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France a bribe for the performance of services which they would have considered it their duty to perform otherwise. But these two men stand alone; and if Shaftesbury is inferior to Russell in genuine patriotism, as he undoubtedly is, he equals him in his high contempt for those grovelling considerations which influenced so many others.
Upon a retrospect of the acts of Shaftesbury's public life, it is perhaps fair to adopt the Persian method of computation of merit, and oppose the good to the evil. The balance is greatly in the earl's favour. However justly he may be condemned for particular acts, and however strongly we may reprobate isolated parts of his conduct, no one who values constitutional liberty can look upon the important labours which he wrought, and remember that his was the head that contrived and the hand that executed, without viewing him as a benefactor to his country. It would be vain to search throughout mankind for an individual whose every act was prompted by a pure and disinterested patriotism: it is yet more vain to search for such a man among distinguished statesmen ; those who draw such may sketch from nature, but they fill up the outline from imagination. · Happy, is it, both for the memory of the statesman, and for the country which he influenced, when it can be said of him with justice, as it may of Shaftesbury, that he died his country's benefactor.
received two sums of five hundred guineas from the French agent who was instructed to sustain the fervour of the opposition members. Lord John Russell throws some discredit upon the paper which has brought the secret corruption of this time to light, and attempts to defend Sydney and Hampden; but, although very willing to be convinced, I cannot resist the evidence which the papers in Dalrymple afford.
The private character of Shaftesbury will require no extended notice. Mr. Fox, who was by no means partial to the earl, admires him as strictly a man of honour; and every act of his life justifies the opinion. His conduct to Mr. Holles and Lord Arlington will not be forgotten; and his performance of the important duties of chancellor drew unwilling admiration from his enemies. Unfavourably circumstanced as Shaftesbury was for discharging the functions of a judge, it is no small testimony in his favour that Roger North, who hesitated at no exaggeration, who was himself a lawyer, and seemed actuated even by private hatred against the earl, can ad
vance nothing against his chancellorship but the whimsical gossip which I have already quoted.
As a private gentleman, Shaftesbury might challenge the severest scrutiny. Of his conduct in the other and more domestic relations of life we know but little. We are told, in the foregoing work, of letters still existing, which passed between him and his lady, and “are proofs of the tenderness which he had for her.”*
The opinion of Charles, and the anecdote I have cited from North, seem to discredit this praise; but Shaftesbury was a courtier in the most licentious court that England ever saw. It was not his object or his talent to awe by the severity of his virtue; he aimed rather to attract by his lively manners, and to please by his sparkling wit. Clarendon, who had preceded him, exemplified the folly of a man attempting to pre.serve a character for private morality while holding office under such a king. We can imagine, and smile at the awkwardness which the grave and correct Clarendon must have felt, while kneeling before the newly-married queen, and entreating her to receive her husband's favourite
• Vol. i. p. 33.
mistress as one of the ladies of her bed-chamber :* but Shaftesbury had the tact to avoid the reputation which would render him useful in such disgraceful offices. Charles saw in him no tacit censor of his conduct; for the earl vied with himself in immorality, and was consequently admitted to his society in his convivial and unguarded hours. If the letters mentioned warrant the character which has been drawn from them, there is nothing in the opinion of either Charles or North to disprove it; for the ambition of Shaftesbury would have prompted him to acquire a reputation for debauchery, even though he had shunned its practice.
Neither old age, infirmity, nor persecution, could impair Shaftesbury's cheerfulness and his enjoyment of a jest. I find the following anecdote in a letter written by Mr. Benjamin Martyn to Dr. Birch in the year 1741, while employed in writing this work.
Mr. Martyn writes :f “I saw, two days ago, an old gentleman who was an acquaintance of the first Lord Shaftesbury.
• See Mrs. Jameson's “ Beauties of the Court of Charles the Second.”
+ This letter is among the Birch MSS. and is dated September 20th, 1741.—Aysc. Cat. 4313.
He is between eighty and ninety, has a good understanding, and a surprising memory as far as relates to stories of his youth. He says, Lord Shaftesbury had to the last a prodigious vivacity and cheerfulness, that appeared in all he said or did. One trifling instance be related which he was an eye-witness' of. When Lord Shaftesbury lived at Thanet House, in Aldersgate Street, a country clergyman inquired for 'my lord;' and being introduced, he fell
his knees before Lord Shaftesbury, who was in a grey silk night-gown, and said: 'My lord, I humbly ask your blessing. The earl held his hand over him and said, 'I give you my blessing as Earl of Shaftesbury, which perhaps may do you as much good as my Lord of London's; but he lives over the way.' The clergyman, frightened at what he had done, (for Shaftesbury was at that time looked upon as a sort of evil spirit by him and his party,) got up and ran away very abruptly without taking any leave.”
As a patron of literature, Shaftesbury is justly entitled to our high estimation. We have seen the strict intimacy which existed between him and Mr. Locke. The earl was often a sharer in the literary labours of the philosopher; and there