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upon every feature which regards truth, or justice to the memory of the dead.
2. On his puerile attempt to father upon the English literature an origin which it is needless to call nonhistoric or fabulous, if examined as a pretended fact, since even as a dream it could find no proper place except amongst fairy-tales.
The object of Pope was, if it may be allowed to borrow a modern slang phrase from the street, to “ take a rise" out of the Duke as a derelict abandoned to moralists; this order of Poets, Lord Byron's pretended leaders among poets, having (it seems) a plenary dispensation from any restraints of truth. Pope's idea was that if he could be winked at in representing the great landed proprietor1 as a pauper in the last
fairly considered such in relation to Pope. He died in that memorable year (1688) which witnessed the birth of Pope. But the impression which this Villiers had produced amongst the men of his own age, by the splendor of his natural endowments, both intellectual and physical, was too deep to have faded away suddenly. And it should be remembered that, if the Duke in particular had been reputed to have abused enormous advantages (though most of this rests upon hearsay and gossiping exaggerations), both he and his brother Lord Francis Villiers had made at one period large sacrifices at the command of that duty to the throne which they had been trained to think paramount among all public duties. Lord Francis, even when a boy of eighteen, had prodigally surrendered his life on the field of battle rather than give up his sword to one whom he regarded as a traitor.
1 In order to direct into a proper channel the inquiry as to the Duke of Buckingham's pretended pauperism, I referred to the Fairfax Papers just then published: which reference Peregrine strangely misconstrued as pointing to two little volumes, one of which was a record of the Duke's life by a cadet of the Fairfax family; the other being a little series of personal mem
stage of penniless destitution; if he could be allowed to substitute sub silentio a supposed charitable shelter oranda, drawn up by Lord Fairfax himself, viz., by the last (or better to distinguish him) the historical Lord Fairfax, who commanded in chief at the decisive battle of Naseby, in Northamptonshire, fought on some day a little before midsummer of the year 1645. The object of this little memorial is altogether misstated by Hartley Coleridge in his Worthies of Yorkshire. He supposes the stern old Parliamentary general to have been trying his hand at a specimen of autobiography, which word certainly never entered an English ear until at least one hundred and fifty years after Fairfax and Naseby. The real object of the little memorial (or appeal to posterity) was this: Lord Fairfax, strangely enough for a lord, was a Presbyterian; and a Presbyterian surrounded by great leading officers far abler, more sagacious, and a thousand times more energetic than himself, Cromwell, Ireton, &c., who were not Presbyterians, but virulent haters of Presbyterians, being intense Independents. Down to Naseby, this religious schism had led to no great practical results: but every year the schism was ploughing deeper into the management of political affairs; every year the simple-minded and upright Fairfax found it more difficult to trim the balance between his conscience and the requisitions of his military allies. He drew up this plain little statement, therefore, as a brief key to the whole series of his acts whilst standing under this conflict of influences. And at last, when it was resolved to send a military expedition against Scotland, Lord Fairfax came to a resolution that he had now reached the ultimate limit of his passive acquiescences. Fight against the Scots, whom he regarded as his brothers under religious ties, he would not. This refusal on the part of Fairfax necessarily opened the way for the first time to Cromwell as an absolute autocrat. Cromwell was appointed to the supreme command thus laid open; and at the decisive battle of Dunbar, Cromwell it was that presided. But what connection, the impatient reader asks, exists between the house of Villiers and the more ancient house of Fairfax? Simply this, that the sole daughter, indeed the sole child, of the Naseby Lord Fairfax, many years subsequently, was united in marriage to Villiers, the last Duke of Buckingham, and the particular
from the weather, by some pitying Christian brother, for the true version of the case, viz., the hospitable reception by a tenant of his landlord, under a sudden local surprise of illness; if these harlequin changes could be effected, and if the tenant's house could be quietly metamorphosed into such a hovel as all Ireland is not able to show; with these allowances it would be possible to emblazon such a picture of ruinous improvidence and maniacal dissipation as would glorify harlequin, and would secure all over England to Pope's picture the reputation of the most impressive amongst -pantomimes.
Meantime, to the least reflecting amongst readers there would occur the remembrance of a Latin maxim which has arrested, and for two or three centuries seriously perplexed, the freedom of the pen with regard to persons having the rank and privileges of the dead: viz., the maxim of — De mortuis nil nisi bonum. This adage, in the process of experience, was found entirely at war with the mere necessities of history, of biogra
object of Pope's falsifications. Now it is obvious that the Duchess, with her large settlements, rights of jointure, &c., must be directly or indirectly interested in the true condition and distribution of the vast Villiers estates. Consequently the most natural avenue through which access to information upon this point could hopefully be sought, was The Fairfax Papers, which happened very seasonably about that period to be published. I, for my part, being no further interested in the inquiry than as regarded the pretended pauperism of the Duke, was satisfied with a brief extract made by a friend bearing on this single point. And this was sufficient, since it left no opening for doubt upon the extravagant fictions of Pope. But he, who may be interested in any further prosecution of the inquiry, will now understand what are not the books referred to as authorities, and what (so far as I know) really is.
phy, and, above all, the necessities of human sincerity in acts of daily intercourse. The call for a revisal of this erring maxim became loud and peremptory; and people fancied that at length they had reached the central truth when the maxim assumed the new and more humble form of De mortuis nil nisi verum. But very soon this form also was abandoned; for if the right to insist upon truth in all comments upon themselves were made special to the dead, then what became of us that extensive class of men that had not the advantage of being dead? Logically it was idle to speak of truth as a right even of the living, if by this new variety of the maxim, nil nisi verum, you had sharply limited the right to those who were in the grave. Nevertheless, no difficulty in harmonizing the pretensions of the dead and the living ever was allowed to unsettle the old faith that a peculiar tenderness of reverence and forbearance is due to those who lie helplessly at our feet, and can look for either truth or justice simply to the humanized condition of our nobler sensibilities.
The brutal and unprincipled outrage of Pope upon the slumbering Villiers, in which all the success that could have been anticipated lay in the dragging into broad daylight of a poor fellow-creature's imputed frailties, forcing them upwards "from their dread abode," and from that awful twilight of sad reminiscences to the foul theatrical glare of pantomimic exhibition, must in any case have failed by its excess; and by miscalculation of times and seasons it failed even more than was probable. When the verses were published and dispersed over England, it was found that the age which owned an interest in the Duke of Buck
ingham had passed away: the aquaintances, friends or foes, whose faces would have
"Kindled, like a fire new-stirred,"
at the sound of the magical name Villiers, had by this time ranged on the scale of years all the way upward from one hundred to one hundred and fifty. At the time when this particular series of verses first began to win a school popularity amongst the young ladies of England (viz., from 1775 or thereabouts, to the French Revolution), the name of the Buckingham family was becoming a distant and feeble echo for the ear of England. From Villiers, the Buckingham peerage in a new line was transmigrating to the Grenvilles. Had Pope's little personal Idyll therefore, when varn and framed, been less revoltingly extravagant than it was, still the interest of satire had already faded from features alike and colors. To the multitude, the case read but as a variety of The Prodigal Son. Pope saddened over his own defeated malice. Villiers being at last a mere shadowy name, the man, his character and his history, were alike ciphers for the public ear: locus standi there no longer was for satiric passion. Pope's malice, in fact, had by mere lapse of time confounded itself. For all its expected effects the malice was extinct. But the malicious purpose and plan still survive under the attesting record of Pope's own sign. and seal.
Peregrine meantime views Pope as exercising none but the most notorious and admitted rights in dealing with Buckingham, or with any other deceased man after any fashion suggested by his own malice, or by the clamorous call for impressive effects. But this doc