
years old. With a heart deeply corrupted by vice, a head long accustomed
to think only on trifles, an impaired constitution, an impaired fortune,
and, worst of all, a very red nose, he was entering on a dull,
frivolous, and unrespected old age. Without one qualification for
military command, except that personal courage which was common between
him and the whole nobility of France, he had been placed at the head of
the army of Hanover; and in that situation he did his best to repair, by
extortion and corruption, the injury which he had done to his property
by a life of dissolute profusion.

The Duke of Richelieu to the end of his life hated the philosophers as a
sect, not for those parts of their system which a good and wise man
would have condemned, but for their virtues, for their spirit of free
inquiry, and for their hatred of those social abuses of which he was
himself the personification. But he, like many of those who thought with
him, excepted Voltaire from the list of proscribed writers. He
frequently sent flattering letters to Ferney. He did the patriarch the
honor to borrow money of him, and even carried this condescending
friendship so far as to forget to pay the interest. Voltaire thought
that it might be in his power to bring the Duke and the King of Prussia
into communication with each other. He wrote earnestly to both; and he
so far succeeded that a correspondence between them was commenced.

But it was to very different means that Frederic was to owe his
deliverance. At the beginning of November, the net seemed to have closed
completely round him. The Russians were in the field, and were spreading
devastation through his eastern provinces. Silesia was overrun by the
Austrians. A great French army was advancing from the West under the
command of Marshal Soubise, a prince of the great Armorican House of
Rohan. Berlin itself had been taken and plundered by the Croatians. Such
was the situation from which Frederic extricated himself, with dazzling
glory, in the short space of thirty days.

He marched first against Soubise. On the fifth of November the armies
met at Rosbach. The French were two to one; but they were ill
disciplined, and their general was a dunce. The tactics of Frederic, and
the well-regulated valor of the Prussian troops, obtained a complete
victory. Seven thousand of the invaders were made prisoners. Their guns,
their colors, their baggage, fell into the hands of the conquerors.
Those who escaped fled as confusedly as a mob scattered by cavalry.
Victorious in the West, the King turned his arms towards Silesia. In
that quarter everything seemed to be lost. Breslau had fallen; and
Charles of Lorraine, with a mighty power, held the whole province. On
the fifth of December, exactly one month after the battle of Rosbach,
Frederic, with forty thousand men, and Prince Charles, at the head of
not less than sixty thousand, met at Leuthen, hard by Breslau. The King,
who was, in general, perhaps too much inclined to consider the common
soldier as a mere machine, resorted, on this great day, to means
resembling those which Bonaparte afterwards employed with such signal
success for the purpose of stimulating military enthusiasm. The
principal officers were convoked. Frederic addressed them with great
force and pathos; and directed them to speak to their men as he had
spoken to them. When the armies were set in battle array, the Prussian
troops were in a state of fierce excitement; but their excitement showed
itself after the fashion of a grave people. The columns advanced to the
attack chanting, to the sound of drums and fifes, the rude hymns of the
old Saxon Sternholds. They had never fought so well; nor had the genius
of their chief ever been so conspicuous. "That battle," said Napoleon,
"was a masterpiece. Of itself it is sufficient to entitle Frederic to a
place in the first rank among generals." The victory was complete.
Twenty-seven thousand Austrians were killed, wounded, or taken; fifty
stand of colors, a hundred guns, four thousand wagons, fell into the
hands of the Prussians. Breslau opened its gates; Silesia was
reconquered; Charles of Lorraine retired to hide his shame and sorrow at
Brussels; and Frederic allowed his troops to take some repose in winter
quarters, after a campaign to the vicissitudes of which it will be
difficult to find any parallel in ancient or modern history.

The King's fame filled all the world. He had, during the last year,
maintained a contest, on terms of advantage, against three powers, the
weakest of which had more than three times his resources. He had fought
four great pitched battles against superior forces. Three of these
battles he had gained; and the defeat of Kolin, repaired as it had been,
rather raised than lowered his military renown. The victory of Leuthen
is, to this day, the proudest on the roll of Prussian fame. Leipsic,
indeed, and Waterloo, produced consequences more important to mankind.
But the glory of Leipsic must be shared by the Prussians with the
Austrians and Russians; and at Waterloo the British infantry bore the
burden and heat of the day. The victory of Rosbach was, in a military
point of view, less honorable than that of Leuthen; for it was gained
over an incapable general and a disorganized army; but the moral effect
which it produced was immense. All the preceding triumphs of Frederic
had been triumphs over Germans, and could excite no emotions of national
pride among the German people. It was impossible that a Hessian or a
Hanoverian could feel any patriotic exultation at hearing that
Pomeranians had slaughtered Moravians, or that Saxon banners had been
hung in the churches of Berlin. Indeed, though the military character of
the Germans justly stood high throughout the world, they could boast of
no great day which belonged to them as a people; of no Agincourt, of no
Bannockburn. Most of their victories had been gained over each other;
and their most splendid exploits against foreigners had been achieved
under the command of Eugene, who was himself a foreigner. The news of
the battle of Rosbach stirred the blood of the whole of the mighty
population from the Alps to the Baltic, and from the borders of Courland
to those of Lorraine. Westphalia and Lower Saxony had been deluged by a
great host of strangers, whose speech was unintelligible, and whose
petulant and licentious manners had excited the strongest feelings of
disgust and hatred. That great host had been put to flight by a small
band of German warriors, led by a prince of German blood on the side of
father and mother, and marked by the fair hair and the clear blue eye
of Germany. Never since the dissolution of the empire of Charlemagne had
the Teutonic race won such a field against the French. The tidings
called forth a general burst of delight and pride from the whole of the
great family which spoke the various dialects of the ancient language of
Arminius. The fame of Frederic began to supply, in some degree, the
place of a common government and of a common capital. It became a
rallying point for all true Germans, a subject of mutual congratulation
to the Bavarian and the Westphalian, to the citizen of Frankfort and the
citizen of Nuremberg. Then first it was manifest that the Germans were
truly a nation. Then first was discernible that patriotic spirit which,
in 1813, achieved the great deliverance of central Europe, and which
still guards, and long will guard, against foreign ambition the old
freedom of the Rhine.

Nor were the effects produced by that celebrated day merely political.
The greatest masters of German poetry and eloquence have admitted that,
though the great King neither valued nor understood his native language,
though he looked on France as the only seat of taste and philosophy,
yet, in his own despite, he did much to emancipate the genius of his
countrymen from the foreign yoke; and that, in the act of vanquishing
Soubise, he was, unintentionally, rousing the spirit which soon began to
question the literary precedence of Boileau and Voltaire. So strangely
do events confound all the plans of man. A prince who read only French,
who wrote only French, who aspired to rank as a French classic, became,
quite unconsciously, the means of liberating half the Continent from the
dominion of that French criticism of which he was himself, to the end of
his life, a slave. Yet even the enthusiasm of Germany in favor of
Frederic hardly equalled the enthusiasm of England. The birthday of our
ally was celebrated with as much enthusiasm as that of our own
sovereign; and at night the streets of London were in a blaze with
illuminations. Portraits of the Hero of Rosbach, with his cocked hat
and long pigtail, were in every house. An attentive observer will, at
this day, find in the parlors of old-fashioned inns, and in the
portfolios of print-sellers, twenty portraits of Frederic for one of
George the Second. The sign-painters were everywhere employed in
touching up Admiral Vernon into the King of Prussia. This enthusiasm was
strong among religious people, and especially among the Methodists, who
knew that the French and Austrians were Papists, and supposed Frederic
to be the Joshua or Gideon of the Reformed Faith. One of Whitfield's
hearers, on the day on which thanks for the battle of Leuthen were
returned at the Tabernacle, made the following exquisitely ludicrous
entry in a diary, part of which has come down to us: "The Lord stirred
up the King of Prussia and his soldiers to pray. They kept three fast
days, and spent about an hour praying and singing psalms before they
engaged the enemy. Oh, how good it is to pray and fight!" Some young
Englishmen of rank proposed to visit Germany as volunteers, for the
purpose of learning the art of war under the greatest of commanders.
This last proof of British attachment and admiration, Frederic politely
but firmly declined. His camp was no place for amateur students of
military science. The Prussian discipline was rigorous even to cruelty.
The officers, while in the field, were expected to practise an
abstemiousness and self-denial such as was hardly surpassed by the most
rigid monastic orders. However noble their birth, however high their
rank in the service, they were not permitted to eat from anything better
than pewter. It was a high crime even in a count and field-marshal to
have a single silver spoon among his baggage. Gay young Englishmen of
twenty thousand a year, accustomed to liberty and to luxury, would not
easily submit to these Spartan restraints. The King could not venture to
keep them in order as he kept his own subjects in order. Situated as he
was with respect to England, he could not well imprison or shoot
refractory Howards and Cavendishes. On the other hand, the example of a
few fine gentlemen, attended by chariots and livery servants, eating in
plate, and drinking champagne and tokay, was enough to corrupt his whole
army. He thought it best to make a stand at first, and civilly refuse to
admit such dangerous companions among his troops.

The help of England was bestowed in a manner far more useful and more
acceptable. An annual subsidy of near seven hundred thousand pounds
enabled the King to add probably more than fifty thousand men to his
army. Pitt, now at the height of power and popularity, undertook the
task of defending Western Germany against France, and asked Frederic
only for the loan of a general. The general selected was Prince
Ferdinand of Brunswick, who had attained high distinction in the
Prussian service. He was put at the head of an army, partly English,
partly Hanoverian, partly composed of mercenaries hired from the petty
princes of the empire. He soon vindicated the choice of the two allied
courts, and proved himself the second general of the age.

Frederic passed the winter at Breslau, in reading, writing, and
preparing for the next campaign. The havoc which the war had made among
his troops was rapidly repaired; and in the spring of 1758 he was again
ready for the conflict. Prince Ferdinand kept the French in check. The
King in the meantime, after attempting against the Austrians some
operations which led to no very important result, marched to encounter
the Russians, who, slaying, burning, and wasting wherever they turned,
had penetrated into the heart of his realm. He gave them battle at
Zorndorf, near Frankfort on the Oder. The fight was long and bloody.
Quarter was neither given nor taken; for the Germans and Scythians
regarded each other with bitter aversion, and the sight of the ravages
committed by the half-savage invaders had incensed the King and his
army. The Russians were overthrown with great slaughter; and for a few
months no further danger was to be apprehended from the East.

A day of thanksgiving was proclaimed by the King, and was celebrated
with pride and delight by his people. The rejoicings in England were not
less enthusiastic or less sincere. This may be selected as the point of
time at which the military glory of Frederic reached the zenith. In the
short space of three quarters of a year he had won three great battles
over the armies of three mighty and warlike monarchies, France, Austria,
and Russia.

But it was decreed that the temper of that strong mind should be tried
by both extremes of fortune in rapid succession. Close upon this series
of triumphs came a series of disasters, such as would have blighted the
fame and broken the heart of almost any other commander. Yet Frederic,
in the midst of his calamities, was still an object of admiration to his
subjects, his allies, and his enemies. Overwhelmed by adversity, sick of
life, he still maintained the contest, greater in defeat, in flight, and
in what seemed hopeless ruin, than on the fields of his proudest

Having vanquished the Russians, he hastened into Saxony to oppose the
troops of the Empress Queen, commanded by Daun, the most cautious, and
Laudohn, the most inventive and enterprising, of her generals. These two
celebrated commanders agreed on a scheme, in which the prudence of the
one and the vigor of the other seem to have been happily combined. At
dead of night they surprised the King in his camp at Hochkirchen. His
presence of mind saved his troops from destruction; but nothing could
save them from defeat and severe loss. Marshal Keith was among the
slain. The first roar of the guns roused the noble exile from his rest,
and he was instantly in the front of the battle. He received a dangerous
wound, but refused to quit the field, and was in the act of rallying his
broken troops when an Austrian bullet terminated his checkered and
eventful life.

The misfortune was serious. But of all generals Frederic understood best
how to repair defeat, and Daun understood least how to improve victory.
In a few days the Prussian army was as formidable as before the battle.
The prospect was, however, gloomy. An Austrian army under General Harsch
had invaded Silesia, and invested the fortress of Neisse. Daun, after
his success at Hochkirchen, had written to Harsch in very confident
terms: "Go on with your operations against Neisse. Be quite at ease as
to the King. I will give a good account of him." In truth, the position
of the Prussians was full of difficulties. Between them and Silesia lay
the victorious army of Daun. It was not easy for them to reach Silesia
at all. If they did reach it, they left Saxony exposed to the Austrians.
But the vigor and activity of Frederic surmounted every obstacle. He
made a circuitous march of extraordinary rapidity, passed Daun, hastened
into Silesia, raised the siege of Neisse, and drove Harsch into Bohemia.
Daun availed himself of the King's absence to attack Dresden. The
Prussians defended it desperately. The inhabitants of that wealthy and
polished capital begged in vain for mercy from the garrison within, and
from the besiegers without. The beautiful suburbs were burned to the
ground. It was clear that the town, if won at all, would be won street
by street by the bayonet. At this conjuncture came news that Frederic,
having cleared Silesia of his enemies, was returning by forced marches
into Saxony. Daun retired from before Dresden, and fell back into the
Austrian territories. The King, over heaps of ruins, made his triumphant
entry into the unhappy metropolis, which had so cruelly expiated the
weak and perfidious policy of its sovereign. It was now the twentieth of
November. The cold weather suspended military operations; and the King
again took up his winter quarters at Breslau.

The third of the seven terrible years was over; and Frederic still stood
his ground. He had been recently tried by domestic as well as by
military disasters. On the fourteenth of October, the day on which he
was defeated at Hochkirchen, the day on the anniversary of which,
forty-eight years later, a defeat far more tremendous laid the Prussian
monarchy in the dust, died Wilhelmina, Margravine of Baireuth. From the
accounts which we have of her, by her own hand, and by the hands of the
most discerning of her contemporaries, we should pronounce her to have
been coarse, indelicate, and a good hater, but not destitute of kind and
generous feelings. Her mind, naturally strong and observant, had been
highly cultivated; and she was, and deserved to be, Frederic's favorite
sister. He felt the loss as much as it was in his iron nature to feel
the loss of anything but a province or a battle.

At Breslau during the winter, he was indefatigable in his poetical
labors. The most spirited lines, perhaps, that he ever wrote are to be
found in a bitter lampoon on Louis and Madame de Pompadour, which he
composed at this time, and sent to Voltaire. The verses were, indeed, so
good that Voltaire was afraid that he might himself be suspected of
having written them, or at least of having corrected them; and partly
from fright, partly, we fear, from love of mischief, sent them to the
Duke of Choiseul, then prime minister of France. Choiseul very wisely
determined to encounter Frederic at Frederic's own weapons, and applied
for assistance to Palissot, who had some skill as a versifier, and some
little talent for satire. Palissot produced some very stinging lines on
the moral and literary character of Frederic, and these lines the Duke
sent to Voltaire. This war of couplets, following close on the carnage
of Zorndorf and the conflagration of Dresden, illustrates well the
strangely compounded character of the King of Prussia.

At this moment he was assailed by a new enemy. Benedict the Fourteenth,
the best and wisest of the two hundred and fifty successors of St.
Peter, was no more. During the short interval between his reign and that
of his disciple Ganganelli, the chief seat in the Church of Rome was
filled by Rezzonico, who took the name of Clement the Thirteenth. This
absurd priest determined to try what the weight of his authority could
effect in favor of the orthodox Maria Theresa against a heretic king. At
the high mass on Christmas Day, a sword with a rich belt and scabbard, a
hat of crimson velvet lined with ermine, and a dove of pearls, the
mystic symbol of the Divine Comforter, were solemnly blessed by the
supreme pontiff, and were sent with great ceremony to Marshal Daun, the
conqueror of Kolin and Hochkirchen. This mark of favor had more than
once been bestowed by the Popes on the great champions of the faith.
Similar honors had been paid, more than six centuries earlier, by Urban
the Second to Godfrey of Bouillon. Similar honors had been conferred on
Alba for destroying the liberties of the Low Countries, and on John
Sobiesky after the deliverance of Vienna. But the presents which were
received with profound reverence by the Baron of the Holy Sepulchre in
the eleventh century, and which had not wholly lost their value even in
the seventeenth century, appeared inexpressibly ridiculous to a
generation which read Montesquieu and Voltaire. Frederic wrote sarcastic
verses on the gifts, the giver, and the receiver. But the public wanted
no prompter; and a universal roar of laughter from Petersburg to Lisbon
reminded the Vatican that the age of crusades was over.

The fourth campaign, the most disastrous of all the campaigns of this
fearful war, had now opened. The Austrians filled Saxony and menaced
Berlin. The Russians defeated the King's generals on the Oder,
threatened Silesia, effected a junction with Laudohn, and entrenched
themselves strongly at Kunersdorf. Frederic hastened to attack them. A
great battle was fought. During the earlier part of the day everything
yielded to the impetuosity of the Prussians, and to the skill of their
chief. The lines were forced. Half the Russian guns were taken. The
King sent off a courier to Berlin with two lines, announcing a complete
victory. But in the meantime, the stubborn Russians, defeated yet
unbroken, had taken up their stand in an almost impregnable position, on
an eminence where the Jews of Frankfort were wont to bury their dead.
Here the battle recommenced. The Prussian infantry, exhausted by six
hours of hard fighting under a sun which equalled the tropical heat,
were yet brought up repeatedly to the attack, but in vain. The King led
three charges in person. Two horses were killed under him. The officers
of his staff fell all round him. His coat was pierced by several
bullets. All was in vain. His infantry was driven back with frightful
slaughter. Terror began to spread fast from man to man. At that moment
the fiery cavalry of Laudohn, still fresh, rushed on the wavering ranks.
Then followed a universal rout. Frederic himself was on the point of
falling into the hands of the conquerors, and was with difficulty saved
by a gallant officer, who, at the head of a handful of Hussars, made
good a diversion of a few minutes. Shattered in body, shattered in mind,
the King reached that night a village which the Cossacks had plundered;
and there, in a ruined and deserted farmhouse, flung himself on a heap
of straw. He had sent to Berlin a second dispatch very different from
his first: "Let the royal family leave Berlin. Send the archives to
Potsdam. The town may make terms with the enemy."

The defeat was, in truth, overwhelming. Of fifty thousand men who had
that morning marched under the black eagles, not three thousand remained
together. The King bethought him again of his corrosive sublimate, and
wrote to bid adieu to his friends, and to give directions as to the
measures to be taken in the event of his death. "I have no resource
left"--such is the language of one of his letters--"all is lost. I will
not survive the ruin of my country. Farewell forever."

But the mutual jealousies of the confederates prevented them from
following up their victory. They lost a few days in loitering and
squabbling; and a few days, improved by Frederic, were worth more than
the years of other men. On the morning after the battle he had got
together eighteen thousand of his troops. Very soon his force amounted
to thirty thousand. Guns were procured from the neighboring fortresses;
and there was again an army. Berlin was for the present safe; but
calamities came pouring on the King in uninterrupted succession. One of
his generals, with a large body of troops, was taken at Maxen; another
was defeated at Meissen; and when at length the campaign of 1759 closed,
in the midst of a rigorous winter, the situation of Prussia appeared
desperate. The only consoling circumstance was that, in the West,
Ferdinand of Brunswick had been more fortunate than his master; and by a
series of exploits, of which the battle of Minden was the most glorious,
had removed all apprehension of danger on the side of France.

The fifth year was now about to commence. It seemed impossible that the
Prussian territories, repeatedly devastated by hundreds of thousands of
invaders, could longer support the contest. But the King carried on war
as no European power has ever carried on war, except the Committee of
Public Safety during the great agony of the French Revolution. He
governed his kingdom as he would have governed a besieged town, not
caring to what extent property was destroyed, or the pursuits of civil
life suspended, so that he did but make head against the enemy. As long
as there was a man left in Prussia, that man might carry a musket; as
long as there was a horse left, that horse might draw artillery. The
coin was debased, the civil functionaries were left unpaid; in some
provinces civil government altogether ceased to exist. But there were
still rye-bread and potatoes; there were still lead and gunpowder; and,
while the means of sustaining and destroying life remained, Frederic was
determined to fight it out to the very last.

The earlier part of the campaign of 1760 was unfavorable to him. Berlin
was again occupied by the enemy. Great contributions were levied on the
inhabitants, and the royal palace was plundered. But at length, after
two years of calamity, victory came back to his arms. At Lignitz he
gained a great battle over Laudohn; at Torgau, after a day of horrible
carnage, he triumphed over Daun. The fifth year closed, and still the
event was in suspense. In the countries where the war had raged, the
misery and exhaustion were more appalling than ever; but still there
were left men and beasts, arms and food, and still Frederic fought on.
In truth, he had now been baited into savageness. His heart was
ulcerated with hatred. The implacable resentment with which his enemies
persecuted him, though originally provoked by his own unprincipled
ambition, excited in him a thirst for vengeance which he did not even
attempt to conceal. "It is hard," he says in one of his letters, "for
man to bear what I bear. I begin to feel that, as the Italians say,
revenge is a pleasure for the gods. My philosophy is worn out by
suffering. I am no saint, like those of whom we read in the legends; and
I will own that I should die content if only I could first inflict a
portion of the misery which I endure."

Borne up by such feelings, he struggled with various success, but
constant glory, through the campaign of 1761. On the whole, the result
of this campaign was disastrous to Prussia. No great battle was gained
by the enemy; but, in spite of the desperate bounds of the hunted tiger,
the circle of pursuers was fast closing round him. Laudohn had surprised
the important fortress of Schweidnitz. With that fortress, half of
Silesia, and the command of the most important defiles through the
mountains, had been transferred to the Austrians. The Russians had
overpowered the King's generals in Pomerania. The country was so
completely desolated that he began, by his own confession, to look round
him with blank despair, unable to imagine where recruits, horses, or
provisions were to be found.

Just at this time two great events brought on a complete change in the
relations of almost all the powers of Europe. One of those events was
the retirement of Mr. Pitt from office; the other was the death of the
Empress Elizabeth of Russia.

The retirement of Pitt seemed to be an omen of utter ruin to the House
of Brandenburg. His proud and vehement nature was incapable of anything
that looked like either fear or treachery. He had often declared that,
while he was in power, England should never make a peace of Utrecht,
should never, for any selfish object, abandon an ally even in the last
extremity of distress. The Continental war was his own war. He had been
bold enough, he who in former times had attacked, with irresistible
powers of oratory, the Hanoverian policy of Carteret, and the German
subsidies of Newcastle, to declare that Hanover ought to be as dear to
us as Hampshire, and that he would conquer America in Germany. He had
fallen; and the power which he had exercised, not always with
discretion, but always with vigor and genius, had devolved on a favorite
who was the representative of the Tory party, of the party which had
thwarted William, which had persecuted Marlborough, and which had given
up the Catalans to the vengeance of Philip of Anjou. To make peace with
France, to shake off, with all, or more than all, the speed compatible
with decency, every Continental connection, these were among the chief
objects of the new Minister. The policy then followed inspired Frederic
with an unjust, but deep and bitter aversion to the English name, and
produced effects which are still felt throughout the civilized world. To
that policy it was owing that, some years later, England could not find
on the whole Continent a single ally to stand by her, in her extreme
need, against the House of Bourbon. To that policy it was owing that
Frederic, alienated from England, was compelled to connect himself
closely, during his later years, with Russia, and was induced to assist
in that great crime, the fruitful parent of other great crimes, the
first partition of Poland.

Scarcely had the retreat of Mr. Pitt deprived Prussia of her only
friend, when the death of Elizabeth produced an entire revolution in the
politics of the North. The Grand Duke Peter, her nephew, who now
ascended the Russian throne, was not merely free from the prejudices
which his aunt had entertained against Frederic, but was a worshipper, a
servile imitator of the great King. The days of the new Czar's
government were few and evil, but sufficient to produce a change in the
whole state of Christendom. He set the Prussian prisoners at liberty,
fitted them out decently, and sent them back to their master; he
withdrew his troops from the provinces which Elizabeth had decided on
incorporating with her dominions; and he absolved all those Prussian
subjects, who had been compelled to swear fealty to Russia, from their

Not content with concluding peace on terms favorable to Prussia, he
solicited rank in the Prussian service, dressed himself in a Prussian
uniform, wore the Black Eagle of Prussia on his breast, made
preparations for visiting Prussia, in order to have an interview with
the object of his idolatry, and actually sent fifteen thousand excellent
troops to reinforce the shattered army of Frederic. Thus strengthened,
the King speedily repaired the losses of the preceding year, reconquered
Silesia, defeated Daun at Buckersdorf, invested and retook Schweidnitz,
and, at the close of the year, presented to the forces of Maria Theresa
a front as formidable as before the great reverses of 1759. Before the
end of the campaign, his friend the Emperor Peter, having, by a series
of absurd insults to the institutions, manners, and feelings of his
people, united them in hostility to his person and government, was
deposed and murdered. The Empress, who, under the title of Catherine
the Second, now assumed the supreme power, was, at the commencement of
her administration, by no means partial to Frederic, and refused to
permit her troops to remain under his command. But she observed the
peace made by her husband; and Prussia was no longer threatened by
danger from the East.

England and France at the same time paired off together. They concluded
a treaty, by which they bound themselves to observe neutrality with
respect to the German war. Thus the coalitions on both sides were
dissolved; and the original enemies, Austria and Prussia, remained alone
confronting each other.

Austria had undoubtedly far greater means than Prussia, and was less
exhausted by hostilities; yet it seemed hardly possible that Austria
could effect alone what she had in vain attempted to effect when
supported by France on the one side, and by Russia on the other. Danger
also began to menace the Imperial house from another quarter. The
Ottoman Porte held threatening language, and a hundred thousand Turks
were mustered on the frontiers of Hungary. The proud and revengeful
spirit of the Empress Queen at length gave way; and, in February, 1763,
the peace of Hubertsburg put an end to the conflict which had, during
seven years, devastated Germany. The King ceded nothing. The whole
Continent in arms had proved unable to tear Silesia from that iron

The war was over. Frederic was safe. His glory was beyond the reach of
envy. If he had not made conquests as vast as those of Alexander, of
Cæsar, and of Napoleon, if he had not, on fields of battle, enjoyed the
constant success of Marlborough and Wellington, he had yet given an
example unrivalled in history of what capacity and resolution can effect
against the greatest superiority of power and the utmost spite of
fortune. He entered Berlin in triumph, after an absence of more than
six years. The streets were brilliantly lighted up; and, as he passed
along in an open carriage, with Ferdinand of Brunswick at his side, the
multitude saluted him with loud praises and blessings. He was moved by
those marks of attachment, and repeatedly exclaimed, "Long live my dear
people! Long live my children!" Yet, even in the midst of that gay
spectacle, he could not but perceive everywhere the traces of
destruction and decay. The city had been more than once plundered. The
population had considerably diminished. Berlin, however, had suffered
little when compared with most parts of the kingdom. The ruin of private
fortunes, the distress of all ranks, was such as might appall the
firmest mind. Almost every province had been the seat of war, and of war
conducted with merciless ferocity. Clouds of Croatians had descended on
Silesia. Tens of thousands of Cossacks had been let loose on Pomerania
and Brandenburg. The mere contributions levied by the invaders amounted,
it was said, to more than a hundred millions of dollars; and the value
of what they extorted was probably much less than the value of what they
destroyed. The fields lay uncultivated. The very seed corn had been
devoured in the madness of hunger. Famine, and contagious maladies
produced by famine, had swept away the herds and flocks; and there was
reason to fear that a great pestilence among the human race was likely
to follow in the train of that tremendous war. Near fifteen thousand
houses had been burned to the ground. The population of the kingdom had
in seven years decreased to the frightful extent of ten per cent. A
sixth of the males capable of bearing arms had actually perished on the
field of battle. In some districts, no laborers, except women, were seen
in the fields at harvest time. In others, the traveller passed
shuddering through a succession of silent villages, in which not a
single inhabitant remained. The currency had been debased; the authority
of laws and magistrates had been suspended; the whole social system was
deranged. For, during that convulsive struggle, everything that was not
military violence was anarchy. Even the army was disorganized. Some
great generals and a crowd of excellent officers had fallen, and it had
been impossible to supply their place. The difficulty of finding
recruits had, towards the close of the war, been so great, that
selection and rejection were impossible. Whole battalions were composed
of deserters or of prisoners. It was hardly to be hoped that thirty
years of repose and industry would repair the ruin produced by seven
years of havoc. One consolatory circumstance, indeed, there was. No debt
had been incurred. The burdens of the war had been terrible, almost
insupportable; but no arrear was left to embarrass the finances in time
of peace.

Here, for the present, we must pause. We have accompanied Frederic to
the close of his career as a warrior. Possibly, when these Memoirs are
completed, we may resume the consideration of his character, and give
some account of his domestic and foreign policy, and of his private
habits, during the many years of tranquillity which followed the Seven
Years' War.


[6] Frederic the Great and his Times. Edited, with an Introduction by
Thomas Campbell, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1842.


_The Edinburgh Review_, January, 1843

Though the world saw and heard little of Madame D'Arblay during the last
forty years of her life, and though that little did not add to her fame,
there were thousands, we believe, who felt a singular emotion when they
learned that she was no longer among us. The news of her death carried
the minds of men back at one leap over two generations, to the time when
her first literary triumphs were won. All those whom we had been
accustomed to revere as intellectual patriarchs seemed children when
compared with her; for Burke had sat up all night to read her writings,
and Johnson had pronounced her superior to Fielding, when Rogers was
still a schoolboy, and Southey still in petticoats. Yet more strange did
it seem that we should just have lost one whose name had been widely
celebrated before anybody had heard of some illustrious men who, twenty,
thirty, or forty years ago, were, after a long and splendid career,
borne with honor to the grave. Yet so it was. Frances Burney was at the
height of fame and popularity before Cowper had published his first
volume, before Porson had gone up to college, before Pitt had taken his
seat in the House of Commons, before the voice of Erskine had been once
heard in Westminster Hall. Since the appearance of her first work,
sixty-two years had passed; and this interval had been crowded, not only
with political, but also with intellectual revolutions. Thousands of
reputations had, during that period, sprung up, bloomed, withered, and
disappeared. New kinds of composition had come into fashion, had gone
out of fashion, had been derided, had been forgotten. The fooleries of
Della Crusca, and the fooleries of Kotzebue, had for a time bewitched
the multitude, but had left no trace behind them; nor had misdirected
genius been able to save from decay the once flourishing schools of
Godwin, of Darwin, and of Radcliffe. Many books, written for temporary
effect, had run through six or seven editions, and had then been
gathered to the novels of Afra Behn, and the epic poems of Sir Richard
Blackmore. Yet the early works of Madame D'Arblay, in spite of the lapse
of years, in spite of the change of manners, in spite of the popularity
deservedly obtained by some of her rivals, continued to hold a high
place in the public esteem. She lived to be a classic. Time set on her
fame, before she went hence, that seal which is seldom set except on the
fame of the departed. Like Sir Condy Rackrent in the tale, she survived
her own wake, and overheard the judgment of posterity.

Having always felt a warm and sincere, though not a blind admiration for
her talents, we rejoiced to learn that her Diary was about to be made
public. Our hopes, it is true, were not unmixed with fears. We could not
forget the fate of the Memoirs of Dr. Burney, which were published ten
years ago. That unfortunate book contained much that was curious and
interesting. Yet it was received with a cry of disgust, and was speedily
consigned to oblivion. The truth is, that it deserved its doom. It was
written in Madame D'Arblay's later style, the worst style that has ever
been known among men. No genius, no information, could save from
proscription a book so written. We, therefore, opened the Diary with no
small anxiety, trembling lest we should light upon some of that peculiar
rhetoric which deforms almost every page of the Memoirs, and which it is
impossible to read without a sensation made up of mirth, shame, and
loathing. We soon, however, discovered to our great delight that this
Diary was kept before Madame D'Arblay became eloquent. It is, for the
most part, written in her earliest and best manner, in true woman's
English, clear, natural, and lively. The two works are lying side by
side before us; and we never turn from the Memoirs to the Diary without
a sense of relief. The difference is as great as the difference between
the atmosphere of a perfumer's shop, fetid with lavender water and
jasmine soap, and the air of a heath on a fine morning in May. Both
works ought to be consulted by every person who wishes to be well
acquainted with the history of our literature and our manners. But to
read the Diary is a pleasure; to read the Memoirs will always be a task.

We may, perhaps, afford some harmless amusement to our readers if we
attempt, with the help of these two books, to give them an account of
the most important years of Madame D'Arblay's life.

She was descended from a family which bore the name of Macburney, and
which, though probably of Irish origin, had been long settled in
Shropshire, and was possessed of considerable estates in that county.
Unhappily, many years before her birth, the Macburneys began, as if of
set purpose and in a spirit of determined rivalry, to expose and ruin
themselves. The heir apparent, Mr. James Macburney, offended his father
by making a runaway match with an actress from Goodman's Fields. The old
gentleman could devise no more judicious mode of wreaking vengeance on
his undutiful boy than by marrying the cook. The cook gave birth to a
son named Joseph, who succeeded to all the lands of the family, while
James was cut off with a shilling. The favorite son, however, was so
extravagant that he soon became as poor as his disinherited brother.
Both were forced to earn their bread by their labor. Joseph turned
dancing master, and settled in Norfolk. James struck off the Mac from
the beginning of his name, and set up as a portrait painter at Chester.
Here he had a son named Charles, well known as the author of the History
of Music, and as the father of two remarkable children, of a son
distinguished by learning, and of a daughter still more honorably
distinguished by genius.

Charles early showed a taste for that art, of which, at a later period,
he became the historian. He was apprenticed to a celebrated musician in
London, and applied himself to study with vigor and success. He soon
found a kind and munificent patron in Fulk Greville, a high-born and
high-bred man, who seems to have had in large measure all the
accomplishments and all the follies, all the virtues and all the vices,
which, a hundred years ago, were considered as making up the character
of a fine gentleman. Under such protection, the young artist had every
prospect of a brilliant career in the capital. But his health failed. It
became necessary for him to retreat from the smoke and river fog of
London, to the pure air of the coast. He accepted the place of organist,
at Lynn, and settled at that town with a young lady who had recently
become his wife.

At Lynn, in June, 1752, Frances Burney was born. Nothing in her
childhood indicated that she would, while still a young woman, have
secured for herself an honorable and permanent place among English
writers. She was shy and silent. Her brothers and sisters called her a
dunce, and not without some show of reason; for at eight years old she
did not know her letters.

In 1760 Mr. Burney quitted Lynn for London, and took a house in Poland
Street; a situation which had been fashionable in the reign of Queen
Anne, but which, since that time, had been deserted by most of its
wealthy and noble inhabitants. He afterwards resided in St. Martin's
Street, on the south side of Leicester Square. His house there is still
well known, and will continue to be well known as long as our island
retains any trace of civilization; for it was the dwelling of Newton,
and the square turret which distinguishes it from all the surrounding
buildings was Newton's observatory.

Mr. Burney at once obtained as many pupils of the most respectable
description as he had time to attend, and was thus enabled to support
his family, modestly indeed, and frugally, but in comfort and
independence. His professional merit obtained for him the degree of
Doctor of Music from the University of Oxford; and his works on subjects
connected with his art gained for him a place, respectable, though
certainly not eminent, among men of letters.

The progress of the mind of Frances Burney, from her ninth to her
twenty-fifth year, well deserves to be recorded. When her education had
proceeded no further than the hornbook, she lost her mother, and
thenceforward she educated herself. Her father appears to have been as
bad a father as a very honest, affectionate, and sweet-tempered man can
well be. He loved his daughter dearly; but it never seems to have
occurred to him that a parent had other duties to perform to children
than that of fondling them. It would indeed have been impossible for him
to superintend their education himself. His professional engagements
occupied him all day. At seven in the morning he began to attend his
pupils, and, when London was full, was sometimes employed in teaching
till eleven at night. He was often forced to carry in his pocket a tin
box of sandwiches, and a bottle of wine and water, on which he dined in
a hackney coach, while hurrying from one scholar to another. Two of his
daughters he sent to a seminary at Paris; but he imagined that Frances
would run some risk of being perverted from the Protestant faith if she
were educated in a Catholic country, and he therefore kept her at home.
No governess, no teacher of any art or of any language, was provided for
her. But one of her sisters showed her how to write; and, before she was
fourteen, she began to find pleasure in reading.

It was not, however, by reading that her intellect was formed. Indeed,
when her best novels were produced, her knowledge of books was very
small. When at the height of her fame, she was unacquainted with the
most celebrated works of Voltaire and Molière; and, what seems still
more extraordinary, had never heard or seen a line of Churchill, who,
when she was a girl, was the most popular of living poets. It is
particularly deserving of observation that she appears to have been by
no means a novel-reader. Her father's library was large; and he had
admitted into it so many books which rigid moralists generally exclude
that he felt uneasy, as he afterwards owned, when Johnson began to
examine the shelves. But in the whole collection there was only a single
novel, Fielding's Amelia.

An education, however, which to most girls would have been useless, but
which suited Fanny's mind better than elaborate culture, was in constant
progress during her passage from childhood to womanhood. The great book
of human nature was turned over before her. Her father's social position
was very peculiar. He belonged in fortune and station to the middle
class. His daughters seemed to have been suffered to mix freely with
those whom butlers and waiting maids call vulgar. We are told that they
were in the habit of playing with the children of a wigmaker who lived
in the adjoining house. Yet few nobles could assemble in the most
stately mansions of Grosvenor Square or St. James's Square a society so
various and so brilliant as was sometimes to be found in Dr. Burney's
cabin. His mind, though not very powerful or capacious, was restlessly
active, and, in the intervals of his professional pursuits, he had
contrived to lay up much miscellaneous information. His attainments, the
suavity of his temper, and the gentle simplicity of his manners, had
obtained for him ready admission to the first literary circles. While he
was still at Lynn, he had won Johnson's heart by sounding with honest
zeal the praises of the English Dictionary. In London the two friends
met frequently, and agreed most harmoniously. One tie, indeed, was
wanting to their mutual attachment. Burney loved his own art
passionately; and Johnson just knew the bell of St. Clement's church
from the organ. They had, however, many topics in common; and on winter
nights their conversations were sometimes prolonged till the fire had
gone out, and the candles had burned away to the wicks. Burney's
admiration of the powers which had produced Rasselas and The Rambler
bordered on idolatry. Johnson, on the other hand, condescended to growl
out that Burney was an honest fellow, a man whom it was impossible not
to like.

Garrick, too, was a frequent visitor in Poland Street and St. Martin's
Street. That wonderful actor loved the society of children, partly from
good nature, and partly from vanity. The ecstasies of mirth and terror,
which his gestures and play of countenance never failed to produce in a
nursery, flattered him quite as much as the applause of mature critics.
He often exhibited all his powers of mimicry for the amusement of the
little Burneys, awed them by shuddering and crouching as if he saw a
ghost, scared them by raving like a maniac in St. Luke's, and then at
once became an auctioneer, a chimney-sweeper, or an old woman, and made
them laugh till the tears ran down their cheeks.

But it would be tedious to recount the names of all the men of letters
and artists whom Frances Burney had an opportunity of seeing and
hearing. Colman, Twining, Harris, Baretti, Hawkesworth, Reynolds, Barry,
were among those who occasionally surrounded the tea table and supper
tray at her father's modest dwelling. This was not all. The distinction
which Dr. Burney had acquired as a musician, and as the historian of
music, attracted to his house the most eminent musical performers of
that age. The greatest Italian singers who visited England regarded him
as the dispenser of fame in their art, and exerted themselves to obtain
his suffrage. Pachierotti became his intimate friend. The rapacious
Agujari, who sang for nobody else under fifty pounds an air, sang her
best for Dr. Burney without a fee; and in the company of Dr. Burney even
the haughty and eccentric Gabrielli constrained herself to behave with
civility. It was thus in his power to give, with scarcely any expense,
concerts equal to those of the aristocracy. On such occasions the quiet
street in which he lived was blocked up by coroneted chariots, and his
little drawing-room was crowded with peers, peeresses, ministers, and
ambassadors. On one evening, of which we happen to have a full account,
there were present Lord Mulgrave, Lord Bruce, Lord and Lady Edgecumbe,
Lord Barrington from the War Office, Lord Sandwich from the Admiralty,
Lord Ashburnham, with his gold key dangling from his pocket, and the
French Ambassador, M. de Guignes, renowned for his fine person and for
his success in gallantry. But the great show of the night was the
Russian Ambassador, Count Orloff, whose gigantic figure was all in a
blaze with jewels, and in whose demeanor the untamed ferocity of the
Scythian might be discerned through a thin varnish of French politeness.
As he stalked about the small parlor, brushing the ceiling with his
toupee, the girls whispered to each other, with mingled admiration and
horror, that he was the favored lover of his august mistress; that he
had borne the chief part in the revolution to which she owed her throne;
and that his huge hands, now glittering with diamond rings, had given
the last squeeze to the windpipe of her unfortunate husband.

