Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/375

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that forms of government are properly a natural product, the expression of national character, national circumstances; and that their excellence consists less in their approximation to an ideal standard than their suitability to the actual state of development of the people in question?’ (cf. H. C. Foxcroft in Engl. Hist. Review, October 1896; R. D. Christie in Saturday Review, 22 Feb. 1873). As a censor of the heated partisan conflicts of the day, and as an inspirer of the declaration of rights, no less than of the philosophy of the ‘Patriot King’ (he had a good deal in common with Bolingbroke), Halifax exercised a far-reaching influence, and his political opinions rather than his acts give his career its chief historical importance.

Halifax's urbanity was learnt in the school of Charles II, and his habitual cynicism (more of manner than of temperament) did not exclude an engaging address, a winning smile, and a fund of easy pleasantry. His defect at the council-board was an exaggerated tendency to facetiousness. ‘In his youth,’ says Evelyn, ‘he was somewhat too positive,’ but latterly in all important matters he was secretive and inscrutable. A man, he once said, who sits down a philosopher rises an atheist; and he himself was frequently charged with atheism, which he disclaimed to Burnet, declaring that he hardly thought that such a thing as an atheist existed. His ‘Advice to a Daughter’ indicates some attachment to a religious creed. He said that he believed as much as he could, and imagined that God would forgive him if, unlike an ostrich, he could not digest iron. Savile was by no means insensible to pomp and rank, but, though a handsome man, he dressed extremely soberly. His indifference to sport and to fine horses and equipages was notorious. His chaplain records his complaint that ‘velvet cushions’ too often served for ‘woollen sermons.’ His favourite book was Montaigne's ‘Essays,’ and, when Charles Cotton dedicated to him his translation in 1685, Halifax acknowledged the compliment in a letter full of wit and cordial appreciation.

A portrait of the first Marquis of Halifax, a half-length, in black with lace cravat and ruffles, by Sir Peter Lely, is in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire. An engraving by J. Houbraken (for Birch's ‘Lives,’ 1743, fol.) is dated ‘Amst. 1740,’ and depicts him in later life when he grew stout. Below the portrait is a representation of his offering the crown to William and Mary. In the print-room at the British Museum is another engraving by Chambers. Four engraved portraits, without signature, are in Addit. MS. 28569. The well-known caricature of ‘The Trimmer’ was aimed not at him, but at Burnet.

Besides the works described, Halifax wrote: ‘A Lady's New Year's Gift, or Advice to a Daughter,’ drawn up for the benefit of his daughter Elizabeth, mother of the famous Earl of Chesterfield, to whom Halifax's mantle of didactic fame seems to have descended. This, which is perhaps the most entertaining of all his works, was printed from a circulating manuscript, and without authorisation, in 1688, London, 8vo; a second edition was promptly called for, and a fifth appeared shortly after the writer's death (15th edit. 1765; new edit. Berwick, 1791); it was also translated into Italian, and several times into French. The husband of the lady to whom it was addressed is said to have written on the fly-leaf ‘Labour in Vain’ (Walpoliana, ii. 9). ‘The Cautions offered to the consideration of those who are to choose Members to serve in the ensuing Parliament’ was written during the last months of its author's life, when the passage of the Triennial Act (December 1694) had brought a general election within measurable distance. It appeared posthumously during the general election of October 1695, and shows his capacity, even when seriously ill, for ‘famous flashes of wit.’

Halifax's pamphlets appeared in a collective form in 1700 as ‘Miscellanies by the Most Noble George Lord Saville, late Marquis and Earl of Halifax,’ London, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1704, 3rd edit. 1717. This included (1) ‘Advice to a Daughter,’ (2) ‘The Character of a Trimmer,’ (3) ‘The Anatomy of an Equivalent,’ (4) ‘A Letter to a Dissenter,’ (5) ‘Cautions for Choice of Parliament Men,’ (6) ‘New Model at Sea,’ (7) ‘Maxims of State.’ Some selections from his papers, entitled ‘Miscellanies, Historical and Philological,’ appeared in 1703, London, 8vo; these are generally ascribed in catalogues to Halifax, but were not in reality from his pen. His ‘Character of King Charles II,’ together with the ‘Moral and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflexions’ (see above), first appeared in 1750, London, 8vo. Halifax diligently kept a diary, from which he compiled a journal. The journal was copied soon after his death, but both original and copy were unhappily destroyed—it is said by his granddaughter, Lady Burlington—and the diary itself is lost. Some of his letters are included in the correspondence of his brother Henry, edited by W. D. Cooper from transcripts made about 1740 (Camden Soc. 1858); others are pre-