Budgell, Eustace

, esq. a very ingenious but unfortunate writer, was born at St. Thomas, near Exeter, about 1685, and educated at Christ-church, Oxford. His father, Gilbert Budgell, D. D. descended of an ancient family in Devonshire; his mother, Mary, was only daughter of Dr. William Gulston, bishop of Bristol, whose sister Jane married dean Addison, and was mother to the famous Addison. After some years stay in the university, Mr. Budgell went to London, and was entered of the Inner Temple, in order to study law, for which his father always intended him; but his inclinations led him more to study polite literature, and keep company with the genteelest persons in town. During his stay at the Temple, he contracted a strict intimacy and friendship with Addison, who was first cousin to his mother; and when Addison was appointed secretary to lord Wharton, | lord-lieutenant of Ireland, he offered to make his friend Eustace one of the clerks of his office, which Mr. Budgell readily accepted. This was in April 1710, when he was about twenty-five years of age. He had by this time read the classics, the most reputed historian^ and the best French, English, and Italian writers, and became concerned with Steele and Addison, not in writing the Tatler, as has been asserted, but the Spectator, which was begun in 1711. Ail the papers marked with an X were written by him, and the whole eighth volume is attributed to Addison and himself, without the assistance of Steele. Several little epigrams and songs, which have a good deal of wit in them, together with the epilogue to the “Distressed Mother,” which had a greater run than any thing of the kind before, were also written by Mr. Budgell near this time; all which, together with the known affection of Addison for him, raised his character so much as to give him considerable consequence in the literary and political world. Upon the laying down of the Spectator, the Guardian was set up; and to this work our author contributed, along with Addison and Steele. In the preface it is said, that those papers marked with an asterisk were written by Mr. Budgell.

Having regularly made his progress in the secretary of state’s office in Ireland, upon the arrival of George I. in England, he was appointed under secretary to Addison, and chief secretary to the lords justices of Ireland. He was made likewise deputy-clerk of the council in that kingdom; and soon after chosen member of the Irish parliament, where he acquitted himself as a very good speaker, and performed all his official duties with great exactness and ability, and with very singular disinterestedness. In 1717, when Addison became principal secretary of state in England, he procured for Mr. Budgell the place of accomptant and comptroller-general of the revenue in Ireland, and might have had him for his under-secretary; but it was thought more expedient for his majesty’s service that he should continue where he was. He held these several places till 1718, at which time the duke of Bolton was appointed lord-lieutenant. His grace carried over with him one Mr. Edward Webster, whom he made a privy-counsellor and his secretary. A misunderstanding arising on some account or other, between this gentleman and Mr. Budgell, the latter treated Mr. Webster himself, | his education, his abilities, and his family, with the utmost contempt. Mr. Budgell was indiscreet enough (for he was naturally proud and full of resentment) to write a lampoon, prior to this, in which the lord-lieutenant was not spared; and which he published in spite of all Addison could say against it. Hence many discontents arose between them, till at length, the lord-lieutenant, in support of his secretary, superseded Mr. Budgell, and very soon after got him removed from the place of accomptant-general. Mr. Budgell, not thinking it safe to continue longer in Ireland, set out for England, and soon after his arrival published a pamphlet representing his case, entitled “A Letter to the lord ***, from Eustace Budgell, esq. accomptant-general of Ireland, and late secretary to their excellencies the lords justices of that kingdom;” eleven hundred copies of which were sold off in one day, either from curiosity, or sympathjr with his sufferings, which seem about this time to have affected his reason. In the Postboy of Jan. 17, 1719, he published an advertisement to justify his character against reports which had been spread to his disadvantage; and he did not scruple to declare in all companies, that his life was attempted by his enemies, which deterred him from attending his seat in parliament. Such behaviour made many of his friends conclude him delirious; his passions were certainly very strong, nor were his vanity and jealousy less predominant. Addison, who bad resigned the seals, and was retired into the country for the sake of his health, found it impossible to stem the tide of opposition, which was every where running against his kinsman, through the influence and power of the duke of Bolton; and therefore dissuaded him in the strongest terms from publishing his case, but to no manner of purpose: which made him tell a friend in great anxiety, that “Mr. Budgell was wiser than ^ny man he ever knew, and yet he supposed the world would hardly believe that he acted contrary to his advice.

