« PreviousContinue »
His Grace the DUKE of ORMOND.
OME eftates are held in England, by paying a
fine at the change of every lord: I have enjoyed the patronage of your family, from the time of your excellent grandfather to this prefent day. I have dedicated the tranflation of the lives of Plutarch to the firft Duke; and have celebrated the memory of your heroic father. Though I am very fhort of the age of Neftor, yet I have lived to a third generation of your houfe; and by your Grace's favour am admitted ftill to hold from you by the fame tenure.
I am not vain enough to boast that I have deserved the value of fo illuftrious a line; but my fortune is the greater, that for three defcents they have been pleased to distinguish my poems from those of other men; and have accordingly made me their peculiar care. May it be permitted me to fay, That as your grandfather and father were cherished and adorned with honours by two fucceffive monarchs, fo I have been efteemed and patronized by the grandfather, the father, and the fon, defcended from one of the most antient, most confpicuous, and moft deferving families in Europe.
It is true, that by delaying the payment of my laft fine, when it was due by your Grace's acceffion to the
titles and patrimonies of your house, I may feem, in rigour of law, to have made a forfeiture of my claim; yet my heart has always been devoted to your fervice: and fince you have been graciously pleased, by your permiffion of this addrefs, to accept the tender of my duty, it is not yet too late to lay these volumes at your feet.
The world is fenfible that you worthily fucceed, not only to the honours of your ancestors, but also to their virtues. The long chain of magnanimity, courage, eafinefs of accefs, and defire of doing good even to the prejudice of your fortune, is fo far from being broken in your Grace, that the precious metal yet runs pure to the newest link of it: which I will not call the laft, because I hope and pray, it may defcend to late pofterity and your flourishing youth, and that of your excellent Dutchefs, are happy omens of my wifh.
It is obferved by Livy and by others, that some of the nobleft Roman families retained a resemblance of their ancestry, not only in their fhapes and features, but alfo in their manners, their qualities, and the diftinguishing characters of their minds: fome lines were noted for a ftern, rigid virtue, favage, haughty, parfimonious, and unpopular: others were more fweet, and affable; made of a more 'pliant pafte, humble, courteous, and obliging; studious of doing charitable offices, and diffufive of the goods which they enjoyed. The last of thefe is the proper and indelible character of your Grace's family. God Almighty has endued you with a softness, a beneficence, an attractive beha
viour winning on the hearts of others; and fo fenfible of their mifery, that the wounds of fortune feem not inflicted on them, but on yourself. You are fo ready to redress, that you almoft prevent their wishes, and always exceed their expectations: as if what was yours, was not your own, and not given you to poffefs, but to bestow on wanting merit. But this is a topic which I must cast in shades, left I offend your modesty, which is fo far from being oftentatious of the good you do, that it blushes even to have it known: and therefore I muft leave you to the fatisfaction and teftimony of your own confcience, which though it be a filent panegyric, is yet the best.
You are fo eafy of access, that Poplicola was not more, whose doors were opened on the outfide to save the people even the common civility of asking entrance; where all were equally admitted; where nothing that was reasonable was denied; where misfortune was a powerful recommendation, and where (I can scarce forbear faying) that want itself was a powerful mediator, and was next to merit.
The hiftory of Peru affures us, that their Incas, above all their titles, efteemed that the higheft, which called them Lovers of the poor: a name more glorious than the Felix, Pius, and Auguftus of the Roman emperors; which were epithets of flattery, deserved by few of them; and not running in a blood like the perpetual gentleness, and inherent goodness of the Ormond Family.
Gold, as it is the pureft, fo it is the fofeft, and most ductile of all metals: iron, which is the hardest, gathers ruft, corrodes itself; and is therefore fubject to corruption: it was never intended for coins and medals, or to bear faces and the infcriptions of the great. Indeed it is fit for armour, to bear off infults, and preserve the wearer in the day of battle: but the danger once repelled, it is laid afide by the brave, as a garment too rough for civil conversation: a neceffary guard in war, but too harsh and cumbersome in peace, and which keeps off the embraces of a more humane life.
For this reafon, my lord, though you have courage in an heroical degree, yet I ascribe it to you, but as your fecond attribute: mercy, beneficence, and compaffion, clain precedence, as they are firft in the divine An intrepid courage, which is inherent in your Grace, is at beft but a holiday kind of virtue, to be feldom exercised, and never but in cafes of neceffity: affability, mildnefs, tenderness, and a word, which I would fain bring back to its orignal fignification of virtue, I mean Good-nature, are of daily use: they are the bread of mankind, and staff of life: neither fighs, nor tears, nor groans, nor curfes of the vanquished, follow acts of compaffion, and of charity: but a fincere pleasure and ferenity of mind, in him who performs an action of mercy, which cannot fuffer the misfortunes of another, without redress; left they should bring a kind of contagion along with them, and pollute the happiness which he enjoys.