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cise of his function. When the cause of Sacheverell put the public in commotion, he honestly appeared among the friends of the church. He lived to his seventy-ninth year, and died May 20, 1713.
Burnet is not very favourable to his memory; but he and Burnet were old rivals. On some public occasion they both preached before the House of Commons. There prevailed in those days an indecent custom: when the preacher touched any favourable topic in a manner that delighted his audience, their approbation was expressed by a loud hum, continued in proportion to their zeal or pleasure. When Burnet preached, part of his congregation hummed so loudly and so long, that he sat down to enjoy it, and rubbed his face with his handkerchief. When Sprat preached, he likewise was honoured with the like animating hum ; but he stretched out his hand to the congregation, and cried, “Peace, peace, I pray you peace.”
This I was told in my youth by my father, an old man, who had been no careless observer of the pas. sages of those times.
Burnet's sermon, says Salmon, was remarkable for sedition, and Sprat's for loyalty. Burnet had the thanks of the House; Sprat had no thanks, but a good living from the King, which, he said, was of as much value as the thanks of the Commons.
The works of Sprat, besides his few poems, are, “The History of the Royal Society,” “The Life of Cowley,” “The Answer to Sorbiere," “ The History of the Rye-house Plot,” “The Relation of his own Exarnination," and a volume of sermons. I have heard it observed, with great justness, that Every book is of a different kind, and that each has its distinct and characteristical excellence.
My business is only with his poems. He considered Cowley as a model; and supposed that, as he was imitated, perfection was approached. Nothing, therefore, but Pindaric liberty was to be ex
pected. There is in his few productions no want of such conceits as he thought excellent; and of those our judgment may be settled by the first that appears in his praise of Cromwell, where he says, that Cromwell's “fame, like man, will grow white as it grows old."
A e Life of the EARL of HALIFAX was properly
that of an artful and active statesman, employ. ed in balancing parties, contriving expedients, and combating opposition, and exposed to the vicissi. tudes of advancement and degradation; but in this collection, poetical merit is the claim to attention : and the account which is here to be expected may properly be proportioned not to his influence in the state, but to his rank among the writers of
CHARLES MONTAGUE was born April 16, 1661, at Horton, in Northamptonshire, the son of Mr. George Montague, a younger son of the Earl of Manchester. He was educated first in the country, and then removed to Westminster, where, in 1617, he was chosen a king's scholar, and recommended himself to Busby by his felicity in extemporary epigrains. He contracted a very intimate friendship with Mr. Stepney; and, in 1682, when Stepney was elected at Cambridge, the election of Montague being not to proceed till the year fole lowing, he was afraid lest by being placed at Oxford he might be separated from his companion, and therefore solicited to be removed to CamVOL. I.
bridge, without waiting for the advantages of an other year.
It seems indeed time to wish for a removal; for he was already a school-boy of one-and-twenty.
His relation, Dr. Montague, was then master of the college in which he was placed a fellow-commoner, and took him under his particular care. Here he commenced an acquaintance with the great Newton, which continued through his life, and was at last attested by a legacy.
In 1685, his verses on the death of King Charles made such an impression on the Earl of Dorset, that he was invited to town, and introduced by that universal patron to the other wits. In 1687, he joined with Prior in “ The City Mouse, and the Country Mouse," a burlesque of Dryden's “ Hind and Panther.” He signed the invitation to the Prince of Orange, and sate in the convention. He about the same time married the Countess Dowager of Manchester, and intended to have taken orders; but afterwards, altering his purpose, he purchased for 1,5001, the place of one of the clerks of the council.
After he had written his epistle on the victory of the Boyne, his patron, Dorset, introduced him to King William, with this expression :-“Sir, I have brought a mouse to wait on your Majesty." To which the King is said to have replied, “ You do well to put me in the way of making a man of him ;" and ordered him a pension of five hundred pounds. This story, however current, seems to have been made after the event. The King's answer implies a greater acquaintance with our proverbial and familiar diction than King William could possibly have attained.
In 1691, being member of the House of Commons, he argued warmly in favour of a law to grant the assistance of counsel in trials for high treason; and, in the midst of his speech falling into some confusion, was for awhile silent; but, recovering himself,
observed, “how reasonable it was to allow counsel to men called as criminals before a court of jus. tice, when it appeared how much the presence of that assembly could disconcert one of their own
After this he rose fast into honours and employments, being made one of the commissioners of the Treasury, and called to the privy-council. In 1694, he became chancellor of the Exchequer; and the next year engaged in the great attempt of the recoinage, which was in two years happily completed. In 1696, he projected the general fund, and raised the credit of the Exchequer; and, after inquiry concerning a grant of Irish crown-lands, it was determined by a vote of the Commons, that Charles Montague, Esq. had deserved his Majesty's favour. In 1698, being advanced to the first commission of the Treasury, he was appointed one of the regency in the King's absence: the next year he was made auditor of the Exchequer, and the year after created Baron Halifax, He was, however, impeached by the Commons; but the articles were disinissed by the Lords.
At the accession of Queen Anne he was dismissed
• Mr. Reed observes that this anecdote is related by Mr. Walpole, in his “ Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors," of the Earl of Shaftesbury, author of the “ Characteristics ;" but it appears to me to be a mistake, if we are to understand that the words were spoken by Shaftesbury at this time, when he had no seat in the House of Commons; nor did the bill pass at this time, being thrown out by the House of Lords. It became a law in the 7th Wil. liam, when Halifax and Shaftesbury both had seats. The editors of the “Biographia Britannica” adopt Mr. Walpole's story, but they are not speaking of this period. The story first appeared in the Life of Lord Halifax, published in 1715.-C.
from the council : and in the first parliament of her reign was again attacked by the Commons, and again escaped by the protection of the Lords. In 1704, he wrote an answer to Bromley's speech against occasional conformity. He headed the inquiry into the danger of the church. In 1706, he proposed and negotiated the Union of Scotland; and when the Elector of Hanover had received the garter, after the act had passed for securing the protestant succession, he was appointed to carry the ensigns of the order to the electoral court. He sate as one of the judges of Sacheverell; but voted for a mild sentence. Being now no longer in favour, he contrived to obtain a writ for summoning the Electoral Prince to parliament as duke of Cambridge.
At the Queen's death he was appointed one of the regents; and at the accession of George I. was made earl of Halifax, knight of the garter, and first cominissioner of the treasury, with a grant to his nephew of the reversion of the auditorship of the Exchequer. More was not to be had, and this he kept but a little while; for, on the 19th of May, 1715, he died of an inflammation of his lungs.
Of him, who from a poet became a patron of poets, it will be readily believed that the works would not miss of celebration. Addison began to praise him early, and was followed or accompanied by other poets: perhaps by almost all, except Swift and Pope, who forbore to flatter him in his life, and after his death spoke of hiin, Swift with slight censure, and Pope, in the character of Bufo, with acrimonious contempt.
He was, as Pope says, “ fed with dedications ;" for Tickell affirms that no dedication was unrewarded. To charge all unmerited praise with the guilt of fattery, and to suppose that the encomiast always knows and feels the falsehoods of his assertions, is surely to discover great ignorance of human nature and human life. In determinations