It would be curious, after all, should the prototype of Hudibras turn out to be one of the heroes of "the Rolliad;" a circumstance which, had it been known to the copartnership of that comic epic, would have furnished a fine episode and a memorable hero to their line of descent. "When BUTLER wrote his Hudibras, one Coll. Rolle, a Devonshire man, lodged with him, and was exactly like his description of the Knight; whence it is highly probable, that it was this gentleman, and not Sir Samuel Luke, whose person he had in his eye. The reason that he gave for calling his poem Hudibras was, because the name of the old tutelar saint of Devonshire was Hugh de Bras." I find this in the Grubstreet Journal, January, 1731, a periodical paper conducted by two eminent literary physicians, under the appropriate names of Bavius and Maevius, and which for some time enlivened the town with the excellent design of ridiculing silly authors and stupid critics.
It is unquestionably proved, by the confession of several friends of Butler, that the prototype of Sir Hudibras was a Devonshire man; and if Sir Hugh de Bras be the old patron saint of Devonshire, (which however I cannot find in Prince's or in Fuller's Worthies,) this discovers the suggestion which led Butler to the name of his hero; burlesquing the new saint by pairing him with the chivalrous saint of the county; hence, like the Knight of old, did
Sir Knight abandon dwelling, And out he rode a Colonelling!
This origin of the name is more appropriate to the character of the work than deriving it from the Sir Hudibras of Spenser, with whom there exists no similitude.
It is as honourable as it is extraordinary, that such was the celebrity of Hudibras, that the workman's name was often confounded with the work itself; the poet was once better known under the name of HUDIBRAS than of BUTLER. Old Southern calls him "Hudibras Butler;" and if any one would read the most copious life we have of this great poet in the great General Dictionary, he must look for a name he is not accustomed to find among English authors —that of Hudibras! One fact is remarkable: that, like Cervantes, and unlike Rabelais and Sterne, Butler in his great work has not sent down to posterity a single passage of indecent ribaldry, though it was written amidst a court which would have got such by heart, and in an age in which such trash was certain of popularity.
We know little more of Butler than we do of Shakspeare and of Spenser! Longueville, the devoted friend of our poet, has unfortunately left no reminiscences of the departed genius whom he so intimately knew, and who bequeathed to Longueville the only legacy a neglected poet could leave—all his manuscripts; and to his care, though not to his spirit, we are indebted for Butler's "Remains." His friend attempted to bury him with the public honours he deserved, among the tombs of his brother-bards in Westminster Abbey; but he was compelled to consign the bard to an obscure burial-place in Paul's, Covent Garden. Many years after, when Alderman Barber raised an inscription to the memory of Butler in Westminster Abbey, others were desirous of placing one over the poet's humble gravestone. This probably excited some competition: and the following fine one, attributed to Dennis, has perhaps never been published. If it be Dennis's, it must have been composed in one of his most lucid moments.
Near this place lies interred The body of Mr. Samuel Butler, Author of Hudibras. He was a whole species of Poets in one! Admirable in a Manner In which no one else has been tolerable; A Manner which began and ended in Him; In which he knew no Guide, And has found no Followers.
To this too brief article I add a proof that that fanaticism which is branded by our immortal Butler can survive the castigation. Folly is sometimes immortal, as nonsense is sometimes irrefutable. Ancient follies revive, and men repeat the same unintelligible jargon: just as contagion keeps up the plague in Turkey by lying hid in some obscure corner, till it breaks out afresh. Recently we have seen a notable instance where one of the school to which we are alluding declares of Shakspeare that "it would have been happy if he had never been born, for that thousands will look back with incessant anguish on the guilty delight which the plays of Shakspeare ministered to them." Such is the anathema of Shakspeare! We have another of Butler, in "An Historic Defence of Experimental Religion;" in which the author contends, that the best men have experienced the agency of the Holy Spirit in an immediate illumination from heaven. He furnishes his historic proofs by a list from Abel to Lady Huntingdon! The author of Hudibras is denounced, "One Samuel Butler, a celebrated buffoon in the abandoned reign of Charles the Second, wrote a mock-heroic poem, in which he undertook to burlesque the pious puritan. He ridicules all the gracious promises by comparing the divine illumination to an ignis fatuus, and dark lantern of the spirit." Such are the writers whose ascetic spirit is still descending among us from the monkery of the deserts, adding poignancy to the very ridicule they would annihilate. The satire which we deemed obsolete, we find still applicable to contemporaries!
The FIRST part of Hudibras is the most perfect; that was the rich fruit of matured meditation, of wit, of learning, and of leisure. A mind of the most original powers had been perpetually acted on by some of the most extraordinary events and persons of political and religious history. Butler had lived amidst scenes which might have excited indignation and grief; but his strong contempt of the actors could only supply ludicrous images and caustic raillery. Yet once, when villany was at its zenith, his solemn tones were raised to reach it.
The SECOND part was precipitated in the following year. An interval of fourteen years was allowed to elapse before the THIRD and last part was given to the world; but then everything had changed! the poet, the subject, and the patron! The old theme of the sectarists had lost its freshness, and the cavaliers, with their royal libertine, had become as obnoxious to public decency as the Tartuffes. Butler appears to have turned aside, and to have given an adverse direction to his satirical arrows. The slavery and dotage of Hudibras to the widow revealed the voluptuous epicurean, who slept on his throne, dissolved in the arms of his mistresses. "The enchanted bower," and "The amorous suit," of Hudibras reflected the new manners of this wretched court; and that Butler had become the satirist of the party whose cause he had formerly so honestly espoused, is confirmed by his "Remains," where, among other nervous satires, is one, "On the licentious age of Charles the Second, contrasted with the puritanical one that preceded it." This then is the greater glory of Butler, that his high and indignant spirit equally satirised the hypocrites of Cromwell and the libertines of Charles.
The inimitable "School-Mistress" of Shenstone is one of the felicities of genius; but the purpose of this poem has been entirely misconceived. Johnson, acknowledging this charming effusion to be "the most pleasing of Shenstone's productions" observes, "I know not what claim it has to stand among the moral works." The truth is, that it was intended for quite a different class by the author, and Dodsley, the editor of his works, must have strangely blundered in designating it "a moral poem." It may be classed with a species of poetry, till recently, rare in our language, and which we sometimes find among the Italians, in their rime piacevoli, or poesie burlesche, which do not always consist of low humour in a facetious style with jingling rhymes, to which form we attach our idea of a burlesque poem. There is a refined species of ludicrous poetry, which is comic yet tender, lusory yet elegant, and with such a blending of the serious and the facetious, that the result of such a poem may often, among its other pleasures, produce a sort of ambiguity; so that we do not always know whether the writer is laughing at his subject, or whether he is to be laughed at. Our admirable Whistlecraft met this fate! "The School-Mistress" of Shenstone has been admired for its simplicity and tenderness, not for its exquisitely ludicrous turn!
This discovery I owe to the good fortune of possessing the edition of "The School-Mistress," which the author printed under his own directions, and to his own fancy. To this piece of LUDICROUS POETRY, as he calls it, "lest it should be mistaken," he added a LUDICROUS INDEX, "purely to show fools that I am in jest." But "the fool," his subsequent editor, who, I regret to say, was Robert Dodsley, thought proper to suppress this amusing "ludicrous index," and the consequence is, as the poet foresaw, that his aim has been "mistaken."
The whole history of this poem, and this edition, may be traced in the printed correspondence of Shenstone. Our poet had pleased himself by ornamenting "A sixpenny pamphlet," with certain "seemly" designs of his, and for which he came to town to direct the engraver; he appears also to have intended accompanying it with "The deformed portrait of my old school-dame, Sarah Lloyd." The frontispiece to this first edition represents the "Thatched-house" of his old schoolmistress, and before it is the "birch-tree," with "the sun setting and gilding the scene." He writes on this, "I have the first sheet to correct upon the table. I have laid aside the thoughts of fame a good deal in this unpromising scheme; and fix them upon the landskip which is engraving, the red letter which I propose, and the fruit-piece which you see, being the most seemly ornaments of the first sixpenny pamphlet that was ever so highly honoured. I shall incur the same reflection with Ogilby, of having nothing good but my decorations. I expect that in your neighbourhood and in Warwickshire there should be twenty of my poems sold. I print it myself. I am pleased with Mynde's engravings."
