« PreviousContinue »
sard, it seems on the very beneath the se
Borachio misses aim, and falls beneath the sword of his intended victim. On the very day of Castabella's marriage, Rousard, it seems, had been struck with sudden infirmity, and D’Amville, whose hopes of posterity are now becoming fainter, persuades Castabella to walk into the church-yard, where he makes an attempt against her chastity, but his design is frustrated by the appearance of Charlemont, who had put on a disguise he accidentally found, and which gave him the semblance of his father's ghost. “ Misery makes us acquainted with strange bedfellows.” Charlemont and Castabella are found asleep in the church-yard, with each a death's head for a pillow, by D’Amville, who immediately accuses them of the murder of Borachio, and they are sent to prison. D’Amville now retires to rest, but is alarmed in his sleep by the ghost of Montferrers-he wakes, and soliloquizes on his superior wisdom to the simple honest worshipper of“ a fantastic providence," and is exulting over the state of his posterity, when the dead body of Sebastian, who had been slain, is brought in, and he immediately afterwards witnesses the death of his other son Rousard.
The boasted reason of the Atheist gives way before these repeated blows, and be appears before the court, which is about to try Charlemont and Castabella, in a state of frenzy. They are both convicted on their own confession (for Castabella is nobly resolved to share the fate of Charlemont), and offer themselves with alacrity to death. D’Amville, in a fantastic mood, determines, that they shall die by no ignobler hand than his own; but as he raises up the axe to cut off the head of Charlemont, he strikes out his own brains-confesses his villainy, and dies. The two lovers are doubtless made happy, and so concludes the Atheist's Tragedy ; and, with the following little extracts, so must we conclude. Impudence.
“ Impudence !
Our sorrows are so fluent,
Our eyes o'erflow our tongues; words spoke in tears
“ Here sounds a music whose melodious touch,
[Unpurses the gold.
ART. IX.-Anecdotes of the Life of the Right Hon. William
Pitt, Earl of Chatham, and of the principal Events of his time. With his Speeches in Parliament from the year 1756 to the year 1778, in 3 vols. 8vo. London, 1790.
The character of Lord Chatham has been so often (and in many cases so ably) delineated within the last forty years, that some apology may be required for any attempt to throw upon it additional light. Every one knows, that all the political parties who, within that time, have divided the state, though differing in every thing else, have yet been emulous to admire and to quote Lord Chatham : that Burke and Grattan have left to the world sketches of his character, which do equal honour to him and to themselves; and that even the pen of Junius has conspired to praise him. Nor is his name heard
though this who, within Every one knowny attempt to years, lighted to is one indeed formerly in
only in the senate, or familiar only to those who are acquainted with history and politics : the rawest schoolboy-quisquis adhuc uno partam colit asse Minervam-is taught to recite his speeches: the Walpoles, Winnington, Fox, are annually routed in some baby-senate; and the ghost of Pitt-like that of the unfortunate lover in Boccacio and Dryden-gains a periodical revenge upon those who formerly insulted and opposed him.
We are far indeed from insinuating, that the name of Chatham is one which Englishmen have without reason delighted to honour. On the contrary, we conscientiously and gladly acquiesce in that unanimous verdict, which all writers and all orators, since his death, have agreed to pass upon his fame. And it is only because certain works, which, though very recently published, were yet written in Lord Chatham's life-time, have had an unquestionable tendency to lower that opinion of his patriotism, which has ever since his death been general in this country, that we solicit the attention of our readers to some observations upon so trite a subject. It will be understood, of course, that the works to which we allude, are the posthumous publications of Horace Walpole and Lord Waldegrave. : This is hardly the place to inquire how far the strictures of Horace Walpole would have been deserving of any serious notice, had they not been confirmed, in some material points, by the far more trustworthy account of his noble contemporary. That he has calumniated almost every man whose name he mentions, is more than probable ; that he should have misunderstood the character of Lord Chatham cannot appear strange to those who know any thing of his own. It surely was not for a man like Horace Walpole-a man of petty notions, of narrow views, and of very slender charity, to understand a character like that of the elder Pitt: as well might the ant attempt to judge of the symmetry of the elephant. Still less, however, was it likely, à priori, that if Walpole had, by possibility, understood such a man, he would have praised him. The stern and haughty virtue of Chatham, his austere patriotism, and that lofty decision of character, so regardless of all the forms of etiquette, and so hostile to every thing like political intrigue, were ill calculated to conciliate praise from the meddling, polished, timid, lady-like Walpole. Moreover, when it is considered that the power of the historian's own father was incessantly attacked, and at length overturned, by a parliamentary phalanx of which Mr. Pitt was a most conspicuous member, we shall be able to understand why the memory of that statesman is persecuted by a writer, who seems never to have forgiven an insult upon himself or his family.
