Curiosities of Literature, Vol. II (of 3) - Edited, With Memoir And Notes, By His Son, The Earl Of Beaconsfield
by Isaac D'Israeli
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

During the gull's progress through Primero and Gleek,[76] he wants for no admirable advice and solemn warnings from two excellent friends; the gull-groper, and at length, the impostor. The gull-groper, who knows, "to half an acre," all his means, takes the gull when out of luck to a side-window, and in a whisper talks of "dice being made of women's bones, which would cozen any man:" but he pours his gold on the board; and a bond is rapturously signed for the next quarter-day. But the gull-groper, by a variety of expedients, avoids having the bond duly discharged; he contrives to get a judgment, and a serjeant with his mace procures the forfeiture of the bond; the treble value. But the "impostor" has none of the milkiness of the "gull-groper"—he looks for no favour under heaven from any man; he is bluff with all the Ordinarie; he spits at random; jingles his spurs into any man's cloak; and his "humour" is, to be a devil of a dare-all. All fear him as the tyrant they must obey. The tender gull trembles, and admires this roysterer's valour. At length the devil he feared becomes his champion; and the poor gull, proud of his intimacy, hides himself under this eagle's wings.

The impostor sits close by his elbow, takes a partnership in his game, furnishes the stakes when out of luck, and in truth does not care how fast the gull loses; for a twirl of his mustachio, a tip of his nose, or a wink of his eye, drives all the losses of the gull into the profits of the grand confederacy at the Ordinarie. And when the impostor has fought the gull's quarrels many a time, at last he kicks up the table; and the gull sinks himself into the class of the forlorn-hope; he lives at the mercy of his late friends the gull-groper and the impostor, who send him out to lure some tender bird in feather.

Such were the hells of our ancestors, from which our worthies might take a lesson; and the "warren" in which the Audleys were the conie-catchers.

But to return to our Audley; this philosophical usurer never pressed hard for his debts; like the fowler, he never shook his nets lest he might startle, satisfied to have them, without appearing to hold them. With great fondness he compared his "bonds to infants, which battle best by sleeping." To battle is to be nourished, a term still retained at the University of Oxford. His familiar companions were all subordinate actors in the great piece he was performing; he too had his part in the scene. When not taken by surprise, on his table usually lay open a great Bible, with Bishop Andrews's folio Sermons, which often gave him an opportunity of railing at the covetousness of the clergy; declaring their religion was "a mere preach," and that "the time would never be well till we had Queen Elizabeth's Protestants again in fashion." He was aware of all the evils arising out of a population beyond the means of subsistence, and dreaded an inundation of men, spreading like the spawn of cod. Hence he considered marriage, with a modern political economist, as very dangerous; bitterly censuring the clergy, whose children, he said, never thrived, and whose widows were left destitute. An apostolical life, according to Audley, required only books, meat, and drink, to be had for fifty pounds a year! Celibacy, voluntary poverty, and all the mortifications of a primitive Christian, were the virtues practised by this puritan among his money bags.

Yet Audley's was that worldly wisdom which derives all its strength from the weaknesses of mankind. Everything was to be obtained by stratagem; and it was his maxim, that to grasp our object the faster, we must go a little round about it. His life is said to have been one of intricacies and mysteries, using indirect means in all things; but if he walked in a labyrinth, it was to bewilder others; for the clue was still in his own hand; all he sought was that his designs should not be discovered by his actions. His word, we are told, was his bond; his hour was punctual; and his opinions were compressed and weighty: but if he was true to his bond-word, it was only a part of the system to give facility to the carrying on of his trade, for he was not strict to his honour; the pride of victory, as well as the passion for acquisition, combined in the character of Audley, as in more tremendous conquerors. His partners dreaded the effects of his law-library, and usually relinquished a claim rather than stand a latent suit against a quibble. When one menaced him by showing some money-bags, which he had resolved to empty in law against him, Audley then in office in the court of wards, with a sarcastic grin, asked "Whether the bags had any bottom?" "Ay!" replied the exulting possessor, striking them. "In that case, I care not," retorted the cynical officer of the court of wards; "for in this court I have a constant spring; and I cannot spend in other courts more than I gain in this." He had at once the meanness which would evade the law, and the spirit which could resist it.

