Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Temple, William (1628-1699)
TEMPLE, Sir WILLIAM (1628–1699), statesman and author, born at Blackfriars in London in 1628, was the grandson of Sir William Temple (1555–1627) [q. v.], provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and formerly secretary to Sir Philip Sidney. His father, Sir John Temple [q. v.], master of the rolls in Ireland, married, in 1627, Mary (d. 1638), daughter of John Hammond, M.D. [q. v.], and sister of Dr. Henry Hammond [q. v.], the divine. William was the eldest son. A sister Martha, who married, on 21 April 1662, Sir Thomas Giffard of Castle Jordan, co. Meath, was left a widow within a month of her wedding, and became a permanent and valued inmate of her eldest brother's household; she died on 31 Dec. 1722, aged 84, and was buried in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey on 5 Jan. 1723.
William Temple was brought up by his uncle, Dr. Henry Hammond, at the latter's rectory of Penshurst in Kent. When Hammond was sequestered from his living in 1643, Temple was sent to Bishop Stortford school, where he learnt all the Latin and Greek he ever knew; the Latin he retained, but he often regretted the loss of his Greek. On 13 Aug. 1644 he was entered as a fellow-commoner of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he remained a pupil of Ralph Cudworth for two years. Leaving Cambridge without taking any degree, in 1648 he set out for France. On his road he fell in with the son and daughter (Dorothy) of Sir Peter Osborne. Sir Peter held Guernsey for the king, and his family were ardent royalists. At an inn where they stopped in the Isle of Wight young Osborne amused himself by writing with a diamond on the window pane, ‘And Hamon was hanged on the gallows they had prepared for Mordecai.’ For this act of malignancy the party were arrested and brought before the governor; whereupon Dorothy, with ready wit and a singular confidence in the gallantry of a roundhead, took the offence upon herself, and was immediately set at liberty with her fellow-travellers. The incident made a deep impression upon Temple; he was only twenty at the time, and the lady twenty-one. A courtship was commenced, though the father of the hero was sitting in the Long parliament, while the father of the heroine was holding a command for the king. Even when the war ended and Sir Peter Osborne returned to his seat of Chicksands in Bedfordshire, the prospects of the lovers seemed scarcely less gloomy. Sir John Temple had a more advantageous alliance in view for his son. Dorothy, on her side, was besieged by many suitors. Prominent among them were Sir Justinian Isham [q. v.], her distant cousin Thomas Osborne (afterwards Earl of Danby and Duke of Leeds) [q. v.], and Henry Cromwell [q. v.], the fourth son of the Protector, who made her the present of a fine Irish greyhound. Even more hostile to the match than Temple's father were Dorothy's brothers, one of whom, Henry, was vehement in his reproaches. At the close of seven years of courtship and correspondence, during which Temple was in Paris, Madrid, St. Malo, and Brussels (the city of his predilection), acquiring French and Spanish, Dorothy fell ill, and was cruelly pitted with the small-pox. Temple's constancy had now been proved enough, and on 31 Jan. 1654–5 the faithful pair were united before a justice of the peace in the parish of St. Giles's, Middlesex. At the close of 1655 they repaired to Ireland, Temple spending the next few years alternately at his father's house in Dublin and upon his own small estate in Carlow. During his seclusion he read a good deal, acquired a taste for horticulture, and ‘to please his wife’ penned some indifferent verses and translations, which were afterwards included in his ‘Works.’ A more distinctive composition of this period was a family prayer which was adapted ‘for the fanatic times when our servants were of so many different sects,’ and was designed that ‘all might join in it.’
Upon the Restoration Temple was chosen a member of the Irish convention for Carlow, and in May 1661 he was elected for the county in the Irish parliament. During a visit to England in July 1661 he was coldly introduced at court by Ormonde, but subsequently he entirely overcame Ormonde's prejudices. In May 1663, upon the prorogation of the Irish parliament, he removed to England, and settled at Sheen in a house which occupied the site of the old priory, in the neighbourhood of the Earl of Leicester's seat at Richmond (cf. Chancellor, Hist. of Richmond, 1894, p. 73). His widowed sister, Lady Giffard, came to live with the Temples during the summer, their united income amounting to between 500l. and 600l. a year. At Sheen, Temple planted an orangery and cultivated wall-fruit ‘the most exquisite nailed and trained, far better than ever I noted it’ (Evelyn).
Ormonde provided him with letters to Clarendon and Arlington, and Temple apprised Arlington of his desire to obtain a diplomatic post, subject to the condition that it should not be in Sweden or Denmark. In June 1665 he was accordingly nominated to a diplomatic mission of no little difficulty to Christopher Bernard von Ghalen, prince-bishop of Munster. The Anglo-Dutch war was in progress, and the bishop had undertaken, in consideration of a fat subsidy, to create a diversion in favour of Great Britain by invading Holland from the east. Temple was to remit the money by instalments and to expedite the bishop's performance of his part of the contract (many interesting details of the mission are given in Temple's letters to his brother, to Arlington, and others, published by Swift from the copies made by the diplomatist's secretary, Thomas Downton). The bishop was more than a match for Temple in the subtleties of statecraft. He managed on various pretexts to postpone the raid into Holland (with the states of which he was nominally at peace) until he had secured several instalments of subsidy. In the meantime Louis XIV had got wind of the conspiracy and detached twenty thousand troops, more than sufficient to watch and intimidate the little army of Munster. The bishop was able to plead force majeure with much plausibility; no step was ever taken on his part to carry out the scheme of invasion, and he made a separate peace with the Dutch at Cleves in April 1666. Temple was at Brussels when he heard that this step was impending, and he hurried to Munster in the hope of preventing it. After an adventurous journey by way of Düsseldorf and Dortmund (see his spirited letter to Sir J. Temple, dated Brussels, 10 May 1666), he was received with apparent cordiality and initiated into the episcopal mode of drinking out of a large bell with the clapper removed; but during these festivities he learned that the treaty had been irrevocably signed. Several bills of exchange from England were already on their way, and the bishop, on the pretext of the dangerous state of the country, entreated Temple to seek his safety by a circuitous retreat by way of Cologne. The young diplomat had formed a very erroneous judgment of Von Ghalen, but he saw through this artifice. He found means of getting out of the city unobserved, and, after fifty hours' most severe travelling amid considerable dangers, he succeeded in intercepting a little of the money. At the best the negotiation was not a conspicuous success, and Temple was much exercised in his mind as to ‘how to speak of it so as to avoid misrepresentation.’ Happily, his employers in this ill-conceived scheme were not dissatisfied, and in October 1665 he was accredited envoy at the viceregal court at Brussels, a post which he had specially desired, receiving 500l. for equipage and 100l. a month salary (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1666, p. 80). In January 1665–6 he was further gratified by the unexpected honour of a baronetcy, and in the following April he moved his family to Brussels from Sheen (ib.)
Temple's duties at Brussels were to watch over Spanish neutrality; to promote a good understanding between England and Spain; and, later on, to suggest any possible means of mediating between Spain and France. He got permission to go to Breda in July 1667, when peace was concluded between England and the United Provinces. In the meantime Louis and Turenne were taking town after town in Flanders. Brussels itself was threatened, and Temple had to send his family home, retaining only the favoured Lady Giffard. The professions of Louis towards the Dutch were friendly, but the alarm caused in Holland was great; and Dutch suspicions were soon shared by Temple. He visited Amsterdam and The Hague in September 1667, and had some intercourse with the grand pensionary, John de Witt, with whom his relations were to develop into a notable friendship. De Witt was acutely sensitive to the danger from the French garrisons in Flanders, yet a policy of conciliation towards France seemed to be the only course open to him. Temple dwelt in his correspondence to Arlington upon the dangers of such an entente; for a long time the English ministers appeared deaf to the tale of French aggrandisement, but on 25 Nov., in response to his representations, Temple received a most important despatch. He was instructed to ascertain from De Witt whether the states would really and effectively enter into a league with Great Britain for the protection of the Spanish Netherlands. The matter was one of considerable delicacy, but De Witt was pleased by the Englishman's frank statement of the situation, and finally signified his acquiescence in Temple's views as far as was compatible with a purely defensive alliance.
Having hastened to England to report the matter in full, Temple was supported in the council by Arlington and Sir Orlando Bridgeman [q. v.], and his sanguine anticipations were held to outweigh the objections of Clifford and the anti-Dutch councillors. He returned to The Hague with instructions on 2 Jan. 1668; and though De Witt was somewhat taken aback by the suddenness of the English monarch's conversion to his own specific (of a joint mediation, and a defensive league to enforce it), Temple managed to persuade him of its sincerity, and he undertook to procure the co-operation of the deputies of the various states. The same evening Temple visited the Swedish envoy Christopher Delfique, count Dhona, omitting the formal ceremony of introduction on the ground that ‘ceremonies were made to facilitate business, not to hinder it.’ When the French ambassador D'Estrades heard a rumour of the negotiation, he observed slightingly, ‘We will discuss it six weeks hence;’ but so favourable was the impression that Temple had made on the minds of the pensionary and the ministers that business which was estimated to last two or three months was despatched in five days (the commissioners from the seven provinces taking the unprecedented step of signing without previous instruction from the states), and the treaty, named the triple alliance, as drafted by Temple and modified by De Witt, was actually sealed on 23 Jan. (the signature of the Swedish envoy was affixed three days later). Flassan attributes this triumph to Temple's adherence to the maxim that in politics one must always speak the truth. Burke, in his ‘Regicide Peace,’ referred to it as a marvellous example of the way in which mutual interest and candour could overcome obstructive regulations and delays.
The festivities at The Hague in honour of the treaty included a ball given by De Witt and opened by the Prince of Orange; the English plenipotentiary was eclipsed on this occasion by the grand pensionary, but obtained his revenge next day at a tennis match. The rejoicings in England were less effusive, but Pepys characterised the treaty as the ‘glory of the present reign,’ while Dryden afterwards held Shaftesbury up to special execration for having loosed ‘the triple bond.’