With such illustrious guests as these were mingled all the most
remarkable specimens of the race of lions, a kind of game which is
hunted in London every spring with more than Meltonian ardor and
perseverance. Bruce, who had washed down steaks cut from living oxen
with water from the fountains of the Nile, came to swagger and talk
about his travels. Omai lisped broken English, and made all the
assembled musicians hold their ears by howling Otaheitean love songs,
such as those with which Oberea charmed her Opano.

With the literary and fashionable society, which occasionally met under
Dr. Burney's roof, Frances can scarcely be said to have mingled. She was
not a musician, and could therefore bear no part in the concerts. She
was shy almost to awkwardness, and scarcely ever joined in the
conversation. The slightest remark from a stranger disconcerted her; and
even the old friends of her father who tried to draw her out could
seldom extract more than a Yes or a No. Her figure was small, her face
not distinguished by beauty. She was therefore suffered to withdraw
quietly to the background, and, unobserved herself, to observe all that
passed. Her nearest relations were aware that she had good sense, but
seem not to have suspected that, under her demure and bashful
deportment, were concealed a fertile invention and a keen sense of the
ridiculous. She had not, it is true, an eye for the fine shades of
character. But every marked peculiarity instantly caught her notice and
remained engraven on her imagination. Thus while still a girl, she had
laid up such a store of materials for fiction as few of those who mix
much in the world are able to accumulate during a long life. She had
watched and listened to people of every class, from princes and great
officers of state down to artists living in garrets, and poets familiar
with subterranean cookshops. Hundreds of remarkable persons had passed
in review before her, English, French, German, Italian, lords and
fiddlers, deans of cathedrals and managers of theatres, travellers
leading about newly caught savages, and singing women escorted by deputy

So strong was the impression made on the mind of Frances by the society
which she was in the habit of seeing and hearing, that she began to
write little fictitious narratives as soon as she could use her pen with
ease, which, as we have said, was not very early. Her sisters were
amused by her stories; but Dr. Burney knew nothing of their existence;
and in another quarter her literary propensities met with serious
discouragement. When she was fifteen, her father took a second wife. The
new Mrs. Burney soon found out that her stepdaughter was fond of
scribbling, and delivered several good-natured lectures on the subject.
The advice no doubt was well meant, and might have been given by the
most judicious friend; for at that time, from causes to which we may
hereafter advert, nothing could be more disadvantageous to a young lady
than to be known as a novel-writer. Frances yielded, relinquished her
favorite pursuit, and made a bonfire of all her manuscripts.[8]

She now hemmed and stitched from breakfast to dinner with scrupulous
regularity. But the dinners of that time were early; and the afternoon
was her own. Though she had given up novel-writing she was still fond of
using her pen. She began to keep a diary, and she corresponded largely
with a person who seems to have had the chief share in the formation of
her mind. This was Samuel Crisp, an old friend of her father. His name,
well known, near a century ago, in the most splendid circles of London,
has long been forgotten. His history is, however, so interesting and
instructive, that it tempts us to venture on a digression.

Long before Frances Burney was born, Mr. Crisp had made his entrance
into the world, with every advantage. He was well connected and well
educated. His face and figure were conspicuously handsome; his manners
were polished; his fortune was easy; his character was without stain: he
lived in the best society; he had read much; he talked well; his taste
in literature, music, painting, architecture, sculpture, was held in
high esteem. Nothing that the world can give seemed to be wanting to his
happiness and respectability, except that he should understand the
limits of his powers, and should not throw away distinctions which were
within his reach in the pursuit of distinctions which were unattainable.

"It is an uncontrolled truth," says Swift, "that no man ever made an ill
figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one who mistook them."
Every day brings with it fresh illustrations of this weighty saying; but
the best commentary that we remember is the history of Samuel Crisp. Men
like him have their proper place, and it is a most important one, in the
Commonwealth of Letters. It is by the judgment of such men that the rank
of authors is finally determined. It is neither to the multitude, nor to
the few who are gifted with great creative genius, that we are to look
for sound critical decisions. The multitude, unacquainted with the best
models, are captivated by whatever stuns and dazzles them. They deserted
Mrs. Siddons to run after Master Betty; and they now prefer, we have no
doubt, Jack Sheppard to Von Artevelde. A man of great original genius,
on the other hand, a man who has attained to mastery in some high walk
of art, is by no means to be implicitly trusted as a judge of the
performances of others. The erroneous decisions pronounced by such men
are without number. It is commonly supposed that jealousy makes them
unjust. But a more creditable explanation may easily be found. The very
excellence of a work shows that some of the faculties of the author have
been developed at the expense of the rest; for it is not given to the
human intellect to expand itself widely in all directions at once, and
to be at the same time gigantic and well proportioned. Whoever becomes
preëminent in any art, nay, in any style of art, generally does so by
devoting himself with intense and exclusive enthusiasm to the pursuit of
one kind of excellence. His perception of other kinds of excellence is
therefore too often impaired. Out of his own department he praises and
blames at random, and is far less to be trusted than the mere
connoisseur, who produces nothing, and whose business is only to judge
and enjoy. One painter is distinguished by his exquisite finishing. He
toils day after day to bring the veins of a cabbage leaf, the folds of a
lace veil, the wrinkles of an old woman's face, nearer and nearer to
perfection. In the time which he employs on a square foot of canvas, a
master of a different order covers the walls of a palace with gods
burying giants under mountains, or makes the cupola of a church alive
with seraphim and martyrs. The more fervent the passion of each of these
artists for his art, the higher the merit of each in his own line, the
more unlikely it is that they will justly appreciate each other. Many
persons who never handled a pencil probably do far more justice to
Michael Angelo than would have been done by Gerard Douw, and far more
justice to Gerard Douw than would have been done by Michael Angelo.

It is the same with literature. Thousands, who have no spark of the
genius of Dryden or Wordsworth, do to Dryden the justice which has never
been done by Wordsworth, and to Wordsworth the justice which, we
suspect, would never have been done by Dryden. Gray, Johnson,
Richardson, Fielding, are all highly esteemed by the great body of
intelligent and well-informed men. But Gray could see no merit in
Rasselas; and Johnson could see no merit in the Bard. Fielding thought
Richardson a solemn prig; and Richardson perpetually expressed contempt
and disgust for Fielding's lowness.

Mr. Crisp seems, as far as we can judge, to have been a man eminently
qualified for the useful office of a connoisseur. His talents and
knowledge fitted him to appreciate justly almost every species of
intellectual superiority. As an adviser he was inestimable. Nay, he
might probably have held a respectable rank as a writer, if he would
have confined himself to some department of literature in which nothing
more than sense, taste, and reading was required. Unhappily he set his
heart on being a great poet, wrote a tragedy in five acts on the death
of Virginia, and offered it to Garrick, who was his personal friend.
Garrick read, shook his head, and expressed a doubt whether it would be
wise in Mr. Crisp to stake a reputation, which stood high, on the
success of such a piece. But the author, blinded by ambition, set in
motion a machinery such as none could long resist. His intercessors were
the most eloquent man and the most lovely woman of that generation. Pitt
was induced to read Virginia, and to pronounce it excellent. Lady
Coventry, with fingers which might have furnished a model to sculptors,
forced the manuscript into the reluctant hand of the manager; and, in
the year 1754, the play was brought forward.

Nothing that skill or friendship could do was omitted. Garrick wrote
both prologue and epilogue. The zealous friends of the author filled
every box; and by their strenuous exertions, the life of the play was
prolonged during ten nights. But, though there was no clamorous
reprobation, it was universally felt that the attempt had failed. When
Virginia was printed, the public disappointment was even greater than at
the representation. The critics, the Monthly Reviewers in particular,
fell on plot, characters, and diction without mercy, but, we fear, not
without justice. We have never met with a copy of the play; but, if we
may judge from the scene which is extracted in the Gentleman's Magazine,
and which does not appear to have been malevolently selected, we should
say that nothing but the acting of Garrick, and the partiality of the
audience, could have saved so feeble and unnatural a drama from instant

The ambition of the poet was still unsubdued. When the London season
closed, he applied himself vigorously to the work of removing blemishes.
He does not seem to have suspected, what we are strongly inclined to
suspect, that the whole piece was one blemish, and that the passages
which were meant to be fine were, in truth, bursts of that tame
extravagance into which writers fall when they set themselves to be
sublime and pathetic in spite of nature. He omitted, added, retouched,
and flattered himself with hopes of a complete success in the following
year; but in the following year, Garrick showed no disposition to bring
the amended tragedy on the stage. Solicitation and remonstrance were
tried in vain. Lady Coventry, drooping under that malady which seems
ever to select what is loveliest for its prey, could render no
assistance. The manager's language was civilly evasive; but his
resolution was inflexible.

Crisp had committed a great error; but he had escaped with a very slight
penance. His play had not been hooted from the boards. It had, on the
contrary, been better received than many very estimable performances
have been,--than Johnson's Irene, for example, or Goldsmith's
Good-Natured Man. Had Crisp been wise, he would have thought himself
happy in having purchased self-knowledge so cheap. He would have
relinquished, without vain repinings, the hope of poetical distinction,
and would have turned to the many sources of happiness which he still
possessed. Had he been, on the other hand, an unfeeling and unblushing
dunce, he would have gone on writing scores of bad tragedies in defiance
of censure and derision. But he had too much sense to risk a second
defeat, yet too little sense to bear his first defeat like a man. The
fatal delusion that he was a great dramatist had taken firm possession
of his mind. His failure he attributed to every cause except the true
one. He complained of the ill will of Garrick, who appears to have done
for the play everything that ability and zeal could do, and who, from
selfish motives, would, of course, have been well pleased if Virginia
had been as successful as the Beggar's Opera. Nay, Crisp complained of
the languor of the friends whose partiality had given him three benefit
nights to which he had no claim. He complained of the injustice of the
spectators, when, in truth, he ought to have been grateful for their
unexampled patience. He lost his temper and spirits, and became a cynic
and a hater of mankind. From London he retired to Hampton, and from
Hampton to a solitary and long-deserted mansion, built on a common in
one of the wildest tracts of Surrey. No road, not even a sheep walk,
connected his lonely dwelling with the abodes of men. The place of his
retreat was strictly concealed from his old associates. In the spring he
sometimes emerged, and was seen at exhibitions and concerts in London.
But he soon disappeared, and hid himself, with no society but his books,
in his dreary hermitage. He survived his failure about thirty years. A
new generation sprang up around him. No memory of his bad verses
remained among men. His very name was forgotten. How completely the
world had lost sight of him will appear from a single circumstance. We
looked for him in a copious Dictionary of Dramatic Authors published
while he was still alive, and we found only that Mr. Henry Crisp, of the
Custom House, had written a play called Virginia, acted in 1754. To the
last, however, the unhappy man continued to brood over the injustice of
the manager and the pit, and tried to convince himself and others that
he had missed the highest literary honors, only because he had omitted
some fine passages in compliance with Garrick's judgment. Alas, for
human nature, that the wounds of vanity should smart and bleed so much
longer than the wounds of affection! Few people, we believe, whose
nearest friends and relations died in 1754, had any acute feeling of the
loss in 1782. Dear sisters, and favorite daughters, and brides snatched
away before the honeymoon was passed, had been forgotten, or were
remembered only with a tranquil regret. But Samuel Crisp was still
mourning for his tragedy, like Rachel weeping for her children, and
would not be comforted. "Never," such was his language twenty-eight
years after his disaster, "never give up or alter a tittle unless it
perfectly coincides with your own inward feelings. I can say this to my
sorrow and my cost. But mum!" Soon after these words were written, his
life--a life which might have been eminently useful and happy--ended in
the same gloom in which, during more than a quarter of a century, it had
been passed. We have thought it worth while to rescue from oblivion this
curious fragment of literary history. It seems to us at once ludicrous,
melancholy, and full of instruction.

Crisp was an old and very intimate friend of the Burneys. To them alone
was confided the name of the desolate old hall in which he hid himself
like a wild beast in a den. For them were reserved such remains of his
humanity as had survived the failure of his play. Frances Burney he
regarded as his daughter. He called her his Fannikin; and she in return
called him her dear Daddy. In truth, he seems to have done much more
than her real parents for the development of her intellect; for though
he was a bad poet, he was a scholar, a thinker, and an excellent
counsellor. He was particularly fond of the concerts in Poland Street.
They had, indeed, been commenced at his suggestion, and when he visited
London he constantly attended them. But when he grew old, and when gout,
brought on partly by mental irritation, confined him to his retreat, he
was desirous of having a glimpse of that gay and brilliant world from
which he was exiled, and he pressed Fannikin to send him full accounts
of her father's evening parties. A few of her letters to him have been
published; and it is impossible to read them without discerning in them
all the powers which afterwards produced Evelina and Cecilia, the
quickness in catching every odd peculiarity of character and manner, the
skill in grouping, the humor, often richly comic, sometimes even

Fanny's propensity to novel-writing had for a time been kept down. It
now rose up stronger than ever. The heroes and heroines of the tales
which had perished in the flames were still present to the eye of her
mind. One favorite story, in particular, haunted her imagination. It was
about a certain Caroline Evelyn, a beautiful damsel who made an
unfortunate love match, and died, leaving an infant daughter. Frances
began to image to herself the various scenes, tragic and comic, through
which the poor motherless girl, highly connected on one side, meanly
connected on the other, might have to pass. A crowd of unreal beings,
good and bad, grave and ludicrous, surrounded the pretty, timid, young
orphan; a coarse sea captain, an ugly insolent fop, blazing in a superb
court dress; another fop, as ugly and as insolent, but lodged on Snow
Hill, and tricked out in second-hand finery for the Hampstead ball; an
old woman, all wrinkles and rouge, flirting her fan with the air of a
miss of seventeen, and screaming in a dialect made up of vulgar French
and vulgar English; a poet lean and ragged, with a broad Scotch accent.
By degrees these shadows acquired stronger and stronger consistence; the
impulse which urged Frances to write became irresistible; and the result
was the history of Evelina.

Then came, naturally enough, a wish, mingled with many fears, to appear
before the public; for, timid as Frances was, and bashful, and
altogether unaccustomed to hear her own praises, it is clear that she
wanted neither a strong passion for distinction, nor a just confidence
in her own powers. Her scheme was to become, if possible, a candidate
for fame without running any risk of disgrace. She had not money to bear
the expense of printing. It was therefore necessary that some bookseller
should be induced to take the risk; and such a bookseller was not
readily found. Dodsley refused even to look at the manuscript unless he
were entrusted with the name of the author. A publisher in Fleet Street,
named Lowndes, was more complaisant. Some correspondence took place
between this person and Miss Burney, who took the name of Grafton, and
desired that the letters addressed to her might be left at the Orange
Coffee-House. But, before the bargain was finally struck, Fanny thought
it her duty to obtain her father's consent. She told him that she had
written a book, that she wished to have his permission to publish it
anonymously, but that she hoped that he would not insist upon seeing it.
What followed may serve to illustrate what we meant when we said that
Mr. Burney was as bad a father as so good-hearted a man could possibly
be. It never seems to have crossed his mind that Fanny was about to take
a step on which the whole happiness of her life might depend, a step
which might raise her to an honorable eminence, or cover her with
ridicule and contempt. Several people had already been trusted, and
strict concealment was therefore not to be expected. On so grave an
occasion, it was surely his duty to give his best counsel to his
daughter, to win her confidence, to prevent her from exposing herself if
her book were a bad one, and, if it were a good one, to see that the
terms which she made with the publisher were likely to be beneficial to
her. Instead of this, he only stared, burst out a-laughing, kissed her,
gave her leave to do as she liked, and never even asked the name of her
work. The contract with Lowndes was speedily concluded. Twenty pounds
were given for the copyright, and were accepted by Fanny with delight.
Her father's inexcusable neglect of his duty happily caused her no
worse evil than the loss of twelve or fifteen hundred pounds.

After many delays Evelina appeared in January, 1778. Poor Fanny was sick
with terror, and durst hardly stir out of doors. Some days passed before
anything was heard of the book. It had, indeed, nothing but its own
merits to push it into public favor. Its author was unknown. The house
by which it was published was not, we believe, held in high estimation.
No body of partisans had been engaged to applaud. The better class of
readers expected little from a novel about a young lady's entrance into
the world. There was, indeed, at that time a disposition among the most
respectable people to condemn novels generally; nor was this disposition
by any means without excuse; for works of that sort were then almost
always silly, and very frequently wicked.

Soon, however, the first faint accents of praise began to be heard. The
keepers of the circulating libraries reported that everybody was asking
for Evelina, and that some person had guessed Anstey to be the author.
Then came a favorable notice in the London Review; then another still
more favorable in the Monthly. And now the book found its way to tables
which had seldom been polluted by marble-covered volumes. Scholars and
statesmen, who contemptuously abandoned the crowd of romances to Miss
Lydia Languish and Miss Sukey Saunter, were not ashamed to own that they
could not tear themselves away from Evelina. Fine carriages and rich
liveries, not often seen east of Temple Bar, were attracted to the
publisher's shop in Fleet Street. Lowndes was daily questioned about the
author, but was himself as much in the dark as any of the questioners.
The mystery, however, could not remain a mystery long. It was known to
brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins; and they were far too proud and
too happy to be discreet. Dr. Burney wept over the book in rapture.
Daddy Crisp shook his fist at his Fannikin in affectionate anger at not
having been admitted to her confidence. The truth was whispered to Mrs.
Thrale; and then it began to spread fast.

The book had been admired while it was ascribed to men of letters long
conversant with the world, and accustomed to composition. But when it
was known that a reserved, silent young woman had produced the best work
of fiction that had appeared since the death of Smollett, the
acclamations were redoubled. What she had done was, indeed,
extraordinary. But, as usual, various reports improved the story till it
became miraculous. Evelina, it was said, was the work of a girl of
seventeen. Incredible as this tale was, it continued to be repeated down
to our own time. Frances was too honest to confirm it. Probably she was
too much a woman to contradict it; and it was long before any of her
detractors thought of this mode of annoyance. Yet there was no want of
low minds and bad hearts in the generation which witnessed her first
appearance. There was the envious Kenrick and the savage Wolcot, the asp
George Steevens, and the polecat John Williams. It did not, however,
occur to them to search the parish register of Lynn, in order that they
might be able to twit a lady with having concealed her age. That truly
chivalrous exploit was reserved for a bad writer of our own time, whose
spite she had provoked by not furnishing him with materials for a
worthless edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, some sheets of which our
readers have doubtless seen round parcels of better books.

But we must return to our story. The triumph was complete. The timid and
obscure girl found herself on the highest pinnacle of fame. Great men,
on whom she had gazed at a distance with humble reverence, addressed her
with admiration, tempered by the tenderness due to her sex and age.
Burke, Windham, Gibbon, Reynolds, Sheridan, were among her most ardent
eulogists. Cumberland acknowledged her merit, after his fashion, by
biting his lips and wriggling in his chair whenever her name was
mentioned. But it was at Streatham that she tasted, in the highest
perfection, the sweets of flattery, mingled with the sweets of
friendship. Mrs. Thrale, then at the height of prosperity and
popularity, with gay spirits, quick wit, showy though superficial
acquirements, pleasing though not refined manners, a singularly amiable
temper, and a loving heart, felt towards Fanny as towards a younger
sister. With the Thrales Johnson was domesticated. He was an old friend
of Dr. Burney; but he had probably taken little notice of Dr. Burney's
daughters, and Fanny, we imagine, had never in her life dared to speak
to him, unless to ask whether he wanted a nineteenth or a twentieth cup
of tea. He was charmed by her tale, and preferred it to the novels of
Fielding, to whom, indeed, he had always been grossly unjust. He did
not, indeed, carry his partiality so far as to place Evelina by the side
of Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison; yet he said that his little
favorite had done enough to have made even Richardson feel uneasy. With
Johnson's cordial approbation of the book was mingled a fondness, half
gallant, half paternal, for the writer; and this fondness his age and
character entitled him to show without restraint. He began by putting
her hand to his lips. But he soon clasped her in his huge arms, and
implored her to be a good girl. She was his pet, his dear love, his dear
little Burney, his little character-monger. At one time, he broke forth
in praise of the good taste of her caps. At another time he insisted on
teaching her Latin. That, with all his coarseness and irritability, he
was a man of sterling benevolence has long been acknowledged. But how
gentle and endearing his deportment could be was not known till the
Recollections of Madame D'Arblay were published.

We have mentioned a few of the most eminent of those who paid their
homage to the author of Evelina. The crowd of inferior admirers would
require a catalogue as long as that in the second book of the Iliad. In
that catalogue would be Mrs. Cholmondeley, the sayer of odd things, and
Seward, much given to yawning, and Baretti, who slew the man in the
Haymarket, and Paoli, talking broken English, and Langton, taller by the
head than any other member of the club, and Lady Millar, who kept a vase
wherein fools were wont to put bad verses, and Jerningham, who wrote
verses fit to be put into the vase of Lady Millar, and Dr. Franklin,
not, as some have dreamed, the great Pennsylvanian Dr. Franklin, who
could not then have paid his respects to Miss Burney without much risk
of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, but Dr. Franklin the less,

    meiôn, outi tosos ge hosos Telamônios Aias,
    alla poly meiôn.]

It would not have been surprising if such success had turned even a
strong head, and corrupted even a generous and affectionate nature. But,
in the Diary, we can find no trace of any feeling inconsistent with a
truly modest and amiable disposition. There is, indeed, abundant proof
that Frances enjoyed with an intense, though a troubled, joy the honors
which her genius had won; but it is equally clear that her happiness
sprang from the happiness of her father, her sister, and her dear Daddy
Crisp. While flattered by the great, the opulent, and the learned, while
followed along the Steyne at Brighton, and the Pantiles at Tunbridge
Wells, by the gaze of admiring crowds, her heart seems to have been
still with the little domestic circle in St. Martin's Street. If she
recorded with minute diligence all the compliments, delicate and coarse,
which she heard wherever she turned, she recorded them for the eyes of
two or three persons who had loved her from infancy, who had loved her
in obscurity, and to whom her fame gave the purest and most exquisite
delight. Nothing can be more unjust than to confound these outpourings
of a kind heart, sure of perfect sympathy, with the egotism of a
blue-stocking, who prates to all who come near her about her own novel
or her own volume of sonnets.

It was natural that the triumphant issue of Miss Burney's first venture
should tempt her to try a second. Evelina, though it had raised her
fame, had added nothing to her fortune. Some of her friends urged her to
write for the stage. Johnson promised to give her his advice as to the
composition. Murphy, who was supposed to understand the temper of the
pit as well as any man of his time, undertook to instruct her as to
stage effect. Sheridan declared that he would accept a play from her
without even reading it. Thus encouraged, she wrote a comedy named The
Witlings. Fortunately it was never acted or printed. We can, we think,
easily perceive, from the little which is said on the subject in the
Diary, that The Witlings would have been damned, and that Murphy and
Sheridan thought so, though they were too polite to say so. Happily
Frances had a friend who was not afraid to give her pain. Crisp, wiser
for her than he had been for himself, read the manuscript in his lonely
retreat, and manfully told her that she had failed, that to remove
blemishes here and there would be useless, that the piece had abundance
of wit, but no interest, that it was bad as a whole, that it would
remind every reader of the Femmes Savantes, which, strange to say, she
had never read, and that she could not sustain so close a comparison
with Molière. This opinion, in which Dr. Burney concurred, was sent to
Frances, in what she called "a hissing, groaning, catcalling epistle."
But she had too much sense not to know that it was better to be hissed
and catcalled by her Daddy, than by a whole sea of heads in the pit of
Drury Lane Theatre; and she had too good a heart not to be grateful for
so rare an act of friendship. She returned an answer, which shows how
well she deserved to have a judicious, faithful, and affectionate
adviser. "I intend," she wrote, "to console myself for your censure by
this greatest proof I have ever received of the sincerity, candor, and,
let me add, esteem, of my dear daddy. And as I happen to love myself
more than my play, this consolation is not a very trifling one. This,
however, seriously I do believe, that when my two daddies put their
heads together to concert that hissing, groaning, catcalling epistle
they sent me, they felt as sorry for poor little Miss Bayes as she could
possibly do for herself. You see I do not attempt to repay your
frankness with an air of pretended carelessness. But, though somewhat
disconcerted just now, I will promise not to let my vexation live out
another day. Adieu, my dear daddy, I won't be mortified, and I won't be
_downed_; but I will be proud to find I have, out of my own family, as
well as in it, a friend who loves me well enough to speak plain truth to

Frances now turned from her dramatic schemes to an undertaking far
better suited to her talents. She determined to write a new tale, on a
plan excellently contrived for the display of the powers in which her
superiority to other writers lay. It was in truth a grand and various
picture gallery, which presented to the eye a long series of men and
women, each marked by some strong peculiar feature. There were avarice
and prodigality, the pride of blood and the pride of money, morbid
restlessness and morbid apathy, frivolous garrulity, supercilious
silence, a Democritus to laugh at everything, and a Heraclitus to lament
over everything. The work proceeded fast, and in twelve months was
completed. It wanted something of the simplicity which had been among
the most attractive charms of Evelina; but it furnished ample proof that
the four years which had elapsed since Evelina appeared had not been
unprofitably spent. Those who saw Cecilia in manuscript pronounced it
the best novel of the age. Mrs. Thrale laughed and wept over it. Crisp
was even vehement in applause, and offered to insure the rapid and
complete success of the book for half a crown. What Miss Burney
received for the copyright is not mentioned in the Diary; but we have
observed several expressions from which we infer that the sum was
considerable. That the sale would be great nobody could doubt; and
Frances now had shrewd and experienced advisers, who would not suffer
her to wrong herself. We have been told that the publishers gave her two
thousand pounds, and we have no doubt that they might have given a still
larger sum without being losers.

Cecilia was published in the summer of 1782. The curiosity of the town
was intense. We have been informed by persons who remember those days
that no romance of Sir Walter Scott was more impatiently awaited, or
more eagerly snatched from the counters of the booksellers. High as
public expectation was, it was amply satisfied; and Cecilia was placed,
by general acclamation, among the classical novels of England.

Miss Burney was now thirty. Her youth had been singularly prosperous;
but clouds soon began to gather over that clear and radiant dawn. Events
deeply painful to a heart so kind as that of Frances followed each other
in rapid succession. She was first called upon to attend the deathbed of
her best friend, Samuel Crisp. When she returned to St. Martin's Street,
after performing this melancholy duty, she was appalled by hearing that
Johnson had been struck with paralysis; and, not many months later, she
parted from him for the last time with solemn tenderness. He wished to
look on her once more; and on the day before his death she long remained
in tears on the stairs leading to his bedroom, in the hope that she
might be called in to receive his blessing. He was then sinking fast,
and though he sent her an affectionate message, was unable to see her.
But this was not the worst. There are separations far more cruel than
those which are made by death. She might weep with proud affection for
Crisp and Johnson. She had to blush as well as to weep for Mrs. Thrale.

Life, however, still smiled upon Frances. Domestic happiness,
friendship, independence, leisure, letters, all these things were hers;
and she flung them all away.

Among the distinguished persons to whom she had been introduced, none
appears to have stood higher in her regard than Mrs. Delany. This lady
was an interesting and venerable relic of a past age. She was the niece
of George Granville, Lord Lansdowne, who, in his youth, exchanged verses
and compliments with Edmund Waller, and who was among the first to
applaud the opening genius of Pope. She had married Dr. Delany, a man
known to his contemporaries as a profound scholar and an eloquent
preacher, but remembered in our time chiefly as one of that small circle
in which the fierce spirit of Swift, tortured by disappointed ambition,
by remorse, and by the approaches of madness, sought for amusement and
repose. Dr. Delany had long been dead. His widow, nobly descended,
eminently accomplished, and retaining, in spite of the infirmities of
advanced age, the vigor of her faculties and the serenity of her temper,
enjoyed and deserved the favor of the royal family. She had a pension of
three hundred a year; and a house at Windsor, belonging to the Crown,
had been fitted up for her accommodation. At this house the King and
Queen sometimes called, and found a very natural pleasure in thus
catching an occasional glimpse of the private life of English families.

In December, 1785, Miss Burney was on a visit to Mrs. Delany at Windsor.
The dinner was over. The old lady was taking a nap. Her grandniece, a
little girl of seven, was playing at some Christmas game with the
visitors, when the door opened, and a stout gentleman entered
unannounced, with a star on his breast, and "What? what? what?" in his
mouth. A cry of "The King!" was set up. A general scampering followed.
Miss Burney owns that she could not have been more terrified if she had
seen a ghost. But Mrs. Delany came forward to pay her duty to her royal
friend, and the disturbance was quieted. Frances was then presented, and
underwent a long examination and cross-examination about all that she
had written and all that she meant to write. The Queen soon made her
appearance, and his Majesty repeated, for the benefit of his consort,
the information which he had extracted from Miss Burney. The good nature
of the royal pair might have softened even the authors of the
Probationary Odes, and could not but be delightful to a young lady who
had been brought up a Tory. In a few days the visit was repeated. Miss
Burney was more at ease than before. His Majesty, instead of seeking for
information, condescended to impart it, and passed sentence on many
great writers, English and foreign. Voltaire he pronounced a monster.
Rousseau he liked rather better. "But was there ever," he cried, "such
stuff as great part of Shakespeare? Only one must not say so. But what
think you? What? Is there not sad stuff? What? What?"

The next day Frances enjoyed the privilege of listening to some equally
valuable criticism uttered by the Queen touching Goethe and Klopstock,
and might have learned an important lesson of economy from the mode in
which her Majesty's library had been formed. "I picked the book up on a
stall," said the Queen. "Oh, it is amazing what good books there are on
stalls!" Mrs. Delany, who seems to have understood from these words that
her Majesty was in the habit of exploring the booths of Moorfields and
Holywell Street in person, could not suppress an exclamation of
surprise. "Why," said the Queen, "I don't pick them up myself. But I
have a servant very clever; and, if they are not to be had at the
booksellers', they are not for me more than for another." Miss Burney
describes this conversation as delightful; and, indeed, we cannot wonder
that, with her literary tastes, she should be delighted at hearing in
how magnificent a manner the greatest lady in the land encouraged

The truth is, that Frances was fascinated by the condescending kindness
of the two great personages to whom she had been presented. Her father
was even more infatuated than herself. The result was a step of which we
cannot think with patience, but which, recorded as it is, with all its
consequences, in these volumes, deserves at least this praise, that it
has furnished a most impressive warning.

A German lady of the name of Haggerdorn, one of the keepers of the
Queen's robes, retired about this time; and her Majesty offered the
vacant post to Miss Burney. When we consider that Miss Burney was
decidedly the most popular writer of fictitious narrative then living,
that competence, if not opulence, was within her reach, and that she was
more than usually happy in her domestic circle, and when we compare the
sacrifice which she was invited to make with the remuneration which was
held out to her, we are divided between laughter and indignation.

What was demanded of her was that she should consent to be almost as
completely separated from her family and friends as if she had gone to
Calcutta, and almost as close a prisoner as if she had been sent to jail
for a libel; that with talents which had instructed and delighted the
highest living minds, she should now be employed only in mixing snuff
and sticking pins; that she should be summoned by a waiting woman's bell
to a waiting woman's duties; that she should pass her whole life under
the restraints of a paltry etiquette, should sometimes fast till she was
ready to swoon with hunger, should sometimes stand till her knees gave
way with fatigue; that she should not dare to speak or move without
considering how her mistress might like her words and gestures. Instead
of those distinguished men and women, the flower of all political
parties, with whom she had been in the habit of mixing on terms of equal
friendship, she was to have for her perpetual companion the chief keeper
of the robes, an old hag from Germany, of mean understanding, of
insolent manners, and of temper which, naturally savage, had now been
exasperated by disease. Now and then, indeed, poor Frances might console
herself for the loss of Burke's and Windham's society, by joining in the
"celestial colloquy sublime" of his Majesty's Equerries.

And what was the consideration for which she was to sell herself to this
slavery? A peerage in her own right? A pension of two thousand a year
for life? A seventy-four for her brother in the navy? A deanery for her
brother in the church? Not so. The price at which she was valued was her
board, her lodging, the attendance of a manservant, and two hundred
pounds a year.

The man who, even when hard pressed by hunger, sells his birthright for
a mess of pottage, is unwise. But what shall we say of him who parts
with his birthright, and does not get even the pottage in return? It is
not necessary to inquire whether opulence be an adequate compensation
for the sacrifice of bodily and mental freedom; for Frances Burney paid
for leave to be a prisoner and a menial. It was evidently understood as
one of the terms of her engagement that, while she was a member of the
royal household, she was not to appear before the public as an author;
and even had there been no such understanding, her avocations were such
as left her no leisure for any considerable intellectual effort. That
her place was incompatible with her literary pursuits was indeed frankly
acknowledged by the King when she resigned. "She has given up," he said,
"five years of her pen." That during those five years she might, without
painful exertion, without any exertion that would not have been a
pleasure, have earned enough to buy an annuity for life much larger than
the precarious salary which she received at court, is quite certain. The
same income, too, which in St. Martin's Street would have afforded her
every comfort, must have been found scanty at St. James's. We cannot
venture to speak confidently of the price of millinery and jewelry; but
we are greatly deceived if a lady, who had to attend Queen Charlotte on
many public occasions, could possibly save a farthing out of a salary of
two hundred a year. The principle of the arrangement was, in short,
simply this, that Frances Burney should become a slave, and should be
rewarded by being made a beggar.

With what object their Majesties brought her to their palace, we must
own ourselves unable to conceive. Their object could not be to encourage
her literary exertions; for they took her from a situation in which it
was almost certain that she would write, and put her into a situation in
which it was impossible for her to write. Their object could not be to
promote her pecuniary interest; for they took her from a situation where
she was likely to become rich, and put her into a situation in which she
could not but continue poor. Their object could not be to obtain an
eminently useful waiting maid; for it is clear that, though Miss Burney
was the only woman of her time who could have described the death of
Harrel, thousands might have been found more expert in tying ribbons and
filling snuff-boxes. To grant her a pension on the civil list would have
been an act of judicious liberality, honorable to the court. If this was
impracticable, the next best thing was to let her alone. That the King
and Queen meant her nothing but kindness, we do not in the least doubt.
But their kindness was the kindness of persons raised high above the
mass of mankind, accustomed to be addressed with profound deference,
accustomed to see all who approach them mortified by their coldness and
elated by their smiles. They fancied that to be noticed by them, to be
near them, to serve them, was in itself a kind of happiness; and that
Frances Burney ought to be full of gratitude for being permitted to
purchase, by the surrender of health, wealth, freedom, domestic
affection, and literary fame, the privilege of standing behind a royal
chair, and holding a pair of royal gloves.

And who can blame them? Who can wonder that princes should be under such
a delusion, when they are encouraged in it by the very persons who
suffer from it most cruelly? Was it to be expected that George the Third
and Queen Charlotte should understand the interest of Frances Burney
better, or promote it with more zeal, than herself and her father? No
deception was practised. The conditions of the house of bondage were set
forth with all simplicity. The hook was presented without a bait; the
net was spread in sight of the bird; and the naked hook was greedily
swallowed; and the silly bird made haste to entangle herself in the net.

It is not strange indeed that an invitation to court should have caused
a fluttering in the bosom of an inexperienced young woman. But it was
the duty of the parent to watch over the child, and to show her that on
one side were only infantine vanities and chimerical hopes, on the other
liberty, peace of mind, affluence, social enjoyments, honorable
distinctions. Strange to say, the only hesitation was on the part of
Frances. Dr. Burney was transported out of himself with delight. Not
such are the raptures of a Circassian father who has sold his pretty
daughter well to a Turkish slave-merchant. Yet Dr. Burney was an amiable
man, a man of good abilities, a man who had seen much of the world. But
he seems to have thought that going to court was like going to heaven;
that to see princes and princesses was a kind of beatific vision; that
the exquisite felicity enjoyed by royal persons was not confined to
themselves, but was communicated by some mysterious efflux or reflection
to all who were suffered to stand at their toilettes, or to bear their
trains. He overruled all his daughter's objections, and himself escorted
her to her prison. The door closed. The key was turned. She, looking
back with tender regret on all that she had left, and forward with
anxiety and terror to the new life on which she was entering, was unable
to speak or stand; and he went on his way homeward rejoicing in her
marvellous prosperity.

And now began a slavery of five years, of five years taken from the best
part of life, and wasted in menial drudgery or in recreations duller
than even menial drudgery, under galling restraints and amidst
unfriendly or uninteresting companions. The history of an ordinary day
was this. Miss Burney had to rise and dress herself early, that she
might be ready to answer the royal bell, which rang at half after seven.
Till about eight she attended in the Queen's dressing-room, and had the
honor of lacing her august mistress's stays, and of putting on the hoop,
gown, and neck-handkerchief. The morning was chiefly spent in rummaging
drawers and laying fine clothes in their proper places. Then the Queen
was to be powdered and dressed for the day. Twice a week her Majesty's
hair was curled and craped; and this operation appears to have added a
full hour to the business of the toilette. It was generally three before
Miss Burney was at liberty. Then she had two hours at her own disposal.
To these hours we owe great part of her Diary. At five she had to attend
her colleague, Madame Schwellenberg, a hateful old toadeater, as
illiterate as a chambermaid, as proud as a whole German Chapter, rude,
peevish, unable to bear solitude, unable to conduct herself with common
decency in society. With this delightful associate, Frances Burney had
to dine, and pass the evening. The pair generally remained together from
five to eleven, and often had no other company the whole time, except
during the hour from eight to nine, when the equerries came to tea. If
poor Frances attempted to escape to her own apartment, and to forget her
wretchedness over a book, the execrable old woman railed and stormed,
and complained that she was neglected. Yet, when Frances stayed, she was
constantly assailed with insolent reproaches. Literary fame was, in the
eyes of the German crone, a blemish, a proof that the person who enjoyed
it was meanly born, and out of the pale of good society. All her scanty
stock of broken English was employed to express the contempt with which
she regarded the author of Evelina and Cecilia. Frances detested cards,
and indeed knew nothing about them; but she soon found that the least
miserable way of passing an evening with Madame Schwellenberg was at the
card-table, and consented, with patient sadness, to give hours, which
might have called forth the laughter and the tears of many generations,
to the king of clubs and the knave of spades. Between eleven and twelve
the bell rang again. Miss Burney had to pass twenty minutes or half an
hour in undressing the Queen, and was then at liberty to retire and to
dream that she was chatting with her brother by the quiet hearth in St.
Martin's Street, that she was the centre of an admiring assemblage at
Mrs. Crewe's, that Burke was calling her the first woman of the age, or
that Dilly was giving her a cheque for two thousand guineas.

Men, we must suppose, are less patient than women; for we are utterly at
a loss to conceive how any human being could endure such a life, while
there remained a vacant garret in Grub Street, a crossing in want of a
sweeper, a parish workhouse, or a parish vault. And it was for such a
life that Frances Burney had given up liberty and peace, a happy
fireside, attached friends, a wide and splendid circle of acquaintance,
intellectual pursuits in which she was qualified to excel, and the sure
hope of what to her would have been affluence.

There is nothing new under the sun. The last great master of Attic
eloquence and Attic wit has left us a forcible and touching description
of the misery of a man of letters, who, lured by hopes similar to those
of Frances, had entered the service of one of the magnates of Rome.
"Unhappy that I am," cries the victim of his own childish ambition;
"would nothing content me but that I must leave mine old pursuits and
mine old companions, and the life which was without care, and the sleep
which had no limit save mine own pleasure, and the walks which I was
free to take where I listed, and fling myself into the lowest pit of a
dungeon like this? And, O God! for what? Was there no way by which I
might have enjoyed in freedom comforts even greater than those which I
now earn by servitude? Like a lion which has been made so tame that men
may lead him about by a thread, I am dragged up and down, with broken
and humbled spirit, at the heels of those to whom, in mine own domain, I
should have been an object of awe and wonder. And, worst of all, I feel
that here I gain no credit, that here I give no pleasure. The talents
and accomplishments which charmed a far different circle are here out of
place. I am rude in the arts of palaces, and can ill bear comparison
with those whose calling, from their youth up, has been to flatter and
to sue. Have I, then, two lives, that, after I have wasted one in the
service of others, there may yet remain to me a second, which I may live
unto myself?"