The genius of Audley had crept out of the purlieus of Guildhall, and entered the Temple; and having often sauntered at "Powles" down the great promenade which was reserved for "Duke Humphrey and his guests,"[77] he would turn into that part called "The Usurer's Alley," to talk with "Thirty in the hundred," and at length was enabled to purchase his office at that remarkable institution, the court of wards. The entire fortunes of those whom we now call wards in chancery were in the hands, and often submitted to the arts or the tyranny of the officers of this court.

When Audley was asked the value of this new office, he replied, that "It might be worth some thousands of pounds to him who after his death would instantly go to heaven; twice as much to him who would go to purgatory: and nobody knows what to him who would adventure to go to hell." Such was the pious casuistry of a witty usurer. Whether he undertook this last adventure, for the four hundred thousand pounds he left behind him, how can a sceptical biographer decide? Audley seems ever to have been weak when temptation was strong.

Some saving qualities, however, were mixed with the vicious ones he liked best. Another passion divided dominion with the sovereign one: Audley's strongest impressions of character were cast in the old law-library of his youth, and the pride of legal reputation was not inferior in strength to the rage for money. If in the "court of wards" he pounced on incumbrances which lay on estates, and prowled about to discover the craving wants of their owners, it appears that he also received liberal fees from the relatives of young heirs, to protect them from the rapacity of some great persons, but who could not certainly exceed Audley in subtilty. He was an admirable lawyer, for he was not satisfied with hearing, but examining his clients; which he called "pinching the cause where he perceived it was foundered." He made two observations on clients and lawyers, which have not lost their poignancy. "Many clients in telling their case, rather plead than relate it, so that the advocate heareth not the true state of it, till opened by the adverse party. Some lawyers seem to keep an assurance-office in their chambers, and will warrant any cause brought unto them, knowing that if they fail, they lose nothing but what was lost long since—their credit."

The career of Audley's ambition closed with the extinction of the "court of wards," by which he incurred the loss of above L100,000. On that occasion he observed that "His ordinary losses were as the shavings of his beard, which only grew the faster by them; but the loss of this place was like the cutting off of a member, which was irrecoverable." The hoary usurer pined at the decline of his genius, discoursed on the vanity of the world, and hinted at retreat. A facetious friend told him a story of an old rat, who having acquainted the young rats that he would at length retire to his hole, desiring none to come near him; their curiosity, after some days, led them to venture to look into the hole; and there they discovered the old rat sitting in the midst of a rich Parmesan cheese. The loss of the last L100,000 may have disturbed his digestion, for he did not long survive his court of wards.

Such was this man, converting wisdom into cunning, invention into trickery, and wit into cynicism. Engaged in no honourable cause, he however showed a mind resolved; making plain the crooked and involved path he trod. Sustine et abstine, to bear and forbear, was the great principle of Epictetus, and our moneyed Stoic bore all the contempt and hatred of the living smilingly, while he forbore all the consolations of our common nature to obtain his end. He died in unblest celibacy,—and thus he received the curses of the living for his rapine, while the stranger who grasped the million he had raked together owed him no gratitude at his death.


I have already drawn a picture of Jewish history in our country; the present is a companion-piece, exhibiting a Roman Catholic one.

The domestic history of our country awakens our feelings far more than the public. In the one, we recognise ourselves as men; in the other, we are nothing but politicians. The domestic history is, indeed, entirely involved in the fate of the public; and our opinions are regulated according to the different countries, and by the different ages we live in; yet systems of politics, and modes of faith, are, for the individual, but the chance occurrences of human life, usually found in the cradle and laid in the grave: it is only the herd of mankind, or their artful leaders, who fight and curse one another with so much sincerity. Amidst these intestine struggles, or, perhaps, when they have ceased, and our hearts are calm, we perceive the eternal force of nature acting on humanity; then the heroic virtues and private sufferings of persons engaged in an opposite cause, and acting on different principles than our own, appeal to our sympathy, and even excite our admiration. A philosopher, born a Roman Catholic, assuredly could commemorate many a pathetic history of some heroic Huguenot; while we, with the same feeling in our heart, discover a romantic and chivalrous band of Catholics.

