Изображения страниц

with the afore-mentioned sub-secretary, I contemplated with surprise the importance of his air, and the dignity that seemed attached to his official situation. The good woman of the house, who was at once our provider and our president, regularly addressed him by the name of statesman, and in her distribution of the joint showed something more than an impartial attention to his plate. If he knew any state secrets, I will do him the justice to

I say that he never disclosed them; and if he talked with ministers and great nobles as he talked of them, I will venture to say he was extremely familiar with them; and I cannot doubt but that this was the case; for if he was thus high with his equals, it surely behoved him to be much higher with those who but for such self-swelling altitudes might stand a chance to pass for his superiors. He had a brother in the guards, a very amiable man, and with him I formed a friendship. Having been told to inform myself about the colonies, and shown some folio books of formidable contents, I began more meo with the discoverers of America, and proceeded to travel through a mass of voyages, which furnished here and there some plots for tragedies, dumb shows and dances, as they have since done, but in point of information applicable to the then existing state of the colonies, were most discouragingly meagre, and most oppressively tedious in communicating nothing. I got a summary but sufficient insight into the constitutions of the respective provinces, for what was worth knowing was soon learnt, and when I found that my whole employment in Grosvenor Square consisted in copying a few private letters to governors and civil officers abroad, I applied my thoughts to other objects, and particularly to the approaching election at my college ; still, London lodgings and London hours were not quite so well adapted to study as I could have wished, though I changed my situation for the better when I removed to an apartment which was taken for me in Mount Street, within a very short walk of Lord Halifax's house, where I attended for his commands every morning, and dined twice or thrice in the week. One day he took me with him to Newcastle House, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, for the purpose of presenting me to the duke, then prime minister; his Iordship was admitted without delay; I waited two hours for my audience, and was then dismissed in two minutes, whilst his grace, stripped to his shirt, with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, was washing his hands.'

1 Sir Robert Walpole used to say of the Duke of Newcastle-'He has a foolish head and a perfidious heart. His name is perfidy.' 'For nearly thirty years,' says Lord Mahon, 'was he Secretary of State ; for nearly ten years First Lord of the Treasury. His character during that period has been, of course,

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

The recess took place at the usual time, when Lord IIalifax left town and went to Horton in Northamptonshire; I accompanied him thither, and from thence went to Cambridge; he seemed interested in my undertaking, and offered me letters of recommendation, which with due acknowledgments I declined. On my arrival, I found Doctor Richard Bentley had come from his living of Nailstone, in Leicestershire, purposely to support my cause; the vice-master also welcomed me with his accustomed cordiality, and I found the candidates of both years had turned out strong for the contest. There were six vacancies, and six candidates of the year above me; of these Spencer Madan, now Bishop of Peterborough, was, as senior Westminster, secure of his election, and such was his merit, independent of any other claim, that it would have been impossible to pass him over. He was a young man of elegant accomplishments, and with the recommendation of a very interesting person and address, had derived from the Cowpers, of which family his mother was, no

observed and described by writers of every rank and every party; and it may well astonish us to find how much they agree in their accounts. His peculiarities were so glaring and ridiculous that the most careless glance could not mistake, nor the most bitter enmity exaggerate them. There could be no caricature where the original was ays more laughable than the likeness. Ever in a hurry, yet seldom punctual, he seems, said Lord Wilmington, as if he had lost half an hour in the morning which he is hurrying after the rest of the day without being able to overtake it! He never walked, but constantly ran;

insomuch,' writes Chesterfield, that I have sometimes told him that by his fieetness one should rather take him for the courier than the author of the letters.' His conversation was a sort of quick stammer-a strange mixture of slowness and rapidity; and his ideas sometimes were in scarcely less confusion. * Annapolis! Annapolis! Oh yes, Annapolis must be defended ; to be sure Annapolis should be defended ! Pray, where is Annapolis ? Extremely timorous, and moved to tears on even the slightest occasions, he abounded in childish caresses, and in empty protestations. At his levees he accosted, hugged, clasped, and promised everybody with a seeming cordiality, so universal that it failed to please any in particular. Fretful and peevish with his dependents, always distrusting his friends, and always ready to betray them, he lived in a continual turmoil of harassing affairs, vexatious opposition, and burning jealousies. In business, Lord Hervey thus contrasts him to Sir Robert Walpole : We have one minister that does everything with the same seeming ease and tranquillity as if he was doing nothing; we have another that does nothing in the same hurry and agitation as if he did everything. Yet in some points Newcastle might bear a more favorable parallel with Walpole. He built no palace at Haughton. He formed no splendid collection of paintings. He won no fortune in the South Sea speculations. In noticing his decease, Lord Chesterfield gives him this high testimony: 'My old kinsman and contemporary is at last dead, and, for the first time, quiet. After all the great offices which he had held for fifty years, he died £300,000 poorer than he was when he came into them. A very unministerial proceeding!' Nor was disinterestedness the only merit of Newcastle. In private life, though a bundle of weakDesses, his character was excellent.'— History of England, vol. ii. p. 154.

The only thing dearer to Newcastle than his place, says Macaulay, was his neck.

[ocr errors][merged small]

small proportion of hereditary taste and talent; he was a good classical scholar, composed excellent declamation in the Ciceronian style, which he set off with all the grace of recitation and voice that can well be conceived: he had a great passion for music, sung well, and read in chapel to the admiration of every one. I have passed many happy hours with him in the morning of our lives, and I hope he will enjoy the evening of his days in comfort and tranquillity, having chosen that better lot, which has brought him into harbor, whilst I, who lost it, am left out at sea.

