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I all occasions, without the smallest selfish view; joined to
the most uncommon talents to support his interests, and
the most ardent zeal to promote them; we need not wonTider that the minister should use his best endeavours, to F
attach such a man closely to him. But when in the same person he found the most delightful companion, possessed of an inexhaustible fund of the niost original
vein of wit and humour, for which he had a perfect reTlish ; and who could at times descend to the bagatelle,
and all the sportive plays of fancy, in the unrestrained < hour of social mirth and good humour, of which it ap
pears Lord Oxford was equally fond; we need not wonder that an old courtier, hackneyed in the ways of men, who perhaps had never found any of these qualities, in
equal degree, in any other mortal, should take him to I his bosom, and at once bestow his whole stock of friend
ship upon a subject so worthy of it. And indeed it does not appear, that out of his own family, there was any other
person to whom he showed much attachment, or whose friendship he cultivated to any great degree. This circumstance Swift has touched upon in drawing his character, and considers it as a blameless part of it, where he says, “It may be likewise said of him, that he certainly did not value, or did not understand, the art of acquiring friends; having made very few during the time of his power, and contracted a great number of enemies."
On the other hand, Lord Oxford, in his private capacity, seems to have possessed a great number of qualities, which were the most likely to endear him to Swift, and secure him the first place in his friendship. By whom he is respresented as a person of great virtue, abounding in good nature and good humour ; as a great favourer of men of wit and learning, particularly the former, whom he carressed, without distinction of party, and could not endure to think that any of them should be his enemies.
He says farther of him, "He had the greatest variety of knowledge that I have any where met; was a perfect master of the learned languages, and well skilled in divinity. He had a prodigious memory, and a most exact judgment. He was utterly a stranger to fear, and consequently had a presence of mind upon all emergencies. His liberality, and contempt of money, were such, that he almost ruined his estate while he was in employment; yet his avarice for the public was so great, that it neither consisted with the present corruptions of the age, nor the circumstances of the time. He was affable and courteous, extremely easy and agreeable in conversation, and altogether disengaged; regular in his life, with great appearance of piety; nor ever guilty of any expressions, which could possibly tend to what was indecent or profane. Such a character, even in private life, could not fail of attracting Swift's regard; but when these qualities, so congenial with his own, were found united in a man of the highest station in this country, and one of the most considerable personages of his time in the eyes of all Europe ; when such a man, contrary to the usual bent of his nature, eagerly embraced every opportunity of ingratiating himself with Swift, and soliciting his friendship upon his own terms, that of a perfect equality; it is no wonder if these rare qualities were much enhanced in their value by such circumstances; or that Swift, after repeated proofs of his sincerity, should make him a suitable return, and give him the first place in his friendship.* But though he justly stood the foremost in this rank, yet were there many others who shared it with him in different proportions. The large heart of Swift had an inexhaustible fund of benevolence, to be apportioned out to the several claimants, according to their several degrees of merit. Among those who vied with Lord Oxford for the possession of his friendship, no one seems to have been more assiduous than the second man in the state, though perhaps, in point of abilities, the first in Europe, Lord Bolingbroke. But though Swift held his talents in the highest admiration, and made suitable returns for all his personal kindness and attention to him, yet he never seems to have had that cordial regard for him that he showed for Lord Oxford. The excellence of whose moral character, established that confidence in him, which is so necessary to a firm friendship; while a notorious deficiency in the other, with regard to some points, created
* That this was the case, may be seen by a passage in a letter of Swift's to Lord Oxford, the son, many years after the treasurer's death, dated June, 1737, where he says, I loved my lord, your father, better than any other man in the world ; although I had no obligation to him on the score of preferment, haviog been driven to this wretched kingdom, to which I was almost a stranger, by his want of power to keep me, in what I ought to call my own country, although I happened to be dropped here, and was a year old before I left it.” S.
a doubt of his principles with respect to all. And symptons of this doubt have broken out from Swift on more than one occasion, with regard to his sincerity, though there are good reasons to believe his suspicions were unjust, as his attachment to him continued equally strong to the very last, and his friendship for him glows with uncommon ardour throughout his whole epistolary correspondence, in the decline of life, when there could have been no use for dissimulation. The zeal which he showed for Swift's service, may be estimated by the following note which he sent him, at the time that the affair of his promotion was depending.
Though I have not seen, I did not fail to write to lord treasurer. Non tua res agitur, dear Jonathan; it is the treasurer's cause ; it is my cause; 'tis every man's cause, who is embarked on our bottom. Depend upon
it, that I will never neglect any opportunity of showing that true esteem, that sincere affection, and honest friendship for you, which fills the breast of
faithful ser vant,
BOLINGBROKE. But the light in which he considered Lord Bolingbroke, will best appear from his own account of him, in a piece written in the year 1715, entitled, “An Inquiry into the Behaviour of the Queen's last Ministry," &c. “ It happens to very few men, in any age or country, to come into the world with so many advantages of nature and fortune, as the late secretary Bolingbroke: descended from the best families in England, heir to a great patrimonial estate, of a sound constitution, and a most graceful, amiable person. But all these, had they been of equal value, were infinitely inferior in degree to the accomplishments of his mind, which was adorned with the choisest gifts that God hath yet thought fit to bestow on the children of men: a strong memory, a clear judgment, a vast range of wit and fancy, a thiorough comprehension, an invincible eloquence, with a most agreable elocution. He had well cultivated all these talents by travel and study; the latter of which he seldom omitted, even in the midst of his pleasures, of which he had indeed been too great and criminal a pursuer. For, although he was persuaded to leave off intemperance in wine, which be did for some time to such a degree, that he seemed rather abstemious : yet he was said to allow himself other liberties, which can by no means be reconciled to religion or niorals, whereof I have reason to believe, he began to be sensible. But he was fond of mixing pleasure and business, and of being esteemed excellent at both: upon which account he had a great respect for the characters of Alcibiades and Petronius, especially
the latter, whom he would be gladly thought to resem
But an Alcibiades, or a Petronius, was not likely to be the bosom friend of a Swift, however he might admire his talents, or delight in his society, as a companion. In his political character indeed Swift was very closely connected with him, as Lord Bolingbroke adopted all his ideas, and strenuously supported the measures he proposed: and that they were not pursued, Swift lays the whole blame, in many places, on his friend Oxford, entirely acquitting Lord Bolingbroke of being in the wrong,
of the differences subsisting between them on that
In his first letter to Lord Bolingbroke after the queen's death, dated August 7, 1714, he says, “I will swear for no man's sincerity, much less that of a minister of state; but thus much I have said, wherever it was proper, that your lordship's proposals were always the fairest in the world, and I faithfully delivered them as I was empowered ; and although I am no very skilful man at intrigue, yet I durst forfeit my head, that if the case were mine, I could either have agreed with you, or put you dans vôtre tort.”
We have already seen in his pamphlet of “ Free Thoughts, &c.” intended to be published before the death of the queen, that he throws the whole blame of the des
* The same character is given of him, in a more compendious way, in his Journal, Nov. 3, 1711. “I think Mr. Secretary St. John the, greatest young man I ever knew : wit, capacity, beauty, quickness of apprehension, good learning, and an excellent taste; the best orator in the house of commons, admirable conversation, good nature, and good inanners; generous, and a despiser of money. His only fault is, talking to his friends in way of complaint of too great load of business, which looks a little like affectation; and he endeavours too much to mix the fine gentleman, and the man of pleasure, with the man of business. What truth and sincerity he may have, I know not." S.