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seen, in matters regarding Spain, and also in affairs of commerce and in communications with “the young gentleman,” as he calls the Pretender. He had to sound the French temper, and actually settle with “little Torcy" matters which were to be more formally arranged at Utrecht. “For God's sake, dear Matt,” writes Bolingbroke, “hide the nakedmess of thy country, and give the best turn thy fertile brain will furnish thee with, to the blunders of thy countrymen, who are not much better politicians than the French are poets.” The fact was that the English ministers were much more anxious for peace than they dared appear to be at home. They were really ready to give King Louis easy terms, but could not risk offending the English national pride. Prior had to reconcile these objects as best he could, and, in spite of all the difficulties he met with, succeeded in retaining the affection of Bolingbroke, the friendship of the Marquis de Torcy, and the esteem of the Earl of Shrewsbury, who was for a time the English ambassador at Paris. His popularity was no doubt largely due to his geniality and complaisance in society. Torcy says that “he was in request for his good company,” and he was no doubt a favourite with the lady friends of Madame de Torcy. His social activities were often used on behalf of le cher Henri, the familiar name by which Bolingbroke was remembered in that circle. In one of the latter's letters, “Matthew " is earnestly entreated to say “ half a score pretty things to Madame de Torcy and Madame de Noailles, and father them upon him.” He is equal to the task.-‘‘I am now upon the greatest piece of negotiation that I ever had in my life, the distribution of your cargo, (i.e., presents to the ladies). . . I begin the great work this afternoon, and shall give you a full account of my action by the next . . . I have and will continue to lye most strenuously for you.”
Bolingbroke's correspondence abounds in instances of Prior's whimsical descriptions of his troubles. He is rather ill and, after the manner of those days, expects to die. “Your friend Matt has, for fifty hours past, had troussegalante dams toutes les formes, and I was of opinion that I was going ad Palimedem ad Ulyssem, et Heroas. I have changed that opinion these twelve hours past, and I hope to live with Lord Treasurer and Lord Bolingbroke, who are e'en as good company.”
He envies Torcy his capable secretary and tells “Henri" of “the honest stupidity of my English Jonathan" in France and the complaisance of two French dogs and one Walloon in new liveries that call everybody Marquis and furnish me with a levée of spies, projectors, and beggars; and bring Jacobites to me before I wake in the morning, and put tall Irishmen to bed to me.”
* See the last line of Alma and a footnote below on Prior's Will.
Bolingbroke apologises for delay in answering letters and receives the graceful forgiveness: “Whenever I hear from you, I find a good and instructive correspondent, and when I do not hear from you I comfort myself in having a real and constant friend.” It was apparently upon such trifling as this that the remarkable charge which was afterwards brought against Prior and Bolingbroke—that they were “most unseasonably witty in the interludes of important business”—was founded.
By far the greater part of his time in Paris was occupied by the difficulties and excitements of delicate negotiations, with a fair share of social flattery and amusement to leaven the labour. It was followed by two brief periods of very different fortune.
In 1713 the peace with France was finally settled, and Prior’s “aeterma amicitia " with Bolingbroke was sealed by success. But peace has to be celebrated—“entries, coaches, horses, liveries follow very soon,” and the plenipotentiary becomes anxious about his personal dignity. He wants a coach for the occasion. His work is at an end, moreover, and he trembles for the future. “It may look like a bagatelle what is to become of a philosopher like me,” he writes indignantly, “but it is not such, what is to become of a person who had the honour to be chosen and sent hither, as intrusted in the midst of a war, with what the Queen designed should make peace. Returning with the Lord Bolingbroke, one of the greatest men in England, and one of the finest heads in Europe (as they say here, if true or not, n'importe), having been left by him in the greatest character (that of her Majesty's plenipotentiary), exercising that power conjointly with the Duke of Shrewsbury and solely after his departure. Having here received more distinguished honour than any minister, except an ambassador ever did ; and some which were never given to any, but who had that character; having had all the success that could be expected, having (God be thanked) spared no pains, at a time when the peace at home is voted safe and honourable, at a time when the Earl of Oxford is Lord Treasurer, and Lord Bolingbroke first Secretary of State; this unfortunate person, I say, neglected, forgot, unnamed to anything that may speak the Queen satisfied with his services, or his friends concerned as to his misfortune. Mons. de Torcy put me quite out of countenance the other day by a pity that wounded mo deeper than ever did the cruelty of the late Lord Godolphin. He said he would write to Robin and Harry' about me. God forbid, my Lord, that I should need any foreign intercession or owe anything to any Frenchman living, besides decency of behaviour, and the returns of common civility . . . In all cases I am ready, but in the meantime—dic aliquid de tribus capillis . . . In short, my Lord, you have put me above myself, and if I am to return to myself, I shall return to something very discontented and uneasy.” (There were then rumours of places for Prior with which he could not be satisfied.) The picture which he draws of himself at the beginning of the preceding passage, is one of the completest accounts we possess of his consequence and position. There seems no reason to consider it exaggerated. Meanwhile Bolingbroke asks his opinion about a medal to be struck in commemoration of the peace “where Britain gives an olivebranch to Time, and this motto inscribed Longum diffundet in aevum, or of this, Britain is seated on a throne, arms, trophies, etc., at her feet, the motto Compositio venerantur armis.” Prior replies,” “I dislike your medal with the motto . . . I will have one of my own design : the Queen's bust surrounded with laurel, and with this motto, Annae Aug. Felici, Pacificae, Peace in a triumphal car, and the words Paz missa per orbem. This is ancient, this is simple, this is sense. Rosier shall execute it in a manner not seen in England since Simonds' time.” Coaches, places, and medals apart, the Peace