Ostensibly the triple alliance aimed merely at the guarantee by neutral powers of terms which Louis had already offered to Spain, but which it was apprehended that he meant to withdraw and replace by far more onerous ones. There were, however, four secret articles, by which England and the United Provinces pledged themselves to support Spain against France if that power deferred a just peace too long. Burnet—though, like Pepys, he called the treaty the masterpiece of Charles II's reign—was ignorant of the secret articles; and contemporary critics were also ignorant of the fact that the day after the signature Charles wrote to his sister, Henriette d'Orléans, to excuse his action in the eyes of the French king on the plea of momentary necessity (Dalrymple, i. 68; Baillon, Henriette Anne, 1886, p. 301). Clifford, in fact, when he remarked ‘For all this joy we must soon have another war with Holland,’ accurately expressed the views of his master, who found in Temple's diplomacy a convenient and respectable cloak for his own very different designs, including at no distant date the signal humiliation of the Dutch. Having regard to the sequel, it is plain that Temple was rather more of a passive instrument in the hands of the thoroughly unsympathetic Charles than Macaulay and others, who have idealised his achievement, would lead us to suppose. It is true that he was for guiding our diplomacy in the direction which it took with such success some twenty years later, and time and experience eventually approved his policy. But although the popular voice acclaimed his attempt to rehabilitate the balance of power in Europe, it is by no means so clear that in 1668 English interests lay in supporting Holland against France (cf. Mem. de Gourville, ap. Michaud, 3rd ser. v. 544; Mignet, ii. 495, iii. 50; Seeley, Growth of British Policy, 1895).
In February 1668, the treaty having been accomplished, Temple left The Hague to return to Brussels. In view of a possible rupture with France some preliminary discussion was entered upon as to a junction of the English, Spanish, and Dutch fleets, and some trouble was anticipated by Temple in consequence of the English pretension to be saluted in the narrow seas, which Charles would not hear of abating one jot; but mobilisation proved unnecessary. There was some talk of Temple being offered a secretaryship, but to his great relief the offer was not made, and he was sent on as envoy extraordinary to Aix-la-Chapelle, where the provisions indicated by the triple alliance were embodied in the definitive treaty on 8 May 1668. Whether or no the secret pact was the cause of Louis's disgorging Franche-Comté, which his armies had overrun, there is no doubt that the credit of England abroad had been raised by Temple's energy, and on his way to and from Aix he was hailed by salutes and banquets.
Having spent two months in England, Temple took leave of the king on 8 Aug. 1668, and proceeded as English ambassador to The Hague, with a salary of 7l. a day. By the king's desire he took special pains to combat the reserve of the Prince of Orange, and he soon wrote in glowing terms to his court of the prince's sense, honesty, and promise of pre-eminence. In August 1669, in his private capacity, he successfully mediated in a pecuniary dispute between Holland and Portugal (Bulstrode Papers, p. 112). During 1670 was imposed upon him the ungrateful task of demanding the surrender of Cornet George Joyce [q. v.] The magistrates at Rotterdam did not openly refuse, but they evaded the request, and in the interval Joyce escaped (Ludlow, Memoirs, 1894, ii. 425). No less difficult were the negotiations in the direction of an equitable ‘marine treaty,’ and Temple had also on his hands a design for including Spain in a quadruple alliance. But the simultaneous French intrigue on the part of Charles caused all Temple's zeal to be regarded with increasing suspicion and dislike at home, while his friends Bridgeman, Trevor, and Ormonde were frowned upon, and finally left unsummoned to the foreign committee. When Louis overran Lorraine, and Charles made no sign, even Temple's friend De Witt could scarcely refrain from expressing cynical views as to the stability of English policy. The position was becoming untenable for an avowed friend of Holland. The English ministers still hesitated to take so pronounced a step as to recall their minister; but during this summer Temple received orders to return privately to England, and he landed at Yarmouth on 16 Sept. 1670. He promised the pensionary to return, and that speedily, but his going was sufficient indication to De Witt of the turn things were taking. The suspicions which Temple had kept to himself were confirmed on his arrival. Arlington was deliberately offhand in his demeanour; the king, while professing the utmost solicitude about Temple's health and sea passage, obstinately refused to speak to him upon political matters. It was not until, at a meeting of ministers, Clifford blurted out a number of diatribes against the Dutch that Temple realised the full import of the situation. His resolution was instant and characteristic. ‘I apprehend,’ he says, ‘weather coming that I shall have no mind to be abroad in, and therefore decide to put a warm house over my head’ without a moment's delay. He withdrew to Sheen and enlarged his garden. Charles wrote to the states that Temple had come away at his own desire and upon urgent private affairs. In reality his recall had been demanded by Louis. It was not until June 1671 that he was allowed to write a farewell letter to the states, or that a royal yacht was sent to The Hague for Lady Temple and the ambassador's household. Though he wrote of the declaration of war upon the Dutch in 1672 as a thunderclap (Memoirs), he must have seen its approach pretty clearly for some time.