Chidiock Titchbourne is a name which appears in the conspiracy of Anthony Babington against Elizabeth, and the history of this accomplished young man may enter into the romance of real life. Having discovered two interesting domestic documents relative to him, I am desirous of preserving a name and a character which have such claims on our sympathy.

There is an interesting historical novel, entitled "The Jesuit," whose story is founded on this conspiracy; remarkable for being the production of a lady, without, if I recollect rightly, a single adventure of love. Of the fourteen characters implicated in this conspiracy, few were of the stamp of men ordinarily engaged in dark assassinations. Hume has told the story with his usual grace: the fuller narrative may be found in Camden; but the tale may yet receive from the character of Chidiock Titchbourne, a more interesting close.

Some youths, worthy of ranking with the heroes, rather than with the traitors of England, had been practised on by the subtilty of Ballard, a disguised Jesuit of great intrepidity and talents, whom Camden calls "a silken priest in a soldier's habit:" for this versatile intriguer changed into all shapes, and took up all names: yet, with all the arts of a political Jesuit, he found himself entrapped in the nets of that more crafty one, the subdolous Walsingham. Ballard had opened himself to Babington, a Catholic; a youth of large fortune, the graces of whose person were only inferior to those of his mind. In his travels, his generous temper had been touched by some confidential friends of the Scottish Mary; and the youth, susceptible of ambition, had been recommended to that queen; and an intercourse of letters took place, which seemed as deeply tinctured with love as with loyalty. The intimates of Babington were youths of congenial tempers and studies; and, in their exalted imaginations, they could only view in the imprisoned Mary of Scotland a sovereign, a saint, and a woman. But friendship the most tender, if not the most sublime ever recorded, prevailed among this band of self-devoted victims; and the Damon and Pythias of antiquity were here out-numbered.

But these conspirators were surely more adapted for lovers than for politicians. The most romantic incidents are interwoven in this dark conspiracy. Some of the letters to Mary were conveyed by a secret messenger, really in the pay of Walsingham; others were lodged in a concealed place, covered by a loosened stone, in the wall of the queen's prison. All were transcribed by Walsingham before they reached Mary. Even the spies of that singular statesman were the companions or the servants of the arch-conspirator Ballard; for the minister seems only to have humoured his taste in assisting him through this extravagant plot. Yet, as if a plot of so loose a texture was not quite perilous enough, the extraordinary incident of a picture, representing the secret conspirators in person, was probably considered as the highest stroke of political intrigue! The accomplished Babington had portrayed the conspirators, himself standing in the midst of them, that the imprisoned queen might thus have some kind of personal acquaintance with them. There was at least as much of chivalry as of Machiavelism in this conspiracy. This very picture, before it was delivered to Mary, the subtile Walsingham had copied, to exhibit to Elizabeth the faces of her secret enemies. Houbraken, in his portrait of Walsingham, has introduced in the vignette the incident of this picture being shown to Elizabeth; a circumstance happily characteristic of the genius of this crafty and vigilant statesman. Camden tells us that Babington had first inscribed beneath the picture this verse:—

Hi mihi sunt comites, quos ipsa pericula ducunt. These are my companions, whom the same dangers lead.

But as this verse was considered by some of less heated fancies as much too open and intelligible, they put one more ambiguous:—

Quorsum haec alio properantibus? What are these things to men hastening to another purpose?

