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ready to overwhelm him. On his arrival in England in March 1715, he was immediately taken up by an order of the council, and committed to the hands of a messenger. In April he underwent a short examination before the privy council, and at the conclusion was removed from his own house, to that of the messenger. Walpole made an impeachment against him, and he was ordered into close custody: and no person was admitted to see him without leave of the speaker. He was also, in 1717, excepted out of the act of grace; notwith
standing he was soon after discharged without any fresh prosecution or trouble. The arrears of his expenses, when allowed, had been procured for him by Lord Halifax, after great difficulty and delay. He wrote an account of the proceedings at his examination before the committee, which is to be found in his memoirs. His defence is left unfinished, and in what was done, he has not touched on one great objection, made particularly by Lord Bolingbroke and himself: that they were most wnseasonably witty in the interludes of the most serious and important negotiations. The fact is, the orders received by the negotiators at Utrecht from the ministry in England respecting the conditions of the peace, and other articles dependent on it, do not appear to have been very clearly expounded. Lord Oxford's peace was wittily, though irreverently said, ‘to be the peace of God—for it passed all human understanding.” Prior mentions several difficulties on the articles of commerce which fell to his share.—‘We had like, he said, to have made an Athanasian business of it at Utrecht, by that explanation of our own way of underrating our own commerce. Their letters to you are full of surmises and doubts that all was unhinged, and their letters to us again, that explanations, however made, were only to save appearances, and signified nothing. This melange, I say, and my endeavour to understand it, had like to make me run mad; if the Duke of Shrewsbury’s good sense, and M. de Torcy's, not only good sense, but right understanding, had not redressed us !” In another place, Prior, who I believe was not a very skilful,
7 At length great Anna said—‘Let discord cease,' She said, the world obey'd, and all was peace.
So sang Pope in his Windsor Forest:-his commentator, Dr. T. Warton, observes. It may gratify a curious reader to see an extract of a letter of Prior to Lord Bolingbroke, written from Paris, May 18, 1713, concerning a medal that was to be struck on the Peace of Utrecht, so highly celebrated in this passage communicated to me by favour of the late Dutchess Dowager of Portland,-" I dislike your medal with the motto Compositis venerantur armis–1 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, Pax missa per orbem, this is ancient, this is simple, this is sense. Rosier shall execute it, in a manner not seen in England since Simon's time.”—See Warton's Pope, vol. i. p. 133.
or successful negotiator, calls it, The d–d peace of Utrecht. With the fall of the tory ministry, a fall as much owing to their own selfish intrigues and unprincipled designs, as to the power of the whigs, Prior's connection with public life and political cares was terminated. It is apparent, from his correspondence, that he had for some time foreseen his fall, though he had no power of providing against its consequences. He left his diplomatic honours as poor as when he first assumed them. He spent the remainder of his days at a small villa, called Down Hall, in Essex, which his old patron Lord Oxford gave him for his life. His chief pecuniary resources were drawn from his Fellowship.” Having finished his Solomon" on the Vanity of the World, he collected a volume of his poems, and dedicated them to the Duke of Dorset, as a memento of his former patronage. The price of the volumes was two guineas, and the whole collection produced four thousand Soon after he formed a very judicious design of writing a history of his own time; which, doubtless, would have contained some valuable and authentic materials, as he was a near spectator, as well as active agent in all the most important political occurrences, till the dissolution of the tory ministry. A lingering fever, however, put a period to his existence, Sept. 18, 1721, in the 58th year of his age. He died at Wimple, near Cambridge, the seat of Lord Oxford at the time, but which was subsequently purchased by the Hardwicks. He was buried, at his own desire, in Westminster Abbey, and five hundred pounds were set apart by him in his will, to erect a monument to his memory. The bust was executed by Coriveaux, and the Latin inscription, which is much too long, written by Freind.” Prior appears to have had a tendresse towards a lady called Mrs. Elizabeth Cox, whom he left residuary legatee in his will ; and who is
8 *Prior hates his commission of the Customs because it spoils his wit. He says, he dreams of nothing but cockets and dockets, and drawbacks, and other jargon, words of the Custom House.”—Swift to Stella.
9 “Our friend Prior, not having had the vicissitude of human things before his eyes, is likely to end his days in as forlorn a state as any other poet has done before him, if his friends do not take more care of him, than he did of himself. Therefore, to prevent the evil, which we see is coming on very fast, we have a project of printing his Solomon, and other poetical works by subscription, one guinea
to be paid in hand, and the other at the delivery of the book. He, Arbuthnot, Pope, and Gay are with me and remember you. It is our joint bequest that you will endeavour to procure some subscriptions. You will give your receipts for the money you receive, and when you returnsit hither, you shall have others in lieu. There are no papers printed here, nor any advertisement to be published ; for the whole matter is to be managed by friends, in such a manner as shall be least shocking to the dignity of a plenipotentiary. Letter from Erasmus Lewis to Swift, v. Swift's works, vol. xi. p. 460, ed. Nichols. 10 See Appendix No. I.
described as humoursome and imperious: this, however, poets, and other than poets have borne before and since the days of Prior: but Mrs. Cox was without any share of that beauty, which, in the eye of a man of imagination and taste, is a ‘pearl of great price, and which at least is some compensation for the inconveniences of female caprice. Against ill temper, and ill looks combined, I know nothing but a resignation to fate, and a conviction that misery has no other arrows so cruel, and so malignant in store. Prior left his college a set of books of the value of £200, to be chosen out of his library, and his own picture by La Belle, together with that of Lord Jersey. The books are said to be in very superb bindings, and the portrait represents him as an ambassador, very richly dressed. It was said to be a present to Prior from Louis XIV. and cost a hundred pistoles. Prior, I am afraid, was not a more able negotiator than the ministers who employed him ; but he was a warm partisan, and privately as well as politically attached to the Earl of Oxford. Many of his letters are to be found in the Bolingbroke correspondence, but ‘Prior,’ says Mr. Coxe,” “made
1 See Coxe's Life of Sir R. Walpole, vol. i. p. 761, who adds,- His friend Steele was wholly incapable of application, and Addison was a miserable secretary of state.’ Pope says, Prior was nothing out of verse, and was less fit for business than even Addison, though he prized him