Now and then, indeed, events occurred which disturbed the wretched
monotony of Frances Burney's life. The Court moved from Kew to Windsor,
and from Windsor back to Kew. One dull colonel went out of waiting, and
another dull colonel came into waiting. An impertinent servant made a
blunder about tea, and caused a misunderstanding between the gentlemen
and the ladies. A half-witted French Protestant minister talked oddly
about conjugal fidelity. An unlucky member of the household mentioned a
passage in the Morning Herald reflecting on the Queen; and forthwith
Madame Schwellenberg began to storm in bad English, and told him that he
made her "what you call perspire!"

A more important occurrence was the King's visit to Oxford. Miss Burney
went in the royal train to Nuneham, was utterly neglected there in the
crowd, and could with difficulty find a servant to show the way to her
bedroom, or a hairdresser to arrange her curls. She had the honor of
entering Oxford in the last of a long string of carriages which formed
the royal procession, of walking after the Queen all day through
refectories and chapels, and of standing, half dead with fatigue and
hunger, while her august mistress was seated at an excellent cold
collation. At Magdalene College, Frances was left for a moment in a
parlor, where she sank down on a chair. A good-natured equerry saw that
she was exhausted, and shared with her some apricots and bread, which he
had wisely put into his pockets. At that moment the door opened; the
Queen entered; the wearied attendants sprang up; the bread and fruit
were hastily concealed. "I found," says poor Miss Burney, "that our
appetites were to be supposed annihilated, at the same moment that our
strength was to be invincible."

Yet Oxford, seen even under such disadvantages, "revived in her," to use
her own words, "a consciousness to pleasure which had long lain nearly
dormant." She forgot, during one moment, that she was a waiting maid,
and felt as a woman of true genius might be expected to feel amidst
venerable remains of antiquity, beautiful works of art, vast
repositories of knowledge, and memorials of the illustrious dead. Had
she still been what she was before her father induced her to take the
most fatal step of her life, we can easily imagine what pleasure she
would have derived from a visit to the noblest of English cities. She
might, indeed, have been forced to travel in a hack chaise, and might
not have worn so fine a gown of Chambery gauze as that in which she
tottered after the royal party; but with what delight would she have
then paced the cloisters of Magdalene, compared the antique gloom of
Merton with the splendor of Christ Church, and looked down from the dome
of the Radcliffe Library on the magnificent sea of turrets and
battlements below! How gladly would learned men have laid aside for a
few hours Pindar's Odes and Aristotle's Ethics, to escort the author of
Cecilia from college to college! What neat little banquets would she
have found set out in their monastic cells! With what eagerness would
pictures, medals, and illuminated missals have been brought forth from
the most mysterious cabinets for her amusement! How much she would have
had to hear and to tell about Johnson, as she walked over Pembroke, and
about Reynolds, in the antechapel of New College! But these indulgences
were not for one who had sold herself into bondage.

About eighteen months after the visit to Oxford, another event
diversified the wearisome life which Frances led at court. Warren
Hastings was brought to the bar of the House of Peers. The Queen and
Princesses were present when the trial commenced, and Miss Burney was
permitted to attend. During the subsequent proceedings a day rule for
the same purpose was occasionally granted to her; for the Queen took the
strongest interest in the trial, and when she could not go herself to
Westminster Hall, liked to receive a report of what had passed from a
person who had singular powers of observation, and who was, moreover,
acquainted with some of the most distinguished managers. The portion of
the Diary which relates to this celebrated proceeding is lively and
picturesque. Yet we read it, we own, with pain; for it seems to us to
prove that the fine understanding of Frances Burney was beginning to
feel the pernicious influence of a mode of life which is as incompatible
with health of mind as the air of the Pontine marshes with health of
body. From the first day she espouses the cause of Hastings with a
presumptuous vehemence and acrimony quite inconsistent with the modesty
and suavity of her ordinary deportment. She shudders when Burke enters
the hall at the head of the Commons. She pronounces him the cruel
oppressor of an innocent man. She is at a loss to conceive how the
managers can look at the defendant, and not blush. Windham comes to her
from the managers' box, to offer her refreshment. "But," says she, "I
could not break bread with him." Then, again, she exclaims, "Ah, Mr.
Windham, how came you ever engaged in so cruel, so unjust a cause?" "Mr.
Burke saw me," she says, "and he bowed with the most marked civility of
manner." This, be it observed, was just after his opening speech,--a
speech which had produced a mighty effect, and which, certainly, no
other orator that ever lived could have made. "My curtsy," she
continues, "was the most ungrateful, distant, and cold; I could not do
otherwise; so hurt I felt to see him the head of such a cause." Now, not
only had Burke treated her with constant kindness, but the very last act
which he performed on the day on which he was turned out of the Pay
Office, about four years before this trial, was to make Dr. Burney
organist of Chelsea Hospital. When, at the Westminster election, Dr.
Burney was divided between his gratitude for this favor and his Tory
opinions, Burke in the noblest manner disclaimed all right to exact a
sacrifice of principle. "You have little or no obligations to me," he
wrote; "but if you had as many as I really wish it were in my power, as
it is certainly in my desire, to lay on you, I hope you do not think me
capable of conferring them, in order to subject your mind or your
affairs to a painful and mischievous servitude." Was this a man to be
uncivilly treated by a daughter of Dr. Burney, because she chose to
differ from him respecting a vast and most complicated question, which
he had studied deeply during many years, and which she had never studied
at all? It is clear, from Miss Burney's own narrative, that, when she
behaved so unkindly to Mr. Burke, she did not even know of what Hastings
was accused. One thing, however, she must have known, that Burke had
been able to convince a House of Commons, bitterly prejudiced against
himself, that the charges were well founded, and that Pitt and Dundas
had concurred with Fox and Sheridan in supporting the impeachment.
Surely a woman of far inferior abilities to Miss Burney might have been
expected to see that this never could have happened unless there had
been a strong case against the late Governor General. And there was, as
all reasonable men now admit, a strong case against him. That there were
great public services to be set off against his great crimes is
perfectly true. But his services and his crimes were equally unknown to
the lady who so confidently asserted his perfect innocence and imputed
to his accusers, that is to say, to all the greatest men of all parties
in the state, not merely error, but gross injustice and barbarity.

She had, it is true, occasionally seen Mr. Hastings, and had found his
manners and conversation agreeable. But surely she could not be so weak
as to infer from the gentleness of his deportment in a drawing-room,
that he was incapable of committing a great state crime, under the
influence of ambition and revenge. A silly Miss, fresh from a boarding
school, might fall into such a mistake; but the woman who had drawn the
character of Mr. Monckton should have known better.

The truth is that she had been too long at Court. She was sinking into a
slavery worse than that of the body. The iron was beginning to enter
into the soul. Accustomed during many months to watch the eye of a
mistress, to receive with boundless gratitude the slightest mark of
royal condescension, to feel wretched at every symptom of royal
displeasure to associate only with spirits long tamed and broken in, she
was degenerating into something fit for her place. Queen Charlotte was a
violent partisan of Hastings, had received presents from him, and had so
far departed from the severity of her virtue as to lend her countenance
to his wife, whose conduct had certainly been as reprehensible as that
of any of the frail beauties who were then rigidly excluded from the
English Court. The King, it was well known, took the same side. To the
King and Queen all the members of the household looked submissively for
guidance. The impeachment, therefore, was an atrocious persecution; the
managers were rascals; the defendant was the most deserving and the
worst used man in the kingdom. This was the cant of the whole palace,
from Gold Stick in Waiting, down to the Table-Deckers and Yeomen of the
Silver Scullery; and Miss Burney canted like the rest, though in
livelier tones, and with less bitter feelings.

The account which she has given of the King's illness contains much
excellent narrative and description, and will, we think, be as much
valued by the historians of a future age as any equal portion of Pepys's
or Evelyn's Diaries. That account shows also how affectionate and
compassionate her nature was. But it shows also, we must say, that her
way of life was rapidly impairing her powers of reasoning and her sense
of justice. We do not mean to discuss, in this place, the question,
whether the views of Mr. Pitt or those of Mr. Fox respecting the regency
were the more correct. It is, indeed, quite needless to discuss that
question, for the censure of Miss Burney falls alike on Pitt and Fox, on
majority and minority. She is angry with the House of Commons for
presuming to inquire whether the King was mad or not, and whether there
was a chance of his recovering his senses. "A melancholy day," she
writes; "news bad both at home and abroad. At home the dear unhappy King
still worse; abroad new examinations voted of the physicians. Good
heavens! what an insult does this seem from parliamentary power, to
investigate and bring forth to the world every circumstance of such a
malady as is ever held sacred to secrecy in the most private families!
How indignant we all feel here, no words can say." It is proper to
observe, that the motion which roused all this indignation at Kew was
made by Mr. Pitt himself. We see, therefore, that the loyalty of the
minister, who was then generally regarded as the most heroic champion of
his Prince, was lukewarm indeed when compared with the boiling zeal
which filled the pages of the backstairs and the women of the
bedchamber. Of the Regency bill, Pitt's own bill, Miss Burney speaks
with horror. "I shuddered," she says, "to hear it named." And again,
"Oh, how dreadful will be the day when that unhappy bill takes place! I
cannot approve the plan of it." The truth is that Mr. Pitt, whether a
wise and upright statesman or not, was a statesman; and whatever motives
he might have for imposing restrictions on the regent, felt that in some
way or other there must be some provision made for the execution of some
part of the kingly office, or that no government would be left in the
country. But this was a matter of which the household never thought. It
never occurred, as far as we can see, to the Exons and Keepers of the
Robes, that it was necessary that there should be somewhere or other a
power in the state to pass laws, to preserve order, to pardon criminals,
to fill up offices, to negotiate with foreign governments, to command
the army and navy. Nay, these enlightened politicians, and Miss Burney
among the rest, seem to have thought that any person who considered the
subject with reference to the public interest showed himself to be a
bad-hearted man. Nobody wonders at this in a gentleman usher; but it is
melancholy to see genius sinking into such debasement.

During more than two years after the King's recovery, Frances dragged on
a miserable existence at the palace. The consolations, which had for a
time mitigated the wretchedness of servitude, were one by one withdrawn.
Mrs. Delany, whose society had been a great resource when the Court was
at Windsor, was now dead. One of the gentlemen of the royal
establishment, Colonel Digby, appears to have been a man of sense, of
taste, of some reading, and of prepossessing manners. Agreeable
associates were scarce in the prison house, and he and Miss Burney
therefore naturally became attached to each other. She owns that she
valued him as a friend; and it would not have been strange if his
attentions had led her to entertain for him a sentiment warmer than
friendship. He quitted the Court, and married in a way which astonished
Miss Burney greatly, and which evidently wounded her feelings, and
lowered him in her esteem. The palace grew duller and duller; Madame
Schwellenberg became more and more savage and insolent; and now the
health of poor Frances began to give way; and all who saw her pale face,
her emaciated figure, and her feeble walk, predicted that her sufferings
would soon be over.

Frances uniformly speaks of her royal mistress, and of the princesses,
with respect and affection. The princesses seem to have well deserved
all the praise which is bestowed on them in the Diary. They were, we
doubt not, most amiable women. But "the sweet Queen," as she is
constantly called in these volumes, is not by any means an object of
admiration to us. She had undoubtedly sense enough to know what kind of
deportment suited her high station, and self-command enough to maintain
that deportment invariably. She was, in her intercourse with Miss
Burney, generally gracious and affable, sometimes, when displeased, cold
and reserved, but never, under any circumstances, rude, peevish, or
violent. She knew how to dispense, gracefully and skilfully, those
little civilities which, when paid by a sovereign, are prized at many
times their intrinsic value; how to pay a compliment; how to lend a
book; how to ask after a relation. But she seems to have been utterly
regardless of the comfort, the health, the life of her attendants, when
her own convenience was concerned. Weak, feverish, hardly able to stand,
Frances had still to rise before seven, in order to dress the sweet
Queen, and to sit up till midnight, in order to undress the sweet Queen.
The indisposition of the handmaid could not, and did not, escape the
notice of her royal mistress. But the established doctrine of the Court
was, that all sickness was to be considered as a pretence until it
proved fatal. The only way in which the invalid could clear herself from
the suspicion of malingering, as it is called in the army, was to go on
lacing and unlacing, till she fell down dead at the royal feet. "This,"
Miss Burney wrote, when she was suffering cruelly from sickness,
watching, and labor, "is by no means from hardness of heart; far
otherwise. There is no hardness of heart in any one of them; but it is
prejudice, and want of personal experience."

Many strangers sympathized with the bodily and mental sufferings of this
distinguished woman. All who saw her saw that her frame was sinking,
that her heart was breaking. The last, it should seem, to observe the
change was her father. At length, in spite of himself, his eyes were
opened. In May, 1790, his daughter had an interview of three hours with
him, the only long interview which they had had since he took her to
Windsor in 1786. She told him that she was miserable, that she was worn
with attendance and want of sleep, that she had no comfort in life,
nothing to love, nothing to hope, that her family and friends were to
her as though they were not, and were remembered by her as men remember
the dead. From daybreak to midnight the same killing labor, the same
recreations, more hateful than labor itself, followed each other without
variety, without any interval of liberty and repose.

The Doctor was greatly dejected by this news; but was too good-natured a
man not to say that, if she wished to resign, his house and arms were
open to her. Still, however, he could not bear to remove her from the
Court. His veneration for royalty amounted in truth to idolatry. It can
be compared only to the grovelling superstition of those Syrian devotees
who made their children pass through the fire to Moloch. When he induced
his daughter to accept the place of keeper of the robes, he entertained,
as she tells us, a hope that some worldly advantage or other, not set
down in the contract of service, would be the result of her connection
with the Court. What advantage he expected we do not know, nor did he
probably know himself. But, whatever he expected, he certainly got
nothing. Miss Burney had been hired for board, lodging, and two hundred
a year. Board, lodging, and two hundred a year, she had duly received.
We have looked carefully through the Diary, in the hope of finding some
trace of those extraordinary benefactions on which the Doctor reckoned.
But we can discover only a promise, never performed, of a gown; and for
this promise Miss Burney was expected to return thanks, such as might
have suited the beggar with whom St. Martin, in the legend, divided his
cloak. The experience of four years was, however, insufficient to dispel
the illusion which had taken possession of the Doctor's mind; and,
between the dear father and the sweet Queen, there seemed to be little
doubt that some day or other Frances would drop down a corpse. Six
months had elapsed since the interview between the parent and the
daughter. The resignation was not sent in. The sufferer grew worse and
worse. She took bark; but it soon ceased to produce a beneficial effect.
She was stimulated with wine; she was soothed with opium; but in vain.
Her breath began to fail. The whisper that she was in a decline spread
through the Court. The pains in her side became so severe that she was
forced to crawl from the card-table of the old Fury to whom she was
tethered, three or four times in an evening, for the purpose of taking
hartshorn. Had she been a negro slave, a humane planter would have
excused her from work. But her Majesty showed no mercy. Thrice a day the
accursed bell still rang; the Queen was still to be dressed for the
morning at seven, and to be dressed for the day at noon, and to be
undressed at midnight.

But there had arisen, in literary and fashionable society, a general
feeling of compassion for Miss Burney, and of indignation against both
her father and the Queen. "Is it possible," said a great French lady to
the Doctor, "that your daughter is in a situation where she is never
allowed a holiday?" Horace Walpole wrote to Frances, to express his
sympathy. Boswell, boiling over with good-natured rage, almost forced an
entrance into the palace to see her. "My dear ma'am, why do you stay? It
won't do, ma'am; you must resign. We can put up with it no longer. Some
very violent measures, I assure you, will be taken. We shall address Dr.
Burney in a body." Burke and Reynolds, though less noisy, were zealous
in the same cause. Windham spoke to Dr. Burney; but found him still
irresolute. "I will set the club upon him," cried Windham; "Miss Burney
has some very true admirers there, and I am sure they will eagerly
assist." Indeed, the Burney family seem to have been apprehensive that
some public affront, such as the Doctor's unpardonable folly, to use the
mildest term, had richly deserved, would be put upon him. The medical
men spoke out, and plainly told him that his daughter must resign or

At last paternal affection, medical authority, and the voice of all
London crying shame, triumphed over Dr. Burney's love of courts. He
determined that Frances should write a letter of resignation. It was
with difficulty that, though her life was at stake, she mustered spirit
to put the paper into the Queen's hands. "I could not," so runs the
Diary, "summon courage to present my memorial; my heart always failed me
from seeing the Queen's entire freedom from such an expectation. For
though I was frequently so ill in her presence that I could hardly
stand, I saw she concluded me, while life remained, inevitably hers."

At last with a trembling hand the paper was delivered. Then came the
storm. Juno, as in the Æneid, delegated the work of vengeance to Alecto.
The Queen was calm and gentle; but Madame Schwellenberg raved like a
maniac in the incurable ward of Bedlam! Such insolence! Such
ingratitude! Such folly! Would Miss Burney bring utter destruction on
herself and her family? Would she throw away the inestimable advantage
of royal protection? Would she part with privileges which, once
relinquished, could never be regained? It was idle to talk of health and
life. If people could not live in the palace, the best thing that could
befall them was to die in it. The resignation was not accepted. The
language of the medical men became stronger and stronger. Dr. Burney's
parental fears were fully roused; and he explicitly declared in a letter
meant to be shown to the Queen that his daughter must retire. The
Schwellenberg raged like a wild cat. "A scene almost horrible ensued,"
says Miss Burney. "She was too much enraged for disguise, and uttered
the most furious expressions of indignant contempt at our proceedings. I
am sure she would gladly have confined us both in the Bastille, had
England such a misery, as a fit place to bring us to ourselves, from a
daring so outrageous against imperial wishes." This passage deserves
notice, as being the only one in the Diary, so far as we have observed,
which shows Miss Burney to have been aware that she was the native of a
free country, that she could not be pressed for a waiting maid against
her will, and that she had just as good a right to live, if she chose,
in St. Martin's Street, as Queen Charlotte had to live at St. James's.

The Queen promised that, after the next birthday, Miss Burney should be
set at liberty. But the promise was ill kept; and her Majesty showed
displeasure at being reminded of it. At length Frances was informed that
in a fortnight her attendance should cease. "I heard this," she says,
"with a fearful presentiment I should surely never go through another
fortnight in so weak and languishing and painful a state of health....
As the time of separation approached, the Queen's cordiality rather
diminished, and traces of internal displeasure appeared sometimes,
arising from an opinion I ought rather to have struggled on, live or
die, than to quit her. Yet I am sure she saw how poor was my own chance,
except by a change in the mode of life, and at least ceased to wonder,
though she could not approve." Sweet Queen! What noble candor, to admit
that the undutifulness of people, who did not think the honor of
adjusting her tuckers worth the sacrifice of their own lives, was,
though highly criminal, not altogether unnatural!

We perfectly understand her Majesty's contempt for the lives of others
where her own pleasure was concerned. But what pleasure she can have
found in having Miss Burney about her, it is not so easy to comprehend.
That Miss Burney was an eminently skilful keeper of the robes is not
very probable. Few women, indeed, had paid less attention to dress. Now
and then, in the course of five years, she had been asked to read aloud
or to write a copy of verses. But better readers might easily have been
found; and her verses were worse than even the Poet Laureate's Birthday
Odes. Perhaps that economy, which was among her Majesty's most
conspicuous virtues, had something to do with her conduct on this
occasion. Miss Burney had never hinted that she expected a retiring
pension; and indeed would gladly have given the little that she had for
freedom. But her Majesty knew what the public thought, and what became
her own dignity. She could not for very shame suffer a woman of
distinguished genius, who had quitted a lucrative career to wait on her,
who had served her faithfully for a pittance during five years, and
whose constitution had been impaired by labor and watching, to leave the
Court without some mark of royal liberality. George the Third, who, on
all occasions, where Miss Burney was concerned, seems to have behaved
like an honest, good-natured gentleman, felt this, and said plainly that
she was entitled to a provision. At length, in return for all the misery
which she had undergone, and for the health which she had sacrificed, an
annuity of one hundred pounds was granted to her, dependent on the
Queen's pleasure.

Then the prison was opened, and Frances was free once more. Johnson, as
Burke observed, might have added a striking page to his poem on the
Vanity of Human Wishes, if he had lived to see his little Burney as she
went into the palace and as she came out of it.

The pleasures, so long untasted, of liberty, of friendship, of domestic
affection, were almost too acute for her shattered frame. But happy days
and tranquil nights soon restored the health which the Queen's toilette
and Madame Schwellenberg's card-table had impaired. Kind and anxious
faces surrounded the invalid. Conversation the most polished and
brilliant revived her spirits. Travelling was recommended to her; and
she rambled by easy journeys from cathedral to cathedral, and from
watering place to watering place. She crossed the New Forest, and
visited Stonehenge and Wilton, the cliffs of Lyme, and the beautiful
valley of Sidmouth. Thence she journeyed by Powderham Castle, and by the
ruins of Glastonbury Abbey to Bath, and from Bath, when the winter was
approaching, returned well and cheerful to London. There she visited her
old dungeon, and found her successor already far on the way to the
grave, and kept to strict duty, from morning till midnight, with a
sprained ankle and a nervous fever.

At this time England swarmed with French exiles, driven from their
country by the Revolution. A colony of these refugees settled at Juniper
Hall, in Surrey, not far from Norbury Park, where Mr. Lock, an intimate
friend of the Burney family, resided. Frances visited Norbury, and was
introduced to the strangers. She had strong prejudices against them; for
her Toryism was far beyond, we do not say that of Mr. Pitt, but that of
Mr. Reeves; and the inmates of Juniper Hall were all attached to the
constitution of 1791, and were therefore more detested by the royalists
of the first emigration than Pétion or Marat. But such a woman as Miss
Burney could not long resist the fascination of that remarkable society.
She had lived with Johnson and Windham, with Mrs. Montague and Mrs.
Thrale. Yet she was forced to own that she had never heard conversation
before. The most animated eloquence, the keenest observation, the most
sparkling wit, the most courtly grace, were united to charm her. For
Madame de Staël was there, and M. de Talleyrand. There, too, was M. de
Narbonne, a noble representative of French aristocracy; and with M. de
Narbonne was his friend and follower General D'Arblay, an honorable and
amiable man, with a handsome person, frank soldier-like manners, and
some taste for letters.

The prejudices which Frances had conceived against the constitutional
royalists of France rapidly vanished. She listened with rapture to
Talleyrand and Madame de Staël, joined with M. D'Arblay in execrating
the Jacobins and in weeping for the unhappy Bourbons, took French
lessons from him, fell in love with him, and married him on no better
provision than a precarious annuity of one hundred pounds.

Here the Diary stops for the present. We will, therefore, bring our
narrative to a speedy close, by rapidly recounting the most important
events which we know to have befallen Madame D'Arblay during the latter
part of her life.

M. D'Arblay's fortune had perished in the general wreck of the French
Revolution; and in a foreign country his talents, whatever they may have
been, could scarcely make him rich. The task of providing for the family
devolved on his wife. In the year 1796 she published by subscription her
third novel, Camilla. It was impatiently expected by the public; and the
sum which she obtained for it was, we believe, greater than had ever at
that time been received for a novel. We have heard that she cleared more
than three thousand guineas. But we give this merely as a rumor.
Camilla, however, never attained popularity like that which Evelina and
Cecilia had enjoyed; and it must be allowed that there was a
perceptible falling off, not indeed in humor or in power of portraying
character, but in grace and in purity of style.

We have heard that, about this time, a tragedy by Madame D'Arblay was
performed without success. We do not know whether it was ever printed;
nor indeed have we had time to make any researches into its history or

During the short truce which followed the treaty of Amiens, M. D'Arblay
visited France. Lauriston and La Fayette represented his claims to the
French government, and obtained a promise that he should be reinstated
in his military rank. M. D'Arblay, however, insisted that he should
never be required to serve against the countrymen of his wife. The First
Consul, of course, would not hear of such a condition, and ordered the
general's commission to be instantly revoked.

Madame D'Arblay joined her husband at Paris, a short time before the war
of 1803 broke out, and remained in France ten years, cut off from almost
all intercourse with the land of her birth. At length, when Napoleon was
on his march to Moscow, she with great difficulty obtained from his
ministers permission to visit her own country, in company with her son,
who was a native of England. She returned in time to receive the last
blessing of her father, who died in his eighty-seventh year. In 1814 she
published her last novel, The Wanderer, a book which no judicious friend
to her memory will attempt to draw from the oblivion into which it has
justly fallen. In the same year her son Alexander was sent to Cambridge.
He obtained an honorable place among the wranglers of his year, and was
elected a fellow of Christ's College. But his reputation at the
University was higher than might be inferred from his success in
academical contests. His French education had not fitted him for the
examinations of the Senate House; but, in pure mathematics, we have been
assured by some of his competitors that he had very few equals. He went
into the church, and it was thought likely that he would attain high
eminence as a preacher; but he died before his mother. All that we have
heard of him leads us to believe that he was a son as such a mother
deserved to have. In 1832 Madame D'Arblay published the Memoirs of her
father; and on the sixth of January, 1840, she died in her eighty-eighth

We now turn from the life of Madame D'Arblay to her writings. There can,
we apprehend, be little difference of opinion as to the nature of her
merit, whatever differences may exist as to its degree. She was
emphatically what Johnson called her, a character-monger. It was in the
exhibition of human passions and whims that her strength lay; and in
this department of art she had, we think, very distinguished skill.

But in order that we may, according to our duty as kings at arms versed
in the laws of literary precedence, marshal her to the exact seat to
which she is entitled, we must carry our examination somewhat further.

There is, in one respect, a remarkable analogy between the faces and the
minds of men. No two faces are alike; and yet very few faces deviate
very widely from the common standard. Among the eighteen hundred
thousand human beings who inhabit London, there is not one who could be
taken by his acquaintance for another; yet we may walk from Paddington
to Mile End without seeing one person in whom any feature is so
overcharged that we turn round to stare at it. An infinite number of
varieties lies between limits which are not very far asunder. The
specimens which pass those limits on either side form a very small

It is the same with the characters of men. Here, too, the variety passes
all enumeration. But the cases in which the deviation from the common
standard is striking and grotesque are very few. In one mind avarice
predominates; in another, pride; in a third, love of pleasure; just as
in one countenance the nose is the most marked feature, while in others
the chief expression lies in the brow, or in the lines of the mouth. But
there are very few countenances in which nose, brow, and mouth do not
contribute, though in unequal degrees, to the general effect; and so
there are very few characters in which one overgrown propensity makes
all others utterly insignificant.

It is evident that a portrait painter, who was able only to represent
faces and figures such as those which we pay money to see at fairs,
would not, however spirited his execution might be, take rank among the
highest artists. He must always be placed below those who have skill to
seize peculiarities which do not amount to deformity. The slighter those
peculiarities, the greater is the merit of the limner who can catch them
and transfer them to his canvas. To paint Daniel Lambert or the living
skeleton, the pig-faced lady or the Siamese twins, so that nobody can
mistake them, is an exploit within the reach of a sign-painter. A
third-rate artist might give us the squint of Wilkes, and the depressed
nose and protuberant cheeks of Gibbon. It would require a much higher
degree of skill to paint two such men as Mr. Canning and Sir Thomas
Lawrence, so that nobody who had ever seen them could for a moment
hesitate to assign each picture to its original. Here the mere
caricaturist would be quite at fault. He would find in neither face
anything on which he could lay hold for the purpose of making a
distinction. Two ample bald foreheads, two regular profiles, two full
faces of the same oval form, would baffle his art; and he would be
reduced to the miserable shift of writing their names at the foot of his
picture. Yet there was a great difference; and a person who had seen
them once would no more have mistaken one of them for the other than he
would have mistaken Mr. Pitt for Mr. Fox. But the difference lay in
delicate lineaments and shades, reserved for pencils of a rare order.

This distinction runs through all the imitative arts. Foote's mimicry
was exquisitely ludicrous, but it was all caricature. He could take off
only some strange peculiarity, a stammer or a lisp, a Northumbrian burr
or an Irish brogue, a stoop or a shuffle. "If a man," said Johnson,
"hops on one leg, Foote can hop on one leg." Garrick, on the other hand,
could seize those differences of manner and pronunciation, which, though
highly characteristic, are yet too slight to be described. Foote, we
have no doubt, could have made the Haymarket Theatre shake with laughter
by imitating a conversation between a Scotchman and a Somersetshireman.
But Garrick could have imitated a conversation between two fashionable
men, both models of the best breeding, Lord Chesterfield, for example,
and Lord Albemarle, so that no person could doubt which was which,
although no person could say that, in any point, either Lord
Chesterfield or Lord Albemarle spoke or moved otherwise than in
conformity with the usages of the best society.

The same distinction is found in the drama and in fictitious narrative.
Highest among those who have exhibited human nature by means of
dialogue, stands Shakespeare. His variety is like the variety of nature,
endless diversity, scarcely any monstrosity. The characters of which he
has given us an impression, as vivid as that which we receive from the
characters of our own associates, are to be reckoned by scores. Yet in
all these scores hardly one character is to be found which deviates
widely from the common standard, and which we should call very eccentric
if we met it in real life. The silly notion that every man has one
ruling passion, and that this clue, once known, unravels all the
mysteries of his conduct, finds no countenance in the plays of
Shakespeare. There man appears as he is, made up of a crowd of passions,
which contend for the mastery over him, and govern him in turn. What is
Hamlet's ruling passion? Or Othello's? Or Harry the Fifth's? Or
Wolsey's? Or Lear's? Or Shylock's? Or Benedick's? Or Macbeth's? Or that
of Cassius? Or that of Falconbridge? But we might go on forever. Take a
single example, Shylock. Is he so eager for money as to be indifferent
to revenge? Or so eager for revenge as to be indifferent to money? Or so
bent on both together as to be indifferent to the honor of his nation
and the law of Moses? All his propensities are mingled with each other,
so that, in trying to apportion to each its proper part, we find the
same difficulty which constantly meets us in real life. A superficial
critic may say that hatred is Shylock's ruling passion. But how many
passions have amalgamated to form that hatred? It is partly the result
of wounded pride: Antonio has called him dog. It is partly the result of
covetousness: Antonio has hindered him of half a million; and, when
Antonio is gone there will be no limit to the gains of usury. It is
partly the result of national and religious feeling: Antonio has spit on
the Jewish gaberdine; and the oath of revenge has been sworn by the
Jewish Sabbath. We might go through all the characters which we have
mentioned, and through fifty more in the same way; for it is the
constant manner of Shakespeare to represent the human mind as lying, not
under the absolute dominion of one despotic propensity, but under a
mixed government, in which a hundred powers balance each other.
Admirable as he was in all parts of his art, we most admire him for
this, that while he has left us a greater number of striking portraits
than all other dramatists put together, he has scarcely left us a single

Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second. But among the writers who,
in the point which we have noticed, have approached nearest to the
manner of the great master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane
Austen, a woman of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a
multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace, all such
as we meet every day. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from
each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings. There
are, for example, four clergymen, none of whom we should be surprised to
find in any parsonage in the kingdom, Mr. Edward Ferrars, Mr. Henry
Tilney, Mr. Edmund Bertram, and Mr. Elton. They are all specimens of the
upper part of the middle class. They have all been liberally educated.
They all lie under the restraints of the same sacred profession. They
are all young. They are all in love. Not one of them has any hobbyhorse,
to use the phrase of Sterne. Not one has a ruling passion, such as we
read of in Pope. Who would not have expected them to be insipid
likenesses of each other? No such thing. Harpagon is not more unlike to
Jourdain, Joseph Surface is not more unlike to Sir Lucius O'Trigger,
than every one of Miss Austen's young divines to all his reverend
brethren. And almost all this is done by touches so delicate, that they
elude analysis, that they defy the powers of description, and that we
know them to exist only by the general effect to which they have

A line must be drawn, we conceive, between artists of this class, and
those poets and novelists whose skill lies in the exhibiting of what Ben
Jonson called humors. The words of Ben are so much to the purpose that
we will quote them:--

    "When some one peculiar quality
    Doth so possess a man, that it doth draw
    All his affects, his spirits, and his powers,
    In their confluxions all to run one way,
    This may be truly said to be a humour."

There are undoubtedly persons in whom humors such as Ben describes have
attained a complete ascendency. The avarice of Elwes, the insane desire
of Sir Egerton Brydges for a barony to which he had no more right than
to the crown of Spain, the malevolence which long meditation on
imaginary wrongs generated in the gloomy mind of Bellingham, are
instances. The feeling which animated Clarkson and other virtuous men
against the slave trade and slavery is an instance of a more honorable

Seeing that such humors exist, we cannot deny that they are proper
subjects for the imitations of art. But we conceive that the imitation
of such humors, however skilful and amusing, is not an achievement of
the highest order; and, as such humors are rare in real life, they
ought, we conceive, to be sparingly introduced into works which profess
to be pictures of real life. Nevertheless, a writer may show so much
genius in the exhibition of these humors as to be fairly entitled to a
distinguished and permanent rank among classics. The chief seats of all,
however, the places on the dais and under the canopy, are reserved for
the few who have excelled in the difficult art of portraying characters
in which no single feature is extravagantly overcharged.

If we have expounded the law soundly, we can have no difficulty in
applying it to the particular case before us. Madame D'Arblay has left
us scarcely anything but humors. Almost every one of her men and women
has some one propensity developed to a morbid degree. In Cecilia, for
example, Mr. Delvile never opens his lips without some allusion to his
own birth and station; or Mr. Briggs, without some allusion to the
hoarding of money; or Mr. Hobson, without betraying the self-indulgence
and self-importance of a purse-proud upstart; or Mr. Simkins, without
uttering some sneaking remark for the purpose of currying favor with his
customers; or Mr. Meadows, without expressing apathy and weariness of
life; or Mr. Albany, without declaiming about the vices of the rich and
the misery of the poor; or Mrs. Belfield, without some indelicate eulogy
on her son; or Lady Margaret, without indicating jealousy of her
husband. Morrice is all skipping, officious impertinence, Mr. Gosport
all sarcasm, Lady Honoria all lively prattle, Miss Larolles all silly
prattle. If ever Madame D'Arblay aimed at more, we do not think that she
succeeded well.

We are, therefore, forced to refuse to Madame D'Arblay a place in the
highest rank of art; but we cannot deny that in the rank to which she
belonged, she had few equals, and scarcely any superior. The variety of
humors which is to be found in her novels is immense; and though the
talk of each person separately is monotonous, the general effect is not
monotony, but a very lively and agreeable diversity. Her plots are
rudely constructed and improbable, if we consider them in themselves.
But they are admirably framed for the purpose of exhibiting striking
groups of eccentric characters, each governed by his own peculiar whim,
each talking his own peculiar jargon, and each bringing out by
opposition the oddities of all the rest. We will give one example out of
many which occur to us. All probability is violated in order to bring
Mr. Delvile, Mr. Briggs, Mr. Hobson, and Mr. Albany into a room
together. But when we have them there, we soon forget probability in the
exquisitely ludicrous effect which is produced by the conflict of four
old fools, each raging with a monomania of his own, each talking a
dialect of his own, and each inflaming all the others anew every time he
opens his mouth.

Madame D'Arblay was most successful in comedy, and indeed in comedy
which bordered on farce. But we are inclined to infer from some
passages, both in Cecilia and Camilla, that she might have attained
equal distinction in the pathetic. We have formed this judgment, less
from those ambitious scenes of distress which lie near the catastrophe
of each of those novels, than from some exquisite strokes of natural
tenderness which take us here and there by surprise. We would mention as
examples, Mrs. Hill's account of her little boy's death in Cecilia, and
the parting of Sir Hugh Tyrold and Camilla, when the honest baronet
thinks himself dying.

It is melancholy to think that the whole fame of Madame D'Arblay rests
on what she did during the earlier half of her life, and that everything
which she published during the forty-three years which preceded her
death lowered her reputation. Yet we have no reason to think that at the
time when her faculties ought to have been in their maturity they were
smitten with any blight. In The Wanderer we catch now and then a gleam
of her genius. Even in the Memoirs of her father there is no trace of
dotage. They are very bad; but they are so, as it seems to us, not from
a decay of power, but from a total perversion of power.

The truth is, that Madame D'Arblay's style underwent a gradual and most
pernicious change, a change which, in degree at least, we believe to be
unexampled in literary history, and of which it may be useful to trace
the progress.

When she wrote her letters to Mr. Crisp, her early journals, and her
first novel, her style was not indeed brilliant or energetic; but it was
easy, clear, and free from all offensive faults. When she wrote Cecilia
she aimed higher. She had then lived much in a circle of which Johnson
was the centre; and she was herself one of his most submissive
worshippers. It seems never to have crossed her mind that the style even
of his best writings was by no means faultless, and that even had it
been faultless it might not be wise in her to imitate it. Phraseology
which is proper in a disquisition on the Unities, or in a preface to a
Dictionary, may be quite out of place in a tale of fashionable life. Old
gentlemen do not criticise the reigning modes, nor do young gentlemen
make love, with the balanced epithets and sonorous cadences which, on
occasions of great dignity, a skilful writer may use with happy effect.

In an evil hour the author of Evelina took The Rambler for her model.
This would not have been wise even if she could have imitated her
pattern as well as Hawkesworth did. But such imitation was beyond her
power. She had her own style. It was a tolerably good one; and might,
without any violent change, have been improved into a very good one. She
determined to throw it away, and to adopt a style in which she could
attain excellence only by achieving an almost miraculous victory over
nature and over habit. She could cease to be Fanny Burney; it was not so
easy to become Samuel Johnson.

In Cecilia the change of manner began to appear. But in Cecilia the
imitation of Johnson, though not always in the best taste, is sometimes
eminently happy; and the passages which are so verbose as to be
positively offensive are few. There were people who whispered that
Johnson had assisted his young friend, and that the novel owed all its
finest passages to his hand. This was merely the fabrication of envy.
Miss Burney's real excellences were as much beyond the reach of Johnson,
as his real excellences were beyond her reach. He could no more have
written the Masquerade scene, or the Vauxhall scene, than she could have
written the Life of Cowley or the Review of Soame Jenyns. But we have
not the smallest doubt that he revised Cecilia, and that he retouched
the style of many passages. We know that he was in the habit of giving
assistance of this kind most freely. Goldsmith, Hawkesworth, Boswell,
Lord Hailes, Mrs. Williams were among those who obtained his help. Nay,
he even corrected the poetry of Mr. Crabbe, whom, we believe, he had
never seen. When Miss Burney thought of writing a comedy, he promised to
give her his best counsel, though he owned that he was not particularly
well qualified to advise on matters relating to the stage. We therefore
think it in the highest degree improbable that his little Fanny, when
living in habits of the most affectionate intercourse with him, would
have brought out an important work without consulting him; and, when we
look into Cecilia, we see such traces of his hand in the grave and
elevated passages as it is impossible to mistake. Before we conclude
this article, we will give two or three examples.

When next Madame D'Arblay appeared before the world as a writer, she was
in a very different situation. She would not content herself with the
simple English in which Evelina had been written. She had no longer the
friend who, we are confident, had polished and strengthened the style of
Cecilia. She had to write in Johnson's manner without Johnson's aid. The
consequence was, that in Camilla every passage which she meant to be
fine is detestable; and that the book has been saved from condemnation
only by the admirable spirit and force of those scenes in which she was
content to be familiar.

But there was to be a still deeper descent. After the publication of
Camilla, Madame D'Arblay resided ten years at Paris. During those years
there was scarcely any intercourse between France and England. It was
with difficulty that a short letter could occasionally be transmitted.
All Madame D'Arblay's companions were French. She must have written,
spoken, thought, in French. Ovid expressed his fear that a shorter exile
might have affected the purity of his Latin. During a shorter exile,
Gibbon unlearned his native English. Madame D'Arblay had carried a bad
style to France. She brought back a style which we are really at a loss
to describe. It is a sort of broken Johnsonese, a barbarous _patois_,
bearing the same relation to the language of Rasselas, which the
gibberish of the negroes of Jamaica bears to the English of the House of
Lords. Sometimes it reminds us of the finest, that is to say, the vilest
parts, of Mr. Gait's novels; sometimes of the perorations of Exeter
Hall; sometimes of the leading articles of the Morning Post. But it most
resembles the puffs of Mr. Rowland and Dr. Goss. It matters not what
ideas are clothed in such a style. The genius of Shakespeare and Bacon
united would not save a work so written from general derision.

