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DUKE OF ORMOND. *
Anno 1699. MY LORD, Some estates are held, in England, by paying a fine at the change of every lord. I have enjoyed the patronage of your family, from the time of your excellent grandfather to this present day. I have dedicated the translations of the “ Lives of Plutarch" to the first duke; † and have celebrated the memory of your heroic father. * Though I am very short of the age of Nestor, yet I have lived to a third generation of your house; and, by your grace's favour, am admitted still to hold from you by the same te
* James, second Duke of Ormond, was eldest son of the gallant Earl of Ossory, and grandson to the great Duke of Ormond, to whose honours he succeeded in 1688. He was first married to Lady Anne Hyde, daughter of Lawrence Earl of Rochester; and, upon her death, to Lady Mary Somerset, second daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. The Duke of Ormond was favoured by King William, but attained still higher power and influence during the reign of Queen Anne, especially in her later years, when he entered into all the views of her Tory administration. Upon the accession of George I. he was impeached of high treason, and consulted his safety by flying abroad. He died in Spain in 1746.
The tales which follow, with the various translations marked in the preface, were first published in 1700 in one volume folio.
+ See Vol. XVII. p. 1.
I am not vain enough to boast, that I have deserved the value of so illustrious a line; but my fortune is the greater, that, for three descents, they have been pleased to distinguish my poems from those of other men, and have accordingly made me their peculiar care. May it be permitted me to say, that as your grandfather and father were cherished and adorned with honours by two successive monarchs, so I have been esteemed and patronized by the grandfather, the father, and the son, descended from one of the most ancient, most conspicuous, and most deserving families in Europe.
It is true, that by delaying the payment of my last fine, when it was due by your grace's accession to the titles and patrimonies of your house, I may seem, in rigour of law, to have made a forfeiture of my claim; yet my heart has always been devoted to your service; and since you have been graciously pleased, by your permission of this address, to accept the tender of my duty, it is not yet too late to lay these poems at your feet.
The world is sensible, that you worthily succeed not only to the honours of your ancestors, but also to their virtues. The long chain of magnanimity, courage, easiness of access, and desire of doing good, even to the prejudice of your fortune, is so far from being broken in your grace, that the cious metal yet runs pure to the newest link of it;
prewhich I will not call the last, because I hope and pray it may descend to late posterity; and your flourishing youth, and that of your excellent duchess, are happy omens of my wish.
* See the passage in “ Absalom and Achitophel," Vol. IX. p. 242. and the notes on that poem, pages 294---301.
It is observed by Livy, and by others, that some of the noblest Roman families retained a resemblance of their ancestry, not only in their shapes and features, but also in their manners, their qualities, and the distinguishing characters of their minds. Some lines were noted for a stern, rigid virtue; savage, haughty, parsimonious, and unpopular; others were more sweet and affable, made of a more pliant paste, humble, courteous, and obliging; studious of doing charitable offices, and diffusive of the goods which they enjoyed. The last of these is the proper and indelible character of your grace's family. God Almighty has endued you with a softness, a beneficence, an attractive behaviour winning on the hearts of others, and so sensible of their misery, that the wounds of fortune seem not inflicted on them, but on yourself. * You are so ready to redress, that you almost prevent their wishes, and always exceed their expectations; as if what was yours was not your own, and not given you to possess, but to bestow on wanting merit. But this is a topic which I must cast in shades, lest I offend your modesty; which is so far from being ostentatious of the good you do, that it blushes even to have it known; and, therefore, I must leave you to the satisfaction and testimony of your own conscience, which, though it be a silent panegyric, is yet the best.
* This character of the unfortunate nobleman was not exaggerated. When the impeachment against him was moved, Hutchinson, Jekyll, and many others, gave a splendid testimony to his private virtues.
You are so easy of access, that Poplicola * was not more, whose doors were opened on the outside to save the people even the common civility of asking entrance; where all were equally admitted; where nothing that was reasonable was denied; where misfortune was a powerful recommendation; and where, I can scarce forbear saying, that want itself was a powerful mediator, and was next to merit.
The history of Peru assures us, that their Incas, above all their titles, esteemed that the highest, which called them lovers of the poor ;--a name more glorious than the Felix, Pius, and Augustus, of the Roman emperors, which were epithets of flattery, deserved by few of them; and not running in a blood like the perpetual gentleness, and inherent goodness, of the Ormond family.
Gold, as it is the purest, so it is the softest and most ductile of all metals. Iron, which is the hardest, gathers rust, corrodes itself, and is, therefore, subject to corruption. It was never intended for coins and medals, or to bear the faces and inscriptions of the great. Indeed, it is fit for armour, to bear off insults, and preserve the wearer in the day of battle; but, the danger once repelled, it is laid aside by the brave, as à garment too rough for civil conversation; a necessary guard in war, but too harsh and cumbersome in peace, and which keeps off the embraces of a more humane life.
For this reason, my lord, though you have courage in an heroical degree, yet I ascribe it to you but as your second attribute: mercy, beneficence, and compassion, claim precedence, as they are first in
* P. Valerius Poplicola, the third Roman consul; the same who caused the fasces, the emblems of consular dignity, to be lowered before the common people.