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Roger North, who confesses that he was himself of a timid disposition, gifted neither with readiness of speech nor with the quickness of thought which underlies it, and whose innate modesty is not the least pleasing element in the altruism which ennobled his character, was a true believer in his family. The Norths, he says, 'were a numerous flock, and no one scabby sheep in it'; and, though the eldest of the brothers (Lord North and Gray of Rolleston) had attached himself to the faction,' the rest were ' in all respects helpful and assistant to each other... nor the least favour of difference or feud found amongst them.' Roger became the biographer of four of them, including himself. Specially intimate were his relations with the third of the brothers, Francis, who became Lord Guilford and keeper of the great seal. The advancement of Francis in place and prosperity was also that of Roger, whom he associated with himself in every stage of his career, who lodged with him, was a daily guest at his table and, for many years, never failed to see him safe to bed; who, in short, as Roger himself expresses it, was his brother's 'shadow.' With the frankness which adds both value and charm to his narrative, Roger confesses that his nature at one time rebelled against this dependence; but he never broke through it, and the sincerity with which he judges his brother's character and career is never devoid of piety. Their intimacy enabled the biographer to interpret the laconic notes kept by the successful counsel and eminent judge with a fulness which converts them into so many episodes of legal experience, as well as to expand the 'speculums' that represented his passing thoughts on the multifarious problems of his public and private life. Thus, Francis North's complex but masculine, though, in more respects than one, not very attractive, character is brought before the reader with all the force of veracity-for he was cautious as well as ambitious, not overscrupulous so long as he kept well within the law (within which he consistently conjured king Charles II to keep); but, at the same time, straightforward in his private and in his public acts, and content to leave the latter 'without any affected lustre or handles to fame if he could avoid them.' 'No wonder,' writes his biographer, with telling irony, 'he is so soon forgot!' The account of his matrimonial and

1 Though lord keeper North had the chief share in directing the proceedings against those accused of complicity in the Rye house plot, there is no reason for attributing to him any share in A True Account of that Horrid Conspiracy against the late King, His Present Majesty and the Government, drawn up at his suggestion, but composed by Thomas Sprat, bishop of Rochester, and published in 1685. It speaks of Russell's adherence to the doctrine of resistance as 'conformable to his Presbyterian

electioneering operations illustrates the social and political ethics of the age rather than his own. The characters of Lord Guilford's contemporaries in the higher judiciary are drawn with less reticence and extraordinary force-such portraits as those of 'Silenus' Saunders and Jeffreys, in their way, are immortal, the latter more especially so because Macaulay's portrait owes to it some of its most telling features; while the finer touches which reveal the biographer's antipathy against Sir Matthew Hale are at least equally to the credit of his artistic skill. By the side of these portraits of legal luminaries may be mentioned the admirable portrait of one whose light was hid behind the backstairs-Will Chiffinch.

To the literary ability of Roger North, the second of these Lives, that of Sir Dudley North, the great Turkey merchant, afterwards, at a critical season, appointed sheriff of London by a more than doubtful process dictated by the policy of the court1, bears signal witness. This biography depicts, with singular fidelity and force, the career of a young man of family who, virtually, began his mercantile life as supercargo on a ship bound for Archangel, and ended it as treasurer of the Turkey company at Constantinople. The account, derived from him by his brother, of the Turkish system of government (the description of avanios or exactions from Christian states and persons is specially interesting), law and society, is as full of interest as, when first made known, it must have been of novelty; and the personal character of the great merchant-whose eastern notions were not, like his mustachios, suppressed on his return home-is brought out with much affectionate humour. The honours gained by Sir Dudley North after his return nearly involved him in serious trouble after the revolution of 1688: Roger's account of his brother's examination before the House of Commons is one of the best-told episodes in the story. The third of the Lives, that of John North, master of Trinity college, Cambridge, has a very different interest; it relates the story of the life of a Cambridge don, first at Jesus, where

education' and of Sidney (sarcastically) as 'a stubborn Asserter of the Good Old Cause.'

