« VorigeDoorgaan »
the notice of some persons of rank began to reach him. SHENSTONE, however, deeply colours the variable state of his own mind—“ Recovering from a nervous fever, as I have since discovered by many concurrent symptoms, I seem to anticipate a little of that vernal delight which Milton mentions and thinks
able to chase
at least I begin to resume my silly clue of hopes and expectations." In a former letter he had, however, given
I begin to wean myself from all hopes and expectations whatever. I feed my wild-ducks, and I water my carnations. Happy enough if I could extinguish my ambition quite, to indulge the desire of being something more beneficial in my sphere. -Perhaps some few other circumstances would want also to be adjusted.”
What were these 66 hopes and expectations," from which sometimes he weans himself, and which are perpetually revived, and are attributed to “ an ambition he cannot extinguish ?” This article has been written in vain, if the reader has not already perceived, that they had haunted him in early life ; sickening his spirit after the possession of a poetical celebrity, unattainable by his genius; some expectations too he might have cherished from the talent he possessed for political studies, in which Graves confidently says, that “he would have made no inconsiderable figure, if he had had a sufficient motive for applying his mind to them,” SHENSTONE has left several proofs of this talent *. But his master-passion for literary fame had produced little more than anxieties and disappointments; and when he indulged his pastoral fancy in a beautiful creation on his grounds, it consumed the estate which it adorned. Johnson forcibly expressed his situation: “ His death was probably hastened by his anxieties. He was a lamp that spent its oil in blazing, It is said, that if he had lived a little longer, he would have been assisted by a pension.
* See his Letters XL. and XLI. and more particularly XLII. and XLIII. with a new theory of political principle:
SECRET HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
The secret history of this national edifice derives importance from its nature, and the remarkable characters involved in the unparalleled transaction. The great architect when obstructed in the progress of his work, by the irregular payments of the workmen, appears to have practised one of his own comic plots to put the debts on the hero himself; while the duke, who had it much at heart to inhabit the palace of his fame, but tutored into wariness under the vigilant and fierce eye of Atossa would neither approve nor disapprove, silently looked on in hope and in grief, from year to year, as the work proceeded, or as it was left at a stand. At length we find this comedie larmoyante wound up by the duchess herself, in an attempt utterly to ruin the enraged and insulted architect* !
* I draw the materials of this secret history from an unpublished “Case of the Duke of Marlborough and Sir John Vanbrugh.” as also from some confidential correspondence of Vanbrugh with Jacob Tonson, his friend and publisher.
Perhaps this was the first time that it had ever been resolved in parliament to raise a public monument of glory and gratitude-to an individual ! The novelty of the attempt may serve as the only excuse for the loose arrangements which followed after parliament had approved of the design, without voting any specific supply for the purpose! The queen always issued the orders at her own expense, and commanded expedition ; and while Anne lived, the expenses of the building were included in her majesty's debts, as belonging to the civil list sanctioned by parliament.
When George the First came to the throne, the parliament declared the debt to be the debt of the queen, and the king granted a privy seal as for other debts. The crown and the parliament had hitherto proceeded in perfect union respecting this national edifice. However, I find that the workmen were greatly in arrears ; for when George the First ascended the throne, they gladly accepted a third part of their several debts !
The great architect found himself amidst inextricable difficulties. With the fertile invention which amuses in his comedies, he contrived an
Vol. II. (New Series.)
extraordinary scheme, by which he proposed to make the duke himself responsible for the building of Blenheim !
However much the duke longed to see the magnificent edifice concluded, he showed the same calm intrepidity in the building of Blenheim as he had in its field of action. Aware that if he himself gave any order, or suggested any alteration, he might be involved in the expense of the building, he was never to be circumvented, -never to be surprised into a spontaneous emotion of pleasure or disapprobation; on no occasion, he declares, had he even entered into conversation with the architect (though his friend) or with any one acting under his orders, about Blenheim House ! Such impenetrable prudence on all sides had often blunted the subdolous ingenuity of the architect and plotter of comedies!
In the absence of the duke, when abroad in 1705, Sir John contrived to obtain from Lord Godolphin the friend and relative of the Duke of Marlborough, and probably his agent in some of his concerns, a warrant, constituting VANBRUGH surveyor, with power of contracting on the