Budgell, Eustace (DNB00)

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BUDGELL, EUSTACE (1686–1737), miscellaneous writer, was born 19 Aug. 1686, and baptised 2 Sept. (information from W. Pengelly, F.R.S.) He was the son of Gilbert Budgell, D.D., of St. Thomas, Exeter, by his first wife Mary, only daughter of Bishop Gulston of Bristol, whose sister was wife of Lancelot, and mother of Joseph Addison. He matriculated 31 March 1705 at Trinity College, Oxford (Register of Trinity College, 175). He afterwards entered the Inner Temple, and was called to the bar; but an intimacy with his cousin Addison diverted him from his profession. Addison, while secretary to Wharton, the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, made Budgell a clerk in his office. He shared Addison's lodgings during the last years of Queen Anne, and took a considerable part in the ‘Spectator.’ Thirty-seven papers are ascribed to him (N. Drake's Essays, iii. 18). They are palpable imitations of Addison's manner. One of them (No. 116) is an account of Sir Roger de Coverley in the hunting-field. Johnson mentions a report that Addison had ‘mended them so much that they were almost his own’ (Boswell, 26 April 1776). It was also said that Addison was the real author of an epilogue to Ambrose Philips's ‘Distressed Mother,’ the ‘most successful ever spoken in an English theatre;’ and had Budgell's name substituted for his own at the last moment, to strengthen his young cousin's claims to a place (Johnson, Life of Philips). In 1714 Budgell published a translation of ‘Theophrastus,’ duly praised by Addison in the ‘Lover’ (No. 39). In 1711 the death of Budgell's father had put him in possession of an estate of 950l. a year, encumbered with some debt. On the accession of George I Addison became secretary to the lord-lieutenant, and made Budgell under-secretary. Budgell was also chief secretary to the lords justices, deputy clerk of the council, and M.P. for Mullingar (1715–27) in the Irish Parliament. He takes credit for energetic and disinterested conduct during the strain put upon his office by the despatch of troops to Scotland in 1715 (Letter to Lord ——). Upon leaving Ireland in 1717 Addison procured for Budgell the place of accountant-general, worth 400l. a year. He held this appointment from 10 Aug. 1717 to 11 Dec. 1718.

In August 1717 the Duke of Bolton succeeded Sunderland as lord-lieutenant. His secretary, E. Webster, quarrelled with Budgell, who was ultimately deprived of his places. From a pamphlet which he published on returning to England (Letter to the Lord —— from Eustace Budgell, Accountant-General of Ireland and late Secretary to the Lords Justices) and ‘Remarks’ upon his letter (written or inspired by Webster) it seems that the dispute turned mainly upon a clerkship in the office which Budgell desired to keep for his brother, while Webster appointed a Mr. Maddockes. Addison, it is said, disapproved of Budgell's publication, and it is significant that in 1719 Budgell is said to have written a pamphlet against the peerage bill, thus offending Sunderland, Addison's patron, and taking the side of Steele in his famous quarrel with Addison.

Budgell travelled abroad, and returned to lose 20,000l., as he says (Liberty and Property, i. 137), in the South Sea. The Duke of Portland had lost a large estate in the same affair, and helped Budgell to circulate various pamphlets on the occasion, especially a paper distributed to members of parliament, ‘Letter to a Friend in the Country,’ and ‘A Letter to Mr. Law on his Arrival in England,’ which went through seven editions. The Duke of Portland, on being appointed governor of Jamaica, proposed to take Budgell as his secretary, but received a message from a secretary of state, telling him that he might take any man in England except Budgell (Liberty and Property, i. 137–42). Budgell now fell into difficulties, which seem to have affected his brain. He spent, it is said, 5,000l. of his own, and afterwards 1,000l. given to him by the Duchess of Marlborough, in attempts to get into parliament. He became involved in numerous and vexatious lawsuits. Some of them concerned an estate in Essex, a moiety of which he had bought before the South Sea losses from a clergyman named William Piers, with whom he had intricate disputes. Budgell believed Piers to be the instrument of some great man, presumably Walpole, who had dark designs against him. He got into the Fleet, though in December 1732 he obtained 5l. damages for illegal arrest by a bailiff, Budgell declaring that he was privileged as secretary to Lord Orrery (Gent. Mag. ii. 1123). Budgell further declares that he was dogged by spies, and that various attempts were made upon his life. He says that he had thought of suicide, in consequence of persecutions lasting for ten years; and it seems probable that, as his enemies frequently asserted, he was ‘disordered in his senses’ (Liberty and Property, i. 159, and ii. 83).

