[Sir] William Temple

WorksCriticismQuotations


Life
1628-1699; son of Sir John Temple (1632-1704), grandson of Sir William Temple (b.1555); ed. Emmanuel College; travelled in Europe; m. Dorothy Osborne, 1655; settled in Ireland and became Irish MP; moved to England and settled Sheen, 1663; unsuccessful diplomatic mission to [German] prince-bishop of Munster, 1665; envoy to Brussels; created baronet, 1666; ambassador to United Provinces (Netherlands), and there established relations with John de Witt, at the Hague; effected Triple Alliance of England, Holland, and Sweden, 1668;
 
appt. ambassador to the Hague; his plans frustrated by Charles II’s understanding with Louis XIV; withdrawn, 1670; retired to Sheen; composed Essay on the Present State of Ireland (1668) condemning ‘late settlement’, but recommending despotic severity; Essay upon the Original Nature of Government (1671), anticipating Filmer’s patriarchal theory; Observations on the Netherlands (1672); brought about marriage of William of Orange and Mary, dg. of the future James II; secretaryship of state, 1677;
 
participated in conference but disapproved of Treaty of Nimeguen, 1679; again refused secretaryship; revived privy council, 1679; opposed Charles II arbitrary government; retired to his nectarines at Sheen; struck off Privy Council list, 1681; purchased Moor Park; took no part in Revolution but presented himself after second flight of James II; refused secretaryship; at Moor Park he employed Jonathan Swift (supposed by Denis Johnston and others an illegitimate son of his f., Sir John), who assisted him editing his own Memoirs and advised William III during his own indisposition;
 
published two vols. of essays as Miscellanea (1680, 1692), including that on ‘Ancient and Modern Learning’; uncritically considered the Epistles to Phalaris to be genuine, commenced but did not publish a reply to Bentley; published An Introduction to the History of England (1695); Poems by Sir W.T. (priv. 1695); d. May [but see infra], bur. Westminster. ODNB

On trade laws prohibiting the export of Irish wool in 1660: ‘So ended the fairest promise that Ireland had ever known of becoming a prosperous and a happy country. (c.1673; quoted at Irish History Links - online; accessed 14.01.2016.)

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Works
Samuel Holt Monk, ed. & intro., Five Miscellaneous Essays by Sir William Temple (Michigan UP 1963), xlii, 203pp.

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Criticism
Lord Macaulay - vide George Twentyman, ed., intro. & annot., Lord Macaulay's Essay on Sir William Temple [General Literature for Secondary Schools Ser.] (London: J. H. Fowler 1905) xiii, 135pp. [Note: Twentyman also edited versions of Carlyle's Lectures on Heroes and works of Arthur Conan Doyle.]

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Commentary
Constantia Maxwell, The Stranger in Ireland (1954), Chap. IX, n.4, Sir William m. Dorothy Osborne in 1653, left Ireland in 1663.

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Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age (London: Methuen 1983): ‘Swift also had the example of Sir William Temple’s essay “Of Heroick Virtue”. Here Temple set himself the problem of defining human nature by its noblest powers - those which enable truly great men to serve their race, sometimes by patriotic leadership and self-sacrifice, sometimes by fundamental inventions that improve the conditions of life, but above all by instituting wise and just governments. Temple tried to enlarge the common idea of heroism by going outside European tradition. Instead of examining the four great empires of antiquity, he surveyed four that represent the extremes of east, west, north, [455] and south: i.e., China, Peru, Scythia, and Arabia. His essay is among the very few literary works of which one hears verbal echoes in Gulliver's Travels. It may be significant that Gulliver went to Temple's college, Emmanuel, and that his story begins in the year of Temple's death. At points we might even think of him as a humorous reincarnation of Sir William. / In the friendliest way Swift may have been replying to his old master.’ [...; quotes “Of Heroick Virtue”, as infra, and remarks:] ‘Temple treats his heroes as rare and exceptional, but he does not debase the rest of mankind in order to exalt the exceptions. The [457] hero and his people are mutually responsive; his virtues do not serve to show up their vices; for Temple interpreted 'heroic virtue' as equivalent to 'deserving well of mankind.' But for all the refinement and charm of his language, Temple writes with little humour, wit, or irony. In his style the comic element hardly exists. It was when Swift composed his early odes that he came nearest to this lack of humour; and it was at this time that he lived most under the influence of Temple's example. We may therefore think of Gulliver as replying both to Swift's younger self and to Sir William.’ (pp.456-57; for full text, see RICORSO Library, “Irish Critical Classics”, via index or direct.)

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Sir William Temple, b. London of Irish parents, afterwards spent some time in Ireland; strongly supported ancients in his essay Of Ancient and Modern Learning (1690), asserting the so-called 6th c. Letters of Phalaris to be genuine; William Wotton, Cambridge replied for the moderns, condemning the Phalaris letters as forgeries in Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning (1694); [163] Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery published an edition (1695) supporting their authenticity, making slighting remarks about Richard Bentley, who replied trenchantly, occasioning an insolent reply from Boyle, assisted by member of Christ Church, Oxford, remarking Bentley’s ‘publick affront’; this led to Bentley’s magisterial Dissertation on the Letters of Phalaris (1699) which totally overwhelmed Boyle in terms of scholarship; the Irish historian Henry Dodwell supported Bentley in a Discourse Concerning the Time of Phalaris (1704), pleading for less bad temper. [164]

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986): Sir William Temple, ‘An Essay on the Advancement of trade in Ireland’, in The Works of Sir William Temple, 4 vols., London 1770 (vol. 3, pp.5-31), speaks of the necessity ‘to introduce, as far as can be, a vein of parsimony throughout the country, in all things that are not perfectly the native growths and manufactures.’ This in a letter to the lord lieutenant Essex. Later in the same letter he presciently warns that among Irish industries however the woollen industry ‘seems not fit to be encouraged’. [Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986). p.349]

Gerard McCoy, ‘“Patriots, Protestants and Papists”: Religion and the Ascendancy, 1714-60’, Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1 (Spring 1994), pp.105-18, remarking that Protestant writers of the period in question relied on Temple’s History of the Irish Rebellion for information about 1641, viz., that 150,000 Protestants had been victims of ‘detestable cruelties’, &c. (citing a sermon of Rev. Henry Maule before the Irish House of Lords in 1733; McCoy, p.107.)

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Quotations
Of Heroick Virtue”: ‘Whoever has a mind to trace the paths of heroic virtue, which lead to the temple of true honour and fame, need seek no further than in the stories and examples of those illustrious persons here assembled; and so I leave this crown of never-fading laurel, in full view of such great and noble spirits as shall deserve it in this or succeeding ages. Let them win and wear it.’ (Samuel Holt Monk, ed. & intro., Five Miscellaneous Essays by Sir William Temple, Michigan UP 1963, p.166; quoted in Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works and the Age, London: Methuen 1983, p.456.)

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References
Marsh’s Library, Dublin, holds Letters to the King, the Prince of Orange, the chief ministers of state and other persons, 3 vols. (London: Tim Goodwin and Benj. Tooke 1703), 8o; Miscellanea, 3 vols. (1680, 1692, and 1701); Memoirs (1692), both with the assistance of Jonathan Swift.

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Notes
Muriel McCarthy & Caroline Sherwood-Smith, Hibernia Resurgens (Marsh’s Library 1994), notes that Swift recorded at the time that ‘He [Temple] died at one o’clock this morhing, the 27 January 1698-9 and with him all that was good and amiable among men.’

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Japanese gardens: Sir William Temple brought back from his embassy to the Netherlands an account of Japanese gardens whose irregularity, in constrast with the neo-classical landscape idiom, inspired Joseph Addison to promote the idea in England. Addison conversed about the subject with Temple’s protegé Jonathan Swift while he was in Dublin where he, Addison, occupied the Record Tower. (See Fintan O’Toole, ‘How forms and tension in Eastern culture mirror “ours”’, in The Irish Times (27 Feb. 2010), Weekend, p.9; citing Ciaran Murray, Disorientalism: Asian Subversion / Irish Visions (2009).

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