Page images

The fire of his youth carried him to fome exceffes; but they were accompanied with a most lively invention, and true humour. The little violences and eafy mistakes of a night too gayly spent (and that too in the beginning of life) were always fet right the next day, with great humanity, and ample retribution. His faults brought their excufe with them; and his very failings had their beauties. So much fweetness accompanied what he faid, and fo great generofity what he did, that people were always prepoffeffed in his favour and it was in fact true, what the late earl of Rochester faid in jeft to king Charles, that he did not know how it was, but my lord Dorfet might do any thing, yet was never to blame...

He was naturally very fubject to paffion; but the fhort guft was foon over, and ferved only to fet off the charms of his temper, when more compofed. That very paffion broke out with a force of wit, which made even anger agreeable: while it lafted, he said and forgot a thousand things, which other men would have been glad to have studied and wrote; but the impetuofity was corrected upon a moment's reflection, and the measure altered with fuch grace and delicacy, that you could scarce perceive where the key was changed.

He was very sharp in his reflections; but never in the wrong place. His darts were fure to wound; but they were fure too to hit none, but those whose follies gave him very fair aim. And, when he allowed no quarter, he had certainly been provoked by more than common error; by men's tedious and circumftantial recitals of


their affairs; or by their multiplied queftions about his own; by extreme ignorance and impertinence; or the mixture of these, an ill-judged and never-ceafing civility; or, laftly, by the two things which were his utter averfion, the infinuation of a flatterer, and the whisper of a tale-bearer..

If therefore we fet the piece in its worft pofition, if its faults be most exposed, the fhades will still appear very finely joined with their lights, and every imperfection will be diminished by the luftre of fome neighbouring virtue. But, if we turn the great drawings and wonderful colourings to their true light, the whole muft appear beautiful, noble, admirable.

He poffeffed all thofe virtues, in the highest degree,. upon which the pleasure of society, and the happiness of life depend: and he exercised them with the greatest decency, and beft manners. As good-nature is faid, by a great author, to belong more particularly to the English, than any other nation; it may again be faid, that it belonged more particularly to the late earl of Dorset, than to any other Englishnan.


A kind husband he was, without fondnefs; and an indulgent father, without partiality. So extraordinary good a mafter, that this quality ought indeed to have been numbered among his defects; for he was often ferved worse than became his ftation, from his unwillingness to affume an authority too fevere. And, during thofe little transports of paffion, to which I just

* Sprat.


now faid he was fubject, I have known his fervants get into his way, that they might make a merit of it im»* mediately after; for he, that had the good fortune to be chid, was fure of being rewarded for it.


His table was one of the last, that gave us an example of the old houfe-keeping of an English noble. A freedom reigned at it, which made every one of his guests think himself at home; and an abundance, which fhewed that the mafter's hofpitality extended to many more than thofe who had the honour to fit at the table with him.

In his dealings with others; his care and exactness, that every man should have his due, was fuch, that you would think he had never feen a court: the politeness and civility, with which this justice was adminiftered, would convince you he never had lived out of one.

He was fo ftrict an obferver of his word, that no confideration whatever could make him break it; yet fo cautious, left the merit of his act should arise from that obligation only, that he ufually did the greatest favours, without making any previous promife. So inviolable was he in his friendship, and so kind to the character of thofe whom he had once honoured with a more intimate acquaintance, that nothing less than a demonstration of fome effential fault could make him break with them; and then too, his good-nature did not confent to it, without the greatest reluctance and difficulty. Let me give one inftance of this amongst many. When, as lord chamberlain, he was obliged to take the king's penfion from Mr. Dryden, who had long

long before put

himself out of a poffibility of receiving any favour from the court; my lord allowed him an equivalent, out of his own eftate. However displeased with the conduct of his old acquaintance, he relieved his neceffities; and, while he gave him his affistance in private, in public he extenuated and pitied his error.

The foundation indeed of these excellent qualities, and the perfection of my lord Dorset's character, was that unbounded charity which ran through the whole tenour of his life, and fat as vifibly predominant over the other faculties of his foul, as fhe is faid to do in heaven above her fifter-virtues.

Crouds of poor daily thronged his gates, expecting thence their bread; and were still leffened by his fending the most proper objects of his bounty to apprenticefhips or hofpitals. The lazy and the fick, as he accidentally faw them, were removed from the street to the physician; and many of them not only restored to health, but fupplied with what might enable them to refume their former callings, and make their future life happy. The prifoner has often been released, by my lord's paying the debt; and the condemned has been faved, by his interceffion with the fovereign, where he thought the letter of the law too rigid. To thofe whose circumstances were fuch as made them ashamed of their poverty, he knew how to bestow his munificence, without offending their modefty; and, under the notion of frequent prefents, gave them what amounted to a fubfiftence. Many yet alive know this to be true; though


he told it to none, nor ever was more uneasy than when any one mentioned it to him.

We may find, among the Greeks and Latins, TibulAus and Gallus, the noblemen that writ poetry; Auguftus and Mæcenas, the protectors of learning; Aristides, the good citizen; and Atticus, the wellbred friend and bring them in, as examples of my lord Dorset's wit, his judgement, his justice, and his civility. But for his charity, my Lord, we can fcarce find a parallel in history itself.

Titus was not more the "deliciæ humani generis,” on this account, than my lord Dorfet was. And, without any exaggeration, that prince did not do more good in proportion out of the revenue of the Roman empire, than your father out of the income of a private eftate. Let this, my Lord, remain to you and your posterity a poffeffion for ever; to be imitated; and, if poffible, to be excelled.

As to my own particular, I fcarce knew what life was, fooner than I found myself obliged to his favour; nor have had reafon to feel any forrow fo fenfibly as that of his death

"Ille dies-quem femper acerbum

"Semper honoratum (fic Dî voluiftis) habebo."

Æneas could not reflect upon the lofs of his own father with greater piety, my Lord, than I muft recall the memory of yours: and, when I think whofe fon I am writing to, the leaft I promise myself, from your goodness, is an uninterrupted continuance of favour, and


a friend

« PreviousContinue »