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The ministry and the king himself are ali said to have slighted the affair; but so much was it talked of, that at last the Duke of Bedford founded a motion on it before the House of Lords, early in 1753. A.debate and a division took place, but the numbers were never reported, nor was any thing material elicited: so that Lord Melcombe justly remarks in his diary, “ it was the worst judged, the worst executed, and the worst supported point that I ever saw of so much expectation.”
But the truth of the character here given to this proceeding was more strongly evinced in the sequel; for in 1754, only a year after it occurred, Mr. Murray was made Attorney-general, in the room of Sir Dudley North, who rose to be Chief-Justice of the Court of King's Bench; and upon the death of the latter, in 1756, he again succeeded him in the Chief-Justiceship. A higher proof of the estimation in which his services were held was also given, for the great seal was now affixed to a patent, by which he was created Baron of Mansfield. In his judicial capacity he was not long in adding to his reputation : the regularity into which the practice of the court fell under his superintendence, the punctuality of the judgments, and the promptitude with which business was dis. patched, attracted the attention of the public, and secured all the praise which an energetic discharge of official justice eminently deserves. There were, however, some who still pronounced his Lordship more an orator than a lawyer; and it cannot be denied that in his decisions he frequently used to rely more upon the equity of his reasoning, than on a rigid reference to the abstruse records of past disputes. But it must also be stated, that his judgments in general satisfied his suitors; for a report has been printed in which it is shown that, for the number of causes heard, there were fewer motions for new trials in the Court of King's Bench, as well as fewer appeals from its jurisdiction, during his time, than at any preceding interval of equal practice and duration.
From the evidence thus supplied, it does not seem too much to aver, that with his cotemporaries, and with posterity, the fame of Lord Mansfield must have stood, and would still stand far fairer, had his talents been confined to the interests of law. But as a peer he was involved in politics, and as a judge he was always linked with the minister of the day, and biassed in favour of prerogative. From all this it unfortunately happened that his popularity fluctuated with the vicissitudes of the state ; until at last, after successively gracing the triumphs of principles the most conflicting, and men the most adverse, his name lost a great share of its respect with the majority of his countrymen. The first ministerial cares upon which he entered were the most creditable to himself, and the most beneficial to the country; for, accepting the Chancellorship of the Exchequer in April, 1757, he succeeded in reconciling the friends of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Legge to act with Mr. Fox, and thus established the administration which shed such formidable glory upon the latter years of the reign of George the II, This task accomplished, he resigned the Exchequer seals after holding them for two months, and was offered but declined the place of Lord High Chancellor. This promotion was again tendered to him in 1770, and once more in 1771, but he consistently refused it; and Charles Yorke obtained it upon the one, and Lord Bathurst upon the other occasion.
To pursue the public conduct of Lord Mansfield through the reign of George the III., would be to write a history of the ministerial conflicts which so violently agitated the country from the first accession of that prince to the throne, down to his death. During all that time Lord Mansfield never stood in opposition to the policy of the government, one only interval excepted, and that was limited to the brief administration of Lord Rockingham, in 1765. Hence it may be easier to conceive than to describe the heavy weight of popular odium to which that man must have been subjected, who uniformly supported the American Stamp Act, and the war it led to, who advocated the expulsion of Wilks from the House of Commons, and maintained the exploded doctrine, that in all cases of libel the spirit and intention of the public cation was to be decided not by the jury, but by the Court alone. For all these acts he was rewarded by the crown with an Earldom, in 1776, and shamefully punished by the people, who composed Lord George Gordon's followers in the terrible riots of 1780. By them bis house in Bloomsbury-square was attacked and set on fire, and the whole fabric, furniture, pictures, library, manuscripts, and deeds, reduced to a heap of ashes. This injury he bore with great fortitude and decency: he had a right to recover compensation from the Hundred, but he sought for no indemnification; and when addressed upon the sub
ject, returned a delicate answer, from which the following is an extract :-“ Besides what is irreparable, my pecuniary loss is great. I apprehended no danger, and therefore took no precaution. But how great soever that loss may be, I think it does not become me to seek reparation from the state. I have made up my mind to my misfortune as I ought, with this consolation, that it came from those whose object manifestly was general confusion and destruction at home, in addition to a dangerous and complicated war abroad. If I should lay before you any account or computation of the pecuniary damage I have sustained, it might seem a claim or expectation of being indemnified. Therefore, you will have no further trouble upon this subject from," &c. &c.