It is only by means of specimens that we can enable our readers to
judge how widely Madame D'Arblay's three styles differed from each

The following passage was written before she became intimate with
Johnson. It is from Evelina:--

    "His son seems weaker in his understanding, and more gay in his
    temper; but his gayety is that of a foolish overgrown schoolboy,
    whose mirth consists in noise and disturbance. He disdains his
    father for his close attention to business and love of money, though
    he seems himself to have no talents, spirit, or generosity to make
    him superior to either. His chief delight appears to be in
    tormenting and ridiculing his sisters, who in return most cordially
    despise him. Miss Branghton, the eldest daughter, is by no means
    ugly; but looks proud, ill-tempered, and conceited. She hates the
    city, though without knowing why; for it is easy to discover she has
    lived nowhere else. Miss Polly Branghton is rather pretty, very
    foolish, very ignorant, very giddy, and, I believe, very

This is not a fine style, but simple, perspicuous, and agreeable. We now
come to Cecilia, written during Miss Burney's intimacy with Johnson; and
we leave it to our readers to judge whether the following passage was
not at least corrected by his hand:--

    "It is rather an imaginary than an actual evil, and though a deep
    wound to pride, no offence to morality. Thus have I laid open to you
    my whole heart, confessed my perplexities, acknowledged my
    vainglory, and exposed with equal sincerity the sources of my doubts
    and the motives of my decision. But now, indeed, how to proceed I
    know not. The difficulties which are yet to encounter I fear to
    enumerate, and the petition I have to urge I have scarce courage to
    mention. My family, mistaking ambition for honor, and rank for
    dignity, have long planned a splendid connection for me, to which,
    though my invariable repugnance has stopped any advances, their
    wishes and their views immovably adhere. I am but too certain they
    will now listen to no other. I dread, therefore, to make a trial
    where I despair of success. I know not how to risk a prayer with
    those who may silence me by a command."

Take now a specimen of Madame D'Arblay's later style. This is the way in
which she tells us that her father, on his journey back from the
Continent, caught the rheumatism:--

    "He was assaulted, during his precipitated return, by the rudest
    fierceness of wintry elemental strife; through which, with bad
    accommodations and innumerable accidents, he became a prey to the
    merciless pangs of the acutest spasmodic rheumatism, which barely
    suffered him to reach his home, ere, long and piteously, it confined
    him, a tortured prisoner, to his bed. Such was the check that almost
    instantly curbed, though it could not subdue, the rising pleasure of
    his hopes of entering upon a new species of existence--that of an
    approved man of letters; for it was on the bed of sickness,
    exchanging the light wines of France, Italy, and Germany, for the
    black and loathsome potions of the Apothecaries' Hall, writhed by
    darting stitches, and burning with fiery fever, that he felt the
    full force of that sublunary equipoise that seems evermore to hang
    suspended over the attainment of long-sought and uncommon felicity,
    just as it is ripening to burst forth with enjoyment!"

Here is a second passage from Evelina:--

    "Mrs. Selwyn is very kind and attentive to me. She is extremely
    clever. Her understanding, indeed, may be called masculine; but
    unfortunately her manners deserve the same epithet; for, in studying
    to acquire the knowledge of the other sex, she has lost all the
    softness of her own. In regard to myself, however, as I have neither
    courage nor inclination to argue with her, I have never been
    personally hurt at her want of gentleness, a virtue which
    nevertheless seems so essential a part of the female character, that
    I find myself more awkward and less at ease with a woman who wants
    it than I do with a man."

This is a good style of its kind; and the following passage from Cecilia
is also in a good style, though not in a faultless one. We say, with
confidence, either Sam Johnson or the Devil:--

    "Even the imperious Mr. Delvile was more supportable here than in
    London. Secure in his own castle, he looked round him with a pride
    of power and possession which softened while it swelled him. His
    superiority was undisputed: his will was without control. He was
    not, as in the great capital of the kingdom, surrounded by
    competitors. No rivalry disturbed his peace; no equality mortified
    his greatness. All he saw were either vassals of his power, or
    guests bending to his pleasure. He abated, therefore, considerably
    the stern gloom of his haughtiness, and soothed his proud mind by
    the courtesy of condescension."

We will stake our reputation for critical sagacity on this, that no such
paragraph as that which we have last quoted can be found in any of
Madame D'Arblay's works except Cecilia. Compare with it the following
sample of her later style:--

    "If beneficence be judged by the happiness which it diffuses, whose
    claim, by that proof, shall stand higher than that of Mrs. Montagu,
    from the munificence with which she celebrated her annual festival
    for these hapless artificers who perform the most abject offices of
    any authorized calling, in being the active guardians of our blazing
    hearths? Not to vainglory, then, but to kindness of heart, should be
    adjudged the publicity of that superb charity which made its jetty
    objects, for one bright morning, cease to consider themselves as
    degraded outcasts from all society."

We add one or two shorter samples. Sheridan refused to permit his lovely
wife to sing in public, and was warmly praised on this account by
Johnson. "The last of men," says Madame D'Arblay, "was Doctor Johnson to
have abetted squandering the delicacy of integrity by nullifying the
labors of talents."

The Club, Johnson's Club, did itself no honor by rejecting on political
grounds two distinguished men, one a Tory, the other a Whig. Madame
D'Arblay tells the story thus: "A similar ebullition of political rancor
with that which so difficultly had been conquered for Mr. Canning foamed
over the ballot box to the exclusion of Mr. Rogers."

An offence punishable with imprisonment is, in this language, an offence
"which produces incarceration." To be starved to death is "to sink from
inanition into nonentity." Sir Isaac Newton is "the developer of the
skies in their embodied movements;" and Mrs. Thrale, when a party of
clever people sat silent, is said "to have been provoked by the dulness
of a taciturnity that, in the midst of such renowned interlocutors,
produced as narcotic a torpor as could have been caused by a dearth the
most barren of all human faculties." In truth, it is impossible to look
at any page of Madame D'Arblay's later works without finding flowers of
rhetoric like these. Nothing in the language of those jargonists at whom
Mr. Gosport laughed, nothing in the language of Sir Sedley Clarendel,
approaches this new Euphuism.

It is from no unfriendly feeling to Madame D'Arblay's memory that we
have expressed ourselves so strongly on the subject of her style. On the
contrary, we conceive that we have really rendered a service to her
reputation. That her later works were complete failures is a fact too
notorious to be dissembled; and some persons, we believe, have
consequently taken up a notion that she was from the first an overrated
writer, and that she had not the powers which were necessary to maintain
her on the eminence on which good luck and fashion had placed her. We
believe, on the contrary, that her early popularity was no more than the
just reward of distinguished merit, and would never have undergone an
eclipse, if she had only been content to go on writing in her mother
tongue. If she failed when she quitted her own province, and attempted
to occupy one in which she had neither part nor lot, this reproach is
common to her with a crowd of distinguished men. Newton failed when he
turned from the courses of the stars, and the ebb and flow of the ocean,
to apocalyptic seals and vials. Bentley failed when he turned from Homer
and Aristophanes, to edit the Paradise Lost. Inigo failed when he
attempted to rival the Gothic churches of the fourteenth century.
Wilkie failed when he took it into his head that the Blind Fiddler and
the Rent Day were unworthy of his powers, and challenged competition
with Lawrence as a portrait painter. Such failures should be noted for
the instruction of posterity; but they detract little from the permanent
reputation of those who have really done great things.

Yet one word more. It is not only on account of the intrinsic merit of
Madame D'Arblay's early works that she is entitled to honorable mention.
Her appearance is an important epoch in our literary history. Evelina
was the first tale written by a woman, and purporting to be a picture of
life and manners, that lived or deserved to live. The Female Quixote is
no exception. That work has undoubtedly great merit, when considered as
a wild satirical harlequinade; but, if we consider it as a picture of
life and manners, we must pronounce it more absurd than any of the
romances which it was designed to ridicule.

Indeed, most of the popular novels which preceded Evelina were such as
no lady would have written; and many of them were such as no lady could
without confusion own that she had read. The very name of novel was held
in horror among religious people. In decent families, which did not
profess extraordinary sanctity, there was a strong feeling against all
such works. Sir Anthony Absolute, two or three years before Evelina
appeared, spoke the sense of the great body of sober fathers and
husbands when he pronounced the circulating library an evergreen tree of
diabolical knowledge. This feeling, on the part of the grave and
reflecting, increased the evil from which it had sprung. The novelist
having little character to lose, and having few readers among serious
people, took without scruple liberties which in our generation seem
almost incredible.

Miss Burney did for the English novel what Jeremy Collier did for the
English drama; and she did it in a better way. She first showed that a
tale might be written in which both the fashionable and the vulgar life
of London might be exhibited with great force, and with broad comic
humor, and which yet should not contain a single line inconsistent with
rigid morality, or even with virgin delicacy. She took away the reproach
which lay on a most useful and delightful species of composition. She
vindicated the right of her sex to an equal share in a fair and noble
province of letters. Several accomplished women have followed in her
track. At present, the novels which we owe to English ladies form no
small part of the literary glory of our country. No class of works is
more honorably distinguished by fine observation, by grace, by delicate
wit, by pure moral feeling. Several among the successors of Madame
D'Arblay have equalled her; two, we think, have surpassed her. But the
fact that she has been surpassed gives her an additional claim to our
respect and gratitude; for, in truth, we owe to her not only Evelina,
Cecilia, and Camilla, but also Mansfield Park and The Absentee.


[7] Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay. Five vols. 8vo. London: 1842.

[8] There is some difficulty here as to the chronology. "This
sacrifice," says the editor of the Diary, "was made in the young
authoress's fifteenth year." This could not be; for the sacrifice was
the effect, according to the editor's own showing, of the remonstrances
of the second Mrs. Burney; and Frances was in her sixteenth year when
her father's second marriage took place.


_The Edinburgh Review_, July, 1843

Some reviewers are of opinion that a lady who dares to publish a book
renounces by that act the franchises appertaining to her sex, and can
claim no exemption from the utmost rigor of critical procedure. From
that opinion we dissent. We admit, indeed, that in a country which
boasts of many female writers, eminently qualified by their talents and
acquirements to influence the public mind, it would be of most
pernicious consequence that inaccurate history or unsound philosophy
should be suffered to pass uncensured, merely because the offender
chanced to be a lady. But we conceive that, on such occasions, a critic
would do well to imitate the courteous Knight who found himself
compelled by duty to keep the lists against Bradamante. He, we are told,
defended successfully the cause of which he was the champion; but,
before the fight began, exchanged Balisarda for a less deadly sword, of
which he carefully blunted the point and edge.[10]

Nor are the immunities of sex the only immunities which Miss Aikin may
rightfully plead. Several of her works, and especially the very pleasing
Memoirs of the Reign of James the First, have fully entitled her to the
privileges enjoyed by good writers. One of those privileges we hold to
be this, that such writers, when, either from the unlucky choice of a
subject, or from the indolence too often produced by success, they
happen to fail, shall not be subjected to the severe discipline which it
is sometimes necessary to inflict upon dunces and impostors, but shall
merely be reminded by a gentle touch, like that with which the Laputan
flapper roused his dreaming lord, that it is high time to wake.

Our readers will probably infer from what we have said that Miss Aikin's
book has disappointed us. The truth is, that she is not well acquainted
with her subject. No person who is not familiar with the political and
literary history of England during the reigns of William the Third, of
Anne, and of George the First, can possibly write a good life of
Addison. Now, we mean no reproach to Miss Aikin, and many will think
that we pay her a compliment, when we say that her studies have taken a
different direction. She is better acquainted with Shakespeare and
Raleigh, than with Congreve and Prior; and is far more at home among the
ruffs and peaked beards of Theobald's, than among the Steenkirks and
flowing periwigs which surrounded Queen Anne's tea table at Hampton. She
seems to have written about the Elizabethan age, because she had read
much about it; she seems, on the other hand, to have read a little about
the age of Addison, because she had determined to write about it. The
consequence is that she has had to describe men and things without
having either a correct or a vivid idea of them, and that she has often
fallen into errors of a very serious kind. The reputation which Miss
Aikin has justly earned stands so high, and the charm of Addison's
letters is so great, that a second edition of this work may probably be
required. If so, we hope that every paragraph will be revised, and that
every date and fact about which there can be the smallest doubt will be
carefully verified.

To Addison himself we are bound by a sentiment as much like affection as
any sentiment can be, which is inspired by one who has been sleeping a
hundred and twenty years in Westminster Abbey. We trust, however, that
this feeling will not betray us into that abject idolatry which we have
often had occasion to reprehend in others, and which seldom fails to
make both the idolater and the idol ridiculous. A man of genius and
virtue is but a man. All his powers cannot be equally developed; nor can
we expect from him perfect self-knowledge. We need not, therefore,
hesitate to admit that Addison has left us some compositions which do
not rise above mediocrity, some heroic poems hardly equal to Parnell's,
some criticism as superficial as Dr. Blair's, and a tragedy not very
much better than Dr. Johnson's. It is praise enough to say of a writer
that, in a high department of literature, in which many eminent writers
have distinguished themselves, he has had no equal; and this may with
strict justice be said of Addison.

As a man, he may not have deserved the adoration which he received from
those who, bewitched by his fascinating society, and indebted for all
the comforts of life to his generous and delicate friendship, worshipped
him nightly, in his favorite temple at Button's. But, after full inquiry
and impartial reflection, we have long been convinced that he deserved
as much love and esteem as can be justly claimed by any of our infirm
and erring race. Some blemishes may undoubtedly be detected in his
character; but the more carefully it is examined, the more will it
appear, to use the phrase of the old anatomists, sound in the noble
parts, free from all taint of perfidy, of cowardice, of cruelty, of
ingratitude, of envy. Men may easily be named, in whom some particular
good disposition has been more conspicuous than in Addison. But the just
harmony of qualities, the exact temper between the stern and the humane
virtues, the habitual observance of every law, not only of moral
rectitude, but of moral grace and dignity, distinguish him from all men
who have been tried by equally strong temptations, and about whose
conduct we possess equally full information.

His father was the Reverend Lancelot Addison, who, though eclipsed by
his more celebrated son, made some figure in the world, and occupies
with credit two folio pages in the Biographia Britannica. Lancelot was
sent up, as a poor scholar, from Westmoreland to Queen's College,
Oxford, in the time of the Commonwealth, made some progress in learning,
became, like most of his fellow students, a violent Royalist, lampooned
the heads of the University, and was forced to ask pardon on his bended
knees. When he had left college, he earned a humble subsistence by
reading the liturgy of the fallen Church to the families of those sturdy
squires whose manor houses were scattered over the Wild of Sussex. After
the Restoration, his loyalty was rewarded with the post of chaplain to
the garrison of Dunkirk. When Dunkirk was sold to France, he lost his
employment. But Tangier had been ceded by Portugal to England as part of
the marriage portion of the Infanta Catharine; and to Tangier Lancelot
Addison was sent. A more miserable situation can hardly be conceived. It
was difficult to say whether the unfortunate settlers were more
tormented by the heats or by the rains, by the soldiers within the wall
or by the Moors without it. One advantage the chaplain had. He enjoyed
an excellent opportunity of studying the history and manners of Jews and
Mahometans; and of this opportunity he appears to have made excellent
use. On his return to England, after some years of banishment, he
published an interesting volume on the Polity and Religion of Barbary,
and another on the Hebrew Customs and the State of Rabbinical Learning.
He rose to eminence in his profession, and became one of the royal
chaplains, a Doctor of Divinity, Archdeacon of Salisbury, and Dean of
Lichfield. It is said that he would have been made a bishop after the
Revolution, if he had not given offence to the government by strenuously
opposing, in the Convocation of 1689, the liberal policy of William and

In 1672, not long after Dr. Addison's return from Tangier, his son
Joseph was born. Of Joseph's childhood we know little. He learned his
rudiments at schools in his father's neighborhood, and was then sent to
the Charter House. The anecdotes which are popularly related about his
boyish tricks do not harmonize very well with what we know of his riper
years. There remains a tradition that he was the ringleader in a barring
out, and another tradition that he ran away from school and hid himself
in a wood, where he fed on berries and slept in a hollow tree, till
after a long search he was discovered and brought home. If these stories
be true, it would be curious to know by what moral discipline so
mutinous and enterprising a lad was transformed into the gentlest and
most modest of men.

We have abundant proof that, whatever Joseph's pranks may have been, he
pursued his studies vigorously and successfully. At fifteen he was not
only fit for the University, but carried thither a classical taste and a
stock of learning which would have done honor to a Master of Arts. He
was entered at Queen's College, Oxford; but he had not been many months
there, when some of his Latin verses fell by accident into the hands of
Dr. Lancaster, Dean of Magdalene College. The young scholar's diction
and versification were already such as veteran professors might envy.
Dr. Lancaster was desirous to serve a boy of such promise; nor was an
opportunity long wanting. The Revolution had just taken place; and
nowhere had it been hailed with more delight than at Magdalene College.
That great and opulent corporation had been treated by James, and by his
Chancellor, with an insolence and injustice which, even in such a Prince
and in such a Minister, may justly excite amazement, and which had done
more than even the prosecution of the Bishops to alienate the Church of
England from the throne. A president, duly elected, had been violently
expelled from his dwelling; a Papist had been set over the society by a
royal mandate; the Fellows who, in conformity with their oaths, had
refused to submit to this usurper, had been driven forth from their
quiet cloisters and gardens, to die of want or to live on charity. But
the day of redress and retribution speedily came. The intruders were
ejected; the venerable House was again inhabited by its old inmates;
learning flourished under the rule of the wise and virtuous Hough; and
with learning was united a mild and liberal spirit too often wanting in
the princely colleges of Oxford. In consequence of the troubles through
which the society had passed, there had been no valid election of new
members during the year 1688. In 1689, therefore, there was twice the
ordinary number of vacancies; and thus Dr. Lancaster found it easy to
procure for his young friend admittance to the advantages of a
foundation then generally esteemed the wealthiest in Europe.

At Magdalen Addison resided during ten years. He was, at first, one of
those scholars who are called Demies, but was subsequently elected a
fellow. His college is still proud of his name; his portrait still hangs
in the hall; and strangers are still told that his favorite walk was
under the elms which fringe the meadow on the banks of the Cherwell. It
is said, and is highly probable, that he was distinguished among his
fellow students by the delicacy of his feelings, by the shyness of his
manners, and by the assiduity with which he often prolonged his studies
far into the night. It is certain that his reputation for ability and
learning stood high. Many years later, the ancient Doctors of Magdalen
continued to talk in their common room of his boyish compositions, and
expressed their sorrow that no copy of exercises so remarkable had been

It is proper, however, to remark that Miss Aikin has committed the
error, very pardonable in a lady, of overrating Addison's classical
attainments. In one department of learning, indeed, his proficiency was
such as it is hardly possible to overrate. His knowledge of the Latin
poets, from Lucretius and Catullus down to Claudian and Prudentius, was
singularly exact and profound. He understood them thoroughly, entered
into their spirit, and had the finest and most discriminating perception
of all their peculiarities of style and melody; nay, he copied their
manner with admirable skill, and surpassed, we think, all their British
imitators who had preceded him, Buchanan and Milton alone excepted. This
is high praise; and beyond this we cannot with justice go. It is clear
that Addison's serious attention, during his residence at the
University, was almost entirely concentrated on Latin poetry, and that,
if he did not wholly neglect other provinces of ancient literature, he
vouchsafed to them only a cursory glance. He does not appear to have
attained more than an ordinary acquaintance with the political and moral
writers of Rome; nor was his own Latin prose by any means equal to his
Latin verse. His knowledge of Greek, though doubtless such as was, in
his time, thought respectable at Oxford, was evidently less than that
which many lads now carry away every year from Eton and Rugby. A minute
examination of his works, if we had time to make such an examination,
would fully bear out these remarks. We will briefly advert to a few of
the facts on which our judgment is grounded.

Great praise is due to the Notes which Addison appended to his version
of the second and third books of the Metamorphoses. Yet those notes,
while they show him to have been, in his own domain, an accomplished
scholar, show also how confined that domain was. They are rich in
apposite references to Virgil, Statius, and Claudian; but they contain
not a single illustration drawn from the Greek poets. Now, if, in the
whole compass of Latin literature, there be a passage which stands in
need of illustration drawn from the Greek poets, it is the story of
Pentheus in the third book of the Metamorphoses. Ovid was indebted for
that story to Euripides and Theocritus, both of whom he has sometimes
followed minutely. But neither to Euripides nor to Theocritus does
Addison make the faintest allusion; and we, therefore, believe that we
do not wrong him by supposing that he had little or no knowledge of
their works.

His travels in Italy, again, abound with classical quotations, happily
introduced; but scarcely one of those quotations is in prose. He draws
more illustrations from Ausonius and Manilius than from Cicero. Even his
notions of the political and military affairs of the Romans seem to be
derived from poets and poetasters. Spots made memorable by events which
have changed the destinies of the world, and which have been worthily
recorded by great historians, bring to his mind only scraps of some
ancient versifier. In the gorge of the Apennines he naturally remembers
the hardships which Hannibal's army endured, and proceeds to cite, not
the authentic narrative of Polybius, not the picturesque narrative of
Livy, but the languid hexameters of Silius Italicus. On the banks of the
Rubicon he never thinks of Plutarch's lively description, or of the
stern conciseness of the Commentaries, or of those letters to Atticus
which so forcibly express the alternations of hope and fear in a
sensitive mind at a great crisis. His only authority for the events of
the civil war is Lucan.

All the best ancient works of art at Rome and Florence are Greek.
Addison saw them, however, without recalling one single verse of Pindar,
of Callimachus, or of the Attic dramatists; but they brought to his
recollection innumerable passages of Horace, Juvenal, Statius, and Ovid.

The same may be said of the Treatise on Medals. In that pleasing work we
find about three hundred passages extracted with great judgment from the
Roman poets; but we do not recollect a single passage taken from any
Roman orator or historian; and we are confident that not a line is
quoted from any Greek writer. No person, who had derived all his
information on the subject of medals from Addison, would suspect that
the Greek coins were in historical interest equal, and in beauty of
execution far superior, to those of Rome.

If it were necessary to find any further proof that Addison's classical
knowledge was confined within narrow limits, that proof would be
furnished by his Essay on the Evidences of Christianity. The Roman poets
throw little or no light on the literary and historical questions which
he is under the necessity of examining in that Essay. He is, therefore,
left completely in the dark; and it is melancholy to see how helplessly
he gropes his way from blunder to blunder. He assigns, as grounds for
his religious belief, stories as absurd as that of the Cock-Lane ghost,
and forgeries as rank as Ireland's Vortigern, puts faith in the lie
about the Thundering Legion, is convinced that Tiberius moved the senate
to admit Jesus among the gods, and pronounces the letter of Agbarus,
King of Edessa, to be a record of great authority. Nor were these errors
the effects of superstition; for to superstition Addison was by no means
prone. The truth is that he was writing about what he did not

Miss Aikin has discovered a letter, from which it appears that, while
Addison resided at Oxford, he was one of several writers whom the
booksellers engaged to make an English version of Herodotus; and she
infers that he must have been a good Greek scholar. We can allow very
little weight to this argument, when we consider that his fellow
laborers were to have been Boyle and Blackmore. Boyle is remembered
chiefly as the nominal author of the worst book on Greek history and
philology that ever was printed; and this book, bad as it is, Boyle was
unable to produce without help. Of Blackmore's attainments in the
ancient tongues, it may be sufficient to say that, in his prose, he has
confounded an aphorism with an apothegm, and that when, in his verse, he
treats of classical subjects, his habit is to regale his readers with
four false quantities to a page.

It is probable that the classical acquirements of Addison were of as
much service to him as if they had been more extensive. The world
generally gives its admiration, not to the man who does what nobody else
even attempts to do, but to the man who does best what multitudes do
well. Bentley was so immeasurably superior to all the other scholars of
his time that few among them could discover his superiority. But the
accomplishment in which Addison excelled his contemporaries was then, as
it is now, highly valued and assiduously cultivated at all English seats
of learning. Everybody who had been at a public school had written Latin
verses; many had written such verses with tolerable success, and were
quite able to appreciate, though by no means able to rival, the skill
with which Addison imitated Virgil. His lines on the Barometer and the
Bowling Green were applauded by hundreds, to whom the Dissertation on
the Epistles of Phalaris was as unintelligible as the hieroglyphics on
an obelisk.

Purity of style and an easy flow of numbers are common to all Addison's
Latin poems. Our favorite piece is the Battle of the Cranes and Pygmies;
for in that piece we discern a gleam of the fancy and humor which many
years later enlivened thousands of breakfast tables. Swift boasted that
he was never known to steal a hint; and he certainly owed as little to
his predecessors as any modern writer. Yet we cannot help suspecting
that he borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, one of the happiest touches in
his voyage to Lilliput from Addison's verses. Let our readers judge.

"The Emperor," says Gulliver, "is taller by about the breadth of my nail
than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the

About thirty years before Gulliver's Travels appeared Addison wrote
these lines:--

    "Jamque acies inter medias sese arduus infert
    Pygmeadum ductor, qui, majestate verendus,
    Incessuque gravis, reliquos supereminet omnes
    Mole gigantea, mediamque exsurgit in ulnam."

The Latin poems of Addison were greatly and justly admired both at
Oxford and Cambridge, before his name had ever been heard by the wits
who thronged the coffee-houses round Drury Lane Theatre. In his
twenty-second year, he ventured to appear before the public as a writer
of English verse. He addressed some complimentary lines to Dryden, who,
after many triumphs and many reverses, had at length reached a secure
and lonely eminence among the literary men of that age. Dryden appears
to have been much gratified by the young scholar's praise; and an
interchange of civilities and good offices followed. Addison was
probably introduced by Dryden to Congreve, and was certainly presented
by Congreve to Charles Montague, who was then Chancellor of the
Exchequer, and leader of the Whig party in the House of Commons.

At this time Addison seemed inclined to devote himself to poetry. He
published a translation of part of the fourth Georgic, Lines to King
William, and other performances of equal value, that is to say, of no
value at all. But in those days, the public was in the habit of
receiving with applause pieces which would now have little chance of
obtaining the Newdigate prize or the Seatonian prize. And the reason is
obvious. The heroic couplet was then the favorite measure. The art of
arranging words in that measure, so that the lines may flow smoothly,
that the accents may fall correctly, that the rhymes may strike the ear
strongly, and that there may be a pause at the end of every distich, is
an art as mechanical as that of mending a kettle, or shoeing a horse,
and may be learned by any human being who has sense enough to learn
anything. But, like other mechanical arts, it was gradually improved by
means of many experiments and many failures. It was reserved for Pope
to discover the trick, to make himself complete master of it, and to
teach it to everybody else. From the time when his Pastorals appeared,
heroic versification became matter of rule and compass; and, before
long, all artists were on a level. Hundreds of dunces who never
blundered on one happy thought or expression were able to write reams of
couplets which, as far as euphony was concerned, could not be
distinguished from those of Pope himself, and which very clever writers
of the reign of Charles the Second, Rochester, for example, or Marvel,
or Oldham, would have contemplated with admiring despair.

Ben Jonson was a great man, Hoole a very small man. But Hoole, coming
after Pope, had learned how to manufacture decasyllable verses, and
poured them forth by thousands and tens of thousands, all as well
turned, as smooth, and as like each other as the blocks which have
passed through Mr. Brunel's mill, in the dockyard at Portsmouth. Ben's
heroic couplets resemble blocks rudely hewn out by an unpractised hand,
with a blunt hatchet. Take as a specimen his translation of a celebrated
passage in the Æneid:--

    "This child our parent earth, stirr'd up with spite
    Of all the gods, brought forth, and, as some write,
    She was last sister of that giant race
    That sought to scale Jove's court, right swift of pace,
    And swifter far of wing, a monster vast
    And dreadful. Look, how many plumes are placed
    On her huge corpse, so many waking eyes
    Stick underneath, and, which may stranger rise
    In the report, as many tongues she wears."

Compare with these jagged misshapen distichs the neat fabric which
Hoole's machine produces in unlimited abundance. We take the first lines
on which we open in his version of Tasso. They are neither better nor
worse than the rest:--

    "O thou, whoe'er thou art, whose steps are led.
    By choice or fate, these lonely shores to tread,
    No greater wonders east or west can boast
    Than yon small island on the pleasing coast.
    If e'er thy sight would blissful scenes explore,
    The current pass, and seek the further shore."

Ever since the time of Pope there has been a glut of lines of this sort;
and we are now as little disposed to admire a man for being able to
write them, as for being able to write his name. But in the days of
William the Third such versification was rare; and a rhymer who had any
skill in it passed for a great poet, just as in the dark ages a person
who could write his name passed for a great clerk. Accordingly, Duke,
Stepney, Granville, Walsh, and others whose only title to fame was that
they said in tolerable metre what might have been as well said in prose,
or what was not worth saying at all, were honored with marks of
distinction which ought to be reserved for genius. With these Addison
must have ranked, if he had not earned true and lasting glory by
performances which very little resembled his juvenile poems.

Dryden was now busied with Virgil, and obtained from Addison a critical
preface to the Georgics. In return for this service, and for other
services of the same kind, the veteran poet, in the postscript to the
translation of the Æneid, complimented his young friend with great
liberality, and indeed with more liberality than sincerity. He affected
to be afraid that his own performance would not sustain a comparison
with the version of the fourth Georgic, by "the most ingenious Mr.
Addison of Oxford." "After his bees," added Dryden, "my latter swarm is
scarcely worth the hiving."

The time had now arrived when it was necessary for Addison to choose a
calling. Everything seemed to point his course towards the clerical
profession. His habits were regular, his opinions orthodox. His college
had large ecclesiastical preferment in its gift, and boasts that it has
given at least one bishop to almost every see in England. Dr. Lancelot
Addison held an honorable place in the Church, and had set his heart on
seeing his son a clergyman. It is clear, from some expressions in the
young man's rhymes, that his intention was to take orders. But Charles
Montague interfered. Montague had first brought himself into notice by
verses, well timed and not contemptibly written, but never, we think,
rising above mediocrity. Fortunately for himself and for his country, he
early quitted poetry, in which he could never have attained a rank as
high as that of Dorset or Rochester, and turned his mind to official and
parliamentary business. It is written that the ingenious person, who
undertook to instruct Rasselas, prince of Abyssinia, in the art of
flying, ascended an eminence, waved his wings, sprang into the air, and
instantly dropped into the lake. But it is added that the wings, which
were unable to support him through the sky, bore him up effectually as
soon as he was in the water. This is no bad type of the fate of Charles
Montague, and of men like him. When he attempted to soar into the
regions of poetical invention, he altogether failed; but, as soon as he
had descended from that ethereal elevation into a lower and grosser
element, his talents instantly raised him above the mass. He became a
distinguished financier, debater, courtier, and party leader. He still
retained his fondness for the pursuits of his early days; but he showed
that fondness, not by wearying the public with his own feeble
performances, but by discovering and encouraging literary excellence in
others. A crowd of wits and poets, who would easily have vanquished him
as a competitor, revered him as a judge and a patron. In his plans for
the encouragement of learning, he was cordially supported by the ablest
and most virtuous of his colleagues, the Lord Chancellor Somers. Though
both these great statesmen had a sincere love of letters, it was not
solely from a love of letters that they were desirous to enlist youths
of high intellectual qualifications in the public service. The
Revolution had altered the whole system of government. Before that
event, the press had been controlled by censors, and the Parliament had
sat only two months in eight years. Now the press was free, and had
begun to exercise unprecedented influence on the public mind. Parliament
met annually and sat long. The chief power in the state had passed to
the House of Commons. At such a conjuncture it was natural that literary
and oratorical talents should rise in value. There was danger that a
government which neglected such talents might be subverted by them. It
was, therefore, a profound and enlightened policy which led Montague and
Somers to attach such talents to the Whig party, by the strongest ties
both of interest and of gratitude.

It is remarkable that, in a neighboring country, we have recently seen
similar effects follow from similar causes. The Revolution of July,
1830, established representative government in France. The men of
letters instantly rose to the highest importance in the state. At the
present moment, most of the persons whom we see at the head both of the
Administration and of the Opposition have been professors, historians,
journalists, poets. The influence of the literary class in England,
during the generation which followed the Revolution, was great, but by
no means so great as it has lately been in France. For, in England, the
aristocracy of intellect had to contend with a powerful and deeply
rooted aristocracy of a very different kind. France had no Somersets and
Shrewsburies to keep down her Addisons and Priors.

It was in the year 1699, when Addison had just completed his
twenty-seventh year, that the course of his life was finally determined.
Both the great chiefs of the Ministry were kindly disposed towards him.
In political opinions he already was, what he continued to be through
life, a firm, though a moderate Whig. He had addressed the most polished
and vigorous of his early English lines to Somers, and had dedicated to
Montague a Latin poem, truly Virgilian, both in style and rhythm, on the
peace of Ryswick. The wish of the young poet's great friends was, it
should seem, to employ him in the service of the crown abroad. But an
intimate knowledge of the French language was a qualification
indispensable to a diplomatist; and this qualification Addison had not
acquired. It was, therefore, thought desirable that he should pass some
time on the Continent in preparing himself for official employment. His
own means were not such as would enable him to travel; but a pension of
three hundred pounds a year was procured for him by the interest of the
Lord Chancellor. It seems to have been apprehended that some difficulty
might be started by the rulers of Magdalene College. But the Chancellor
of the Exchequer wrote in the strongest terms to Hough. The State--such
was the purport of Montague's letter--could not, at that time, spare to
the Church such a man as Addison. Too many high civil posts were already
occupied by adventurers, who, destitute of every liberal art and
sentiment, at once pillaged and disgraced the country which they
pretended to serve. It had become necessary to recruit for the public
service from a very different class, from that class of which Addison
was the representative. The close of the Minister's letter was
remarkable. "I am called," he said, "an enemy of the Church. But I will
never do it any other injury than keeping Mr. Addison out of it."

This interference was successful; and, in the summer of 1699, Addison,
made a rich man by his pension, and still retaining his fellowship,
quitted his beloved Oxford, and set out on his travels. He crossed from
Dover to Calais, proceeded to Paris, and was received there with great
kindness and politeness by a kinsman of his friend Montague, Charles,
Earl of Manchester, who had just been appointed Ambassador to the Court
of France. The Countess, a Whig and a toast, was probably as gracious as
her lord; for Addison long retained an agreeable recollection of the
impression which she at this time made on him, and, in some lively
lines written on the glasses of the Kitcat Club, described the envy
which her cheeks, glowing with the genuine bloom of England, had excited
among the painted beauties of Versailles.

Louis the Fourteenth was at this time expiating the vices of his youth
by a devotion which had no root in reason, and bore no fruit of charity.
The servile literature of France had changed its character to suit the
changed character of the prince. No book appeared that had not an air of
sanctity. Racine, who was just dead, had passed the close of his life in
writing sacred dramas; and Dacier was seeking for the Athanasian
mysteries in Plato. Addison described this state of things in a short
but lively and graceful letter to Montague. Another letter, written
about the same time to the Lord Chancellor, conveyed the strongest
assurances of gratitude and attachment. "The only return I can make to
your Lordship," said Addison, "will be to apply myself entirely to my
business." With this view he quitted Paris and repaired to Blois, a
place where it was supposed that the French language was spoken in its
highest purity, and where not a single Englishman could be found. Here
he passed some months pleasantly and profitably. Of his way of life at
Blois, one of his associates, an Abbé named Philippeaux, gave an account
to Joseph Spence. If this account is to be trusted, Addison studied
much, mused much, talked little, had fits of absence, and either had no
love affairs, or was too discreet to confide them to the Abbé. A man
who, even when surrounded by fellow countrymen and fellow students, had
always been remarkably shy and silent, was not likely to be loquacious
in a foreign tongue, and among foreign companions. But it is clear from
Addison's letters, some of which were long after published in The
Guardian, that, while he appeared to be absorbed in his own meditations,
he was really observing French society with that keen and sly, yet not
ill-natured side glance, which was peculiarly his own.

From Blois he returned to Paris; and having now mastered the French
language, found great pleasure in the society of French philosophers and
poets. He gave an account, in a letter to Bishop Hough, of two highly
interesting conversations, one with Malbranche, the other with Boileau.
Malbranche expressed great partiality for the English, and extolled the
genius of Newton, but shook his head when Hobbes was mentioned, and was
indeed so unjust as to call the author of the Leviathan a poor silly
creature. Addison's modesty restrained him from fully relating, in his
letter, the circumstances of his introduction to Boileau. Boileau,
having survived the friends and rivals of his youth, old, deaf, and
melancholy, lived in retirement, seldom went either to Court or to the
Academy, and was almost inaccessible to strangers. Of the English and of
English literature he knew nothing. He had hardly heard the name of
Dryden. Some of our countrymen, in the warmth of their patriotism, have
asserted that this ignorance must have been affected. We own that we see
no ground for such a supposition. English literature was to the French
of the age of Louis the Fourteenth what German literature was to our own
grandfathers. Very few, we suspect, of the accomplished men who, sixty
or seventy years ago, used to dine in Leicester Square with Sir Joshua,
or at Streatham with Mrs. Thrale, had the slightest notion that Wieland
was one of the first wits and poets, and Lessing, beyond all dispute,
the first critic in Europe. Boileau knew just as little about the
Paradise Lost, and about Absalom and Achitophel; but he had read
Addison's Latin poems, and admired them greatly. They had given him, he
said, quite a new notion of the state of learning and taste among the
English. Johnson will have it that these praises were insincere.
"Nothing," says he, "is better known of Boileau than that he had an
injudicious and peevish contempt of modern Latin; and therefore his
profession of regard was probably the effect of his civility rather
than approbation." Now, nothing is better known of Boileau than that he
was singularly sparing of compliments. We do not remember that either
friendship or fear ever induced him to bestow praise on any composition
which he did not approve. On literary questions, his caustic,
disdainful, and self-confident spirit rebelled against that authority to
which everything else in France bowed down. He had the spirit to tell
Louis the Fourteenth firmly, and even rudely, that his Majesty knew
nothing about poetry, and admired verses which were detestable. What was
there in Addison's position that could induce the satirist, whose stern
and fastidious temper had been the dread of two generations, to turn
sycophant for the first and last time? Nor was Boileau's contempt of
modern Latin either injudicious or peevish. He thought, indeed, that no
poem of the first order would ever be written in a dead language. And
did he think amiss? Has not the experience of centuries confirmed his
opinion? Boileau also thought it probable, that, in the best modern
Latin, a writer of the Augustan age would have detected ludicrous
improprieties. And who can think otherwise? What modern scholar can
honestly declare that he sees the smallest impurity in the style of
Livy? Yet is it not certain that, in the style of Livy, Pollio, whose
taste had been formed on the banks of the Tiber, detected the inelegant
idiom of the Po? Has any modern scholar understood Latin better than
Frederic the Great understood French? Yet is it not notorious that
Frederic the Great, after reading, speaking, writing French, and nothing
but French, during more than half a century, after unlearning his mother
tongue in order to learn French, after living familiarly during many
years with French associates, could not, to the last, compose in French,
without imminent risk of committing some mistake which would have moved
a smile in the literary circles of Paris? Do we believe that Erasmus and
Fracastorius wrote Latin as well as Dr. Robertson and Sir Walter Scott
wrote English? And are there not in the Dissertation on India, the last
of Dr. Robertson's works, in Waverley, in Marmion, Scotticisms at which
a London apprentice would laugh? But does it follow, because we think
thus, that we can find nothing to admire in the noble alcaics of Gray,
or in the playful elegiacs of Vincent Bourne? Surely not. Nor was
Boileau so ignorant or tasteless as to be incapable of appreciating good
modern Latin. In the very letter to which Johnson alludes, Boileau says,
"Ne croyez pas pourtant que je veuille par là blâmer les vers Latins que
vous m'avez envoyés d'un de vos illustres académiciens. Je les ai
trouvés fort beaux, et dignes de Vida et de Sannazar, mais non pas
d'Horace et de Virgile." Several poems, in modern Latin, have been
praised by Boileau quite as liberally as it was his habit to praise
anything. He says, for example, of the Père Fraguier's epigrams, that
Catullus seems to have come to life again. But the best proof that
Boileau did not feel the undiscerning contempt for modern Latin verses
which has been imputed to him is that he wrote and published Latin
verses in several metres. Indeed it happens, curiously enough, that the
most severe censure ever pronounced by him on modern Latin is conveyed
in Latin hexameters. We allude to the fragment which begins:--

    "Quid numeris iterum me balbutire Latinis,
    Longe Alpes citra natum de patre Sicambro,
    Musa, jubes?"

