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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

Walpole himself must have felt satisfied on the point


For

a long time it must have been apparent to every one that Walpole was the coming minister. Walpole himself must have felt satisfied on the point; but he was probably well content to admit to himself that his time had not yet come. Walpole was not a great man. He wanted the moral qualities which are indispensable to greatness. He was almost as much wanting in them as Bolingbroke himself. But if his genius was far less brilliant than that of Bolingbroke, he was amply furnished with patience and steadiness. He could wait. He did not devise half a dozen plans for one particular object, and fly from one to the other when the moment for action was approaching, and end by rejecting them all when the moment for action had arrived. He made up his mind to a certain course, and he held to it; if its chance did not come to-day, it might come to-morrow. He had no belief in men's sincerity--or women's either. There seems reason to believe that the famous saying ascribed to him, about every man having his price, was not used by him in that unlimited sense; that he only spoke of "these men"--of certain men--and said that every one of them had his price. But he always acted as if the description he gave of "these men" might safely be extended to all men. He had a coarse, licentious nature. He enjoyed the company of loose women. He loved obscene talk; not merely did he love it, but he indulged in and encouraged it for practical purposes of his own; he thought it useful at men's dinner-parties,
because it gave even the dullest man a subject on which he could find something to say. One could not call Walpole a patriot in the higher sense; he wanted altogether that fine fibre in his nature, that exalted, half-poetic feeling, that faculty of imagination which quickens practical and prosaic objects with the spirit of the ideal, and which are {166} needed to make a man a patriot in the noblest meaning of the word. But he loved his country in his own heavy, practical, matter-of-fact sort of way, and that was just the sort of way which at the time happened to be most useful to England. Let it be said, too, in justice to Walpole, that the most poetic and lyrical nature would have found little subject for enthusiasm in the England of Walpole's earlier political career. It was not exactly the age for a Philip Sidney or for a Milton. England's home and foreign policy had for years been singularly ignoble. At home it had been a conflict of mean intrigues; abroad, a policy of selfish alliances and base compromises and surrenders. The splendid military genius of Marlborough only shone as it did as if to throw into more cruel light the infamy of the intrigues and plots to which it was often sacrificed. No man could be enthusiastic about Queen Anne or George the First. The statesmen who professed the utmost ardor for the Stuart cause were ready to sell it at a moment's notice, to secure their own personal position; most of those who grovelled before


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