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It should not be forgotten, as an honourable in- CHAP. stance of the triumph of the love of literature over party feeling, that when Addison's Cato was first A.D. 1752 produced, Bolingbroke took his friends to the house, and rewarded Booth liberally for his representation of the hero. Spence, who relates this anecdote, adds, that this circumstance contributed much to the success of the play.
Bolingbroke's private, like his public life, offers much subject both for praise and blame. His passions were as fiery as his genius; and in his youth he disdained to control the one, or to regulate the other. Although eminently gifted with those shining qualities which captivate and ensnare, he took little pains to improve the opportunities he possessed; and his intrigues were rather numerous than select. He was not very fastidious in choosing his companions of either sex; * but no man was more careful in the selection of a friend. There were few men whom he ever admitted to this distinction, and of these none ever deserted or betrayed him.† The ambition which would allow him to brook no equal in the administration of government, prompted him to domineer in private his friendship was offered only to those whose kindred genius marked them as his equals, and even by these he could never believe
* Grimoard says, "Quant aux femmes il était moins difficile, et il suffisait qu'elles fussent jolies, pour qu'il les recherchât.”
+ Prior's conduct was cer
tainly equivocal; but there is
A. D. 1752
CHAP. that he was loved until he was implicitly obeyed. The estimation in which his friendship was held, appears from the readiness with which the superiority he assumed was conceded: even Pope and Swift owned in him a master.
His friendship, when once gained, was warm and generous; and his correspondence with his two most peculiar friends contains the most genuine effusions of that sentiment. As a letter-writer, he stands unrivalled.* The biographer of Swift readily admits the superior excellence of the letters of Bolingbroke. He acknowledges that they are written with an elegance and politeness which distinguish them from those of his illustrious friends. "We see," exclaims Lord Orrery, "they were not intended for the press; but how valuable are the most careless strokes of such a pen !"†
The brilliancy of his conversation was to his con
*Sir Robert Walpole, in his
cannot be said of his accuser.
+ Life of Swift, p. 235. Dr. Johnson hated Bolingbroke. In his Life of Pope, he differs from Lord Orrery, and speaks of his letters as written in the laboured style of a professed author. The doctor must have known that those styles which appear the most laboured, are frequently the most rapid. Try Dr. Johnson's letters by the test he applies to those of Bolingbroke, and they will appear by far the more laboured and artificial.
temporaries a subject of universal admiration: he CHAP. wanted no accomplishment which could enable him to shine. In the senate, he was the most eloquent A.D. 1752 orator; in the drawing-room, the most finished gentleman. To the ordinary accomplishments of his age he added the less usual knowledge of the European languages: he spoke Italian with ease and purity, and his perfect skill in French has already been noticed: Voltaire says of him, "Je n'ai jamais entendu parler notre langue avec plus d'énergie et de justesse."*
The delicacy of his taste was seen in the beauty of his country retreats, and the rural wildness of his grounds. His friends discovered it in everything he planned and in everything he performed. The celebrity of Dawley was in its day as great as that of Twickenham; and even history has not disdained to celebrate Lord Bolingbroke's charming retreat near Orleans. But all traces of these favourite spots, "Where nobly pensive St. John sat and thought,"
MEMOIRS OF LORD BOLINGBROKE.
CHAP. has passed away. The Loiret indeed still gushes from the earth; but the château is no longer the same. Dawley has been long since pulled down; and even the ancient seat of the St. Johns at Battersea, venerable as it was for its antiquity, has ceased to exist as a mansion. The scanty remains have been converted into a mill; but the ruins yet bear testimony to the splendour of the ancient house. It is still known in the neighbourhood as the residence of Bolingbroke; and Tradition, with her usual admixture of truth and error, points out a dilapidated chamber as that in which Pope composed his Essay on Man.