His enforced leisure was devoted by Temple to literature and philosophy. He had already composed (1667–8) and submitted to Arlington in manuscript his ‘Essay upon the Present State and Settlement of Ireland,’ a short but trenchant pamphlet, which was published, together with the ‘Select Letters,’ in 1701, but was not included in the collective edition of Temple's works. In it he condemned the ‘late settlement of Ireland’ as ‘a mere scramble,’ during which ‘the golden shower fell without any well-directed order or design;’ yet he recommended that the settlement, bad as it was, should be maintained not by balancing parties but by despotic severity; ‘for to think of governing that kingdom by a sweet and obliging temper is to think of putting four wild horses into a coach and driving them without whip or reins.’ As was only habitual among liberal or enlightened statesmen of his century, he ignored the claims of the native Irish to any legislative or other consideration. During 1671 he composed his ‘Essay upon the Original and Nature of Government’ (first published in 1680), which is notable not only for some fine images and sensible definitions, but as anticipating the view expressed nine years later in Filmer's ‘Patriarcha’ that the state is the outcome of a patriarchal system rather than of the ‘social compact’ as conceived by Hooker or Hobbes. At the same time he manages to avoid the worse extravagances of Filmer (see Harriott, Temple on Government, 1894; Minto, English Prose, 1881, p. 316). In 1672 he penned his ‘Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands’ (London, 1672, 8vo; in Dutch, London, 1673; 3rd edit. 1676, 8th 1747; in French, The Hague 1685, Utrecht 1697), which was and deserved to be extremely popular, both at home and abroad. Temple used to declare that he was influenced in some points of style by the ‘Europæ Speculum’ of Sir Edwin Sandys [q. v.] If so, he was probably influenced no less by Sandys's large view of toleration. In the fourth chapter, upon the disposition of the Hollanders, the author displays a limpid humour and much quiet penetration; but it is curious that he never so much as mentions Dutch painting, then at its apogee. Jean le Clerc, while pointing out some errors (mostly trifling), praised the work as a whole as the best thing of its kind extant (English version by Theobald, 1718). His power as a rhetorical writer was displayed about the same time in his noble ‘Letter to the Countess of Essex’ (cf. Blair, Lect. on Rhetoric, 1793, i. 260).
When the necessity for a peace between England and Holland became apparent in 1674, Temple was called from his retreat in order to assist in the negotiation of the treaty of Westminster (14 Feb.) He went out to The Hague for the purpose, and his influence again helped to expedite matters. His reputation was now very high, and on his return he had the refusal not only of a dignified embassy to Madrid but (for the consideration of 6,000l.) of Williamson's secretaryship of state. He frequented the court, and became familiar with the new men who were rising into prominence, such as Halifax and his old acquaintance Danby. But his sojourn in England was not a long one, as in July 1674 he was again despatched as ambassador to The Hague. This embassy was rendered memorable by the successful contrivance of a match between William of Orange and Charles's niece Mary [see Mary II], a match which was in reality of vastly greater import to England than the triple alliance. It seems to have been first hinted at in a letter from Temple to the prince dated 22 Feb. 1674; but the early stages of the negotiation are involved in considerable obscurity. As soon as Temple found the prince interested, he spared no pains to bring the matter to a successful issue. Lady Temple, who was on intimate terms with Lady Villiers, the princess's governess, was fortunately able to satisfy the prince's curiosity on a number of small points, and in 1676 she went over to England and interviewed Danby concerning the matter (Temple Memoirs, ii. 345; Ralph, i. 336; Strickland, vii. 30 sq.). The negotiations, which were terminated by William's visit to England in September 1677 and his marriage a few weeks later, brought about a close rapprochement between Danby and Temple, and a gradual estrangement, due in part no doubt to jealousy, between Temple and Arlington. The strife between Danby and Arlington was already a source of vexation to the king; and when, during Temple's visit this summer, he pressed the secretaryship once more upon him (even offering himself to defray half the fees), it was probably in the hope that a man of Temple's character would be able to restore harmony as well as respectability to his council. He must have thought Temple's ultimate value great, or he would not have tolerated the portentous lectures which the statesman delivered for his benefit (cf. Memoirs, ii. 267).
Immediately after the wedding on 4 Nov., Temple hastened back to The Hague, his coming there being esteemed ‘like that of the swallow which brought fair weather with it.’ He was instructed to proceed without delay to the congress at Nimeguen, where Leoline Jenkins was acting as English plenipotentiary, but nervously craved for Temple's moral support. While there he heard of his father's death on 14 Nov. 1677, whereby the reversion of the Irish mastership of the rolls devolved upon him. A license to remain away from Ireland for three years was prepared and renewed in September 1680 and September 1685, when he appointed John Bennett of Dublin to be deputy clerk and keeper of the rolls; he did not finally surrender the post until 29 May 1696 (Lascelles, Liber Munerum Hiberniæ, 1824, ii. 20). In July 1678 Temple negotiated another treaty with the Dutch with the object of forcing France to evacuate the Spanish towns; but this separate understanding was neutralised by the treaty ratified at Nimeguen, whither he travelled for the last time in January 1679. He congratulated himself that in consequence of a formal irregularity his name was not affixed to a treaty the terms of which he thoroughly disapproved as being much too favourable to France. Extremely susceptible at all times to professional jealousy, Temple was greatly disconcerted during these negotiations by the activity of a diplomatic busybody called Du Cros, the political agent in London of the Duke of Holstein, but in the pay of Barillon. Temple subsequently referred slightingly in his ‘Memoirs’ to Du Cros, who rejoined in ‘A Letter … in answer to the impertinences of Sir W. Temple’ (1693). An anonymous ‘Answer,’ inspired, if not actually written, by Temple, appeared without delay, and two months later, in some interesting ‘Reflections upon two Pamphlets’ (the author of which professed to have been waiting in vain for Temple's own reply), the ‘unreasonable slanders’ of Du Cros were severely handled.