On the publication Shenstone has opened his idea on its poetical characteristic. "I dare say it must be very incorrect; for I have added eight or ten stanzas within this fortnight. But inaccuracy is more excusable in ludicrous poetry than in any other. If it strikes any, it must be merely people of taste; for people of wit without taste, which comprehends the larger part of the critical tribe, will unavoidably despise it. I have been at some pains to recover myself from A. Phi**** misfortune of mere childishness, 'Little charm of placid mien,' &c. I have added a ludicrous index purely to show (fools) that I am in jest; and my motto, 'O, qua sol habitabiles illustrat oras, maxima principum!' is calculated for the same purpose. You cannot conceive how large the number is of those that mistake burlesque for the very foolishness it exposes; which observation I made once at the Rehearsal, at Tom Thumb, at Chrononhotonthologos, all which, are pieces of elegant humour. I have some mind to pursue this caution further, and advertise it 'The School-Mistress,' &c. a very childish performance everybody knows (novorum more). But if a person seriously calls this, or rather burlesque, a childish or low species of poetry, he says wrong. For the most regular and formal poetry may be called trifling, folly, and weakness, in comparison of what is written with a more manly spirit in ridicule of it.'
This edition is now lying before me, with its splendid "red-letter," its "seemly designs," and, what is more precious, its "Index." Shenstone, who had greatly pleased himself with his graphical inventions, at length found that his engraver, Mynde, had sadly bungled with the poet's ideal. Vexed and disappointed, he writes, "I have been plagued to death about the ill-execution of my designs. Nothing is certain in London but expense, which I can ill bear." The truth is, that what is placed in the landskip over the thatched-house, and the birch-tree, is like a falling monster rather than a setting sun; but the fruit-piece at the end, the grapes, the plums, the melon, and the Catharine pears, Mr. Mynde has made sufficiently tempting. This edition contains only twenty-eight stanzas, which were afterwards enlarged to thirty-five. Several stanzas have been omitted, and they have also passed through many corrections, and some improvements, which show that Shenstone had more judgment and felicity in severe correction than perhaps is suspected. Some of these I will point out.
In the second stanza, the first edition has,
In every mart that stands on Britain's isle, In every village less reveal'd to fame, Dwells there in cottage known about a mile, A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name.
In every village mark'd with little spire, Embower'd in trees, and hardly known to fame, There dwells in lowly shed and mean attire, A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name.
The eighth stanza, in the first edition, runs,
The gown, which o'er her shoulders thrown she had, Was russet stuff (who knows not russet stuff?) Great comfort to her mind that she was clad In texture of her own, all strong and tough; Ne did she e'er complain, ne deem it rough, &c.
More elegantly descriptive is the dress as now delineated:—
A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown, A russet kirtle fenced the nipping air; 'Twas simple russet, but it was her own: 'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair, 'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare, &c.
The additions made to the first edition consist of the 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15th stanzas, in which are so beautifully introduced the herbs and garden stores, and the psalmody of the schoolmistress; the 29th and 30th stanzas were also subsequent insertions. But those lines which give so original a view of genius in its infancy,
A little bench of heedless bishops here, And there a chancellor in embryo, &c.
were printed in 1742; and I cannot but think that the far-famed stanza in Gray's Elegy, where he discovers men of genius in peasants, as Shenstone has in children, was suggested by this original conception:
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood,
is, to me, a congenial thought, with an echoed turn of expression of the lines from the School-Mistress.
I shall now restore the ludicrous INDEX, and adapt it to the stanzas of the later edition.
Stanza Introduction 1 The subject proposed 2 A circumstance in the situation of the MANSION OF EARLY DISCIPLINE, discovering the surprising influence of the connexions of ideas 3 A simile; introducing a deprecation of the joyless effects of BIGOTRY and SUPERSTITION 4 Some peculiarities indicative of a COUNTRY SCHOOL, with a short sketch of the SOVEREIGN presiding over it 5 Some account of her NIGHTCAP, APRON, and a tremendous description of her BIRCHEN SCEPTER 6 A parallel instance of the advantages of LEGAL GOVERNMENT with regard to children and the wind 7 Her gown 8 Her TITLES, and punctilious nicety in the ceremonious assertion of them A digression concerning her HEN'S presumptuous behaviour, with a circumstance tending to give the cautious reader a more accurate idea of the officious diligence and economy of an old woman. 10 A view of this RURAL POTENTATE as seated in her chair of state, conferring HONOURS, distributing BOUNTIES, and dispersing PROCLAMATIONS 16 Her POLICIES 17 The ACTION of the poem commences with a general summons, follows a particular description of the artful structure, decoration, and fortifications of an HORN-BIBLE 18 A surprising picture of sisterly affection by way of episode 20, 21 A short list of the methods now in use to avoid a whipping—which nevertheless follows 22 The force of example 23 A sketch of the particular symptoms of obstinacy as they discover themselves in a child, with a simile illustrating a blubbered face 24, 25, 26 A hint of great importance 27 The piety of the poet in relation to that school-dame's memory, who had the first formation of a CERTAIN patriot. [This stanza has been left out in the later editions; it refers to the Duke of Argyle.] The secret connexion between WHIPPING and RISING IN THE WORLD, with a view, as it were, through a perspective, of the same LITTLE FOLK in the highest posts and reputation 28 An account of the nature of an EMBRYO-FOX-HUNTER.— [Another stanza omitted.] A deviation to an huckster's shop 32 Which being continued for the space of three stanzas, gives the author an opportunity of paying his compliments to a particular county, which he gladly seizes; concluding his piece with respectful mention of the ancient and loyal city of SHREWSBURY.
BEN JONSON ON TRANSLATION.
I have discovered a poem by this great poet, which has escaped the researches of all his editors. Prefixed to a translation, translation is the theme; with us an unvalued art, because our translators have usually been the jobbers of booksellers; but no inglorious one among our French and Italian rivals. In this poem, if the reader's ear be guided by the compressed sense of the massive lines, he may feel a rhythm which, should they be read like our modern metre, he will find wanting; here the fulness of the thoughts forms their own cadences. The mind is musical as well as the ear. One verse running into another, and the sense often closing in the middle of a line, is the Club of Hercules; Dryden sometimes succeeded in it, Churchill abused it, and Cowper attempted to revive it. Great force of thought only can wield this verse.
On the AUTHOR, WORKE, and TRANSLATOR, prefixed to the translation of Mateo Alemans's Spanish Rogue, 1623.
Who tracks this author's or translator's pen Shall finde, that either hath read bookes, and men: To say but one were single. Then it chimes, When the old words doe strike on the new times, As in this Spanish Proteus; who, though writ But in one tongue, was formed with the world's wit: And hath the noblest marke of a good booke, That an ill man dares not securely looke Upon it, but will loath, or let it passe, As a deformed face doth a true glasse. Such bookes deserve translators of like coate As was the genius wherewith they were wrote; And this hath met that one, that may be stil'd More than the foster-father of this child; For though Spaine gave him his first ayre and vogue He would be call'd, henceforth, the English rogue, But that hee's too well suted, in a cloth Finer than was his Spanish, if my oath Will be receiv'd in court; if not, would I Had cloath'd him so! Here's all I can supply To your desert who have done it, friend! And this Faire aemulation, and no envy is; When you behold me wish myselfe, the man That would have done, that, which you only can! BEN JONSON.
The translator of Guzman was James Mabbe, which he disguised under the Spanish pseudonym of Diego Puede-ser; Diego for James, and Puede-ser for Mabbe or May-be! He translated, with the same spirit as his Guzman, Celestina, or the Spanish Bawd, that singular tragi-comedy,—a version still more remarkable. He had resided a considerable time in Spain, and was a perfect master of both languages,—a rare talent in a translator; and the consequence is, that he is a translator of genius.
THE LOVES OF "THE LADY ARABELLA."
Where London's towre its turrets show So stately by the Thames's side, Faire Arabella, child of woe! For many a day had sat and sighed.
And as shee heard the waves arise, And as shee heard the bleake windes roare, As fast did heave her heartfelte sighes, And still so fast her teares did poure! Arabella Stuart, in Evans's Old Ballads. (Probably written by Mickle.)
The name of Arabella Stuart, Mr. Lodge observes, "is scarcely mentioned in history." The whole life of this lady seems to consist of secret history, which, probably, we cannot now recover. The writers who have ventured to weave together her loose and scattered story are ambiguous and contradictory. How such slight domestic incidents as her life consisted of could produce results so greatly disproportioned to their apparent cause may always excite our curiosity. Her name scarcely ever occurs without raising that sort of interest which accompanies mysterious events, and more particularly when we discover that this lady is so frequently alluded to by her foreign contemporaries.
The historians of the Lady Arabella have fallen into the grossest errors. Her chief historian has committed a violent injury on her very person, which, in the history of a female, is not the least important. In hastily consulting two passages relative to her, he applied to the Lady Arabella the defective understanding and headstrong dispositions of her aunt, the Countess of Shrewsbury; and by another misconception of a term, as I think, asserts that the Lady Arabella was distinguished neither for beauty nor intellectual qualities. This authoritative decision perplexed the modern editor, Kippis, whose researches were always limited; Kippis had gleaned from Oldys's precious manuscripts a single note which shook to its foundations the whole structure before him; and he had also found, in Ballard, to his utter confusion, some hints that the Lady Arabella was a learned woman, and of a poetical genius, though even the writer himself, who had recorded this discovery, was at a loss to ascertain the fact! It is amusing to observe honest George Ballard in the same dilemma as honest Andrew Kippis. "This lady," he says, "was not more distinguished for the dignity of her birth than celebrated for her fine parts and learning; and yet," he adds, in all the simplicity of his ingenuousness, "I know so little in relation to the two last accomplishments, that I should not have given her a place in these memoirs had not Mr. Evelyn put her in his list of learned women, and Mr. Philips (Milton's nephew) introduced her among his modern poetesses."
"The Lady Arabella," for by that name she is usually noticed by her contemporaries, rather than by her maiden name of Stuart, or by her married one of Seymour, as she latterly subscribed herself, was, by her affinity with James the First and our Elizabeth, placed near the throne; too near, it seems, for her happiness and quiet! In their common descent from Margaret, the elder daughter of Henry the Seventh, she was cousin to the Scottish monarch, but born an Englishwoman, which gave her some advantage in a claim to the throne of England. "Her double relation to royalty," says Mr. Lodge, "was equally obnoxious to the jealousy of Elizabeth and the timidity of James, and they secretly dreaded the supposed danger of her having a legitimate offspring." Yet James himself, then unmarried, proposed for the husband of the Lady Arabella one of her cousins, Lord Esme Stuart, whom he had created Duke of Lennox, and designed for his heir. The first thing we hear of "the Lady Arabella" concerns a marriage: marriages are the incidents of her life, and the fatal event which terminated it was a marriage. Such was the secret spring on which her character and her misfortunes revolved.
This proposed match was desirable to all parties; but there was one greater than them all who forbad the banns. Elizabeth interposed; she imprisoned the Lady Arabella, and would not deliver her up to the king, of whom she spoke with asperity, and even with contempt. The greatest infirmity of Elizabeth was her mysterious conduct respecting the succession to the English throne; her jealousy of power, her strange unhappiness in the dread of personal neglect, made her averse to see a successor in her court, or even to hear of a distant one; in a successor she could only view a competitor. Camden tells us that she frequently observed, that "most men neglected the setting sun," and this melancholy presentiment of personal neglect this political coquette not only lived to experience, but even this circumstance of keeping the succession unsettled miserably disturbed the queen on her death-bed. Her ministers, it appears, harassed her when she was lying speechless; a remarkable circumstance, which has hitherto escaped the knowledge of her numerous historians, and which I shall take an opportunity of disclosing in this work.
Elizabeth leaving a point so important always problematical, raised up the very evil she so greatly dreaded; it multiplied the aspirants, while every party humoured itself by selecting its own claimant, and none more busily than the continental powers. One of the most curious is the project of the Pope, who, intending to put aside James the First on account of his religion, formed a chimerical scheme of uniting Arabella with a prince of the house of Savoy; the pretext, for without a pretext no politician moves, was their descent from a bastard of our Edward the Fourth; the Duke of Parma was, however, married; but the Pope, in his infallibility, turned his brother the Cardinal into the Duke's substitute by secularising the churchman. In that case the Cardinal would then become King of England in right of this lady!—provided he obtained the crown!
We might conjecture from this circumstance that Arabella was a catholic, and so Mr. Butler has recently told us; but I know of no other authority than Dodd, the catholic historian, who has inscribed her name among his party. Parsons, the wily Jesuit, was so doubtful how the lady, when young, stood disposed towards Catholicism, that he describes "her religion to be as tender, green, and flexible as is her age and sex, and to be wrought hereafter and settled according to future events and times." Yet, in 1611, when she was finally sent into confinement, one well informed of court affairs writes, "that the Lady Arabella hath not been found inclinable to popery."
Even Henry the Fourth of France was not unfriendly to this papistical project of placing an Italian cardinal on the English throne. It had always been the state interest of the French cabinet to favour any scheme which might preserve the realms of England and Scotland as separate kingdoms. The manuscript correspondence of Charles the Ninth with his ambassador at the court of London, which I have seen, tends solely to this great purpose, and perhaps it was her French and Spanish allies which finally hastened the political martyrdom of the Scottish Mary.
Thus we have discovered two chimerical husbands of the Lady Arabella. The pretensions of this lady to the throne had evidently become an object with speculating politicians; and perhaps it was to withdraw herself from the embarrassments into which she was thrown, that, according to De Thou, she intended to marry a son of the Earl of Northumberland; but, to the jealous terror of Elizabeth, an English Earl was not an object of less magnitude than a Scotch Duke. This is the third shadowy husband.
When James the First ascended the English throne, there existed an Anti-Scottish party. Hardly had the northern monarch entered into the "Land of Promise," when his southern throne was shaken by a foolish plot, which one writer calls "a state riddle;" it involved Rawleigh, and unexpectedly the Lady Arabella. The Scottish monarch was to be got rid of, and Arabella was to be crowned. Some of these silly conspirators having written to her, requesting letters to be addressed to the King of Spain, she laughed at the letter she received, and sent it to the king. Thus for a second time was Arabella to have been Queen of England. This occurred in 1603, but was followed by no harsh measures from James the First.
In the following year, 1604, I have discovered that for the third time the lady was offered a crown! "A great ambassador is coming from the King of Poland, whose chief errand is to demand my Lady Arabella in marriage for his master. So may your princess of the blood grow a great queen, and then we shall be safe from the danger of missuperscribing letters." This last passage seems to allude to something. What is meant by "the danger of missuperscribing letters?"
If this royal offer were ever made, it was certainly forbidden. Can we imagine the refusal to have come from the lady, who, we shall see, seven years afterwards, complained that the king had neglected her, in not providing her with a suitable match? It was at this very time that one of those butterflies, who quiver on the fair flowers of a court, writes that "My Ladye Arbella spends her time in lecture, reiding, &c., and she will not hear of marriage. Indirectly there were speaches used in the recommendation of Count Maurice, who pretendeth to be Duke of Guildres. I dare not attempt her." Here we find another princely match proposed. Thus far, to the Lady Arabella, crowns and husbands were like a fairy banquet seen at moonlight, opening on her sight, impalpable and vanishing at the moment of approach.
Arabella from certain circumstances was a dependent on the king's bounty, which flowed very unequally; often reduced to great personal distress, we find by her letters that "she prayed for present money, though it should not be annually." I have discovered that James at length granted her a pension. The royal favours, however, were probably limited to her good behaviour.
From 1604 to 1608 is a period which forms a blank leaf in the story of Arabella. In this last year this unfortunate lady had again fallen out of favour, and, as usual, the cause was mysterious, and not known even to the writer. Chamberlain, in a letter to Sir Ralph Winwood, mentions "the Lady Arabella's business, whatsoever it was, is ended, and she restored to her former place and graces. The king gave her a cupboard of plate, better than 200l., for a new year's gift, and 1000 marks to pay her debts, besides some yearly addition to her maintenance, want being thought the chiefest cause of her discontentment, though shee be not altogether free from suspicion of being collapsed." Another mysterious expression, which would seem to allude either to politics or religion but the fact appears by another writer to have been a discovery of a new project of marriage without the king's consent. This person of her choice is not named; and it was to divert her mind from the too constant object of her thoughts, that James, after a severe reprimand, had invited her to partake of the festivities of the court in that season of revelry and reconciliation.