His grievances are confusedly set forth in various tracts. The accession of George II apparently inspired him, like his betters, with hopes of Walpole's downfall. He published (19 June 1728) a ‘complimentary poem upon his majesty's late journey to Cambridge and Newmarket.’ He presented a petition to the king at a levée, demanding Walpole's punishment, and seems to have been regarded as an intrusive madman. Several pamphlets arose out of this incident: ‘A Letter to the “Craftsman” from E. Budgell, Esq., occasioned by his late presenting a humble complaint against the Rt. Honble. Sir R. Walpole;’ ‘A Letter to Cleomenes, King of Sparta,’ &c., in answer to a letter in the ‘Daily Courant;’ and ‘A Letter to His Excellency Mr. Ulrick d'Ypres, Chief Minister to the King of Sparta,’ &c. The two pamphlets called ‘Liberty and Property,’ pts. i. and ii. (1732), deal chiefly with his litigations. To the first part is appended ‘A State of the Author's Case before the House of Lords,’ &c., which concerns the controversy with Piers.

Budgell had become one of the Grub Street authors, and a contributor to the ‘Craftsman.’ He was also protected by the Earl of Orrery, the editor of ‘Phalaris,’ who had been arrested on suspicion of Jacobitism in 1722, and was hostile to Walpole's government. After his death, in 1731, Budgell published in 1732 his ‘Memoirs of the Life and Character of the late Earl of Orrery and the Family of the Boyles;’ a second edition appeared in the same year, and a third, called ‘Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of the Illustrious Family of the Boyles, particularly … Charles, Earl of Orrery,’ in 1737. Though the last professes to be carefully corrected, the three are identical; the last was probably got up to take advantage of the interest caused by the author's death, and the book is of little value.

In February 1733 Budgell started a weekly periodical, called ‘The Bee,’ which formed nine volumes, and lasted till June 1735. It is chiefly made up of extracts from contemporary papers, but contains much personal matter, boasts of his connection with Addison, and references to an affair which completed his ruin. Matthew Tindal, the deist, then over seventy, left Oxford in 1733, and took lodgings near Budgell's house with Mrs. Lucy Price, ‘relict of Judge Price,’ who, with Budgell, constantly visited him. Tindal died on 16 Aug. 1733, and his nephew, Nicholas Tindal, the translator of Rapin, expected to be his uncle's heir. A will was produced by Mrs. Price, in which the testator gave 2,100l., his manuscripts, and some property to Budgell, and appointed Nicholas his residuary legatee. It turned out that Tindal's whole property consisted of 1,900l. stock, but 1,800l. of this had been sold out and lent on bond to Budgell. One of the bonds for 1,000l. had disappeared. Other suspicious circumstances came to light, and the nephew, after compelling Budgell to give up the few remaining assets, published a pamphlet called ‘A Copy of the Will of Dr. Matthew Tindal, with an account of what passed concerning the same between Mrs. Lucy Price, Eustace Budgell, Esq., and Mr. Nicholas Tindal.’ An ironical ‘Vindication of Eustace Budgell, Esq.’ (by William Webster, author of some controversial writings against Warburton), further exposed his case. Budgell tried to defend himself in ‘The Bee’ by absurd fictions. He brags of Tindal's friendship, and offers medals for poems in his honour. It is said (Hollis, Memoirs, p. 581) that Budgell sold the second volume of Tindal's ‘Christianity as old as the Creation’ to Bishop Gibson for 500l., who destroyed it. Budgell was attacked in the ‘Grub Street Journal,’ which, to some uncertain degree, was Pope's organ, and especially in two copies of verses which he ascribes to Pope himself. This explains the couplet in the epistle to Arbuthnot—

Let Budgell charge low Grub Street on his quill,
And write whate'er he pleased—except his will.

Budgell's character was hopelessly blasted. At last, 4 May 1737, having been ‘much disordered for two or three days,’ and expecting an execution in his house, he drove to Dorset stairs, filled his pockets with stones, took a boat, plunged overboard, and was drowned. Notes and gold to the value of 161l. were found in his pockets, and he left a ‘scrap’ of a will, giving his estate to his natural daughter, Anne Eustace, aged 11 (Evening Post, 14 May 1737). He left a paper on his desk:

What Cato did and Addison approved
Cannot be wrong.

The coroner's jury returned a verdict of lunacy (Gent. Mag. vii. 315).

[The first authority for Budgell's life is Cibber's Lives of the Poets, vol. v., which is followed in the Biographia, &c. It contains some errors of fact, though apparently written from private information, and is chiefly derived from Budgell's own statements in the pamphlets cited above. See also Letter to Eustace Budgell occasioned by his late complaints to the king against the Rt. Honble. Sir R. Walpole, 1730.]

L. S.