Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/509

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The generosity with which Somers treated his opponents was the more honourable to him because he was no waverer in politics. From the beginning to the end of his public life he was a steady Whig. His voice was indeed always raised, when his party was dominant in the State, against violent and vindictive counsels; but he never forsook his friends, even when their perverse neglect of his advice had brought them to the verge of ruin.

His powers of mind and his acquirements were not denied, even by his detractors. The most acrimonious Tories were forced to admit, with an ungracious snarl, which increased the value of their praise, that he had all the intellectual qualities of a great man, and that in him alone, among his contemporaries, brilliant eloquence and wit were to be found associated with the quiet and steady prudence which ensures success in life. It is a remarkable fact, that, in the foulest of all the many libels that were published against him, he was slandered under the name of Cicero. As his abilities could not be questioned, he was charged with irreligion and immorality. That he was heterodox all the country vicars and foxhunting squires firmly believed; but as to the nature and extent of his heterodoxy there were many different opinions. He seems to have been a Low Churchman of the school of Tillotson, whom he always loved and honoured; and he was, like Tillotson, called by bigots a Presbyterian, an Arian, a Socinian, a Deist, and an Atheist.

The private life of this great statesman and magistrate was malignantly scrutinised; and tales were told about his libertinism which went on growing till they became too absurd for the credulity even of party spirit. At last, long after he had been condemned to flannel and chicken broth, a wretched courtesan, who had probably never seen him except in the stage box at the theatre, when she was following her vocation below in a mask, published a lampoon in which she described him as the master of a haram more costly than the Great Turk's. There is, however, reason to believe that there was a small nucleus of truth round which this great mass of fiction gathered, and that the