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THE life of the earl of Halifax was properly that of an artful and active statesman, employed in balancing parties, contriving expedients, and combating opposition, and exposed to the vicissitudes 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 verse. 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 1677, he was chosen a king's scholar, and recommended himself to Busby by his felicity in extemporary epigrams. 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 following, he was afraid lest by being placed at Oxford he might be separated from his companion, and therefore solicited to be removed to Cambridge, without waiting for the advantages of another year. It seems indeed time to wish for a removal; for he was already a schoolboy 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 Country Mouse, a burlesque of Dryden's Hind and Panther. He signed the invitation to the prince of Orange, and sat in the convention. He about the same time married the countess dowager of Manchester, and intended to have taken orders; but afterward altering his purpose, he purchased for fifteen hundred pounds, 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 wellto 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 a while silent; but, recovering himself, observed, “how reasonable it was to allow counsel to men called as criminals before a court of justice, when it appeared how much the presence of that assembly could disconcert one of their own body.” 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, esquire, 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 dismissed by the lords. At the accession of queen Anne he was dismissed 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 with 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 sat 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 the first was made earl of Halifax, knight of the garter, and first commissioner 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 him, Swift with slight censure, and Pope in the
* 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. William, 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.
character of Bufo with acrimonious contempt. He was, as Pope says, “fed with dedications;” for Tickell
affirms that no dedicator was unrewarded. To charge all un
merited praise with the guilt of flattery, and to suppose that the
encomiast always knows and feels the falsehood of his assertions,
is surely to discover great ignorance of human nature and human
life. In determinations depending not on rules, but on expe
rience and comparison, judgment, is always in some degree V of, . I- 46
subject to affectation. Very near to admiration is the wish to admire. Every man willingly gives value to the praise which hereceives, and considers the sentence passed in his favour as the sentence of discernment. We admire in a friend that understanding which selected us for confidence; we admire more, in a patron, that judgment which, instead of scattering bounty indiscriminately, directed it to us; and, if the patron be an author, those performances which gratitude forbids us to blame, affection will easily dispose us to exalt. To these prejudices, hardly culpable, interest adds a power always operating, though not always, because not willingly, perceived. The modesty of praise wears gradually away; and perhaps the pride of patronage may be in time so increased, that modest praise will no longer please. Many a blandishment was practised upon Halifax, which he would never have known, had he had no other attractions than those of his poetry, of which a short time has withered the beauties. It would now be esteemed no honour, by a contributor to the monthly bundles of verses, to be told, that, in strains either familiar or solemn, he sings like Montague.
T HE life of Dr. PARNELL is a task which I should very will. ingly decline, since it has been lately written by Goldsmith, a *man of such variety of powers, and such felicity of performance, that he always seemed to do best that which he was doing ; a man who had the art of being minute without tediousness, and general without confusion; whose language was copious without exuberance, exact without constraint, and easy without weakIness. What such an author has told, who would tell again I have made an abstract from his larger narrative; and have this gratification from my attempt, that it gives me an opportunity of paying due tribute to the memory of Goldsmith.
THoMAs PARNELL was the son of a commonwealthsman of the same name, who, at the restoration, left Congleton in Cheshire, where the family had been established for several centuries, and, settling in Ireland, purchased an estate, which, with his lands in Cheshire descended to the poet, who was born at Dublin in 1679; and, after the usual education at a grammar school, was at the age of thirteen, admitted into the college, where, in 1700, he became master of arts; and was the same year ordained a deacon, though under the canonical age, by a dispensation from the bishop of Derry. About three years afterward he was made a priest; and in 1705 Dr. Ashe, the bishop of Clogher, conferred upon him the archdeaconry of Clogher. About the same time he married Mrs. Anne Minchin, an amiable lady, by whom he had two sons, who died young, and a daughter who long survived him. At the ejection of the whigs, in the end of queen Anne's reign, Parnell was persuaded to change his party, not without much