We now approach that event of the Lady Arabella's life which reads like a romantic fiction: the catastrophe, too, is formed by the Aristotelian canon; for its misery, its pathos, and its terror even romantic fiction has not exceeded!
It is probable that the king, from some political motive, had decided that the Lady Arabella should lead a single life; but such wise purposes frequently meet with cross ones; and it happened that no woman was ever more solicited to the conjugal state, or seems to have been so little averse to it. Every noble youth who sighed for distinction ambitioned the notice of the Lady Arabella; and she was so frequently contriving a marriage for herself, that a courtier of that day writing to another, observes, "these affectations of marriage in her do give some advantage to the world of impairing the reputation of her constant and virtuous disposition."
The revels of Christmas had hardly closed when the Lady Arabella forgot that she had been forgiven, and again relapsed into her old infirmity. She renewed a connexion, which had commenced in childhood, with Mr. William Seymour, the second son of Lord Beauchamp, and grandson of the Earl of Hertford. His character has been finely described by Clarendon: he loved his studies and his repose; but when the civil wars broke out, he closed his volumes and drew his sword, and was both an active and a skilful general. Charles the First created him Marquis of Hertford, and governor of the prince; he lived to the Restoration, and Charles the Second restored him to the dukedom of Somerset.
This treaty of marriage was detected in February, 1609, and the parties summoned before the privy council. Seymour was particularly censured for daring to ally himself with the royal blood, although that blood was running in his own veins. In a manuscript letter which I have discovered, Seymour addressed the lords of the privy council. The style is humble; the plea to excuse his intended marriage is, that being but "A young brother, and sensible of mine own good, unknown to the world, of mean estate, not born to challenge anything by my birthright, and therefore my fortunes to be raised by mine own endeavour, and she a lady of great honour and virtue, and, as I thought, of great means, I did plainly and honestly endeavour lawfully to gain her in marriage." There is nothing romantic in this apology, in which Seymour describes himself as a fortune-hunter! which, however, was probably done to cover his undoubted affection for Arabella, whom he had early known. He says, that "he conceived that this noble lady might, without offence, make the choice of any subject within this kingdom; which conceit was begotten in me upon a general report, after her ladyship's last being called before your lordships, that it might be." He tells the story of this ancient wooing—"I boldly intruded myself into her ladyship's chamber in the court on Candlemas-day last, at what time I imparted my desire unto her, which was entertained, but with this caution on either part, that both of us resolved not to proceed to any final conclusion without his majesty's most gracious favour first obtained. And this was our first meeting! After that we had a second meeting at Briggs's house in Fleet-street, and then a third at Mr. Baynton's; at both which we had the like conference and resolution as before." He assures their lordships that both of them had never intended marriage without his majesty's approbation.
But Love laughs at privy councils and the grave promises made by two frightened lovers. The parties were secretly married, which was discovered about July in the following year. They were then separately confined, the lady at the house of Sir Thomas Parry at Lambeth, and Seymour in the Tower, for "his contempt in marrying a lady of the royal family without the king's leave."
This, their first confinement, was not rigorous; the lady walked in her garden, and the lover was a prisoner at large in the Tower. The writer in the "Biographia Britannica" observes that "Some intercourse they had by letters, which, after a time, was discovered." In this history of love these might be precious documents, and in the library at Long-leat these love-epistles, or perhaps this volume, may yet lie unread in a corner. Arabella's epistolary talent was not vulgar: Dr. Montford, in a manuscript letter, describes one of those effusions which Arabella addressed to the king. "This letter was penned by her in the best terms, as she can do right well. It was often read without offence, nay it was even commended by his highness, with the applause of prince and council." One of these amatory letters I have recovered. The circumstance is domestic, being nothing more at first than a very pretty letter on Mr. Seymour having taken cold, but, as every love-letter ought, it is not without a pathetic crescendo; the tearing away of hearts so firmly joined, her solitary imprisonment availed little; for that he lived and was her own, filled her spirit with that consciousness which triumphed even over that sickly frame so nearly subdued to death. The familiar style of James the First's age may bear comparison with our own. I shall give it entire.
"LADY ARABELLA TO MR. WILLIAM SEYMOUR.
"I am exceeding sorry to hear you have not been well. I pray you let me know truly how you do, and what was the cause of it. I am not satisfied with the reason Smith gives for it; but if it be a cold, I will impute it to some sympathy betwixt us, having myself gotten a swollen cheek at the same time with a cold. For God's sake, let not your grief of mind work upon your body. You may see by me what inconveniences it will bring one to; and no fortune, I assure you, daunts me so much as that weakness of body I find in myself; for si nous vivons l'age d'un veau, as Marot says, we may, by God's grace, be happier than we look for, in being suffered to enjoy ourself with his majesty's favour. But if we be not able to live to it, I for my part shall think myself a pattern of misfortune, in enjoying so great a blessing as you, so little awhile. No separation but that deprives me of the comfort of you. For wheresoever you be, or in what state soever you are, it sufficeth me you are mine! Rachel wept, and would not be comforted, because her children were no more. And that, indeed, is the remediless sorrow, and none else! And therefore God bless us from that, and I will hope well of the rest, though I see no apparent hope. But I am sure God's book mentioneth many of his children in as great distress, that have done well after, even in this world! I do assure you nothing the state can do with me can trouble me so much as this news of your being ill doth; and you see when I am troubled, I trouble you too with tedious kindness; for so I think you will account so long a letter, yourself not having written to me this good while so much as how you do. But, sweet sir, I speak not this to trouble you with writing but when you please. Be well, and I shall account myself happy in being
"Your faithful loving wife, "ARB. S."
In examining the manuscripts of this lady, the defect of dates must be supplied by our sagacity. The following "petition," as she calls it, addressed to the king in defence of her secret marriage, must have been written at this time. She remonstrates with the king for what she calls his neglect of her, and while she fears to be violently separated from her husband, she asserts her cause with a firm and noble spirit, which was afterwards too severely tried!
"TO THE KING.
"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY.
"I do most heartily lament my hard fortune that I should offend your majesty the least, especially in that whereby I have long desired to merit of your majesty, as appeared before your majesty was my sovereign. And though your majesty's neglect of me, my good liking of this gentleman that is my husband, and my fortune, drew me to a contract before I acquainted your majesty, I humbly beseech your majesty to consider how impossible it was for me to imagine it could be offensive to your majesty, having few days before given me your royal consent to bestow myself on any subject of your majesty's (which likewise your majesty had done long since). Besides, never having been either prohibited any, or spoken to for any, in this land, by your majesty, these seven years that I have lived in your majesty's house, I could not conceive that your majesty regarded my marriage at all; whereas if your majesty had vouchsafed to tell me your mind, and accept the free-will offering of my obedience, I would not have offended your majesty, of whose gracious goodness I presume so much, that if it were now as convenient in a worldly respect, as malice make it seem, to separate us, whom God hath joined, your majesty would not do evil that good might come thereof, nor make me, that have the honour to be so near your majesty in blood, the first precedent that ever was, though our princes may have left some as little imitable, for so good and gracious a king as your majesty, as David's dealing with Uriah. But I assure myself, if it please your majesty in your own wisdom to consider thoroughly of my cause, there will no solid reason appear to debar me of justice and your princely favour, which I will endeavour to deserve whilst I breathe."
It is indorsed, "A copy of my petition to the King's Majesty." In another she implores that "If the necessity of my state and fortune, together with my weakness, have caused me to do somewhat not pleasing to your majesty, let it be all covered with the shadow of your royal benignity." Again, in another petition, she writes:—
"Touching the offence for which I am now punished, I most humbly beseech your majesty, in your most princely wisdom and judgment, to consider in what a miserable state I had been, if I had taken any other course than I did; for my own conscience witnessing before God that I was then the wife of him that now I am, I could never have matched any other man, but to have lived all the days of my life as a harlot, which your majesty would have abhorred in any, especially in one who hath the honour (how otherwise unfortunate soever) to have any drop of your majesty's blood in them."