This extraordinary collection of personages must have occasioned many alarms to Elizabeth, at the approach of any stranger, till the conspiracy was suffered to be sufficiently matured to be ended. Once she perceived in her walks a conspirator; and on that occasion erected her "lion port," reprimanding her captain of the guards, loud enough to meet the conspirator's ear, that "he had not a man in his company who wore a sword."—"Am not I fairly guarded?" exclaimed Elizabeth.

It is in the progress of the trial that the history and the feelings of these wondrous youths appear. In those times, when the government of the country yet felt itself unsettled, and mercy did not sit in the judgment-seat, even one of the judges could not refrain from being affected at the presence of so gallant a band as the prisoners at the bar: "Oh, Ballard, Ballard!" the judge exclaimed, "what hast thou done? A sort (a company) of brave youths, otherwise endued with good gifts, by thy inducement hast thou brought to their utter destruction and confusion." The Jesuit himself commands our respect, although we refuse him our esteem; for he felt some compunction at the tragical executions which were to follow, and "wished all the blame might rest on him, could the shedding of his blood be the saving of Babington's life!"

When this romantic band of friends were called on for their defence, the most pathetic instances of domestic affection appeared. One had engaged in this plot solely to try to save his friend, for he had no hopes of it, nor any wish for its success; he had observed to his friend, that the "haughty and ambitious mind of Anthony Babington would be the destruction of himself and his friends;" nevertheless he was willing to die with them! Another, to withdraw if possible one of those noble youths from the conspiracy, although he had broken up housekeeping, said, to employ his own language, "I called back my servants again together, and began to keep house again more freshly than ever I did, only because I was weary to see Tom Salusbury's straggling, and willing to keep him about home." Having attempted to secrete his friend, this gentleman observed, "I am condemned, because I suffered Salusbury to escape, when I knew he was one of the conspirators. My case is hard and lamentable; either to betray my friend, whom I love as myself, and to discover Tom Salusbury, the best man in my country, of whom I only made choice, or else to break my allegiance to my sovereign, and to undo myself and my posterity for ever." Whatever the political casuist may determine on this case, the social being carries his own manual in the heart. The principle of the greatest of republics was to suffer nothing to exist in competition with its own ambition; but the Roman history is a history without fathers and brothers! Another of the conspirators replied, "For flying away with my friend I fulfilled the part of a friend." When the judge observed, that, to perform his friendship he had broken his allegiance to his sovereign, he bowed his head and confessed, "Therein I have offended." Another, asked why he had fled into the woods, where he was discovered among some of the conspirators, proudly (or tenderly) replied, "For company!"

When the sentence of condemnation had passed, then broke forth among this noble band that spirit of honour, which surely had never been witnessed at the bar among so many criminals. Their great minds seemed to have reconciled them to the most barbarous of deaths; but as their estates as traitors might be forfeited to the queen, their sole anxiety was now for their families and their creditors. One in the most pathetic terms recommends to her majesty's protection a beloved wife; another a destitute sister; but not among the least urgent of their supplications, was one that their creditors might not be injured by their untimely end. The statement of their affairs is curious and simple. "If mercy be not to be had," exclaimed one, "I beseech you, my good lords, this; I owe some sums of money, but not very much, and I have more owing to me; I beseech that my debts may be paid with that which is owing to me." Another prayed for a pardon; the judge complimented him, that "he was one who might have done good service to his country," but declares he cannot obtain it.—"Then," said the prisoner, "I beseech that six angels, which such an one hath of mine, may be delivered to my brother to pay my debts."—"How much are thy debts?" demanded the judge. He answered, "The same six angels will discharge it."

That nothing might be wanting to complete the catastrophe of their sad story, our sympathy must accompany them to their tragical end, and to their last words. These heroic yet affectionate youths had a trial there, intolerable to their social feelings. The terrific process of executing traitors was the remains of feudal barbarism, and has only been abolished very recently. I must not refrain from painting this scene of blood; the duty of an historian must be severer than his taste, and I record in the note a scene of this nature.[78] The present one was full of horrors. Ballard was first executed, and snatched alive from the gallows to be embowelled: Babington looked on with an undaunted countenance, steadily gazing on that variety of tortures which he himself was in a moment to pass through; the others averted their faces, fervently praying. When the executioner began his tremendous office on Babington, the spirit of this haughty and heroic man cried out amidst the agony, Parce mihi, Domine Jesu! Spare me, Lord Jesus! There were two days of execution; it was on the first that the noblest of these youths suffered; and the pity which such criminals had excited among the spectators evidently weakened the sense of their political crime; the solemnity, not the barbarity, of the punishment affects the populace with right feelings. Elizabeth, an enlightened politician, commanded that on the second day the odious part of the sentence against traitors should not commence till after their death.

One of these generosi adolescentuli, youths of generous blood, was CHIDIOCK TITCHBOURNE, of Southampton, the more intimate friend of Babington. He had refused to connect himself with the assassination of Elizabeth, but his reluctant consent was inferred from his silence. His address to the populace breathes all the carelessness of life, in one who knew all its value. Proud of his ancient descent from a family which had existed before the Conquest till now without a stain, he paints the thoughtless happiness of his days with his beloved friend, when any object rather than matters of state engaged their pursuits; the hours of misery were only first known the day he entered into the conspiracy. How feelingly he passes into the domestic scene, amidst his wife, his child, and his sisters! and even his servants! Well might he cry, more in tenderness than in reproach, "Friendship hath brought me to this!"

"Countrymen, and my dear friends, you expect I should speak something; I am a bad orator, and my text is worse: It were in vain to enter into the discourse of the whole matter for which I am brought hither, for that it hath been revealed heretofore; let me be a warning to all young gentlemen, especially generosis adolescentulis. I had a friend, a dear friend, of whom I made no small account, whose friendship hath brought me to this; he told me the whole matter, I cannot deny, as they had laid it down to be done; but I always thought it impious, and denied to be a dealer in it; but the regard of my friend caused me to be a man in whom the old proverb was verified; I was silent, and so consented. Before this thing chanced, we lived together in most nourishing estate: Of whom went report in the Strand, Fleet-street, and elsewhere about London, but of Babington and Titchbourne? No threshold was of force to brave our entry. Thus we lived, and wanted nothing we could wish for; and God knows what less in my head than matters of state. Now give me leave to declare the miseries I sustained after I was acquainted with the action, wherein I may justly compare my estate to that of Adam's, who could not abstain one thing forbidden, to enjoy all other things the world could afford; the terror of conscience awaited me. After I considered the dangers whereinto I was fallen, I went to Sir John Peters in Essex, and appointed my horses should meet me at London, intending to go down into the country. I came to London, and then heard that all was bewrayed; whereupon, like Adam, we fled into the woods to hide ourselves. My dear countrymen, my sorrows may be your joy, yet mix your smiles with tears, and pity my case; I am descended from a house, from two hundred years before the Conquest, never stained till this my misfortune. I have a wife and one child; my wife Agnes, my dear wife, and there's my grief—and six sisters left in my hand—my poor servants, I know, their master being taken, were dispersed; for all which I do most heartily grieve. I expected some favour, though I deserved nothing less, that the remainder of my years might in some sort have recompensed my former guilt; which seeing I have missed, let me now meditate on the joys I hope to enjoy."

Titchbourne had addressed a letter to his "dear wife Agnes," the night before he suffered, which I discovered among the Harleian MSS.[79] It overflows with the most natural feeling, and contains some touches of expression, all sweetness and tenderness, which mark the Shakspearean era. The same MS. has also preserved a more precious gem, in a small poem, composed at the same time, which indicates his genius, fertile in imagery, and fraught with the melancholy philosophy of a fine and wounded spirit. The unhappy close of the life of such a noble youth, with all the prodigality of his feelings, and the cultivation of his intellect, may still excite that sympathy in the generosis adolescentulis, which Chidiock Titchbourne would have felt for them!

"A letter written by CHEDIOCK TICHEBURNE the night before he suffered death, vnto his wife, dated of anno 1586.

