Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

slose of the reign of George the Second was | Tories, Churchman and Puritans, spoke wita the most enviable ever occupied by any public equal reverence of the constitution, and with man in English history. He had conciliated equal enthusiasm of the talents, virtues, and the king; he dominecred over the House of services of the minister. Commons; he was adored by the people ; he A few years sufficed to change the whole was admired by all Europe. He was the first aspect of affairs. A nation convulsed by face Englishman of his time; and he had made tion, a throne assailed by the fiercest invective, England the first country in the world. The a House of Commons hated and despised by Great Commoner—the name by which he was the nation, England set against Scotland, Bri. often designated-might look down with scorn tain set against America, a rival legislature on coronets and garters. The nation was sitting beyond the Atlantic, English blood shed drunk with joy and pride. The Parliament by English bayonets, our armies capitulating, was as quiet as it had been under Pelham. our conquests wrested from us, our enemies The old party distinctions were almost effaced; hastening to take vengeance for past humilianor was their place yet supplied by distinctions tion, our flag scarcely able to maintain itsell of a yet more important kind. A new genera- in our own seas—such was the spectacle Pitt tion of country-squires and rectors had arisen lived to see. But the history of this great rewho knew not the Stuarts. The Dissenters volution requires far more space than we can were tolerated; the Catholics not cruelly per- at present bestow. We leave the “Great secuted. The Church was drowsy and indul- Commoner" in the zenith of his glory. It is gent. The great civil and religious conflict not impossible that we may take some other which began at the Reformation seemed to have opportunity of tracing his life to its melancholy terminated in universal repose. Whigs and yet not inglorious, close

[ocr errors]

LORD BACON.*

[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1837.)

Ws return our hearty thanks to Mr. Mon- derives pleasure and adrantage from the pero tagu, as well for his very valuable edition of formances of such a man. The number of Lord Bacon's Works, as for the instructive those who suffer by his personal vices is small, Life of the immortal author, contained in the even in his own time, when compared with the last volume. We have much to say on the number of those to whom his talents are a subject of this Life, and will often find our source of gratification. In a few years, all selves obliged to dissent from the opinions of those whom he has injured disappear. But his the biographer. But about his merit as a col- works remain, and are a source of delight to lector of the materials out of which opinions millions. The genius of Sallust is still with are formed, there can be no dispute ; and we us. But the Numidians whom he plundered, readily acknowledge that we are in a great and the unfortunate husbands who caught him measure indebted to his minute and accurate in their houses at unseasonable hours, are for researches, for the means of refuting what we gotten. We suffer ourselves to be delighted by cannot but consider his errors.

the keenness of Clarendon's observation, and The labour which has been bestowed on this by the sober majesty of his style, till we forget volume, has been a labour of love. The the oppressor and the bigot in the historian. writer is evidently enamoured of the subject. Falstaff and Tom Jones have survived the It fills his heart. It constantly overflows from gamekeepers whom Shakspeare cudgelled, and his lips and his pen. Those who are acquainted the landladies whom Fielding bilked. A great with ihe courts in which Mr. Montagu prac- writer is the friend and benefactor of his tises with so much ability and success, well readers; and they cannot but judge of him know how often he enlivens the discussion of a under the deluding influence of friendship and point of law by citing some weighty aphorism, gratitude. We all know how unwilling we are or some brilliant illustration, from the De to admit the truth of any disgracriul story Augmentis or the Novum Organum. The Life about a person whose society we like, and before us, doubtless, owes much of its value to from whom we have received favours, how the honest and generous enthusiasm of the long we struggle against evidence, how fondly, writer. This feeling has stimulated his acti- when the facts cannot be disputed, we cling to vity; has sustained his perseverance; has the hope that there inay be some explanation called forth all his ingenuity and eloquence: or some extenuating circumstance with which bul, on the other hand, we must frankly say, we are unacquainted. Just such is the feeling that it has, to a great extent, perverted his which a man of liberal education naturally enjudgment.

tertains towards the great minds of former We are by no means without sympathy for ages. The debt which he owes to them is inMr. Moniagu even in what we consider as his calculable. They have guided him to truth. weakness. There is scarcely any delusion They have filled his mind with noble and which has a better claim to be indulgently graceful images. They have stood by him in treated than that, under the influence of which all vicissitudes—comforters in sorrow, nurses a man ascribes every moral excellence 10 in sickness, companions in solitude. These those who have left imperishable monuments friendships are exposed to no danger from the of their genius. The causes of this error lie occurrences by which other attachments are deep in the inmost recesses of human nature. weakened or dissolved. Time glides by; for. We are all inclined to judge of others as we tune is inconstant; tempers are soured; bonds find them. Our estimate of a character always which seemed indissoluble are daily sundered depends much on the manner in which that by interest, by emulation, or by caprice. But character affects our own interests and pas. no such cause can affect the silent converse sions. We find it difficult to think well of which we hold with the highest of human inthose by whom we are thwarted or depressed ; tellects. That placid intercourse is disturbed and we are ready to admit every excuse for by no jealousies or resentments. These are the vices of those who are useful or agreeable the old friends who are never seen with new to us. This is, we believe, one of those illu- faces, who are the same in wealth and in sions to which the whole human race is sub-poverty, in glory and in obscurity. With the ject, and which experience and reflection can dead there is no rivalry. In the dead there is only partially remove. It is, in the phraseolo- no change. Plato is never sullen. Cervantes gy of Bacon, one of the idola tribus. Hence it is never petulant. Demosthenes never comes is, that the moral character of a man eminent unseasonably. Dante never stays too long. in letters, or in the fine arts, is treated-often No difference of political opinion can alienate by contemporaries-almost always by posterity Cicero. No heresy can excite the horior of -with extraordinary tenderness. The world Bossuet.

Nothing, then, can be more natural than that • The Works of Prancis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of Engă a person of sensibility and imagination should land. A nes Édition. By BASIL MONTAGU, Esq. volo. Svo. London. 1825-1834.

entertain a respectful and affectionare feeling

towards those great men with whose minds he defence of one most eloquent and accomplished holds daily communion. Yet nothing can be Trimmer. more certain than that such men have not The volume before us reminds us now and always deserved, in their own persons, to be then of the “ Life of Cicero." But there is this regarded with respect or affection. Some marked difference. Dr. Middleton evidently writers, whose works will continue to instruct had an uneasy consciousness of the weakness and delight mankind to the remotest ages, have of his cause, and therefore resorted to the most been placed in such situations, that their actions disingenuous shifts, to unpardonable distortions and motives are as well known to us as the ac- and suppressions of facts. Mr. Montagu's tions and motives of one human being can be faith is sincere and implicit. He practises no known to another; and unhappily their conduct trickery. He conceals nothing. He puts the has not always been such as an impartial judge facts before us in the full confidence that they can contemplate with approbation. But the will produce on our minds the effect which fanaticism of the devout worshipper of genius they have produced on his own. It is not till is proof against all evidence and all argument. he comes to reason from facts to motives, that The character of his idol is matter of faith; his partiality shows itself; and then he leaves and the province of faith is not to be invaded Middleton himself far behind. His work proby reason. He maintains his superstition with ceeds on the assumption that Bacon was an a credulity as boundless, and a zeal as unscru- eminently virtuous man. From the tree Mr. pulous, as can be found in the most ardent par- Montagu judges of the fruit. He is forced to tisans of religious or political factions. The relate many actions, which, if any man but most overwhelming proofs are rejected; the Bacon had committed them, nobody would have plainest rules of morality are explained away; dreamed of defending-actions which are extensive and important portions of history are readily and completely explained by supposing completely distoried; the enthusiast misrepre- Bacon to have been a man whose principles sents facts with all the effrontery of an advo- were not strict, and whose spirit was not high cate, and confounds right and wrong with all -actions which can be explained in no other the dexterity of a Jesuit-and all this only in way, without resorting to some grotesque hy. order that some man who has been in his pothesis for which there is not a title of evi. grave for ages may have a fairer character dence. But any hypothesis is, in Mr. Montagu's than he deserves.

opinion, more probable than that his hero should Middleton's "Life of Cicero" is a striking ever have done any thing very wrong. instance of the influence of this sort of par- This mode of defending Bacon seems to us tiality. Never was there a character which it by no means Baconian. To take a man's chawas easier to read than that of Cicero. Never racter for granted, and then from his character was there a mind keener or more critical than to infer the moral quality of all his actions, is that of Middleton. Had the doctor brought to surely a process the very reverse of that which the examination of his favourite statesman's is recommended in the Novum Organum. No conduct but a very small part of the acuteness thing, we are sure, could have led Mr. Montaga and severity which he displayed when he was to depart so far from his master's precepts, engaged in investigating the high pretensions except zeal for his master's honour. We shall of Epiphanius and Justin Martyr, he could not follow a different course. We shall attempt, have failed to produce a most valuable history with the valuable assistance which Mr. Monof a most interesting portion of time. But this tagu has afforded us, to frame such an account most ingenious and learned man, though of Bacon's life as may enable our readers cor“Bo wary held and wise

rectly to estimate his character. Thal, as't was said, he scarce received

It is hardly necessary to say that Francis For gospel what the church believed,"

Bacon was the son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, who had a superstition of his own. The great held the great seal of England during the first Iconoclast was himself an idolater. The great twenty years of the reign of Elizabeth. The Avvocata del Diavolo, while he disputed, with no fame of the father has been thrown into shade small ability, the claims of Cyprian and Athana. by that of the son. But Sir Nicholas was no sius to a place in the Calendar, was himself ordinary man. He belonged to a set of men composing a lying legend in honour of St. whom it is easier to describe collectively than Tully! He was holding up as a model of separately; whose minds were formed by one every virtue a man whose talents and acquire- system of discipline; who belonged to one ments, indeed, can never be loo highly extol. rank in society, io one university, to one party, led, and who was by no means destitute of to one sech, to one administration; and who amiable qualities, but whose whole soul was resembled each other so much in talents, in under the dominion of a girlish vanity and a opinions, in habits, in fortunes, that one cha. craven fear. Actions for which Cicero him-racter, we had almost said one life, may, to a self, the most eloquent and skilful of advocates, considerable extent, serve for them all. could contrive no excuse, actions which in his They were the first generation of statesmen confidential correspondence he mentioned with by profession that England produced. Before remorse an^ shame, are represented by his their time the division of labour had, in this biographer as wise, virtuous, heroic. The respect, been very imperfect

. Those who had whole history of that great revolution which directed public affairs had been, with few er. overthrew the Roman aristocracy, the whole ceptions, warriors or priests: warriors whose state of parties, the character of every public rude courage was neither guided by science man, is elaborately misrepresented, in order to por softened by humanity ; priests whose make cui something which may look like a learning and abilities were habitually devoted

to the defence of tyranny and imposture. The | Henry that the new theology obtained tie asHotspurs, the Nevilles, the Cliffords-rough, cendant at one time, and that the lessons of the illiterate, and unreflecting-brought to the nurse and of the priest regained their infrience council-board the fierce and imperious disposi- at another. It was not only in the house of tion which they had acquired amidst the tu- Tudor that the husband was exasperated by mult of predatory war, or in the gloomy repose the opposition of the wife, that the son dissented of the garrisoned and moated castle. On the from the opinions of the father, that the brother other side was the calm and subtle prelate, persecuted the sister, the one sister persecuted versed in all that was then considered as another. The principles of conservation and learning; trained in the schools to manage reform carried on their warfare in every part words, and in the confessional to manage of society, in every congregation, in every hearts; seldom superstitious, but skilful in school of learning, round the hearth of every practising on the superstition of others; false private family, in the recesses of every reflectas it was natural that a man should be, whose ing mind. profession imposed on all who were not saints It was in the midst of this ferment that the the necessity of being hypocrites; selfish as it minds of the persons whom we are describing was natural that a man should be, who could were developed. They were born Reformers. form no domestic ties, and cherish no hope of They belonged by nature to that order of men legitimate posterity; more attached to his order who always form the front ranks in the great than to his country, and guiding the politics of intellectual progress. They were, therefore, England with a constant side-glance at Rome. one and all Pro:e tants. In religious matters, But the increase of wealth, the progress of however, though there is no reason to doubt knowledge, and the reformation of religion that they were sincere, they were by no means produced a great change. The nobles ceased zealous. None of them chose to run the smallto be military chieftains; the priests ceased to est personal risk during the reign of Mary. possess a monopoly of learning; and a new and None of them favoured the unhappy attempt remarkable species of politicians appeared. of Northumberland in favour of his daughter.