I find a letter of Lady Jane Drummond, in reply to this or another petition, which Lady Drummond had given the queen to present to his majesty. It was to learn the cause of Arabella's confinement. The pithy expression of James the First is characteristic of the monarch; and the solemn forebodings of Lady Drummond, who appears to have been a lady of excellent judgment, showed, by the fate of Arabella, how they were true!
"LADY JANE DRUMMOND TO LADY ARABELLA.
"Answering her prayer to know the cause of her confinement.
"This day her majesty hath seen your ladyship's letter. Her majesty says, that when she gave your ladyship's petition to his majesty, he did take it well enough, but gave no other answer than that ye had eaten of the forbidden tree. This was all her majesty commanded me to say to your ladyship in this purpose; but withal did remember her kindly to your ladyship, and sent you this little token in witness of the continuance of her majesty's favour to your ladyship. Now, where your ladyship desires me to deal openly and freely with you, I protest I can say nothing on knowledge, for I never spoke to any of that purpose but to the queen; but the wisdom of this state, with the example how some of your quality in the like case has been used, makes me fear that ye shall not find so easy end to your troubles as ye expect or I wish."
In return, Lady Arabella expresses her grateful thanks—presents her majesty with "this piece of my work, to accept in remembrance of the poor prisoner that wrought them, in hopes her royal hands will vouchsafe to wear them, which till I have the honour to kiss, I shall live in a great deal of sorrow. Her case," she adds, "could be compared to no other she ever heard of, resembling no other." Arabella, like the Queen of Scots, beguiled the hours of imprisonment by works of embroidery; for in sending a present of this kind to Sir Andrew Sinclair to be presented to the queen, she thanks him for "vouchsafing to descend to these petty offices to take care even of these womanish toys, for her whose serious mind must invent some relaxation."
The secret correspondence of Arabella and Seymour was discovered, and was followed by a sad scene. It must have been now that the king resolved to consign this unhappy lady to the stricter care of the Bishop of Durham. Lady Arabella was so subdued at this distant separation, that she gave way to all the wildness of despair; she fell suddenly ill, and could not travel but in a litter, and with a physician. In her way to Durham, she was so greatly disquieted in the first few miles of her uneasy and troublesome journey, that they would proceed no further than Highgate. The physician returned to town to report her state, and declared that she was assuredly very weak, her pulse dull and melancholy, and very irregular; her countenance very heavy, pale, and wan; and though free from fever, he declared her in no case fit for travel. The king observed, "It is enough to make any sound man sick to be carried in a bed in that manner she is; much more for her whose impatient and unquiet spirit heapeth upon herself far greater indisposition of body than otherwise she would have." His resolution, however, was, that "she should proceed to Durham, if he were king!" "We answered," replied the Doctor, "that we made no doubt of her obedience."—"Obedience is that required," replied the king, "which being performed, I will do more for her than she expected."
The king, however, with his usual indulgence, appears to have consented that Lady Arabella should remain for a month at Highgate, in confinement, till she had sufficiently recovered to proceed to Durham, where the bishop posted, unaccompanied by his charge, to await her reception, and to the great relief of the friends of the lady, who hoped she was still within the reach of their cares, or of the royal favour.
A second month's delay was granted, in consequence of that letter which we have before noticed as so impressive and so elegant, that it was commended by the king, and applauded by Prince Henry and the council.
But the day of her departure hastened, and the Lady Arabella betrayed no symptom of her first despair. She openly declared her resignation to her fate, and showed her obedient willingness, by being even over-careful in little preparations to make easy a long journey. Such tender grief had won over the hearts of her keepers, who could not but sympathise with a princess whose love, holy and wedded too, was crossed only by the tyranny of statesmen. But Arabella had not within that tranquillity with which she had lulled her keepers. She and Seymour had concerted a flight, as bold in its plot, and as beautifully wild, as any recorded in romantic story. The day preceding her departure, Arabella found it not difficult to persuade a female attendant to consent that she would suffer her to pay a last visit to her husband, and to wait for her return at an appointed hour. More solicitous for the happiness of lovers than for the repose of kings, this attendant, in utter simplicity, or with generous sympathy, assisted the Lady Arabella in dressing her in one of the most elaborate disguisings. "She drew a pair of large French-fashioned hose or trowsers over her petticoats; put on a man's doublet or coat; a peruke such as men wore, whose long locks covered her own ringlets; a black hat, a black coat, russet boots with red tops, and a rapier by her side. Thus accoutred, the Lady Arabella stole out with a gentleman about three o'clock in the afternoon. She had only proceeded a mile and a half, when they stopped at a poor inn, where one of her confederates was waiting with horses, yet she was so sick and faint, that the ostler, who held her stirrup, observed, that "the gentleman could hardly hold out to London." She recruited her spirits by riding; the blood mantled in her face; and at six o'clock our sick lover reached Blackwall, where a boat and servants were waiting. The watermen were at first ordered to Woolwich; there they were desired to push on to Gravesend; then to Tilbury, where, complaining of fatigue, they landed to refresh; but, tempted by their freight, they reached Lee. At the break of morn, they discovered a French vessel riding there to receive the lady; but as Seymour had not yet arrived, Arabella was desirous to lie at anchor for her lord, conscious that he would not fail to his appointment. If he indeed had been prevented in his escape, she herself cared not to preserve the freedom she now possessed; but her attendants, aware of the danger of being overtaken by a king's ship, overruled her wishes, and hoisted sail, which occasioned so fatal a termination to this romantic adventure. Seymour indeed had escaped from the Tower; he had left his servant watching at the door, to warn all visitors not to disturb his master, who lay ill of a raging toothache, while Seymour in disguise stole away alone, following a cart which had brought wood to his apartment. He passed the warders; he reached the wharf, and found his confidential man waiting with a boat; and he arrived at Lee. The time pressed; the waves were rising; Arabella was not there; but in the distance he descried a vessel. Hiring a fisherman to take him on board, to his grief, on hailing it, he discovered that it was not the French vessel charged with his Arabella. In despair and confusion, he found another ship from Newcastle, which for a good sum altered its course, and landed him in Flanders. In the meanwhile, the escape of Arabella was first known to government; and the hot alarm which spread may seem ludicrous to us. The political consequences attached to the union and the flight of these two doves from their cotes, shook with consternation the grey owls of the cabinet, more particularly the Scotch party, who, in their terror, paralleled it with the gunpowder treason; and some political danger must have impended, at least in their imagination, for Prince Henry partook of this cabinet panic.
Confusion and alarm prevailed at court; couriers were despatched swifter than the winds wafted the unhappy Arabella, and all was hurry in the seaports. They sent to the Tower to warn the lieutenant to be doubly vigilant over Seymour, who, to his surprise, discovered that his prisoner had ceased to be so for several hours. James at first was for issuing a proclamation in a style so angry and vindictive, that it required the moderation of Cecil to preserve the dignity while he concealed the terror of his majesty. By the admiral's detail of his impetuous movements, he seemed in pursuit of an enemy's fleet; for the courier is urged, and the post-masters are roused by a superscription, which warned them of the eventful despatch: "Haste, haste, post haste! Haste for your life, your life!" The family of the Seymours were in a state of distraction; and a letter from Mr. Francis Seymour to his grandfather, the Earl of Hertford, residing then at his seat far remote from the capital, to acquaint him of the escape of his brother and the lady, still bears to posterity a remarkable evidence of the trepidation and consternation of the old earl; it arrived in the middle of the night, accompanied by a summons to attend the privy council. In the perusal of a letter written in a small hand, and filling more than two folio pages, such was his agitation, that in holding the taper he must have burnt what he probably had not read; the letter is scorched, and the flame has perforated it in so critical a part, that the poor old earl journeyed to town in a state of uncertainty and confusion. Nor was his terror so unreasonable as it seems. Treason had been a political calamity with the Seymours. Their progenitor, the Duke of Somerset the Protector, had found that "all his honours," as Frankland strangely expresses it, "had helped him too forwards to hop headless." Henry, Elizabeth, and James, says the same writer, considered that it was needful, as indeed in all sovereignties, that those who were nearest the crown "should be narrowly looked into for marriage."
But we have left the Lady Arabella alone and mournful on the seas, not praying for favourable gales to convey her away, but still imploring her attendants to linger for her Seymour; still straining her sight to the point of the horizon for some speck which might give a hope of the approach of the boat freighted with all her love. Alas! never more was Arabella to cast a single look on her lover and her husband! She was overtaken by a pink in the king's service, in Calais roads and now she declared that she cared not to be brought back again to her imprisonment should Seymour escape, whose safety was dearest to her!