Mr. Budgell’s great and noble friend lord Halifax, to whom in 1713 he had dedicated a translation of “Theophrastus’s Characters,” was dead, and lord Orrery, who held him in the highest esteem, had it not in his power to serve him. Addison had indeed got a promise from lord Sunderland, that, as soon as the present clamour was a little abated, he would do something for him; but that gentleman’s death, happening in 1719, put an end to all hopes of succeeding at court: where he continued, | nevertheless, to make several attempts, but was constantly kept down by the weight of the duke of Bolton. One case seems peculiarly hard. The duke of Portland, who was appointed governor of Jamaica, made Budgell his secretary, who was about to sail, when a secretary of state was sent to the duke, to acquaint him “that he might take any man in England for his secretary, excepting Mr. Budgell, but that he must not take him” In 1720, the fatal year of the South Sea, he was almost ruined, having lost abdve 20,000l. in it. He tried afterwards to get into parliament at several places, and spent 3000l. more in unsuccessful attempts, which completed his ruin. And from this period he began to behave and live in a different manner from what he had done before; wrote libellous pamphlets against sir Robert Walpole and the ministry, and did many unjust things in regard to his relations, being distracted in his own private fortune, as indeed he waa judged to be in his senses. In 1727 he had 1000l. given him by the duchess of Marlborough, to whose husband, the famous duke, he was related by his mother’s side, with a view to his getting into parliament. She knew that he had a talent for speaking in public, that he was acquainted with business, and would probably run any lengths against the ministry. But this scheme failed, for he could never get chosen. In 1730 he joined the band of writers against the administration, and published many papers in the “Craftsman.” He published also, about the same time, many other pieces of a political nature. In 1733, he began a weekly pamphlet called “The Bee,” which he continued for about a hundred numbers, making seven or eight volumes, 8vo. During the progress of this work, which was entirely filled with his own disputes and concerns, and exhibited many proofs of a mind deranged by oppression, or debased by desperate efforts to retrieve his character, Dr. Tindal died, by whose will Mr. Budgell had 2000l. left him; and the world being surprised at such a gift from a man entirely unrelated to him, to the exclusion of the next heir, a nephew, and the continuator of Rapin’s History of England, immediately imputed! it to his making the will himself. Thus the satirist:

"Let Budgell charge low Grub-street on my quill,

And write whatever he please——except my Will."


It was thought he had some hand in publishing Dr. Tindal’s “Christianity as old as the Creation,” for he often | talked of another additional volume on the same subject, but never published it. However, he used to inquire very frequently after Dr. Conybeare’s health, who had been employed by queen Anne to answer the first volume, and rewarded with the deanery of Christ-church for his pains; saying, “he hoped Mr. Dean would live a little longer, that he might have the pleasure of making him a bishop; for he intended very soon to publish the pther volume of Tindal, which would certainly do the business.

After the cessation of “The Bee,” he became so involved in law-suits, that he was reduced to a very unhappy situation. He now returned to his original destination of the bar, and attended for some time in the courts of law; but finding himself incapable of making any progress, and being distressed to the utmost, he determined at length on suicide. Accordingly, in 1736, betook a boat At Somerset stairs, after filling his pockets with stones, and ordered the waterman to shoot the bridge; and, while the boat was going under, threw himself into the river, wiiere he perished immediately. Several days before, he had been visibly distracted in his mind, but no care was taken of him. He was never married, but left one natural daughter behind him, who afterwards took his name, and was some time an actress at Drury-lane. The morning before he committed this act upon himself, he endeavoured to persuade this lady, who was then only eleven years old, to accompany him, which she very wisely refused. Upon his bureau was found a slip of paper, on which were written these words:

"What Cato did, and Addison approv’d,

Cannot be wrong."

which, however, as far as respects Addison’s approval, was a mere delusion of his own brain.

Mr. Budgell, as a writer, is very agreeable; not argumentative, or deep, but ingenious and entertaining; and his style was thought peculiarly elegant, and almost ranked with Addison’s, and it is certainly superior to that of most English writers. Besides what are above mentioned, he published: “Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of the family of the Boyles,1737, 8vo, third edition, a work of unquestionable authority, in most of the facts. Except this and his papers in the Spectator, none of his works are now in request; but his life is interesting | and instructive. His wayward temper; indulgence of passion and spleen; irregular ambition; and his connection with Tindal, which ended in a dereliction of moral and religious principle, sufficiently explain the causes of his unhappiness, and afford an important lesson. 1


Biog. Brit.—Cibber’s Lives, vol. V.—British Essayists, vol. VI. Pref. to the Spectator.