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“ Just before dinner, St. John was talking to a little group, among whom curiosity seemed to have excited the whig parson, whom I have before mentioned. He stood at a little distance, shy and uneasy; one of the company took advantage of so favourable a butt for jests, and alluded to the bystander in a witticism, which drew laughter from all but St. John, who turning suddenly towards the parson, addressed an observation to him in the most respectful tone. Nor did he cease talking with him (fatiguing as the conference must have beeil, for never was there a duller ecclesiastic than the gentleman conversed with) until we descended to dinner. Then, for the first time, I learned that nothing can constitute good breeding, that has not good nature for its foundation: and then, too, as I was leading lady Barbary Lackland to the great hall, by the tip of her forefinger, I made another observation. Passing the priest, I heard bim say to a fellow-clerk.
Certainly, he is the greatest man in England;' and I mentally remarked, there is no policy like politeness; and a good manner is the best thing in the world, either to get one a good name, or to supply the want of it.'”_Vol. i. pp. 27–28.
It has often been said, that the finest posthumous likenesses are formed from the diverse portraits which are preserved of great men. We think the above sketch justifies this opinion. Whether Lord Bolingbroke was “the greatest man" of his time “in England,” many may be inclined to dispute, but that he was one of the most accomplished and extraordinary, none can deny. The concluding sentiment of the extract, that "there is no policy like politeness,” is one of the dogmas of the fashionable school to which our author belongs. He seems to think that society is moved rather by what may be called the mechanism of good manners, than the philosophy of good morals, and this prejudice in favour of this sort of refined, yet hearltless Epicurism, rups more or less through the whole of his works.
The flight and voluntary banishment of Bolingbroke, after his fall from power, induced Devereux to accompany him to the Continent, which incident enables our author to enrich his work with many fine sketches of character-one or two of which we shall extract. His first introduction at Versailles is thus related :
“I expressed my gratitude-we moved on-the doors of an apartment were thrown open-and I saw myself in the presence of Louis XIV.
“The room was partially darkened. In the centre of it, on a large sofa, reclined the king; he was dressed (though this I rather remeinbered than noted) in a coat of black velvet, slightly embroidered; his vest was of white satin : he wore no jewels nor orders, for it was only on grand or gala days that he displayed personal pomp. At some little VOL. IV.-No 8.
distance from him stood three members of the royal family—them I never regarded—all my attention was bent upon the king. My temperament is not that on which greatness, or indeed any external circumstances make much impression, but, as following, at a little distance, the Bishop of Frejus, I approached the royal person; I must confess that Bolingbroke had scarcely need to have cautioned me not to appear too self-possessed. Perhaps, had I seen that great monarch in his beaut jours—in the plenitude of bis power-bis glory-the dazzling and meridian splendour of his person—his court--and bis renown-pride might have made me more on my guard against too great, or at least, too apparent an impression; but the many reverses of that magnificent sovereign--reverses in which he had shown himself more great than in all his previous triumphs and earlier successes ; his age-his infirmities—the very clouds round the setting sun-the very howls of joy at the expiring lion-all were calculated, in my mind, to deepen respect into reverence, and tincture reverence itself with awe. I saw before me not ouly the majesty of Louis-le-Grand, but that of misfortune, of weakness, of infirmity, and of age; and I forgot at once in that reflection, what otherwise would have blunted my sentiments of deference, viz. the crimes of his ministers, and the exactions of his reign! Endeavouring to collect my mind from an embarrassment which surprised myself, I lifted my eyes towards the king, and saw a countenance wbere the trace of the superb beauty for which his manhood had been celebrated, still lingered, broken, but not destroyed, and borrowing a dignity even more imposing from the marks of encroaching years, and from the evident exhaustion of suffering and disease.” Vol. ii. pp.
26-27. With the sketches of English society, and the literary men who distinguished the reign of Queen Anne, we have, we confess, been disappointed. They are made to pass over the scene, as if merely for the sake of repeating their names, and no one, would form an idea of their characters or conversation from such representations. With a supper of the French wits, we were more pleased, although we feel the difficulty of expressing in idiomatic English, the beautiful and felicitous graces of polished conversation in a foreign language.