Lord Mansfield continued sedulous in the discharge of his public duties, until encreasing infirmities compelled him to send in his resignation in 1788. He lived comparatively in retirement until the 20th of March, 1793, when he quietly expired at Kenwood. He desired in his will that he might be privately interred in Westminster Abbey, and there accordingly his body was deposited in the north cross aisle. The spot is now indicated hy a lofty monument, ably erected by Flaxman, R.A., pursuant to the directions of A. Bailey, Esq. of Lyon's Inn, who left 25001. for the purpose. A robed statue of his Lordship, seated in judgment, is elevated upon a circular pedestal of noble dimensions: to his left stands Justice with the statera poised ; to his right, Wisdom expounding Law; and between the two is an emblematical trophy composed of his Lordship’s arms, the mantle of honour, the trasces, curtana, &c. To the back of the chair on which he sits, is affixed his motto, “Uni Æquus Virtuti-Equal to virtue alone;' and underneath, circled by a wreath of laurel, is the poetical emblem of Death amongst the ancients - a fair youth, leaning on an extinguished torch, between two funeral altars.
WILLIAM MASON, M. A.
Directly facing the entrance into the Poet's Corner of West minster Abbey, is a memorial wrought on white marble, in high relief, and tributary to the merits of the Rev. William Mason. It is a piece of sculpture not over finely executed by Bacon, and comprises only a figure of Poetry leaning in an attitude of grief over a medallion of the deceased. The inscription is in Latin, and to this effect:
He died April the 7th, 1797,
William Mason, the son of a clergyman, who held the vicarage of the Holy Trinity, at Kingston-upon-Hull, in Yorkshire, was
* Optimo Viro
Ob. 7. Apr. 1797.
born during the year 1725. Being admitted in due time to St. John's College, Cambridge, he took his first degree in 1745, after which, removing into Pembroke College, he commenced his friendship with Gray, and obtained a Fellowship in 1747. Two years afterwards he became a Master of Arts. He took orders in 1754, when the patronage of the Earl of Holdernesse procured for him the rank of Chaplain to his Majesty, and an induction into the valuable rectory of Aston, in Yorkshire.
Mason's first public appearance as an author occurred during the year 1749, when he had the honour of composing a respectable ode for the solemnity observed at the installation of the Duke of Newcastle into the Chancellorship of his University. This poem, though little heeded by his Grace, was favourably received by the public; and the impression was greatly improved by the succeeding production of ' A Monody to the Memory of Pope,' and 'Isis,' an elegy. The Monody was much studied, but not ineffective, though couched in a style which has been long and deservedly exploded. Isis was schoolboyish, and rejected from the subsequent editions of his works. But his standard rise to popularity took place upon the publication of his ‘Elfrida,' a dramatic poem, 1752. In this, as well as in “Caractacus,' which followed in 1759, he undertook to revive the ancient Greek drama, in all its pomp of chorus and purity of scenic action, a task which, though unsuccessful on the stage, was crowned with the highest compliments in the closet. His genius being decidedly lyrical, he naturally interwove with his dialogues some lofty specimens of the richly ornamented ode, which elevated him in public estimation as the next best composer in that flight of poetry to his friend Gray. In stating that he failed to inspire that interest which is the true purpose of all tragedy, it must also be added that he did not intend his pieces for the modern theatre, which, with a disdain peculiar to his literary character, he pronounced degraded beneath the level of its ancient dignity. Hence the attempts which were subsequently made to introduce them on the stage in a mutilated and distorted form, were alike uncongenial to his desires, and inimical to his first designs; and it can hardly excite surprise, that they never secured a permanent standing on the boards, though · Elfrida' was set to music by Giardini, and · Caractacus' by Dr. Arne.
Proceeding in a course of high reputation, he brought forward