1 An account of these proceedings, from the point of view of those who took the lead in opposing them, will be found in a book based on materials constituting a most valuable addition to the memoir-literature of this period, Papillon, F. W., Memoirs of Thomas Papillon of London, Merchant (1623—1702). Thomas Papillon, of distinguished Huguenot descent, was twice an exile-once for joining in an effort to restore Charles I to power, once for his action with regard to the London charter and North's election. He was member for Dover both before and after his second absence from England.

his younger brother was his pupil but where he grew tired of the 'grave, and perhaps empty seniors,' then at Trinity lodge, where he was on uneasy terms with the fellows, very unpopular with the undergraduates and 'so nice that he never completed anything in the way of a book. In the end, his intellectual powers decayed with those of his body; through life, his greatest happiness seems to have been the occasional society of his brothers.

Roger, the sixth and youngest of his father's sons, was, as has been observed, born to be the biographer of those among them whose worldly success had outstripped his own. He judged himself humbly, but without hypocrisy-though not of prime of my rank, yet not contemptible.' His tastes were intellectual: mathematics and music had a special attraction for him, and, of amusements, he preferred that of sailing. That he had a genuine literary gift, he seems hardly to have suspected-for he never himself published anything but A Discourse of Fish and Fish Ponds (1683); but, during the long evening of his life (from 1690 to 1734), which he spent in his own house at Rougham in Norfolk, after, as a nonjuror, he had given up practice at the bar, he wrote the Lives of which mention has been made and his own Autobiography. The latter breaks off with an account of his long services as trustee under Sir Peter Lely's will, which, like those by him performed under that of his brother Lord Guilford, long occupied most of his leisure. But, though only a fragment, and a repetition, here and there, of what he had already told in the Lives of his brothers, it is not the least engaging of his productions, and, occasionally, lifts an unsuspected corner of his inner nature-as in the strange passage concerning a man's right to end his own existence. In a lighter vein is the comparison-which must amuse readers of The Rape of the Lock-of the life of men to a game at ombre.

The merits of Roger North's biographies consist in their transparent candour, combined, as it is, with a shrewdness partly due to experience and partly to an innate insight, and in a naturalness of style which, at the same time, is always that of a well-bred scholar. He never shrinks from the use of an idiomatic phrase or proverbial turn, still less from that of an apposite anecdote; but they never have the effect of interrupting the pleasant, if somewhat sedate, progress of his narrative. The minutiae' for which he goes out of his way to apologise are, of course, welcome in themselves to readers of later generations; but the effect of each biography, as a whole, is not trifling or petty, and the dignity of the

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theme--whether it be that of legal eminence, mercantile enterprise, or scholarly calm-is invariably maintained without any apparent effort. Here and there, although he is constantly referring to the fuller treatment a subject has received in his Examen, Roger North becomes lengthy; but the total effect of his Lives, as that of all biographies of real excellence, is not less entertaining than it is instructive for those who are open to the appeal of a human life intelligently, truthfully and sympathetically told.

CHAPTER IX

MEMOIR-WRITERS, 1715-60

UNDER the first two Georges, English society became consolidated into what Disraeli, with his accustomed iridescence, described as a 'Venetian oligarchy.' Placemen in, and patriots out of, office flit across the scene. The big county interests of the aristocracy rule, subject to occasional correction from the growing power of finance or the expiring growls of the city mob, and Walpole and Pelham, or their inferiors, pull the strings. The nation, hoping eternally to see corruption extinguished and a new era of virtue and public spirit inaugurated, is, again and again, disappointed. Placemen and patriots cross over, and the game begins anew. But, behind the chief actors in the comedy, may be perceived a slowly gathering knot of observers and note-takers, the chroniclers and memoir-writers of the period. They offer us a unique and fascinating picture of the privileged classes who then presided over the fortunes of the country; and they open a new chapter in literary history. Through them, the eighteenth century is self-portrayed with a vivid insight and picturesqueness probably unrivalled, save in the parallel descriptions of French society from 1648 to 1789.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, one must imagine, was a lady of far more masculine understanding and knowledge than most of the classical ladies of whose attainments Johnson thought highly. As a descriptive topographer, she was a keen observer, not superior to the love of gossip, with a quick eye for the telling features of a story or a situation and an easy, effective style. Her manner is one of conscious superiority. She belonged to the great whig aristocracy which ruled England. Her father, Evelyn Pierrepont, was connected with the Evelyns of Wootton, and married Mary Feilding, daughter of the earl of Denbigh, from one of whose brothers Henry Fielding the novelist descended. Mary

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