These men came from neither of the classes in-law. None of them shared in the desperate which had, till then, almost exclusively fur. councils of Wyatt. They contrived to have nished ministers of state. They were all lay- business on the Continent; or, if they stayed in men; yet they were all men of learning, and England, they heard Mass and kept Lent with they were all men of peace. They were not great decorum. When those dark and peril. members of the aristocracy. They inherited ous years had gone by, and when the crown no titles, no large domains, no armies of re- had 'descended to a new sovereign, they took tainers, no fortified castles. Yet they were not the lead in the reformation of the church. But low men, such as those whom princes, jealous they proceeded not with the impetuosity of of the power of a nobility, have sometimes theologians, but with the calm determination raised from forges, and cobblers' stalls, to the of statesmen. They acted, not like men who highest situations. They were all gentlemen considered the Romish worship as a system by birth. They had all received a liberal edu- too offensive to God and too destructive of cation. It is a remarkable fact that they were souls to be tolerated for an hour; but like men all members of thc same university. The two who regarded the points in dispute among great national seats of learning had even then Christians as in themselves unimportant; and acquired the characters which they still retain. who were not restrained by any scruple of In intellectual activity, and in readiness to conscience from professing, as they had before admit improvements, the superiority was then, professed, the Catholic faith of Mary, the Proas it has ever since been, on the side of the iestant faith of Edward, or any of the numerous less ancient and splendid institution. Cam- intermediate combinations which the caprice bridge had the honour of educating those cele- of Henry, and the temporizing policy of Cranbrated Protestant bishops whom Oxford had mer, had formed out of the doctrines of both the honour of burning; and at Cambridge the hostile parties. They took a deliberate were formed the minds of all those statesmen view of the state of their own country and of to whom chiefly is to be attributed the secure the continent. They satisfied themselves as establishment of the reformed religion in the to the leaning of the public mind; and they north of Europe.

chose their side. They placed themselves at The statesmen of whom we speak passed the head of the Protestants of Europe, and their youth surrounded by the incessant din of staked all their fame and fortunes on the suc. theological controversy. Opinions were still cess of their party. in a state of chaotic anarchy, intermingling, It is needless to relate how dexterously, how separating, advancing, receding. Sometimes resolutely, how gloriously, they directed the the stubborn bigotry of the Conservatives politics of England during the eventful years seemed likely to prevail. Then the impetuous which followed; how they succeeded in unitonset of the Reformers for a moment carried ing their friends and separating their enemies; all before it. Then again the resisting mass how they humbled the pride of Philip; how made a desperate stand, arrested the movc- they backed the unconquerable spirit of Coment, and forced it slowly back. The vacilla- ligni; how they rescued Holland from tyrantion which at that time appeared in English ny; how they founded the maritime greatness legislation, and which it has been the fashion of their country; how they outwitted the artful to attribute to the caprice and to the power of politicians of Italy, and tamed the ferocious one or two individuals, was truly a national chieftains of Scotland. It is impossible in vacillation. It was not only in the mind of deny that they committed many acts which

would justly bring on a statesman of our time perhaps contained in the motto which Sir censures of the most serious kind. But when Nicholas Bacon inscribed over the entrance of we consider the state of morality in their age, his hall at Gorhambury-Mediocria firma. This and the unscrupulous character of the adver- maxim was constantly borne in mind by him. saries against whom they had to contend, we self and his colleagues. They were more are forced to admit, that it is not without rea- solicitous to lay the foundations of their power son that their names are still held in veneration deep, than to raise the structure to a conspie by their countrymen.

cuous but insecure height. None of them There were, doubtless, many diversities in aspired to be sole minister. None of them their intellectual and moral character. But provoked envy by an ostentatious display of there was a strong family likeness. The con- wealth and influence. None of them affected stitution of their minds was remarkably sound. to outshine the ancient aristocracy of the king. No particular faculty was pre-eminently de- dom. They were free from that childish love veloped; but manly health and vigour were of titles which characterized the successful equally diffused through the whole.