The senior Westminster of my year, and joint candidate with me at this time, was John Higgs, now Rector of Grandisburgh in Suffolk, and a senior fellow of Trinity College; a man who, when I last visited him, enjoyed all the vigor of mind and body in a green old age, the result of good humor, and the reward of temperance. We have spun out mutually a long measure of uninterrupted friendship, he in peace throughout, and I at times in perplexity; and if I survive to complete these memoirs, and he to read this page, I desire he will receive it as a testimony of my unaltered regard for him through life, and the bequest of my last good wishes at the close of it.

'It would hardly be excusable in me to detail a process that takes place every year, but that in this instance the novelty of our case made it matter of very general attention. When the day of examination came, we went our rounds to the electing seniors; in some instances by one at a time, in others by parties of three or four; it was no trifling scrutiny we had to undergo, and here and there pretty severely exacted, particularly, as I well remember, by Doctor Charles Mason, a man of curious knowledge in the philosophy of mechanics and a deep mathematician; he was a true modern Diogenes, in manners, and apparel, coarse and slovenly to excess in both; the witty made a butt of him, but the scientific caressed him; he could ornament a subject at the same time that he disgusted and disgraced society. I remember when he came one day to dinner in the college hall

, dirty as a blacksmith from his forge, upon his being questioned on his appearance, he replied—that he had been turning-then I wish, said the other, when you was about it, friend Charles, you bad turned your shirt. This philosopher, as I was prepared to believe, decidedly opposed my election. He gave us a good dose of dry mathematics, and then put an Aristophanes before us, which he opened at a venture, and bade us give the sense of it. A very worthy candidate of my year declined baving any thing to do with it, yet Mason gave his vote for that gentleman,





and against me, who took his leavings.' Doctor Samuel Hooper gave us a liberal and well chosen examination in the more familiar classics; that indeed was a man in whom nothing could be found but what was gentle and engaging, whom suavity of temper and the charms of manners made dear to all that knew him; he died and was buried in the chapel of his college, where a marble tablet, erected to his memory, cannot fail to awaken the sensibility of all who, like me, were acquainted with his virtues.

The last, whom in order of our visits we resorted to, was the master; he called us to him one by one according to our standings, and of course it fell to me as junior candidate to wait till each had been examined in his turn. When in obedi. ence to his summons I attended upon him, he was sitting, not in the room where my grandfather had his library, but in a chamber up stairs, encompassed with large folding screens, and over a great fire, though the weather was then uncommonly warm: he began by requiring of me an account of the whole course and progress of my studies in the several branches of philosophy, so called in the general, and as I proceeded in my detail of what I had read, he sifted me with questions of such a sort as convinced me be was determined to take nothing upon trust; when he had held me a considerable time under this ex. amination, I expected he would have dismissed me, but on the contrary he proceeded in the like general terms to demand of me an account of what I had been reading before I had applied myself to academical studies, and when I had acquitted myself of this question as briefly as I could, and I hope as modestly as became me in presence of a man so learned, he bade me give him a summary account of the several great empires of the ancient world, the periods when they flourished, their extent when at the summit of their power, the causes of their declension and dates of their extinction. When summoned to give answer to so wide a question, I can only say it was well for me I had worked so hard upon my scheme of General History, which I have before made mention of, and which, though not complete in all the points of his inquiry, supplied me with materials for such a detail as seemed to give him more than tolerable satisfaction. This process being over, he gave me a sheet of paper written through in Greek with his own hand, which he ordered me to turn either into Latin or English, and I was

"We apprehend this is the same Charles Mason who, with Mr. Dixon, was sent out in 1763, to determine the limits of the provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania.

shown into a room containing nothing but a table furnished with materials for writing, and one chair, and I was required to use dispatch. The passage was maliciously enough selected in point of construction, and also of character, for he had scrawled it out in a puzzling kind of hand with abbreviations of his own devising; it related to the arrangement of an army for battle, and I believe might be taken from Polybius, an author I had then never read. When I had given in my translation in Latin, I was remanded to the empty chamber with a subject for Latin prose and another for Latin verse, and again required to dispatch them in the manner of an impromptu. The chamber, into which I was shut for the performance of these hasty productions, was the very room, dismantled of the bed, in which I was born. The train of ideas it revived in my mind were not inappositely woven into the verses I gave in, and with this task my examination concluded.

Doctor Smith, who so worthily succeeded to the mastership of Trinity on my grandfather's decease, was unquestionably one of the most learned men of his time, as his works, especially his 'System of Optics,' effectually demonstrate. He led the life of a student, abstemious and recluse, his family consisting of a sister, advanced in years, and unmarried like himself, together with a niece, who in the course of her residence there, was married to a fellow of the college. He was a man, of whom it might be said-Philosophy had marked him for her own ; of a thin spare babit, a nose prominently aquiline, and an eye penetrating as that of the bird, the semblance of whose beak marked the character of his face: the tone of his voice was shrill and nasal, and his manner of speaking such as denoted forethought and deliberation. How deep a theorist he was in harmony his treatise will evince; of mere melody he was indignantly neglectful, and could not reconcile his ear to the harpsichord, till by a construction of his own he had divided the half tones into their proper flats and sharps. Those who figured to themselves a Diogenes in Mason, might have fancied they beheld an Aristotle in Smith, who, had he lived in the age and fallen within the eye of the great designer of The School of Athens, might have left his image there without discrediting

The next day the election was announced, and I was chosen, together with Mr. John Orde, now one of the masters in Chancery, who was of the same year with myself, and next to me upon the list of wranglers. This gentleman had also gained the prize adjudged to him for his Latin declamation; for his private worthiness he was universally esteemed, and for his public merits

the group

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »