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The first prelude to his misfortunes, may justly be reckoned his falling in love, and privately marrying a young lady, the daughter of major general Holmes; a match by no means suited to his birth, fortune and character; and far less to the ambitious views his father had of disposing of him in such a marriage, as would have been a considerable addition to the fortune and grandeur of his ill.u.s.trious family. However disappointed the earl of Wharton might be, in his son's marrying beneath his quality; yet that amiable lady who became his daughter-in-law deserved infinitely more felicity than she met with by an alliance with his family; and the young lord was not so unhappy through any misconduct of hers, as by the death of his father, which this precipitate marriage is thought to have hastened. The duke being so early freed from paternal restraints, plunged himself into those numberless excesses, which became at last fatal to him; and he proved, as Pope expresses it,
A tyrant to the wife his heart approv'd; A rebel to the very king he lov'd.
The young lord in the beginning of the year 1716 indulged his desire of travelling and finishing his education abroad; and as he was designed to be instructed in the strictest Whig principles, Geneva was judged a proper place for his residence. On his departure from England for this purpose, he took the rout of Holland, and visited several courts of Germany, and that of Hanover in particular.
Though his lordship was now possessed of his family estate, as much as a minor could be; yet his trustees very much limited his expences, and made him too moderate remittances, for a person of his rank and spirit. This gave him great uneasiness, and embarra.s.sed him much in his way of living, which ill suited with the profusion of his taste. To remove these difficulties, he had recourse to mortgaging, and by premiums and large interest paid to usurers, supplied his present necessities, by rendering his affairs still worse.
The unhappy divisions which reigned in England at the time this young peer made his first entry into public life, rendered it almost impossible for him to stand neuter, and on whatever side he should declare himself, still there was danger. The world generally expected he would follow the steps of his father, who was one of the first English gentlemen who joined the prince of Orange, and continued firm to the Revolution principles, and consequently approved the Hanoverian succession, upon whose basis it was built. But whatever motives influenced the young marquis (for king William had bestowed this t.i.tle on his father) he thought proper to join the contrary party. The cause of his abandoning the principles of the Whigs is thought to be this.
The marquis being arrived at Geneva, he conceived so great a disgust at the dogmatical precepts of his governor, the restraints he endeavoured to lay upon him, and the other instances of strict discipline exercised in that meridian of Presbyterianism, that he fell upon a scheme of avoiding these intolerable inc.u.mbrances; so, like a torrent long confined within its bounds by strong banks, he broke loose, and entered upon engagements, which, together with the natural impetuosity of his temper, threw him into such inconveniencies, as rendered the remaining part of his life unhappy.
His lordship, as we have already observed, being very much disgusted with his governor, left him at Geneva, and as if he had been flying from a pestilence, set out post for Lyons, where he arrived about the middle of October 1716.
The author of the duke of Wharton's life has informed us, that the reason of his lordship's leaving his governor so abruptly, was on account of the freedom with which that gentleman treated him, a circ.u.mstance very disgustful to a person of his quality. He took leave of him in the following manner.
His lordship somewhere in his travels had picked up a bear's cub, of which he was very fond, and carried it about with him; but when he was determined to abandon his tutor, he left the cub behind him, with the following note addressed to him.
'Being no longer able to bear with your ill-usage, I think proper to be gone from you; however, that you may not want company, I have left you the bear, as the most suitable companion in the world, that could be picked out for you.'
When the marquis was at Lyons he took a very strange step, little expected from him. He wrote a letter to the Chevalier de St. George, then residing at Avignon, to whom he presented a very fine stone-horse. Upon receiving this present, the Chevalier sent a man of quality to the marquis, who carried him privately to his court, where he was received with the greatest marks of esteem, and had the t.i.tle of duke of Northumberland conferred upon him. He remained there however but one day, and then returned post to Lyons; from whence he set out for Paris. He likewise made a visit to the queen dowager of England, consort to king James the IId. then residing at St. Germains, to whom he paid his court, pursued the same rash measures as at Avignon.
