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uniform and consistent with itself, and his whole conduct of a piece. His principles were founded in reason, and supported by virtue, and therefore did not lie at the mercy of ambition, avarice, or resentment. His notions were no less steady and unshaken than just and upright.
“ In a word, he concluded his course among the same well-chosen friendships and alliances with which he began it.
“ This great man was not more conspicuous as a patriot and a statesman, than as a person of universal knowledge and learning. As, by dividing his time between the public scenes of business and the private retirements of life, he took care to keep up both the great and good man ; so, by the same means, he accomplished himself not only in the knowledge of men and things, but in the skill of the most refined arts and sciences. That unwearied diligence, which followed him through all the stages of his life, gave him such a thorough insight into the laws of the land, that he passed for one of the greatest masters of his profession at his first appearance in it. Though he made a regular progress through the several honours of the long robe, he was always looked upon as one who deserved a superior station to that he was possessed of, till he arrived at the highest dignity to which those studies could advance him.
“ He enjoyed, in the highest perfection, two talents which do not often meet in the same person; the greatest strength of good sense, and the most exquisite taste of politeness. Without the first, learning is but an incumbránce, and without the last, is ungraceful. My Lord Somers was master of these two qualifications in so eminent a degree, that all the parts of knowledge appeared in him with such an additional strength and beauty, as they want in the possession of others. If he delivered his opinion of a piece of poetry, a statue, or a picture, there was something so just and delicate in his observations, as naturally produced pleasure and assent in those who heard him.
“ His solidity and eloquence, improved by the reading of the finest authors, both of the learned and modern languages, discovered itself in all his productions. His oratory was masculine and persuasive, free from every thing trivial and affected. His style in writing was chaste and pure, but at the same time full of spirit and politeness, and fit to convey the most intricate business, to the understanding of the reader, with the utmost clearness and perspicuity. And here it is to be lamented that this extraordinary person, out of his natural aversion to vain glory, wrote several pieces, as well as performed several actions, which he did not assume the honour of: though, at the same time, so many works of this nature have appeared, which every one has ascribed to him, that I believe no author of the greatest eminence would deny my Lord Somers to have been the best writer of the age in which he lived.
“ This noble lord, for the great extent of his knowledge and capacity, has been often compared with the Lord Verulam, who had also been chancellor of England. But the conduct of these two extraordinary persons, under the same circumstances, was vastly different. They were both impeached by a house of commons. One of them, as he had given just occasion for it, sank under it, and was reduced to such an abject submission as very much diminished the lustre of so exalted a character: but my Lord Somers was too well fortified in his integrity, to fear the importance of an attempt upon his reputation; and though his accusers would gladly have dropped their impeachment, he was instant with them for the prosecution of it, and would not let that matter rest till it was brought to an issue; for the same virtue and greatness of mind, which gave him a disregard of fame, made him impatient of an undeserved reproach.
“ There is no question but this wonderful man will make one of the most distinguished figures in the history of the present age; but we cannot expect that his merit will shine out in its proper light, since he wrote many things which are not published in his name; was
at the bottom of many excellent counsels, in which he did not appear ; did offices of friendship to many persons who knew not from whom they were derived ; and performed great services to his country, the glory of which was transferred to others: in short, since he made it his endeavour rather to do worthy actions than to gain an illustrious character.”
Horace Walpole has himself sketched in a few words the most striking features of Lord Somers's character. * “ He was one of those divine men, who, like a chapel in a palace, remain unprofaned, while all the rest is tyranny, corruption, and folly. All the traditional accounts of him, the historians of the last age and its best authors, represent him as the most incorrupt lawyer, and the honestest statesman, as a master orator, a genius of the finest taste, and a patriot of the noblest and most extensive views; as a man who dispensed blessings by his life, and planned them for posterity.” “He was,” says Burnet t, very learned in his own profession, with a great deal more learning in other professions, in divinity, philosophy, and history. He had a great capacity for business, with an extraordinary temper; for he was fair and gentle, perhaps to a fault, considering his post. So that he had all the patience and softness, as well as the justice and equity, becoming a great magistrate.”