Upon his return to England in February 1679 the secretaryship of state was again pressed upon him, and he again refused it on the plea of waning health and the lack of a seat in parliament. He found that the personnel of the court had greatly changed, and that influences adverse to him were more powerful than formerly. Shaftesbury and Buckingham, Barillon and Lady Portsmouth were bitterly hostile, but their confidence as well as that of the king seemed possessed by Sunderland, upon whom the post seemed naturally to devolve. Under the circumstances it is hardly fair to accuse Temple of pusillanimity in declining it. Temple was popular as the bulwark of the policy of protestant alliance, and he knew that what was wanted was his name rather than his advice. He refused to barter away his good name.
The king, however, by adroit flattery managed in another way to obtain from Temple's reputation whatever fillip of popularity it was able to give to a thoroughly discredited administration. In April 1679 was put forth, as the outcome of a number of private interviews between Temple and the king, a scheme under Temple's sponsorship for a revival of the privy council. The numbers were now to be fixed at thirty (the number actually nominated appears to be thirty-three), who were to represent as completely as possible the conflicting interests of office and opposition, but above all the landed wealth of the country; and it was thus by its representative character to provide a bridge between a headstrong and autocratic executive and a discontented and obstructive assembly. Such a council, after having been nearly wrecked at the outset by the king's reluctance to admit Halifax, followed by his determination to include Shaftesbury, was actually constituted on 21 April 1679. The funds in Holland rose upon the receipt of the news that Temple's plan had been carried into effect, and Barillon was correspondingly displeased, in spite of Lady Portsmouth's assurance that it was only a device to get money out of parliament (Hallam, Constit. Hist. ch. xii.). Had the council been a success, it seems almost inevitable that it should have absorbed, as into a close oligarchy, much of the power that was divided between the executive and the parliament (thus Barillon said it was making ‘des états et non des conseils’); but it had not been in operation more than a fortnight when a kind of committee of public safety was formed within it. This included, besides Temple, Halifax, Sunderland, and Essex. But Temple was almost from the first unable to reconcile the courtier and the public minister. On the one hand he objected to the king's arbitrary decision to prorogue parliament without previous deliberation in council; on the other hand he would not consent to take measures of urgency against the papists as if the popish plot, which he knew to be a sham, were a reality. The issue was an estrangement which reached a climax in August 1679, when Halifax brought the Duke of York, who had been in quasi-exile at Brussels, to the king's bedside without Temple's knowledge. Two months after this he was elected to represent Cambridge University in the new parliament, the only dissentient being the bishop of Ely (Gunning), who detected an exaggerated zeal for toleration in Temple's little book on the Netherlands; but he found himself more and more excluded from the innermost counsels of what was in reality no more than a fresh cabal under a new name. Temple was hardly more than a dilettante politician, and the satisfaction with which he appeared to return to his ‘nectarines’ at Sheen was probably real. His visits to the already moribund council were infrequent, but he avoided an open breach, and in September 1680 he was nominated ambassador at Madrid, though at the last moment the king desired him to stay for the opening of parliament. Temple attempted the exercise of some diplomacy, and made some conciliatory speeches in the commons, but in vain. The parliament was dissolved in January 1681, and in the same month Temple's name was struck off the list of privy councillors (Luttrell, i. 65). He had shown himself confidential with Sunderland rather than with Halifax, who was now in the ascendant. Moreover he had not concealed his attachment to the Prince of Orange (Fox, Hist. of James II, p. 41). Finally he had been very irregular in his attendance, and, as he was well known to be on the side of conciliation, he would have been out of place in the Oxford parliament.
For the purposes of a final retirement from politics Temple seems to have deemed the seclusion of Sheen insufficient. He purchased, therefore, in 1680, from the executors of the Clarke family the seat of Compton Hall, near Farnham. Here he constructed a canal and laid out gardens in the Dutch style, giving to his property when complete the title of Moor Park, in emulation of the Moor Park near Rickmansworth, where he had often admired the skill and taste of the Countess of Bedford's gardeners (cf. Essay of Gardening; London Encyclop. of Gardening, 1850, p. 244; Thorne, Environs, 1876, p. 551). He was an enthusiastic fruit-grower, and especially fond of his cherries, ‘Sheen plums,’ and ‘standard apricocks.’ He was rarely seen now at Whitehall or Hampton Court, but he was on 14 March 1683 appointed one of the commissioners for the remedy of defective titles in Ireland. Soon after his son's marriage in 1684 he divided his property with him, leaving him in undisputed possession of the house at Sheen, which he held on a long lease from the crown.
When James II succeeded to the throne, he made some polite speeches to Temple, but no more. Temple had promised him when Duke of York that he would remain loyal, and would never seek to divide the royal family. William was aware of this, and, knowing Temple's scrupulous disposition, he gave him no hint of the intended invasion in 1688. Temple did in fact restrain his son from going to meet the prince, and it was not until after James's second flight that he presented himself at Windsor. William urged him to take the chief-secretaryship, but he steadily refused. He was content, however, that a high post (that of secretary for war) should be given to his son John [see below].