"To the most loving wife alive, I commend me vnto her, and desire God to blesse her with all happiness, pray for her dead husband, and be of good comforte, for I hope in Jesus Christ this morning to see the face of my maker and redeemer in the most joyful throne of his glorious kingdome. Commend me to all my friends, and desire them to pray for me, and in all charitie to pardon me, if I have offended them. Commend me to my six sisters poore desolate soules, advise them to serue God, for without him no goodness is to be expected: were it possible, my little sister Babb: the darlinge of my race might be bred by her, God would rewarde her; but I do her wrong I confesse, that hath by my desolate negligence too little for herselfe, to add a further charge vnto her. Deere wife forgive me, that have by these means so much impoverished her fortunes; patience and pardon good wife I craue—make of these our necessities a vertue, and lay no further burthen on my neck than hath alreadie been. There be certain debts that I owe, and because I know not the order of the lawe, piteous it hath taken from me all, forfeited by my course of offence to her majestie, I cannot aduise thee to benefit me herein, but if there fall out wherewithal, let them be discharged for God's sake. I will not that you trouble yourselfe with the performance of these matters, my own heart, but make it known to my uncles, and desire them, for the honour of God and ease of their soule, to take care of them as they may, and especially care of my sisters bringing up the burthen is now laide on them. Now, Sweet-cheek, what is left to bestow on thee, a small joynture, a small recompense for thy deservinge, these legacies followinge to be thine owne. God of his infinite goodness give thee grace alwaies to remain his true and faithfull servant, that through the merits of his bitter and blessed passion thou maist become in good time of his kingdom with the blessed women in heaven. May the Holy Ghost comfort thee with all necessaries for the wealth of thy soul in the world to come, where, until it shall please almighty God I meete thee, farewell lovinge wife, farewell the dearest to me on all the earth, farewell!

"By the hand from the heart of thy most faithful louinge husband,



"Made by CHEDIOCK TICHBORNE of himselfe in the Tower, the night before he suffered death, who was executed in Lincoln's Inn Fields for treason. 1586.

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares, My feast of joy is but a dish of pain, My crop of corn is but a field of tares, And all my goodes is but vain hope of gain. The day is fled, and yet I saw no sun, And now I live, and now my life is done!

My spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung, The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green, My youth is past, and yet I am but young, I saw the world, and yet I was not seen; My thread is cut, and yet it is not spun, And now I live, and now my life is done!

I sought for death, and found it in the wombe, I lookt for life, and yet it was a shade, I trade the ground, and knew it was my tombe, And now I dye, and now I am but made. The glass is full, and yet my glass is run; And now I live, and now my life is done![80]


The year 1566 was a remarkable period in the domestic annals of our great Elizabeth; then, for a moment, broke forth a noble struggle between the freedom of the subject and the dignity of the sovereign.

One of the popular grievances of her glorious reign was the maiden state in which the queen persisted to live, notwithstanding such frequent remonstrances and exhortations. The nation in a moment might be thrown into the danger of a disputed succession; and it became necessary to allay that ferment which existed among all parties, while each was fixing on its own favourite, hereafter to ascend the throne. The birth of James I. this year, re-animated the partisans of Mary of Scotland; and men of the most opposite parties in England unanimously joined in the popular cry for the marriage of Elizabeth, or a settlement of the succession. This was a subject most painful to the thoughts of Elizabeth; she started from it with horror, and she was practising every imaginable artifice to evade it.

The real cause of this repugnance has been passed over by our historians. Camden, however, hints at it, when he places among other popular rumours of the day, that "men cursed Huic, the queen's physician, for dissuading her from marriage, for I know not what female infirmity." The queen's physician thus incurred the odium of the nation for the integrity of his conduct: he well knew how precious was her life![81]

This fact, once known, throws a new light over her conduct; the ambiguous expressions which she constantly employs, when she alludes to her marriage in her speeches, and in private conversations, are no longer mysterious. She was always declaring, that she knew her subjects did not love her so little, as to wish to bury her before her time; even in the letter I shall now give, we find this remarkable expression:—urging her to marriage, she said, was "asking nothing less than wishing her to dig her grave before she was dead." Conscious of the danger of her life by marriage, she had early declared when she ascended the throne, that "she would live and die a maiden queen:" but she afterwards discovered the political evil resulting from her unfortunate situation. Her conduct was admirable; her great genius turned even her weakness into strength, and proved how well she deserved the character which she had already obtained from an enlightened enemy—the great Sixtus V., who observed of her, Ch'era un gran cervello di Principessa! She had a princely head-piece! Elizabeth allowed her ministers to pledge her royal word to the commons, as often as they found necessary, for her resolution to marry; she kept all Europe at her feet, with the hopes and fears of her choice; she gave ready encouragements, perhaps allowed her agents to promote even invitations, to the offers of marriage she received from crowned heads; and all the coquetries and cajolings, so often and so fully recorded, with which she freely honoured individuals, made her empire an empire of love, where love, however, could never appear. All these were merely political artifices, to conceal her secret resolution, which was, not to marry.

At the birth of James I. as Camden says, "the sharp and hot spirits broke out, accusing the queen that she was neglecting her country and posterity." All "these humours," observes Hume, "broke out with great vehemence, in a new session of parliament, held after six prorogations." The peers united with the commoners. The queen had an empty exchequer, and was at their mercy. It was a moment of high ferment. Some of the boldest, and some of the most British spirits were at work; and they, with the malice or wisdom of opposition, combined the supply with the succession; one was not to be had without the other.

This was a moment of great hope and anxiety with the French court; they were flattering themselves that her reign was touching a crisis; and La Mothe Fenelon, then the French ambassador at the court of Elizabeth, appears to have been busied in collecting hourly information of the warm debates in the commons, and what passed in their interviews with the queen. We may rather be astonished where he procured so much secret intelligence: he sometimes complains that he is not able to acquire it as fast as Catherine de Medicis and her son Charles IX. wished. There must have been Englishmen at our court who were serving as French spies. In a private collection, which consists of two or three hundred original letters of Charles IX., Catherine de Medicis, Henry III., and Mary of Scotland, &c., I find two despatches of this French ambassador, entirely relating to the present occurrence. What renders them more curious is, that the debates on the question of the succession are imperfectly given in Sir Symonds D'Ewes's journals; the only resource open to us. Sir Symonds complains of the negligence of the clerk of the commons, who indeed seems to have exerted his negligence, whenever it was found most agreeable to the court party.

Previous to the warm debates in the commons, of which the present despatch furnishes a lively picture, on Saturday, 12th October, 1566, at a meeting of the lords of the council, held in the queen's apartment, the Duke of Norfolk, in the name of the whole nobility, addressed Elizabeth, urging her to settle the suspended points of the succession, and of her marriage, which had been promised in the last parliament. The queen was greatly angered on the occasion; she would not suffer their urgency on those points, and spoke with great animation. "Hitherto you have had no opportunity to complain of me; I have well governed the country in peace, and if a late war of little consequence has broken out, which might have occasioned my subjects to complain of me, with me it has not originated, but with yourselves, as truly I believe. Lay your hands on your hearts, and blame yourselves. In respect to the choice of the succession, not one of ye shall have it; that choice I reserve to myself alone. I will not be buried while I am living, as my sister was. Do I not well know, how during the life of my sister every one hastened to me at Hatfield; I am at present inclined to see no such travellers, nor desire on this your advice in any way.[82] In regard to my marriage, you may see enough, that I am not distant from it, and in what respects the welfare of the kingdom: go each of you, and do your own duty."

27th October, 1566.


"By my last despatch of the 21st instant,[83] among other matters, I informed your majesty of what was said on Saturday the 19th as well in parliament, as in the chamber of the queen, respecting the circumstance of the succession to this crown; since which I have learned other particulars, which occurred a little before, and which I will not now omit to relate, before I mention what afterwards happened.