During his stay at Paris, his winning address, and astonishing parts, gained him the esteem and admiration of all British subjects of both parties who happened to be there. The earl of Stair, then amba.s.sador at the court of France from the king of Great Britain, notwithstanding all the reports to the marquis's disadvantage, thought proper to shew some respect to the representative of so great a family, which had so resolutely supported the present administration, especially as he was a young man of such great personal accomplishments, both natural and acquired, and blest with a genius so capable of serving his country even in the most eminent station.
These considerations induced lord Stair, who was a prudent, discerning minister, to countenance the young marquis, give him frequent invitations to his table, and to use him with distinguishing civility. The earl was likewise in hopes, by these gentle measures, and this insinuating behaviour, to win him to his party, which he had good reason to think he hated. His excellency never failed to lay hold of every opportunity, to give him some admonitions, which were not always agreeable to the vivacity of his temper, and sometimes provoked him to great indiscretions. Once in particular, the amba.s.sador extolling the merit, and n.o.ble behaviour of the marquis's father, added, 'That he hoped he would follow so ill.u.s.trious an example of fidelity to his prince, and love to his country, by treading in the same steps.'-Upon which the marquis immediately answered, 'That he thanked his excellency for his good advice, and as his excellency had also a worthy and deserving father, he hoped he would likewise copy so bright an original and tread in all his steps.' This was a severe sarcasm, as the amba.s.sador's father had betrayed his master in a manner that was quite shameful. He acted the same part in Scotland, which Sunderland did in England. They pushed on king James the IId. to take violent and unconst.i.tutional measures, to make his ruin certain: They succeeded in their scheme, and after the Revolution, boasted their conduct as meritorious; but however necessary it might be for king William, upon principles of policy to reward the betrayers, he had yet too good a heart to approve the treachery.-But to return to the marquis, we shall mention another of his juvenile fights, as an instance to what extravagant and unaccountable excesses, the inconstancy of his temper would sometimes transport him.
A young English surgeon, who went to Paris, to improve himself in his business, by observing the practice in the celebrated hospitals, pa.s.sing by the emba.s.sador's house on the 10th of June at night, took the liberty to break his excellency's windows because there was no bonfire before his door. Upon this outrage he was seized and committed prisoner to Fort L'Eveque. This treatment of the young surgeon was resented by the marquis; but he fought for no other satisfaction than to break the amba.s.sador's windows a second time. Accordingly his lordship proposed it to an Irish lieutenant-general, in the service of France, a gentleman of great honour and of the highest reputation for abilities in military affairs, desiring his company and a.s.sistance therein. The general could not help smiling at the extravagance of the proposal, and with a great deal of good-nature advised his lordship by all means not to make any such attempts; 'but if he was resolutely bent upon it, he begg'd to be excused from being of the party, for it was a method of making war to which he had never been accustomed.' We might here enumerate more frolics of the same kind which he either projected, or engaged in, but we chuse rather to omit them as they reflect but little honour on the marquis.-We shall only observe, that before he left France, an English gentleman of distinction expostulating with him, for swerving so much from the principles of his father and his whole family, his lordship answered, 'That he had p.a.w.ned his principles to Gordon the Pretender's banker for a considerable sum; and till he could repay him, he must be a Jacobite, but that when that was done he would again return to the Whigs.'
About the latter end of December 1716, the marquis arrived in England, where he did not remain long, till he set out for Ireland; in which kingdom, on account of his extraordinary qualities, he had the honour done him of being admitted, though under age, to take his seat in that august a.s.sembly of the house of peers, to which he had a right as earl of Rathfarnam, and marquis of Catherlough. Here he espoused a very different interest from that which he had so lately embraced. He distinguished himself on this occasion as a violent partizan for the ministry; and acted in all other respects, as well in his private as public capacity, with the warmest zeal for the government. The speeches which he made in the house upon many occasions, uttered with so much force of expression, and propriety of emphasis, were an irrefutable demonstration of his abilities, and drew upon him the admiration of both kingdoms. The marquis's arguments had very great influence on which side of the question soever he happened to be.-No n.o.bleman, either in that or the English house of peers, ever acquitted himself with greater reputation, or behaved with a more becoming dignity than he did during this session of the Irish parliament. In consequence of this zeal for the new government, shewn at a time when they stood much in need of men of abilities, and so little expected from the young marquis, the king who was no stranger to the most refined rules of policy, created him a duke, the highest degree of a subject.
In the preamble to his patent, after a detail of the merit of his father, and his services to the government are ill.u.s.trated, his lordship's behaviour in Ireland and his early endowments are thus mentioned.
'When we see the son of that great man, forming himself by so worthy an example, and in every action exhibiting a lively resemblance of his father; when we consider the eloquence he has exerted with so much applause in the parliament of Ireland, and his turn and application, even in early youth to the serious and weighty affairs of the public, we willingly decree him honours which are neither superior to his merits, nor earlier than the expectation of our good subjects.'
As soon as the duke of Wharton came of age, he was introduced to the house of lords in England, with the like blaze of reputation, and raised jealousies in the b.r.e.a.s.t.s of the most consummately artful, and best qualified in the house of peers. A little before the death of lord Stanhope, his grace, who was constant in nothing but inconstancy, again changed sides, opposed the court, and endeavoured to defeat all the schemes of the ministry.
He appeared one of the most forward and vigorous in the defence of the bishop of Rochester, and in opposing the bill for inflicting pains and penalties on that prelate.
The judicious observations he made on the trial of the bishop, and the manner in which he summed up and compared a long and perplexed kind of evidence, with inimitable art and perspicuity, may be seen in the duke's speech upon that extraordinary occasion, which is a lasting proof of his amazing abilities in the legislative capacity, as well as of his general knowledge of public business.
He, however, did not confine this spirit of opposition to the house of lords, but exerted it both in city and country, promoting in all kinds of elections such persons as were supposed to be no fautors of the court. Such was the hatred he now conceived to the ministry, and such his desire of becoming eminent; that he even pushed himself into the city of London; was invested with the rights and privileges of a citizen, and was entered a member of the wax-chandler's company; by virtue of which he appeared at all meetings, charmed all societies, and voted in his own right upon all occasions.
Notwithstanding his astonishing activity in opposition to the court, he was not yet satisfied that he had done enough. He could not be in all places, and in all companies at once. As much an orator as he was, he could not talk to the whole nation, and therefore he printed his thoughts twice a week, in a paper called the True-Briton, several thousands of which being dispersed weekly, the duke was pleased to find the whole kingdom giving attention to him, and admiring him as an author, though they did not at all approve his reasoning.
Those political papers, which were reckoned by some the standard of good sense, and elegant writing, were collected together in his life-time, and reprinted by his order, with a preface, in which he gives his reasons for engaging in an undertaking so uncommon to a person of his distinction.
Here it will not be improper to remark, that notwithstanding all those instances of the duke's zeal, his sincerity in opposing the ministry was yet suspected, as his former behaviour was so very inconsistent with it; but he never failed to justify himself throughout the different and contrary courses of his conduct, pretending always to have acted consistently with the honour and interest of the realm. But he never was able in this particular to obtain the public judgment in his favour.
It is impossible to reconcile all the various actions of this n.o.ble-man. He was certainly too much governed by whim and accident. From this time forward, however, though he might deviate from the strict rules of a moral life, he cannot be said to have done so with respect to his politics. The same principles on which he set out, he carried to his grave, with steadiness through all the events of fortune, and underwent such necessities, as few of his quality ever experienced, in a cause, the revival and success of which had long been desperate, before he engaged in it.
The duke's boundless profusion had by this time so burthened his estate, that a decree of chancery took hold on it, and vested it in the hands of trustees for the payment of his debts, but not without making a provision of 1200 l. per annum for his subsistence. This allowance not being sufficient to support his t.i.tle with suitable dignity at home, he proposed to go abroad for some years, 'till his estate should clear itself of inc.u.mbrances. His friends, for his own sake, were pleased with this resolution, and every body considered this course as the most prudent, that in such circ.u.mstances could be taken. But in this the world was deceived, for he went abroad from no such prudent motive, oeconomy being a virtue of which he never had the least notion in any part of his life. His business at Vienna was to execute a private commission, not in favour of the English ministry, nor did he ever shine to greater advantage, as to his personal character, than at the Imperial court.