For these reasons we feel assured that the praise which Boileau bestowed
on the Machinæ Gesticulantes, and the Gerano-Pygmæomachia, was sincere.
He certainly opened himself to Addison with a freedom which was a sure
indication of esteem. Literature was the chief subject of conversation.
The old man talked on his favorite theme much and well, indeed, as his
young hearer thought, incomparably well. Boileau had undoubtedly some of
the qualities of a great critic. He wanted imagination; but he had
strong sense. His literary code was formed on narrow principles; but in
applying it, he showed great judgment and penetration. In mere style,
abstracted from the ideas of which style is the garb, his taste was
excellent. He was well acquainted with the great Greek writers; and,
though unable fully to appreciate their creative genius, admired the
majestic simplicity of their manner, and had learned from them to
despise bombast and tinsel. It is easy, we think, to discover, in The
Spectator and The Guardian, traces of the influence, in part salutary
and in part pernicious, which the mind of Boileau had on the mind of

While Addison was at Paris, an event took place which made that capital
a disagreeable residence for an Englishman and a Whig. Charles, second
of the name, King of Spain, died, and bequeathed his dominions to
Philip, Duke of Anjou, a younger son of the Dauphin. The King of France,
in direct violation of his engagements both with Great Britain and with
the States General, accepted the bequest on behalf of his grandson. The
House of Bourbon was at the summit of human grandeur. England had been
outwitted, and found herself in a situation at once degrading and
perilous. The people of France, not presaging the calamities by which
they were destined to expiate the perfidy of their sovereign, went mad
with pride and delight. Every man looked as if a great estate had just
been left him. "The French conversation," said Addison, "begins to grow
insupportable; that which was before the vainest nation in the world is
now worse than ever." Sick of the arrogant exultation of the Parisians,
and probably foreseeing that the peace between France and England could
not be of long duration, he set off for Italy.

In December, 1700,[11] he embarked at Marseilles. As he glided along
the Ligurian coast, he was delighted by the sight of myrtles and olive
trees, which retained their verdure under the winter solstice. Soon,
however, he encountered one of the black storms of the Mediterranean.
The captain of the ship gave up all for lost, and confessed himself to a
Capuchin who happened to be on board. The English heretic, in the
meantime, fortified himself against the terrors of death with devotions
of a very different kind. How strong an impression this perilous voyage
made on him, appears from the ode, "How are thy servants blest, O Lord!"
which was long after published in The Spectator. After some days of
discomfort and danger, Addison was glad to land at Savona, and to make
his way, over mountains where no road had yet been hewn out by art, to
the city of Genoa.

At Genoa, still ruled by her own Doge, and by the nobles whose names
were inscribed on her Book of Gold, Addison made a short stay. He
admired the narrow streets overhung by long lines of towering palaces,
the walls rich with frescoes, the gorgeous temple of the Annunciation,
and the tapestries whereon were recorded the long glories of the House
of Doria. Thence he hastened to Milan, where he contemplated the Gothic
magnificence of the cathedral with more wonder than pleasure. He passed
Lake Benacus while a gale was blowing, and saw the waves raging as they
raged when Virgil looked upon them. At Venice, then the gayest spot in
Europe, the traveller spent the Carnival, the gayest season of the year,
in the midst of masques, dances, and serenades. Here he was at once
diverted and provoked by the absurd dramatic pieces which then disgraced
the Italian stage. To one of those pieces, however, he was indebted for
a valuable hint. He was present when a ridiculous play on the death of
Cato was performed. Cato, it seems, was in love with a daughter of
Scipio. The lady had given her heart to Cæsar. The rejected lover
determined to destroy himself. He appeared seated in his library, a
dagger in his hand, a Plutarch and a Tasso before him; and, in this
position, he pronounced a soliloquy before he struck the blow. We are
surprised that so remarkable a circumstance as this should have escaped
the notice of all Addison's biographers. There cannot, we conceive, be
the smallest doubt that this scene, in spite of its absurdities and
anachronisms, struck the traveler's imagination, and suggested to him
the thought of bringing Cato on the English stage. It is well known that
about this time he began his tragedy, and that he finished the first
four acts before he returned to England.

On his way from Venice to Rome, he was drawn some miles out of the
beaten road, by a wish to see the smallest independent state in Europe.
On a rock where the snow still lay, though the Italian spring was now
far advanced, was perched the little fortress of San Marino. The roads
which led to the secluded town were so bad that few travellers had ever
visited it, and none had ever published an account of it. Addison could
not suppress a good-natured smile at the simple manners and institutions
of this singular community. But he observed, with the exultation of a
Whig, that the rude mountain tract which formed the territory of the
republic swarmed with an honest, healthy, and contented peasantry, while
the rich plain which surrounded the metropolis of civil and spiritual
tyranny was scarcely less desolate than the uncleared wilds of America.

At Rome Addison remained on his first visit only long enough to catch a
glimpse of St. Peter's and of the Pantheon. His haste is the more
extraordinary because the Holy Week was close at hand. He has given no
hint which can enable us to pronounce why he chose to fly from a
spectacle which every year allures from distant regions persons of far
less taste and sensibility than his. Possibly, travelling, as he did,
at the charge of a government distinguished by its enmity to the Church
of Rome, he may have thought that it would be imprudent in him to assist
at the most magnificent rite of that Church. Many eyes would be upon
him; and he might find it difficult to behave in such a manner as to
give offence neither to his patrons in England, nor to those among whom
he resided. Whatever his motives may have been, he turned his back on
the most august and affecting ceremony which is known among men, and
posted along the Appian Way to Naples.

Naples was then destitute of what are now, perhaps, its chief
attractions. The lovely bay and the awful mountain were indeed there.
But a farmhouse stood on the theatre of Herculaneum, and rows of vines
grew over the streets of Pompeii. The temples of Pæstum had not indeed
been hidden from the eye of man by any great convulsion of nature; but,
strange to say, their existence was a secret even to artists and
antiquaries. Though situated within a few hours' journey of a great
capital, where Salvator had not long before painted, and where Vico was
then lecturing, those noble remains were as little known to Europe as
the ruined cities overgrown by the forests of Yucatan. What was to be
seen at Naples Addison saw. He climbed Vesuvius, explored the tunnel of
Posilipo, and wandered among the vines and almond trees of Capreæ. But
neither the wonders of nature, nor those of art, could so occupy his
attention as to prevent him from noticing, though cursorily, the abuses
of the government and the misery of the people. The great kingdom which
had just descended to Philip the Fifth was in a state of paralytic
dotage. Even Castile and Aragon were sunk in wretchedness. Yet, compared
with the Italian dependencies of the Spanish crown, Castile and Aragon
might be called prosperous. It is clear that all the observations which
Addison made in Italy tended to confirm him in the political opinions
which he had adopted at home. To the last he always spoke of foreign
travel as the best cure for Jacobitism. In his Freeholder, the Tory
fox-hunter asks what travelling is good for, except to teach a man to
jabber French, and to talk against passive obedience.

From Naples, Addison returned to Rome by sea, along the coast which his
favorite Virgil had celebrated. The felucca passed the headland where
the oar and trumpet were placed by the Trojan adventurers on the tomb of
Misenus, and anchored at night under the shelter of the fabled
promontory of Circe. The voyage ended in the Tiber, still overhung with
dark verdure, and still turbid with yellow sand, as when it met the eyes
of Æneas. From the ruined port of Ostia, the stranger hurried to Rome;
and at Rome he remained during those hot and sickly months when, even in
the Augustan age, all who could make their escape fled from mad dogs and
from streets black with funerals, to gather the first figs of the season
in the country. It is probable that, when he, long after, poured forth
in verse his gratitude to the Providence which had enabled him to
breathe unhurt in tainted air, he was thinking of the August and
September which he passed at Rome.

It was not till the latter end of October that he tore himself away from
the masterpieces of ancient and modern art which are collected in the
city so long the mistress of the world. He then journeyed northward,
passed through Sienna, and for a moment forgot his prejudices in favor
of classic architecture as he looked on the magnificent cathedral. At
Florence he spent some days with the Duke of Shrewsbury, who, cloyed
with the pleasures of ambition, and impatient of its pains, fearing both
parties, and loving neither, had determined to hide in an Italian
retreat talents and accomplishments which, if they had been united with
fixed principles and civil courage, might have made him the foremost man
of his age. These days, we are told, passed pleasantly; and we can
easily believe it. For Addison was a delightful companion when he was
at his ease; and the Duke, though he seldom forgot that he was a Talbot,
had the invaluable art of putting at ease all who came near him.

Addison gave some time to Florence, and especially to the sculptures in
the Museum, which he preferred even to those of the Vatican. He then
pursued his journey through a country in which the ravages of the last
war were still discernible, and in which all men were looking forward
with dread to a still fiercer conflict. Eugene had already descended
from the Rhætian Alps, to dispute with Catinat the rich plain of
Lombardy. The faithless ruler of Savoy was still reckoned among the
allies of Louis. England had not yet actually declared war against
France; but Manchester had left Paris; and the negotiations which
produced the Grand Alliance against the House of Bourbon were in
progress. Under such circumstances it was desirable for an English
traveller to reach neutral ground without delay. Addison resolved to
cross Mont Cenis. It was December; and the road was very different from
that which now reminds the stranger of the power and genius of Napoleon.
The winter, however, was mild; and the passage was, for those times,
easy. To this journey Addison alluded when, in the ode which we have
already quoted, he said that for him the Divine goodness had warmed the
hoary Alpine hills.

It was in the midst of the eternal snow that he composed his Epistle to
his friend Montague, now Lord Halifax. That Epistle, once widely
renowned, is now known only to curious readers, and will hardly be
considered by those to whom it is known as in any perceptible degree
heightening Addison's fame. It is, however, decidedly superior to any
English composition which he had previously published. Nay, we think it
quite as good as any poem in heroic metre which appeared during the
interval between the death of Dryden and the publication of the Essay
on Criticism. It contains passages as good as the second-rate passages
of Pope, and would have added to the reputation of Parnell or Prior.

But, whatever be the literary merits or defects of the Epistle, it
undoubtedly does honor to the principles and spirit of the author.
Halifax had now nothing to give. He had fallen from power, had been held
up to obloquy, had been impeached by the House of Commons, and, though
his Peers had dismissed the impeachment, had, as it seemed, little
chance of ever again filling high office. The Epistle, written at such a
time, is one among many proofs that there was no mixture of cowardice or
meanness in the suavity and moderation which distinguished Addison from
all the other public men of those stormy times.

At Geneva, the traveller learned that a partial change of ministry had
taken place in England, and that the Earl of Manchester had become
Secretary of State. Manchester exerted himself to serve his young
friend. It was thought advisable that an English agent should be near
the person of Eugene in Italy; and Addison, whose diplomatic education
was now finished, was the man selected. He was preparing to enter on his
honorable functions, when all his prospects were for a time darkened by
the death of William the Third.

Anne had long felt a strong aversion, personal, political, and
religious, to the Whig party. That aversion appeared in the first
measures of her reign. Manchester was deprived of the seals, after he
had held them only a few weeks. Neither Somers nor Halifax was sworn of
the Privy Council. Addison shared the fate of his three patrons. His
hopes of employment in the public service were at an end; his pension
was stopped; and it was necessary for him to support himself by his own
exertions. He became tutor to a young English traveller, and appears to
have rambled with his pupil over great part of Switzerland and Germany.
At this time he wrote his pleasing Treatise on Medals. It was not
published till after his death; but several distinguished scholars saw
the manuscript, and gave just praise to the grace of the style, and to
the learning and ingenuity evinced by the quotations.

From Germany Addison repaired to Holland where he learned the melancholy
news of his father's death. After passing some months in the United
Provinces, he returned about the close of the year 1703 to England. He
was there cordially received by his friends, and introduced by them into
the Kitcat Club, a society in which were collected all the various
talents and accomplishments which then gave lustre to the Whig party.

Addison was, during some months after his return from the Continent,
hard pressed by pecuniary difficulties. But it was soon in the power of
his noble patrons to serve him effectually. A political change, silent
and gradual, but of the highest importance, was in daily progress. The
accession of Anne had been hailed by the Tories with transports of joy
and hope; and for a time it seemed that the Whigs had fallen never to
rise again. The throne was surrounded by men supposed to be attached to
the prerogative and to the Church; and among these none stood so high in
the favor of the Sovereign as the Lord Treasurer Godolphin and the
Captain General Marlborough.

The country gentlemen and country clergymen had fully expected that the
policy of these ministers would be directly opposed to that which had
been almost constantly followed by William; that the landed interest
would be favored at the expense of trade; that no addition would be made
to the funded debt; that the privileges conceded to Dissenters by the
late King would be curtailed, if not withdrawn; that the war with
France, if there must be such a war, would, on our part, be almost
entirely naval; and that the government would avoid close connections
with foreign powers, and, above all, with Holland.

But the country gentlemen and country clergymen were fated to be
deceived, not for the last time. The prejudices and passions which raged
without control in vicarages, in cathedral closes, and in the manor
houses of fox-hunting squires, were not shared by the chiefs of the
ministry. Those statesmen saw that it was both for the public interest,
and for their own interest, to adopt a Whig policy, at least as
respected the alliances of the country and the conduct of the war. But,
if the foreign policy of the Whigs were adopted, it was impossible to
abstain from adopting also their financial policy. The natural
consequences followed. The rigid Tories were alienated from the
government. The votes of the Whigs became necessary to it. The votes of
the Whigs could be secured only by further concessions; and further
concessions the Queen was induced to make.

At the beginning of the year 1704, the state of parties bore a close
analogy to the state of parties in 1826. In 1826, as in 1704, there was
a Tory ministry divided into two hostile sections. The position of Mr.
Canning and his friends in 1826 corresponded to that which Marlborough
and Godolphin occupied in 1704. Nottingham and Jersey were, in 1704,
what Lord Eldon and Lord Westmoreland were in 1826. The Whigs of 1704
were in a situation resembling that in which the Whigs of 1826 stood. In
1704 Somers, Halifax, Sunderland, Cowper, were not in office. There was
no avowed coalition between them and the moderate Tories. It is probable
that no direct communication tending to such a coalition had yet taken
place; yet all men saw that such a coalition was inevitable, nay, that
it was already half formed. Such, or nearly such, was the state of
things when tidings arrived of the great battle fought at Blenheim on
the thirteenth of August, 1704. By the Whigs the news was hailed with
transports of joy and pride. No fault, no cause of quarrel, could be
remembered by them against the Commander whose genius had, in one day,
changed the face of Europe, saved the Imperial throne, humbled the House
of Bourbon, and secured the Act of Settlement against foreign hostility.
The feeling of the Tories was very different. They could not indeed,
without imprudence, openly express regret at an event so glorious to
their country; but their congratulations were so cold and sullen as to
give deep disgust to the victorious general and his friends.

Godolphin was not a reading man. Whatever time he could spare from
business he was in the habit of spending at Newmarket or at the
card-table. But he was not absolutely indifferent to poetry; and he was
too intelligent an observer not to perceive that literature was a
formidable engine of political warfare, and that the great Whig leaders
had strengthened their party, and raised their character, by extending a
liberal and judicious patronage to good writers. He was mortified, and
not without reason, by the exceeding badness of the poems which appeared
in honor of the battle of Blenheim. One of those poems has been rescued
from oblivion by the exquisite absurdity of three lines:--

    "Think of two thousand gentlemen at least,
    And each man mounted on his capering beast;
    Into the Danube they were pushed by shoals."

Where to procure better verses the Treasurer did not know. He understood
how to negotiate a loan, or remit a subsidy; he was also well versed in
the history of running horses and fighting cocks; but his acquaintance
among the poets was very small. He consulted Halifax; but Halifax
affected to decline the office of adviser. He had, he said, done his
best, when he had power, to encourage men whose abilities and
acquirements might do honor to their country. Those times were over.
Other maxims had prevailed. Merit was suffered to pine in obscurity; and
the public money was squandered on the undeserving. "I do know," he
added, "a gentleman who would celebrate the battle in a manner worthy of
the subject; but I will not name him." Godolphin, who was expert at the
soft answer which turneth away wrath, and who was under the necessity of
paying court to the Whigs, gently replied that there was too much ground
for Halifax's complaints, but that what was amiss should in time be
rectified, and that in the meantime the services of a man such as
Halifax had described should be liberally rewarded. Halifax then
mentioned Addison, but, mindful of the dignity as well as of the
pecuniary interest of his friend, insisted that the Minister should
apply in the most courteous manner to Addison himself; and this
Godolphin promised to do.

Addison then occupied a garret up three pair of stairs, over a small
shop in the Haymarket. In this humble lodging he was surprised, on the
morning which followed the conversation between Godolphin and Halifax,
by a visit from no less a person than the Right Honorable Henry Boyle,
then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and afterwards Lord Carleton. This
high-born Minister had been sent by the Lord Treasurer as ambassador to
the needy poet. Addison readily undertook the proposed task, a task
which, to so good a Whig, was probably a pleasure. When the poem was
little more than half finished, he showed it to Godolphin, who was
delighted with it, and particularly with the famous similitude of the
Angel. Addison was instantly appointed to a Commissionership worth about
two hundred pounds a year, and was assured that this appointment was
only an earnest of greater favors.

The Campaign came forth, and was as much admired by the public as by the
Minister. It pleases us less on the whole than the Epistle to Halifax.
Yet it undoubtedly ranks high among the poems which appeared during the
interval between the death of Dryden and the dawn of Pope's genius. The
chief merit of the Campaign, we think, is that which was noticed by
Johnson, the manly and rational rejection of fiction. The first great
poet whose works have come down to us sang of war long before war
became a science or a trade. If, in his time, there was enmity between
two little Greek towns, each poured forth its crowd of citizens,
ignorant of discipline, and armed with implements of labor rudely turned
into weapons. On each side appeared conspicuous a few chiefs, whose
wealth had enabled them to procure good armor, horses, and chariots, and
whose leisure had enabled them to practise military exercises. One such
chief, if he were a man of great strength, ability, and courage, would
probably be more formidable than twenty common men; and the force and
dexterity with which he flung his spear might have no inconsiderable
share in deciding the event of the day. Such were probably the battles
with which Homer was familiar. But Homer related the actions of men of a
former generation, of men who sprang from the gods, and communed with
the gods face to face, of men, one of whom could with ease hurl rocks
which two sturdy hands of a later period would be unable even to lift.
He therefore naturally represented their martial exploits as resembling
in kind, but far surpassing in magnitude, those of the stoutest and most
expert combatants of his own age. Achilles, clad in celestial armor,
drawn by celestial coursers, grasping the spear which none but himself
could raise, driving all Troy and Lycia before him, and choking
Scamander with dead, was only a magnificent exaggeration of the real
hero, who, strong, fearless, accustomed to the use of weapons, guarded
by a shield and helmet of the best Sidonian fabric, and whirled along by
horses of Thessalian breed, struck down with his own right arm foe after
foe. In all rude societies similar notions are found. There are at this
day countries where the Lifeguardsman Shaw would be considered as a much
greater warrior than the Duke of Wellington. Bonaparte loved to describe
the astonishment with which the Mamelukes looked at his diminutive
figure. Mourad Bey, distinguished above all his fellows by his bodily
strength, and by the skill with which he managed his horse and his
sabre, could not believe that a man who was scarcely five feet high, and
rode like a butcher, could be the greatest soldier in Europe.

Homer's descriptions of war had therefore as much truth as poetry
requires. But truth was altogether wanting to the performances of those
who, writing about battles which had scarcely anything in common with
the battles of his times, servilely imitated his manner. The folly of
Silius Italicus, in particular, is positively nauseous. He undertook to
record in verse the vicissitudes of a great struggle between generals of
the first order; and his narrative is made up of the hideous wounds
which these generals inflicted with their own hands. Asdrubal flings a
spear which grazes the shoulder of the consul Nero; but Nero sends his
spear into Asdrubal's side. Fabius slays Thuris and Butes and Maris and
Arses, and the long-haired Adherbes, and the gigantic Thylis, and
Sapharus and Monæsus, and the trumpeter Morinus. Hannibal runs Perusinus
through the groin with a stake, and breaks the backbone of Telesinus
with a huge stone. This detestable fashion was copied in modern times,
and continued to prevail down to the age of Addison. Several versifiers
had described William turning thousands to flight by his single prowess,
and dyeing the Boyne with Irish blood. Nay, so estimable a writer as
John Philips, the author of the Splendid Shilling, represented
Marlborough as having won the battle of Blenheim merely by strength of
muscle and skill in fence. The following lines may serve as an

                    "Churchill, viewing where
    The violence of Tallard most prevailed,
    Came to oppose his slaughtering arm. With speed
    Precipitate he rode, urging his way
    O'er hills of gasping heroes, and fallen steeds
    Rolling in death. Destruction, grim with blood,
    Attends his furious course. Around his head
    The glowing balls play innocent, while he
    With dire impetuous sway deals fatal blows
    Among the flying Gauls. In Gallic blood
    He dyes his reeking sword, and strews the ground
    With headless ranks. What can they do? Or how
    Withstand his wide-destroying sword?"

Addison, with excellent sense and taste, departed from this ridiculous
fashion. He reserved his praise for the qualities which made Marlborough
truly great, energy, sagacity, military science, but, above all, the
poet extolled the firmness of that mind which, in the midst of
confusion, uproar, and slaughter, examined and disposed everything with
the serene wisdom of a higher intelligence.

Here it was that he introduced the famous comparison of Marlborough to
an Angel guiding the whirlwind. We will not dispute the general justice
of Johnson's remarks on this passage. But we must point out one
circumstance which appears to have escaped all the critics. The
extraordinary effect which this simile produced when it first appeared,
and which to the following generation seemed inexplicable, is doubtless
to be chiefly attributed to a line which most readers now regard as a
feeble parenthesis,--

    "Such as, of late, o'er pale Britannia pass'd."

Addison spoke, not of a storm, but of the storm. The great tempest of
November, 1703, the only tempest which in our latitude has equalled the
rage of a tropical hurricane, had left a dreadful recollection in the
minds of all men. No other tempest was ever in this country the occasion
of a parliamentary address or of a public fast. Whole fleets had been
cast away. Large mansions had been blown down. One Prelate had been
buried beneath the ruins of his Palace. London and Bristol had presented
the appearance of cities just sacked. Hundreds of families were still in
mourning. The prostrate trunks of large trees, and the ruins of houses,
still attested, in all the southern counties, the fury of the blast.
The popularity which the simile of the Angel enjoyed among Addison's
contemporaries has always seemed to us to be a remarkable instance of
the advantage which, in rhetoric and poetry, the particular has over the

Soon after the Campaign, was published Addison's Narrative of his
Travels in Italy. The first effect produced by this Narrative was
disappointment. The crowd of readers who expected politics and scandal,
speculations on the projects of Victor Amadeus, and anecdotes about the
jollities of convents and the amours of cardinals and nuns, were
confounded by finding that the writer's mind was much more occupied by
the war between the Trojans and Rutulians than by the war between France
and Austria; and that he seemed to have heard no scandal of later date
than the gallantries of the Empress Faustina. In time, however, the
judgment of the many was overruled by that of the few; and, before the
book was reprinted, it was so eagerly sought that it sold for five times
the original price. It is still read with pleasure; the style is pure
and flowing; the classical quotations and allusions are numerous and
happy; and we are now and then charmed by that singularly humane and
delicate humor in which Addison excelled all men. Yet this agreeable
work, even when considered merely as the history of a literary tour, may
justly be censured on account of its faults of omission. We have already
said that, though rich in extracts from the Latin poets, it contains
scarcely any references to the Latin orators and historians. We must add
that it contains little, or rather no information, respecting the
history and literature of modern Italy. To the best of our remembrance,
Addison does not mention Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Boiardo, Berni,
Lorenzo de' Medici, or Machiavelli. He coldly tells us, that at Ferrara
he saw the tomb of Ariosto, and that at Venice he heard the gondoliers
sing verses of Tasso. But for Tasso and Ariosto he cared far less than
for Valerius Flaccus and Sidonius Apollinaris. The gentle flow of the
Ticin brings a line of Silius to his mind. The sulphurous steam of
Albula suggests to him several passages of Martial. But he has not a
word to say of the illustrious dead of Santa Croce; he crosses the wood
of Ravenna without recollecting the Spectre Huntsman, and wanders up and
down Rimini without one thought of Francesca. At Paris, he had eagerly
sought an introduction to Boileau; but he seems not to have been at all
aware that at Florence he was in the vicinity of a poet with whom
Boileau could not sustain a comparison, of the greatest lyric poet of
modern times, Vincenzio Filicaja. This is the more remarkable, because
Filicaja was the favorite poet of the accomplished Somers, under whose
protection Addison travelled, and to whom the account of the Travels is
dedicated. The truth is, that Addison knew little, and cared less, about
the literature of modern Italy. His favorite models were Latin. His
favorite critics were French. Half the Tuscan poetry that he had read
seemed to him monstrous, and the other half tawdry.

His Travels were followed by the lively Opera of Rosamond. This piece
was ill set to music, and therefore failed on the stage; but it
completely succeeded in print, and is indeed excellent in its kind. The
smoothness with which the verses glide, and the elasticity with which
they bound, is, to our ears at least, very pleasing. We are inclined to
think that if Addison had left heroic couplets to Pope, and blank verse
to Rowe, and had employed himself in writing airy and spirited songs,
his reputation as a poet would have stood far higher than it now does.
Some years after his death, Rosamond was set to new music by Doctor
Arne; and was performed with complete success. Several passages long
retained their popularity, and were daily sung during the latter part of
George the Second's reign, at all the harpsichords in England.

While Addison thus amused himself, his prospects and the prospects of
his party were constantly becoming brighter and brighter. In the spring
of 1705 the ministers were freed from the restraint imposed by a House
of Commons, in which Tories of the most perverse class had the
ascendency. The elections were favorable to the Whigs. The coalition
which had been tacitly and gradually formed was now openly avowed. The
Great Seal was given to Cowper. Somers and Halifax were sworn of the
Council. Halifax was sent in the following year to carry the decorations
of the Order of the Garter to the Electoral Prince of Hanover, and was
accompanied on this honorable mission by Addison, who had just been made
Under Secretary of State. The Secretary of State under whom Addison
first served was Sir Charles Hedges, a Tory. But Hedges was soon
dismissed to make room for the most vehement of Whigs, Charles, Earl of
Sunderland. In every department of the state, indeed, the High Churchmen
were compelled to give place to their opponents. At the close of 1707,
the Tories who still remained in office strove to rally, with Harley at
their head. But the attempt, though favored by the Queen, who had always
been a Tory at heart, and who had now quarrelled with the Duchess of
Marlborough, was unsuccessful. The time was not yet. The Captain General
was at the height of popularity and glory. The Low Church party had a
majority in Parliament. The country squires and rectors, though
occasionally uttering a savage growl, were for the most part in a state
of torpor, which lasted till they were roused into activity, and indeed
into madness, by the prosecution of Sacheverell. Harley and his
adherents were compelled to retire. The victory of the Whigs was
complete. At the general election of 1708, their strength in the House
of Commons became irresistible; and, before the end of that year, Somers
was made Lord President of the Council, and Wharton Lord Lieutenant of

Addison sat for Malmsbury in the House of Commons which was elected in
1708. But the House of Commons was not the field for him. The
bashfulness of his nature made his wit and eloquence useless in debate.
He once rose, but could not overcome his diffidence, and ever after
remained silent. Nobody can think it strange that a great writer should
fail as a speaker. But many, probably, will think it strange that
Addison's failure as a speaker should have had no unfavorable effect on
his success as a politician. In our time, a man of high rank and great
fortune might, though speaking very little and very ill, hold a
considerable post. But it would now be inconceivable that a mere
adventurer, a man who, when out of office, must live by his pen, should
in a few years become successively Under Secretary of State, Chief
Secretary for Ireland, and Secretary of State, without some oratorical
talent. Addison, without high birth, and with little property, rose to a
post which Dukes, the heads of the great houses of Talbot, Russell, and
Bentinck, have thought it an honor to fill. Without opening his lips in
debate, he rose to a post, the highest that Chatham or Fox ever reached.
And this he did before he had been nine years in Parliament. We must
look for the explanation of this seeming miracle to the peculiar
circumstances in which that generation was placed. During the interval
which elapsed between the time when the Censorship of the Press ceased
and the time when parliamentary proceedings began to be freely reported,
literary talents were, to a public man, of much more importance, and
oratorical talents of much less importance, than in our time. At
present, the best way of giving rapid and wide publicity to a fact or an
argument is to introduce that fact or argument into a speech made in
Parliament. If a political tract were to appear superior to the Conduct
of the Allies, or to the best numbers of the Freeholder, the circulation
of such a tract would be languid indeed when compared with the
circulation of every remarkable word uttered in the deliberations of the
legislature. A speech made in the House of Commons at four in the
morning is on thirty thousand tables before ten. A speech made on the
Monday is read on the Wednesday by multitudes in Antrim and
Aberdeenshire. The orator, by the help of the shorthand writer, has to a
great extent superseded the pamphleteer. It was not so in the reign of
Anne. The best speech could then produce no effect except on those who
heard it. It was only by means of the press that the opinion of the
public without doors could be influenced; and the opinion of the public
without doors could not but be of the highest importance in a country
governed by Parliaments, and indeed at that time governed by triennial
Parliaments. The pen was therefore a more formidable political engine
than the tongue. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox contended only in Parliament. But
Walpole and Pulteney, the Pitt and Fox of an earlier period, had not
done half of what was necessary, when they sat down amidst the
acclamations of the House of Commons. They had still to plead their
cause before the country, and this they could do only by means of the
press. Their works are now forgotten, but it is certain that there were
in Grub Street few more assiduous scribblers of Thoughts, Letters,
Answers, Remarks, than these two great chiefs of parties. Pulteney, when
leader of the Opposition, and possessed of thirty thousand a year,
edited the Craftsman. Walpole, though not a man of literary habits, was
the author of at least ten pamphlets, and retouched and corrected many
more. These facts sufficiently show of how great importance literary
assistance then was to the contending parties. St. John was, certainly,
in Anne's reign, the best Tory speaker; Cowper was probably the best
Whig speaker. But it may well be doubted whether St. John did so much
for the Tories as Swift, and whether Cowper did so much for the Whigs as
Addison. When these things are duly considered, it will not be thought
strange that Addison should have climbed higher in the state than any
other Englishman has ever, by means merely of literary talents, been
able to climb. Swift would, in all probability, have climbed as high, if
he had not been encumbered by his cassock and his pudding sleeves. As
far as the homage of the great went, Swift had as much of it as if he
had been Lord Treasurer.

To the influence which Addison derived from his literary talents was
added all the influence which arises from character. The world, always
ready to think the worst of needy political adventurers, was forced to
make one exception. Restlessness, violence, audacity, laxity of
principle, are the vices ordinarily attributed to that class of men. But
faction itself could not deny that Addison had, through all changes of
fortune, been strictly faithful to his early opinions, and to his early
friends; that his integrity was without stain; that his whole deportment
indicated a fine sense of the becoming; that, in the utmost heat of
controversy, his zeal was tempered by a regard for truth, humanity, and
social decorum; that no outrage could ever provoke him to retaliation
unworthy of a Christian and a gentleman; and that his only faults were a
too sensitive delicacy and a modesty which amounted to bashfulness.

He was undoubtedly one of the most popular men of his time; and much of
his popularity he owed, we believe, to that very timidity which his
friends lamented. That timidity often prevented him from exhibiting his
talents to the best advantage. But it propitiated Nemesis. It averted
that envy which would otherwise have been excited by fame so splendid,
and by so rapid an elevation. No man is so great a favorite with the
public as he who is at once an object of admiration, of respect, and of
pity; and such were the feelings which Addison inspired. Those who
enjoyed the privilege of hearing his familiar conversation declared with
one voice that it was superior even to his writings. The brilliant Mary
Montagu said, that she had known all the wits, and that Addison was the
best company in the world. The malignant Pope was forced to own, that
there was a charm in Addison's talk, which could be found nowhere else.
Swift, when burning with animosity against the Whigs, could not but
confess to Stella that, after all, he had never known any associate so
agreeable as Addison. Steele, an excellent judge of lively conversation,
said that the conversation of Addison was at once the most polite, and
the most mirthful, that could be imagined; that it was Terence and
Catullus in one, heightened by an exquisite something which was neither
Terence nor Catullus, but Addison alone. Young, an excellent judge of
serious conversation, said that when Addison was at his ease, he went on
in a noble strain of thought and language, so as to chain the attention
of every hearer. Nor were Addison's great colloquial powers more
admirable than the courtesy and softness of heart which appeared in his
conversation. At the same time, it would be too much to say that he was
wholly devoid of the malice which is, perhaps, inseparable from a keen
sense of the ludicrous. He had one habit which both Swift and Stella
applauded, and which we hardly know how to blame. If his first attempts
to set a presuming dunce right were ill received, he changed his tone,
"assented with civil leer," and lured the flattered coxcomb deeper and
deeper into absurdity. That such was his practice we should, we think,
have guessed from his works. The Tatler's criticisms on Mr. Softly's
sonnet, and the Spectator's dialogue with the politician who is so
zealous for the honor of Lady Q--p--t--s, are excellent specimens of
this innocent mischief.

Such were Addison's talents for conversation. But his rare gifts were
not exhibited to crowds or to strangers. As soon as he entered a large
company, as soon as he saw an unknown face, his lips were sealed, and
his manners became constrained. None who met him only in great
assemblies would have been able to believe that he was the same man who
had often kept a few friends listening and laughing round a table, from
the time when the play ended, till the clock of St. Paul's in Covent
Garden struck four. Yet, even at such a table, he was not seen to the
best advantage. To enjoy his conversation in the highest perfection, it
was necessary to be alone with him, and to hear him, in his own phrase,
think aloud. "There is no such thing," he used to say, "as real
conversation, but between two persons."

This timidity, a timidity surely neither ungraceful nor unamiable, led
Addison into the two most serious faults which can with justice be
imputed to him. He found that wine broke the spell which lay on his fine
intellect, and was therefore too easily seduced into convivial excess.
Such excess was in that age regarded, even by grave men, as the most
venial of all peccadilloes, and was so far from being a mark of
ill-breeding that it was almost essential to the character of a fine
gentleman. But the smallest speck is seen on a white ground; and almost
all the biographers of Addison have said something about this failing.
Of any other statesman or writer of Queen Anne's reign, we should no
more think of saying that he sometimes took too much wine, than that he
wore a long wig and a sword.

To the excessive modesty of Addison's nature, we must ascribe another
fault which generally arises from a very different cause. He became a
little too fond of seeing himself surrounded by a small circle of
admirers, to whom he was as a king or rather as a god. All these men
were far inferior to him in ability, and some of them had very serious
faults. Nor did those faults escape his observation; for, if ever there
was an eye which saw through and through men, it was the eye of Addison.
But, with the keenest observation, and the finest sense of the
ridiculous, he had a large charity. The feeling with which he looked on
most of his humble companions was one of benevolence, slightly
tinctured with contempt. He was at perfect ease in their company; he
was grateful for their devoted attachment; and he loaded them with
benefits. Their veneration for him appears to have exceeded that with
which Johnson was regarded by Boswell, or Warburton by Hurd. It was not
in the power of adulation to turn such a head, or deprave such a heart,
as Addison's. But it must in candor be admitted that he contracted some
of the faults which can scarcely be avoided by any person who is so
unfortunate as to be the oracle of a small literary coterie.

One member of this little society was Eustace Budgell, a young Templar
of some literature, and a distant relation of Addison. There was at this
time no stain on the character of Budgell, and it is not improbable that
his career would have been prosperous and honorable, if the life of his
cousin had been prolonged. But, when the master was laid in the grave,
the disciple broke loose from all restraint, descended rapidly from one
degree of vice and misery to another, ruined his fortune by follies,
attempted to repair it by crimes, and at length closed a wicked and
unhappy life by self-murder. Yet, to the last, the wretched man,
gambler, lampooner, cheat, forger, as he was, retained his affection and
veneration for Addison, and recorded those feelings in the last lines
which he traced before he hid himself from infamy under London Bridge.

Another of Addison's favorite companions was Ambrose Philips, a good
Whig and a middling poet, who had the honor of bringing into fashion a
species of composition which has been called, after his name, Namby
Pamby. But the most remarkable members of the little senate, as Pope
long afterwards called it, were Richard Steele and Thomas Tickell.

Steele had known Addison from childhood. They had been together at the
Charter House and at Oxford; but circumstances had then, for a time,
separated them widely. Steele had left college without taking a degree,
had been disinherited by a rich relation, had led a vagrant life, had
served in the army, had tried to find the philosopher's stone, and had
written a religious treatise and several comedies. He was one of those
people whom it is impossible either to hate or to respect. His temper
was sweet, his affections warm, his spirits lively, his passions strong,
and his principles weak. His life was spent in sinning and repenting; in
inculcating what was right, and doing what was wrong. In speculation, he
was a man of piety and honor; in practice, he was much of the rake and a
little of the swindler. He was, however, so good-natured that it was not
easy to be seriously angry with him, and that even rigid moralists felt
more inclined to pity than to blame him, when he diced himself into a
sponging house, or drank himself into a fever. Addison regarded Steele
with kindness not unmingled with scorn, tried, with little success, to
keep him out of scrapes, introduced him to the great, procured a good
place for him, corrected his plays, and, though by no means rich, lent
him large sums of money. One of these loans appears, from a letter dated
in August, 1708, to have amounted to a thousand pounds. These pecuniary
transactions probably led to frequent bickerings. It is said that, on
one occasion, Steele's negligence, or dishonesty, provoked Addison to
repay himself by the help of a bailiff. We cannot join with Miss Aikin
in rejecting this story. Johnson heard it from Savage, who heard it from
Steele. Few private transactions which took place a hundred and twenty
years ago are proved by stronger evidence than this. But we can by no
means agree with those who condemn Addison's severity. The most amiable
of mankind may well be moved to indignation, when what he has earned
hardly, and lent with great inconvenience to himself, for the purpose of
relieving a friend in distress, is squandered with insane profusion. We
will illustrate our meaning by an example, which is not the less
striking because it is taken from fiction. Dr. Harrison, in Fielding's
Amelia, is represented as the most benevolent of human beings; yet he
takes in execution, not only the goods, but the person of his friend
Booth. Dr. Harrison resorts to this strong measure because he has been
informed that Booth, while pleading poverty as an excuse for not paying
just debts, has been buying fine jewelry, and setting up a coach. No
person who is well acquainted with Steele's life and correspondence can
doubt that he behaved quite as ill to Addison as Booth was accused of
behaving to Dr. Harrison. The real history, we have little doubt, was
something like this: A letter comes to Addison, imploring help in
pathetic terms, and promising reformation and speedy repayment. Poor
Dick declares that he has not an inch of candle, or a bushel of coals,
or credit with the butcher for a shoulder of mutton. Addison is moved.
He determines to deny himself some medals which are wanting to his
series of the Twelve Cæsars; to put off buying the new edition of
Bayle's Dictionary; and to wear his old sword and buckles another year.
In this way he manages to send a hundred pounds to his friend. The next
day he calls on Steele, and finds scores of gentlemen and ladies
assembled. The fiddles are playing. The table is groaning under
champagne, burgundy, and pyramids of sweetmeats. Is it strange that a
man whose kindness is thus abused should send sheriff's officers to
reclaim what is due to him?

Tickell was a young man, fresh from Oxford, who had introduced himself
to public notice by writing a most ingenious and graceful little poem in
praise of the Opera of Rosamond. He deserved, and at length attained,
the first place in Addison's friendship. For a time Steele and Tickell
were on good terms. But they loved Addison too much to love each other,
and at length became as bitter enemies as the rival bulls in Virgil.

At the close of 1708 Wharton became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and
appointed Addison Chief Secretary. Addison was consequently under the
necessity of quitting London for Dublin. Besides the chief
secretaryship, which was then worth about two thousand pounds a year, he
obtained a patent appointing him keeper of the Irish Records for life,
with a salary of three or four hundred a year. Budgell accompanied his
cousin in the capacity of private Secretary.

