Page images
PDF
EPUB

He was buried in the church of Islington, where a monument is placed to his memory.

Cave's works are very numerous; he lived the life of a most laborious student, and the greater part of his writings have been published. His first publication was entitled, • Primitive Christianity, or the Religion of the Ancient Christians in the first ages of the Gospel.' This work was first published in London in 1672, and has passed through many editions since. In 1674 he published, • Tabulæ Ecclesiasticæ, or Tables of the Ecclesiastical writers,' which was, two years after, reprinted on the continent. His · Antiquitates Apostolicæ, followed next. This work was designed as a continuation of Jeremy Taylor's • Antiquitates Christianæ.' This was followed by bis • Apostolici, or History of the Lives, Acts, Deaths, and Martyrdoms of those who were contemporaries with, or immediately succeeded, the Apostles.' Of which again, the · Ecclesiastici,' being the history of the fathers of the 4th century, may be regarded as a continuation. Of the 'Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Historia Literaria,' the first part appeared in 1688, and the second ten years afterwards. This latter work is that on which Cave's fame as a contributor to ecclesiastical literature mainly rests. During the last twelve years of his life, Cave repeatedly revised and retouched this performance. It was reprinted at Geneva in 1705 and 1720; but the best edition is that printed at the Clarendon press, in two folio volumes, 1740–43. It contains the author's last corrections and additions, with some matter by the editor, Dr Waterland.

Cave is somewhat lightly spoken of by Jortin ; but there can be no doubt that he was a laborious, accurate, and skilful scholar.

Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury.

BORN A. D. 1671.-DIED A. D. 1713.

This nobleman was grandson to the famous statesman of the same name who first held the earldom of Shaftesbury, and was born at Exeter-house, the town-residence of his grandfather, on the 26th of February, 1671. His father was, in all probability, a person of very insignificant character; but it fortunately happened that the great founder of the family conceived an attachment for his grandson while yet in his infancy, and took upon himself the charge of superintending his education. John Locke, the philosopher, who, it will be remembered, was a resident in the house of the earl of Shaftesbury, had also some share in directing his studies. A rather extraordinary plan was devised for introducing him to a knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages. A lady of the name of Birch, the daughter of a schoolmaster in Oxfordshire or Berkshire, was so thoroughly versed in the classic tongues of antiquity, as to be able to speak either of them with the greatest fluency and correctness. This lady—whose name it ought to be the pleasure of every biographer to record—was selected as the instructress of this young

favourite of fortune; and such was her skill in imparting knowledge, that, at the age of eleven or twelve, her pupil might fairly be called an accomplished scholar. At this age he was

sent by his grandfather to a private school, where he remained some little time. He early, however, lost the advantage of being superintended by the acute eye and powerful mind of the first earl, who was compelled, by the troublous nature of the times, to quit England in the latter part of 1682, and who expired at Amsterdam, in January, 1683. In this year he was removed to Winchester school. It is a curious instance of the depth and rancour of party-spirit in those days, that our young philosopher was compelled to quit this seminary by the persecution of his school-fellows on account of his descent, who had thus early imbibed from their thick-headed, fox-hunting fathers, a hatred to the name of Shaftesbury. In 1686 he set out to make the round of the continent, and, during his journey, he seems to have been animated by a laudable desire to enrich himself with every accomplishment which could adorn a scholar or a gentleman. A considerable part of the time was spent in Italy, where he acquired an accurate knowledge of painting and the fine arts.

In 1689 he returned to England, where he might almost immediately have obtained a seat in parliament, had he not rather chosen to devote himself for five years to an earnest prosecution of studies on several important questions which had engaged his attention. At the end of this period he entered the house of commons as member for Poole in Dorsetshire. His conduct as a politician was worthy of a disciple of Locke. He joined himself firmly to the only true patriots of that period, the whig supporters of King William's government; and, on all occasions, advocated measures of liberal and enlightened policy, on grounds becoming a philosophic statesman. As a speaker, he produced little impression on the house, nor will those who have perused his writings be surprised that a style so abstract, ornate, and affected, as that in which he indulged, should fail to attract attention in an assenbly of men convened to transact business. The only occasion on which he signalized himself by oratory, was in his maiden speech, when the following most exquisite and beautiful turn of argument is ascribed to him. A bill for regulating trials, in cases of high treason, was brought into parliament, by one clause of which counsel was allowed to pris

This part of the bill appeared to Lord Ashley of so much importance, that he prepared a speech in its behalf; but, on standing up to pronounce it, he was so agitated as to forget every word of what he had prepared, and was consequently unable to proceed. The house, with the kindly feeling which it usually manifests on these occasions, gave him time to recover himself, and thus encouraged him to proceed. Lord Ashley turned to the speaker and addressed him as fol. lows :-“ If I, Sir, who rise only to give my opinion on the bill now pending, without having any personal or individual interest at stake, am so confounded, that I am unable to express the least of what I proposed to say: what must the condition of that man be, who, with. out any assistance, is pleading for his life, and under apprehensions of being deprived of it?” The readiness and felicity of this turn of thought are such as almost to create a suspicion that the whole was a premeditated scene.

