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Sir WILLIAM TEMPLE, an eminent statesman and writer, sprang from a younger branch of the same stock with sir Richard Temple, lord viscount and baron Cobham, who traced his genealogy as far back as Leoric, or Leofric, earl of Chester, in the time of Ethelbald, anno 710. He was born in London, 1628; had his school-education at Pensehurst, in Kent, and at Bishop Stortford in Hertfordshire; and at the age of seventeen entered Emanuel College, Cambridge, under the learned Dr. Cudworth, then fellow of that college..
After spending about two years at the university, he commenced his travels; and in 1648, set out for France, where he continued two years, when he proceeded to Holland, Flanders, and Germany; and during his tour became a complete master of the French and Spanish languages. Returning in 1654, he married and lived in privacy during the protectorate, under which government he rejected all solicitations to accept of employment, but at the restoration, in 1660, he was chosen member of the convention in Ireland, and distinguished himself by his spirited opposition to the poll-tax,
Ile was afterwards sent by Charles II. on a commission to the bishop of Munster, which he executed with such satisfaction to the king, that he sent him a comunission to take the character of resident at Brussels, with a patent for a baronet. Making an excursion to Holland, he visited, at the Hague, De Wit, which was the foundation of their future intimacy. On the breaking out of a war between France and Spain, Brussels being in danger, he returned privately to England, called on De Wit again in his way, and now, pursuant to his instructions, proposed those overtures which produced the triple alliance; and on his return from the English court, January 16, 164.8, invested with the character of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Holland, the treaty was concluded. His subsequent public employments were numerous ; but as they are known from general history, it were needless to mention them here. I shall therefore simply observe, that after refusing the office of secretary of state, he accepted a place at the council board; but discovering eventually that Charles determined to govern without his parliament, he quitted the court in disgust, and retired to his house at Sheen, near Richmond, in Surry, whence he sent by his son a message to his majesty, stating, that “ he would pass the rest of his life as good a subject as any in his kingdoms, bei would never more meddle with public affairs."
From this period, he lived so retired a life, that the transactions which brought about the revolution, were unknown to him. After abe abdication of James, the prince of Orange also pressed him to become secretary of state, but did not prevail. He died in 1693, at a small seat called Moor-park, near Farnhain in Surry, where his heart was buried in a silyer box, under a sun-dial in the garden, agreeably to the tenor of his will.
His works are well known, and have been often published, both separately and collectively. I select the following specimen.
Of Heroic Virtue.
Among all the endowments of nature, or improvements of art wherein men have excelled and distinguished themselves most in the world, there are two only that have had the honour of being called divine, and of giving that esteem or appellation to such as possessed them in very eminent degrees; which are, heroic virtue, and poetry: for prophecy cannot be esteemed any excellency , of nature or of art, but wherever it is true, is an immediate gift of God, and bestowed according to his pleasure, and upon subjects of the meanest capacity; upon women or children, or even things inanimate; as the stones, placed in the high priest's breast-plate, which were a sacred oracle among the Jews.
I will leave poetry to an essay by itself, and dedicate this only to that antiquated shrine of heroic virtue, which, however forgotten, or unknown in latter ages, must yet be allowed to have produced in the world the advantages most valued among men, and which most distinguish their understandings, and their lives, from the rest of their fellow-creatures.
Though it be easier to describe heroic virtue by the effects and examples, than by causes or definitions; yet it may be said to arise from some great and native excellency of temper or genius, transcending the common race of mankind, in wisdom, good
ness, and fortitude. These ingredients, advantaged by birth, improved by education, and assisted by fortune, seem to make that noble composition, which gives such a lustre to those who have possessed it, as made them appear to common eyes something more than mortals, and to have been born of some mixture between divine and human race; to have been honoured and obeyed in their lives, and after their d:aths bewailed and adored."
The greatness of their wisdom appeared in the excellency of their inventions; and these, by the goodness of their nature, were turned and exercised upon such subjects as were of general good to mankind in the common uses of life, or to their own countries in the institutions of such laws, orders, or governments, as were of most ease, safety, and advantage, to civil-society. Their valour was employed in defending their own countries from the violence of ill men at home, or enemies abroad; in reducing their barbarous neighbours to the same forms and orders of civil lives and institutions, or in relieving others from the cruelties and oppressions of tyranny and violence. These are all comprehended in three verses of Virgil describing the blessed seat in Elysium, and those that enjoyed them.
Hic manus ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi,