Jump to content

Talk:Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke

Page contents not supported in other languages.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



This article suffers from some of the same problems as that for Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, being written from a strongly Whiggish POV and thus deprecating Tory politicians like St John.



Wouldn't Henry St John (or Henry St. John) be sufficient for a title? -- Zoe

Bolingbroke is a common name used for him. Susan Mason

I agree. I would know him as Bolingbroke rather than Henry St. John, however he should be in as St. John rather than St John, which is not how it is normally written. STÓD/ÉÍRE

Are you sure you are ok Jtdirl/Zoe? Susan Mason

So then why not Viscount Bolingbroke? -- Zoe

Naming conventions, my dear Zoe, naming conventions. STÓD/ÉÍRE 03:03 Apr 11, 2003 (UTC)

But naming conventions call for there not to be personal titles in article titles. -- Zoe

Not for a long time. The formula used for ages now is {name), {ordinal if known or needed} {title}. This is named exactly as agreed in a discussion ages ago, which is:

  1. Members of the hereditary nobility' (ie, people who inherit their title), such as a marquess, viscount, count, duke. earl, etc., as with royals have two names. For example Henry John Temple was also the 3rd Viscount Palmerston, hence typically referred to as "Lord Palmerston". Naming the article Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, with redirect Lord Palmerston allows both of his names to be included. The sequence number is included since personal names are often duplicated (see Earl of Aberdeen.)


On the other hand, the titles are supposed to be something which a user would commonly write within text, and "Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, was known for being a Viscount" is not exactly a good sentence. Susan Mason

But that wasn't what he was known for... Deb 17:26 Apr 11, 2003 (UTC)

The point is that the title of this article should be changed. Stop being hypercritical, its a waste. Susan Mason

No it shouldn't. It is following the naming conventions, Adam, so it stays here. STÓD/ÉÍRE 21:39 Apr 11, 2003 (UTC)

My name isn't Adam, Zoe. Susan Mason

Whatever, Lir/Vera/Susan/Dietary. BTW the naming convention was agreed because people with titles are often known to some people by name, some people by title and others by a mixture of both. STÓD/ÉÍRE 22:25 Apr 11, 2003 (UTC)

Lord Lansdowne

I thought that no one was called that until in 1784.--Anglius 02:00, 21 March 2006 (UTC)[reply]



Regarding "...In Britain the name St John is pronounced Sinj'n ..."; my understanding is that it is pronounced "sinj'n" in the case of a middle name or hyphenation, as in the James Bond movie where Rodger Moore uses the pseudonym "St.John-Smythe", but that it's "Saint John", same as in the States, when just a surname. Any Brit care to confirm? Thanks. Pete St.John 16:26, 13 August 2007 (UTC)[reply]

I can. The name of the prominent Tory politician Norman St.John-Stevas was pronounced Sinjn-Stevas during the 1980's. Roger Pearse 17:45, 13 June 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Roger Pearse (talkcontribs)

Tories were the Country Party? I thought that was the Whigs!


The introduction says that Bolingbroke was 'an intellectual leader of the "Country" party, attacking the corruption of the "Court party,"'. Later the article says he was a Tory (which aligns with my understanding of the matter). But the Whig article says this: 'The Whigs were originally also known as the "Country Party" (as opposed to the Tories, the "Court Party").'

Only one can be correct, and since Wikipedia shouldn't cite itself, I don't know which is correct. Maybe someone could sort this out? --Sapphire Wyvern 05:32, 30 August 2007 (UTC)[reply]

Court and Country are terms better left to the earlier 17th century, before the party labels of "Whig" and "Tory" were created. "Court" generally referred to the interests associated with the King, "Country" with those of the aristocratic landed interests -- but by the 18th century these interests were no longer so distinct, and the Tories (the former "Court" party) were deeply distrusted by the actual royal court. Bolingbroke was, however, a leader of the Tory opposition, not the "Country" party (which no longer existed as such); and it's a little strange (at least without some supporting quotes) to see him portrayed as an apostle of liberty, or that the author of the Patriot King (from whom George III imbibed his ideas of kingship) should be thought of as an inspiration (other than negatively) for the American Revolution.RandomCritic 16:43, 30 September 2007 (UTC)[reply]



There ought to be mention of the fact that Bolingbroke wrote a book advocating atheism, which he didn't dare publish in his lifetime but left to be published by one of his minions, to whom he left money to do it. Dr Johnson attacks him for this in Boswell. Roger Pearse 17:47, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

1715 Jacobite rising


Wasn't Lord Bolingbroke involved in negotiations with James III before the abortive '15 rising, and why is this not mentioned if so?

Jaguarjaguar (talk) 09:44, 18 November 2008 (UTC)[reply]

Recently the file File:Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke by Jonathan Richardson.jpg (right) was uploaded and it appears to be relevant to this article and not currently used by it. If you're interested and think it would be a useful addition, please feel free to include it. Dcoetzee 23:08, 19 April 2009 (UTC)[reply]

Removal of list of collateral descendants


The viscountcy is still in existence today, so many generations of collateral descendants are listed in Debrett's Peerage etc. Is there any reason why the following deserve a place in this article? I do not believe this list to be relevant to this article so have removed it to here: "Desecendants include : Gordon St John : born: 24/10/'34; Sylvia St John, (wife of Gordon), born :27/08/'35; their sons, Carl St John, born: 21/08/'61; and Heath St John; born: 31/08/'66; and Christopher St John, (son of Carl), born: 12/09/'95."(Lobsterthermidor (talk) 18:36, 7 December 2010 (UTC))[reply]



"Bolingbroke did a service to the United Kingdom and democracy by stating the need and outlining the machinery of a systematic parliamentary opposition."

I put a "POV" tag on this, but maybe "peacock term" would have been more correct. While I personally approve of democracy and think that opposition parties are generally a good idea, it's not the only way to run a government and it does have its flaws. Actually ... I'm not sure, come to think of it, that an "opposition party" is such a hot idea: dividing things up into rugby teams and dismissing possible solutions because they came from the wrong side of the house.

So: POV. "did a service", not necessarily. Paul Murray (talk) 03:43, 4 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]



Was Bolingbroke an atheist? There is a short sentence in the beginning that says he is, but needs a citation. I have tried to find something else online to cite this, but I cannot find anything.

I actually came to this article because I thought he was an atheist. The ending sentence of Baron d'Holbach's (who was an outspoken atheist and wrote many atheistic works) 'Good Sense' quotes Lord Bolingbroke. This quote is not just crictizing the church, but the entire concept of theology (divinity). Though atheism was virtually unheard of at this time, few did critize the church, or state deism rather (such as Thomas Paine). I am not sure if this quote is enough to call Lord Bolingbroke an atheist. If it is, I will use it as a citation. Brainboy109 27 July 2012

From 'Good Sense' 'Let us observe with the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke, that "theology is the box of Pandora; and if it is impossible to shut it, it is at least useful to inform men, that this fatal box is open."' *Good Sense

No, Bolingbroke wasn't an atheist. He was a deist (or as he termed himself in his Works, a "theist").[1] His beliefs, though in later life a fairly open secret among friends and his intellectual circles, were not public until his writings on philosophy and religion were published posthumously (1754) to great scandal. He was quite explicitly not an "atheist" -- in his writings he tends to equate "Spinozism" and "atheism", about which he has nothing good to say, other than it's not as bad as bad theology.
A word of future caution re using links to other Wikipedia articles to characterize his thinking -- Bolingbroke's deism was rather idiosyncratic, and not of the "English deist" variety (e.g. no immortality and rewards-and-punishments, and more Epicurean than was common with English "freethinkers" of the period such as Shaftesbury).[2]
Since Brainboy109 arrived at this page via exploring Enlightenment heterodoxy, I'll try to give a sense of where to slot Bolingbroke into his era. I won't bother with specific references -- the Intro to his "Essays to Pope" referenced below is a pretty good way to get a feel for Bolingbroke's thought.
  • Brainboy109's quote from 'Good Sense' gives a flavor of Bolingbroke's attacks on dogmatism of all sorts, but especially of the religious variety. Bolingbroke's approach to religion was, however, something more than garden-variety anti-clericalism or a dismantling of competing claims for theological "truth". Bolingbroke was scathing about how mankind has invented and (ab)used religion over millennia. His favorite target was mankind's pride -- our incorrigible hubris and urge for self-deification. As he saw it, humans have a tendency either to haul the deity down to their own miserable level or haul themselves up to God's -- that is, either
  1. to fashion God in the image of man -- e.g. the arbitrary and irrational gods of the ancient Greeks or the Old Testament deity or even the immensely rational (in human terms) God of Leibniz or the Newtonians, or
  2. to assert that man is himself God-like and can (usually via a special knowledge or the mediation of priestcraft) transcend the human condition (imago dei, neoplatonism, the enthusiastic sects of the 17thC, Shaftesbury-ism, and so forth).
  • Bolingbroke embraced Lockean empiricism, but took it much further in the area of religion than did Locke. For Bolingbroke, with his historical and proto-sociological view of the "evidence," biblical revelation was simply incompatible with reason.
  • Unlike Hume, Bolingbroke thought the complex order of the universe was evidence of a creator. Bolingbroke's "theism", laced heavily with Lockean empiricism and Ciceronian Academic scepticism, was close to a "negative theology" -- the deity is beyond anything man's mind is capable of thinking or imagining. From that position, like Hume, he attacked all metaphysical or theological speculation re the purposes or attributes of God. And like Hume, he adamantly opposed both providential theology (especially the Calvinist variety) and the "rational religion" of the Newtonians.
  • In mildly anachronistic terms, Bolingbroke wasn't a Cartesian dualist. Lockean notions run throughout his Works (and he found Bishop Berkeley's "improvements" on Locke absurd, though Berkeley was a friend of both Pope and Swift). Like Locke, he rejected innate ideas, dismissed the whole metaphysics of "material" and "immaterial" "substances", and didn't see why Locke's suggestion of "thinking matter" was such a shocking proposition. He was a "naturalist" (not an Hobbesian materialist or "Homme la machine") -- man is an animal of (limited) reason, but not the vastly superior creature relative to the rest of the animals of this world which prideful man takes himself to be. (A Swiftian theme, see Gulliver's Travels.) And pace Descartes, higher-order animals are capable of thought and are no more a mere "mechanism" than are humans with their so-called "immaterial souls."
  • As a (mitigated) sceptic, Bolingbroke didn't deny an afterlife, he just thought the various versions of resurrection fanciful and highly unlikely. He viewed most theological speculation, including on heaven and immortality, as the sort of stuff-and-nonsense mankind has always invented. As his friend Pope famously put it in his "Essay on Man," dedicated to Bolingbroke: "Hope springs eternal..."

It might be helpful to place Bolingbroke relative to other well-known figures, including Baron d'Holbach, who were connected with or influenced by him.

  • Although it would be misleading to claim that Voltaire obtained his notions on philosophy or religion from Bolingbroke, the two clearly shared many views. Bolingbroke was a kind of mentor to the young Voltaire while Bolingbroke was in exile in France; Voltaire used Bolingbroke's address in London as a sort of PO Box during Voltaire's years in England; and on his return to France, he dedicated "Brutus" to Bolingbroke. After Bolingbroke's death and the brouhaha occasioned by the publication of his Works, Voltaire wrote a "Defense" of Bolingbroke; and Voltaire's own later essay/study on the Old Testament, early Christianity, etc. was entitled "Examen de Milord Bolingbroke", which took similar positions to Bolingbroke's, and which Voltaire claimed had been written shortly after he had returned from his stay in England. In other writings, Voltaire polemically, and inaccurately, lumped Bolingbroke (and Pope) with Leibniz re "best of all possible worlds", but on Voltaire's calmer days when he wasn't shaking his fist at the heavens, there probably wasn't much difference with Bolingbroke on that score either.
  • Baron d'Holbach translated and published excerpts from a variety of heterodox philosophical/religious writers, including Bolingbroke. Holbach used others' writings for his own purposes, so he wasn't particularly careful to clarify what the writers he quoted were saying within the context of their own thought and works. Holbach found lots of Bolingbroke's ideas appealing, and Bolingbroke certainly had a way with language, especially when he was attacking what he saw as "absurd" and "chimerical" elements of Judaeo-Christian theology. But Holbach was more radical than Bolingbroke, who indeed "worshipped and adored" a creator. Holbach would probably have been a "Spinozist" in Bolingbroke's book -- the 18thC "atheists" were, from his perspective, just a modern-day wrinkle on mankind's perpetual hubristic efforts at self-deification.
  • Bolingbroke's Works were found in many libraries in the American colonies. For example, Thomas Jefferson recommended not only Bolingbroke's famous works on English history and politics but also, for the intelligent, non-dogmatic reader, his controversial philosophical/religious writings. Jefferson himself was influenced by Bolingbroke's writings -- much of Jefferson's early common place book is filled with passages from Bolingbroke on philosophy and religion. The Jefferson-Adams letters show both men to have been life-long sympathetic readers of the wicked Viscount, though Adams had more concrete disagreements with some of Bolingbroke's positions on specific theological matters.
  • It's not possible to unequivocally state Bolingbroke's positions on every issue. He didn't deal much with the New Testament, beyond deconstructing the historical evolution of early Christian doctrine (e.g. St Paul, Hellenistic philosophy, ante-Nicene writers, St Augustine). As Adams noted to Jefferson, Bolingbroke wasn't thoroughly consistent and could be as dogmatically anti-dogma as the most doctrinally dogmatic. Nor was Bolingbroke writing a carefully argued treatise -- his philosophical/religious writings are a series of complex, overlapping essays or fragments, styled as if they were his side of lively conversations over the years with Pope. It's pretty safe to conclude, however, that Jefferson's idiosyncratic editing of the Gospels would have been generally consistent with Bolingbroke's views regarding Jesus as a moral but not divine teacher.
I trust that answers the "atheist" matter.
  1. ^ See e.g., Henry St. John Viscount Bolingbroke, "Letters or Essays Addressed to Alexander Pope: Introduction," The Works of Lord Bolingbroke: With a Life, Prepared Expressly for This Edition, Containing Additional Information Relative to His Personal and Public Character, (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1841) Vol 3, pp. 40-64. Also available on Project Gutenberg as "Letter to Alexander Pope" in Letters to Sir William Windham and Mr. Pope.
  2. ^ See e.g., Wayne Hudson, Enlightenment and Modernity: The English Deists and Reform, (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009), esp. Appendix: Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke.
Dunnettreader (talk) 09:47, 3 August 2012 (UTC)[reply]
For the most part that does answer the atheist question, thank you. Though like you said, it could be included somewhere, whether here on Bolingbroke's page or on d'Holbach's page, that Bolingbroke did have influence over d'Holbach. Not sure if there is enough information that can be properly cited to include that, but it is an idea. I will say that in all of d'Holbach's work that I have read (I have read all of the still in circulation works of d'Holbach available in English a couple times over), that I only remember that one direct quote from Good Sense referring to Bolingbroke. Let me know if there is anything that can be added to that.
Brainboy109 19 August 2012

Further reading


sections on Wiki are almost always uncurated and a waste of time, tending to bloat and without any guidelines.

Kindly restore these sources as they are used for citations by the article or with some notes as to their importance or relevance:

  • Sir Charles Petrie ( Bollingbrooke ) 1937
  • Barrell, Rex A. Bolingbroke and France (1988)
  • Biddle, Sheila. Bolingbroke and Harley. London. Allen & Unwin, 1975. ISBN 0-04-942138-7
  • H. T. Dickinson, Bolingbroke (London: Constable, 1970). ISBN 0-09-455690-3;[1] the standard political biography
  • Fieldhouse, Henry N. "Bolingbroke and the Idea of Non-Party Government," History (1938) 23:46+
  • Gerrard, Christine. The Patriot Opposition to Walpole: Politics, Poetry, and National Myth, 1725–1742 (1994).
  • Douglas, Sir Harkness. Bolingbroke: The Man and His Career (1957), biography
  • Hammond, Brean S. Pope and Bolingbroke: A Study of Friendship and Influence (1984)
  • Hart, Jeffrey. Viscount Bolingbroke (1980)
  • Hassall, Arthur. Life of Viscount Bolingbroke (2006). Originally published 1889.
  • Hearnshaw, F. J. C. Bolingbroke and Progressive Conservatism, Kessinger Publishing (2005) ISBN 978-1-4254-6195-9. Originally published as a chapter in Hearnshaw's Some Great Political Idealists of the Christian era (1937)
  • Kramnick, Isaac. Bolingbroke and His Circle: The Politics of Nostalgia in the Age of Walpole (1992); political philosophy
  • Kramnick, Isaac. "An Augustan Reply to Locke: Bolingbroke on Natural Law and the Origin of Government," Political Science Quarterly Vol. 82, No. 4 (Dec., 1967), pp. 571–594 in JSTOR
  • Mansfield, Harvey C.. Statesmanship and party government;: A study of Burke and Bolingbroke (1965)
  • Petrie, Sir Charles: Bolingbroke (1937)
  • Pocock; J. G. A. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. (1975)
  • Sichel Walter. Bolingbroke And His Times, 2 vols. (1901–02) Vol. 1 The Reign of Queen Anne, Vol. 2 March 1715 - December 1751 ; old fashioned narrative
  • Varey, Simon. Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke (Twayne's English Authors Series) (1984), short summary
  • Zagorin, Perez. “The Court and the Country: A Note on Political Terminology in the Earlier Seventeenth Century," English Historical Review (1962) 77;306-11 in JSTOR

Thanks, — LlywelynII 00:38, 7 June 2016 (UTC)[reply]

Why Bolingbroke?


Why the title Viscount Bolingbroke? Did he choose it himself? If not, who did? In English history the name 'Bolingbroke', without further explanation, would usually be taken to refer to King Henry IV, son of John of Gaunt. Henry was born at Bolingbroke castle in Lincolnshire, which provides some basis for the name, though as far as I know he never had a formal title including the word. In the case of Henry St John, what reason could there be for the choice of the name? On the face of it, it would be presumptuous (or satirical), for someone to take (or be given) the name of a former king.2A00:23C8:7907:4B01:A5D0:3C45:1CDF:F28 (talk) 21:49, 6 November 2023 (UTC)[reply]

  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference Alimento was invoked but never defined (see the help page).