The life of the unhappy, the melancholy, and the distracted Arabella Stuart is now to close in an imprisonment, which lasted only four years; for her constitutional delicacy, her rooted sorrow, and the violence of her feelings, sunk beneath the hopelessness of her situation, and a secret resolution in her mind to refuse the aid of her physicians, and to wear away the faster if she could, the feeble remains of life. But who shall paint the emotions of a mind which so much grief, and so much love, and distraction itself, equally possessed!
What passed in that dreadful imprisonment cannot perhaps be recovered for authentic history; but enough is known; that her mind grew impaired, that she finally lost her reason, and if the duration of her imprisonment was short, it was only terminated by her death. Some loose effusions, often begun and never ended, written and erased, incoherent and rational, yet remain in the fragments of her papers. In a letter she proposed addressing to Viscount Fenton, to implore for her his majesty's favour again, she says, "Good my lord, consider the fault cannot be uncommitted; neither can any more be required of any earthly creature but confession and most humble submission." In a paragraph she had written, but crossed out, it seems that a present of her work had been refused by the king, and that she had no one about her whom she might trust.
"Help will come too late; and be assured that neither physician nor other, but whom I think good, shall come about me while I live, till I have his majesty's favour, without which I desire not to live. And if you remember of old, I dare die, so I be not guilty of my own death, and oppress others with my ruin too, if there be no other way, as God forbid, to whom I commit you; and rest as assuredly as heretofore, if you be the same to me,
"Your lordship's faithful friend, "A.S."
That she had frequently meditated on suicide appears by another letter—"I could not be so unchristian as to be the cause of my own death. Consider what the world would conceive if I should be violently enforced to do it."
One fragment we may save as an evidence of her utter wretchedness.
"In all humility, the most wretched and unfortunate creature that ever lived, prostrates itselfe at the feet of the most merciful king that ever was, desiring nothing but mercy and favour, not being more afflicted for anything than for the losse of that which hath binne this long time the onely comfort it had in the world, and which, if it weare to do again, I would not adventure the losse of for any other worldly comfort; mercy it is I desire, and that for God's sake!"
Such is the history of the Lady Arabella, who, from some circumstances not sufficiently opened to us, was an important personage, designed by others, at least, to play a high character in the political drama. Thrice selected as a queen; but the consciousness of royalty was only felt in her veins while she lived in the poverty of dependence. Many gallant spirits aspired after her hand, but when her heart secretly selected one beloved, it was for ever deprived of domestic happiness! She is said not to have been beautiful, and to have been beautiful; and her very portrait, ambiguous as her life, is neither the one nor the other. She is said to have been a poetess, but not a single verse substantiates her claim to the laurel. She is said not to have been remarkable for her intellectual accomplishments, yet I have found a Latin letter of her composition in her manuscripts. The materials of her life are so scanty that it cannot be written, and yet we have sufficient reason to believe that it would be as pathetic as it would be extraordinary, could we narrate its involved incidents, and paint forth her delirious feelings. Acquainted rather with her conduct than with her character, for us the Lady ARABELLA has no palpable historical existence; and we perceive rather her shadow than herself! A writer of romance might render her one of those interesting personages whose griefs have been deepened by their royalty, and whose adventures, touched with the warm hues of love and distraction, closed at the bars of her prison gate: a sad example of a female victim to the state!
Through one dim lattice, fring'd with ivy round, Successive suns a languid radiance threw, To paint how fierce her angry guardian frown'd, To mark how fast her waning beauty flew!
SEYMOUR, who was afterwards permitted to return, distinguished himself by his loyalty through three successive reigns, and retained his romantic passion for the lady of his first affections; for he called the daughter he had by his second lady by the ever-beloved name of ARABELLA STUART.
DOMESTIC HISTORY OF SIR EDWARD COKE.
Sir Edward Coke—or Cook, as now pronounced, and occasionally so written in his own times—that lord chief-justice whose name the laws of England will preserve—has shared the fate of his great rival, the Lord Chancellor Bacon; for no hand worthy of their genius has pursued their story. Bacon, busied with nature, forgot himself. Coke who was only the greatest of lawyers, reflected with more complacency on himself; for "among those thirty books which he had written with his own hand, most pleasing to himself was a manual which he called Vade Mecum, from whence, at one view, he took a prospect of his life past." This manuscript, which Lloyd notices, was among the fifty which, on his death, were seized on by an order of council, but some years after were returned to his heir; and this precious memorial may still be disinterred.
Coke was "the oracle of law," but, like too many great lawyers, he was so completely one as to have been nothing else. Coke has said, "the common law is the absolute perfection of all reason;" a dictum which might admit of some ridicule. Armed with law, he committed acts of injustice; for in how many cases, passion mixing itself with law, summum jus becomes summa injuria. Official violence brutalised, and political ambition extinguished, every spark of nature in this great lawyer, when he struck at his victims, public or domestic. His solitary knowledge, perhaps, had deadened his judgment in other studies; and yet his narrow spirit could shrink with jealousy at the celebrity obtained by more liberal pursuits than his own. The errors of the great are as instructive as their virtues; and the secret history of the outrageous lawyer may have, at least, the merit of novelty although not of panegyric.
Coke, already enriched by his first marriage, combined power with added wealth, in his union with the relict of Sir William Hatton, the sister of Thomas Lord Burleigh. Family alliance was the policy of that prudent age of political interests. Bacon and Cecil married two sisters; Walsingham and Mildmay two others; Knowles, Essex, and Leicester, were linked by family alliances. Elizabeth, who never designed to marry herself, was anxious to intermarry her court dependents, and to dispose of them so as to secure their services by family interests. Ambition and avarice, which had instigated Coke to form this alliance, punished their creature, by mating him with a spirit haughty and intractable as his own. It is a remarkable fact, connected with the character of Coke, that this great lawyer suffered his second marriage to take place in an illegal manner, and condescended to plead ignorance of the laws! He had been married in a private house, without banns or licence, at a moment when the archbishop was vigilantly prosecuting informal and irregular marriages. Coke, with his habitual pride, imagined that the rank of the parties concerned would have set him above such restrictions. The laws which he administered he appears to have considered had their indulgent exceptions for the great. But Whitgift was a primitive Christian; and the circumstance involved Coke and the whole family in a prosecution in the ecclesiastical court, and nearly in the severest of its penalties. The archbishop appears to have been fully sensible of the overbearing temper of this great lawyer; for when Coke became the attorney-general, we cannot but consider, as an ingenious reprimand, the archbishop's gift of a Greek testament, with this message, that "He had studied the common law long enough, and should henceforward study the law of God."
The atmosphere of a court proved variable with so stirring a genius; and as a constitutional lawyer, Coke, at times, was the stern asserter of the kingly power, or its intrepid impugner; but his personal dispositions led to predominance, and he too often usurped authority and power with the relish of one who loved them too keenly. "You make the laws too much lean to your opinion, whereby you show yourself to be a legal tyrant," said Lord Bacon, in his admonitory letter to Coke.
In 1616 Coke was out of favour for more causes than one, and his great rival, Bacon, was paramount at the council table. Perhaps Coke felt more humiliated by appearing before his judges, who were every one inferior to him as lawyers, than by the weak triumph of his enemies, who received him with studied insult. The queen informed the king of the treatment the disgraced lord chief-justice had experienced, and, in an angry letter, James declared that "he prosecuted Coke ad correctionem not ad destructionem;" and afterwards at the council spoke of Coke "with so many good words, as if he meant to hang him with a silken halter;" even his rival Bacon made this memorable acknowledgment, in reminding the judges that "such a man was not every day to be found, nor so soon made as marred." When his successor was chosen, the Lord Chancellor Egerton, in administering the oath, accused Coke "of many errors and vanities for his ambitious popularity." Coke, however, lost no friends in this disgrace, nor lost his haughtiness; for when the new chief-justice sent to purchase his Collar of SS., Coke returned for answer, that "he would not part with it, but leave it to his posterity, that they might one day know they had a chief-justice to their ancestor."
