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great qualities raised him so very much above all other men. Many who knew him only by his writings, or by the reputation he had gained of being one of the greatest philosophers of the age, having imagined to themselves beforehand that he was one of those scholars that, being always full of themselves and their sublime speculations, are incapable of familiarising themselves with the common sort of mankind, or of entering into their little concerns, or discoursing of the ordinary affairs of life, were perfectly amazed to find him nothing but affability, good-humour, humanity, pleasantness, always ready to hear them, to talk with them of things which they best understood, much more desirous of informing himself in what they understood better than himself than to make a show of his own science. I knew a very ingenious gentleman in England, that was for some time in the same prejudice. Before he saw Mr. Locke, he had formed a notion of him to himself under the idea of one of the ancient philosophers, with a long beard, speaking nothing but by sentences
, negligent of his person, without any other politeness but what might proceed from the natural goodness of his temper, a sort of politeness often very coarse and very troublesome in civil society. But one hour's conversation entirely cured him of his mistake, and obliged him to declare, that he looked upon Mr. Locke to be one of the politest men he ever saw: “ He is not a philosopher always grave, always confined to that character, as I imagined; he is,” said he, “a perfect courtier, as agreeable for his obliging and civil behaviour as admirable for the profoundness and delicacy of his genius.”
Mr. Locke was so far from assuming those airs of gravity by which some folks, as well learned as un. learned, love to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world, that, on the contrary, he looked upon them as an infallible mark of impertinence. Nay, sometimes he would divert himself with imitating that studied gravity, in order to turn it the better into ridicule; and upon this occasion he always remembered this maxim of the Duke de la Rochefoucault, which he admired above all others, “ that gravity is a mystery of the body, invented to conceal the defects of the mind.” He loved also to confirm his opinion on this subject, by that of the famous Earl of Shaftsbury*, to whom he took a delight to give the honour of all the things which he thought he had learnt from his conversation.
Nothing ever gave him a more sensible pleasure than the esteem which that earl conceived for him, almost the first moment he saw him, and which he afterwards preserved as long as he lived. And, indeed, nothing set Mr. Locke's merit in a better light than the constant esteem of my Lord Shaftsbury, the greatest genius of his age, superior to so many great men that shone at the same time at the court of Charles II. ; not only for his resolution and intrepidity in maintaining the true interests of his country, but also for his great abilities in the conduct of the most knotty affairs. When Mr. Locke studied at Oxford, he fell by accident into his company, and one single conversation with that great man won him his esteem and confidence to such a degree, that soon afterwards my Lord Shaftsbury took him to be near his person, and kept him as long as Mr. Locke's health or affairs would permit. That earl par. ticularly excelled in the knowledge of men. It was impossible to catch his esteem by moderate qualities; this his enemies themselves could never deny. I wish I could, on the other hand, give you a full notion of the idea which Mr. Locke had of that nobleman's merit. He lost no opportunity of speaking of it, and that in a manner which sufficiently showed he spoke from his heart. Though my Lord Shaftsbury had not spent much time in reading, nothing, in Mr. Locke's opinion, could be more just than the judgment he passed upon the books which fell into his hands. He presently saw through the design of a work, and without much heeding the words, which he ran over with vast rapidity, he immediately found whether the author was master of his subject, and whether his reasonings were exact. But,
* Chancellor of England in the reign of Charles II.
above all, Mr. Locke admired in him that penetration, that presence of mind, which always prompted him with the best expedients in the most desperate cases ; that noble boldness, which appeared in all his public discourses, always guided by a solid judgment, which, never allowing him to say any thing but what was proper, regulated his least word, and left no hold to the vigilance of his enemies.
During the time Mr. Locke lived with that illustrious lord, he had the advantage of becoming acquainted with all the polite, the witty, and agreeable
part of the court. It was then that he got the habit of those obliging and benevolent manners which, supported by an easy and polite expression, a great knowledge of the world, and a vast extent of capacity, made his conversation so agreeable to all sorts of people. It was then, too, without doubt that he fitted himself for the great affairs of which he afterwards appeared so capable.
