صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

his

to his dying day, he retained a great relish for the masculine firmness, as well as more elegant beauties, of that language ; " and was," says Dr, Burnet, “ exactly versed in those' authors who were the ornaments of the court of Au. guftus, which he read often with the peculiar delight which the greatest wits have often found in those studies."

“ When he went to the university; the neral joy which over-ran the nation upon majesty's return, amounted to something like distraction, and soon spread a very malignant influence through all ranks of life. His lord. fhip taited the pleasures of libertinism, which then broke out in a full tide, with too acute a relifb, and was almost overwhelmed in the abyss of wantonness.

His tutor was Dr. Blandford, afterwards promoted to the fees of Oxford and Worcester; and under bis inspection he was committed to the more immediate care of Phinehas Berry, fellow of Whadham-college, a man of learning and probity, whom his lord ship afterwards treated with much respect, and rewarded as became a great man; but, notwithstanding the care of his tutor, he had so deeply engaged in the diflipations of the general jubilee, that he could not be prevailed upon to renew his studies, which were totally loft in the joys more agreeable to his inclination. He never thought of resuming again the pursuit of knowledge, till the fine address of his gover

nor,

H 4

Ror, Dr. Balfour, won him in his travels, by degrees, to those charms of fudy which he had, through youthful levity, forsaken ; and, being feconded by reason, now more strong, and a more mature taste of the pleasure of learning, which the doctor took care to place in the most agreeable and advantageous light, he became enamoured of knowledge, in the pursuit of wbich he often spent those hours he fometimes itole from the witty and the fair.

He returned from his travels in the eighteenth year of his age, and appeared at court with as great advantage as any young noble man ever did. He had a graceful and well, proportioned person, was master of the most refined breeding, and poffeffed a very obliging and easy manner. He had a vast vivacity of thought, and a happy flow of expression, and all who conversed with him entertained the highest opinion of his understanding; and indeed it is no wonder he was fo much careffed at a court which abounded with men of wit, countenanced by a merry prince, who re. lished nothing so much as brilliant conversa

Soon after his lord thip's return from his travels, he took the first occasion that offered to hazard his life in the service of his couns try:

In the winter of the year 1665, he went to fea, with the earl of Sandwich, when he was

sent

tion,

that port.

i.

fent out againft the Dutch East-India feet, and was in the ship called the Revenge, commanded by Sir Thomas Tiddiman, when the attack was made on the port of Bergen, in Norway, the Dutch fhips having got into

“ It was," says Burnet, “ as desperate an attempt as ever was made; and, during the whole action, the earl of Rochefter thewed as brave and resolute a courage as possible. A per. son of honour told me he heard the lord Clif. ford, who was in the fame ship, often magnify his courage at that time very highly; nor did the rigour of the season, the hardness of the

voyage, and the extreme danger he had been in, deter him from running the like the very next occafion; for the summer following he went to sea again, without communicating his design to his nearest relations. He went aboard the fhip commanded by Sir Edward Spragge, the day before the great sea-fight of that year; in which almost all the volunteers that went in that ship were killed. During the action, Sir Edward Spragge, not being fatisfied with the behaviour of one of the cap. tains, could not easily find a person that would undertake to venture through so much danger to carry his command to the captain, this lord offered himself to the service, and went in a little boat, through all the tot, and delivered his message, and returned back to Sir Edward; which was much commended by all who saw it."

These

H5

These are the early instances of coarage which can be produced in favour of lord Rochester, which was afterwards impeached, and Tery justly; for, in many private broils, he discovered a timid, pusilanimous fpirit, very unsuitable to those noble instances of the contrary which have just been mentioned.

The author of his life, prefixed to his works, which goes under the name of M. St. Evremoed, addressed to the duchefs of Mazarine, but which M. Maizeau afferts not to be his, accounts for it, upon the general observation of chat disparity between a man and himself, upon different occafions.

" Let it fuffice," says he, “ to observe, that we difer not from one another more than we do from ourselves at different times.” But we imagine another, and a stronger, reasop may be given, for the cowardice which Rochefter afterwards disco vered in private broils, particularly in the affair between him and the earl of Mulgrave, in which he behaved very meanly. The courage which lord Rochester shewed in a naval engagement, was in the early part of his life, before he had been immersed into those labyrinths of excess and luxury into which he afterwards funk.

It is certainly a true obfervation that guilt makes cowards; a man who is continually subjected to the reproaches of conscience, who is afraid to examine his heart left it should appear too horrible, cannot have much courage ; for, while he is conscious of so many errors to

be

ad be

be repented of, of fo maný vices he has committed, he naturally starts at danger, and fies. from it as his greatest enemy. It is true courage is sometiines constitutional ; and there have been instances of men', guilty of every enormity, who have discovered a large are of it: but these have been wretches who have overcome all sense of honour, been loft to every confideration of virtue, and whose courage is like that of the lion of the desart, a kind of ferocious impulse unconnected with reason. Lord Rochester had certainly never overcome the reproaches of his conscience, whose alarming voice at laft ftruck terror into his heart, and chilled the fire of the fpirits.

Since his travels and naval expeditions, he feemed to have contracted a habit of temperance ; in which had he been so happy as to persevere, be must have escaped that fatal sock, on which he afterwards fplit, upon bis return to court, where love and pleasure kept their perpetual rounds, under the smiles of a prince whom nature had fitted for all the enjoyments of the most luxurious defires. In times fo disfolute as these, it is no wonder if a man of so warm a constitution as Rochester could not refift the too flattering temptations, which were heightened by the participation of the court in general.

The uncommon charms of Rochester's conversation, induced all men to court him as a H6

com,

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »