He has noble and generous sentiments, rather than fixed reflected principles of good nature and friendship; but they are more violent than lasting, and suddenly and often varied to their opposite extremes, with regard to the same persons. He receives the common attentions of civility as obligations, which he returns with interest; and resents with passion the little inadvertencies of human nature, which he repays with interest too. Even a difference of opinion upon a philosophical subject would provoke, and prove him no practical philosopher at least.
Notwithstanding the dissipation of his youth, and the tumultuous agitation of his middle age, he has an infinite fund of various and almost universal knowledge, which, from the clearest and quickest conception, and happiest memory, that ever man was blessed with, he always carries about him. It is his pocket-money, and he never has occasion to draw upon a book for any sum. He excels more particularly in history, as his historical works plainly prove. The relative political and commercial interests of every country in Europe, particularly of his own, are better known to him, than perhaps to any man in it; but how steadily he has pursued the latter, in his public conduct, his enemies, of all parties and denominations, tell with joy.
He engaged young, and distinguished himself in business; and his penetration was almost intuition. I am old enough to have heard him speak in parliament. And I remember that, though prejudiced against him by party, I felt all the force and charms of his eloquence. Like Belial in Milton, "he made the worse appear the better cause." All the internal and external advantages and talents of an orator are undoubtedly his. Figure, voice, elocution, knowledge, and, above all, the purest and most florid diction, with the justest metaphors and happiest images, had raised him to the post of Secretary at War, at four-and-twenty years old, an age at which others are hardly thought fit for the smallest employments.
During his long exile in France, he applied himself to study with his characteristical ardor; and there he formed and chiefly executed the plan of a great philosophical work. The common bounds of human knowledge are too narrow for his warm and aspiring imagination. He must go 'extra flammantia maenia Mundi', and explore the unknown and unknowable regions of metaphysics; which open an unbounded field for the excursion of an ardent imagination; where endless conjectures supply the defect of unattainable knowledge, and too often usurp both its name and its influence.
He has had a very handsome person, with a most engaging address in his air and manners; he has all the dignity and good-breeding which a man of quality should or can have, and which so few, in this country at least, really have.
He professes himself a deist; believing in a general Providence, but doubting of, though by no means rejecting (as is commonly supposed) the immortality of the soul and a future state.
Upon the whole, of this extraordinary man, what can we say, but, alas, poor human nature!
In your destination, you will have frequent occasions to speak in public; to princes and states abroad; to the House of Commons at home; judge, then, whether eloquence is necessary for you or not; not only common eloquence, which is rather free from faults than adorned by beauties; but the highest, the most shining degree of eloquence. For God's sake, have this object always in your view and in your thoughts. Tune your tongue early to persuasion; and let no jarring, dissonant accents ever fall from it, Contract a habit of speaking well upon every occasion, and neglect yourself in no one. Eloquence and good-breeding, alone, with an exceeding small degree of parts and knowledge, will carry a man a great way; with your parts and knowledge, then, how far will they not carry you? Adieu.
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