From Vienna his grace made a tour to the court of Spain, where his arrival alarmed the English minister so much, that two expresses were sent from Madrid to London, upon the apprehension that his grace was received there in the character of an amba.s.sador, upon which the duke received a summons under the Privy Seal to return home. His behaviour on this occasion was a sufficient indication that he never designed to return to England, whilst affairs remained in the same state, and the administration in the same hands they then were in. This he often declared from his going abroad the second time, which, no doubt, was the occasion of his treating that solemn order with so much indignity, and endeavouring to enflame the Spanish court, not only against the person who delivered the warrant, but against the court of Great Britain itself, for exercising an act of power, as he was pleased to call it, within the jurisdiction of his Catholic Majesty. After this he acted openly in the service of the Pretender, and appeared at his court, where he was received with great marks of favour.
While his grace was thus employed abroad, his d.u.c.h.ess, who had been neglected by him, died in England, on the 14th of April 1726, and left no issue behind her. The lady's death gave the duke no great shock. He was disenc.u.mbered of her and had now an opportunity of mending his fortune by marriage.
Soon after this, the duke fell violently in love with Mademoiselle Obern, a beautiful young lady at the Spanish court, who was then one of the maids of honour to the Queen of Spain. She was daughter of an Irish colonel in that service, who being dead, her mother lived upon a pension the King allowed her, so that this lady's fortune consisted chiefly in her personal accomplishments. Many arguments were used by their friends on both sides to dissuade them from the marriage. The Queen of Spain, when the duke asked her consent, represented to him in the most lively terms, that the consequence of the match would be misery to both, and absolutely refused her consent.
Having now no hopes of obtaining her, he fell into a violent melancholy, which introduced a lingering fever, of which he languished 'till he was almost ready to drop into the ground. This circ.u.mstance reaching her Majesty's ear, she was moved with his distress, and sent him word to endeavour the recovery of his health, and as soon as he was able to appear abroad, she would speak to him in a more favourable manner, than at their last interview. The duke upon receiving this news, imagined it the best way to take the advantage of the kind disposition her Majesty was in; and summoning to his a.s.sistance his little remaining strength, he threw himself at her Majesty's feet, and begged of her either to give him Mademoiselle Obern, or not to order him to live, a.s.suring her, in the language of tragedy, that she was to p.r.o.nounce the sentence of his life, or death. The Queen consented, but told him he would soon repent it, and the young lady being dazzled with the l.u.s.tre of a ducal t.i.tle, and besides having a real value for her lover, they were soon united by an indissoluble bond.
After the solemnization of his marriage, he pa.s.sed some time at Rome, where he accepted of a blue garter, affected to appear with the t.i.tle of duke of Northumberland, and for awhile enjoyed the confidence of the exiled Prince. But as he could not always keep himself within the bounds of the Italian gravity, and having no employment to amuse his active temper, he ran into his usual excesses, which giving offence, it was thought proper for him to remove from that city for the present, lest he should fall into actual disgrace. Accordingly the duke quitted Rome, and went by sea to Barcelona, where hearing that the trenches were opening before Gibraltar, he resolved upon a new scene of life, which few suspected he would ever engage in. He wrote a letter to the King of Spain, acquainting him, 'That he designed to take up arms in his Majesty's service, and apprehending that his forces were going to reduce the town of Gibraltar under his obedience, he hoped he should have his permission to a.s.sist at the siege as a volunteer.'
This done, he went to the camp, taking his d.u.c.h.ess along with him, and was received with all the marks of respect due to his quality. The Conde de la Torres, who commanded there, delivered him an obliging letter from the King his master, thanking him for the honour he intended him, by serving in his troops, and during that siege, appointed him his aid-de-camp, by which, post the duke was to give an account of all transactions to his Majesty himself, which obliged him to be often in the trenches, and to expose his person to imminent danger. During this siege want of courage was never imputed to him; on the contrary, he was often guilty of the most imprudent rashness. One evening he went close to the walls, near one of the posts of the town, and threatened the soldiers of the garrison. They asked who he was? he readily answered, the duke of Wharton; and though he appeared there as an enemy, they suffered him to return to the trenches without firing one shot at him.
This siege was ended, and the duke received no other hurt, than a wound in his foot by the bursting of a grenade, and when nothing more was to be done in the camp, he went to court, where he was held in the utmost respect by the princ.i.p.al n.o.bility. The King likewise, as a mark of his favour, was pleased to give him a commission of Colonel Agregate (that was the term) to one of the Irish regiments, called Hibernia, and commanded by the marquis de Castelar.
Could the duke have been satisfied with that state of life, and regulated his expences according to his income, he had it then in his power to live, if not affluently, at least easily. But in a short time he was for changing the scene of action; he grew weary of Madrid, and set his heart on Rome. In consequence of this resolution, he wrote a letter to the Chevalier de St. George, full of respect and submission, expressing a desire of visiting his court; but the Chevalier returned for answer, that he thought it more advisable for his grace to draw near England, than make a tour to Rome, that he might be able to accommodate matters with the government at home, and take some care of his personal estate. The Chevalier very prudently judged, that so wretched an oeconomist as the duke, would be too great a burden to a person, whose finances were not in a much better condition than his own. Be that as it may, the duke seemed resolved to follow his advice, and accordingly set out for France, in company with his d.u.c.h.ess, and attended by two or three servants, arrived at Paris in May 1728. He sent a letter to Mr. Walpole then emba.s.sador there, to let him know he designed to visit him. That gentleman returned the duke a civil answer, importing, 'that he should be glad to see his grace at his own time, if he intended it a public visit; if a private one, they would agree upon an hour, that should be most convenient.' The duke declared that he would come publicly, which he did next day, and his discourse with that minister was suitable to the usual gaiety of his temper; for though he spoke of returning home, it was in such an undetermined way, that Mr. Walpole could not guess his real intentions. He received the duke however with his usual complaisance, and with a respect agreeable to his quality, but was not a little surprized, when, at parting, his grace told him, he was going to dine with the bishop of Rochester. Mr. Walpole answered, 'That if he had a design of making that prelate a visit, there was no manner of occasion for telling him of it.' Thus they parted, and never again had another interview.
The duke made little stay at Paris, but proceeded to Rouen in his way, as some imagined, to England; but there he stopt, and took up his residence, without reflecting in the least on the business that brought him to France. He was so far from making any concession to the government in order to make his peace, that he did not give himself the least trouble about his personal estate, or any other concern in England. The duke had about 600 l. in his possession, when he arrived at Rouen, where more of his servants joined him from Spain. There he formed his houshold, and made a calculation, in which there appeared to be but one mistake, that is, he proportioned his expences, not according to his income, but quality; and though every argument was used to convince him of this error, at once so obvious and fatal, yet he would hearken to no admonition while he had one crown left.
At Rouen, as in every other place, the duke charmed all those who conversed with him; he was warmly received by persons of the first distinction in that province, with whom he took the diversion of hunting twice a week, 'till some news arrived, which would have given interruption to the mirth of any other man; but the alteration was scarce to be perceived in him.
This was a Bill of Indictment preferred against Philip duke of Wharton, for high treason. The fact laid to his charge was, appearing in arms before, and firing off cannon against, his Majesty's town of Gibraltar. Here we cannot omit an anecdote, from which the reader may draw what conclusion he pleases. During the time the proceedings against the duke were at a stand in the long vacation, a gentleman of character, intimately acquainted with the duke, and also with his affairs in England; one who enjoyed the sunshine of court favour, and was a Member of Parliament, went over to Rouen to visit his grace, in company with another gentleman. These two visitants took a great deal of pains to persuade him to submit to the government, and return to his estate, which they a.s.sured him he might do, by writing a letter to the King, or the ministry. This alone, without any other pretensions to favour, was to re-establish him, and leave him the free enjoyment of his estate, which, notwithstanding all the reductions, would even then have yielded 6000 l. a year. This point they sollicited incessantly, and their words of honour were given, to remove all scruples his grace might have about the performance of the conditions. Their interpositions were however in vain; he refused to submit to the ministry, or write to the King, and thought it beneath him to ask a favour.
