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lutely to write on the subject. Your endeavours to CHAP. expose the attempts that are made to revive party names are great services to your country in a most A. D. 1735 important point, my dear lord; and the collateral reasons that you mention to have prompted you to write a paper on that subject are of weight. But what shall we say and what are we to hope, when the men who should on all accounts lead, animate and prompt others, are themselves to be led, animated, and prompted; and when even this cannot oblige them to give a due attention and exert a proper vigour in such a critical conjuncture? I expect no effectual measures for asserting the honour and interest of the nation to be taken.
"Walpole is left at liberty to pursue his own measures; and they are such, most certainly.* The true measure and the sole principle from which any good consequence can follow, is to deny peremptorily to admit the pretensions of the Spaniards to be materia tractandi and I have not found any man of sense and knowledge on this side of the water who thinks otherwise. This is plainly designed to be evaded by the minister; and the late proceedings in par
*This sentence is also expressive of Bolingbroke's disapproval of the secession. Again he says, to the same correspondent, "Honest men may do honour to themselves by asserting, in every way they can, the liberties of their country to the
last" a sentiment very different
CHAP. liament will encourage him to evade it, as the geneXIV. ral terms in which the resolutions of parliament are A D. 1735 couched will give him pretence and means of evading it. The vast expense you are to make will serve at
best, as many times it has happened since this administration, to mend a little, and that perhaps in appearance only, the conduct and issue of a ridiculous negotiation; and the great increase of the land-forces threatens Britain more than Spain. All that remains for me to do, and I fear almost all that remains for you to do, is to lament the fate of our country. A state is equally desperate, when there are no remedies to be found that are equal to the distempers of it, and when there are such to be found, but neither hands to administer them, nor perhaps strength of constitution sufficient to bear them. In one of these cases I am sure we are: we are perhaps in both. Plato complained that he lived in the dotage of the Athenian commonwealth, and gave that reason for speaking and writing what he thought of the government of his country, and for taking no further part in it. If our citizens will be persuaded, let us persuade them,' said the philosopher: 'if they will not, we neither can nor ought to force them.' Are we not in the dotage of our commonwealth, my lord? Are we not in the second infancy, when rattles and hobbyhorses take up all our attention, and we truck for playthings our most essential interests? In a first infancy, there is hope of amendment: the puerile habits wear off, and those of manhood succeed; rea
son grows stronger and admits of daily improve- CHAP. ment; we observe, we reflect, we hear, we persuade ourselves, or we are persuaded by others. But in a second infancy what hope remains?—reason grows weaker; the passions, the baser passions, the inferior sentiments of the heart-avarice, envy, selfconceit, and obstinacy, grow stronger; and the habits we then have accompany us to the grave.
Such were the desponding sentiments of Bolingbroke. His forebodings received a gloomy shade from his own situation, and with the common feeling of a disappointed man he thought that everything must be wrong in a sphere from which he was so hopelessly excluded.
*Marchmont Papers, vol. ii. p. 183.
Bolingbroke's projected History of Europe.-His Letter upon the true Use of Retirement and Study.
a small portion of Bolingbroke's time was XV. now employed in political correspondence; the far A.D. 1735 larger portion was devoted to society and general
The great work which he had contemplated ever since his retirement from public life was a History of Europe, from the Pyrenean treaty to the conclusion of the negotiations at Utrecht. Upon this he intended to build his fame; and such a work only was wanted to transmit his name to future ages as conspicuous as an historical, as he had already rendered himself unequalled as a political writer. The magnitude of the task, however, deterred him from grappling with it; he contented himself with viewing it at a distance, and spent that time in designing which he should have employed in executing.
We have proof more conclusive than his general reputation, his intimate acquaintance with the subject, and his perfect knowledge of our language, that this history, had it ever been completed, would
have been worthy of the author and the era it CHAP. described. His friend and disciple Lord Cornbury drew from him at this time a sketch of the plan he had marked out. Had he pursued this faithfully, and merged the secretary in the historian, no man of his age was so fit to give his countrymen a model of historical composition; a species of literature in which, at his time, scarcely any country was so barren.
That he perfectly understood the difficulties of the task in which he was about to engage, and thoroughly estimated the duties of the character he was about to assume, this little sketch sufficiently testifies. He was now compiling materials for his work, and he declares that he was never so busy in his life. But although he had matured his plan and studied his subject, he expresses his doubt whether he should ever have courage enough to undertake the task he had chalked out. He distrusted his abilities, and was in want of much information difficult to be obtained. His doubts were but too well founded: he deferred its commencement from year to year, until he was overtaken by old age, and was warned by increasing infirmity to lay aside an attempt which he could now indulge little hope of living to accomplish.
It is much to be regretted that this his favourite design was never executed: the subject was worthy of his powers, and under his pen it would have attained peculiar lustre ; such a performance might