Imágenes de páginas

Mr. Justice Bathurst, with the title of lord chancellor. The following sketch of the life of the latter is abridged from the Law Magazine, vol. xvi. pp. 270—285.)

The author of certain “Strictures" on the lives of the eminent lawyers of his time (published in 1790) introduces his notice of lord Bathurst in the following terms : +"We may boldly write down, that the earl of Bathurst became a great character perforce; he was nursed in a political hot-bed, and raised per fas et nefas. Nothing less than the same necessity introduces his lordship's name in the same page with those illustrious personages, which it is the purpose of this volume to portray." Without admitting the applicability of such unqualified depreciation as this, it cannot be denied that the personal qualities of the noble lord, either as a lawyer or a statesman, would hardly of themselves have invested him with any claim to posthumous commemoration. But the attainment of the great seal, the object of all a lawyer's hope and veneration, of itself entitles its possessor to a place among the worthies of the profession, and to a niche, though none of the most conspicuous, in our gallery of legal dignitaries.

The family of Bathurst is one of very considerable antiquity. According to Jacob, its ancestors were originally settled in the principality of Luneburg, at a place called Batters, whence they bore that name; and some of them passing into England, in the tenth century, established themselves near Battle in Sussex, and gave their residence the name of Batters' Hurst that is, Batters' Grove which was afterwards abridged into Bathurst. In the course of the dissensions between the houses of York and Lancaster, Lawrence Bathurst, the then representative of the family, was deprived of this property in Sussex, which was annexed by the crown to Battle Abbey. He retained, however, lands in Staplehurst, Canterbury, and elsewhere in the county of Kent, which he had acquired by his suc

cessful industry in the woollen manufacture, to which many of the long-descended gentry of that county are indebted for their first advance to wealth and consequence. George Bathurst, the third in descent from this Lawrence, was the father of several children, of whom the celebrated wit and scholar, Dr. Ralph Bathurst, president of Trinity College, Oxford, was the eldest, and the youngest was Benjamin, who became governor of the East India and African companies, attained the honor of knighthood, and filled the office of treasurer in the household of queen Anne, when princess of Denmark. By his wife Frances, the daughter of sir Allen Apsley of Apsley in Sussex, sir Benjamin had several children, the eldest of whom was Allen, afterwards created, in queen Anne's celebrated batch of tory peers, lord Bathurst of Battlesden in Bedfordshire. Of him, the convivial intimate of Pope and Swift, and of all the brilliant circle of that Augustan age of literature, it is superfluous to speak to any reader to whom the literary history of their time is not altogether a sealed book. In parliament, a fluent and impassioned speaker, a skilful and practised debater, he maintained an unabating opposition to the government of sir Robert Walpole during the whole of his long monarchy of power, and was regarded as one of the chief champions of toryism in the house of lords. In private life, amiable, benevolent, affectionate, convivial, and witty, he endeared himself to a circle of friends, larger and more distinguished for eminence of every kind than it falls to the lot of many men, of whatever rank, to have conciliated. . His seat of Oakley Grove, near Cirencester, beheld partakers of its hospitality, the noble, the witty and the learned of successive generations. Sterne gives an interesting account of his introduction to him in his old age : “He came up to me one day, as I was at the prince of Wales's court. 'I want to know you, Mr. Sterne; but it is fit that you should know also who it is that wishes that pleasure. You have heard of an

[ocr errors]

old lord Bathurst, of whom your Popes and Swifts have sung and spoken so much. I have lived my life with geniuses of that cast, but have survived them; and despairing ever to find their equals, it is some years since I have cleared my accounts, and shut up my books, with thoughts of never opening them again. But you have kindled a desire in me of opening them once more before I die, which now I do; so go home and dine with me.' This nobleman, I say, is a prodigy : for at eighty-five he has all the wit and promptness of a man of thirty; a disposition to be pleased, and a power to please others, beyond whatever I knew; added to which, a man of learning, courtesy, and feeling.' He did indeed live long enough to survive all the illustrious associates of his early manhood, but he lived also to enjoy the rare fortune of seeing his son presiding over the dignified assembly in which he had himself achieved so much distinction; a fortune which none but the father of sir Thomas More had known before him - and to receive at the hands of that son the patent of an earldom.' The magnificent passage, in which Burke applied this signal instance of worldly felicity to illustrate the eloquent arguments so vainly reiterated against a blind and fatal perseverance in misgovernment, often as it has been admired and quoted, is too apposite to our subject to be omitted here. “The growth of our national prosperity," said the orator, in his speech on the conciliation of America, “has happened within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within sixty-eight years. There are those alive whose memory might touch the two extremities. For instance, my lord Bathurst might remember all the stages of the progress. He was, in 1704, of an age at least to be able to comprehend such things. He was then old enough, acta

· He was created, in 1772, earl Bathurst, of Bathurst, in the county of Sussex.

parentum jam legere et quæ sit poter ?? cognoscere virtus, Suppose, sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the most fortunate, men of his age, had opened to him in vision, that when, in the fourth generation, the third prince of the house of Brunswick had sat twelve years on the throne of that nation, which, by the happy issue of moderate and healing councils was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, lord chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary rank to its fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of the peerage,

, whilst he enriched the family with a new one. If, amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic honor and prosperity, that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and unfolded the rising glories of his country, and whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the genius should point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of the national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body, and should tell him, 'Young man, there is America, which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world.', .. If this state of his country had been foretold to him, would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it? Fortunate man, he has lived to see it! Fortunate indeed, if he lives to see nothing that shall vary the prospect, and cloud the setting of his day!” And he did not : a few months after those eloquent sentences were uttered, he died peacefully, full of years and honor, at the great age of ninety; having retained to the close of his protracted life, not only the cheerful and happy temper, but even the personal activity, and the relish for convivial enjoyments,

which had distinguished him from his youth up. Until within a month of his death, he regularly rode out on horseback for two hours in the morning, and drank his bottle of wine after dinner; and used jocosely to declare, that he never could think of adopting Dr. Cadogan's water regimen, inasmuch as no less than fifty years before, Dr. Cheyne had assured him, that he would not live seven years, unless he determined to abridge himself of his wine. A well-known anecdote relates of him, that having, about two years before his death, invited a party of friends to his seat near Cirencester, and their conviviality being protracted one evening to a pretty late hour, his son, the chancellor, objecting to so long a sitting, and dilating on the benefit of regular hours to health and longevity, was suffered to retire to his chamber; but no sooner had he gone than the jovial father cried : “Come, my good friends, since the old gentleman is gone to bed, I think we may venture to crack another bottle !" ?

Lord Bathurst married, early in life, his cousin-german, the only daughter of sir Peter Apsley, by whom he had nine children, four sons and five daughters. In one of his letters to Swift, of the date of 1730, alluding laughingly to the dean's humorous proposal to relieve the poor of Ireland by fattening their children for the table, he says: “I did immediately propose it to lady Bathurst as your advice, particularly for her last boy, which was born the plumpest and finest thing that could be seen; but she fell into a passion, and bid me send you word that she would not follow up your direction, but that she would breed him up to be a parson, and he should live upon the fat of the land; or a lawyer, and then, instead of being eat himself, he should devour others. You know women in a passion never mind what

| The obituaries of the day cite this story as a proof of the grave and temperate habits of the chancellor when a young man. The hopeful youth was at that time about the ripe age of sixty.

« AnteriorContinuar »