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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

Sidenote 1714 Bolingbroke Henry St

became Duchess of Marlborough.

A man of the most undaunted courage in the presence of the enemy, he was his wife's obedient, patient, timid slave. He lived more absolutely under her control than Belisarius under the government of his unscrupulous helpmate. Sarah Jennings was, in her way, almost as remarkable as her husband. She was a woman of great beauty. Colley Gibber, in his "Apology," pays devoted testimony to her charms. He had by chance to attend on her in the capacity of a sort of amateur lackey at an entertainment in Nottingham, and he seems to have been completely dazzled by her loveliness. "If so clear an emanation of beauty, such a commanding grace of aspect, struck me into a regard that had something softer than the most profound respect in it, I cannot see why I may not without offence remember it, since beauty, like the sun, must sometimes lose its power to choose, and shine into equal warmth the peasant and the courtier." He quaintly adds, "However presumptuous or impertinent these thoughts may have appeared at my first entertaining them, why may I not hope that my having kept them decently a secret for full fifty years may be now a good round plea for their pardon?" The imperious spirit which could rule Churchill long dominated the feeble nature of Queen Anne. But {26} when once this domination was overthrown, Sarah Jennings had no art to curb her temper into such show of respect and compliance as might have won back her lost honors. She met her humiliation with the most childish
bursts of passion; she did everything in her power to annoy and insult the Queen who had passed from her haughty control. She was always a keen hater; to the last day of her life she never forgot her resentment towards all who had, or who she thought had, injured her. In long later years she got into unseemly lawsuits with her own near relations. But if one side of her character was harsh and unlovely enough, it may be admitted that there was something not unheroic about her unyielding spirit--something noble in the respect to her husband's memory, which showed itself in the declaration that she would not marry "the emperor of the world," after having been the wife of John, Duke of Marlborough.

[Sidenote: 1714--Bolingbroke]

Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, was in his way as great a man as the Duke of Marlborough. At the time we are now describing he seemed to have passed through a long, a varied, and a brilliant career, and yet he had only arrived at the age when public men in England now begin to be regarded as responsible politicians. He was in his thirty-sixth year. The career that had prematurely begun was drawing to its premature close. He had climbed to his highest position; he is Prime-minister of England, and has managed to get rid of his old colleague and rival, Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford. Bolingbroke had almost every gift and grace that nature and fortune could give. Three years before this Swift wrote to Stella, "I think Mr. St. John the greatest young man I ever knew; wit, capacity, beauty, quickness of apprehension, good learning and an excellent taste; the greatest orator in the House of Commons, admirable conversation, good nature and good manners, generous, and a despiser of money." Yet, as in the fairy story, the benign powers which had combined to endow him so richly had withheld the one gift which might have made all the rest of {27} surpassing value, and which being denied left them of little account. If Bolingbroke had had principle he would have been one of the greatest Englishmen of any time. His utter want of morality in politics, as well as in private life, proved fatal to him; he only climbed

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