Wharton and Addison had nothing in common but Whiggism. The Lord
Lieutenant was not only licentious and corrupt, but was distinguished
from other libertines and jobbers by a callous impudence which presented
the strongest contrast to the Secretary's gentleness and delicacy. Many
parts of the Irish administration at this time appear to have deserved
serious blame. But against Addison there was not a murmur. He long
afterwards asserted, what all the evidence which we have ever seen tends
to prove, that his diligence and integrity gained the friendship of all
the most considerable persons in Ireland.

The parliamentary career of Addison in Ireland has, we think, wholly
escaped the notice of all his biographers. He was elected member for the
borough of Cavan in the summer of 1709; and in the journals of two
sessions his name frequently occurs. Some of the entries appear to
indicate that he so far overcame his timidity as to make speeches. Nor
is this by any means improbable; for the Irish House of Commons was a
far less formidable audience than the English House; and many tongues
which were tied by fear in the greater assembly became fluent in the
smaller. Gerard Hamilton, for example, who, from fear of losing the fame
gained by his single speech, sat mute at Westminster during forty years,
spoke with great effect at Dublin when he was Secretary to Lord Halifax.

While Addison was in Ireland, an event occurred to which he owes his
high and permanent rank among British writers. As yet his fame rested on
performances which, though highly respectable, were not built for
duration, and which would, if he had produced nothing else, have now
been almost forgotten, on some excellent Latin verses, on some English
verses which occasionally rose above mediocrity, and on a book of
travels, agreeably written, but not indicating any extraordinary powers
of mind. These works showed him to be a man of taste, sense, and
learning. The time had come when he was to prove himself a man of
genius, and to enrich our literature with compositions which will live
as long as the English language.

In the spring of 1709 Steele formed a literary project, of which he was
far indeed from foreseeing the consequences. Periodical papers had
during many years been published in London. Most of these were
political; but in some of them questions of morality, taste, and love
casuistry had been discussed. The literary merit of these works was
small indeed; and even their names are now known only to the curious.

Steele had been appointed Gazetteer by Sunderland, at the request, it is
said, of Addison, and thus had access to foreign intelligence earlier
and more authentic than was in those times within the reach of an
ordinary news-writer. This circumstance seems to have suggested to him
the scheme of publishing a periodical paper on a new plan. It was to
appear on the days on which the post left London for the country, which
were, in that generation, the Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. It was
to contain the foreign news, accounts of theatrical representations, and
the literary gossip of Will's and of the Grecian. It was also to contain
remarks on the fashionable topics of the day, compliments to beauties,
pasquinades on noted sharpers, and criticisms on popular preachers. The
aim of Steele does not appear to have been at first higher than this. He
was not ill qualified to conduct the work which he had planned. His
public intelligence he drew from the best sources. He knew the town, and
had paid dear for his knowledge. He had read much more than the
dissipated men of that time were in the habit of reading. He was a rake
among scholars, and a scholar among rakes. His style was easy and not
incorrect; and, though his wit and humor were of no high order, his gay
animal spirits imparted to his compositions an air of vivacity which
ordinary readers could hardly distinguish from comic genius. His
writings have been well compared to those light wines which, though
deficient in body and flavor, are yet a pleasant small drink, if not
kept too long, or carried too far.

Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, Astrologer, was an imaginary person, almost
as well known in that age as Mr. Paul Pry or Mr. Samuel Pickwick in
ours. Swift had assumed the name of Bickerstaff in a satirical pamphlet
against Partridge, the maker of almanacs. Partridge had been fool enough
to publish a furious reply. Bickerstaff had rejoined in a second
pamphlet still more diverting than the first. All the wits had combined
to keep up the joke, and the town was long in convulsions of laughter.
Steele determined to employ the name which this controversy had made
popular; and, in April, 1709, it was announced that Isaac Bickerstaff,
Esquire, Astrologer, was about to publish a paper called the Tatler.

Addison had not been consulted about this scheme; but as soon as he
heard of it, he determined to give his assistance. The effect of that
assistance cannot be better described than in Steele's own words. "I
fared," he said, "like a distressed prince who calls in a powerful
neighbor to his aid. I was undone by my auxiliary. When I had once
called him in, I could not subsist without dependence on him." "The
paper," he says elsewhere, "was advanced indeed. It was raised to a
greater thing than I intended it."

It is probable that Addison, when he sent across St. George's Channel
his first contributions to the Tatler, had no notion of the extent and
variety of his own powers. He was the possessor of a vast mine rich with
a hundred ores. But he had been acquainted only with the least precious
part of his treasures, and had hitherto contented himself with producing
sometimes copper and sometimes lead, intermingled with a little silver.
All at once, and by mere accident, he had lighted on an inexhaustible
vein of the finest gold.

The mere choice and arrangement of his words would have sufficed to make
his essays classical. For never, not even by Dryden, not even by Temple,
had the English language been written with such sweetness, grace, and
facility. But this was the smallest part of Addison's praise. Had he
clothed his thoughts in the half French style of Horace Walpole, or in
the half Latin style of Dr. Johnson, or in the half German jargon of the
present day, his genius would have triumphed over all faults of manner.
As a moral satirist he stands unrivalled. If ever the best Tatlers and
Spectators were equalled in their own kind, we should be inclined to
guess that it must have been by the lost comedies of Menander.

In wit, properly so called, Addison was not inferior to Cowley or
Butler. No single ode of Cowley contains so many happy analogies as are
crowded into the lines to Sir Godfrey Kneller; and we would undertake to
collect from the Spectators as great a number of ingenious illustrations
as can be found in Hudibras. The still higher faculty of invention
Addison possessed in still larger measure. The numerous fictions,
generally original, often wild and grotesque, but always singularly
graceful and happy, which are found in his essays, fully entitle him to
the rank of a great poet, a rank to which his metrical compositions give
him no claim. As an observer of life, of manners, of all the shades of
human character, he stands in the first class. And what he observed he
had the art of communicating in two widely different ways. He could
describe virtues, vices, habits, whims, as well as Clarendon. But he
could do something better. He could call human beings into existence,
and make them exhibit themselves. If we wish to find anything more
vivid than Addison's best portraits, we must go either to Shakespeare or
to Cervantes.

But what shall we say of Addison's humor, of his sense of the ludicrous,
of his power of awakening that sense in others, and of drawing mirth
from incidents which occur every day, and from little peculiarities of
temper and manner, such as may be found in every man? We feel the charm:
we give ourselves up to it: but we strive in vain to analyze it.

Perhaps the best way of describing Addison's peculiar pleasantry is to
compare it with the pleasantry of some other great satirists. The three
most eminent masters of the art of ridicule, during the eighteenth
century, were, we conceive, Addison, Swift, and Voltaire. Which of the
three had the greatest power of moving laughter may be questioned. But
each of them, within his own domain, was supreme.

Voltaire is the prince of buffoons. His merriment is without disguise or
restraint. He gambols; he grins; he shakes his sides; he points the
finger; he turns up the nose; he shoots out the tongue. The manner of
Swift is the very opposite to this. He moves laughter, but never joins
in it. He appears in his works such as he appeared in society. All the
company are convulsed with merriment, while the Dean, the author of all
the mirth, preserves an invincible gravity, and even sourness of aspect,
and gives utterance to the most eccentric and ludicrous fancies, with
the air of a man reading the commination service.

The manner of Addison is as remote from that of Swift as from that of
Voltaire. He neither laughs out like the French wit, nor, like the Irish
wit, throws a double portion of severity into his countenance while
laughing inwardly; but preserves a look peculiarly his own, a look of
demure serenity, disturbed only by an arch sparkle of the eye, an almost
imperceptible elevation of the brow, an almost imperceptible curl of
the lip. His tone is never that either of a Jack Pudding or of a Cynic.
It is that of a gentleman, in whom the quickest sense of the ridiculous
is constantly tempered by good nature and good breeding.

We own that the humor of Addison is, in our opinion, of a more delicious
flavor than the humor of either Swift or Voltaire. Thus much, at least,
is certain, that both Swift and Voltaire have been successfully
mimicked, and that no man has yet been able to mimic Addison. The letter
of the Abbé Coyer to Pansophe is Voltaire all over, and imposed, during
a long time, on the Academicians of Paris. There are passages in
Arbuthnot's satirical works which we, at least, cannot distinguish from
Swift's best writing. But of the many eminent men who have made Addison
their model, though several have copied his mere diction with happy
effect, none has been able to catch the tone of his pleasantry. In the
World, in the Connoisseur, in the Mirror, in the Lounger, there are
numerous papers written in obvious imitation of his Tatlers and
Spectators. Most of those papers have some merit; many are very lively
and amusing; but there is not a single one which could be passed off as
Addison's on a critic of the smallest perspicacity.

But that which chiefly distinguishes Addison from Swift, from Voltaire,
from almost all the other great masters of ridicule, is the grace, the
nobleness, the moral purity, which we find even in his merriment.
Severity, gradually hardening and darkening into misanthropy,
characterizes the works of Swift. The nature of Voltaire was, indeed,
not inhuman; but he venerated nothing. Neither in the masterpieces of
art nor in the purest examples of virtue, neither in the Great First
Cause nor in the awful enigma of the grave, could he see anything but
subjects for drollery. The more solemn and august the theme, the more
monkey-like was his grimacing and chattering. The mirth of Swift is the
mirth of Mephistopheles; the mirth of Voltaire is the mirth of Puck.
If, as Soame Jenyns oddly imagined, a portion of the happiness of
Seraphim and just men made perfect be derived from an exquisite
perception of the ludicrous, their mirth must surely be none other than
the mirth of Addison; a mirth consistent with tender compassion for all
that is frail, and with profound reverence for all that is sublime.
Nothing great, nothing amiable, no moral duty, no doctrine of natural or
revealed religion, has ever been associated by Addison with any
degrading idea. His humanity is without parallel in literary history.
The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without
abusing it. No kind of power is more formidable than the power of making
men ridiculous; and that power Addison possessed in boundless measure.
How grossly that power was abused by Swift and by Voltaire is well
known. But of Addison it may be confidently affirmed that he has
blackened no man's character, nay, that it would be difficult, if not
impossible, to find in all the volumes which he has left us a single
taunt which can be called ungenerous or unkind. Yet he had detractors,
whose malignity might have seemed to justify as terrible a revenge as
that which men not superior to him in genius wreaked on Bettesworth and
on Franc de Pompignan. He was a politician; he was the best writer of
his party; he lived in times of fierce excitement, in times when persons
of high character and station stooped to scurrility such as is now
practised only by the basest of mankind. Yet no provocation and no
example could induce him to return railing for railing.

Of the service which his Essays rendered to morality it is difficult to
speak too highly. It is true that when the Tatler appeared, that age of
outrageous profaneness and licentiousness which followed the Restoration
had passed away. Jeremy Collier had shamed the theatres into something
which, compared with the excesses of Etherege and Wycherley, might be
called decency. Yet there still lingered in the public mind a
pernicious notion that there was some connection between genius and
profligacy, between the domestic virtues and the sullen formality of the
Puritans. That error it is the glory of Addison to have dispelled. He
taught the nation that the faith and the morality of Hale and Tillotson
might be found in company with wit more sparkling than the wit of
Congreve, and with humor richer than the humor of Vanbrugh. So
effectually, indeed, did he retort on vice the mockery which had
recently been directed against virtue, that, since his time, the open
violation of decency has always been considered among us as the mark of
a fool. And this revolution, the greatest and most salutary ever
effected by any satirist, he accomplished, be it remembered, without
writing one personal lampoon.

In the early contributions of Addison to the Tatler his peculiar powers
were not fully exhibited. Yet from the first, his superiority to all his
coadjutors was evident. Some of his later Tatlers are fully equal to
anything that he ever wrote. Among the portraits, we most admire Tom
Folio, Ned Softly, and the Political Upholsterer. The proceedings of the
Court of Honor, the Thermometer of Zeal, the story of the Frozen Words,
the Memoirs of the Shilling, are excellent specimens of that ingenious
and lively species of fiction in which Addison excelled all men. There
is one still better paper of the same class. But though that paper, a
hundred and thirty-three years ago, was probably thought as edifying as
one of Smallridge's sermons, we dare not indicate it to the squeamish
readers of the nineteenth century.

During the session of Parliament which commenced in November, 1709, and
which the impeachment of Sacheverell has made memorable, Addison appears
to have resided in London. The Tatler was now more popular than any
periodical paper had ever been; and his connection with it was generally
known. It was not known, however, that almost everything good in the
Tatler was his. The truth is that the fifty or sixty numbers which we
owe to him were not merely the best, but so decidedly the best that any
five of them are more valuable than all the two hundred numbers in which
he had no share.

He required, at this time, all the solace which he could derive from
literary success. The Queen had always disliked the Whigs. She had
during some years disliked the Marlborough family. But, reigning by a
disputed title, she could not venture directly to oppose herself to a
majority of both Houses of Parliament; and, engaged as she was in a war
on the event of which her own Crown was staked, she could not venture to
disgrace a great and successful general. But at length, in the year
1710, the causes which had restrained her from showing her aversion to
the Low Church party ceased to operate. The trial of Sacheverell
produced an outbreak of public feeling scarcely less violent than the
outbreaks which we can ourselves remember in 1820 and in 1831. The
country gentlemen, the country clergymen, the rabble of the towns, were
all, for once, on the same side. It was clear that, if a general
election took place before the excitement abated, the Tories would have
a majority. The services of Marlborough had been so splendid that they
were no longer necessary. The Queen's throne was secure from all attack
on the part of Louis. Indeed, it seemed much more likely that the
English and German armies would divide the spoils of Versailles and
Marli than that a Marshal of France would bring back the Pretender to
St. James's. The Queen, acting by the advice of Harley, determined to
dismiss her servants. In June the change commenced. Sunderland was the
first who fell. The Tories exulted over his fall. The Whigs tried,
during a few weeks, to persuade themselves that her Majesty had acted
only from personal dislike to the Secretary, and that she meditated no
further alteration. But, early in August, Godolphin was surprised by a
letter from Anne, which directed him to break his white staff. Even
after this event, the irresolution or dissimulation of Harley kept up
the hopes of the Whigs during another month; and then the ruin became
rapid and violent. The Parliament was dissolved. The Ministers were
turned out. The Tories were called to office. The tide of popularity ran
violently in favor of the High Church party. That party, feeble in the
late House of Commons, was now irresistible. The power which the Tories
had thus suddenly acquired, they used with blind and stupid ferocity.
The howl which the whole pack set up for prey and for blood appalled
even him who had roused and unchained them. When, at this distance of
time, we calmly review the conduct of the discarded Ministers, we cannot
but feel a movement of indignation at the injustice with which they were
treated. No body of men had ever administered the government with more
energy, ability, and moderation; and their success had been proportioned
to their wisdom. They had saved Holland and Germany. They had humbled
France. They had, as it seemed, all but torn Spain from the House of
Bourbon. They had made England the first power in Europe. At home they
had united England and Scotland. They had respected the rights of
conscience and the liberty of the subject. They retired, leaving their
country at the height of prosperity and glory. And yet they were pursued
to their retreat by such a roar of obloquy as was never raised against
the government which threw away thirteen colonies, or against the
government which sent a gallant army to perish in the ditches of

None of the Whigs suffered more in the general wreck than Addison. He
had just sustained some heavy pecuniary losses, of the nature of which
we are imperfectly informed, when his Secretaryship was taken from him.
He had reason to believe that he should also be deprived of the small
Irish office which he held by patent. He had just resigned his
Fellowship. It seems probable that he had already ventured to raise his
eyes to a great lady, and that, while his political friends were in
power, and while his own fortunes were rising, he had been, in the
phrase of the romances which were then fashionable, permitted to hope.
But Mr. Addison the ingenious writer and Mr. Addison the Chief Secretary
were, in her ladyship's opinion, two very different persons. All these
calamities united, however, could not disturb the serene cheerfulness of
a mind conscious of innocence, and rich in its own wealth. He told his
friends, with smiling resignation, that they ought to admire his
philosophy, that he had lost at once his fortune, his place, his
fellowship, and his mistress, that he must think of turning tutor again,
and yet that his spirits were as good as ever.

He had one consolation. Of the unpopularity which his friends had
incurred, he had no share. Such was the esteem with which he was
regarded that, while the most violent measures were taken for the
purpose of forcing Tory members on Whig corporations, he was returned to
Parliament without even a contest. Swift who was now in London, and who
had already determined on quitting the Whigs, wrote to Stella in these
remarkable words: "The Tories carry it among the new members six to one.
Mr. Addison's election has passed easy and undisputed; and I believe if
he had a mind to be king, he would hardly be refused."

The good will with which the Tories regarded Addison is the more
honorable to him, because it had not been purchased by any concession on
his part. During the general election he published a political Journal,
entitled the Whig Examiner. Of that Journal it may be sufficient to say
that Johnson, in spite of his strong political prejudices, pronounced it
to be superior in wit to any of Swift's writings on the other side. When
it ceased to appear, Swift, in a letter to Stella, expressed his
exultation at the death of so formidable an antagonist. "He might well
rejoice," says Johnson, "at the death of that which he could not have
killed." "On no occasion," he adds, "was the genius of Addison more
vigorously exerted, and on none did the superiority of his powers more
evidently appear."

The only use which Addison appears to have made of the favor with which
he was regarded by the Tories was to save some of his friends from the
general ruin of the Whig party. He felt himself to be in a situation
which made it his duty to take a decided part in politics. But the case
of Steele and of Ambrose Philips was different. For Philips, Addison
even condescended to solicit, with what success we have not ascertained.
Steele held two places. He was Gazetteer, and he was also a Commissioner
of Stamps. The Gazette was taken from him. But he was suffered to retain
his place in the Stamp Office, on an implied understanding that he
should not be active against the new government; and he was, during more
than two years, induced by Addison to observe this armistice with
tolerable fidelity.

Isaac Bickerstaff accordingly became silent upon politics, and the
article of news, which had once formed about one third of his paper,
altogether disappeared. The Tatler had completely changed its character.
It was now nothing but a series of essays on books, morals, and manners.
Steele therefore resolved to bring it to a close, and to commence a new
work on an improved plan. It was announced that this new work would be
published daily. The undertaking was generally regarded as bold, or
rather rash; but the event amply justified the confidence with which
Steele relied on the fertility of Addison's genius. On the second of
January, 1711, appeared the last Tatler. At the beginning of March
following, appeared the first of an incomparable series of papers,
containing observations on life and literature by an imaginary

The Spectator himself was conceived and drawn by Addison; and it is not
easy to doubt that the portrait was meant to be in some features a
likeness of the painter. The Spectator is a gentleman who, after passing
a studious youth at the University, has travelled on classic ground, and
has bestowed much attention on curious points of antiquity. He has, on
his return, fixed his residence in London, and has observed all the
forms of life which are to be found in that great city, has daily
listened to the wits of Will's, has smoked with the philosophers of the
Grecian, and has mingled with the parsons at Child's, and with the
politicians at the St. James's. In the morning, he often listens to the
hum of the Exchange; in the evening, his face is constantly to be seen
in the pit of Drury Lane Theatre. But an insurmountable bashfulness
prevents him from opening his mouth, except in a small circle of
intimate friends.

These friends were first sketched by Steele. Four of the club, the
templar, the clergyman, the soldier, and the merchant, were
uninteresting figures, fit only for a background. But the other two, an
old country baronet and an old town rake, though not delineated with a
very delicate pencil, had some good strokes. Addison took the rude
outlines into his own hands, retouched them, colored them, and is in
truth the creator of the Sir Roger de Coverley and the Will Honeycomb
with whom we are all familiar.

The plan of the Spectator must be allowed to be both original and
eminently happy. Every valuable essay in the series may be read with
pleasure separately; yet the five or six hundred essays form a whole,
and a whole which has the interest of a novel. It must be remembered,
too, that at that time no novel, giving a lively and powerful picture of
the common life and manners of England, had appeared. Richardson was
working as a compositor. Fielding was robbing birds' nests. Smollett was
not yet born. The narrative, therefore, which connects together the
Spectator's Essays, gave to our ancestors their first taste of an
exquisite and untried pleasure. That narrative was indeed constructed
with no art or labor. The events were such events as occur every day.
Sir Roger comes up to town to see Eugenio, as the worthy baronet always
calls Prince Eugene, goes with the Spectator on the water to Spring
Gardens, walks among the tombs in the Abbey, and is frightened by the
Mohawks, but conquers his apprehension so far as to go to the theatre
when the Distressed Mother is acted. The Spectator pays a visit in the
summer to Coverley Hall, is charmed with the old house, the old butler,
and the old chaplain, eats a jack caught by Will Wimble, rides to the
assizes, and hears a point of law discussed by Tom Touchy. At last a
letter from the honest butler brings to the club the news that Sir Roger
is dead. Will Honeycomb marries and reforms at sixty. The club breaks
up; and the Spectator resigns his functions. Such events can hardly be
said to form a plot; yet they are related with such truth, such grace,
such wit, such humor, such pathos, such knowledge of the human heart,
such knowledge of the ways of the world, that they charm us on the
hundredth perusal. We have not the least doubt that, if Addison had
written a novel, on an extensive plan, it would have been superior to
any that we possess. As it is, he is entitled to be considered, not only
as the greatest of the English essayists, but as the forerunner of the
great English novelists.

We say this of Addison alone; for Addison is the Spectator. About three
sevenths of the work are his; and it is no exaggeration to say, that his
worst essay is as good as the best essay of any of his coadjutors. His
best essays approach near to absolute perfection; nor is their
excellence more wonderful than their variety. His invention never seems
to flag; nor is he ever under the necessity of repeating himself, or of
wearing out a subject. There are no dregs in his wine. He regales us
after the fashion of that prodigal nabob who held that there was only
one good glass in a bottle. As soon as we have tasted the first
sparkling foam of a jest, it is withdrawn, and a fresh draught of nectar
is at our lips. On the Monday we have an allegory as lively and
ingenious as Lucian's Auction of Lives; on the Tuesday an Eastern
apologue, as richly colored as the Tales of Scherezade; on the
Wednesday, a character described with the skill of La Bruyère; on the
Thursday, a scene from common life, equal to the best chapters in the
Vicar of Wakefield; on the Friday, some sly Horatian pleasantry on
fashionable follies, on hoops, patches, or puppet shows; and on the
Saturday a religious meditation, which will bear a comparison with the
finest passages in Massillon.

It is dangerous to select where there is so much that deserves the
highest praise. We will venture, however, to say, that any person who
wishes to form a just notion of the extent and variety of Addison's
powers, will do well to read at one sitting the following papers, the
two Visits to the Abbey, the Visit to the Exchange, the Journal of the
Retired Citizen, the Vision of Mirza, the Transmigrations of Pug the
Monkey, and the Death of Sir Roger de Coverley.[12]

The least valuable of Addison's contributions to the Spectator are, in
the judgment of our age, his critical papers. Yet his critical papers
are always luminous, and often ingenious. The very worst of them must be
regarded as creditable to him, when the character of the school in which
he had been trained is fairly considered. The best of them were much too
good for his readers. In truth, he was not so far behind our generation
as he was before his own. No essays in the Spectator were more censured
and derided than those in which he raised his voice against the contempt
with which our fine old ballads were regarded, and showed the scoffers
that the same gold which, burnished and polished, gives lustre to the
Æneid and the Odes of Horace, is mingled with the rude dross of Chevy

It is not strange that the success of the Spectator should have been
such as no similar work has ever obtained. The number of copies daily
distributed was at first three thousand. It subsequently increased, and
had risen to near four thousand when the stamp tax was imposed. That tax
was fatal to a crowd of journals. The Spectator, however, stood its
ground, doubled its price, and, though its circulation fell off, still
yielded a large revenue both to the state and to the authors. For
particular papers, the demand was immense; of some, it is said, twenty
thousand copies were required. But this was not all. To have the
Spectator served up every morning with the bohea and rolls, was a luxury
for the few. The majority were content to wait till essays enough had
appeared to form a volume. Ten thousand copies of each volume were
immediately taken off, and new editions were called for. It must be
remembered that the population of England was then hardly a third of
what it now is. The number of Englishmen who were in the habit of
reading was probably not a sixth of what it now is. A shopkeeper or a
farmer who found any pleasure in literature was a rarity. Nay, there was
doubtless more than one knight of the shire whose country seat did not
contain ten books, receipt books and books on farriery included. In
these circumstances, the sale of the Spectator must be considered as
indicating a popularity quite as great as that of the most successful
works of Sir Walter Scott and Mr. Dickens in our own time.

At the close of 1712 the Spectator ceased to appear. It was probably
felt that the shortfaced gentleman and his club had been long enough
before the town; and that it was time to withdraw them, and to replace
them by a new set of characters. In a few weeks the first number of the
Guardian was published. But the Guardian was unfortunate both in its
birth and in its death. It began in dulness, and disappeared in a
tempest of faction. The original plan was bad. Addison contributed
nothing till sixty-six numbers had appeared; and it was then impossible
to make the Guardian what the Spectator had been. Nestor Ironside and
the Miss Lizards were people to whom even he could impart no interest.
He could only furnish some excellent little essays, both serious and
comic; and this he did.

Why Addison gave no assistance to the Guardian, during the first two
months of its existence, is a question which has puzzled the editors and
biographers, but which seems to us to admit of a very easy solution. He
was then engaged in bringing his Cato on the stage.

The first four acts of this drama had been lying in his desk since his
return from Italy. His modest and sensitive nature shrank from the risk
of a public and shameful failure; and, though all who saw the manuscript
were loud in praise, some thought it possible that an audience might
become impatient even of very good rhetoric, and advised Addison to
print the play without hazarding a representation. At length, after many
fits of apprehension, the poet yielded to the urgency of his political
friends, who hoped that the public would discover some analogy between
the followers of Cæsar and the Tories, between Sempronius and the
apostate Whigs, between Cato, struggling to the last for the liberties
of Rome, and the band of patriots who still stood firm round Halifax and

Addison gave the play to the managers of Drury Lane Theatre, without
stipulating for any advantage to himself. They, therefore, thought
themselves bound to spare no cost in scenery and dresses. The
decorations, it is true, would not have pleased the skilful eye of Mr.
Macready. Juba's waistcoat blazed with gold lace; Marcia's hoop was
worthy of a Duchess on the birthday; and Cato wore a wig worth fifty
guineas. The prologue was written by Pope, and is undoubtedly a
dignified and spirited composition. The part of the hero was
excellently played by Booth. Steele undertook to pack a house. The boxes
were in a blaze with the stars of the Peers in Opposition. The pit was
crowded with attentive and friendly listeners from the Inns of Court and
the literary coffee-houses. Sir Gilbert Heathcote, Governor of the Bank
of England, was at the head of a powerful body of auxiliaries from the
city, warm men and true Whigs, but better known at Jonathan's and
Garroway's than in the haunts of wits and critics.

These precautions were quite superfluous. The Tories, as a body,
regarded Addison with no unkind feelings. Nor was it for their interest,
professing, as they did, profound reverence for law and prescription,
and abhorrence both of popular insurrections and of standing armies, to
appropriate to themselves reflections thrown on the great military chief
and demagogue, who, with the support of the legions and of the common
people, subverted all the ancient institutions of his country.
Accordingly, every shout that was raised by the members of the Kitcat
was echoed by the High Churchmen of the October; and the curtain at
length fell amidst thunders of unanimous applause.

The delight and admiration of the town were described by the Guardian in
terms which we might attribute to partiality, were it not that the
Examiner, the organ of the Ministry, held similar language. The Tories,
indeed, found much to sneer at in the conduct of their opponents. Steele
had on this, as on other occasions, shown more zeal than taste or
judgment. The honest citizens who marched under the orders of Sir Gibby,
as he was facetiously called, probably knew better when to buy and when
to sell stock than when to clap and when to hiss at a play, and incurred
some ridicule by making the hypocritical Sempronius their favorite, and
by giving to his insincere rants louder plaudits than they bestowed on
the temperate eloquence of Cato. Wharton, too, who had the incredible
effrontery to applaud the lines about flying from prosperous vice and
from the power of impious men to a private station, did not escape the
sarcasms of those who justly thought that he could fly from nothing more
vicious or impious than himself. The epilogue, which was written by
Garth, a zealous Whig, was severely and not unreasonably censured as
ignoble and out of place. But Addison was described, even by the
bitterest Tory writers, as a gentleman of wit and virtue, in whose
friendship many persons of both parties were happy, and whose name ought
not to be mixed up with factious squabbles.

Of the jests by which the triumph of the Whig party was disturbed, the
most severe and happy was Bolingbroke's. Between two acts, he sent for
Booth to his box, and presented him, before the whole theatre, with a
purse of fifty guineas for defending the cause of liberty so well
against a perpetual Dictator. This was a pungent allusion to the attempt
which Marlborough had made, not long before his fall, to obtain a patent
creating him Captain General for life.

It was April; and in April, a hundred and thirty years ago, the London
season was thought to be far advanced. During a whole month, however,
Cato was performed to overflowing houses, and brought into the treasury
of the theatre twice the gains of an ordinary spring. In the summer, the
Drury Lane Company went down to the Act at Oxford, and there, before an
audience which retained an affectionate remembrance of Addison's
accomplishments and virtues, his tragedy was acted during several days.
The gownsmen began to besiege the theatre in the forenoon, and by one in
the afternoon all the seats were filled.

About the merits of the piece which had so extraordinary an effect, the
public, we suppose, has made up its mind. To compare it with the
masterpieces of the Attic stage, with the great English dramas of the
time of Elizabeth, or even with the productions of Schiller's manhood,
would be absurd indeed. Yet it contains excellent dialogue and
declamation, and, among plays fashioned on the French model, must be
allowed to rank high; not indeed with Athalie or Saul; but, we think,
not below Cinna, and certainly above any other English tragedy of the
same school, above many of the plays of Corneille, above many of the
plays of Voltaire and Alfieri, and above some plays of Racine. Be this
as it may, we have little doubt that Cato did as much as the Tatlers,
Spectators, and Freeholders united, to raise Addison's fame among his

The modesty and good nature of the successful dramatist had tamed even
the malignity of faction. But literary envy, it should seem, is a
fiercer passion than party spirit. It was by a zealous Whig that the
fiercest attack on the Whig tragedy was made. John Dennis published
Remarks on Cato, which were written with some acuteness and with much
coarseness and asperity. Addison neither defended himself nor
retaliated. On many points he had an excellent defence; and nothing
would have been easier than to retaliate; for Dennis had written bad
odes, bad tragedies, bad comedies; he had, moreover, a larger share than
most men of those infirmities and eccentricities which excite laughter;
and Addison's power of turning either an absurd book or an absurd man
into ridicule was unrivalled. Addison, however, serenely conscious of
his superiority, looked with pity on his assailant, whose temper,
naturally irritable and gloomy, had been soured by want, by controversy,
and by literary failures.

But among the young candidates for Addison's favor there was one
distinguished by talents from the rest, and distinguished, we fear, not
less by malignity and insincerity. Pope was only twenty-five. But his
powers had expanded to their full maturity; and his best poem, the Rape
of the Lock, had recently been published. Of his genius, Addison had
always expressed high admiration. But Addison had early discerned, what
might indeed have been discerned by an eye less penetrating than his,
that the diminutive, crooked, sickly boy was eager to revenge himself on
society for the unkindness of nature. In the Spectator, the Essay on
Criticism had been praised with cordial warmth; but a gentle hint had
been added, that the writer of so excellent a poem would have done well
to avoid ill-natured personalities. Pope, though evidently more galled
by the censure than gratified by the praise, returned thanks for the
admonition, and promised to profit by it. The two writers continued to
exchange civilities, counsel, and small good offices. Addison publicly
extolled Pope's miscellaneous pieces; and Pope furnished Addison with a
prologue. This did not last long. Pope hated Dennis, whom he had injured
without provocation. The appearance of the Remarks on Cato gave the
irritable poet an opportunity of venting his malice under the show of
friendship; and such an opportunity could not but be welcome to a nature
which was implacable in enmity, and which always preferred the tortuous
to the straight path. He published, accordingly, the Narrative of the
Frenzy of John Dennis. But Pope had mistaken his powers. He was a great
master of invective and sarcasm; he could dissect a character in terse
and sonorous couplets, brilliant with antithesis; but of dramatic talent
he was altogether destitute. If he had written a lampoon on Dennis, such
as that on Atticus or that on Sporus, the old grumbler would have been
crushed. But Pope writing dialogue resembled--to borrow Horace's imagery
and his own--a wolf which, instead of biting, should take to kicking, or
a monkey which should try to sting. The Narrative is utterly
contemptible. Of argument there is not even the show; and the jests are
such as, if they were introduced into a farce, would call forth the
hisses of the shilling gallery. Dennis raves about the drama; and the
nurse thinks that he is calling for a dram. "There is," he cries, "no
peripetia in the tragedy, no change of fortune, no change at all."
"Pray, good Sir, be not angry," says the old woman; "I'll fetch change."
This is not exactly the pleasantry of Addison.

There can be no doubt that Addison saw through this officious zeal, and
felt himself deeply aggrieved by it. So foolish and spiteful a pamphlet
could do him no good, and, if he were thought to have any hand in it,
must do him harm. Gifted with incomparable powers of ridicule, he had
never, even in self-defence, used those powers inhumanly or
uncourteously; and he was not disposed to let others make his fame and
his interests a pretext under which they might commit outrages from
which he had himself constantly abstained. He accordingly declared that
he had no concern in the Narrative, that he disapproved of it, and that,
if he answered the remarks, he would answer them like a gentleman; and
he took care to communicate this to Dennis. Pope was bitterly mortified;
and to this transaction we are inclined to ascribe the hatred with which
he ever after regarded Addison.

In September, 1713, the Guardian ceased to appear. Steele had gone mad
about politics. A general election had just taken place; he had been
chosen member for Stockbridge; and he fully expected to play a first
part in Parliament. The immense success of the Tatler and Spectator had
turned his head. He had been the editor of both those papers, and was
not aware how entirely they owed their influence and popularity to the
genius of his friend. His spirits, always violent, were now excited by
vanity, ambition, and faction to such a pitch that he every day
committed some offence against good sense and good taste. All the
discreet and moderate members of his own party regretted and condemned
his folly. "I am in a thousand troubles," Addison wrote, "about poor
Dick, and wish that his zeal for the public may not be ruinous to
himself. But he has sent me word that he is determined to go on, and
that any advice I may give him in this particular will have no weight
with him."

Steele set up a political paper called the Englishman, which, as it was
not supported by contributions from Addison, completely failed. By this
work, by some other writings of the same kind, and by the airs which he
gave himself at the first meeting of the new Parliament, he made the
Tories so angry that they determined to expel him. The Whigs stood by
him gallantly, but were unable to save him. The vote of expulsion was
regarded by all dispassionate men as a tyrannical exercise of the power
of the majority. But Steele's violence and folly, though they by no
means justified the steps which his enemies took, had completely
disgusted his friends; nor did he ever regain the place which he had
held in the public estimation.

Addison about this time conceived the design of adding an eighth volume
to the Spectator. In June, 1714, the first number of the new series
appeared, and during about six months three papers were published
weekly. Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between the
Englishman and the eighth volume of the Spectator, between Steele
without Addison and Addison without Steele. The Englishman is forgotten;
the eighth volume of the Spectator contains, perhaps, the finest essays,
both serious and playful, in the English language.

Before this volume was completed, the death of Anne produced an entire
change in the administration of public affairs. The blow fell suddenly.
It found the Tory party distracted by internal feuds, and unprepared for
any great effort. Harley had just been disgraced. Bolingbroke, it was
supposed, would be the chief minister. But the Queen was on her deathbed
before the white staff had been given, and her last public act was to
deliver it with a feeble hand to the Duke of Shrewsbury. The emergency
produced a coalition between all sections of public men who were
attached to the Protestant succession. George the First was proclaimed
without opposition. A Council, in which the leading Whigs had seats,
took the direction of affairs till the new King should arrive. The first
act of the Lords Justices was to appoint Addison their secretary.

There is an idle tradition that he was directed to prepare a letter to
the King, that he could not satisfy himself as to the style of this
composition, and that the Lords Justices called in a clerk who at once
did what was wanted. It is not strange that a story so flattering to
mediocrity should be popular; and we are sorry to deprive dunces of
their consolation. But the truth must be told. It was well observed by
Sir James Mackintosh, whose knowledge of these times was unequalled,
that Addison never, in any official document, affected wit or eloquence,
and that his dispatches are, without exception, remarkable for
unpretending simplicity. Everybody who knows with what ease Addison's
finest essays were produced must be convinced that, if well-turned
phrases had been wanted, he would have had no difficulty in finding
them. We are, however, inclined to believe, that the story is not
absolutely without a foundation. It may well be that Addison did not
know, till he had consulted experienced clerks who remembered the times
when William the Third was absent on the Continent, in what form a
letter from the Council of Regency to the King ought to be drawn. We
think it very likely that the ablest statesman of our time, Lord John
Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston, for example, would, in
similar circumstances, be found quite as ignorant. Every office has some
little mysteries which the dullest man may learn with a little
attention, and which the greatest man cannot possibly know by intuition.
One paper must be signed by the chief of the department; another by his
deputy; to a third the royal sign manual is necessary. One communication
is to be registered, and another is not. One sentence must be in black
ink and another in red ink. If the ablest Secretary for Ireland were
moved to the India Board, if the ablest President of the India Board
were moved to the War Office, he would require instruction on points
like these; and we do not doubt that Addison required such instruction
when he became, for the first time, Secretary to the Lords Justices.

George the First took possession of his kingdom without opposition. A
new ministry was formed, and a new Parliament favorable to the Whigs
chosen. Sunderland was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; and Addison
again went to Dublin as Chief Secretary.

At Dublin Swift resided; and there was much speculation about the way in
which the Dean and the Secretary would behave towards each other. The
relations which existed between these remarkable men form an interesting
and pleasing portion of literary history. They had early attached
themselves to the same political party and to the same patrons. While
Anne's Whig ministry was in power, the visits of Swift to London and the
official residence of Addison in Ireland had given them opportunities of
knowing each other. They were the two shrewdest observers of their age.
But their observations on each other had led them to favorable
conclusions. Swift did full justice to the rare powers of conversation
which were latent under the bashful deportment of Addison. Addison, on
the other hand, discerned much good nature under the severe look and
manner of Swift; and, indeed, the Swift of 1708 and the Swift of 1738
were two very different men.

But the paths of the two friends diverged widely. The Whig statesmen
loaded Addison with solid benefits. They praised Swift, asked him to
dinner, and did nothing more for him. His profession laid them under a
difficulty. In the state they could not promote him; and they had reason
to fear that, by bestowing preferment in the church on the author of the
Tale of a Tub, they might give scandal to the public, which had no high
opinion of their orthodoxy. He did not make fair allowance for the
difficulties which prevented Halifax and Somers from serving him,
thought himself an ill-used man, sacrificed honor and consistency to
revenge, joined the Tories, and became their most formidable champion.
He soon found, however, that his old friends were less to blame than he
had supposed. The dislike with which the Queen and the heads of the
Church regarded him was insurmountable; and it was with the greatest
difficulty that he obtained an ecclesiastical dignity of no great value,
on condition of fixing his residence in a country which he detested.

Difference of political opinion had produced, not indeed a quarrel, but
a coolness between Swift and Addison. They at length ceased altogether
to see each other. Yet there was between them a tacit compact like that
between the hereditary guests in the Iliad:--

    Egchea d' allêlôn aleômetha kai di' homilou
    Polloi men gar emoi Trôes kleitoi t' epikouroi,
    Kteinein, hon ke theos ge porê kai possi kicheiô,
    Polloi d' au soi Achaioi, enairemen, hon ke dynêai.]

It is not strange that Addison, who calumniated and insulted nobody,
should not have calumniated or insulted Swift. But it is remarkable that
Swift, to whom neither genius nor virtue was sacred, and who generally
seemed to find, like most other renegades, a peculiar pleasure in
attacking old friends, should have shown so much respect and tenderness
to Addison.

