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Pitt, on his contemplated loss of office (as it should seem for ever), in the most elevated speech, though then but three and twenty, which perhaps he ever made. “You may take from me, Sir, the privileges and emoluments of place, but you cannot, and you
shall not, take from me those habitual and warm regards for the prosperity of Great Britain, which constitute the happiness, the honour, and the pride of my life, and which I trust death alone can extinguish. With this consolation, the loss of power, Sir, and the loss of fortune, though I affect not to despise them, I hope I shall soon be able to forget.
• Laudo manentem. Si celeres quatit
Pauperiem sine dote quæro.'
This dignified submission in a mere stripling, to a fate so different from what had been promised by an opening career of unexampled brilliancy, contrasts pointedly, and with little credit, to the conduct of the veteran slave of ambition whose disappointments we have been noticing. And these can only be explained and accounted for by the fact of the want of that proper training in early life, that beneficial attention to the history and nature of human events which we have adverted to, and which should form the groundwork of all education, but particularly that of men intended for public affairs. For, strange as it may appear, the first requisite for a man who makes ambition his mistress is, that he should be able to quarrel with, and leave her without a sigh.
* Parliamentary Debates, 21st Feb. 1783. Thus poorly translated by Francis :
“I can applaud her (Fortune) while she stays;
But if she shake her rapid wings,
The gifts her worthless favour brings ;
Horace: Odes, iii. 29. Wraxall has given an interesting variation to the account of this incident in the “Parliamentary Debates." He says: “Mr. Pitt, when he came to the words, et mea virtute me involvo,' struck with the apparent ostentation of the passage, paused, looked on the floor, and, after a moment or two of silence, while all attention was directed to bim from every part of the house, and drawing his handkerchief once or twice across his lips, with emphasis continued the quotation at “probamque pauperiem sine dote quæro.'" — Own Times, iii. 317.
This is not unknown, in theory at least, to most of the candidates for fame and power, who seek them in the hard-fought fields of party strife. And, accordingly, there is hardly one of them who is not, or does not think he is, armed with a sort of spurious selfcalled philosophy, which is to keep him, like a talisman, from the perils of shipwreck. Most of the eminent statesmen who have experienced the caprice of fortune, and lost their power, have pretended to this philosophy as a thorough balance, nay, as more than a balance, to what is vulgarly supposed to be misfortune, but which, they would have you believe,
, brought them nothing but relief.
There is scarcely one of these who, after pursuing the race untired as long as it is successful, is not ready, on a reverse, to repeat with unction the verses of Cowley on a retired garden :
“Oh! who would change these soft, yet solid, joys
For empty shows, and senseless noise ;
And all which rank ambition breeds,
Sir William Temple, in his "Memoirs,” has given a striking as well as amusing picture of an ambitious man, in the person of the celebrated Marquess of Halifax (Saville), upon a threatened reverse. "I found him,” says Sir William, “in physic; but plainly saw his distemper was not what he called it. Ilis head looked very full, but very unquiet; and when we were left alone, all our talk was by snatches; sickness, illhumour, hate of town and business, ridiculousness of human life; and whenever I turned anything to the present affairs, after our usual manner, nothing but action of hands or eyes, wonder, and signs of trouble, and then silence." *
After this, things apparently promising better, Lords Halifax and Essex used Temple ill, which made the latter resolve to retire, and he kept his word, for his philosophy was not pretended; but Halifax being soon again subjected to disappointment, he told Sir William his resolution also to quit, and go down into the country (the usual relief); and though he could not plant melons, as Sir William did, being in the North, yet he would plant carrots and cucumbers, rather than trouble himself any more about public affairs, and accordingly he went down to Rufford.
This is no more than the usual proceeding of great
Temple's Works, folio, i. 345.
men when thwarted in their career. They generally choose not to remain in the actual field wherein they have been defeated, but in rural or domestic retirement pretend to find enjoyments far cheaper, and at the same time far more rational, than those they had so long been courting. Nay, they would have you believe that they have always been beforehand with fate; have anticipated the event in their wishes as well as expectations, and have lived in a constant state of preparation for it. This, therefore, not only lightens, but makes them laugh, or pretend to laugh, at the reverse when it comes. How many self-deceived
persons of this sort have there not been? Some of them soured into misanthropy by disappointments which they tell you they are above feeling. Of these, the most striking because the most considerable, and at the same time most querulous, example was Swift; that extraordinary mixture of good and bad, great and little, generosity and avarice, philosophy and spleen. He was, however, every way a man so remarkable, that he deserves a dream to himself.
CHARACTER OF SWIFT.
“Go forward, and be chok'd with thy ambition."
SHAKSPEARE: 1 Hen. VI.
SWIFT was a man like the cardinal we have quoted,
“ Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking
Himself with princes;"
in short, of inordinate pride, yet not above little vanities, though he denied it, and never above spunging for a dinner.
a A slave to ambition, to believe him as painted in his own verses, one would suppose him the old Cory. cian of Virgil, content with a garden and unbought feasts.
“ Thus, in a sea of folly tost,
Those cares that haunt the court and town." All this, while he was tearing himself to pieces at losing the high reward of his services, which he thought within his reach.
That that was a mitre, and not the dean's stall he afterwards obtained, appears from numberless little allusions in letters as far back as 1712, when he was