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the degree which he deserved. Even at this distance of time we may not readily bring ourselves to entertain sentiments sufficiently severe against the king, the courtiers, and all the considerable personages, that appeared during these critical times. The truth is, that this period was marked by a sort of conspiracy against all sobriety and order, against all liberty and law, against all dignity and happiness, public and private; and we must not suffer our taste for pleasantry, and our admiration of shining talents, to betray us into a forgetfulness of every graver virtue, which can seriously occupy our reflection, or engage our respect.
But I must be allowed to make one observation more, which I shall leave to your own examination.
The writers on morals have always insisted, that vice has at least no advantage over virtue, but the contrary, even in this life.
The period of history now before us, is enlivened by the most striking and the most profligate characters, and will, as I conceive, abundantly illustrate this position-a position certainly founded in nature and truth, and which no man ever acted upon-and repented.
The Buckingham, for instance, of these times, the author of the Rehearsal and the delight of the court; “ the life of pleasure and the soul of whim,” but the most unprincipled of men, was the Villiers of Pope; the great Villiers who “died in the worst inn's worst room.”
Rochester, at the early age of three and thirty, when his talents might have been ripening into strength, and his virtues into usefulness, sunk into the grave amid the wild waste of his existence and his advantages, and discovered how mistaken had been his estimate of happiness, when it was too late.
In a grander style of misconduct appears the celebrated Shaftesbury. Of powers as universal as his ambition was 'unbounded; the idol of the rabble at Wapping, the wit and man of fashion among the courtiers at Whitehall; and a statesman in the House of Lords, whom the king, after listening to him in a debate, pronounced fit to teach his bishops divinity and his judges law; a minister, a patriot, a chancellor, and a demagogue. In whatever direction he
moved, the man on whom all eyes were to be turned; to whom nothing was wanting but virtue,-Shaftesbury, died at last an exile from his country, seeking protection from that very republic of Holland, which in the hour of his corruption and prosperity he had denounced; towering with all the consciousness of genius, yet humiliated by the triumphs of opponents, whom he must have despised even more than he hated, and no longer able to hope, as the scene for ever closed around him, either for the gratification of success, or the comforts (for such, to his unchastened mind they would have been thought) of vengeance.
Compare with the lives of these men the life of Sir William Temple, the man of cultivated mind; the man of sense and bumanity; of civilized passions, and well directed aims; the
; philosopher and the statesman, appearing on the stage of public affairs only to be honoured; retiring to the shade only to be more loved and applauded; the minister who could speak the language of patriotism and truth to his corrupted, dissembling sovereign, nor yet suffer himself, by disappointment at this sovereign's subsequent conduct, to be hurried into projects of dangerous experiment and doubtful ambition; and who, on every occasion, converted all the advantages which he had received from nature and from fortune, to their noblest purposes; the fair fame and happiness of himself, the honour of his country, and the benefit of mankind.
Take, again, an instance of virtue in a form more severe, and apparently less fitted for happiness—the patriot Andrew Marvel.
Of this man it is well known that the treasurer Danby once made his way to his garret, and, under a proper disguise of courtly phraseology, offered him a bribe. It was refused, and this virtuous representative of the people, when he had turned away from the thousand pounds of the minister, was obliged to dine a second time on the dish of the former day, and borrow a guinea from his bookseller. But which of the two are we to envy?
Count what the advantage prosperous vice obtains,
'Tis but what virtue flies from and disdains," Pursue the same train of inquiry into the recesses of the
cabinet. The king had deceived his ministry, the Cabal ; Arlington (one of them) betrayed the king; the Duke of York and the king had cajoled Shaftesbury; and Shaftesbury, at the moment he was most wanted, turned short on his deceivers. Danby had preferred his place to his honour, and had committed himself to Montague. At that time they were friends; soon after, enemies; each wished the ruin of the other; but the ambassador (Montague) was more adroit, and the treasurer Danby was lodged in the tower. What friendship, what happiness, have we here among men like these?
