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THERE are few things in the world so sad as biography; which is but another way of saying that there is nothing so sad as life when it runs its ordinary course and lasts its appointed time. History, being on a larger scale, saves itself from the burden by the constant succession of new figures which crowd after each other on its canvass. The tragic element is kept in check by the larger story behind, in which each individual has but a passing share. The lite rature of imagination in all its varied forms, poetical, dramatical, or simply narrative, occupies itself with but some culminating point in life, some grand exceptional episode, some striking incident or the story of youth, ever new and ever varied, though always the same. But the sober Muse of individual biography, which traces over and over again the same inevitable career, is a veiled and mournful figure at her best. Where her subject is one of those brief and passionate tragedies which sweep a great soul suddenly out of


the world on the fiery breath of battle, or by the fierce struggle of genius with misfortune, she is at her happiest. Whom the gods love die young the sun that goes down at noon surrounds itself with a thousand lurid clouds and wild reflections of light in darkness; but it avoids all the morne monotony, the insufferable depression, the pitiful pathos and weariness of the life which lingers out to its last moment amid the wreck of all things. Age is sad, not so much because it is age, as because the man who attains it stands on a pedestal of melancholy isolation. Death upon death must have fallen heavy on his heart ere he could reach that point of unenviable superiority. The air about him echoes dully with the sound of lamentation; his friends have fallen around him like the leaves in autumn; his hopes in all probability have shared the same fate. If love survives for him at all, it is the love of self-sacrifice-the devotion which leads some child or friend to give up individual happiness for the

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sake of duty-an offering bittersweet. Thus the story of men's lives is always sad. There could be no more awful commentary on existence than is implied in such a series of sketches as we are at present engaged upon; and in this commentary there are few chapters more painfully instructive than that which concerns the courtly figure now before us, the urbane and polished Chesterfield, statesman, orator, and moralist, but, above all, man of the world.

Chesterfield was born to the possession of most of the good things for which men sigh. The heir to an English earldom, well-born (to use a word at which he himself scoffs), highly educated, highly endowed, a man to whom every prize of life was open, there is something in the very splendour of the circumstances under which he made his entrance into the world which, to a certain extent, explains his character. He was full of individual ambition the good things won for him by his ancestors were not enough to satisfy his restless mind. To make great ness for himself, to advance by his own merits, to secure admiration, applause, and advantage on purely personal grounds, was the great object of his desire. The vantage ground from which he set out was to such a mind a positive injury. Had he been the son of a poor gentleman compelled to win his way slowly, in the first place to a living, and after to all attainable honours, the chances are that Chesterfield would have been a better man. But his position changed the character of all the rewards to which he could aspire. It shut out the possibility of wholesome toil for wholesome advantage. It made the favour of a king, the admiration of society his highest aim. From his first outset in the world until the moment when, with a certain pathetic humour, going out for his daily drive, he explained to his French visitor

that he was going to rehearse his interment, the man Chesterfield was swallowed up in the actor whose part it was to please, to dazzle, to outshine all his surroundings, "to make every man he met like, and every woman love" him. In pursuance of this object he laboured as men labour for the noblest purposes of ambition-he educated, polished, pruned, and cultivated himself as at a later period he endeavoured, with less success, to cultivate his son. He kept himself before the public eye; he said his say upon everything, publicly with the fine periods of elaborate oratory, privately with stinging epigrams of wit. Even his pursuit of pleasure was laborious and for a purpose. When he formed his style with all the pains of a professional elocutionist, he was not more completely at work than when he put himself through a course of such pleasant vices as were then supposed to complete and ripen the reputation of a gentleman. Consciousness of himself and his intentions go with him through everything. Nothing spontaneous, nothing unpremeditated, is in the fatally well-balanced being which rises before us in all his selfrevelations. We are not sure even how far it is possible to apply such a word to the utterances of Chesterfield. The self which he reveals is an artificial self. It is not the natural coxcombry which calls. forth a not unkindly smile, nor the wisdom which, however limited, has some truth of experience in it, that he places before us when he draws the curtain, but rather the impersonation of a carefully-manufactured social creed, a system which he himself knows to be hollow, though he thinks it needful. What true self there was in the man, what human sense there might be in him of the failure that attended all his efforts-failure in himself, failure in his boy, humiliation, loss, abandonment-there is not a word to say. With a certain fidelity to

his creed which is almost touching in its steadiness, the old man even tries, after these two failures, to leave the inheritance of his philosophy, with his lands and his titles, to the far-off kinsman who was his heir. Strange faith, which almost outdoes in its pertinacity the highest religious devotion! The prophet had made but little by it, and had failed totally in transmitting it to his first disciple. But with the humility of a fanatic he is ready to grant that his must have been the fault, and gives testimony with the pale lips of the dying that his system itself was divine!