In 1689 came to Moor Park in the capacity of amanuensis, at a salary of 20l. a year, Jonathan Swift [q. v.], who was then twenty-two years of age. Swift's mother was a connection of Lady Temple. He stayed under Temple's roof with a few short intervals until the statesman's death, for a period, that is, of nearly ten years, and there he met Esther Johnson (‘Stella’), whose mother was an attendant upon Lady Giffard. Swift commenced his residence by writing some frigid Pindaric odes in Temple's honour, but gradually the relations between them grew more cordial. Temple procured Swift's admission to an ad eundem degree at Hart Hall, Oxford, offered him a post of 120l. a year in the Irish rolls when Swift proposed to leave him, and in answer to a letter, in which Swift avowed that his conduct towards his patron had been less considerate than petulant, sent him a prompt certificate for ordination. After his second absence from, and return to, Moor Park in 1696, Swift's position in the family seems to have been considerably improved. Temple can hardly have failed to perceive either the talents or the usefulness of the ‘secretary,’ as he was now called, who aided him in getting ready for the press the five volumes of his ‘Letters’ and ‘Memoirs.’ It is known that William III paid several visits to Temple at Moor Park in order ‘to consult him upon matters of high importance.’ One of these visits had reference to the triennial bill of 1692–3, for which the king had conceived a strong dislike. Temple argued that the bill involved no danger to the monarchy, and he is said to have employed Swift to ‘draw up reasons for it taken from English history.’ According to Deane Swift (Life of Swift, p. 60), Temple aided the young author to revise in manuscript his ‘Tale of a Tub.’
During the whole period of his retirement since 1681, Temple had been elaborating those essays upon which his literary reputation now chiefly rests. Six of these appeared in 1680 under the title of ‘Miscellanea.’ The second and more noteworthy volume appeared in 1692 (the ‘Miscellanea’ in two parts appeared united, 4th ed. 1693, 5th 1697, revised Glasgow 1761, Utrecht 1693). Temple sent a copy in November, together with a Latin epistle, to the master and fellows of Emmanuel, his old college (Addit. MS. 5860, f. 99). The second part included the essays of gardening, of heroic virtue, of poetry, and the famous essay on ‘Ancient and Modern Learning.’ The vein of classical eulogy and reminiscence which Temple here affects was adopted merely as an elegant prolusion upon the passing controversy among the wits of France as to the relative merits of ancient and modern writers. First broached as a paradox (cf. Our Noble Selves) by Fontenelle, the thesis had been maintained in earnest by Perrault (Siècle de Louis le Grand, January 1687), and Temple now joined hands fraternally with Boileau in contesting some of Perrault's rash assertions. The essay was in fact light, suggestive, and purely literary; it scarcely aimed at being critical, so that much of the serious criticism which has been bestowed on it is quite inept. William Wotton was the first to enter the lists against Temple with his ‘Reflections on Ancient and Modern Learning,’ published in 1694. Charles Boyle (afterwards Earl of Orrery) [q. v.], by way of championing the polite essayist, set to work to edit the ‘Epistles to Phalaris’ which Temple (whose opinion on such a matter was absolutely worthless) professed to regard as genuine. It was when this conjecture had been ruthlessly demolished by the learned sarcasm of Bentley that Swift came to the aid of his patron with the most enduring relic of the controversy, ‘The Battle of the Books.’ Temple had begun a reply to Bentley, but he was now happily spared the risk of publication [for the Boyle and Bentley controversy, see Bentley, Richard, (1662–1742); Baker, Refl. on Learning, 1700].
Temple's next literary venture was ‘An Introduction to the History of England’ (London, 1695 8vo, 1699, 1708; in French, Amsterdam, 1695, 12mo), which he intended as an incitement to the production of a general history of the nation, such as those of De Serres or Mezeray for France, Mariana for Spain, or De Mexia for the empire. The introduction concludes with an account of the Norman conquest and a eulogy of William I, in which many saw intended a compliment to William III, the more so as the putting aside of Edgar the Atheling was carefully condoned. The presumption of this work, which abounds in historical errors, was perhaps not inferior to that which prompted the ‘Essay on Ancient and Modern Learning.’ Fortunately for Temple, no historical Bentleys were living to take exception to his statements. Among the lighter productions of his years of retirement was a privately printed volume of ‘Poems by Sir W. T.,’ containing Virgil's last eclogue, a few odes and imitations of Horace, and Aristæus, a version of the 4th Georgic of Virgil—most of the pieces written professedly by request of Lady Temple or Lady Giffard. (The Grenville Library, British Museum, has a copy of this extremely rare volume, n.d., 12mo, with some manuscript notes in Temple's own hand; it was bought by Grenville at Beloe's sale in 1803 for 2l. 3s.).
Temple was attacked by a serious form of gout in 1676, and though he staved it off for a time, as he explains in one of the most entertaining of his essays (‘Cure of Gout by Moxa’), he suffered a good deal both with the gout and ‘the spleen’ during the whole of Swift's sojourn at Moor Park. He passed through a severe illness in 1691, and he was much broken by the death of his wife in January 1695. Swift kept a sort of diary of the state of his patron's health, the last entry of which runs, ‘He died at one o'clock this morning, the 27 January 1698–9, and with him all that was good and amiable among men.’ He was buried on 1 Feb. by the side of his wife in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey. His heart, however, by his special direction was buried in a silver box under a sundial in the garden of Moor Park, opposite his favourite window seat. With his death the baronetcy became extinct.
