« PreviousContinue »
II. TO EDWARD WORTLEY MONTAGUE*, Esq.
SIR, When I send you this volume, I am rather to make you a request than a Dedication. I must desire, that if you think fit to throw away any moments on it, you would not do it after reading those excellent pieces with which you are usually conversant. The images which
will meet with here, will be very faint, after the perusal of the Greeks and Romans, who are your ordinary companions. I must confess I am obliged to you for the taste of many of their excellencies, which I had not observed until you pointed them to me. I am very proud that there are some things in these Papers which I know you pardont; and it is no small pleasure to have one's labours suffered by the judgment of a man, who so well understands the true charms of eloquence and poesy. But I direct this address to you; not that I think I can entertain you with my writings, but to thank
you for the new delight I have, from versation, in those of other men,
May you enjoy a long continuance of the true relish of the happiness Heaven has bestowed upon you! I know not how to say a more affectionate thing to you, than to wish that you may be always what you are; and that you may ever think, as I know you now do, that you have a much larger fortune than
I am, Sir,
* Second son of Hon. Lady Wortley Montague, and grandson of Edward Montague, the first Earl of Sandwich.
+ This seems to amount to a declaration, that E. Wortley Montague, Esq. was himself a writer in these papers.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
WILLIAM, LORD COWPER,
BARON OF WINGHAM.
MY LORD, AFTER having long celebrated the superior graces and excellencies among men, in an imaginary character, I do myself the honour to shew my veneration for transcendent merit under my own name, in this address to your Lordship. The just application of those high accomplishments of which you are master, has been an advantage to all your fellow-subjects; and it is from the common obligation you have laid upon all the world, that I, though a private man, can pretend to be affected with, or take the liberty to acknowledge, your great talents and public virtues.
It gives a pleasing prospect to your friends, that is to say, to the friends of your country, that you
have passed through the highest offices, at an age when others usually do but form to themselves the hopes of them. They may expect to see you in the House of Lords as many years as you were ascending to it. It is our common good, that your admirable eloquence can now no longer be employed, but in the expression of your own sentiments and judgment. The skilful pleader is now for ever changed into the just judge; which latter character your Lordship exerts with so prevailing an impartiality, that you win the approbation even of those who dissent from you, and you always obtain favour, because you are never moved by it.
This gives you a certain dignity peculiar to your present situation, and makes the equity, even of a Lord High Chancellor, appear but a degree towards the magnanimity of a Peer of Great Britain.
Forgive me, my Lord, when I cannot conceal from you, that I shall never hereafter behold you, but I shall behold you, as lately, defending the brave and the unfortunate*.
When we attend to your Lordship engaged in a discourse, we cannot but reflect
upon the many requisites which the vain-glorious speakers of antiquity have demanded in a man who is to excel in oratory; I say, my Lord, when we reflect upon the precepts by viewing the example, though there is no excellence proposed by those rhetoricians wanting, the whole art seems to be resolved into that one motive of speaking, sincerity in the intention. The graceful manner, the apt gesture, and the assumed concern, are impotent helps to persuasion, in comparison of the honest countenance of him who utters what he really means. From whence it is, that all the beauties which others attain with labour, are in your Lordship but the natural effects of the heart that dictates.
It is this noble simplicity, which makes you surpass mankind in the faculties wherein mankind are distinguished from other creatures, reason and speech.
If these gifts were communicated to all men in proportion to the truth and ardour of their hearts, Í should speak of you with the same force as you express yourself on any other subject. But I resist my present impulse, as agreeable as it is to me; though indeed, had I any pretensions to a fame of this kind, I should, above all other themes, attempt a panegyrick upon my Lord Cowper: for the only sure way to a reputation for eloquence, in an age
* The Duke of Marlborough.
wherein that perfect orator lives, is to choose an argument, upon which he himself must of necessity be silent. I am, my Lord,
Your Lordship’s most devoted,
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
CHARLES, LORD HALIFAX.
From the Hovel at Hamptonwick, April 7, 1711,
MY LORD, WHEN I first resolved upon doing myself this honour, I could not but indulge a certain vanity in dating from this little covert, where I have frequently had the honour of your Lordship’s company, and received from you very many obligations. The elegant solitude of this place, and the greatest pleasures of it, I owe to its being so near those beautiful manors wherein you sometimes reside. It is not retiring from the world, but enjoying its most valuable blessings, when a man is permitted to share in your Lordship’s conversations in the country. All the bright images which the Wits of past ages have left behind them in their writings, the noble plans which the greatest Statesmen have laid down for administration of affairs, are equally the familiar objects of your knowledge. But what is peculiar to your Lordship above all the illustrious personages that have appeared in any age, is, that wit and learning have from your example fallen into a new æra. Your patronage has produced those arts, which
before shunned the commerce of the world, into the service of life: and it is to you we owe, that the man of wit has turned himself to be a man of business. The false delicacy of men of genius, and the objections which others were apt to insinuate against their abilities for entering into affairs, have equally vanished. And experience has shown, that men of letters are not only qualified with a greater capacity, but also a greater integrity in the dispatch of business. Your own studies have been diverted from being the highest ornament, to the highest use to mankind; and the capacities which would have rendered you the greatest poet of your age, have to the advantage of Great Britain been employed in pursuits which have made you the most able and unbiassed patriot. A vigorous imagination, an extensive apprehension, and a ready judgment, have distinguished you in all the illustrious parts of administration, in a reign attended with such difficulties, that the same talents, without the same quickness in the possession of them, would have been incapable of conquering. The natural success of such abilities, has advanced you to a seat in that illustrious house, where you were received by a crowd of your relations. Great as you are in your honours, and personal qualities, I know you will forgive an humble neighbour the vanity of pretending to a place in your friendship, and subscribing himself, my Lord, Your Lordship's most obliged, and most devoted servant,