Chesterfield was born in September 1694, and seems to have been brought up chiefly by his grandmother, the Marchioness of Halifax. In 1712 he went to Cambridge, from which place he writes, with a curious evidence of the difference of education in those days and in our own, to his former tutor, M. Jouneau, a French pastor to whose care his grandmother had confided him. It was the month of August, and he had been passing a week with the Bishop of Ely. In this short time," writes the lad, "I have seen more of the country than I had before seen in all my life, and it is very pleasant hereabouts." A youth of eighteen who could find a landscape like that which surrounds Ely novel and agreeable is indeed a variety upon the experienced boys of our own day. Already, however, the young undergraduate betrayed his tendency towards the study which was to distinguish his life. "I find this college," he adds (Trinity Hall), "infinitely the best in all the University, for it is the smallest, and is full of lawyers who have been in the world, and qui savent vivre." The account of his life at Cambridge which he gives to his son forty years after, is far from agreeing with the boyish wit and sophistication of his letters. "At the University," he says (writing, no doubt, at poor Philip, who loved learning better than the art of

savoir vivre), "I was an absolute pedant. When I talked my best, I quoted Horace; when I aimed at being facetious, I quoted Martial; and when I had a mind to be a fine gentleman, I talked Ovid. I was convinced that none but the ancients had common sense; that the classics contained everything that was necessary, useful, or ornamental to men; and I was not even without thoughts of wearing the toga virilis of the Romans instead of the vulgar and illiberal dress of the moderns." Lord Chesterfield plainly does himself injustice in this, after the manner and with the same object as does the converted coalheaver, who describes to his astonished audience the horrible depths of iniquity in which he once wallowed. His early letters show none of this pedantry. They are in embryo very much what his later letters are-full of well-turned sentences, a lively if somewhat elaborate wit, and intense appreciation of all the arts and graces of society. In one, indeed, the budding politician discloses himself with a little outburst of youthful freedom. The accession of George I., which occurs while he is in Paris, fills him with satisfaction. If he had not liked it for himself, he says, the sadness of the French and the English Jacobites on the death of the Queen would have convinced him of its benefit. benefit. "But when I see," he adds, "how far things had already gone in favour of the Pretender and of Popery, and that we were within an inch of slavery, I consider the death of this woman (to wit, Queen Anne) as absolutely the greatest happiness that has ever befallen England; for if she had lived three months longer, she would no doubt have established her religion, and, as a natural consequence, tyranny; and would have left us after her death a bastard king, as foolish as herself, and who, like her, would have been led by the nose by a band of rascals." This is strong language for a man to use whose

future efforts to lead kings by the nose were most unwearied, though seldom successful. In the same letter the young traveller gives an amusing description of the way in which he had profited by his travels. "I shall not give you my opinion of the French," he says, "because I am very often taken for one of them, and some have paid me the highest compliment they think it in their power to bestow, which is, 'Sir, you are like one of ourselves!' I shall only tell you that I am insolent. I talk a great deal, loudly and with arrogance; I sing and dance as I walk; and above all I spend an immense sum in hair-powder, feathers, and white gloves."

A curious story is told by Dr Maty of Chesterfield's entrance into public life. He was elected member for the borough of St Germains in Cornwall, in the year 1715. It was the first Parliament under the house of Hanover, and the young legislator took the earliest opportunity of letting loose his opinion with a freedom not unlike that with which he had expounded it in writing, in the letter we have just quoted. He said, speaking of Harley and Bolingbroke, that "he was persuaded that the safety of his country required that examples should be made of those who betrayed it in so infamous a manner." When he had ended his speech, a member belonging to the opposite party went over to the new orator: he "complimented him upon his coup d'essai," and added "that he was exactly acquainted with the date of his birth, and could prove that, when he was chosen a member of the House he was not come of age, and that he was not so now: at the same time he assured him that he wished to take no advantage of this, unless his own friends were pushed; in which case, if Chesterfield offered to vote, he would immediately acquaint the House with it." The young man still wanted some weeks