This conduct of the duke may be imputed, by some, to pride and obstinacy, but a more natural construction is, that he was afraid of treachery. He could not discover upon what motives, two persons whom he looked upon as creatures of the court, would give themselves the trouble to come to Rouen, in order to persuade him to act for his own interest, unless they had some concealed views of such a nature, perhaps, as would prove fatal to him, should he submit.
He soon after this received advice from England, that his trustees could remit him no more of his annuity, on account of the indictment preferred against him. There was now a dreadful prospect before him; his money was wasted; all future supplies cut off; and there was a large family to support, without any hopes of relief. He began now to feel the effects of the indictment, which he before held in so much contempt; he complained of it as a rigorous proceeding, because it laid him under a necessity of asking a favour, and receiving it in a public manner, which he fancied neither consistent with his honour, or reputation. Thus exasperated against the government, he wrote the memorable paper which he contrived to get printed in Mist's Journal, under the colour of an account of Mirevais and Sultan Ezref, which contained severe reflexions on the administration. Mean time the duke's credit at Rouen began to sink; he was attended every morning with a considerable levee, consisting of the tradesmen of that city, who came with importunate faces to demand payment of their bills, which he discharged by quitting Rouen, leaving his horses and equipage to be sold, and the money to be divided among them. The duke, before this event, had thrown himself at the feet of the Chevalier de St. George, as the only possible resource he had left. Accordingly he wrote him a most moving letter, giving him a detail of his present sufferings, very pathetically representing the distress to which he was reduced, and humbly imploring his protection, with what little a.s.sistance might be necessary to enable him to support such a burthen of calamities, as he found otherwise too heavy to bear.
The duke having now returned to Paris, made a considerable reformation in his houshold affairs, and placed himself in a private family, while the d.u.c.h.ess went to a relation's at St. Germains. In the mean while the answer of the letter sent to Rome came in its proper time, in which his imprudent conduct was represented; but at the same time was touched with so light and delicate a hand, that it gave the duke but little uneasiness. No hopes were given him, that he should be gratified in his extravagancies, or flattered in his levities; on the contrary he was told, 'That as his past conduct had not merited any favour, nothing but his future behaviour could recommend him to it.' The duke had sufficient penetration to discover by this hint, that he was not likely to be abandoned, which was consolation enough to one of his sanguine temper, in the then desperate situation of his affairs.-The Chevalier de St. George soon after sent him 2000 l. for his support, of which he was no sooner in possession, than he squandered it away in a course of extravagance. In reality, money seemed to be such a burthen to him, that he bent all his thoughts to get rid of it as fast as possible; and he was as unwilling his companions should be troubled with it as himself. As a proof of this strange temper we shall quote one instance amongst many in the words of the writer of his life, which will serve to shew the heedless profusion of that unaccountable n.o.bleman.
'A young Irish lord of the duke's acquaintance, of a sweet obliging and generous disposition, happening to be at St. Germains, at the time his grace was paying a visit to his lady; the duke came to him one night, with an air of business, and told his lordship that an affair of importance called him instantly to Paris, in which no time was to be lost, wherefore he begged the favour of his lordship's coach. The young n.o.bleman lent it very readily, but as the duke was stepping into it, he added, that he should reckon it an additional obligation, if his lordship would give him, his company: As the duke was alone, the young lord either could not, or would not, refuse him. They went together for Paris, where they arrived about midnight. The duke's companion then supposing his grace's business might demand privacy, offered to leave him and come again, when it should be finished; but he a.s.sured his lordship it was not necessary; upon which they went upon the following frolic together. The first thing to be done, was to hire a coach and four horses; the next to find out the music belonging to the Opera, six or eight of which his grace engaged at a set price: The young lord could not imagine in what this would end; till they returned to St. Germains, which was at five the next morning when the duke marching directly with his troop to the castle, ordered them to strike upon the stairs. Then the plot broke out into execution, being no more than to serenade some young ladies, near whose apartments they then were.
