Page images

the joys more agreeable to his inclination. He never thought of refuming again the purfuit of knowledge, 'till the fine addrefs of his go vernor, Dr. Balfour, won him in his travels, by degrees, to thofe charms of study, which he had through youthful levity forfaken, and being feconded by reafon, now more ftrong, and a more mature tafte of the pleasure of learning, which the Dr. took care to place in the moft agreeable and advantageous light, he became enamoured of knowledge, in the purfuit of which he often spent thofe hours he fometimes ftole from the witty, and the fair. He returned from his travels in the 18th year of his age, and appeared at court with as great advantage as any young nobleman ever did. He had a graceful and well proporti oned perfon, was mafter of the moft refined breeding, and poffeffed a very obliging and easy manner. He had a vast vivacity of thought, and a L py flow of expreffion, and all who converfed with him entertained the higheft opinion of his understanding; and 'tis indeed no wonder he was fo much careffed at a court which abounded with men of wit, countenanced by a merry prince, who relished nothing fo much as brilliant converfation.

Soon after his lordship's return from his travels, he took the firft occafion that offered, to hazard his life in the fervice of his country.

In the winter of the year 1665 he went to fea, with the earl of Sandwich, when he was fent out against the Dutch Eaft India fleet, and was in the fhip called the Revenge, commanded by Sir Thomas Tiddiman, when the attack was made on the port of Bergen in Norway, the Dutch Ships hav-` ing got into that port. It was, fays Burnet,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


deiperate an attempt as ever was made, and during the whole action, the earl of Rochefter fhewed as brave and refolute a courage as poffi⚫ble. A perfon of honour told me he heard the • lord

[ocr errors]

lord Clifford, who was in the fame fhip, often magnify his courage at that time very highly; nor did the rigour of the feafon, the hardness of the voyage, and the extreme danger he had been in, deter him from running the like the 6 very next occafion; for the fummer following he went to fea again, without communicating his defign to his nearest relations. He went aboard the hip commanded by Sir Edward Spragge, the day before the great fea-fight of that year; almost all the volunteers that went in that ship were killed. During the action, Sir Edward Spragge not being fatisfied with the behaviour of one of the captains, could not eafily find a perfon that would undertake to venture through so much danger to carry his command to the captain; this lord offered himfelf to the fervice, and went in a little boat, through all the fhot, and delivered his meffage, and returned back to Sir Edward, which was much commended by all that faw it.' Thefe are the early inftances of courage, which can be produced in favour of lord Rochester, which was afterwards impeached, and very juftly, for in many private broils, he difcovered a timid pufillanimous fpirit, very unfuitable to thofe noble inftances of the contrary, which have just been mentioned.

The author of his life prefixed to his works, which goes under the name of M. St. Evremond, addreffed to the Duchefs of Mazarine, but which M. Maizeau afferts not to be his, accounts for it, upon the general obfervation of that difparity between a man and himself, upon different occafions. Let it fuffice, fays he, to obferve, that we differ not from one another, more than we do from ourselves at different times.' But we imagine another, and a stronger reafon may be given, for the cowardice which Rochefter afterwards

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]


[ocr errors]

discovered in private broils, particularly in the affair between him and the earl of Mulgrave, in which he behaved very meanly *. The cou rage which lord Rochefter fhewed in a naval engagement, was in the early part of his life, before he had been immerfed in thofe labyrinths of excefs and luxury, into which he afterwards funk. It is certainly a true obfervation, that guilt makes cowards; a man who is continually fubjected to the reproaches of confcience, who is afraid to examine his heart, left it thould appear too horrible, cannot have much courage: for while he is confcious of fo many errors to be repented of, of fo many vices he has committed, he naturally ftarts at danger, and flies from it as his greatest enemy. It is true, courage is fometimes conftitutional, and there have been inftances of men, guilty of every enormity, who have difcovered a large fhare of it, but thefe have been wretches who have overcome all fenfe of honour, been loft to every confideration of virtue, and whofe courage is like that of the lion of the defart,' a kind of ferocious impulfe unconnected with reafon. Lord Rochefter had certainly never overcome the reproaches of his confcience, whofe alarming voice at laft ftruck terror into his heart, and chilled the fire of the fpirits.

Since his travels, and naval expeditions, he feemed to have contracted a habit of temperance, in which 'had he been fo happy as to perfevere, he must have efcaped that fatal rock, on which he afterwards fplit, upon his return to court, where love and pleafure kept their perpetual rounds, under the fmiles of a prince, whom nature had fitted for all the enjoyments of the most luxurious defires. In times fo dif. folute as thefe, it is no wonder if a man of fo warm a conftitution as Rochefter, could not refist the

See the Life of Sheffield Duke of Buckingham.


too flattering temptations, which were heightened by the participation of the court in general. The uncommon charms of Rochester's converfation, induced all men to court him as a companion, tho' they often paid too dear for their curiofity, by being made the fübject of his lampoons, if they happened to have any oddities in their temper, by the expofing of which he could humour his propensity to fcandal. His pleafant extravagancies foon became the subject of general converfation, by which his vanity was at once flattered, and his turn of fatire rendered more keen, by the fuccefs it met with.

Rochester had certainly altrue talent for fatire,and he fpared neither friends nor foes, but let it loofe on all without difcrimination. Majefty itself was not fecure from it; he more than once lampooned the King, whofe weakness and attachment to fome of his mistreffes, he endeavoured to cure by feveral means, that is, either by winning them from him, in fpite of the indulgence and liberality they felt from a royal gallant, or by feverely lampooning them and him on various occafions; which the King, who was a man of wit and pleasure, as well as his lordship, took for the natural fallies of his genius, and meant rather as the amusements of his fancy, than as the efforts of malice; yet, either by a too frequent repetition, or a too close and poignant virulence, the King banished him the court for a fatire made directly on him; this fatire confifts of 28 stanzas, and is entitled The Reftoration, or the Hiftory of the Infipids; and as it contains the keenest reflexions against the political conduct, and private character of that Prince, and having produced the banishment of this noble lord, we fhall here give it a place, by which his lordship's genius for this kind of writing will ap


N 6




Chafte, pious, prudent, Charles the fecond,
The miracle of thy restoration,
May like to that of quails be reckon'd,
Rain'd on the Ifraelitish nation;
The wifh'd-for bleffing from Heaven fent,
Became their curse and punishment.


The virtues in thee, Charles, inherent,
Altho' thy count'nance be an odd piece,
Prove thee as true a God's Vicegerent,
As e'er was Harry with his cod-piece:
For chastity, and pious deeds,

His grandfire Harry Charles exceeds.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Our Romish bondage-breaker Harry,
Efpoufed half a dozen wives.
Charles only one refolv'd to marry,
And other mens he never —— ;.
Yet has he fons and daughters more
Than e'er had Harry by threescore.


Never was fuch a faith's defender ;
He like a politic Prince, and pious,
Gives liberty to confcience tender,

And does to no religion tie us;

Jews, Chriftians, Turks, Papifts, he'll please us With Mofes, Mahomet, or Jefus.

« PreviousContinue »