If, therefore, the character of Lord Chatham had been attacked by no one more deserving of credit than Horace Walpole, we should have felt it quite unnecessary to say one single word in his vindication. But it must be acknowledged, that the charges which have been brought against him, rest upon authority much higher and stronger. They are adopted by Lord Waldegrave,-a man, whose writings, brief as they are, seem to account most satisfactorily for the respect with which he was treated by all his contemporaries. Of plain but strong sense, of calm and clear judgement, of considerable penetration, and a candour the most remarkable,—we cannot but feel that the censures of such a man are not to be passed over lightly. We believe, however, that his opinion of Lord Chatham was unjust; and we shall trouble our readers with some of the reasons which induce us to think so.
In order to do this, it will be necessary to advert to some of the leading facts of Mr. Pitt's history. He entered parliament in the year 1735, a period at which the power of Sir Robert Walpole was at its highest. At that period, however, the Opposition, which had been long agitated by conflicting interests, and occupied in the pursuit of the most inconsistent views, began to form themselves into that compact and resolute body, which finally accomplished the minister's overthrow. Losing sight for a time of all differences among themselves, they directed their united energies against the power of Walpole; the most rancorous Jacobites, and the sternest of the Whigs—the narrowest bigots in politics, and the most romantic freethinkers—those who ascribed to the crown all power, and those who grudged it any-united against the minister, and vowed his destruction. Their joint efforts were at length successful : and that “ greatest, wisest, meanest” of statesmen, was driven from the power, which, by dint of consummate ability and much corruption, he had held for upwards of five-and-twenty years.
And when the minister fell, what became of his opponents ? Why, their fall was, if possible, still greater. Within one short month, Pulteney, their leader, from being the idol of the nation, became one of the most insignificant men in the country. Instead of union and confidence among those who had lately acted in so much harmony, nothing was to be seen but dissension and distrust. Mutual and incessant recriminations were heard on all sides; broken promises, forgotten pledges, deserted principles, formed the burden of every man's complaint. The discordant ingredients of which the late opposition had been compounded, became once more individualized ; the black spirits and white, red spirits and grey, resumed their own colours, and fell asunder from the union in which they
had been so long blended. By and bye, however, in the universal scramble for places, all party distinctions, founded upon principle, were again lost sight of; not that parties, both numerous and bitter, no longer divided the state, but they were formed not so much from any similarity of principle, or any unity of purpose, as from accident and passion. Indeed, it would be difficult to name a period, at which all parties seem to have been actuated by motives so little, to have engaged in intrigues so mean, to have been divided by distinctions so petty, narrow, and personal, and so totally independent of every thing like principle or patriotism. Up to the year 1756, with little intermission, this political ferment appears to have continued ; for though the Pelham administration lasted eight years, and seems to have been as strong, so far as the obtaining of majorities in parliament goes, as any administration that ever existed in England, yet it was discordant in itself, and appears to have owed much of its security to the more bitter dissensions which divided the opposition.
Such, then, having been the state of the political world at the time when Horace Walpole and Lord Waldegrave made their respective observations, we think it not unfair to suppose, that they may have been mistaken in their estimate of Mr. Pitt's conduct. Would it be candid to attach great importance to censures made in times of universal suspicion; proceeding, no doubt, upon partial knowledge and prejudiced observation; coming too from men, to each of whom Mr. Pitt must have been an object of personal and political dislike* ? In such times of rapid change and universal confusion, a man might be branded with a charge of apostacy, not because he had left his friends, but because they had left him. “ He that is giddy, thinks the world turns round.”
We do not, however, intend to say, that some traces of inconsistency may not be discovered in Mr. Pitt's conduct, even by the most unprejudiced observer. But we think they may be accounted for, without any imputation whatever upon his good faith and patriotism. Some of them, we doubt not, are attributable to his having acted, during the earlier years of his public life, under the banners of a party. To that party he originally attached himself from the most conscientious and honourable motives, and, as it speedily appeared, in direct opposition to his own personal interest ; for the minister, resenting his hostility, stripped him of his commission in the army. It is impossible, therefore, to doubt that he began his public
* He was a determined opponent of the administrations both of Sir R. Walpole and of Lord Waldegrave.