Fortune had now changed. The accession of the House of Hanover had
secured in England the liberties of the people, and in Ireland the
dominion of the Protestant caste. To that caste Swift was more odious
than any other man. He was hooted and even pelted in the streets of
Dublin; and could not venture to ride along the strand for his health
without the attendance of armed servants. Many whom he had formerly
served now libelled and insulted him. At this time Addison arrived. He
had been advised not to show the smallest civility to the Dean of St.
Patrick's. He had answered, with admirable spirit, that it might be
necessary for men whose fidelity to their party was suspected to hold no
intercourse with political opponents; but that one who had been a steady
Whig in the worst times might venture, when the good cause was
triumphant, to shake hands with an old friend who was one of the
vanquished Tories. His kindness was soothing to the proud and cruelly
wounded spirit of Swift; and the two great satirists resumed their
habits of friendly intercourse.

Those associates of Addison whose political opinions agreed with his
shared his good fortune. He took Tickell with him to Ireland. He
procured for Budgell a lucrative place in the same kingdom. Ambrose
Philips was provided for in England. Steele had injured himself so much
by his eccentricity and perverseness that he obtained but a very small
part of what he thought his due. He was, however, knighted; he had a
place in the household; and he subsequently received other marks of
favor from the court.

Addison did not remain long in Ireland. In 1715 he quitted his
secretaryship for a seat at the Board of Trade. In the same year his
comedy of the Drummer was brought on the stage. The name of the author
was not announced; the piece was coldly received; and some critics have
expressed a doubt whether it were really Addison's. To us the evidence,
both external and internal, seems decisive. It is not in Addison's best
manner; but it contains numerous passages which no other writer known to
us could have produced. It was again performed after Addison's death,
and, being known to be his, was loudly applauded.

Towards the close of the year 1715, while the Rebellion was still raging
in Scotland, Addison published the first number of a paper called the
Freeholder. Among his political works the Freeholder is entitled to the
first place. Even in the Spectator there are few serious papers nobler
than the character of his friend Lord Somers, and certainly no
satirical papers superior to those in which the Tory fox-hunter is
introduced. This character is the original of Squire Western, and is
drawn with all Fielding's force, and with a delicacy of which Fielding
was altogether destitute. As none of Addison's works exhibits stronger
marks of his genius than the Freeholder, so none does more honor to his
moral character. It is difficult to extol too highly the candor and
humanity of a political writer, whom even the excitement of civil war
cannot hurry into unseemly violence. Oxford, it is well known, was then
the stronghold of Toryism. The High Street had been repeatedly lined
with bayonets in order to keep down the disaffected gownsmen; and
traitors pursued by the messengers of the government had been concealed
in the garrets of several colleges. Yet the admonition which, even under
such circumstances, Addison addressed to the University is singularly
gentle, respectful, and even affectionate. Indeed, he could not find it
in his heart to deal harshly even with imaginary persons. His
fox-hunter, though ignorant, stupid, and violent, is at heart a good
fellow, and is at last reclaimed by the clemency of the King. Steele was
dissatisfied with his friend's moderation, and though he acknowledged
that the Freeholder was excellently written, complained that the
ministry played on a lute when it was necessary to blow the trumpet. He
accordingly determined to execute a flourish after his own fashion, and
tried to rouse the public spirit of the nation by means of a paper
called the Town Talk, which is now as utterly forgotten as his
Englishman, as his Crisis, as his Letter to the Bailiff of Stockbridge,
as his Reader, in short, as everything that he wrote without the help of

In the same year in which the Drummer was acted, and in which the first
numbers of the Freeholder appeared, the estrangement of Pope and Addison
became complete. Addison had from the first seen that Pope was false
and malevolent. Pope had discovered that Addison was jealous. The
discovery was made in a strange manner. Pope had written the Rape of the
Lock, in two cantos, without supernatural machinery. These two cantos
had been loudly applauded, and by none more loudly than by Addison. Then
Pope thought of the Sylphs and Gnomes, Ariel, Momentilla, Crispissa, and
Umbriel, and resolved to interweave the Rosicrucian mythology with the
original fabric. He asked Addison's advice. Addison said that the poem
as it stood was a delicious little thing, and entreated Pope not to run
the risk of marring what was so excellent in trying to mend it. Pope
afterwards declared that this insidious counsel first opened his eyes to
the baseness of him who gave it.

Now there can be no doubt that Pope's plan was most ingenious, and that
he afterwards executed it with great skill and success. But does it
necessarily follow that Addison's advice was bad? And if Addison's
advice was bad, does it necessarily follow that it was given from bad
motives? If a friend were to ask us whether we would advise him to risk
his all in a lottery of which the chances were ten to one against him,
we should do our best to dissuade him from running such a risk. Even if
he were so lucky as to get the thirty thousand pound prize, we should
not admit that we had counselled him ill; and we should certainly think
it the height of injustice in him to accuse us of having been actuated
by malice. We think Addison's advice good advice. It rested on a sound
principle, the result of long and wide experience. The general rule
undoubtedly is that, when a successful work of imagination had been
produced, it should not be recast. We cannot at this moment, call to
mind a single instance in which this rule has been transgressed with
happy effect, except the instance of the Rape of the Lock. Tasso recast
his Jerusalem. Akenside recast his Pleasures of the Imagination, and his
Epistle to Curio. Pope himself, emboldened no doubt by the success with
which he had expanded and remodelled the Rape of the Lock, made the same
experiment on the Dunciad. All these attempts failed. Who was to foresee
that Pope would, once in his life, be able to do what he could not
himself do twice, and what nobody else has ever done?

Addison's advice was good. But had it been bad, why should we pronounce
it dishonest? Scott tells us that one of his best friends predicted the
failure of Waverley. Herder adjured Goethe not to take so unpromising a
subject as Faust. Hume tried to dissuade Robertson from writing the
History of Charles the fifth. Nay, Pope himself was one of those who
prophesied that Cato would never succeed on the stage, and advised
Addison to print it without risking a representation. But Scott, Goethe,
Robertson, Addison, had the good sense and generosity to give their
advisers credit for the best intentions. Pope's heart was not of the
same kind with theirs.

In 1715 while he was engaged in translating the Iliad, he met Addison at
a coffee-house. Philips and Budgell were there; but their sovereign got
rid of them, and asked Pope to dine with him alone. After dinner Addison
said that he lay under a difficulty which he wished to explain.
"Tickell," he said, "translated some time ago the first book of the
Iliad. I have promised to look it over and correct it. I cannot
therefore ask to see yours; for that would be double dealing." Pope made
a civil reply, and begged that his second book might have the advantage
of Addison's revision. Addison readily agreed, looked over the second
book, and sent it back with warm commendations.

Tickell's version of the first book appeared soon after this
conversation. In the preface all rivalry was earnestly disclaimed.
Tickell declared that he should not go on with the Iliad. That
enterprise he should leave to powers which he admitted to be superior to
his own. His only view, he said, in publishing this specimen was to
bespeak the favor of the public to a translation of the Odyssey, in
which he had made some progress.

Addison, and Addison's devoted followers, pronounced both the versions
good, but maintained that Tickell's had more of the original. The town
gave a decided preference to Pope's. We do not think it worth while to
settle such a question of precedence. Neither of the rivals can be said
to have translated the Iliad, unless, indeed, the word translation be
used in the sense which it bears in the Midsummer Night's Dream. When
Bottom makes his appearance with an ass's head instead of his own, Peter
Quince exclaims, "Bless thee! Bottom, bless thee! thou art translated."
In this sense, undoubtedly, the readers of either Pope or Tickell may
very properly exclaim, "Bless thee! Homer; thou art translated indeed."

Our readers will, we hope, agree with us in thinking that no man in
Addison's situation could have acted more fairly and kindly, both
towards Pope and towards Tickell, than he appears to have done. But an
odious suspicion had sprung up in the mind of Pope. He fancied, and he
soon firmly believed, that there was a deep conspiracy against his fame
and his fortunes. The work on which he had staked his reputation was to
be depreciated. The subscription, on which rested his hopes of a
competence, was to be defeated. With this view Addison had made a rival
translation; Tickell had consented to father it; and the wits of
Button's had united to puff it.

Is there any external evidence to support this grave accusation? The
answer is short. There is absolutely none.

Was there any internal evidence which proved Addison to be the author of
this version? Was it a work which Tickell was incapable of producing?
Surely not. Tickell was a Fellow of a College at Oxford, and must be
supposed to have been able to construe the Iliad; and he was a better
versifier than his friend. We are not aware that Pope pretended to have
discovered any turns of expression peculiar to Addison. Had such turns
of expression been discovered, they would be sufficiently accounted for
by supposing Addison to have corrected his friend's lines, as he owned
that he had done.

Is there anything in the character of the accused persons which makes
the accusation probable? We answer confidently--nothing. Tickell was
long after this time described by Pope himself as a very fair and worthy
man. Addison had been, during many years, before the public. Literary
rivals, political opponents, had kept their eyes on him. But neither
envy nor faction, in their utmost rage, had ever imputed to him a single
deviation from the laws of honor and of social morality. Had he been
indeed a man meanly jealous of fame, and capable of stooping to base and
wicked arts for the purpose of injuring his competitors, would his vices
have remained latent so long? He was a writer of tragedy: had he ever
injured Rowe? He was a writer of comedy: had he not done ample justice
to Congreve, and given valuable help to Steele? He was a pamphleteer:
have not his good nature and generosity been acknowledged by Swift, his
rival in fame and his adversary in politics?

That Tickell should have been guilty of a villainy seems to us highly
improbable. That Addison should have been guilty of a villainy seems to
us highly improbable. But that these two men should have conspired
together to commit a villainy seems to us improbable in a tenfold
degree. All that is known to us of their intercourse tends to prove that
it was not the intercourse of two accomplices in crime. These are some
of the lines in which Tickell poured forth his sorrow over the coffin of

    "Or dost thou warn poor mortals left behind,
    A task well suited to thy gentle mind?
    Oh, if sometimes thy spotless form descend,
    To me thine aid, thou guardian genius, lend.
    When rage misguides me, or when fear alarms,
    When pain distresses, or when pleasure charms,
    In silent whisperings purer thoughts impart,
    And turn from ill a frail and feeble heart;
    Lead through the paths thy virtue trod before,
    Till bliss shall join, nor death can part us more."

In what words, we should like to know, did this guardian genius invite
his pupil to join in a plan such as the Editor of the Satirist would
hardly dare to propose to the Editor of the Age?

We do not accuse Pope of bringing an accusation which he knew to be
false. We have not the smallest doubt that he believed it to be true;
and the evidence on which he believed it he found in his own bad heart.
His own life was one long series of tricks, as mean and as malicious as
that of which he suspected Addison and Tickell. He was all stiletto and
masque. To injure, to insult, and to save himself from the consequences
of injury and insult by lying and equivocating, was the habit of his
life. He published a lampoon on the Duke of Chandos; he was taxed with
it; and he lied and equivocated. He published a lampoon on Aaron Hill;
he was taxed with it; and he lied and equivocated. He published a still
fouler lampoon on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; he was taxed with it; and
he lied with more than usual effrontery and vehemence. He puffed himself
and abused his enemies under feigned names. He robbed himself of his own
letters, and then raised the hue and cry after them. Besides his frauds
of malignity, of fear, of interest, and of vanity, there were frauds
which he seems to have committed from love of frauds alone. He had a
habit of stratagem, a pleasure in outwitting all who came near him.
Whatever his object might be, the indirect road to it was that which he
preferred. For Bolingbroke, Pope undoubtedly felt as much love and
veneration as it was in his nature to feel for any human being. Yet Pope
was scarcely dead when it was discovered that, from no motive except
the mere love of artifice, he had been guilty of an act of gross perfidy
to Bolingbroke.

Nothing was more natural than that such a man as this should attribute
to others that which he felt within himself. A plain, probable, coherent
explanation is frankly given to him. He is certain that it is all a
romance. A line of conduct scrupulously fair, and even friendly, is
pursued towards him. He is convinced that it is merely a cover for a
vile intrigue by which he is to be disgraced and ruined. It is vain to
ask him for proofs. He has none, and wants none, except those which he
carries in his own bosom.

Whether Pope's malignity at length provoked Addison to retaliate for the
first and last time cannot now be known with certainty. We have only
Pope's story, which runs thus. A pamphlet appeared containing some
reflections which stung Pope to the quick. What those reflections were,
and whether they were reflections of which he had a right to complain,
we have now no means of deciding. The Earl of Warwick, a foolish and
vicious lad, who regarded Addison with the feelings with which such lads
generally regard their best friends, told Pope, truly or falsely, that
this pamphlet had been written by Addison's direction. When we consider
what a tendency stories have to grow, in passing even from one honest
man to another honest man, and when we consider that to the name of
honest man neither Pope nor the Earl of Warwick had a claim, we are not
disposed to attach much importance to this anecdote.

It is certain, however, that Pope was furious. He had already sketched
the character of Atticus in prose. In his anger he turned this prose
into the brilliant and energetic lines which everybody knows by heart,
or ought to know by heart, and sent them to Addison. One charge which
Pope has enforced with great skill is probably not without foundation.
Addison was, we are inclined to believe, too fond of presiding over a
circle of humble friends. Of the other imputations which these famous
lines are intended to convey, scarcely one has ever been proved to be
just, and some are certainly false. That Addison was not in the habit of
"damning with faint praise" appears from innumerable passages in his
writings, and from none more than from those in which he mentions Pope.
And it is not merely unjust, but ridiculous, to describe a man who made
the fortune of almost every one of his intimate friends as "so obliging
that he ne'er obliged."

That Addison felt the sting of Pope's satire keenly, we cannot doubt.
That he was conscious of one of the weaknesses with which he was
reproached is highly probable. But his heart, we firmly believe,
acquitted him of the gravest part of the accusation. He acted like
himself. As a satirist he was, at his own weapons, more than Pope's
match; and he would have been at no loss for topics. A distorted and
diseased body, tenanted by a yet more distorted and diseased mind; spite
and envy thinly disguised by sentiments as benevolent and noble as those
which Sir Peter Teazle admired in Mr. Joseph Surface; a feeble sickly
licentiousness; an odious love of filthy and noisome images--these were
things which a genius less powerful than that to which we owe the
Spectator could easily have held up to the mirth and hatred of mankind.
Addison had, moreover, at his command other means of vengeance which a
bad man would not have scrupled to use. He was powerful in the state.
Pope was a Catholic; and in those times a minister would have found it
easy to harass the most innocent Catholic by innumerable petty
vexations. Pope, near twenty years later, said that "through the lenity
of the government alone he could live with comfort." "Consider," he
exclaimed, "the injury that a man of high rank and credit may do to a
private person, under penal laws and many other disadvantages!" It is
pleasing to reflect that the only revenge which Addison took was to
insert in the Freeholder a warm encomium on the translation of the
Iliad, and to exhort all lovers of learning to put down their names as
subscribers. There could be no doubt, he said, from the specimens
already published, that the masterly hand of Pope would do as much for
Homer as Dryden had done for Virgil. From that time to the end of his
life, he always treated Pope, by Pope's own acknowledgment, with
justice. Friendship was, of course, at an end.

One reason which induced the Earl of Warwick to play the ignominious
part of talebearer on this occasion may have been his dislike of the
marriage which was about to take place between his mother and Addison.
The Countess Dowager, a daughter of the old and honorable family of the
Myddletons of Chirk, a family which, in any country but ours, would be
called noble, resided at Holland House. Addison had, during some years,
occupied at Chelsea a small dwelling, once the abode of Nell Gwynn.
Chelsea is now a district of London, and Holland House may be called a
town residence. But, in the days of Anne and George the First, milkmaids
and sportsmen wandered between green hedges and over fields bright with
daisies, from Kensington almost to the shore of the Thames. Addison and
Lady Warwick were country neighbors, and became intimate friends. The
great wit and scholar tried to allure the young Lord from the
fashionable amusements of beating watchmen, breaking windows, and
rolling women in hogsheads down Holborn Hill, to the study of letters
and the practice of virtue. These well-meant exertions did little good,
however, either to the disciple or to the master. Lord Warwick grew up a
rake; and Addison fell in love. The mature beauty of the Countess has
been celebrated by poets in language which, after a very large allowance
has been made for flattery, would lead us to believe that she was a fine
woman; and her rank doubtless heightened her attractions. The courtship
was long. The hopes of the lover appear to have risen and fallen with
the fortunes of his party. His attachment was at length matter of such
notoriety that, when he visited Ireland for the last time, Rowe
addressed some consolatory verses to the Chloe of Holland House. It
strikes us as a little strange that, in these verses, Addison should be
called Lycidas, a name of singularly evil omen for a swain just about to
cross St. George's Channel.

At length Chloe capitulated. Addison was indeed able to treat with her
on equal terms. He had reason to expect preferment even higher than that
which he had attained. He had inherited the fortune of a brother who
died Governor of Madras. He had purchased an estate in Warwickshire, and
had been welcomed to his domain in very tolerable verse by one of the
neighboring squires, the poetical fox-hunter, William Somervile. In
August, 1716, the newspapers announced that Joseph Addison, Esquire,
famous for many excellent works both in verse and prose, had espoused
the Countess Dowager of Warwick.

He now fixed his abode at Holland House, a house which can boast of a
greater number of inmates distinguished in political and literary
history than any other private dwelling in England. His portrait still
hangs there. The features are pleasing; the complexion is remarkably
fair; but in the expression, we trace rather the gentleness of his
disposition than the force and keenness of his intellect.

Not long after his marriage he reached the height of civil greatness.
The Whig Government had, during some time, been torn by internal
dissensions. Lord Townshend led one section of the Cabinet, Lord
Sunderland the other. At length, in the spring of 1717, Sunderland
triumphed. Townshend retired from office, and was accompanied by Walpole
and Cowper. Sunderland proceeded to reconstruct the Ministry; and
Addison was appointed Secretary of State. It is certain that the Seals
were pressed upon him, and were at first declined by him. Men equally
versed in official business might easily have been found; and his
colleagues knew that they could not expect assistance from him in
debate. He owed his elevation to his popularity, to his stainless
probity, and to his literary fame.

But scarcely had Addison entered the Cabinet when his health began to
fail. From one serious attack he recovered in the autumn; and his
recovery was celebrated in Latin verses, worthy of his own pen, by
Vincent Bourne, who was then at Trinity College, Cambridge. A relapse
soon took place; and, in the following spring, Addison was prevented by
a severe asthma from discharging the duties of his post. He resigned it,
and was succeeded by his friend Craggs, a young man whose natural parts,
though little improved by cultivation, were quick and showy, whose
graceful person and winning manners had made him generally acceptable in
society, and who, if he had lived, would probably have been the most
formidable of all the rivals of Walpole.

As yet there was no Joseph Hume. The Ministers, therefore, were able to
bestow on Addison a retiring pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year.
In what form this pension was given we are not told by the biographers,
and have not time to inquire. But it is certain that Addison did not
vacate his seat in the House of Commons.

Rest of mind and body seemed to have reëstablished his health; and he
thanked God with cheerful piety, for having set him free both from his
office and from his asthma. Many years seemed to be before him, and he
meditated many works, a tragedy on the death of Socrates, a translation
of the Psalms, a treatise on the evidences of Christianity. Of this last
performance, a part, which we could well spare, has come down to us.

But the fatal complaint soon returned, and gradually prevailed against
all the resources of medicine. It is melancholy to think that the last
months of such a life should have been overclouded both by domestic and
by political vexations. A tradition which began early, which has been
generally received, and to which we have nothing to oppose, has
represented his wife as an arrogant and imperious woman. It is said
that, till his health failed him, he was glad to escape from the
Countess Dowager and her magnificent dining room, blazing with the
gilded devices of the House of Rich, to some tavern where he could enjoy
a laugh, a talk about Virgil and Boileau, and a bottle of claret, with
the friends of his happier days. All those friends, however, were not
left to him. Sir Richard Steele had been gradually estranged by various
causes. He considered himself as one who, in evil times, had braved
martyrdom for his political principles, and demanded, when the Whig
party was triumphant, a large compensation for what he had suffered when
it was militant. The Whig leaders took a very different view of his
claims. They thought that he had, by his own petulance and folly,
brought them as well as himself into trouble, and though they did not
absolutely neglect him, doled out favors to him with a sparing hand. It
was natural that he should be angry with them, and especially angry with
Addison. But what above all seems to have disturbed Sir Richard, was the
elevation of Tickell, who, at thirty, was made by Addison Under
Secretary of State; while the Editor of the Tatler and Spectator, the
author of the Crisis, the member for Stockbridge who had been persecuted
for firm adherence to the House of Hanover, was, at near fifty, forced,
after many solicitations and complaints, to content himself with a share
in the patent of Drury Lane Theatre. Steele himself says in his
celebrated letter to Congreve that Addison, by his preference of
Tickell, "incurred the warmest resentment of other gentlemen;" and
everything seems to indicate that, of those resentful gentlemen, Steele
was himself one.

While poor Sir Richard was brooding over what he considered as Addison's
unkindness, a new cause of quarrel arose. The Whig party, already
divided against itself, was rent by a new schism. The celebrated Bill
for limiting the number of Peers had been brought in. The proud Duke of
Somerset, first in rank of all the nobles whose religion permitted them
to sit in Parliament, was the ostensible author of the measure. But it
was supported, and, in truth, devised by the Prime Minister.

We are satisfied that the Bill was most pernicious; and we fear that the
motives which induced Sunderland to frame it were not honorable to him.
But we cannot deny that it was supported by many of the best and wisest
men of that age. Nor was this strange. The royal prerogative had, within
the memory of the generation then in the vigor of life, been so grossly
abused that it was still regarded with a jealousy which, when the
peculiar situation of the House of Brunswick is considered, may perhaps
be called immoderate. The particular prerogative of creating peers had,
in the opinion of the Whigs, been grossly abused by Queen Anne's last
ministry; and even the Tories admitted that her Majesty, in swamping, as
it has since been called, the Upper House, had done what only an extreme
case could justify. The theory of the English constitution, according to
many high authorities, was that three independent powers, the Sovereign,
the Nobility, and the Commons, ought constantly to act as checks on each
other. If this theory were sound, it seemed to follow that to put one of
these powers under the absolute control of the other two was absurd. But
if the number of Peers were unlimited, it could not well be denied that
the Upper House was under the absolute control of the Crown and the
Commons, and was indebted only to their moderation for any power which
it might be suffered to retain.

Steele took part with the Opposition, Addison with the Ministers.
Steele, in a paper called the Plebeian, vehemently attacked the Bill.
Sunderland called for help on Addison, and Addison obeyed the call. In a
paper called the Old Whig, he answered, and indeed refuted, Steele's
arguments. It seems to us that the premises of both the
controversialists were unsound, that, on those premises, Addison
reasoned well and Steele ill, and that consequently Addison brought out
a false conclusion, while Steele blundered upon the truth. In style, in
wit, and in politeness, Addison maintained his superiority, though the
Old Whig is by no means one of his happiest performances.

At first, both the anonymous opponents observed the laws of propriety.
But at length Steele so far forgot himself as to throw an odious
imputation on the morals of the chiefs of the administration. Addison
replied with severity, but, in our opinion, with less severity than was
due to so grave an offence against morality and decorum; nor did he, in
his just anger, forget for a moment the laws of good taste and good
breeding. One calumny which has been often repeated, and never yet
contradicted, it is our duty to expose. It is asserted in the Biographia
Britannica, that Addison designated Steele as "little Dicky." This
assertion was repeated by Johnson, who had never seen the Old Whig, and
was therefore excusable. It has also been repeated by Miss Aikin, who
has seen the Old Whig, and for whom therefore there is less excuse. Now,
it is true that the words "little Dicky" occur in the Old Whig, and that
Steele's name was Richard. It is equally true that the words "little
Isaac" occur in the Duenna, and that Newton's name was Isaac. But we
confidently affirm that Addison's little Dicky had no more to do with
Steele than Sheridan's little Isaac with Newton. If we apply the words
"little Dicky" to Steele, we deprive a very lively and ingenious
passage, not only of all its wit, but of all its meaning. Little Dicky
was the nickname of Henry Norris, an actor of remarkably small stature,
but of great humor, who played the usurer Gomez, then a most popular
part, in Dryden's Spanish Friar.[13]

The merited reproof which Steele had received, though softened by some
kind and courteous expressions, galled him bitterly. He replied with
little force and great acrimony; but no rejoinder appeared. Addison was
fast hastening to his grave; and had, we may well suppose, little
disposition to prosecute a quarrel with an old friend. His complaint had
terminated in dropsy. He bore up long and manfully. But at length he
abandoned all hope, dismissed his physicians, and calmly prepared
himself to die.

His works he entrusted to the care of Tickell, and dedicated them a very
few days before his death to Craggs, in a letter written with the sweet
and graceful eloquence of a Saturday's Spectator. In this his last
composition, he alluded to his approaching end in words so manly, so
cheerful, and so tender that it is difficult to read them without tears.
At the same time he earnestly recommended the interests of Tickell to
the care of Craggs.

Within a few hours of the time at which this dedication was written,
Addison sent to beg Gay, who was then living by his wits about town, to
come to Holland House. Gay went and was received with great kindness.
To his amazement his forgiveness was implored by the dying man. Poor
Gay, the most good-natured and simple of mankind, could not imagine what
he had to forgive. There was, however, some wrong, the remembrance of
which weighed on Addison's mind, and which he declared himself anxious
to repair. He was in a state of extreme exhaustion; and the parting was
doubtless a friendly one on both sides. Gay supposed that some plan to
serve him had been in agitation at Court, and had been frustrated by
Addison's influence. Nor is this improbable. Gay had paid assiduous
court to the royal family. But in the Queen's days he had been the
eulogist of Bolingbroke, and was still connected with many Tories. It is
not strange that Addison, while heated by conflict, should have thought
himself justified in obstructing the preferment of one whom he might
regard as a political enemy. Neither is it strange that when reviewing
his whole life, and earnestly scrutinizing all his motives, he should
think that he had acted an unkind and ungenerous part, in using his
power against a distressed man of letters, who was as harmless and as
helpless as a child.

One inference may be drawn from this anecdote. It appears that Addison,
on his deathbed, called himself to a strict account, and was not at ease
till he had asked pardon for an injury which it was not even suspected
that he had committed, for an injury which would have caused disquiet
only to a very tender conscience. Is it not then reasonable to infer
that, if he had really been guilty of forming a base conspiracy against
the fame and fortunes of a rival, he would have expressed some remorse
for so serious a crime? But it is unnecessary to multiply arguments and
evidence for the defence, when there is neither argument nor evidence
for the accusation.

The last moments of Addison were perfectly serene. His interview with
his stepson is universally known. "See," he said, "how a Christian can
die." The piety of Addison was, in truth, of a singularly cheerful
character. The feeling which predominates in all his devotional writings
is gratitude. God was to him the all-wise and all-powerful friend who
had watched over his cradle with more than maternal tenderness; who had
listened to his cries before they could form themselves in prayer; who
had preserved his youth from the snares of vice; who had made his cup
run over with worldly blessings; who had doubled the value of those
blessings by bestowing a thankful heart to enjoy them, and dear friends
to partake them; who had rebuked the waves of the Ligurian gulf, had
purified the autumnal air of the Campagna, and had restrained the
avalanches of Mont Cenis. Of the Psalms, his favorite was that which
represents the Ruler of all things under the endearing image of a
shepherd, whose crook guides the flock safe, through gloomy and desolate
glens, to meadows well watered and rich with herbage. On that goodness
to which he ascribed all the happiness of his life, he relied in the
hour of death with the love which casteth out fear. He died on the
seventeenth of June, 1719. He had just entered on his forty-eighth year.

His body lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and was borne thence to
the Abbey at dead of night. The choir sung a funeral hymn. Bishop
Atterbury, one of those Tories who had loved and honored the most
accomplished of the Whigs, met the corpse, and led the procession by
torchlight, round the shrine of St. Edward and the graves of the
Plantagenets, to the Chapel of Henry the Seventh. On the north side of
that Chapel, in the vault of the House of Albemarle, the coffin of
Addison lies next to the coffin of Montague. Yet a few months, and the
same mourners passed again along the same aisle. The same sad anthem was
again chanted. The same vault was again opened, and the coffin of Craggs
was placed close to the coffin of Addison.

Many tributes were paid to the memory of Addison, but one alone is now
remembered. Tickell bewailed his friend in an elegy which would do honor
to the greatest name in our literature, and which unites the energy and
magnificence of Dryden to the tenderness and purity of Cowper. This fine
poem was prefixed to a superb edition of Addison's works, which was
published, in 1721, by subscription. The names of the subscribers proved
how widely his fame had been spread. That his countrymen should be eager
to possess his writings, even in a costly form, is not wonderful. But it
is wonderful that, though English literature was then little studied on
the Continent, Spanish grandees, Italian prelates, marshals of France,
should be found in the list. Among the most remarkable names are those
of the Queen of Sweden, of Prince Eugene, of the Grand Duke of Tuscany,
of the Dukes of Parma, Modena, and Guastalla, of the Doge of Genoa, of
the Regent Orleans, and of Cardinal Dubois. We ought to add that this
edition, though eminently beautiful, is in some important points
defective; nor, indeed, do we yet possess a complete collection of
Addison's writings.

It is strange that neither his opulent and noble widow, nor any of his
powerful and attached friends, should have thought of placing even a
simple tablet, inscribed with his name, on the walls of the Abbey. It
was not till three generations had laughed and wept over his pages that
the omission was supplied by the public veneration. At length, in our
own time, his image, skilfully graven, appeared in Poet's Corner. It
represents him, as we can conceive him, clad in his dressing-gown, and
freed from his wig, stepping from his parlor at Chelsea into his trim
little garden, with the account of the Everlasting Club, or the Loves of
Hilpa and Shalum, just finished for the next day's Spectator, in his
hand. Such a mark of national respect was due to the unsullied
statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the master of pure English
eloquence, to the consummate painter of life and manners. It was due,
above all, to the great satirist, who alone knew how to use ridicule
without abusing it, who, without inflicting a wound, effected a great
social reform, and who reconciled wit and virtue, after a long and
disastrous separation, during which wit had been led astray by
profligacy, and virtue by fanaticism.


[9] The Life of Joseph Addison. By Lucy Aikin. 2 vols. 8vo. London:

[10] Orlando Furioso, xlv. C8.

[11] It is strange that Addison should, in the first line of his
travels, have misdated his departure from Marseilles by a whole year,
and still more strange that this slip of the pen which throws the whole
narrative into inextricable confusion, should have been repeated in a
succession of editions, and never detected by Tickell or by Hurd.

[12] Nos. 26, 329, 69, 317, 159, 343, 517. These papers are all in the
first seven volumes. The eighth must be considered as a separate work.

[13] We will transcribe the whole paragraph. How it can ever have been
misunderstood is unintelligible to us.

"But our author's chief concern is for the poor House of Commons, whom
he represents as naked and defenceless, when the Crown, by losing this
prerogative, would be less able to protect them against the power of a
House of Lords. Who forbears laughing when the Spanish Friar represents
little Dicky, under the person of Gomez, insulting the Colonel that was
able to fright him out of his wits with a single frown? This Gomez, says
he, flew upon him like a dragon, got him down, the Devil being strong in
him, and gave him bastinado on bastinado, and buffet on buffet, which
the poor Colonel, being prostrate, suffered with a most Christian
patience. The improbability of the fact never fails to raise mirth in
the audience; and one may venture to answer for a British House of
Commons, if we may guess from its conduct hitherto, that it will scarce
be either so tame or so weak as our author supposes."


_The Edinburgh Review_, April, 1844

This book has more than one title to our serious attention. It is an
appeal, solemnly made to posterity by a man who played a conspicuous
part in great events, and who represents himself as deeply aggrieved by
the rash and malevolent censure of his contemporaries. To such an appeal
we shall always give ready audience. We can perform no duty more useful
to society, or more agreeable to our own feelings, than that of making,
as far as our power extends, reparation to the slandered and persecuted
benefactors of mankind. We therefore promptly took into our
consideration this copious apology for the life of Bertrand Barère. We
have made up our minds; and we now propose to do him, by the blessing of
God, full and signal justice.

It is to be observed that the appellant in this case does not come into
court alone. He is attended to the bar of public opinion by two
compurgators who occupy highly honorable stations. One of these is M.
David of Angiers, Member of the Institute, an eminent sculptor, and, if
we have been rightly informed, a favorite pupil, though not a kinsman,
of the painter who bore the same name. The other, to whom we owe the
biographical preface, is M. Hippolyte Carnot, Member of the Chamber of
Deputies, and son of the celebrated Director. In the judgment of M.
David and of M. Hippolyte Carnot, Barère was a deserving and an
ill-used man,--a man who, though by no means faultless, must yet, when
due allowance is made for the force of circumstances and the infirmity
of human nature, be considered as on the whole entitled to our esteem.
It will be for the public to determine, after a full hearing, whether
the editors have, by thus connecting their names with that of Barère,
raised his character or lowered their own.

We are not conscious that, when we opened this book, we were under the
influence of any feeling likely to pervert our judgment. Undoubtedly we
had long entertained a most unfavorable opinion of Barère; but to this
opinion we were not tied by any passion or by any interest. Our dislike
was a reasonable dislike, and might have been removed by reason. Indeed,
our expectation was that these Memoirs would in some measure clear
Barère's fame. That he could vindicate himself from all the charges
which had been brought against him, we knew to be impossible; and his
editors admit that he has not done so. But we thought it highly probable
that some grave accusations would be refuted, and that many offences to
which he would have been forced to plead guilty would be greatly
extenuated. We were not disposed to be severe. We were fully aware that
temptations such as those to which the members of the Convention and of
the Committee of Public Safety were exposed must try severely the
strength of the firmest virtue. Indeed, our inclination has always been
to regard with an indulgence, which to some rigid moralists appears
excessive, those faults into which gentle and noble spirits are
sometimes hurried by the excitement of conflict, by the maddening
influence of sympathy, and by ill-regulated zeal for a public cause.

With such feelings we read this book, and compared it with other
accounts of the events in which Barère bore a part. It is now our duty
to express the opinion to which this investigation has led us.

Our opinion, then, is this: that Barère approached nearer than any
person mentioned in history or fiction, whether man or devil, to the
idea of consummate and universal depravity. In him the qualities which
are the proper objects of hatred, and the qualities which are the proper
objects of contempt, preserve an exquisite and absolute harmony. In
almost every particular sort of wickedness he has had rivals. His
sensuality was immoderate; but this was a failing common to him with
many great and amiable men. There have been many men as cowardly as he,
some as cruel, a few as mean, a few as impudent. There may also have
been as great liars, though we never met with them or read of them. But
when we put everything together, sensuality, poltroonery, baseness,
effrontery, mendacity, barbarity, the result is something which in a
novel we should condemn as caricature, and to which, we venture to say,
no parallel can be found in history.

It would be grossly unjust, we acknowledge, to try a man situated as
Barère was by a severe standard. Nor have we done so. We have formed our
opinion of him by comparing him, not with politicians of stainless
character, not with Chancellor D'Aguesseau, or General Washington, or
Mr. Wilberforce, or Earl Grey, but with his own colleagues of the
Mountain. That party included a considerable number of the worst men
that ever lived; but we see in it nothing like Barère. Compared with him
Fouché seems honest; Billaud seems humane; Hébert seems to rise into
dignity. Every other chief of a party, says M. Hippolyte Carnot, has
found apologists: one set of men exalts the Girondists; another set
justifies Danton; a third deifies Robespierre; but Barère has remained
without a defender. We venture to suggest a very simple solution of this
phenomenon. All the other chiefs of parties had some good qualities; and
Barère had none. The genius, courage, patriotism, and humanity of the
Girondist statesmen more than atoned for what was culpable in their
conduct, and should have protected them from the insult of being
compared with such a thing as Barère. Danton and Robespierre were indeed
bad men; but in both of them some important parts of the mind remained
sound. Danton was brave and resolute, fond of pleasure, of power, and of
distinction, with vehement passions, with lax principles, but with some
kind and manly feelings, capable of great crimes, but capable also of
friendship and of compassion. He, therefore, naturally finds admirers
among persons of bold and sanguine dispositions. Robespierre was a vain,
envious, and suspicious man, with a hard heart, weak nerves, and a
gloomy temper. But we cannot with truth deny that he was, in the vulgar
sense of the word, disinterested, that his private life was correct, or
that he was sincerely zealous for his own system of politics and morals.
He, therefore, naturally finds admirers among honest but moody and
bitter democrats. If no class has taken the reputation of Barère under
its patronage, the reason is plain: Barère had not a single virtue, nor
even the semblance of one.

It is true that he was not, as far as we are able to judge, originally
of a savage disposition; but this circumstance seems to us only to
aggravate his guilt. There are some unhappy men constitutionally prone
to the darker passions, men all whose blood is gall, and to whom bitter
words and harsh actions are as natural as snarling and biting to a
ferocious dog. To come into the world with this wretched mental disease
is a greater calamity than to be born blind or deaf. A man who, having
such a temper, keeps it in subjection, and constrains himself to behave
habitually with justice and humanity towards those who are in his power,
seems to us worthy of the highest admiration. There have been instances
of this self-command; and they are among the most signal triumphs of
philosophy and religion. On the other hand, a man who, having been
blessed by nature with a bland disposition, gradually brings himself to
inflict misery on his fellow creatures with indifference, with
satisfaction, and at length with a hideous rapture, deserves to be
regarded as a portent of wickedness; and such a man was Barère. The
history of his downward progress is full of instruction. Weakness,
cowardice, and fickleness were born with him; the best quality which he
received from nature was a good temper. These, it is true, are not very
promising materials; yet, out of materials as unpromising, high
sentiments of piety and of honor have sometimes made martyrs and heroes.
Rigid principles often do for feeble minds what stays do for feeble
bodies. But Barère had no principles at all. His character was equally
destitute of natural and of acquired strength. Neither in the commerce
of life, nor in books, did we ever become acquainted with any mind so
unstable, so utterly destitute of tone, so incapable of independent
thought and earnest preference, so ready to take impressions and so
ready to lose them. He resembled those creepers which must lean on
something, and which, as soon as their prop is removed, fall down in
utter helplessness. He could no more stand up, erect and self-supported,
in any cause, than the ivy can rear itself like the oak, or the wild
vine shoot to heaven like the cedar of Lebanon. It is barely possible
that, under good guidance and in favorable circumstances, such a man
might have slipped through life without discredit. But the unseaworthy
craft, which even in still water would have been in danger of going down
from its own rottenness, was launched on a raging ocean, amidst a storm
in which a whole armada of gallant ships was cast away. The weakest and
most servile of human beings found himself on a sudden an actor in a
Revolution which convulsed the whole civilized world. At first he fell
under the influence of humane and moderate men, and talked the language
of humanity and moderation. But he soon found himself surrounded by
fierce and resolute spirits, scared by no danger and restrained by no
scruple. He had to choose whether he would be their victim or their
accomplice. His choice was soon made. He tasted blood, and felt no
loathing; he tasted it again, and liked it well. Cruelty became with
him, first a habit, then a passion, at last a madness. So complete and
rapid was the degeneracy of his nature that, within a very few months
after the time when he had passed for a good-natured man, he had brought
himself to look on the despair and misery of his fellow creatures with a
glee resembling that of the fiends whom Dante saw watching the pool of
seething pitch in Malebolge. He had many associates in guilt; but he
distinguished himself from them all by the Bacchanalian exultation which
he seemed to feel in the work of death. He was drunk with innocent and
noble blood, laughed and shouted as he butchered, and howled strange
songs and reeled in strange dances amidst the carnage. Then came a
sudden and violent turn of fortune. The miserable man was hurled down
from the height of power to hopeless ruin and infamy. The shock sobered
him at once. The fumes of his horrible intoxication passed away. But he
was now so irrecoverably depraved that the discipline of adversity only
drove him further into wickedness. Ferocious vices, of which he had
never been suspected, had been developed in him by power. Another class
of vices, less hateful perhaps, but more despicable, was now developed
in him by poverty and disgrace. Having appalled the whole world by great
crimes perpetrated under the pretence of zeal for liberty, he became the
meanest of all the tools of despotism. It is not easy to settle the
order of precedence among his vices; but we are inclined to think that
his baseness was, on the whole, a rarer and more marvellous thing than
his cruelty.

