« ПретходнаНастави »
Yet still amid his resolutions to turn himself from politics, and to give himself up entirely to the calls of philosophy, he could not resist embarking once more in the debates of his country ; and coming back from France, settled at Battersea, an old seat which was his father's, and had been long in the possession of the family. He supposed he saw an impending calamity, and though it was not in his power to remove, he thought it his duty to retard its fall. To redeem or save the nation from perdition, he thought impossible, since national corruptions were to be purged by national calamities; but he was resolved to lend his feeble assistance, to stem the torrent that was pouring in. With this spirit he wrote that excellent piece, which is intituled, “ The Idea of a Patriot King;" in which he describes a monarch, uninfluenced by party, leaning to the suggestions neither of whigs nor tories, but equally the friend and the father of all. Some time after, in the year 1749, after the conclusion of the peace two years before, the measures taken by the administration seemed not to have been repugnant to his notions of political prudence for that juncture; in that year he wrote his last production, containing reflections on the then state of the nation, principally with regard to her taxes and debts, and on the causes and consequences of them. This undertaking was left unfinished, for death snatched the pen from the hand of the writer.
Having passed the latter part of his life in dignity and splendour, his rational faculties improved by reflection, and his ambition kept under by disappointment, his whole aim seemed to have been to leave the stage of life, on which he had acted such various parts, with applause. He had long wished to fetch his last breath at Battersea, the place where he was born ; and fortune, that had through life seemed to traverse all his aims, at last indulged him in this.
He had long VOL. I.
been troubled with a cancer in his cheek, by which excruciating disease he died on the verge of fourscore years of age. He was consonant with himself to the last, and those principles which he had all along avowed, he confirmed with his dying breath, having given orders that none of the clergy should be permitted to trouble him in his latest moments.
His body was interred in Battersea church with those of his ancestors; and a marble monument erected to his memory, with the following excellent inscription.
and Viscount Bolingbroke :
His Attachment to Queen Anne
He bore it with firmness of Mind;
The enemy of no national Party;
The friend of no Faction. Distinguished (under the Cloud of a Proscription,
Which had not been entirely taken off,)
By Zeal to maintain the Liberty,
Of Great Britain.
In this manner lived and died Lord Bolingbroke; ever active, never depressed, ever pursuing fortune, and as constantly disappointed by her. In whatever light we view his character, we shall find him an object rather properer for our wonder, than our imitation, more to be feared than esteemed, and gaining our admiration without our love, His ambition ever aimed at the summit of power, and nothing seemed capable of satisfying his immoderate desires, but the liberty of governing all things without a rival. With as much ambition, as great abilities, and more acquired knowledge than Cæsar, he wanted only his courage to be as successful; but the schemes his head dictated, his heart often refused to execute ; and he lost the ability to perform, just when the great occasion called for all his efforts to engage.
The same ambition that prompted him to be a po. litician, actuated him as a philosopher. His aims were equally great and extensive in both capacities : unwilling to submit to any in the one, or any authority in the other, he entered the fields of science with a thorough contempt of all that had been established before him, and seemed willing to think every thing wrong, that he might show his faculty in the reformation. It might have been better for his quiet as a man, if he had been content to act a subordinate character in the state ; and it had certainly been better for his memory as a writer, if he had aimed at doing less than he attempted. Wisdom in morals, like every other art or science, is an accumulation that numbers have contributed to increase ; and it is not for one single man to pretend, that he can add more to the heap, than the thousands that have gone before him. Such innovations more frequently retard, than promote knowledge ; their maxims are more agreeable to the reader, by having the gloss of novelty to recommend them, than those which are trite, only because they are true. Such men are therefore followed at first with avidity, nor is it till some time that their disciples begin to find their error. They often, though too late, perceive that they have been following a speculative inquiry, while they have been leaving a practical good; and while they have been practising the arts of doubting, they have been losing all firmness of principle, which might tend to establish the rectitude of their private conduct. As a moralist, therefore, Lord Bolingbroke, by having endeavoured at too much, seems to have done nothing: but as a political writer, few can equal and none can exceed him. As he was a practical politician, his writings are less filled with those speculative illusions, which are the result of solitude and seclusion. He wrote them with a certainty of their being opposed, sifted, examined, and reviled; he, therefore, took care to build them up of such materials, as could not be easily overthrown; they prevailed at the times in which they were written, they still continue to the admiration of the present age, and will probably last for ever.