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Soon after this amusing incident the smouldering feud between the King and Prince of Wales broke out into open enmity, and Chesterfield, who had been appointed Lord of the Bedchamber to the latter, was for nearly a dozen years shut out from all preferment. With the hopes natural to the adherents of a young prince, he bore this tacit exclusion from all gains and honours, believing in a better time to come. The Court at Leicester Fields was gay and young, and much more worth frequenting than the heavy old Hanoverian Court at St James's. And though Chesterfield made the mistake of devoting himself to the special service, not of the true mistress of the house and society, but of Lady Suffolk, yet no doubt the life was one that suited him and developed his mind. The wittiest men and the prettiest women in England met there in the slipshod grandeur of the time, with the high spirits of youth, and the stimulus of a common butt as well as of a common expectation. The nasty old Court half a mile off, the heavy wicked German women, the old King with his hideous favourites, must no doubt have afforded the best of subjects for social satire and high-spiced gossip. How it could possibly have happened that Chesterfield found his wife there it is impossible to divine. But there could not have been any question of Mademoiselle Schulemberg when he and the wits of the time met the pretty maids of honour in the apartment of the Princess's bedchamber woman in

waiting, "the fashionable evening rendezvous," as Horace Walpole tells us, "of all the most distinguished wits and beauties."

Towards the end of this pleasant period of expectation, Chesterfield was unwillingly obliged to go through his share of domestic duty in the way of attending his father during his last illness. The Earl had been a harsh and unloving father, and, indeed, seems to have treated his eldest son with downright injustice, preferring a younger brother, upon whom he heaped favours-a circumstance which gives what excuse is possible to the tone in which his son speaks of him. Bretby, the seat of his family, to which Lord Chesterfield's illness called his heir, was intolerable to the young man of fashion. In the whole series of letters, extending over so many years of his life, only two are dated from this ancestral house. In the first he declares that if his imprisonment lasted much longer he should go mad of it. "This place," he writes, "being the seat of horror and despair, where no creatures but ravens, screechowls, and birds of ill omen seem willingly to dwell; for as for the very few human faces that I behold, they look, like myself, rather condemned than inclined to stay here." Fortunately, the sentiments of our grand seigneurs, as well as their habits, have changed since that time.

The modern country-house system, with its heaps of visitors, seems to have been attempted by Sir Robert Walpole at Houghton, to the grave displeasure and animadversion of his neighbours, to whom it was an instance of luxe effréné. But Chesterfield loved town, and clave to it. It was "filial piety" alone that induced his exile,-a piety, he writes coarsely -though it was Lady Suffolk, a woman not without delicacy of mind and feeling, who was his correspondent surpassing that of Eneas, "for when he took such care of his father he was turned of

fourscore, and not likely to trouble him long. . . . Had his father been of the same age as mine, he would not have been quite so well looked after." He was delivered, however, from this bondage in a few months, and became Earl of Chesterfield at the ripe age of thirty-two, shortly before his Prince became King: so that all the good things of life seemed about to fall at once into his expectant hands.


These expectations were but poorly realised. The new reign did not, as has been already described, produce the overturn that was looked for, and the dependants of the Court were grievously disappointed. Chesterfield, however, seems have been one of the few for whom the King, so curiously baffled and cheated out of his own way at the outset of his career, felt it incumbent upon him to do something. And accordingly the ambitious Lord of the Bedchamber was sent off as Ambassador to Holland, the Minister probably being very glad to be rid of so sharp a tongue and so keen a critic. It is at this point in his career that Lord Hervey pauses in his story of Queen Caroline and her Court to describe with cutting and bitter force the character and appearance of his rival courtier. We are not told of any personal quarrel existing between them, but the picture is so uncompromising, so venomous and vindictive, that it is impossible not to see some sharper feeling than mere political opposition behind. Chesterfield, with other too-subtle politicians, had paid court to Lady Suffolk, the supposed possessor of George's affections, instead of his wife, his real sovereign. And this piece of over-wise folly was punished by the dislike and tacit enmity of the Queen. But even Hervey's sympathy with the Queen's dislike is not enough to point such periods as those he devotes to the description of this new claimant of honour.


His person was as disagreeable as it was possible for a human figure

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