The members of the Cabal gained little by their baseness but disgrace and impeachments. Charles himself was occupied all his life in extracting money from Louis, and in deceiving him for that purpose; but Louis was equally employed in deceiving Charles, and in carrying on counter intrigues with his subjects. Two years before his death, Charles came to the knowledge of all the French monarch's proceedings; he received, says Dalrymple, a yet more mortifying stroke; he found that the court of France had been capable of intending (though the design was at last laid aside) to make public his secret negotiations with the Duchess of Orleans. What was the result? Conscious that he could no longer be either respected or loved by the intelligent part of his subjects; that he was distrusted and despised by every court in Europe, and that he had been all his life betrayed by the very prince to whom he had sold the immediate jewel of his soul, his secret chagrin became at length visible on his countenance, and for two years before his death, he had ceased to be the merry monarch, who could laugh at the virtues, and triumph in the vices of mankind.
Charles, in the earlier part of his reign, had seen Clarendon stand before him the representative of English good sense and English good feelings. He had been afterwards exhorted by Temple to be the man of his people; for such a king, the patriot minister told him, to use his own words,“ might in England be any thing, and otherwise nothing;” but from the first, Charles had traced out another path of happiness for himself, and in the event, as we may collect from the historians, he found he had judged but ill; he is even understood to have formed serious resolutions of retracing, if possible, his steps, and of acting up to the model which had vainly been presented to his view. But life admits not of this neglect of opportunities : he was struck by the hand of death, and what, then, is his history ? The history of a man of pleasure; a fine understanding converted to no useful purpose, and at last, as is always the case, not convertible to any; the common feelings of our nature corrupted into total selfishness by sensual indulgence; the proper relish of the gratifications of our state worn down by abuse into a morbid indifference for every thing ; with no friendship that he thought sincere ; with no love that he did not hire; without the genuine enjoyment of one social affection, or of one intellectual endowment but his wit ; floating helplessly on from one amusement to another; oppressed with the burden of time, yet ashamed of his expedients to get rid of it; living and dying, Charles is the proper object of our indignation or contempt; through life a conspirator against the liberties of his people, or a mere saunterer amid his courtiers and his mistresses; and on his death-bed delivering himself over to his stupid brother and a Popish priest. Such is the history of Charles ; but what is there here which the meanest of his subjects could have to envy? what to envy in the monarch, however he may be himself, in his humbler station, submitted to the tasks of daily labour, to the duties of self-denial, or the necessities of self-exertion?
But whatever may be our decision with respect to the great position of the moralists (that vice has no advantage even in this world, but the contrary), it must at least be admitted that men like these, whether or not they procure happiness for themselves, undoubtedly produce misery to every one around them; in private life they injure, distress, or corrupt whatever is within their influence, and in public they are yet more injurious to society, by disposing of their talents and integrity under some form or other, to the best bidder,
Some idea of the effect which such men produce on society may be derived from the dramatic representations in the reign of Charles; compositions which, therefore, form a part of its bistory.
The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame,
Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit.
was the picture of life, as it was then understood, what was, and what had been, the influence of the higher orders ?
In an age of such depravity, the great minister Clarendon was not unconscious of what was due to his sovereign, to his country, or to his own character ; and he resisted, by every effort in his power, the immoralities of his master, and the licentiousness of the court. His gravity, as it was called, was the great object at which the ridicule of Buckingham and the wits, was eternally levelled; but the chancellor was of a temperament too dignified to be faced out of his principles either by the frowns of the king or the grimaces of his companions. He would never suffer his wife to visit the lady, as he calls her, that is, the king's mistress; and he continued, as he began, the champion of the ordinary duties of life.
In our own times, the great upholder of the domestic virtues has been, not any particular minister, but the monarch himself (George III.) To whatever variety of criticism a reign like his, so long and so eventful, may be hereafter exposed, this praise—this solid praise-will never be denied him; and it will remain, while the story of England remains, an honour to his memory. His people, in the mean time, have never been backward in acknowledging their obligation. His conduct in this respect has always been the theme of their loud and just panegyric ; and they have never ceased to look up to the throne, not only with sentiments of loyalty to the high office, but with feelings of gratitude and respect for the person of their sovereign.
Among many other amusing, rather than improving works connected with the reign of Charles II., must be particularized the Memoirs of the Count de Grammont, written by one of the Hamiltons.
The narrative and the pleasantry are airy and elegant, often reminding us of the manner of Voltaire ; and the work may be read, as giving a picture of the court and courtiers of Charles, drawn from the life, telling their own story in their own way, and therefore containing not only a delineation of their intrigues, occupations, and pleasures, but of their modes of reasoning and thinking, and the sympathies and principles, such as they were, upon which this licentious and but too entertaining part of society at that time proceeded. Courage