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Who ought to make me (what he can, or none) That man divine whom wisdom calls her own; Great without title, without fortune bless'd, 181 Rich ev'n when plunder’d, honor'd while op
press’d; Loved without youth, and follow'd without power; At home, though exiled; free, though in the Tower;
184 In short, that reasoning, high, immortal thing, Just less than Jove, and much above a king; Nay, half in heaven; except (what's mighty odd) A fit of vapors clouds this demigod.
HORACE, LIB. I. EP. 6.
This Epistle was written about 1737, before the distinguished person, to whom it is dedicated, had obtained any of his public honors : for it was not until 1742 that lord Mansfield obtained the solicitor-generalship, and came into parliament. Pope, reuniting the old attributes of poet and prophet, announces, in noble language, his future rank among the eminent of mankind :
Conspicuous scene! another yet is nigh
That the life of Lord Mansfield has not been authentically written, is, if not an imputation on his accomplished descendants, a serious loss to the general store of public wisdom. Great eloquence, great sagacity, and great learning, rapidly bore him up through the ranks of professional life, until, by common consent, the highest dignities of the law became his natural possession. The chancellorship was three times offered to him. Exhibiting the rare combination of unequalled powers as an advocate with commanding talents for debate, he passed from the bar into parliament, with only an increase of fame. As chancellor of the exchequer, in 1757, he rendered his brief tenure of office memorable, by giving birth to the administration of lord
Chatham, his only rival in eloquence. The arrogant grandeur, bold eccentricities, and splenetic fire, of Chatham's eloquence were irresistible for the time; but after those impetuous bursts, the house loved to repose on the noble suavity and classic eloquence of Mansfield. Yet faction reached him at last: his resistance to the Rockingham ministry, a cabinet which died of decrepitude within the year, raised the whole violence of partisanship against him. Junius, looking round the state for the highest marks for libel, made him an object of envenomed slander : his splendid talents, services, and virtues, were perverted into public crimes : his judicial decisions, unimpeachable in the courts, were pronounced tyranny in the streets; and his defence of the king was calumniated as a betrayal of the people. This folly passed away; but not until it had imbittered, and even threatened, his life; if it affected neither his firmness nor his philosophy. The king did honor to his merits, and in 1776 he received an earldom : within four years after, he was again assailed by a mob, and his house burned to the ground. Among other slanders, he had been charged with avarice; and he now answered the charge, by refusing to accept of any compensation for the loss of his property. At the close of a few years more, he retired from public life, honored by all who have the power of conferring reputation, valued by his profession as one of its most permanent names, and leaving the example of a great, and a good man, to his country. He died in 1793.