Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 09.djvu/408

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that the English actually absorbed the larger share of the spoils. Every one seemed to be bent upon enriching himself as speedily as possible. Only Salisbury continued steadily at his duties. He worked while others were playing each his own game. The policy of Salisbury during James's reign and his statesmanship are hardly within the province of such a biography as this; they may be studied in the pages of Mr. Gardiner's history. Salisbury's last preferment was bestowed upon him when by the death of Thomas, earl of Dorset, he succeeded that nobleman as lord treasurer on 6 May 1608. From that time till his death the finances of the country came more than ever under his direction. The king's debts, notwithstanding the reckless profusion that characterised him, were greatly reduced by Salisbury's dexterous management, and the ordinary revenue of the country nearly doubled itself in the first ten years of the king's reign. With regard to his receiving money from Spain it was part of that vile system which his father had established, and into which he was perhaps forced, of employing every means that came to hand for obtaining information of the doings of the catholics. That he gave any information or that he ever betrayed the trust committed to him there is not a tittle of evidence to show.

It is said that he was an abler speaker than his father, brighter and quicker. Certainly the impression made by his speeches in parliament appears to have been very great. Yet he was a man of far less wide culture than the first Lord Burghley, and though chancellor of the university of Cambridge from Feb. 1600–1, and a liberal benefactor to Oxford, in the shape of a valuable collection of books bestowed upon the university library in 1605, he appears to have had but faint sympathy with learning or learned men, and had none of the instincts or tastes of the student.

He was in person much below the middle height, probably not exceeding five feet two or three, with some slight curvature of the spine, the effect of which, as Mr. Brewer says, was ‘exaggerated by the dress and fashion of the times.’ He was sensitive upon this subject, as all are who labour under any deformity. It is said that his cousin, Sir Francis Bacon, aimed one of his most famous essays against this misfortune, and some of the most cruel and scurrilous lampoons which were circulated to his annoyance by the hangers-on of the Earl of Essex in 1600 did not forget to draw attention to his ‘wry neck, crooked back, and splay foot.’ Queen Elizabeth did not scruple to call him her ‘little elf,’ and James I called him his ‘pigmy,’ and even addressed him in writing as his ‘little beagle.’ He made no sign of pain, but he felt the sting of it. Perhaps there is no European statesman who has occupied so prominent and so commanding a position in history during the last three centuries with whose public life and political administration we are so familiar in all its details, and of whose private life we know so little, as Lord Salisbury. It is only when he is death-stricken and when a few days of life remain to him that we find the curtain raised which covers his private character through life.

It has already been pointed out that we are ignorant of the exact place or time of his birth. The same may be said of his marriage, of the birth of his children, of his wife's death, indeed of anything concerned with his boyhood and early manhood. We know nothing of his tutors or schoolmasters. There is no record of his matriculation at Cambridge nor any evidence of his having taken a degree there, except such as is afforded by the fact that he incorporated at Oxford in 1606. Though there are many indications of his having possessed a kindly and affectionate nature, he seems never to have had a friendship. Life was to him a game which he was playing for high stakes, and men and women were only pieces upon the board, set there to be swept off by one side or the other or allowed to stand so long only as the risk of letting them remain there was not too great. The immense tension at which he lived rendered it impossible to cultivate any taste for art or literature, yet he certainly had an innate appreciation of grandeur and symmetry in architecture, and he inherited from his father what amounted to a passion for building and planting. In 1607, James I, having taken a fancy for Lord Salisbury's beautiful house at Theobalds in Hertfordshire, offered to exchange Hatfield for it. The earl could hardly refuse. He had no sooner got possession of the new domain than he began to plan and construct the glorious mansion which remains a splendid monument of his good taste and magnificence. Mr. Brewer says he was his own architect. This is true only so far as the general conception was his own; the draughtsman of the plans and details, the real architect was Robert Limminge, who afterwards designed and built the hardly less beautiful mansion of Blickling in Norfolk. Hatfield was never the residence of the first Earl of Salisbury; it was not completed till after his death.

Lord Salisbury married Elizabeth, daughter of William Brooke, fifth baron Cobham, and sister of the two wretched men, Henry, lord Cobham, and George Brooke, who were im-