This is the view which we have long taken of Barère's character; but,
till we read these Memoirs, we held our opinion with the diffidence
which becomes a judge who has only heard one side. The case seemed
strong, and in parts unanswerable; yet we did not know what the accused
party might have to say for himself; and not being much inclined to take
our fellow creatures either for angels of light or for angels of
darkness, we could not but feel some suspicion that his offences had
been exaggerated. That suspicion is now at an end. The vindication is
before us. It occupies four volumes. It was the work of forty years. It
would be absurd to suppose that it does not refute every serious charge
which admitted of refutation. How many serious charges, then, are here
refuted? Not a single one. Most of the imputations which have been
thrown on Barère he does not even notice. In such cases, of course,
judgment must go against him by default. The fact is, that nothing can
be more meagre and uninteresting than his account of the great public
transactions in which he was engaged. He gives us hardly a word of new
information respecting the proceedings of the Committee of Public
Safety; and, by way of compensation, tells us long stories about things
which happened before he emerged from obscurity, and after he had again
sunk into it. Nor is this the worst. As soon as he ceases to write
trifles, he begins to write lies; and such lies! A man who has never
been within the tropics does not know what a thunderstorm means; a man
who has never looked on Niagara has but a faint idea of a cataract; and
he who has not read Barère's Memoirs may be said not to know what it is
to lie. Among the numerous classes which make up the great genus
Mendacium, the Mendacium Vasconicum, or Gascon lie, has, during some
centuries, been highly esteemed as peculiarly circumstantial and
peculiarly impudent; and, among the Mendacia Vasconica, the Mendacium
Barerianum is, without doubt, the finest species. It is indeed a superb
variety, and quite throws into the shade some Mendacia which we were
used to regard with admiration. The Mendacium Wraxallianum, for example,
though by no means to be despised, will not sustain the comparison for a
moment. Seriously, we think that M. Hippolyte Carnot is much to blame
in this matter. We can hardly suppose him to be worse read than
ourselves in the history of the Convention, a history which must
interest him deeply, not only as a Frenchman, but also as a son. He
must, therefore, be perfectly aware that many of the most important
statements which these volumes contain are falsehoods, such as
Corneille's Dorante, or Molière's Seapin, or Colin d'Harleville's
Monsieur de Crac would have been ashamed to utter. We are far, indeed,
from holding M. Hippolyte Carnot answerable for Barère's want of
veracity; but M. Hippolyte Carnot has arranged these Memoirs, has
introduced them to the world by a laudatory preface, has described them
as documents of great historical value, and has illustrated them by
notes. We cannot but think that, by acting thus, he contracted some
obligations of which he does not seem to have been at all aware; and
that he ought not to have suffered any monstrous fiction to go forth
under the sanction of his name, without adding a line at the foot of the
page for the purpose of cautioning the reader.

We will content ourselves at present with pointing out two instances of
Barère's wilful and deliberate mendacity; namely, his account of the
death of Marie Antoinette and his account of the death of the
Girondists. His account of the death of Marie Antoinette is as follows:
"Robespierre in his turn proposed that the members of the Capet family
should be banished, and that Marie Antoinette should be brought to trial
before the Revolutionary Tribunal. He would have been better employed in
concerting military measures which might have repaired our disasters in
Belgium, and might have arrested the progress of the enemies of the
Revolution in the west." (Vol. ii. p. 312.)

Now, it is notorious that Marie Antoinette was sent before the
Revolutionary Tribunal, not at Robespierre's instance, but in direct
opposition to Robespierre's wishes. We will cite a single authority,
which is quite decisive. Bonaparte, who had no conceivable motive to
disguise the truth, who had the best opportunities of knowing the truth,
and who, after his marriage with the Archduchess, naturally felt an
interest in the fate of his wife's kinswoman, distinctly affirmed that
Robespierre opposed the trying of the Queen.[15] Who, then, was the
person who really did propose that the Capet family should be banished,
and that Marie Antoinette should be tried? Full information will be
found in the Moniteur.[16] From that valuable record it appears that, on
the first of August, 1793, an orator, deputed by the Committee of Public
Safety, addressed the Convention in a long and elaborate discourse. He
asked, in passionate language, how it happened that the enemies of the
Republic still continued to hope for success. "Is it," he cried,
"because we have too long forgotten the crimes of the Austrian woman? Is
it because we have shown so strange an indulgence to the race of our
ancient tyrants? It is time that this unwise apathy should cease; it is
time to extirpate from the soil of the Republic the last roots of
royalty. As for the children of Louis the conspirator, they are hostages
for the Republic. The charge of their maintenance shall be reduced to
what is necessary for the food and keep of two individuals. The public
treasure shall no longer be lavished on creatures who have too long been
considered as privileged. But behind them lurks a woman who has been the
cause of all the disasters of France, and whose share in every project
adverse to the Revolution has long been known. National justice claims
its rights over her. It is to the tribunal appointed for the trial of
conspirators that she ought to be sent. It is only by striking the
Austrian woman that you can make Francis and George, Charles and
William, sensible of the crimes which their ministers and their armies
have committed." The speaker concluded by moving that Marie Antoinette
should be brought to judgment, and should, for that end, be forthwith
transferred to the Conciergerie; and that all the members of the House
of Capet, with the exception of those who were under the sword of the
law, and of the two children of Louis, should be banished from the
French territory. The motion was carried without debate.

Now, who was the person who made this speech and this motion? It was
Barère himself. It is clear, then, that Barère attributed his own mean
insolence and barbarity to one who, whatever his crimes may have been,
was in this matter innocent. The only question remaining is, whether
Barère was misled by his memory, or wrote a deliberate falsehood.

We are convinced that he wrote a deliberate falsehood. His memory is
described by his editors as remarkably good, and must have been bad
indeed if he could not remember such a fact as this. It is true that the
number of murders in which he subsequently bore a part was so great that
he might well confound one with another, that he might well forget what
part of the daily hecatomb was consigned to death by himself, and what
part by his colleagues. But two circumstances make it quite incredible
that the share which he took in the death of Marie Antoinette should
have escaped his recollection. She was one of his earliest victims. She
was one of his most illustrious victims. The most hardened assassin
remembers the first time that he shed blood; and the widow of Louis was
no ordinary sufferer. If the question had been about some milliner,
butchered for hiding in her garret her brother who had let drop a word
against the Jacobin club--if the question had been about some old nun,
dragged to death for having mumbled what were called fanatical words
over her beads--Barère's memory might well have deceived him. It would
be as unreasonable to expect him to remember all the wretches whom he
slew as all the pinches of snuff that he took. But, though Barère
murdered many hundreds of human beings, he murdered only one Queen. That
he, a small country lawyer, who, a few years before, would have thought
himself honored by a glance or a word from the daughter of so many
Cæsars, should call her the Austrian woman, should send her from jail to
jail, should deliver her over to the executioner, was surely a great
event in his life. Whether he had reason to be proud of it or ashamed of
it, is a question on which we may perhaps differ from his editors; but
they will admit, we think, that he could not have forgotten it.

We, therefore, confidently charge Barère with having written a
deliberate falsehood; and we have no hesitation in saying that we never,
in the course of any historical researches that we have happened to
make, fell in with a falsehood so audacious, except only the falsehood
which we are about to expose.

Of the proceeding against the Girondists, Barère speaks with just
severity. He calls it an atrocious injustice perpetrated against the
legislators of the Republic. He complains that distinguished deputies,
who ought to have been readmitted to their seats in the Convention, were
sent to the scaffold as conspirators. The day, he exclaims, was a day of
mourning for France. It mutilated the national representation; it
weakened the sacred principle that the delegates of the people were
inviolable. He protests that he had no share in the guilt. "I have had,"
he says, "the patience to go through the Moniteur, extracting all the
charges brought against deputies, and all the decrees for arresting and
impeaching deputies. Nowhere will you find my name. I never brought a
charge against any of my colleagues, or made a report against any, or
drew up an impeachment against any."[17]

Now, we affirm that this is a lie. We affirm that Barère himself took
the lead in the proceedings of the Convention against the Girondists. We
affirm that he, on the twenty-eighth of July, 1793, proposed a decree
for bringing nine Girondist deputies to trial, and for putting to death
sixteen other Girondist deputies without any trial at all. We affirm
that when the accused deputies had been brought to trial, and when some
apprehension arose that their eloquence might produce an effect even on
the Revolutionary Tribunal, Barère did, on the eighth of Brumaire,
second a motion for a decree authorizing the tribunal to decide without
hearing out the defence; and, for the truth of every one of these things
so affirmed by us, we appeal to that very Moniteur to which Barère has
dared to appeal.[18]

What M. Hippolyte Carnot, knowing, as he must know, that this book
contains such falsehoods as those which we have exposed, can have meant,
when he described it as a valuable addition to our stock of historical
information, passes our comprehension. When a man is not ashamed to tell
lies about events which took place before hundreds of witnesses, and
which are recorded in well-known and accessible books, what credit can
we give to his account of things done in corners? No historian who does
not wish to be laughed at will ever cite the unsupported authority of
Barère as sufficient to prove any fact whatever. The only thing, as far
as we can see, on which these volumes throw any light, is the exceeding
baseness of the author.

So much for the veracity of the Memoirs. In a literary point of view,
they are beneath criticism. They are as shallow, flippant, and affected
as Barère's oratory in the Convention. They are also, what his oratory
in the Convention was not, utterly insipid. In fact, they are the mere
dregs and rinsings of a bottle of which even the first froth was but of
very questionable flavor.

We will now try to present our readers with a sketch of this man's life.
We shall, of course, make very sparing use indeed of his own Memoirs;
and never without distrust, except where they are confirmed by other

Bertrand Barère was born in the year 1755, at Tarbes in Gascony. His
father was the proprietor of a small estate at Vieuzac, in the beautiful
vale of Argelès. Bertrand always loved to be called Barère de Vieuzac,
and flattered himself with the hope that, by the help of this feudal
addition to his name, he might pass for a gentleman. He was educated for
the bar at Toulouse, the seat of one of the most celebrated Parliaments
of the kingdom, practised as an advocate with considerable success, and
wrote some small pieces, which he sent to the principal literary
societies in the south of France. Among provincial towns, Toulouse seems
to have been remarkably rich in indifferent versifiers and critics. It
gloried especially in one venerable institution, called the Academy of
the Floral Games. This body held every year a grand meeting, which was a
subject of intense interest to the whole city, and at which flowers of
gold and silver were given as prizes for odes, for idyls, and for
something that was called eloquence. These bounties produced of course
the ordinary effect of bounties, and turned people who might have been
thriving attorneys and useful apothecaries into small wits and bad
poets. Barère does not appear to have been so lucky as to obtain any of
these precious flowers; but one of his performances was mentioned with
honor. At Montauban he was more fortunate. The Academy of that town
bestowed on him several prizes, one for a panegyric on Louis the
Twelfth, in which the blessings of monarchy and the loyalty of the
French nation were set forth; and another for a panegyric on poor Franc
de Pompignan, in which, as may easily be supposed, the philosophy of the
eighteenth century was sharply assailed. Then Barère found an old stone
inscribed with three Latin words, and wrote a dissertation upon it,
which procured him a seat in a learned Assembly, called the Toulouse
Academy of Sciences, Inscriptions, and Polite Literature. At length the
doors of the Academy of the Floral Games were opened to so much merit.
Barère, in his thirty-third year, took his seat as one of that
illustrious brotherhood, and made an inaugural oration which was greatly
admired. He apologizes for recounting these triumphs of his youthful
genius. We own that we cannot blame him for dwelling long on the least
disgraceful portion of his existence. To send in declamations for prizes
offered by provincial academies is indeed no very useful or dignified
employment for a bearded man; but it would have been well if Barère had
always been so employed.

In 1785 he married a young lady of considerable fortune. Whether she was
in other respects qualified to make a home happy is a point respecting
which we are imperfectly informed. In a little work entitled Melancholy
Pages, which was written in 1797, Barère avers that his marriage was one
of mere convenience, that at the altar his heart was heavy with
sorrowful forebodings, that he turned pale as he pronounced the solemn
"Yes," that unbidden tears rolled down his cheeks, that his mother
shared his presentiment, and that the evil omen was accomplished. "My
marriage," he says, "was one of the most unhappy of marriages." So
romantic a tale, told by so noted a liar, did not command our belief. We
were, therefore, not much surprised to discover that, in his Memoirs, he
calls his wife a most amiable woman, and declares that, after he had
been united to her six years, he found her as amiable as ever. He
complains, indeed, that she was too much attached to royalty and to the
old superstition; but he assures us that his respect for her virtues
induced him to tolerate her prejudices. Now Barère, at the time of his
marriage, was himself a Royalist and a Catholic. He had gained one prize
by flattering the Throne, and another by defending the Church. It is
hardly possible, therefore, that disputes about politics or religion
should have embittered his domestic life till some time after he became
a husband. Our own guess is, that his wife was, as he says, a virtuous
and amiable woman, and that she did her best to make him happy during
some years. It seems clear that, when circumstances developed the latent
atrocity of his character, she could no longer endure him, refused to
see him, and sent back his letters unopened. Then it was, we imagine,
that he invented the fable about his distress on his wedding day.

In 1788 Barère paid his first visit to Paris, attended reviews, heard
Laharpe at the Lyceum, and Condorcet at the Academy of Sciences, stared
at the envoys of Tippoo Saib, saw the Royal Family dine at Versailles,
and kept a journal in which he noted down adventures and speculations.
Some parts of this journal are printed in the first volume of the work
before us, and are certainly most characteristic. The worst vices of the
writer had not yet shown themselves; but the weakness which was the
parent of those vices appears in every line. His levity, his
inconsistency, his servility, were already what they were to the last.
All his opinions, all his feelings, spin round and round like a
weathercock in a whirlwind. Nay, the very impressions which he receives
through his senses are not the same two days together. He sees Louis the
Sixteenth, and is so much blinded by loyalty as to find his Majesty
handsome. "I fixed my eyes," he says, "with a lively curiosity on his
fine countenance, which I thought open and noble." The next time that
the King appears, all is altered. His Majesty's eyes are without the
smallest expression; he has a vulgar laugh which seems like idiocy, an
ignoble figure, an awkward gait, and the look of a big boy ill brought
up. It is the same with more important questions. Barère is for the
Parliaments on the Monday and against the Parliaments on the Tuesday,
for feudality in the morning and against feudality in the afternoon. One
day he admires the English constitution; then he shudders to think,
that, in the struggles by which that constitution had been obtained,
the barbarous islanders had murdered a king, and gives the preference to
the constitution of Bearn. Bearn, he says, has a sublime constitution, a
beautiful constitution. There the nobility and clergy meet in one House
and the Commons in another. If the Houses differ, the King his the
casting vote. A few weeks later we find him raving against the
principles of this sublime and beautiful constitution. To admit deputies
of the nobility and clergy into the legislature is, he says, neither
more nor less than to admit enemies of the nation into the legislature.

In this state of mind, without one settled purpose or opinion, the slave
of the last word, royalist, aristocrat, democrat, according to the
prevailing sentiment of the coffee-house or drawing-room into which he
had just looked, did Barère enter into public life. The States-General
had been summoned. Barère went down to his own province, was there
elected one of the representatives of the Third Estate, and returned to
Paris in May, 1789.

A great crisis, often predicted, had at last arrived. In no country, we
conceive, have intellectual freedom and political servitude existed
together so long as in France, during the seventy or eighty years which
preceded the last convocation of the Orders. Ancient abuses and new
theories flourished in equal vigor side by side. The people, having no
constitutional means of checking even the most flagitious misgovernment,
were indemnified for oppression by being suffered to luxuriate in
anarchical speculation, and to deny or ridicule every principle on which
the institutions of the state reposed. Neither those who attribute the
downfall of the old French institutions to the public grievances, nor
those who attribute it to the doctrines of the philosophers, appear to
us to have taken into their view more than one half of the subject.
Grievances as heavy have often been endured without producing a
revolution; doctrines as bold have often been propounded without
producing a revolution. The question, whether the French nation was
alienated from its old polity by the follies and vices of the Viziers
and Sultanas who pillaged and disgraced it, or by the writings of
Voltaire and Rousseau, seems to us as idle as the question whether it
was fire or gunpowder that blew up the mills at Hounslow. Neither cause
would have sufficed alone. Tyranny may last through ages where
discussion is suppressed. Discussion may safely be left free by rulers
who act on popular principles. But combine a press like that of London
with a government like that of St. Petersburg, and the inevitable effect
will be an explosion that will shake the world. So it was in France.
Despotism and License, mingling in unblessed union, engendered that
mighty Revolution in which the lineaments of both parents were strangely
blended. The long gestation was accomplished; and Europe saw, with mixed
hopes and terror, that agonizing travail and that portentous birth.

Among the crowd of legislators which at this conjuncture poured from all
the provinces of France into Paris, Barère made no contemptible figure.
The opinions which he for the moment professed were popular, yet not
extreme. His character was fair; his personal advantages are said to
have been considerable; and, from the portrait which is prefixed to
these Memoirs, and which represents him as he appeared in the
Convention, we should judge that his features must have been strikingly
handsome, though we think that we can read in them cowardice and
meanness very legibly written by the hand of God. His conversation was
lively and easy; his manners remarkably good for a country lawyer. Women
of rank and wit said that he was the only man who, on his first arrival
from a remote province, had that indescribable air which it was supposed
that Paris alone could give. His eloquence, indeed, was by no means so
much admired in the capital as it had been by the ingenious academicians
of Montauban and Toulouse. His style was thought very bad; and very
bad, if a foreigner may venture to judge, it continued to the last. It
would, however, be unjust to deny that he had some talents for speaking
and writing. His rhetoric, though deformed by every imaginable fault of
taste, from bombast down to buffoonery, was not wholly without force and
vivacity. He had also one quality which, in active life, often gives
fourth-rate men an advantage over first-rate men. Whatever he could do
he could do without effort, at any moment, in any abundance, and on any
side of any question. There was, indeed, a perfect harmony between his
moral character and his intellectual character. His temper was that of a
slave; his abilities were exactly those which qualified him to be a
useful slave. Of thinking to purpose, he was utterly incapable; but he
had wonderful readiness in arranging and expressing thoughts furnished
by others.

In the National Assembly he had no opportunity of displaying the full
extent either of his talents or of his vices. He was indeed eclipsed by
much abler men. He went, as was his habit, with the stream, spoke
occasionally with some success, and edited a journal called the Point du
Jour, in which the debates of the Assembly were reported.

He at first ranked by no means among the violent reformers. He was not
friendly to that new division of the French territory which was among
the most important changes introduced by the Revolution, and was
especially unwilling to see his native province dismembered. He was
entrusted with the task of framing Reports on the Woods and Forests.
Louis was exceedingly anxious about this matter; for his Majesty was a
keen sportsman, and would much rather have gone without the Veto, or the
prerogative of making peace and war, than without his hunting and
shooting. Gentlemen of the royal household were sent to Barère, in order
to intercede for the deer and pheasants. Nor was this intercession
unsuccessful. The reports were so drawn that Barère was afterwards
accused of having dishonestly sacrificed the interests of the public to
the tastes of the court. To one of these reports he had the
inconceivable folly and bad taste to prefix a punning motto from Virgil,
fit only for such essays as he had been in the habit of composing for
the Floral Games:--

    "Si canimus sylvas, sylvæ sint Consule dignæ."

This literary foppery was one of the few things in which he was
consistent. Royalist or Girondist, Jacobin or Imperialist, he was always
a Trissotin.

As the monarchical party became weaker and weaker, Barère gradually
estranged himself more and more from it, and drew closer and closer to
the republicans. It would seem that, during this transition, he was for
a time closely connected with the family of Orleans. It is certain that
he was entrusted with the guardianship of the celebrated Pamela,
afterwards Lady Edward Fitzgerald; and it was asserted that he received
during some years a pension of twelve thousand francs from the Palais

At the end of September, 1791, the labors of the National Assembly
terminated, and those of the first and last Legislative Assembly

It had been enacted that no member of the National Assembly should sit
in the Legislative Assembly; a preposterous and mischievous regulation,
to which the disasters which followed must in part be ascribed. In
England, what would be thought of a Parliament which did not contain one
single person who had ever sat in Parliament before? Yet it may safely
be affirmed that the number of Englishmen who, never having taken any
share in public affairs, are yet well qualified, by knowledge and
observation, to be members of the legislature is at least a hundred
times as great as the number of Frenchmen who were so qualified in 1791.
How, indeed, should it have been otherwise? In England, centuries of
representative government have made all educated people in some measure
statesmen. In France the National Assembly had probably been composed of
as good materials as were then to be found. It had undoubtedly removed a
vast mass of abuses; some of its members had read and thought much about
theories of government; and others had shown great oratorical talents.
But that kind of skill which is required for the constructing,
launching, and steering of a polity was lamentably wanting; for it is a
kind of skill to which practice contributes more than books. Books are
indeed useful to the politician, as they are useful to the navigator and
to the surgeon. But the real navigator is formed on the waves; the real
surgeon is formed at bedsides; and the conflicts of free states are the
real school of constitutional statesmen. The National Assembly had,
however, now served an apprenticeship of two laborious and eventful
years. It had, indeed, by no means finished its education; but it was no
longer, as on the day when it met, altogether rude to political
functions. Its later proceedings contain abundant proof that the members
had profited by their experience. Beyond all doubt, there was not in
France any equal number of persons possessing in an equal degree the
qualities necessary for the judicious direction of public affairs; and,
just at this moment, these legislators, misled by a childish wish to
display their own disinterestedness, deserted the duties which they had
half learned, and which nobody else had learned at all, and left their
hall to a second crowd of novices, who had still to master the first
rudiments of political business. When Barère wrote his Memoirs, the
absurdity of this self-denying ordinance had been proved by events, and
was, we believe, acknowledged by all parties. He accordingly, with his
usual mendacity, speaks of it in terms implying that he had opposed it.
There was, he tells us, no good citizen who did not regret this fatal
vote. Nay, all wise men, he says, wished the National Assembly to
continue its sittings as the first Legislative Assembly. But no
attention was paid to the wishes of the enlightened friends of liberty;
and the generous but fatal suicide was perpetrated. Now the fact is that
Barère, far from opposing this ill-advised measure, was one of those who
most eagerly supported it; that he described it from the tribune as wise
and magnanimous; that he assigned, as his reasons for taking this view,
some of those phrases in which orators of his class delight, and which,
on all men who have the smallest insight into politics, produce an
effect very similar to that of ipecacuanha. "Those," he said, "who have
framed a constitution for their country are, so to speak, out of the
pale of that social state of which they are the authors; for creative
power is not in the same sphere with that which it has created."

M. Hippolyte Carnot has noticed this untruth, and attributes it to mere
forgetfulness. We leave it to him to reconcile his very charitable
supposition with what he elsewhere says of the remarkable excellence of
Barère's memory.

Many members of the National Assembly were indemnified for the sacrifice
of legislative power, by appointments in various departments of the
public service. Of these fortunate persons Barère was one. A high Court
of Appeal had just been instituted. This court was to sit at Paris; but
its jurisdiction was to extend over the whole realm; and the departments
were to choose the judges. Barère was nominated by the department of the
Upper Pyrenees, and took his seat in the Palace of Justice. He asserts,
and our readers may, if they choose, believe, that it was about this
time in contemplation to make him Minister of the Interior, and that, in
order to avoid so grave a responsibility, he obtained permission to pay
a visit to his native place. It is certain that he left Paris early in
the year 1792, and passed some months in the south of France.

In the meantime, it became clear that the constitution of 1791 would
not work. It was, indeed, not to be expected that a constitution new
both in its principles and its details would at first work easily. Had
the chief magistrate enjoyed the entire confidence of the people, had he
performed his part with the utmost zeal, fidelity, and ability, had the
representative body included all the wisest statesmen of France, the
difficulties might still have been found insuperable. But, in fact, the
experiment was made under every disadvantage. The King, very naturally,
hated the constitution. In the Legislative Assembly were men of genius
and men of good intentions, but not a single man of experience.
Nevertheless, if France had been suffered to settle her own affairs
without foreign interference, it is possible that the calamities which
followed might have been averted. The King, who, with many good
qualities, was sluggish and sensual, might have found compensation for
his lost prerogatives in his immense civil list, in his palaces and
hunting grounds, in soups, Perigord pies, and champagne. The people,
finding themselves secure in the enjoyment of the valuable reforms which
the National Assembly had, in the midst of all its errors, effected,
would not have been easily excited by demagogues to acts of atrocity;
or, if acts of atrocity had been committed, those acts would probably
have produced a speedy and violent reaction. Had tolerable quiet been
preserved during a few years, the constitution of 1791 might perhaps
have taken root, might have gradually acquired the strength which time
alone can give, and might, with some modifications which were
undoubtedly needed, have lasted down to the present time. The European
coalition against the Revolution extinguished all hope of such a result.
The deposition of Louis was, in our opinion, the necessary consequence
of that coalition. The question was now no longer, whether the King
should have an absolute Veto or a suspensive Veto, whether there should
be one chamber or two chambers, whether the members of the
representative body should be reëligible or not; but whether France
should belong to the French. The independence of the nation, the
integrity of the territory, were at stake; and we must say plainly that
we cordially approve of the conduct of those Frenchmen who, at that
conjuncture, resolved, like our own Blake, to play the men for their
country, under whatever form of government their country might fall.

It seems to us clear that the war with the Continental coalition was, on
the side of France, at first a defensive war, and therefore a just war.
It was not a war for small objects, or against despicable enemies. On
the event were staked all the dearest interests of the French people.
Foremost among the threatening powers appeared two great and martial
monarchies, either of which, situated as France then was, might be
regarded as a formidable assailant. It is evident that, under such
circumstances, the French could not, without extreme imprudence, entrust
the supreme administration of their affairs to any person whose
attachment to the national cause admitted of doubt. Now, it is no
reproach to the memory of Louis to say that he was not attached to the
national cause. Had he been so, he would have been something more than
man. He had held absolute power, not by usurpation, but by the accident
of birth and by the ancient polity of the kingdom. That power he had, on
the whole, used with lenity. He had meant well by his people. He had
been willing to make to them, of his own mere motion, concessions such
as scarcely any other sovereign has ever made except under duress. He
had paid the penalty of faults not his own, of the haughtiness and
ambition of some of his predecessors, of the dissoluteness and baseness
of others. He had been vanquished, taken captive, led in triumph, put in
ward. He had escaped; he had been caught; he had been dragged back like
a runaway galley slave to the oar. He was still a state prisoner. His
quiet was broken by daily affronts and lampoons. Accustomed from the
cradle to be treated with profound reverence, he was now forced to
command his feelings, while men who, a few months before, had been
hackney writers or country attorneys, sat in his presence with covered
heads, and addressed him in the easy tone of equality. Conscious of fair
intentions, sensible of hard usage, he doubtless detested the
Revolution; and, while charged with the conduct of the war against the
confederates, pined in secret for the sight of the German eagles and the
sound of the German drums. We do not blame him for this. But can we
blame those who, being resolved to defend the work of the National
Assembly against the interference of strangers, were not disposed to
have him at their head in the fearful struggle which was approaching? We
have nothing to say in defence or extenuation of the insolence,
injustice, and cruelty with which, after the victory of the republicans,
he and his family were treated. But this we say, that the French had
only one alternative, to deprive him of the powers of first magistrate,
or to ground their arms and submit patiently to foreign dictation. The
events of the tenth of August sprang inevitably from the league of
Pilnitz. The King's palace was stormed; his guards were slaughtered. He
was suspended from his regal functions; and the Legislative Assembly
invited the nation to elect an extraordinary Convention, with the full
powers which the conjuncture required. To this Convention the members of
the National Assembly were eligible; and Barère was chosen by his own

The Convention met on the twenty-first of September, 1792. The first
proceedings were unanimous. Royalty was abolished by acclamation. No
objections were made to this great change; and no reasons were assigned
for it. For certainly we cannot honor with the name of reasons such
apothegms, as that kings are in the moral world what monsters are in the
physical world; and that the history of kings is the martyrology of
nations. But, though the discussion was worthy only of a debating club
of schoolboys, the resolution to which the Convention came seems to have
been that which sound policy dictated. In saying this, we do not mean to
express an opinion that a republic is, either in the abstract the best
form of government, or is, under ordinary circumstances, the form of
government best suited to the French people. Our own opinion is, that
the best governments which have ever existed in the world have been
limited monarchies; and that France, in particular, has never enjoyed so
much prosperity and freedom as under a limited monarchy. Nevertheless,
we approve of the vote of the Convention which abolished kingly
government. The interference of foreign powers had brought on a crisis
which made extraordinary measures necessary. Hereditary monarchy may be,
and we believe that it is, a very useful institution in a country like
France. And masts are very useful parts of a ship. But, if the ship is
on her beam ends, it may be necessary to cut the masts away. When once
she has righted, she may come safe into port under jury rigging, and
there be completely repaired. But, in the meantime, she must be hacked
with unsparing hand, lest that which, under ordinary circumstances, is
an essential part of her fabric, should, in her extreme distress, sink
her to the bottom. Even so there are political emergencies in which it
is necessary that governments should be mutilated of their fair
proportions for a time, lest they be cast away forever; and with such an
emergency the Convention had to deal. The first object of a good
Frenchman should have been to save France from the fate of Poland. The
first requisite of a government was entire devotion to the national
cause. That requisite was wanting in Louis; and such a want, at such a
moment, could not be supplied by any public or private virtues. If the
King were set aside the abolition of kingship necessarily followed. In
the state in which the public mind then was, it would have been idle to
think of doing what our ancestors did in 1688, and what the French
Chamber of Deputies did in 1830. Such an attempt would have failed
amidst universal derision and execration. It would have disgusted all
zealous men of all opinions; and there were then few men who were not
zealous. Parties fatigued by long conflict, and instructed by the severe
discipline of that school in which alone mankind will learn, are
disposed to listen to the voice of a mediator. But when they are in
their first heady youth, devoid of experience, fresh for exertion,
flushed with hope, burning with animosity, they agree only in spurning
out of their way the daysman who strives to take his stand between them
and to lay his hand upon them both. Such was in 1792 the state of
France. On one side was the great name of the heir of Hugh Capet, the
thirty-third king of the third race; on the other side was the great
name of the republic. There was no rallying point save these two. It was
necessary to make a choice; and those, in our opinion, judged well who,
waiving for the moment all subordinate questions, preferred independence
to subjugation, and the natal soil to the emigrant camp.

As to the abolition of royalty, and as to the vigorous prosecution of
the war, the whole Convention seemed to be united as one man. But a deep
and broad gulf separated the representative body into two great parties.

On one side were those statesmen who are called, from the name of the
department which some of them represented, the Girondists, and, from the
name of one of their most conspicuous leaders, the Brissotines. In
activity and practical ability, Brissot and Gensonné were the most
conspicuous among them. In parliamentary eloquence, no Frenchman of that
time can be considered as equal to Vergniaud. In a foreign country, and
after the lapse of half a century, some parts of his speeches are still
read with mournful admiration. No man, we are inclined to believe, ever
rose so rapidly to such a height of oratorical excellence. His whole
public life lasted barely two years. This is a circumstance which
distinguishes him from our own greatest speakers, Fox, Burke, Pitt,
Sheridan, Windham, Canning. Which of these celebrated men would now be
remembered as an orator, if he had died two years after he first took
his seat in the House of Commons? Condorcet brought to the Girondist
party a different kind of strength. The public regarded him with justice
as an eminent mathematician, and, with less reason, as a great master of
ethical and political science; the philosophers considered him as their
chief, as the rightful heir, by intellectual descent and by solemn
adoption, of their deceased sovereign D'Alembert. In the same ranks were
found Gaudet, Isnard, Barbaroux, Buzot, Louvet, too well known as the
author of a very ingenious and very licentious romance, and more
honorably distinguished by the generosity with which he pleaded for the
unfortunate, and by the intrepidity with which he defied the wicked and
powerful. Two persons whose talents were not brilliant, but who enjoyed
a high reputation for probity and public spirit, Pétion and Roland, lent
the whole weight of their names to the Girondist connection. The wife of
Roland brought to the deliberations of her husband's friends masculine
courage and force of thought, tempered by womanly grace and vivacity.
Nor was the splendor of a great military reputation wanting to this
celebrated party. Dumourier, then victorious over the foreign invaders,
and at the height of popular favor, must be reckoned among the allies of
the Gironde.

The errors of the Brissotines were undoubtedly neither few nor small;
but, when we fairly compare their conduct with the conduct of any other
party which acted or suffered during the French Revolution, we are
forced to admit their superiority in every quality except that single
quality which in such times prevails over every other, decision. They
were zealous for the great social reform which had been effected by the
National Assembly; and they were right. For, though that reform was, in
some respects, carried too far, it was a blessing well worth even the
fearful price which has been paid for it. They were resolved to maintain
the independence of their country against foreign invaders; and they
were right. For the heaviest of all yokes is the yoke of the stranger.
They thought that, if Louis remained at their head, they could not carry
on with the requisite energy the conflict against the European
coalition. They therefore concurred in establishing a republican
government; and here, again, they were right. For, in that struggle for
life and death, it would have been madness to trust a hostile or even a
half-hearted leader.

Thus far they went along with the revolutionary movement. At this point
they stopped; and, in our judgment, they were right in stopping, as they
had been right in moving. For great ends, and under extraordinary
circumstances, they had concurred in measures which, together with much
good, had necessarily produced much evil; which had unsettled the public
mind; which had taken away from government the sanction of prescription;
which had loosened the very foundations of property and law. They
thought that it was now their duty to prop what it had recently been
their duty to batter. They loved liberty, but liberty associated with
order, with justice, with mercy, and with civilization. They were
republicans; but they were desirous to adorn their republic with all
that had given grace and dignity to the fallen monarchy. They hoped that
the humanity, the courtesy, the taste, which had done much in old times
to mitigate the slavery of France, would now lend additional charms to
her freedom. They saw with horror crimes, exceeding in atrocity those
which had disgraced the infuriated religious factions of the sixteenth
century, perpetrated in the name of reason and philanthropy. They
demanded, with eloquent vehemence, that the authors of the lawless
massacre, which, just before the meeting of the Convention, had been
committed in the prisons of Paris, should be brought to condign
punishment. They treated with just contempt the pleas which have been
set up for that great crime. They admitted that the public danger was
pressing; but they denied that it justified a violation of those
principles of morality on which all society rests. The independence and
honor of France were indeed to be vindicated, but to be vindicated by
triumphs and not by murders.

Opposed to the Girondists was a party which, having been long execrated
throughout the civilized world, has of late--such is the ebb and flow of
opinion--found not only apologists, but even eulogists. We are not
disposed to deny that some members of the Mountain were sincere and
public-spirited men. But even the best of them, Carnot for example and
Cambon, were far too unscrupulous as to the means which they employed
for the purpose of attaining great ends. In the train of these
enthusiasts followed a crowd, composed of all who, from sensual, sordid,
or malignant motives, wished for a period of boundless license.

When the Convention met, the majority was with the Girondists, and
Barère was with the majority. On the King's trial, indeed, he quitted
the party with which he ordinarily acted, voted with the Mountain, and
spoke against the prisoner with a violence such as few members even of
the Mountain showed.

The conduct of the leading Girondists on that occasion was little to
their honor. Of cruelty, indeed, we fully acquit them; but it is
impossible to acquit them of criminal irresolution and disingenuousness.
They were far, indeed, from thirsting for the blood of Louis; on the
contrary, they were most desirous to protect him. But they were afraid
that, if they went straightforward to their object, the sincerity of
their attachment to republican institutions would be suspected. They
wished to save the King's life, and yet to obtain all the credit of
having been regicides. Accordingly, they traced out for themselves a
crooked course, by which they hoped to attain both their objects. They
first voted the King guilty. They then voted for referring the question
respecting his fate to the whole body of the people. Defeated in this
attempt to rescue him, they reluctantly, and with ill-suppressed shame
and concern, voted for the capital sentence. Then they made a last
attempt in his favor, and voted for respiting the execution. These zig
zag politics produced the effect which any man conversant with public
affairs might have foreseen. The Girondists, instead of attaining both
their ends, failed of both. The Mountain justly charged them with having
attempted to save the King by underhand means. Their own consciences
told them, with equal justice, that their hands had been dipped in the
blood of the most inoffensive and most unfortunate of men. The direct
path was here, as usual, the path not only of honor but of safety. The
principle on which the Girondists stood as a party was, that the season
for revolutionary violence was over, and that the reign of law and order
ought now to commence. But the proceeding against the King was clearly
revolutionary in its nature. It was not in conformity with the laws. The
only plea for it was that all ordinary rules of jurisprudence and
morality were suspended by the extreme public danger. This was the very
plea which the Mountain urged in defence of the massacre of September,
and to which, when so urged, the Girondists refused to listen. They
therefore, by voting for the death of the King, conceded to the Mountain
the chief point at issue between the two parties. Had they given a
manful vote against the capital sentence, the regicides would have been
in a minority. It is probable that there would have been an immediate
appeal to force. The Girondists might have been victorious. In the worst
event, they would have fallen with unblemished honor. Thus much is
certain, that their boldness and honesty could not possibly have
produced a worse effect than was actually produced by their timidity and
their stratagems.

Barère, as we have said, sided with the Mountain on this occasion. He
voted against the appeal to the people and against the respite. His
demeanor and his language also were widely different from those of the
Girondists. Their hearts were heavy, and their deportment was that of
men oppressed by sorrow. It was Vergniaud's duty to proclaim the result
of the roll call. His face was pale, and he trembled with emotion, as in
a low and broken voice he announced that Louis was condemned to death.
Barère had not, it is true, yet attained to full perfection in the art
of mingling jests and conceits with words of death; but he already gave
promise of his future excellence in this high department of Jacobin
oratory. He concluded his speech with a sentence worthy of his head and
heart. "The tree of liberty," he said, "as an ancient author remarks,
flourishes when it is watered with the blood of all classes of tyrants."
M. Hippolyte Carnot has quoted this passage in order, as we suppose, to
do honor to his hero. We wish that a note had been added to inform us
from what ancient author Barère quoted. In the course of our own small
reading among the Greek and Latin writers, we have not happened to fall
in with trees of liberty and watering-pots full of blood; nor can we,
such is our ignorance of classical antiquity, even imagine an Attic or
Roman orator employing imagery of that sort. In plain words, when Barère
talked about an ancient author, he was lying, as he generally was when
he asserted any fact, great or small. Why he lied on this occasion we
cannot guess, unless indeed it was to keep his hand in.

It is not improbable that, but for one circumstance, Barère would, like
most of those with whom he ordinarily acted, have voted for the appeal
to the people and for the respite. But, just before the commencement of
the trial, papers had been discovered which proved that, while a member
of the National Assembly, he had been in communication with the Court
respecting his Reports on the Woods and Forests. He was acquitted of all
criminality by the Convention; but the fiercer Republicans considered
him as a tool of the fallen monarch; and this reproach was long repeated
in the journal of Marat, and in the speeches at the Jacobin club. It was
natural that a man like Barère should, under such circumstances, try to
distinguish himself among the crowd of regicides by peculiar ferocity.
It was because he had been a royalist that he was one of the foremost in
shedding blood.

The King was no more. The leading Girondists had, by their conduct
towards him, lowered their character in the eyes both of friends and
foes. They still, however, maintained the contest against the Mountain,
called for vengeance on the assassins of September, and protested
against the anarchical and sanguinary doctrines of Marat. For a time
they seemed likely to prevail. As publicists and orators they had no
rivals in the Convention. They had with them, beyond all doubt, the
great majority both of the deputies and of the French nation. These
advantages, it should seem, ought to have decided the event of the
struggle. But the opposite party had compensating advantages of a
different kind. The chiefs of the Mountain, though not eminently
distinguished by eloquence or knowledge, had great audacity, activity,
and determination. The Convention and France were against them; but the
mob of Paris, the clubs of Paris, and the municipal government of Paris,
were on their side.

The policy of the Jacobins, in this situation, was to subject France to
an aristocracy infinitely worse than that aristocracy which had
emigrated with the Count of Artois--to an aristocracy not of birth, not
of wealth, not of education, but of mere locality. They would not hear
of privileged orders: but they wished to have a privileged city. That
twenty-five millions of Frenchmen should be ruled by a hundred thousand
gentlemen and clergymen was insufferable; but that twenty-five millions
of Frenchmen should be ruled by a hundred thousand Parisians was as it
should be. The qualification of a member of the new oligarchy was simply
that he should live near the hall where the Convention met, and should
be able to squeeze himself daily into the gallery during a debate, and
now and then to attend with a pike for the purpose of blockading the
doors. It was quite agreeable to the maxims of the Mountain that a score
of draymen from Santerre's brewery, or of devils from Hébert's
printing-house, should be permitted to drown the voices of men
commissioned to speak the sense of such cities as Marseilles, Bordeaux,
and Lyons; and that a rabble of half-naked porters from the Faubourg St.
Antoine should have power to annul dec