“ Boulainvilliers ! Comte de Saire! What will our great grandchildren think of that name? Fame is indeed a riddle! At the time I refer to, wit-learning-grace-all things that charm and enlightenwere supposed to centre in one word - Boulainvilliers! The good count had many rivals, it is true, but he had that exquisite tact peculiar to his countrymen, of making the very reputations of those rivals contribute to his own. And while he assembled them around him, the lustre of their bons mots, though it emanated from themselves, was reflected upon him.
“It was a pleasant, though not a costly apartment, in which we found our host.
The room was sufficiently full of people, to allow scope and variety to one groupe of talkers, without being full enough to permit those little kuots and coteries which are the destruction of literary socie
ty. An old man of about seventy, of a sharp, shrewd, yet polished and courtly expression of countenance, of a great gaiety of manner, which was now and then rather displeasingly contrasted by an abrupt affectation of dignity that, however, rarely lasted above a minute, and never withstood the shock of a bon mot, was the first person who accosted us. This old man was the wreck of the once celebrated Anthony Count Hamilton !
". Well, my Lord,' said he to Bolingbroke, how do you like the weather at Paris !-it is a little better than the merciless air of Londonis it not? 'Slife!-even in June, one could not go open breasted in those regions of cold and catarrh-a very great misfortune, let me tell you, my Lord, if one's cambric happened to be of a very delicate and brilliant texture, and one wished to penetrate the inward folds of a lady's heart, by developing, to the best advantage, the exterior folds that copered bis own.'
" It the first time,' answered Bolingbroke, that I ever heard so accomplished a courtier as Count Hamilton repine, with sincerity, that he could not bare his bosom to inspection.'
66 • Ab!' cried Boulainvilliers, but vauity makes a man show much that discretion would conceal.'
" • Au diable with your discretion !' said Hamilton, ''tis a vulgar virtue. Vanity is a truly aristocratic quality, and every way fitied to a gentleman. Should I ever have been renowned for my exquisite lace and web-like cambric, if I had not been vain ? Never, mon cher! I should have gone into a convent and worn sackcloth, and, from Count Antoine, I should have thickened into Saint Anthony'
Nay,' cried Lord Bolingbroke, there is as much scope for vanity in sackcloth, as there is in cambric; for vanity is like the Irish ogling master in the Spectator, and if it teaches the playhouse to ogle by candlelight, it also teaches the church to ogle by day! But pardon me, Monsieur Chaulieu, how well you look ! I see that the myrtle sheds its verdure, not only over your poetry, but the poet. And it is right that, to the modern Anacreon, who has bequeathed to Time a treasure it will never forego, Time itself should be gentle in return.'
66. Milord,' answered Chaulieu, an old man who, though considerably past seventy, was animated, in appearance and manner, with a vivacity and life that would have done honour to a youth— Milord, it was beautifully said by the Emperor Julian, that Justice retained the Graces in ber vestibule, I see, now, that he should have substituted the word Wisdom for that of Justice.'
« « Come,' cried Anthony Hamilton, this will never do. Coinpliments are the dullest things imaginable. For God's sake let us leave panegyric to blockheads, and say something bitter to one another, or we shall die of ennui.'
"• Vous avez raison,' said Boulainvilliers :- Let us pick out some poor devil to begin with. Absent or present ?—Decide which.'
“Oh, absent,' cried Chaulieu; ''tis a thousand times more piquant to slander than to rally! Let us commence with his Majesty: Count Devereux, have you seen Madame Maintenon and her devout infant, since your arrival ?'
"No!-the prièsts must be petitioned before the miracle is made public.'
“What!' cried Chaulieu, 'would you insinuate that his Majesty's piety is really nothing less than a miracle?'
“*Impossible !' said Boulainvilliers, gravely, — piety is as natural to kings as flattery to their courtiers : are we not told that they are made in God's own image!
“If that were true,' said Count Hamilton, somewhat profanelyif that were true, I should no longer deny the impossibility of Atheism !'
Fie, Count Hamilton,' said an old gentleman, in whom I recognized the great Huet, 'fie-wit should beware how it uses wings--its province is earth, not heaven.'
Nobody can better tell what wit is not, than the learned Abbé Huet!' answered Hamilton, with a mock air of respect.
Psha!' cried Chaulieu, “I thought when we once gave the rein to satire it would carry us pele mêle against one another. But in order to sweeten that drop of lemon juice for you, my dear Huet, let me turn to Milord Bolingbroke, and ask him whether England can produce a scholar equal to Peter Huet, who in twenty years wrote notes to sixtytwo volumes of Classics, for the sake of a prince who never read a line in one of them ?'