By his will, dated 8 March 1694–5, and made ‘as short as possible to avoid those cruel remembrances that have so often occasioned the changing of it,’ Temple left a lease of some lands in Morristown to ‘Esther Johnson, servant to my sister Giffard,’ and, by a codicil dated 2 April 1697, 100l. to ‘William Dingley, my cousin, student at Oxford, and another 100l. to Mr. Jonathan Swift, now dwelling with me’ (will proved by Sir John Temple and Dame Martha Giffard, 29 March 1699, P.C.C. 50 Pett). To Swift also was left such profit as might accrue from the publication of a collective edition of Temple's ‘Works.’ Of this edition two volumes of letters appeared in 1700 (London, 8vo), a third volume in 1703; the ‘Miscellanies’ or essays, in three parts, 1705–8; the ‘Introduction’ in 1708; and the ‘Memoirs’ in two volumes, 1709 (pt. ii., of which ‘unauthorised’ editions had appeared in 1691–2, related to the period 1672–9; pt. iii., of which the autograph manuscript is in the British Museum Addit. MS. 9804, written in a rapid script with scarcely a correction, dealt with 1679–80; part i. was thrown into the fire by Temple shortly before his death). Subsequent collective editions appeared in 1720, 2 vols. fol.; 1723; 1731, with preliminary notice by Lady Giffard, who was profoundly dissatisfied with Swift's handling of her brother's literary legacy; 1740; 1754, 4 vols. 8vo; 1757, 1770, and 1814.
Lady Temple, whom the statesman had married in 1655, was born at Chicksands in 1627, and was one of the younger daughters of Sir Peter Osborne (1584–1653), the royalist defender of Castle Cornet in Guernsey [see Osborne, Peter]. Francis Osborne [q. v.], the writer, was her uncle, and Admiral Henry Osborne [q. v.] her nephew. Her mother, Dorothy (1590–1650), was sister of Sir John Danvers [q. v.] and daughter of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey, Wiltshire. The story of her deepening attachment to Temple, of the loss of her beauty by smallpox, of her wifely gentleness, and of the position of comparative inferiority that she occupied in the Temple household to her clever and managing sister-in-law, Lady Giffard, is well known to every reader of Macaulay's brilliant essay. She was an active helpmeet to Temple in many of his schemes, showed dauntless courage upon her voyage to England in 1671, when an affray with the Dutch flagship seemed imminent (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1670–1), and enjoyed the cordial friendship of Queen Mary, whose death almost synchronised with her own. She died at Moor Park, aged 65, and was buried on 7 Feb. 1694–5 in Westminster Abbey. Extracts from forty-two of her letters to Temple were published by Courtenay in his ‘Life of Temple.’ Macaulay was powerfully attracted by their charm, which is, however, personal rather than literary, and the complete series of seventy was published in 1888 (ed. E. A. Parry). The original letters, amounting in all to 135 folios, were purchased by the British Museum on 16 Feb. 1891 from R. Bacon Longe, esq., and now form Addit. MS. 33975.
Besides several children who died in infancy, the Temples had a daughter Diana, who died in 1679, aged 14, and was buried in Westminster Abbey; and a son, John Temple (d. 1689), to whom they were both much devoted. He was in Paris in 1684 when an official diploma of nobility was granted to him under the common seal of the college of arms in order to insure his proper reception in foreign courts (this curious document, which is in Latin, is printed in the ‘Herald and Genealogist,’ iii. 406–8). As a compliment to his father, John Temple was made paymaster-general, and, on 12 April 1689, secretary-at-war in the room of Mr. Blaithwaite. A few days later, having filled his pockets with stones, he threw himself from a boat into the strong current beneath London Bridge, and was drowned (see Thompson, Chronicles of London Bridge, 1827, pp. 474–5). The suicide, which created the greatest sensation at the time, was probably due to official anxiety, aggravated by the treachery of a confidential agent whom he had recommended to the king (Lamberty, Mém. de la Révolution, ii. 290; Reresby, p. 458; Luttrell, i. 524; Boyer, Life of Temple, p. 415). By his wife Mary Duplessis, daughter of M. Duplessis Rambouillet, of a good Huguenot family, he left two daughters: Elizabeth of Moor Park, who married her cousin, John Temple (d. 1753), second son of Sir John [see under Temple, Sir John], the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, but left no issue; and Dorothy, who married Nicholas Bacon of Shrubland Hall, Coddenham.
Of public men who have left behind them any claim to a place near the front rank, Temple is one of the ‘safest’ in our annals. Halifax may well have had his exemplary friend in mind when he wrote the maxim ‘He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.’ During the ten years following his resignation, a period blackened by great political infamy, Temple lived fastidiously to himself, and practised unfashionable virtues. It is much to say of a statesman of that age that, although comparatively poor and not unworldly, he was untainted by corruption. The revolution, a crisis at which, with his peculiar qualifications, he might have played a part scarcely less prominent than that of Clarendon in 1660, found him still amid ‘the gardens of Epicurus,’ deploring the foibles (he was much too well bred to denounce the treacheries) of contemporary politicians.
