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Letters to Sir William Windham and Mr. Pope   By: (1678-1751)

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This eBook was produced by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.


Contents Introduction By Henry Morley Letter To Sir William Windham Letter To Alexander Pope


Henry St. John, who became Viscount Bolingbroke in 1712, was born on the 1st of October, 1678, at the family manor of Battersea, then a country village. His grandfather, Sir Walter St. John, lived there with his wife Johanna, daughter to Cromwell's Chief Justice, Oliver St. John, in one home with the child's father, Henry St. John, who was married to the second daughter of Robert Rich, Earl of Warwick. The child's grandfather, a man of high character, lived to the age of eighty seven; and his father, more a man of what is miscalled pleasure, to the age of ninety. It was chiefly by his grandfather and grandmother that the education of young Henry St. John was cared for. Simon Patrick, afterwards Bishop of Ely, was for some years a chaplain in their home. By his grandfather and grandmother the child's religious education may have been too formally cared for. A passage in Bolingbroke's letter to Pope shows that he was required as a child to read works of a divine who "made a hundred and nineteen sermons on the hundred and nineteenth Psalm."

After education at Eton and Christchurch, Henry St. John travelled abroad, and in the year 1700 he married, at the age of twenty two, Frances, daughter and co heiress of Sir Henry Winchescomb, a Berkshire baronet. She had much property, and more in prospect.

In the year 1701, Henry St. John entered Parliament as member for Wotton Bassett, the family borough. He acted with the Tories, and became intimate with their leader, Robert Harley. He soon became distinguished as the ablest and most vigorous of the young supporters of the Tory party. He was a handsome man and a brilliant speaker, delighted in by politicians who, according to his own image in the Letter to Windham, "grow, like hounds, fond of the man who shows them game." He was active in the impeachment of Somers, Montague, the Duke of Portland, and the Earl of Oxford for their negotiation of the Partition Treaties. In later years he said he had acted here in ignorance, and justified those treaties.

James II. died at St. Germains, a pensioner of France, aged sixty eight, on the 6th of September, 1701.

His pretensions to the English throne passed to the son, who had been born on the 10th of June, 1688, and whose birth had hastened on the Revolution. That son, James Francis Edward Stuart, who was only thirteen years old at his father's death, is known sometimes in history as the Old Pretender; the Young Pretender being his son Charles Edward, whose defeat at Culloden in 1746 destroyed the last faint hope of a restoration of the Stuarts. It is with the young heir to the pretensions of James II. that the story of the life of Bolingbroke becomes concerned.

King William III. died on the 8th of March, 1702, and was succeeded by James II.'s daughter Anne, who was then thirty eight years old, and had been married when in her nineteenth year to Prince George of Denmark. She was a good wife and a good, simple minded woman; a much troubled mother, who had lost five children in their infancy, besides one who survived to be a boy of eleven and had died in the year 1700. As his death left the succession to the Crown unsettled, an Act of Settlement, passed on the 12th of June, 1701, had provided that, in case of failure of direct heirs to the throne, the Crown should pass to the next Protestant in succession, who was Sophia, wife of the Elector of Hanover. The Electress Sophia was daughter of the Princess Elizabeth who had married the Elector Palatine in 1613, granddaughter, therefore, of James I. She was more than seventy years old when Queen Anne began her reign. For ardent young Tories, who had no great interest in the limitation of authority or enthusiasm for a Protestant succession, it was no treason to think, though it would be treason to say, that the old Electress and her more than forty year old German son George, gross minded and clumsy, did not altogether shut out hope for the succession of a more direct heir to the Crown... Continue reading book >>

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