In this temporary alienation of the royal smiles, Coke attempted their renewal by a project, which, involved a domestic sacrifice. When the king was in Scotland, and Lord Bacon, as lord-keeper, sat at the head of affairs, his lordship was on ill terms with Secretary Winwood, whom Coke easily persuaded to resume a former proposal for marrying his only daughter to the favourite's eldest brother, Sir John Villiers. Coke had formerly refused this match from the high demands of these parvenus. Coke, in prosperity, "sticking at ten thousand a year, and resolving to give only ten thousand marks, dropped some idle words, that he would not buy the king's favour too dear;" but now in his adversity, his ambition proved stronger than his avarice, and by this stroke of deep policy the wily lawyer was converting a mere domestic transaction into an affair of state, which it soon became. As such it was evidently perceived by Bacon; he was alarmed at this projected alliance, in which he foresaw that he should lose his hold of the favourite in the inevitable rise once more of his rival Coke. Bacon, the illustrious philosopher, whose eye was only blest in observing nature, and whose mind was only great in recording his own meditations, now sat down to contrive the most subtle suggestions he could put together to prevent this match; but Lord Bacon not only failed in persuading the king to refuse what his majesty much wished, but finally produced the very mischief he sought to avert—a rupture with Buckingham himself, and a copious scolding letter from the king, but a very admirable one; and where the lord-keeper trembled to find himself called "Mr. Bacon."
There were, however, other personages than his majesty and his favourite more deeply concerned in this business, and who had not hitherto been once consulted—the mother and the daughter! Coke, who, in every-day concerns, issued his commands as he would his law-writs, and at times boldly asserted the rights of the subject, had no other paternal notion of the duties of a wife and a child than their obedience!
Lady Hatton, haughty to insolence, had been often forbidden both the courts of their majesties, where Lady Compton, the mother of Buckingham, was the object of her ladyship's persevering contempt. She retained her personal influence by the numerous estates which she enjoyed in right of her former husband. When Coke fell into disgrace, his lady abandoned him! and, to avoid her husband, frequently moved her residences in town and country. I trace her with malicious activity disfurnishing his house in Holborn, and at Stoke seizing on all the plate and moveables, and, in fact, leaving the fallen statesman and the late lord chief-justice empty houses and no comforter! The wars between Lady Hatton and her husband were carried on before the council-board, where her ladyship appeared, accompanied by an imposing train of noble friends. With her accustomed haughty airs, and in an imperial style, Lady Hatton declaimed against her tyrannical husband, so that the letter-writer adds, "divers said that Burbage could not have acted better." Burbage's famous character was that of Richard the Third. It is extraordinary that Coke, able to defend any cause, bore himself so simply. It is supposed that he had laid his domestic concerns too open to animadversion in the neglect of his daughter; or that he was aware that he was standing before no friendly bar, at that moment being out of favour; whatever was the cause, our noble virago obtained a signal triumph, and "the oracle of law," with all his gravity, stood before the council-table hen-pecked. In June, 1616, Sir Edward appears to have yielded at discretion to his lady, for in an unpublished letter I find that "his curst heart hath been forced to yield to more than he ever meant; but upon this agreement he flatters himself that she will prove a very good wife."
In the following year, 1617, these domestic affairs totally changed. The political marriage of his daughter with Villiers being now resolved on, the business was to clip the wings of so fierce a bird as Coke had found in Lady Hatton, which led to an extraordinary contest. The mother and daughter hated the upstart Villiers, and Sir John, indeed, promised to be but a sickly bridegroom. They had contrived to make up a written contract of marriage with Lord Oxford, which they opposed against the proposal, or rather the order, of Coke.
The violence to which the towering spirits of the conflicting parties proceeded is a piece of secret history, of which accident has preserved an able memorial. Coke armed with law, and, what was at least equally potent, with the king's favour, entered by force the barricadoed houses of his lady, took possession of his daughter, on whom he appears never to have cast a thought till she became an instrument for his political purposes, confined her from her mother, and at length got the haughty mother herself imprisoned, and brought her to account for all her past misdoings. Quick was the change of scene, and the contrast was as wonderful. Coke, who, in the preceding year, to the world's surprise, proved so simple an advocate in his own cause in the presence of his wife, now, to employ his own words, "got upon his wings again," and went on as Lady Hatton, when safely lodged in prison, describes, with "his high-handed tyrannical courses," till the furious lawyer occasioned a fit of sickness to the proud crest-fallen lady. "Law! Law! Law!" thundered from the lips of "its oracle;" and Lord Bacon, in his apologetical letter to the king for having opposed his "riot or violence," says, "I disliked it the more, because he justified it to be law, which was his old song."
The memorial alluded to appears to have been confidentially composed by the legal friend of Lady Hatton, to furnish her ladyship with answers when brought before the council-table. It opens several domestic scenes in the house of that great lord chief-justice; but the forcible simplicity of the style in domestic details will show, what I have often observed, that our language has not advanced in expression since the age of James the First. I have transcribed it from the original, and its interest must plead for its length.
TO LADY HATTON.
"MADAM, 10th July, 1617.
"Seeing these people speak no language but thunder and lightning, accounting this their cheapest and best way to work upon you, I would with patience prepare myself to their extremities, and study to defend the breaches by which to their advantage they suppose to come in upon me, and henceforth quit the ways of pacification and composition, heretofore and unseasonably endeavoured, which, in my opinion, lie most open to trouble, scandal, and danger; wherefore I will briefly set down their objections, and such answers to them as I conceive proper.
"The first is, you conveyed away your daughter from her father. Answer. I had cause to provide for her quiet. Secretary Winwood threatening that she should be married from me in spite of my teeth, and Sir Edward Cook dayly tormenting the girl with discourses tending to bestow her against her liking, which he said she was to submit to his; besides, my daughter daily complained, and sought to me for help; whereupon, as heretofore I had accustomed, I bestowed her apart at my cousin-german's house for a few days, for her health and quiet, till my own business for my estate were ended. Sir Edward Coke never asked me where she was, no more than at other times, when at my placing she had been a quarter of a year from him, as the year before with my sister Burley.
"Second. That you endeavoured to bestow her, and to bind her to my Lord of Oxford without her knowledge and consent.
"Upon this subject a lawyer, by way of invective, may open his mouth wide, and anticipate every hearer's judgment by the rights of a father; this, dangerous in the precedent to others; to which, nevertheless, this answer may be justly returned.
"Answer. My daughter, as aforesaid, terrified with her father's threats and hard usage, and pressing me to find some remedy from this violence intended, I did compassionate her condition, and bethought myself of this contract to my Lord of Oxford, if so she liked, and thereupon I gave it to her to peruse and consider by herself, which she did; she liked it, cheerfully writ it out with her own hand, subscribed it, and returned it to me; wherein I did nothing of my own will, but followed hers, after I saw she was so averse to Sir Thomas Villiers, that she voluntarily and deliberately protested that of all men living she would never have him, nor could ever fancy him for a husband.
"Secondly. By this I put her under no new way, nor into any other than her father had heretofore known and approved; for he saw such letters as my Lady of Oxford had writ to me thereabouts; he never forbad it; he never disliked it; only he said they were then too young, and there was time enough for the treaty.
"Thirdly. He always left his daughter to my disposing and my bringing up; knowing that I purposed her my fortune and whole estate, and as upon these reasons he left her to my cares, so he eased himself absolutely of her, never meddling with her, neglecting her, and caring nothing for her.
"The Third. That you counterfeited a treaty from my Lord of Oxford to yourself.
"Answer. I know it not counterfeit; but be it so, to whose injury? If to my Lord of Oxford's (for no man else is therein interested), it must be either in honour or in free-hold. Read the treaty; it proves neither! for it is only a complement; it is no engagement presently nor futurely; besides the law shows what forgery is; and to counterfeit a private man's hand, nay a magistrate's, makes not the fault but the cause: wherefore,
"Secondly, the end justifies—at the least, excuses the fact; for it was only to hold up my daughter's mind to her own choice and liking: for her eyes only, and for no other's, that she might see some retribution, and thereby with the more constancy endure her imprisonment, having this only antidote to resist the poison of that place, company, and conversation; myself and all her friends barred from her, and no person or speech admitted to her ear, but such as spoke Sir Thomas Villiers's language.