'This piece of extravagant gallantry being over, the duke persuaded the young lord to go about a mile off, to Poissy, where an English gentleman 'of their acquaintance lived: His lordship consenting, the duke took with him a pair of trumpets, and a kettle-drum, to give the music a more martial air: But to this the Opera music made an objection at first, because as they should be wanted that night in their posts, they should forfeit half a louis d' or each, for non-appearance. Half a louis d' or! says his grace, follow the duke of Wharton, and all your forfeitures shall be paid. They did so, and entered Poissy in such a musical manner, that they alarmed the whole town, and their friend did not know whether he had best keep his house, or fly for it; but the affair was soon explained, and the musical troop was entertained by the gentleman their friend, in a very handsome manner. This frolic being now finished, there was one thing more absolutely necessary, viz. to discharge the reckoning, upon which occasion the duke in a very laconic manner addressed himself to the young lord.' My lord, says he, 'I have not one livre in my pocket, wherefore I must desire you to pay these fellows, and I'll do as much for you whenever I am able. Upon this his lordship with great chearfulness, paid all demands, amounting to 25 louis d' ors.'
It may seem a strange observation, but it is certainly true, that the brute creation differs not more from the rational in many respects, than a man from himself: That by suffering pa.s.sions to usurp the dominion of the soul, human nature is stript of its dignity, debased to the beasts that perish, and still rendered more ignominious by the complications of guilt. We have already seen the duke of Wharton set up as the idol of an admiring people; an august senate listened to the enchantments of his eloquence; a powerful ministry dreading his resolutions; he was courted, flattered, feared; and obeyed. View him now, and the scene is shifted. Observe him descending to the most abject trifling, stooping to the meanest expedients, and the orator and statesman transformed to the vagabond and the wanderer.
No incident in this n.o.bleman's life has been represented more to his disadvantage, and is in itself more interesting than the following. The account which is here inserted was sent to a friend by the duke's express order.
A Scots peer with whom both the duke, and the d.u.c.h.ess lived in great intimacy in Italy, happening to come to Paris, when the duke was there, they renewed their acquaintance and friendship, and for some time continued with mutual freedom, till the duke had reason to believe from what he heard from others, that the peer had boasted favours from the d.u.c.h.ess of Wharton.
This instance of wanton vanity, the duke could not help resenting, though he often declared since the quarrel, that he never had the least suspicion of the d.u.c.h.ess's honour. He resolved therefore very prudently to call the Scots lord to an account, without letting him know it was for the d.u.c.h.ess or so much as mentioning her name; accordingly he took occasion to do it in this manner.
It happened that the duke of Wharton and his lordship met at a lady's whom they mutually visited, and the duke dropping his glove by chance, his lordship took it up, and returned it to the duke; who thereupon asked him if he would take it up in all it's forms? To which his lordship answered, yes, my lord, in all its forms.
Some days after, the duke gave a ball at St. Germains, to which he invited the Scots n.o.bleman, and some person indiscretely asked his grace whether he had forbid the d.u.c.h.ess's dancing with lord C--. This gave the duke fresh reason to believe that the Scots peer had been administring new grounds for his resentment, by the wantonness of calumny. He dissembled his uneasiness for the present, and very politely entertained the company till five o'clock in the morning, when he went away without the ceremony of taking leave; and the next news that was heard of him was from Paris, from whence he sent a challenge to lord C--d, to follow him to Flanders.
The challenge was delivered by his servant, and was to this effect: 'That his lordship might remember his saying he took up his glove in all its forms, which upon mature reflexion, his grace looked upon to be such an affront, as was not to be born, wherefore he desired his lordship to meet him at Valenciennes, where he would expect him with a friend and a pair of pistols; and on failure of his lordship's coming his grace would post him, &c.
The servant who delivered the letter, did not keep its contents a secret; and lord C--d was taken into custody, when he was about setting out to meet his grace. All that remained then for his lordship to do, was to send a gentleman into Flanders, to acquaint the duke with what happened to him. His grace upon seeing the gentleman, imagining him to be his lordship's second, spoke to him in this manner; 'Sir, I hope my lord will favour me so far as to let us use pistols, because the wound I received in my foot before Gibraltar, in some measure disables me from the sword.' Hereupon the gentleman replied with some emotion, 'My lord duke, you might chuse what you please; my lord C--d will fight you with any weapon, from a small pin to a great cannon; but this is not the case, my lord is under an arrest, by order of the duke of Berwick.'