“• We have some scholars,' answered Bolingbroke ; ‘but we certainly have no Huet. It is strange enough, but learning seems to me like a circle: it grows weaker the more it spreads. We now see many people capable of reading commentaries, but very few, indeed, capable of writing them.'
" True,' answered Huet; and in his reply he introduced the celebrated illustration which is at this day mentioned among his most felicitous bons mots. Scholarship, formerly the most difficult and unaided enterprise of Genius, has now been made, by the very toils of the first mariners, but an easy and common-place voyage of leisure, But who would compare the great men, whose very difficulties not only proved their ardour, but brought them the patience and the courage which alone are the parents of a genuine triumph, to the indolent loiterers of the present day, who have little of difficulty to conquer, bave nothing of glory to attain ? For my part, there seems to me the same difference between a scholar of our days and one of the past, as there is between Christopher Columbus and the master of a packet-boat from Calais to Dover!'
“But,' cried Anthony Hamilton, taking a pinch of snuff, with the air of a man about to utter a witty thing-- but what have we—we spirits of the world, not imps of the closet,'--and he glanced at Huet-'to do with scholarship? All the waters of Castaly which we want to pour into our brain, are such as will flow the readiest to our tongue.'
Iu short, then,' said I, you would assert that all a friend cares for in one's head is the quantity of talk in it ?'
“Precisely, my dear Count,' said Hamilton, seriously; and to that maxim I will add another applicable to the opposite sex.' All that a mistress cares for in one's heart is the quantity of love in it.'
“• What! are generosity, courage, honour, to go for nothing, with our mistress, then ?' cried Chaulieu.
“No! for she will believe, if you are a passionate lover, that you have all those virtues: and if not, she won't believe that you have one.'
"• Ah! it was a pretty court of love in which the friend and biographer of Count Grammont learned the art!' said Bolingbroke.
". We believed so at the time, my lord; but there are as many changes in the fashion of making love as there are in that of making dresses. Honour me, Count Devereux, by using my snuff box, and then looking at the lid.'
" • It is the picture of Charles the Second which adorns it-is it not ?"
"No, Count Devereux, it is the diamonds which adorn it. His majesty's face I thought very beautiful while he was living; but now, on my conscience, I consider it the ugliest phiz I ever beheld. But I pointed your notice to the picture because we were talking of love; and Old Rowley believed that he could make it better than any one else. All his courtiers had the same opinion of themselves; and I dare say the beaux garçons of Queen Anne's reign would say, that not one of king Charley's gang knew what love was. Oh! 'tis a strange circle of revolutions, that love! Like the earth, it always changes, and yet always has the same materials.'
" 'L'amour-l'amour-toujours l'amour, with Count Anthony Hamilton' said Boulainvilliers. He is always on that subject; and, sacre bleu! when he was younger, I am told he was like Cacus, the son of Vulcan, and breathed nothing but flames.'
"•You flatter me,' said Hamilton. Solve me now a knotty riddle, my Lord Bolingbroke. Why does a young man think it the greatest compliment to be thought wise, while an old man thinks it the greatest compliment to be told he has been foolish ?' "* Is love foolish, then ?' said Lord Bolingbroke. • Can
doubt it?' answered Hamilton ; ' it makes a man think more of another than himself! I know not a greater proof of folly!'
"" Ah--mon aimable ami'-cried Chaulieu ; you are the wickedest witty person I know. I cannot help loving your language, while I hate your sentiments.'
«« « My language is my own-my sentiments are those of all men,' answered Hamilton ; but are we not, by the by, to have young Arouet here to-night? What a charming person he is!'
" "Yes,' said Boulainvilliers. He said he should be late; and I expect Fontenelle too, but he will not come before supper. I found Fontenelle this morning, conversing with my cook on the best manner of dressing asparagus. I asked him the other day, what writer, ancient or modern, had ever given him the most sensible pleasure? After a little pause, the excellent old man said— Daphnus' Daphnus ! repeated I— who the devil is he?' Why,' answered Fontenelle, with tears of gratitude in his benevolent eyes, 'I had some hypochondriacal ideas that suppers were unwholesome; and Daphuus is an ancient physician, who asserts the contrary ; and declares,-think, my friend, what charming theory !-that the moon is a great assistant of the digestion!'