As a writer, apart from a weakness for gallicisms, which he admitted and tried to correct, his prose marked a development in the direction of refinement, rhythmical finish, and emancipation from the pedantry of long parentheses and superfluous quotations. He was also a pioneer in the judicious use of the paragraph. Hallam, ignoring Halifax, would assign him the second place, after Dryden, among the polite authors of his epoch. Swift gave expression to the belief that he had advanced our English tongue to as great a perfection as it could well bear; Chesterfield recommended him to his son; Dr. Johnson spoke of him as the first writer to give cadence to the English language; and Lamb praises him delightfully in his ‘Essay on the Genteel Style.’ During the eighteenth century his essays were used as exercises and models, and down to Sir James Macintosh the best judges had the highest opinion of Temple's style. But the marked progress made during the last century in the direction of the sovereign prose quality of limpidity has not been favourable to Temple's literary reputation, and in the future it is probable that his ‘Letters’ and ‘Memoirs’ will be valued chiefly by the historian, while his ‘Essays’ will remain interesting primarily for the picture they afford of the cultured gentleman of the period. A few noble similes, however, and those majestic words of consolation addressed to Lady Essex, deserve and will find a place among the consecrated passages of English prose.
Of the portrait of Temple by Sir Peter Lely, painted in 1679 and now in the National Portrait Gallery, there are engravings by P. Vanderbank, Houbraken (Birch, plate 67), George Vertue, Anker Smith, and others. That by Houbraken is the best rendering of this portrait, which depicts a very handsome man, with a resolute mouth, rather fleshy face, and small moustache, after the Dutch pattern. The British Museum possesses what appears to be a contemporary Dutch pencil sketch of the statesman. Another portrait is in the master's lodge at Emmanuel College. Two further portraits by Lely of Temple and his wife, belonging to Sir Algernon Osborn, bart., of Chicksands Priory, are reproduced in ‘Letters of Dorothy Osborne’ (1888).[The Life, Works, and Correspondence of Sir William Temple, bart., by Thomas Peregrine Courtenay [q. v.], in two volumes, 1836, 8vo, is in many respects a pattern, although, it being the work of a tory pamphleteer, Macaulay virtually damned it with faint praise in his famous essay on Sir William Temple in the Edinburgh Review. Upon the few points in which the essay diverges from Courtenay's conclusions (as in the estimate of triple alliance) modern opinion would not side with Macaulay. The chief original authorities, besides Temple's works, with Swift's prefaces and his diplomatic papers in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 9796–804 and Stowe MS. 198), are Boyer's Life of Sir William Temple, 1714, and the life by Lady Giffard, prefixed to the 1731 edition of the Works. Eight of Temple's original letters are in the Morrison Collection of Autographs, catalogue, vi. 233–40. See also Letters of Arlington, 1701, 8vo (vol. ii. is almost wholly occupied by the letters to Temple from July 1665 to September 1670); Lodge's Peerage, ed. Archdall, v. 239; Prinsterer's Archives de la Maison Orange-Nassau, 2me série, 1861, v. passim; Boyer's Life of William III, pp. 11, 36, 41, 60–2, 67, 83, 90, 92–3, 96; Bulstrode Papers, 1898, pp. 10, 17, 40, 45, 54, 59, 68, 74, 107, 112, 123, 195, 265, 307; Clarendon's Life and Continuation, 1827; Clarendon Corresp. ed. Singer, 1814; Sidney's Diary, ed. Blencowe, p. lxxxviii; Burnet's Own Time, 1833; Burnet's Letters from Switzerland, 1686, p. 295; Wynne's Life of Jenkins, 1724; Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson, 1874; Boyer's William III; Trevor's Life and Times of William III, 1834; Baillon's Henriette Anne d'Angleterre, p. 300; Pylades and Corinna, 1732, vol. ii. Letter V (containing an allegorical character of Temple); Strickland's Queens of England, vol. vii.; Flassan's Diplomatie Française, 1811; St. Didier's Hist. des Nég. de Nimègue, 1680; Dumont's Corps de Diplomatie; Mignet's Nég. relatives à la Succession; Lettres de M. le Comte d'Estrades, 1743; Campbell's Memoirs of De Witt, 1746; Lefèvre Pontalis's Jean de Witt, Paris, 1884, i. 447 sq.; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation; Ranke's Hist. of England; Seeley's Growth of British Policy, 1895; Masson's Milton, vi. 315, 569, 601; Craik's Life of Swift; Forster's Life of Swift, vol. i.; Mémoires de Trévoux, November 1707 and March 1708; Niceron's Mémoires, xiii. 148; Mémoires of Dangeau and St. Simon; Prime's Account of the Temple Family, New York, 1896; Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire, iii. 85–6; Retrospective Review, vol. viii.; note kindly furnished by E. S. Shuckburgh, esq., fellow of Emmanuel.]
Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.263
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line
|44||i||21 f.e.||Temple, Sir William (1628-1699): for 1665-5 read 1665-6|