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Versailles were appalled and bewildered by his vigor. A panic spread through all ranks of society. Our enemies soon considered it as a settled thing that they were always to be beaten. Thus victory begot victory ; till, at last, wherever the forces of the two nations met, they met with disdainful confidence on the one side, and with a craven fear on the other.
The situation which Pitt occupied at the close of the reign of George the Second was the most enviable ever occupied by any public man in English history. He had conciliated the King; he domineered over the House of Commons ; he was adored by the people ; he was admired by all Europe. He was the first Englishman of his time; and he had made England the first country in the world. The Great Commoner, — the name by which he was often designated, — might look down with scorn on coronets and garters. The nation was drunk with joy and pride. The Parliament was as quiet as it had been under Pelham. The old party-distinctions were almost effaced ; nor was their place yet supplied by distinctions of a yet more important kind. A new generation of country-squires and rectors had arisen who knew not the Stuarts. The Dissenters were tolerated; the Catholics not cruelly persecuted. The Church was drowsy and indulgent. The great civil and religious conflict which began at the Reformation seemed to have terminated in universal repose. Whigs and Tories, Churchmen and Puritans, spoke with equal reverence of the constitution, and with equal enthusiasm of the talents, virtues, and services of the minister.
A few years sufficed to change the whole aspect of affairs. A nation convulsed by. faction, a throne assailed by the fiercest invective, a House of Commons hated and despised by the nation, England set against Scotland, Britain set against America, a rival legislature sitting beyond the At
- such was
lantic, English blood shed by English bayonets, our armies capitulating, our conquests wrested from us, our enemies hastening to take vengeance for past humiliation, our flag scarcely able to maintain itself in our own seas, the spectacle Pitt lived to see. But the history of this great revolution requires far more space than we can at present bestow. We leave the Great Commoner' in the zenith of his glory. It is not impossible that we may take some other opportunity of tracing his life to its melancholy, yet not inglorious, close.
[Edinburgh Review, 1837.]
We return our hearty thanks to Mr. Montagu, as well for his very valuable edition of Lord Bacon's Works, as for the instructive Life of the immortal author, contained in the last volume. We have much to say on the subject of this Life, and will often find ourselves obliged to dissent from the opinions of the biographer. But about his merit as a collector of the materials out of which opinions are formed, there can be no dispute ; and we readily acknowledge that we are in a great measure indebted to his minute and accurate researches, for the means of refuting what we cannot but consider his errors.
The labor which has been bestowed on this volume, has been a labor of love. The writer is evidently enamored of the subject. It fills his heart. It constantly overflows from his lips and his pen. Those who are acquainted with the Courts in which Mr. Montagu practises with so much ability and success, well know how often he enlivens the discussion of a point of law by citing some weighty aphorism, or some brilliant illustration, from the De Augmentis or the Novum Organum. The Life before us, doubtless, owes much of its value to the honest and generous enthusiasm of the writer. This feeling has stimulated his activity ; has sustained his perseverance; has called forth all his ingenu
* The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England. A new Edition. By Basil Montagu, Esq. 16 vols. 8vo. London: 1825 - 1834.
ity and eloquence : but, on the other hand, we must frankly say, that it has, to a great extent, perverted his judgment.
We are by no means without sympathy for Mr. Montagu even in what we consider as his weakness. There is scarcely any delusion which has a better claim to be indulgently treated than that, under the influence of which a man ascribes every moral excellence to those who have left imperishable monuments of their genius. The causes of this error lie deep in the inmost recesses of human nature. We are all inclined to judge of others as we find them. Our estimate of a character always depends much on the manner in which that character affects our own interests and passions. We find it difficult to think well of those by whom we are thwarted or depressed; and we are ready to admit every excuse for the vices of those who are useful or agreeable to us. This is, we believe, one of those illusions to which the whole human race is subject, and which experi, ence and reflection can only partially remove. It is, in the phraseology of Bacon, one of the idola tribus. Hence it is, that the moral character of a man eminent in letters, or in the fine arts, is treated, — often by contemporaries,
almost always by posterity, - with extraordinary tenderness. The world derives pleasure and advantage from the performances of such a man. The number of those who suffer by his personal vices is small, even in his own time, when compared with the number of those to whom his talents are a source of gratification. In a few years, all those whom he has injured disappear. But his works remain, and are a source of delight to millions. The genius of Sallust is still with us.
But the Numidians whom he plundered, and the unfortunate husbands who aught him in their houses at unseasonable hours, are forgotten. We suffer ourselves to be delighted by the keenness of Clarendon's observation, and by the sober majesty of his style, till we forget the op
pressor and the bigot in the historian. Falstaff and Tom Jones have survived the gamekeepers whom Shakspeare cudgelled, and the landladies whom Fielding bilked. A great writer is the friend and benefactor of his readers ; and they cannot but judge of him under the deluding influence of friendship and gratitude. We all know how unwilling we are to admit the truth of any disgraceful story about a person whose society we like, and from whom we have received favors, how long we struggle against evidence, how fondly, when the facts cannot be disputed, we cling to the hope that there may be some explanation or some extenuating circumstance with which we are unacquainted. Just such is the feeling which a man of liberal education naturally entertains towards the great minds of former ages. The debt which be owes to them is incalculable. They have guided him to truth. They have filled his mind with noble and graceful images. They have stood by him in all vicissitudes, forters in sorrow, nurses in sickness, companions in solitude. These friendships are exposed to no danger from the occurrences by which other attachments are weakened or dissolved. Time glides by; fortune is inconstant ; tempers are soured ; bonds which seemed indissoluble are daily sundered by interest, by emulation, or by caprice. But no such cause can affect the silent converse which we hold with the highest of human intellects. That placid intercourse is disturbed by no jealousies or resentments. These are the old friends who are never seen with new faces, who are the same in wealth and in poverty, in glory and in obscurity. With the dead there is no rivalry. In the dead there is no change, Plato is never sullen. Cervantes is never petulant. Demosthenes never comes unseasonably. Dante never stays too long. No difference of political opinion can alienate Cicero. No heresy can excite the horror of Bossuet.
Nothing, then, can be more natural than that a person of