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FOR FEBRUARY, 1822.
Art. I. Private and Original Correspondence of Charles
Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury, with King William, the Leaders of the Whig Party, and other distinguished Statesmen ; illustrated with Narratives Historical and Biographical: from the Family Papers in the Possession of Her Grace the Duchess of Buccleuch. Never before published. By William Coxe, F.R.S. F.S.A. Archdeacon of Wilts, &c. 4to. Pp. 686. £3 3s. Longman and Co.
1821. The reign of William III. may be accepted as the era from which we are to date the commencement of modern English parties : and whatever documents can throw light upon a period which introduced a new system into our government, must be regarded with particular interest. Mr. Coxe, as has been the case in bis numerous former labours, bas had access to the most unquestionable authorities; and by bis present work, has contributed not a little to elacidate a part of our political history, which even yet is not without obscurity; and which affords ample room for speculation both to the statesman and the philosopher.
The collection now offered to the public, speaks for its own authenticity. It consists of a correspondence oficial and private, between the Duke of Shrewsbury, and King William, from the Revolution, till his Grace's retirement from office in 1700—Letters to and from Admiral Russell, during his command in the Mediterranean-a Correspondence with Lord Galway during the campaigns of 1695 and 1696–
Letters of the Earls of Portland and Jersey, and Sir John Williamson, who were the ostensible negotiators of the peace of Ryswick;
YOL. XVII. FEBRUARY, 1822.
and lastly, a Miscellaneous Correspondence with the leading Whigs between 1695 and 1704, in which the chief domestic transactions of a period, scarcely paralleled for intestine jealousy, and political intrigue, are plainly developed.
The liberality of the Duchess of Buccleuch, to whose possession, as a Brudenell, these papers have been rightfully transmitted, has opened them to Mr. Coxe's investigation. Some few of the letters (but they are very few,) bave already been printed in different works. Those from King William are all autographs, and written in French. If we have any complaint to make against the editor, it is that he has presented us with a translation of these, instead of the originals : for with wbatever accuracy he may have rendered them into English, much that is characteristic must be evaporated in the transfusion. In a minor degree, also, we would find fault with bim on similar grounds, for having reduced the orthography throughout his volume to a common standard. Whatever the eye may gain by this uniformity, is gained at the expence of life and identity; and though Admiral Russell, who “ wrote more like a seaman than a scholar," no doubt had private notions of spelling, we cannot but wish that he had been left to “syllable men's names,” according to bis own fancy.
The Talbot family is of high antiquity; and is said to have been in England before the Norman conquest. Richard de Talbot is recorded in Domesday Book, as holding nine hides of land, under the Earl of Buckingham; and his pos. sessions in the time of the Conqueror, are found, on other authorities, to have been very considerable. Sir John Talbot, the first Earl of Shrewsbury, “ the Achilles of England,” as Anstis has somewhat quaintly styled him; or Alcides of the field,” as Lucy terms bim in similar language,
“ That ominous and fearful owl of death," who was victorious in forty several fights; and when ten years beyond the age of man, lost a single battle, and that only with his life, at Chastillon, is well known to all readers, whether of poetry or history. Charles, the twelfth earl, was the son of Earl Francis, who was unhappily killed in that celebrated duel with the Duke of Buckingham, during which
the faithless Countess, “ the wanton Sbrewsbury,” is said to at have held her lover's borse in the disguise of a page, and to
have assisted him in his flight while her husband was in the agonies of death before her eyes. He was born in 1660, and had the distinguished honor of being the first subject to whom Charles II. was sponsor, after the Restoration. Before the
completion of his minority, he had deeply investigated the controversies on the Roman Catholic religion; and having submitted the chief arguments which he could collect from the divines of that persuasion, in which he had been educated, to the replies of Archbishop Tillotson, after two years examination, he afforded a memorable instance of conscientious and disinterested conversion, at the very moment in which popery was resuming its ascendency in the circle of the court.
With these views in religion, it is not remarkable that he was among the foremost partizans of the Prince of Orange. Having mortgaged his estate for £40,000, he repaired to Holland, and there tendered both his purse and person to the cause of protestantism. His signature is found with that of the six other illustrious persons* who formed the body, known under the title of the Association; and who, on the Prince's landing in the West, avowed “that if any attempt should be made on his person, it should be revenged on all by whom, or from whom, any such attempt should be made." Burnet expressly mentions the Earl as high in William's confidence, and as one of those under whose inspection and advice he drew up his famous Declaration. On the day after the settlement of the new government, he was sworn of the privy council, and appointed principal secretary of state. Such honors as the sovereign could bestow, lavishly followed. He was appointed Commissioner of the Court of Claims; bore one of the swords at the coronation ; and at one and the same time was lord lieutenant of three counties, Hertfordshire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire.