"The fourth. That you plotted to surprise your daughter to take her away by force, to the breach, of the king's peace and particular commandment, and for that purpose had assembled a number of desperate fellows, whereof the consequence might have been dangerous; and the affront to the king was the greater that such a thing was offered, the king being forth of the kingdom, which, by example, might have drawn on other assemblies to more dangerous attempts. This field is large for a plentiful babbler.
"Answer. I know no such matter, neither in any place was there such assembly; true it is I spoke to Turner to provide me some tall fellows for the taking a possession for me, in Lincolnshire, of some lands Sir William Mason had lately dis-seised me; but be it they were assembled and convoked to such an end, what was done? was any such thing attempted? were they upon the place? kept they the heath or the highways by ambuscades? or was any place, any day, appointed for a rendezvous? No, no such matter; but something was intended: and I pray you what says the law of such a single intention, which is not within the view or notice of the law? Beside, who intended this—the mother? and wherefore? because she was unnaturally and barbarously secluded from her daughter, and her daughter forced against her will, contrary to her vow and liking, to the will of him she disliked; nay, the laws of God, of nature, of man, speak for me, and cry out upon them. But they had a warrant from the king's order from the commissioners to keep my daughter in their custody; yet neither this warrant nor the commissioners' did prohibit the mother coming to her, but contrarily allowed her; then by the same authority might she get to her daughter, that Sir Edward Cook had used to keep her from her daughter; the husband having no power, warrant, or permission from God, the king, or the law, to sequester the mother from her own child, she only endeavouring the child's good, with the child's liking, and to her preferment; and he, his private end against the child's liking, without care of her preferment; which differing respects, as they justify the mother in all, so condemn they the father as a transgressor of the rules of nature, and, as a perverter of his rights, as a father and a husband, to the hurt both of child and wife.
"Lastly, if recrimination could lessen the fault, take this in the worst sense, and naked of all the considerable circumstances it hath, what is this, nay, what had the executing of this intention been comparatively with Sir Edward Cook's most notorious riot, committed at my Lord of Arguyl's house, when, without constable or warrant, associated with a dozen fellows well weaponed, without cause being beforehand offered, to have what he would, he took down the doors of the gate-house and of the house itself, and tore the daughter in that barbarous manner from the mother, and would not suffer the mother to come near her; and when he was before the lords of the council to answer this outrage, he justified it to make it good by law, and that he feared the face of no greatness; a dangerous word for the encouragement of all notorious and rebellious malefactors; especially from him that had been the chief justice of the law; and of the people reputed the oracle of the law; and a most dangerous bravado cast in the teeth and face of the state in the king's absence, and therefore most considerable for the maintenance of authority and the quiet of the land; for if it be lawful for him with a dozen to enter any man's house thus outrageously for any right to which he pretends, it is lawful for any man with one hundred, nay, with five hundred, and consequently with as many as he draw together, to do the same, which may endanger the safety of the king's person, and the peace of the kingdom.
"The fifth, that you having certified the king you had received an engagement from my Lord of Oxford, and the king commanding you, upon your allegiance, to come and bring it to him, or to send it him; or not having it, to signify his name who brought it, and where he was; you refused all, by which you doubled and trebled a high contempt to his majesty.
"Answer. I was so sick on the week before, for the most part I kept my bed, and even that instant I was so weak as I was not able to rise from it without help, nor to endure the air; which indisposition and weakness my two physicians, Sir William Paddy and Dr. Atkins, can affirm true; which so being, I hope his majesty will graciously excuse the necessity, and not impose a fault, whereof I am not guilty; and for the sending it, I protest to God I had it not; and for telling the parties, and where he is, I most humbly beseech his sacred majesty, in his great wisdom and honour, to consider how unworthy a part it were in me to bring any man into trouble, from which I am so far from redeeming him as I can no way relieve myself, and therefore humbly crave his majesty, in his princely consideration of my distressed condition, to forgive me this reservedness, proceeding from that just sense, and the rather, for that the law of the land in civil causes, as I am informed, no way tieth me thereunto."
Among the other papers it appears that Coke accused his lady of having "embezzled all his gilt and silver plate and vessell (he having little in any house of mine, but that his marriage with me brought him), and instead thereof foisted in alkumy of the same sorte, fashion, and use, with the illusion to have cheated him of the other." Coke insists on the inventory by the schedule! Her ladyship says, "I made such plate for matter and form for my own use at Purbeck, that serving well enough in the country; and I was loth to trust such a substance in a place so remote, and in the guard of few; but for the plate and vessell he saith is wanting, they are every ounce within one of my three houses." She complains that Sir Edward Coke and his son Clement had threatened her servants so grievously, that the poor men run away to hide themselves from his fury, and dare not appear abroad. "Sir Edward broke into Hatton House, seased upon my coach and coach-horses, nay, my apparel, which he detains; thrust all my servants out of doors without wages; sent down his men to Corfe to inventory, seize, ship, and carry away all the goods, which being refused him by the castle-keeper, he threats to bring your lordship's warrant for the performance thereof. But your lordship established that he should have the use only of the goods during his life, in such houses as the same appertained, without meaning, I hope, of depriving me of such use, being goods brought at my marriage, or bought with the money I spared from my allowances. Stop, then, his high tyrannical courses; for I have suffered beyond the measure of any wife, mother, nay, of any ordinary woman in this kingdom, without respect to my father, my birth, my fortunes, with which I have so highly-raised him."
What availed the vexation of this sick, mortified, and proud woman, or the more tender feelings of the daughter, in this forced marriage to satisfy the political ambition of the father? When Lord Bacon wrote to the king respecting the strange behaviour of Coke, the king vindicated it, for the purpose of obtaining his daughter, blaming Lord Bacon for some expressions he had used; and Bacon, with the servility of the courtier, when he found the wind in his teeth, tacked round, and promised Buckingham to promote the match he so much abhorred. Villiers was married to the daughter of Coke at Hampton Court, on Michaelmas Day, 1617—Coke was re-admitted to the council-table—Lady Hatton was reconciled to Lady Compton and the queen, and gave a grand entertainment on the occasion, to which, however, "the good man of the house was neither invited nor spoken of: he dined that day at the Temple; she is still bent to pull down her husband," adds my informant. The moral close remains to be told. Lady Villiers looked on her husband as the hateful object of a forced union, and nearly drove him mad; while she disgraced herself by such loose conduct as to be condemned to stand in a white sheet, and I believe at length obtained a divorce. Thus a marriage, projected by ambition, and prosecuted by violent means, closed with that utter misery to the parties with which it had commenced; and for our present purpose has served to show, that when a lawyer like Coke holds his "high-handed tyrannical courses," the law of nature, as well as the law of which he is "the oracle," will be alike violated under his roof. Wife and daughter were plaintiffs or defendants on whom this lord chief-justice closed his ear: he had blocked up the avenues to his heart with "Law! Law! Law!" his "old song!"
Beyond his eightieth year, in the last parliament of Charles the First, the extraordinary vigour of Coke's intellect flamed clear under the snows of age. No reconciliation ever took place between the parties. On a strong report of his death, her ladyship, accompanied by her brother, Lord Wimbledon, posted down to Stoke-Pogis to take possession of his mansion; but beyond Colebrook they met with one of his physicians coming from him with the mortifying intelligence of Sir Edward's amendment, on which they returned at their leisure. This happened in June, 1634, and on the following September the venerable sage was no more!
OF COKE'S STYLE, AND HIS CONDUCT.
This great lawyer, perhaps, set the example of that style of railing and invective in the courts, which the egotism and craven insolence of some of our lawyers include in their practice at the bar. It may be useful to bring to recollection Coke's vituperative style in the following dialogue, so beautiful in its contrast with that of the great victim before him! The attorney-general had not sufficient evidence to bring the obscure conspiracy home to Rawleigh, with which, I believe, however, he had cautiously tampered. But Coke well knew that James the First had reason to dislike the hero of his age, who was early engaged against the Scottish interests, and betrayed by the ambidexterous policy of Cecil. Coke struck at Rawleigh as a sacrifice to his own political ambition, as we have seen he afterwards immolated his daughter; but his personal hatred was now sharpened by the fine genius and elegant literature of the man; faculties and acquisitions the lawyer so heartily contemned! Coke had observed, "I know with whom I deal; for we have to deal to-day with a MAN OF WIT."