The labours of a senator, a century and a half since, were light compared to those of the present day; but, such as they were, Lord Ashley found his health declining under them, and, in consequence,

2 x

oners.

IV.

retired from public life. His mind now reverted to the studies and literary pursuits in which his early years had been spent, and, embarking for Holland in 1698, he spent twelve months in the society of Bayle, Le Clerc, and other eminent men, to whom, however, he introduced himself, not as an English nobleman of influence and fortune, but as an undistinguished student of physics. A little before his return, he resolved to develope his real name and rank, which gave rise to a rather amusing scene. He contrived to have Bayle invited to dinner by a friend, for the purpose of meeting Lord Ashley. It so chanced that on the day appointed, Bayle called on his friend, the student of physics, and, when pressed on rising to take leave to prolong his visit, replied that he could not, as he was engaged to meet Lord Ashley, and must be punctual. Of course their interview occasioned considerable mirth. A regular correspondence was subsequently maintained be. tween them until the period of Bayle's death.

By the decease of his father in 1699, Lord Ashley became earl of Shaftesbury, but the attainment of this hereditary right of legislating, awakened in him no desire to embark again on the stormy sea of politics. It was not till he was summoned by his virtuous and enlightened friend, Lord Somers, to assist the whig party in the debates and divisions on the partition treaty in 1701, that he took his seat. He continued steadily to support the principles and government of the Revolution, and upon the election of a new house of commons, he exerted himself so actively to procure returns favourable to his party, that the king did him the honour of saying he had turned the scale. He was offered the situation of secretary of state, but his health was such as to forbid his accepting it. In the ensuing reign, finding himself slighted by the court, he retired once again from public life, and devoted himself, with the same assiduity which had distinguished his early days, to literary avocations. In 1703, he paid another visit to Holland. In 1708, he first appeared as an author in a tractate, entitled ! A Letter concerning Enthusiasm,” which was addressed to Lord Somers, and was written for the purpose of showing the folly of trying to prevent the spread of opinions by persecution,-a plan which some persons had proposed, in order to put a stop to the disturbances created about that time by some silly fanatics, who received the name of French prophets. In 1709, appeared the most famous, though not the best of his productions, “The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody, being a recital of certain conversations on natural and moral subjects.' In the same year he married a lady of the name of Ewer, a daughter of Thomas Ewer, Esq., of Lee, in Hertfordshire. Unless we are to allow to great moralists and philosophers, an exemption from the right discharge of social obligations, we shall find something scarcely consistent with ordinary views of duty in the sentiments with which Shaftesbury entered on the state of matrimony. In a letter to his friend Robert, afterwards Lord Viscount Molesworth, written shortly after his marriage,

“ Were I to talk of marriage, and forced to speak to my mind plainly, and without the help of humour or raillery, I should doubtless offend the most part of sober married people, and the ladies chiefly. For I should, in reality, think I did wonders in extolling the happiness of my new state, and the merits of my wife in particular, by saying that I verily thought myself as happy a man now as ever.' And is

he says:

[ocr errors]

not that subject enough for joy ? What would a man of sense wish more? For my own part, if I find any sincere joy, it is because I promised myself no other than the satisfaction of my friends, who thought my family worth preserving, and myself worth nursing in an indifferent crazy state, to which a wife, (if a good one,) is a great help. Such a one I have found, and if, by her help or care, I can regain a tolerable share of health, you may be sure it will be employed as you desire, since my marriage was but a means to that end.” We give this extract, though rather a long one, for the sake of the index it gives to Lord Shaftesbury's true character. In 1710, he published his

Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author.' His health, in spite of his wife's nursing, was now so fast declining, that he resolved to try a warmer climate, as the only means of saving his life. In 1711, he reached Naples, where he took up his residence. His time was chiefly employed in drawing up a corrected and elegant edition of the Characteristics,' which had already been printed, though not in a manner satisfactory to him. Many of the plates for this new edition, which did not appear however till after his death, were invented, and their designing carefully superintended by himself; and so anxious was he to hand down this work, or rather this collection of his works, in a perfect state, that in spite of his shattered health, he went through the labour of correcting the press with his own bands. He had formed several other literary projects, but the advance of disease rendered them abortive. The air of Italy could minister no balm to his diseased frame, and after lingering about a year and a half, he expired on the fourth of February, 1713, in the forty-second year of his age. After his death two collections of his letters were published, one in 1716, entitled · Letters written by a noble lord to a young man at the university,' and another in 1721, under the name of · Letters from the Right Honourable the late earl of Shaftesbury, to Robert Molesworth, Esq. Both these publications were contrary to the wishes of the family, and both were edited by Toland, who seems to have had a remarkable anxiety to spread abroad Shaftesbury's opinions ; for during the author's lifetime, he had published a surreptitious edition of the Inquiry concerning Virtue.' The earl left behind him one son, of whom little is known except that he continued the family.

It seems, at first sight, a rather remarkable circumstance, that, in the long list of our hereditary peers, there should be so few who have distinguished themselves by any strong grasp or vigour of intellect. Entitled by their birth to cherish lofty designs,-having every field of literature open to their investigation without any of the obstacles which obstruct the vision of ordinary students,-enabled to obtain the instructions of the most eminent men of their age-oftentimes animated to exertions by the examples of illustrious ancestry,—and receiving, at their entrance upon life, and before they apply themselves to the pursuit of any enterprise, a thousand encouragements and marks of distinction, which nameless men obtain only as the reward of arduous struggles, it might be expected that they would transcend all others in talents, not less than in rank. Yet the very reverse is the fact. Nearly all the great names which adorn the peerage are those of men who have cleared the way to it by their own energies. Who does not remember how the earldom of Shaftesbury sank into insignificance on its

first transmission to that “unfeathered, two-legged thing, a son ?" or how the title of Chatham has lost all its lustre in the hands of its present possessor ? Such instances almost tempt a belief in Sir Thomas Brown's opinion, that Nature providently denies to men the capability of uniting many advantages; or, in other words, that she permits, in the minds of those who are nobly born, of some inherent defect, which prevents their attaining the force and manhood of her common creations. “I confess,” says Brown, “'tis the common fate of men of singular gifts of mind to be destitute of those of fortune; which doth not any way deject the spirit of wiser judgments, who thoroughly understand the justice of the proceeding, and, being enriched with higher donatives, cast a more careless eye on these vulgar parts of felicity. It is a most unjust ambition to desire to engross the mercies of the Almighty." But the paradox may be solved without awarding to nature any mysterious, and, indeed, unnecessary powers. The very elevation of their condition enervates their minds. Master-spirits are formed, not on the lap of ease or amid the enticements of luxury, but in storms and dangers. It is in struggles for distinction,-in the fiery onset for fame and fortune,—that souls are cast in the most heroic mould, and attuned to the noblest temper.

We are not at all disposed to make an exception from these remarks in favour of the third earl of Shaftesbury. He possessed a creditable zeal for study, and amassed no small share of learning in the long years which he devoted to its cultivation. With the writings of antiquity, and especially with the works of Plato, he bad made himself conversant, -so conversant indeed that he forgot the clearer lights which had since dawned on mankind. He devoted much of his time to contemplation on abstract principles, and on the foundation of moral codes, and in circumstances the most favourable that could be devised. Yet, after all, the result has been of trifling value compared with the toil bestowed upon it. No well-balanced system of philosophy is explained, nor any great truth advanced, and illustrated in all its bearings. Occasionally hints of value are thrown out, and a solitary position is aptly enforced, but he never seems to have had clearly before his mind a definite and organized scheme of truths, bearing upon one another in various relations, and harmonized to support an important principle. The estimate of his writings given by Sir James Macintosh, in the • Dissertation' which he prefixed to the recent edition of the · Encyclopædia Britannica,' is valuable, though tainted by the lavishness of praise to which that eminent writer is unfortunately prone. Speaking of the Inquiry concerning Virtue, Sir James says, “ The point in which it becomes especially pertinent to the subject of this Disserta tion is, that it contains more intimations of an original and important nature on the theory of ethics, than perhaps any preceding work of modern times. It is true that they are often but intimations, cursory and appearing almost to be casual ; so that many of them have

"I am not without suspicion that I have overlooked the claims of Dr Henry More, who, notwithstanding some uncouthness of language, seems to have given the first intimations of a distinct moral faculty, which he calls “the Boniform faculty;" a phrase against which an outcry would now be raised as German Happiness, according to him, consists in a constant satisfaction, ev rayalosida tus Yuxcns, Enchiridion Ethicum, lib. i. cap. iii.)

« PreviousContinue »