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Chapter 4

JOHN RETURNS TO LONDON, AND IS LED INTO BAD COMPANY.


While our worthy philosopher Freind was enlightening the priests of Barcelona, and his son John delighting the ladies, Lord Peterborough lost all favor with the queen and arch-duke for seizing Barcelona for them. The courtiers censured him for taking the city contrary to all rule, with an army less strong by half than the garrison. At first the arch-duke was highly incensed; and our friend was obliged to print an apology for the general. Yet this arch-duke, who had come to conquer Spain, had not the worth of his chocolate. All Queen Anne had given him was squandered.

Montecuculi, in his Memoirs, says three things are necessary to maintain a war; 1st, money, 2nd, money, and 3rd, money. The arch-duke wrote from Guadalaxara, where he was on the 11th of August, 1706, to Lord Peterborough, a long letter signed "Yo el Rey," in which he begged him to hasten to Genoa and raise on credit 100,000. So our Sartorius, from general of an army, thus became a Genoese banker. He communicated his distress to our friend Freind. They started for Genoa. I went with them, for you know my heart leads me thither. I admired the skill and spirit of conciliation my friend displayed in this delicate business. I saw at once that intelligence may meet every exigency. Our great Locke was a physician; he became the first metaphysician in Europe, and restored the value of the British coinage. In three days Freind raised the 100,000; but the court of Charles the VI. contrived to squander it in three weeks. After this, the general, accompanied by his theologian, was obliged to repair to London to justify himself before the parliament for conquering Catalonia against all rule, and for ruining himself in the common cause. The affair was protracted and vexatious, as are all party disputes.

You know that Mr. Freind was a member of parliament before he became a priest; and he is the only person who has been allowed to combine functions so opposed. One day, when Freind was thinking over a speech he intended to deliver in the house (of which he was a most respectable member), a Spanish lady was announced as desirous of seeing him on particular business. It was Donna Boca Vermeja herself, and in tears. Our good friend ordered a luncheon. She took some refreshment, dried her eyes, and thus began:

"You will remember, sir, when you went to Genoa, you ordered your son John to leave Barcelona for London, and to commence his duties as a clerk in the exchequer, a post which your influence had obtained for him. He embarked in the Triton with a young bachelor of arts, Don Papa Dexando, and others whom you had converted. You may well suppose that I, with my dear friend Las Nalgas, accompanied them."

Boca Vermeja then told him, again shedding tears, how John was jealous, or affected to be jealous, of the bachelor,—how a certain Madame Clive-Hart, a very bold, spiteful, masculine, young married lady, had enslaved his mind,—how he lived with libertines who had no fear of God,—how, in a word, he neglected Boca Vermeja for the artful Clive-Hart; and all because Clive-Hart had a little more red and white in her complexion than poor Boca Vermeja.

"I will look into the matter at leisure," said the worthy Mr. Freind. "I must now attend parliament, to look after Lord Peterborough's business."

Accordingly, to parliament he went; where I heard him deliver a firm and concise discourse, free from commonplace epithets, and circumlocutions. He never invoked a law or a testimony. He quoted, enforced, and applied them. He did not say they had taken the religion of the court by surprise, by accusing lord Peterborough of exposing Queen Anne's troops to risk; because it had nothing to do with religion. He did not call a conjecture a demonstration, nor forget his respect to an august parliament, by using common jokes. He did not call Lord Peterborough his client, because client signifies a plebian protected by a senator. Freind spoke with confidence and modesty; he was listened to in silence, only disturbed by cries of "Hear him, hear him."

The House of Commons passed a vote of thanks to Earl Peterborough, instead of condemning him. His lordship obtained the same justice from the House of Peers, and prepared to set out with his dear Freind to deliver the kingdom of Spain to the arch-duke. This did not take place, solely because things do not always turn out as we wish them to.

On leaving the house, our first care was to enquire after the health of John. We learnt that he was leading a dissipated and debauched life with Mrs. Clive-Hart, and a party of young men,—intelligent,—but atheists, who believed:

"That man is in no respect superior to the brutes;—that he lives and dies as they do;—that both spring from and both return to the earth;—that wisdom and virtue consist in enjoyment and in living with those we love, as Solomon says at the end of the 'Coheleth,' which we call 'Ecclesiastes.'"

These sentiments were chiefly advanced among them by one Warburton,[1] a very forward licentious fellow. I have glanced at some of the poor author's MSS., which heaven grant may not one day be printed. Warburton pretends that Moses did not believe in the immortality of the soul, because he never speaks of it, and considers that to be the only proof of his divine mission. This absurd conclusion leads to the supposition that the religion of the Jews is false. Infidels thence argue that ours, being founded thereon, is false also; and ours, which is the best of all, being false, all others are, if possible, still more false: therefore there is no religion. Hence some conclude that there is no God. Let us add to these conclusions, that this little Warburton is an intriguing, slandering fellow. See what peril!

But worse than all, John was head over ears in debt, and had a strange way of paying. One of his creditors came to him with a claim for a hundred guineas, while we were in the house. John, who always appeared polite and gentle, fought his creditor, and paid him with a sword-wound. It was apprehended the wounded man would die; and John, notwithstanding lord Peterborough's protection, ran the risk of imprisonment and hanging.

[1] In 1737 Bishop Warburton published his famous work, The Divine Legation of Moses, in which he asserted, "that the doctrine of a future state of reward and punishment was omitted in the books of Moses," and then proceeded to demonstrate "from that very omission, that a system which could dispense with a doctrine, the very bond and cement of human society, must have come from God, and that the people to whom it was given must have been placed under His immediate superintendence." In other words, the divine origin of the Mosaic "system" is demonstrated, because Moses did not teach to the chosen people the doctrine of a future life beyond the grave. Voltaire clearly saw the fallacy of this fantastic argument, and has not failed to severely satirize the right reverend author.

Robert Carruthers, Esq., in his Life of Alexander Pope styles Bishop Warburton "a learned, turbulent, ambitious adventurer"—"an indefatigable and unscrupulous divine," and says of The Divine Legation of Moses, that it was "so learned, so novel, so paradoxical, so arrogant and absurd, that it took the world as it were by storm, and challenged universal attention."

Dr. Johnson says that Warburton's "diction is coarse and impure, and his sentences are unmeasured;" and a writer in the seventh volume of the Quarterly Review (as quoted by George Godfrey Cuningham, Esq., in his Lives of Eminent and illustrious Englishmen) says: "the rudeness and vulgarity of his manners as a controvertist, removed all restraints of decency or decorum in scattering his jests about him. His taste seems to have been neither just nor delicate." He combined "the powers of a giant with the temper of a ruffian."

Gibbon, in his History of Christianity, pointedly alludes to the author of The Divine Legation of Moses, and satirically styles the omission of the doctrine of immortality from the law of Moses, as "a mysterious dispensation of providence." "The real merit of Warburton," he says, "was degraded by the pride and presumption with which he pronounced his infallible decrees."—E.



Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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