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was an immense triumph for Bolingbroke, and Prior probably expressed the feeling of his party in saying, “I congratulate you most sincerely upon the birth of your beautiful daughter the Peace, after all the pangs you have so long time suffered from the ignorance of some of our English men-midwives.” But the congratulations were scarcely out of men's lips when the Queen began to show signs of declining health, and the Tory camp was filled with dismay. It must be admitted that at this juncture Prior showed an anxiety about his own fate that was scarcely edifying. He was indecently eager to be recalled at once, that he might receive an appointment at home before the Queen's death. His circumstances were certainly trying, for he had then no defined position and no money to maintain his dignity as the Queen's representative. The vacillating policy of the English government was also provoking the sneers of the French, and was ingeniously portrayed by Prior himself in the midst of his distress. He writes as usual to Bolingbroke: “I cannot forbear adding one word to you to thank you for sending me Barton the Wise; who is the best interpreter in the world, of confusion and disorder; for he does not speak one sentence out, stops short, knows nothing, and concludes, almost before he has begun, with ‘Lord have mercy upon England.’” He had written earlier, “After all, que faire is the end of my philosophy, facere officium taliter qualiter is my motto,” but by August, 1714, he could not quite escape a touch of bitterness. “Am I to go to Fontainbleau ? am I to come home P am I to be looked upon P am I to hang myself? from the present prospect of things, the latter begins to look most eligible.” His anxieties were only too well founded, for the coup d'état of the Hanoverian ministers during the Queen's last days sealed the fate of the Tories. Bolingbroke and Ormond joined the Pretender and the Duke of Shrewsbury was made Lord Treasurer. George I. ascended the throne as the head of the Whig faction, and impeachments against the framers of the treaty of Utrecht followed as a matter of course. Oxford was the only man who remained to answer the charge, however, and treason could not be proved against him. 1n 1715, Prior returned to England and was at once examined before the Council and taken into custody. He has left a fragmentary account of the examination, which does not seem to have been conducted with dignity or impartiality. He was, however, no doubt determined to give as little information as possible, and refused to discuss any actions of which he was accused that were not specified in official documents. Sir Robert Walpole brought an impeachment against him, and he was imprisoned for two years, during which time he wrote his Alma and the song printed in Appendix B. During the latter part of 1714 he had prudently endeavoured to renew his friendship with the Montagues, Lord Halifax having always been a man of influence in Whig councils. They could not get him acquitted altogether, but behaved with great generosity to him as regarded money matters, and probably helped to relieve his confinement, which was at no time very severe.
In reviewing such details of Prior's diplomatic career as are extant, we find the same careless cynicism and absence of morality in his personal attitude, which are evident in his poems. He adopted his profession because he had chances of promotion in it, and he was doubtless accustomed to carry out the directions of his masters without inquiring into the integrity of their motives, or seeking to acquire any general view of the history he was helping to make. He wrote once to Bolingbroke of his “mind constrained to put itself into ten thousand postures, as the caprice of every man that comes from your enchanted island requires.” And he added, “if ever you must go to Bucklebury and I to St. John's, let us make it, my lord, as late as ever we can.”
The epitaph he wrote upon himself was singularly true:—
“Not to business a drudge or to faction a slave,
In other words, he wished to enjoy life and not to trouble himself about the fortunes of his political allies, except in so far as they affected his own. His intimacy with Bolingbroke, together with his protestations in letters to Halifax of his own innocence of Jacobite designs, suggest that he would not have hesitated to welcome the Pretender in the event of his success, Doublefacedness was indeed the obvious weapon of the diplomatists of those days, and Prior was perhaps no worse than his colleagues, if he was no better. Macaulay tells an anecdote of him which is characteristic and exactly illustrates his attitude towards public life. It was on the occasion of the quarrel between Portland and Albemarle. A few men of fortune only remained faithful to Portland, and one of these reproached Prior with his fickleness. “Excuse me,” said the poet, “if I follow your example and my Lord's. My Lord is a model to us all; and you have imitated him to good purpose. He retires with half a million. You have large grants, a lucrative employment in Holland, a fine house. I have nothing of the kind. A court is like those fashionable churches into which we have looked at Paris. Those who have received the benediction are instantly away to the Opera House or the Wood of Boulogne. Those who have not received the benediction are pressing and elbowing each other to get near the altar. You and my Lord have got your blessing, and are quite right to take yourselves off with it. I have not been blest, and must fight my way up as well as I can.” One only wonders that he did not turn that fine double-edged satire against Church and State into an epigram. He did after all succeed in fighting his way up and was a trusted and useful servant to his employers. His was the philosophy of the courtier—“I have known Courts a long time, if the sun rises, the mists are very soon dispersed,”—and acting on it, he became a favourite alike with William and Louis, the latter having in 1712 presented him with his portrait set in diamonds. In his private letters, indeed, he does not always speak respectfully of royalty. He thus describes the society at Fontainebleau. “Where or however life is disposed we go on here sucut olim, the king hunting, shooting or walking every day and at night eating with a great appetite and an easy mind.” Although Prior was excepted from the Act of Grace of 1717, he was shortly afterwards discharged. He came out of prison with neither money nor prospects. It had not been his nature to save, and it would perhaps have been scarcely possible while he was in direct association with the Court. He had now no means of support but his fellowship, which he had prudently retained during his prosperity, on the ground that “the salary would always ensure him a bit of mutton and a clean shirt.” His friends, however, were not willing that he should be so poorly provided for and coneeived the project of “printing his Solomon and other poetical works by subscription.”—“The