Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/154

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


mont Papers, ii. 380; see also H. Walpole to Mann, Correspondence, ii. 158–60).

Meanwhile Bolingbroke continued to live at Battersea. He was visited by his political friends, and kept up his correspondence with Marchmont. He speaks of political affairs in a tone of despondency, and had little influence, though still under suspicion. Chesterfield, who admired him warmly, defended Marchmont, of whom the king had complained for intimacy with Bolingbroke; and told the king that he frequently himself talked with Bolingbroke to profit by his knowledge of foreign affairs. Bolingbroke's last political writing was an unfinished paper on the ‘Present State of the Nation,’ written apparently in 1749. His own health was breaking, and his wife obviously sinking. She died on 18 March 1750, and was buried at Battersea on the 22nd. He ‘acted grief,’ says Horace Walpole spitefully, ‘flung himself upon her bed, and asked if she could forgive him’ (to Mann, Correspondence, ii. 202). The grief was certainly genuine. Bolingbroke's warm affection for his wife is the most amiable trait in his private character. As Walpole says in the same letter, she was greatly admired for wit, and reports of her talk in Marchmont's diary show especially that her familiarity with French society enabled her to take an effective part in conversations upon foreign politics. Her death involved him in a lawsuit about her property in France which outlasted his life. His marriage was denied by some of his wife's relations. Ultimately the case was decided in his favour in March 1752. He made his will on 22 Nov. 1750, leaving legacies to his servants, and all his works, published and unpublished, to Mallet. He died of a cancer in the face on 12 Dec. 1751. Chesterfield saw him shortly before his death, and reports his saying, ‘God, who had placed me here, will do what he pleases with me hereafter; and he knows best what to do. May he bless you!’ (see Chesterfield, ii. 448, iii. 432, iv. 1). There were also edifying reports of his refusing to see the clergyman, and occasionally falling into a rage.

Bolingbroke was buried by the side of his wife in the family vault at Battersea on 18 Dec. There is a monument with medallion busts of himself and wife, by Roubiliac, in the parish church, with inscriptions composed by himself. The greater part of the manor-house was demolished in 1778. Bolingbroke's father had married a second wife, Angelica Magdalene, daughter of G. Pittesary, and left by her four children: Henrietta, who became Lady Luxborough [see Knight, Henrietta]; Bolingbroke wrote affectionate letters to her for many years (Addit. MS. 34196); George, to whom Bolingbroke, when in power, was very kind, and who died at Venice in January 1715–16; John, who became Viscount St. John, on his father's death, and who died in 1749; and Hollis, who died unmarried in October 1738. John's son Frederick (1734–1787) became second Viscount Bolingbroke upon the death of his uncle.

An engraving from a portrait by Thomas Murray (1663–1734) [q. v.] is prefixed to his works. A portrait, by Hyacinthe Rigaud, is in the National Portrait Gallery; a third was painted by Kneller.

Bolingbroke's most undeniable excellence was in the art of oratory. Swift says (Behaviour of the Last Ministry) that men of all parties assured him that, as a speaker, Bolingbroke had never been equalled; and the tradition survived to the days of the younger Pitt. Pitt is reported to have said that he would rather have recovered one of those speeches than the best compositions of antiquity. It has often been remarked that his writings are substantially orations. Their style has been greatly admired. Chesterfield calls the style ‘infinitely superior to any one's’ (Works, i. 376, ii. 78, 109, 117). Chatham (Correspondence, i. 109) advises his nephew to get Bolingbroke by heart, for the inimitable beauty of his style as well as for the matter. The style, however, does not prevent them from being now exceedingly tiresome, except to persons of refined tastes. The causes are plain. His political theories are the outcome not of real thought, but of the necessities of his political relations. He was in a false position through life. A profligate and a freethinker, he had to serve the most respectable of queens and to lead the high-church party. He was forced by political necessities to take up with the Pretender, whom he cordially despised, and afterwards repudiated. Having given up the Jacobites, he denounced ‘high-flying’ principles in the spirit of Locke and the whigs of 1688. As he wished to combine whigs and tories, he insists that the old party distinctions had become obsolete—a theory for which indeed there was much to be said in the days of Walpole. He attacks Walpole for his notorious corruption, and accepts the whig objections to standing armies and placemen. As a typical aristocrat by temper, he traces one main cause of the corruption to the ‘monied men’ as opposed to the landed classes, and denounces the stockjobbers and the bankers who were Walpole's main support. This position leads him to attack the whole