But of all men who have tasted power, no one, on record, appears more fully to have had greatness thrust upon him against bis will, than Lord Shrewsbury. The false honor of party ties, and the untolerating exclusiveness of faction, cast a spell, as it were, on the natural freedom of his disposition ; and the services of the only public man in the kingdom, who would have attempted to conciliate, were, for years, wholly lost, or only partially afforded to his country, from a mistaken adherence to a political caste, of which, in his heart, he disapproved. The lesson is important, and belongs not to his days only. He is described to have possessed no ordinary measure of learning, a correct judgment, and a placid demeanor which insensibly attached all who knew him, and the same pen records, that no one, during bis administration,
was heard to complain of him, unless a friend, occasionally for a reserved answer. William felt a strong personal regard for him, and from bis general popularity, gave him the name of the King of Hearts. It was this suavity of disposition, so little in accordance with the ferocious pertinacity of the faction to which he was unbappily linked, whicla prevented him from agreeing to the most violent of their measures : and hence, in the slang of those times, he was stigmatised as a Trimmer; and, perhaps, in our own, would have been a rat. Such ever is the fate of those whose eyes have opened on the folly and the criminality of inexorable partizanship; and who prefer the quiet approval of conscience, to the loud boast of stubborn and misnamed consistency.
Very early in his oflicial career, Shrewsbury became anxious to disembarrass himself from the trammels, the weight of which he had discovered. In political designation, there could, at that moment, be no ambiguity; and the general voice agreed that between Whig and Tory, no middle term was admissible; yet, however avowedly connected with the leading members of the first of these parties, it is manifest that Shrewsbury joined most unwillingly in those beggarly curtailments of the royal prerogative, which pressed so heavily on his master. We find bim expressing his first strong wish for retirement, about the time in which the commons had refused to settle the civil list for longer than a single year: when William, in the bitterness of his heart, declared that he would not stay and hold an empty name; that he knew the advantages of a commonwealth, and of a monarchy, and felt it hard to determine which preponderated; but that he was sure of all governments, the worst was that of a king who possessed neither treasure nor power.
The plea of ill-health and incapacity was that which Shrewsbury ostensibly advanced : and in August 1689, he carnestly petitioned the King to give no answer to his prayer, but by some person who might be intrusted to demand the seals. He expressed the difficulties of his situation in forcible terins: that he was reduced to employ those whom other people cannot trust, such as be himself cannot confide in, or, what was impossible, to take the whole toil upon himself. The King was urgent that be should remain in his service; and for a short time succeeded.
In the next session, Shrewsbury was a warm advocate of the Abjuration Bill. He, probably, had been persuaded that it was a moasure of safety. There can be little doubt now that it was brought forward on party motives; with the intention of banishing the Tories, through their opposition to it, for ever from the royal councils. The strnggle was most violent, and terminated only through the interference of the King bimself. When the bill was dropped, Shrewsbury's retirement was a necessary consequence. Burnet prevailed upon him to delay a single night; and the King employed Tillotson, who was known to possess great influence over his mind, to divert him from his intention. But all remonstrance was vain. The King then, more than once, refused to accept the seals, when they were sent to him; and it was not until the agitation of Shrewsbury's spirits had thrown him into a fever, which almost cost him his life, that they were at length delivered up and received by the hands of the Earl of Portland.
The party to which the King was now reduced to look, felt little aitachment to his person, his cause, or his title: and, after a short interval, we find him endeavouring to modify it by an intermixture of its opponents. Admiral Russell had been dismissed from the command of the fleet; but the hopes of the Whigs were revived by two other appointments, that of Lord Somers, as Lord Keeper, and St. John Trenchard as Secretary of State. On the King's return to England in the autumn of 1693, the misconduct of Delaval and Killigrew, to whom the navy had been intrusted, paved the way to the re-admission of the former admiral. The Earl of Not. tingham'was dismissed, and the King, in order to reconcile the Whigs effectually to his service, once again tendered the seals to Shrewsbury.
The first offer was peremptorily rejected; for the pledges by which be held himself bound, would not permit him to join a mixed administration ; and the King, with his habitual caution, was reserved in expressing his total change of intentions. William was little addicted to pleasure, and was attached to his Queen. The decorum and regularity of his general manners have preserved him from the stigma of licentious amours: and the pestilent breath of Faction, which seeks only to pollute and contaminate, has endeavoured to sully one of his chief virtues, by the foulest and most odious reproach. It is with some surprise, therefore, that we find him employing a mistress as his negotiator with Shrewsbury, Mrs. Villiers, daughter of Sir Edward Villiers, sister to the Earl of Jersey, and afterwards married to the Earl of Orkney, was the personage whose services were used to allure the reluctant Secretary back to office. The bait was ardukedom, and this to be bestowed with such marks of delicate consideration, that, though the fair diplomatist took especial care to reveal the intention, the patient himself, ir