courtiers of the generation which preceded They were men of letters. Their minds them, and that which followed them. As to were by nature and by exercise well-fashioned money, none of them could, in that age, justy for speculative pursuits. It was by circum- be considered as rapacious. Some of them stances rather than by any strong bias of in. would, even in our time, deserve the praise of clination, that they were led to take a promi- eminent disinterestedness. Their fidelity to nent part in active life. In active life, however, the state was incorruptible. Their private no men could be more perfectly free from the morals were without stain. Their households faults of mere theorists and pedants. No men were sober and well governed. observed more accurately the signs of the Among these statesmen Sir Nicholas Bacon times. No men had a greater practical ac- was generally considered as ranking next 10 quaintance with human nature. Their policy Burleigh. He was called by Camden, "Sacris was generally characterized rather by vigi- conciliis alterum columen;" and by George lance, by moderation, and by firmness, than Buchanan, by invention or by the spirit of enterprise.

* Diu Britannici They spoke and wrote in a manner worthy

Regni secundum columen." of their excellent sense. Their eloquence was less copious and less ingenious, but far

The second wife of Sir Nicholas, and the purer and more manly than that of the succeed- mother of Francis Bacon, was Anne, one of ing generation. It was the eloquence of men the daughters of Sir Anthony Cook-a man who had lived with the first translators of the of distinguished learning, who had been tutor Bible, and with the authors of the Book of to Edward the Sixth. Sir Anthony had paid Common Prayer. It was luminous, dignified,

considerable attention to the education of his solid, and very slightly tainted with that affec. daughters, and lived to see them all splendidly tation which deformed the style of the ablest and happily married. Their classical acquire men of the next age. If, as sometimes chanced, I ments made them conspicuous even among they were under the necessity of taking a part who became Lady Killigre, wrote Latia hes.

the women of fashion of that age. Katherine, in those theological controversies on which the dearest interests of kingdoms were then staked, ameters and pentameters which would appear they acquitted themselves as if their whole with credit in the Musa Etonenses. Miided, lives had been passed in the schools and the the wife of Lord Burleigh, was described by convocation.

Roger Ascham as the best Greek scholar There was something in the temper of these among the young women of England, Lady celebrated men which secured them against ther of Francis Bacon, was distinguished both

Jane Grey always excepted. Anne, the mothe proverbial inconstancy both of the court and of the multitude. No intrigue, no com

as a linguist and as a theologian. She corres. bination of rivals, could deprive them of the ponded in Greek with Bishop Jewell, and confidence of their sovereign. No Parliament translated his Apologia from the Latin, so cos. attacked their influence. No mob coupled rectly that neither he nor Archbishop Parker their names with any odious grievance. Their could suggest a single alteration. She also power ended only with their lives. In this re- freewill from the Tuscan of Bernardo Ochino.

translated a series of sermons on fate ani spect their fate presents a most remarkable contrast to that of the enterprising and brilliant This fact is the more curious, as Ochino was politicians of the preceding, and of the suc

one of that small and audacious band of Ita. ceeding generation. Burleigh was minister lian reformers—anathematized alike by Witduring forty years. Sir Nicholas Bacon held tenberg, by Geneva, by Zurich, and by Rome the great seal more than twenty years. Sir

- from which the Socinian sect deduces its Thomas Smith was Secretary of State eighteen

origin. years ;-Sir Francis Walsingham about as

Lady Bacon was doubtless a lady of highly long. They all died in office, and in the full cultivated mind after the fashion of her age. enjoyment of public respect and royal favour. into the belief, that she and her sisters were

But we must not suffer ourselves to be deluded Far different had been the fate of Wolsey, Cromwell, Norfolk, Somerset, and Northum- more accomplished women than many who berland. Far different also was the fate of are now living. On this subject there is, we Esses, of Raleigh, and of the still more illus- think, much misapprehension. We have often mous man whose life we propose to consider. heard men who wish, as almost all men of The explanation of this circumstance is

• Strype's Life of Parker.

« VorigeDoorgaan »