I know not whether it was the ill state of his health that obliged him, in the reign of King William, to refuse going ambassador to one of the most considerable courts in Europe. It is certain that great prince judged him worthy of that post, and nobody doubts but he would have filled it gloriously.
The same prince, after this, gave him a place among the lords commissioners, whom he established for ad vancing the interest of trade and the plantations. Mr. Locke executed that employment for several years; and it is said absit invidia verbo) that he was in a manner the soul of that illustrious body. The most experienced merchants were surprised that a man, who had spent his life in the study of physic, of polite literature, or of philosophy, should have more extensive and certain views than themselves, in a business which they had wholly applied themselves to from their youth. At length, when Mr. Locke could no longer pass the summer at London without endangering his life, he went and resigned that office to the king himself, upon account that his health would permit him to stay no longer in town. This reason did not hinder the king from entreating Mr. Locke to continue in his post, telling him
expressly, that, though he could stay at London but a few weeks, his services in that office would yet be very necessary to him ; but at length he yielded to the representations of Mr. Locke, who could not prevail upon himself to hold an employment of that importance, without doing the duties of it more regularly. He formed and executed this design without mentioning a word of it to any body whatsoever; thus avoiding, with a generosity rarely to be found, what others would have earnestly laid out after; for by making it known that he was about to quit that employment, which brought him in a thousand pounds a year, he might easily have entered into a kind of composition with any pretender, who, having particular notice of this news, and being befriended with Mr. Locke's interest, might have carried the post from any other person. This, we may be sure, he was told of, and that too by way of reproach. “ I knew it very well,” replied he; “ but this was the very reason why I communicated my design to nobody. I received this place from the king himself, and to him I resolved to restore it, to dispose of it as he thought proper.” “ Heu prisca fides!” Where are such examples, at this day, to be met with?
One thing, which those who lived for any time with Mr. Locke could not help observing in him, was, that he took a delight in making use of his reason in every thing he did ; and nothing that is attended with any usefulness seemed unworthy his care ; so that we may say of him, what was said of queen Elizabeth, that he was no less capable of small things than of great. He used often to say himself, that there was an art in every thing; and it was easy to be convinced of it, to see the manner in which he went about the most trifling thing he did, and always with some good reason. I might here descend into particulars, which, probably, to many, would not be unpleasant; but the bounds I have set myself, and the fear of taking up too many pages
in your journal, will not give me leave to do it. Mr. Locke, above all things, loved order ; and he had got the way of observing it in every thing with wonderful exactness.
As he always kept the useful in his eye, in all his disquisitions, he esteemed the employments of men only in proportion to the good they were capable of producing; for which reason he had no great value for those critics, or mere grammarians, that waste their lives in comparing words and phrases, and in coming to a determination in the choice of a various reading, in a passage that has nothing important in it. He cared yet less for those professed disputants, who, being wholly taken up with the desire of coming off with the victory, fortify themselves behind the ambiguity of a word, to give their adversaries the more trouble. And whenever he had to deal with this sort of folks, if he did not beforehand take a strong resolution of keeping his temper, he quickly fell into a passion; and, in general, it must be owned, he was naturally somewhat choleric; but his anger never lasted long. If he retained
any resentment, it was against himself for having given way to so ridiculous a passion ; which, as he used to say, may do a great deal of harm, but never yet did the least good. He often would blame himself for this weakness. Upon which occasion, I remember, that two or three weeks before his death, as he was sitting in a garden taking the air in a bright sun-shine, whose warmth afforded him a great deal of pleasure, which he improved as much as possible, by causing his chair to be drawn more and more towards the sun, as it went down; we happened to speak of Horace, I know not on what occasion, and having repeated to him these verses, where that poet says, of himself, that he was
Solibus aptum ; Irasci celerem, tamen ut placabilis essem : “ That he loved the warmth of the sun, and that, though he was naturally choleric, his anger was easily appeased :” Mr. Locke replied, that if he durst presume to compare himself with Horace in any thing, he thought he was perfectly like him in those two respects. But, that you may be the less surprised at his modesty, upon this occasion, I must, at the same time, inform you, that he looked upon Horace to be one of