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BISHOP BURNETT'S narrative of the remarkable
passages in the life of the very celebrated Earl of Rochester has been greatly valued, not only as an elegant composition, but as a lesson of instruction to all mankind. The latter of these honours, to a certain extent, I may venture to claim as the result of this sketch—at all events such is, in part, its design; and as no subject is so interesting to man as man, I have a good theme for my pen, inasmuch as there is one present to my mind whose equal, as a private English gentleman, the world never before saw, neither is it, for some reasons, desirable the world should ever again see. My only fear is, that I may be deficient in strength of pencil to draw the picture to the life, and to represent the anomaly in human nature which the character of the late John Mytton presents;
at one time, an honour to his nature; at another, a satire on humanity. What more can be done, than to strike the balance with an even hand ? and as the brightness of the sun hides its blemishes, let me hope the greater part of his faults will be lost amidst the virtues with which they are mingled. At all events, my purpose is not to hold up the torch to the failings of my old and never-forsaken friend—my chief object being to account for them, and leave his virtues to speak for themselves. I owe him pity on the score of human nature; he claims it by his own acts and deeds; and, above all, by one act of Him to whose will all men must bow, and by whom all men's deeds will be weighed. Let not the lash of censure, then, fall, too heavy upon one who himself carried charity to excess! Let the greatness of his fall be unto him as a shield ; let it be remembered he died in a prison, an epitome of human misery !
A glance over his history, however, may not be unprofitable ; it will “point a moral,” if it do not “adorn a tale."
But it may be objected that I am not the person fitted to perform this task; for, “where is the man,'
says Johnson, “who can confine himself to the exact balance of justice when his own feelings are unwittingly thrown into the scale?” It is true my regard for the late Mr. Mytton was won and secured by many sterling acts of kindness and friendship; and it is also true, that friendship is not always the sequel of obligation. I am proud to assert I do not come within this exception; and pledging myself to saying nothing that is false, rather than all that is true, I think I can produce these two results :—First, I shall unload the memory of a man I shall never be ashamed to call my friend, of several weighty imputations which now rest upon it unjustly; and secondly, I shall show, that the boldest efforts of the human imagination cannot
much exceed the romance of real life.