صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Many squires and rectors and peasants would have been glad to see the legitimate king restored; but their zeal was not very active, - it belonged to the region of traditional sentiment and vague prejudice rather than to that of practical and vigorous life. The house of Hanover had the force of the government and the sense of the country in its favor; it was in possession, and Bolingbroke was aware that the Jacobites could not expel it from possession. He knew all this well, but his passions were too strong for his judgment: from excitability, restlessness, and rage, he joined the Pretender. He could not help being busy, and hoped or half hoped to be revenged on his enemies.

He could not, however, long agree with his new associates. The descent from actual office to imaginary office was too sudden; to many men it was pleasing to be Secretary of State to a mock king, but it was very painful to one who had just been Secretary to a real queen. His contempt, too, for the Irish associates of the Pretender was unbounded : he saw that they were hot-headed and ignorant men, who knew nothing of the country which they hoped to rule, whom that country would not endure for a day. He knew that the Roman Catholics in England were a small and unpopular body, and their aid more dangerous than their enmity. The genuine Jacobites distrusted him also. He said that they were untrustworthy because they were fools, and they said that he was untrustworthy because he was a traitor. This could not last: after a brief interval, he left the Pretender and his court; they began to slander him, and he began to speak much evil of them.

With his secession from the Jacobites, Bolingbroke's active career ends; he was afterwards only an aspirant for a career. He was after several years permitted to return to England, and to enjoy his estate though he was an attainted traitor; but the attainder was not reversed, and while it was in force

he could not take his seat in the House of Lords, or hold any office whatever. He wrote much against Walpole, but he did not turn out Walpole. On one occasion he was much mortified because Pulteney and the practical opponents of Walpole said that the support of his name rather weakened than strengthened them. He gave in a long memorial of suggestions to George I.; but the King said they were “bagatelles. He then fancied that he should become minister because of the support of Lady Suffolk, George II.'s mistress ; but Lady Suffolk had no influence, and Queen Caroline, who had predominant influence, supported Walpole. He then hoped to be minister under the Prince of Wales, George II.'s son, and wrote a treatise on a “Patriot King” for that prince's use; but George II. outlived his son, and he was saved the mortification of seeing how little that small prince would have carried out his great ideas. Though he survived Queen Anne more than thirty years, he never after her death attained to a day's power in England. Three years of eager unwise power, and thirty-five of sickly longing and impotent regret, such, or something like it, will ever be in this cold modern world the fate of an Alcibiades.

SIR GEORGE CORNEWALL LEWIS.*

(1863.)

Few more curious sights were, not long since, to be seen in London than that of Sir G. C. Lewis at the War Office. What is now a melancholy recollection was, when we used to see it, an odd mixture of amusing anomalies. The accidental and bit-by-bit way in which all minor business is managed in England has drifted our public offices into scattered, strange, and miscellaneous places; it has drifted the war minister into the large drawing-room of an old mansion, which is splendid enough to receive fashionable people and large enough to receive a hundred people. In this great and gorgeous apartment sat, a few months since, a homely scholar in spectacles, whose face bore traces of sedentary labor, and whose figure was bent into the student stoop. Such a plain man looked odd enough in such a splendid place; but it was much more odd to think that that man in that place supremely regulated the War Department of England. The place should have been a pacific drawing-room, and the man was a pacific student: he looked like a conveyancer over deeds, like a scholar among treatises, like a jurist making a code; he looked like the last man to preside over martial pomp and military expeditions.

So unique a man as Sir George Lewis has, in truth, rarely been lost to this country. Most men, most politicians especially, fall easily into some ready-made classification, – belong to one of the recognized groups

* A Dialogue on the Best Form of Government. By the Right Hon. Sir G. C. Lewis, Bart., M. P. London: 1863.

so

of ordinary character; political life has gone on long that we have ascertained the principal species of statesmen, and have a fixed name ready for each : but Sir George Lewis, as all who knew him in the least well will testify, did not belong exactly to any received type. People were puzzled how to classify a man who wrote on the Astronomy of the Ancients, the Fables of Babrius, and Roman History before there was history, and who was yet able to fill three difficult Cabinet offices in quick succession. He wrote what most Cabinet ministers would think it too much and too hard to read; no German professor, from the smoke and study of many silent years, has ever put forth books more bristling with recondite references, more exact in every technicality of scholarship, more rich in matured reflection, than Sir George Lewis found time, mind, and scholarlike curiosity to write in the very thick of eager English life: and yet he was never very busy, or never seemed so. In the extremity of the “ Trent" difficulty — when, as he was inclined to think, a war with America was impending, when a war minister might be pardoned for having no time for general reflection - Sir George Lewis found time, at three o'clock on a busy parliamentary day, to discuss with the writer of these lines for some twenty minutes the comparative certainty (or rather uncertainty) of the physical and moral sciences. It was difficult to know what to make of such a man.

The difficulty was the greater because he made no pretense to be a marvel of versatile ability. When Lord Brougham was Chancellor, he was always doing - his enemies said for display, his friends said from a certain overflow of miscellaneous activity - many out-of-the-way matters; according to one legend, he even wrote a treatise on hydrostatics for the Society of Useful Knowledge which was so full of blunders that it could not be published. Many statesmen have had the vanity of variety : but if ever there was a plain man, an unpretending man, a man who in matters of business affected to be par negotiis neque supra,* that man was Sir George Lewis; the objection to him was that he was too prosaic, too anxiously safe, too suspicious of everything showy. It was not possible for an enemy - or for an opponent, for he had no enemies -- to hint that Sir George Lewis's miscellaneous books were written from a love of display ; they were written from a bent of nature, from the born love of dry truth.

To those, however, who had an opportunity of accurately observing Sir George Lewis, there was no difficulty in making him out; he was so simple and natural that he explained himself. His principal qualities were all of a plain and homely species; and though it may not be possible to give a likeness of them, yet a brief description may easily give an idea and an approximation.

The specialty of his mind was a strong simplicity : he took a plain, obvious view of every subject which came before him. Ingenuities, refinements, and specious fallacies might be suggested around him in any number or in any variety, but his mind was complication-proof; he went steadily through each new ambiguity, each new distinction, as it presented itself. He said, in unadorned but apt English, “The facts are these and these: the new theory concerning them is so and so; it accounts for facts Nos. 1, 2, and 3, but fails to account for facts Nos. 4, 5, and 6." Of course he was not uniformly right, -- we shall show that there were some kinds of facts and some sorts of events which he was by mental constitution not able wholly to appreciate; but his view of every subject, though it might not be adequate, though it might be limited, was always lucid. His mind was like a registering machine with a patent index: it took in all the data, specified, enumerated them, and then indicated with unmistakable precision what their sum total of effect precisely was. The index might

*“ Equal to business and nothing more."

« السابقةمتابعة »