Such are the représentations of his character given by those whose opinions, on political subjects, coincided with his own; but we also possess a portrait of him drawn by the unfriendly hand of one who, in earlier life, is said to have been indebted to him for various benefits, and who, as we have seen, had formerly painted him in yery different colours. Where his political interests were concerned (for it would scarcely be correct to attribute his conduct to principle), Swift is always to be disa trusted, and, in drawing the following character, must be considered as performing the duty of a hired partisan. It is contained in his “ History of the last Years of the * Works, vol. i. p. 430.
+ Own Times, vol. ii. p. 107. fol. ed.
“ The Lord Somers may very deservedly be reputed the head and oracle of that party: he has raised himself, by the concurrence of many circumstances, to the greatest employments of the state, without the least support from birth or fortune; he has constantly, and with great steadiness, cultivated those principles under which he grew.
That accident, which first produced him into the world, of pleading for the bishops whom king James had sent to the Tower, might have proved a piece of merit as honourable as it was fortua nate; but the old republican spirit, which the revolution had restored, began to teach other lessons; that since we had accepted a new king from a Calvinistical come monwealth, we must also admit new maxims in religion and government. But since the nobility and gentry would probably adhere to the established church, and to the right of monarchy as delivered down from their ancestors, it was the practice of these politicians to introduce such men as were perfectly indifferent to any or no religion, and who were not likely to inherit much loyalty from those to whom they owed their birth : of this number was the person I am now describing. I have hardly known any man with talents more proper to acquire and preserve the favour of a prince; never offending in word or gesture, in the highest degree courteous and complaisant, wherein he set an excellent example to his colleagues, which they did not think fit to follow. But this extreme civility, so upiversal and undistinguished, and in private conversation, where he observes it as inviolably as if he were in the greatest assembly, is sometimes censured as formal. Two reasons are assigned for this behaviour ; first, that, from the consciousness of his humble origin, he keeps all familiarity at the utmost distance, which otherwise might be apt to intrude; the second, that, being sensible how subject he is to violent passions, he avoids all incitements to them, by teaching those he converses with, by his own example, to keep a great way within the bounds of decency and respect. And it is, indeed, true, that no
man is more apt to take fire upon the least appearance of provocation, which temper he strives to subdue, with the utmost violence upon himself, so that his breast has been seen to heave, and his eyes to sparkle with rage, in those very moments when his words and the cadence of his voice were in the humblest and softest manner. Perhaps that force upon his nature may cause that insatiable love of revenge which his detractors lay to his charge, who consequently reckoned dissimulation among his chief perfections. Avarice he has none, and his ambition is gratified by being the uncontested head of his party. With an excellent understanding, adorned by all the polite arts of learning, he has very little taste for conversation, to which he prefers the pleasure of reading and thinking, and in the intervals of his time amuses himself with an illiterate chaplain, an humble companion, or a favourite servant.” In the same spirit of depreciation, Swift, in a letter addressed to Lord Bolingbroke, says that “ Somers's timorous nature, joined with the trade of a common lawyer, and the consciousness of a mean extraction, had taught him the regularity of an alderman or a gentleman-usher.”
The character of Lord Somers as a lawyer, and especially as a constitutional lawyer, has always been held in the highest estimation.
His celebrated argument in the great case of the Bankers * may be referred to as a proof of his professional abilities and extensive learning. It has been termed by Mr. Hargrave of the most elaborate judgments ever delivered in Westminster Hall.” of In collecting books and pamphlets for the purposes of this argument, Lord Somers is said to have expended several hundred pounds. I
He was a most industrious collector both of manuscripts and printed tracts, and after his death his valuable manuscript collection came into the possession of the Hardwicke family, who were allied to him by marriage. It filled upwards of sixty volumes in quarto, and was deposited in the chambers of the Honourable
* State Trials, vol. xiv. p. 1. † Id. p. 3. * Id. p. 39.