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CHAP. shows itself so uniform, so plain, and so natural, XX. that every dabbler in politics will be apt to think A.D. 1751 that he could have done the same." Our language hardly contains an illustration more appropriate in itself, or more elegantly expressed.

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The contemporaries of Bolingbroke placed him at the head of the writers of his age: their posterity have been less captivated with the beauties of his style, because they are less interested in the subject of his writings. Bolingbroke, Addison, and Swift were universally acknowledged as the triumvirate who infused an elegance into our language which was unknown to their predecessors. Among these the first place was assigned to Bolingbroke; and it would not be difficult to prove that he deserves it. Swift has never been thought of as his rival: his plain and unpretending language, so utterly devoid of figure or ornament, could never be compared with that of the man he was always ready to acknowledge as his master. Addison was equally elegant; but he was not more correct, and his diction is less vivid and striking. The subjects of his pen have been more popular, and his beauties therefore more extensively known; but if we compare the political writings of these two distinguished authors, we cannot hesitate a moment in awarding the superiority to Bolingbroke. The subjects of this great man's works were interesting only to his own age, and his fame suffered in proportion as they became forgotten. It was his misfortune, that he did not form the in


tention of founding his reputation upon his writings CHAP. until he was too old to execute it. The only work which could have placed that reputation beyond the A.D. 1751 influence of fashion or caprice was not early enough commenced, but was perhaps too despondingly abandoned.

His qualifications for eminence in any department of prose literature can hardly be doubted; but perhaps there was none for which he was less adapted than that which he latterly undertook. Bolingbroke could accomplish nothing in an ordinary or undistinguished manner; but upon some subjects, and peculiarly upon this, although he was superior to many others, he was unworthy of himself. Criticism, particularly when applied to history and chronology, requires labour, which he could not brook, and patience, which he did not possess. Bolingbroke's learning was multifarious and ever ready; but for this purpose it was insufficient. His acquaintance lay almost entirely with the Latin writers. Of the Greek he appears to have had little knowledge. When he quotesthe historians of Greece, he always uses the Latin translation: when he cites the philosophers of that country, he has generally obtained their sentiments through Cicero or Lucian. The translations were little to be relied upon; and the channel through which his Grecian philosophy had flowed was easily traced. Both these expedients betrayed him into errors, and their frequent recurrence too surely pointed out the cause of his

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CHAP. failures. In his Works, abounding as they do with XX. Latin quotations, there is not a sentence of Greek A.D. 1751 to be found. In some of the later editions, passages referred to in the text have been printed in notes: but this has been the work of the Editor. The first edition, which is a literal transcript of the original MSS, contains no Greek whatever.


Character of Bolingbroke-As a Statesman-As a Patron of
Literature-As a Philosopher-As a Private Man.


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NEITHER genius nor exertion could secure to Bo- CHAP. lingbroke success. As a writer, he is surpassed in popularity by many who are far his inferiors in A.D. 1751 merit; and as a statesman, the talents which raised him above his friends only served to render him a subject of particular hostility to his enemies. The brilliant metal attracts the lightning bolt-the splendour of Bolingbroke's talents drew upon him his ruin. Self-interest is a marvellous antidote to pity; and the minister could never begin to commiserate the man he could not cease to fear.

As a statesman, Bolingbroke cannot be judged by the principles or the politics of the present day. Faction during his age raged with a violence unprecedented in our history: it was as little indued with patriotism as it was tempered by moderation; the best interests of the country were unhesitatingly sacrificed to its selfish views: nor did it bring with it any attendant good to palliate its disastrous effects. It would be in vain to attempt to discover in the

CHAP. party leaders of that time any of those well-defined XXI. distinctions in their views of the broad principles A.D. 1751 of government, which before and since have ren

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dered the opposition of the two parties in the state reasonable and even beneficial. The contest was only for power; principle held no place among their motives but its absence was fully compensated by the increased potency of party honour. Harley, the leader of the Tories, was educated a dissenter, and never forgot the lessons of his youth. His ambition prompted him to forsake the political connexions of his family; but while he adopted the name of a Tory, he retained the principles of a Whig. Harcourt afterwards formed an efficient and willing member of a Whig ministry. The speech of Sir William Windham in favour of the repeal of the septennial act is as replete with Whig principles as any that ever proceeded from the mouth of Chatham or of Fox. Swift professed what we now understand by Tory principles only in the affairs of the church when he ventures to lay down an abstract principle of government, it is usually such as at any other time we should ascribe to a Whig. Bolingbroke disdains disguise; he treats with the most unmitigated scorn the tenets which in his early youth had been universally held by Tories. According to the professed principles of the Whigs, he follows out the theory of our constitution-denounces every corruption which would mar its excellence, and allows no spurious expediency to assail its integrity. The

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