"On Wednesday, the 16th of the present month, the comptroller of the queen's household[84] moved, in the lower house of parliament, where the deputies of towns and counties meet, to obtain a subsidy;[85] taking into consideration, among other things, that the queen had emptied the exchequer, as well in the late wars, as in the maintenance of her ships at sea, for the protection of her kingdom, and her subjects; and which expenditure has been so excessive, that it could no further be supported without the aid of her good subjects, whose duty it was to offer money to her majesty, even before she required it, in consideration that, hitherto, she had been to them a benignant and courteous mistress.

"The comptroller having finished, one of the deputies, a country gentleman, rose in reply. He said, that he saw no occasion, nor any pressing necessity, which ought to move her majesty to ask for money of her subjects. And, in regard to the wars, which it was said had exhausted her treasury, she had undertaken them for herself, as she had thought proper; not for the defence of her kingdom, nor for the advantage of her subjects; but there was one thing which seemed to him more urgent, and far more necessary to examine concerning this campaign; which was, how the money raised by the late subsidy had been spent; and that every one who had had the handling of it should produce their accounts, that it might be known if the monies had been well or ill spent.

"On this, rises one named Mr. Basche,[86] purveyor of the marine, and also a member of the said parliament; who shows that it was most necessary that the commons should vote the said subsidies to her majesty, who had not only been at vast charges, and was so daily, to maintain a great number of ships, but also in building new ones; repeating what the comptroller of the household had said, that they ought not to wait till the queen asked for supplies, but should make a voluntary offer of their services.

"Another country gentleman rises and replies, that the said Basche had certainly his reasons to speak for the queen in the present case, since a great deal of her majesty's monies for the providing of ships passed through his hands; and the more he consumed, the greater was his profit. According to his notion, there were but too many purveyors in this kingdom, whose noses had grown so long, that they stretched from London to the west.[87] It was certainly proper to know if all they levied by their commission for the present campaign was entirely employed to the queen's profit. Nothing further was debated on that day.

"The Friday following when the subject of the subsidy was renewed, one of the gentlemen-deputies showed, that the queen having prayed[88] for the last subsidy, had promised, and pledged her faith to her subjects, that after that one she never more would raise a single penny on them; and promised even to free them from the wine-duty, of which promise they ought to press for the performance; adding, that it was far more necessary for this kingdom to speak concerning an heir or successor to their crown, and of her marriage, than of a subsidy.

"The next day, which was Saturday the 19th, they all began, with the exception of a single voice, a loud outcry for the succession. Amidst these confused voices and cries, one of the council prayed them to have a little patience, and with time they should be satisfied; but that, at this moment, other matters pressed,—it was necessary to satisfy the queen about a subsidy. 'No! no!' cried the deputies, 'we are expressly charged not to grant anything until the queen resolvedly answers that which we now ask: and we require you to inform her majesty of our intention, which is such as we are commanded to by all the towns and subjects of this kingdom, whose deputies we are. We further require an act, or acknowledgment, of our having delivered this remonstrance, that we may satisfy our respective towns and counties that we have performed our charge.' They alleged for an excuse, that if they had omitted any part of this, their heads would answer for it. We shall see what will come of this.[89]

"Tuesday the 22nd, the principal lords, and the bishops of London, York, Winchester, and Durham, went together, after dinner, from the parliament to the queen, whom they found in her private apartment. There, after those who were present had retired, and they remained alone with her, the great treasurer having the precedence in age, spoke first in the name of all. He opened, by saying, that the commons had required them to unite in one sentiment and agreement, to solicit her majesty to give her answer as she had promised, to appoint a successor to the crown; declaring it was necessity that compelled them to urge this point, that they might provide against the dangers which might happen to the kingdom, if they continued without the security they asked. This had been the custom of her royal predecessors, to provide long beforehand for the succession, to preserve the peace of the kingdom; that the commons were all of one opinion, and so resolved to settle the succession before they would speak about a subsidy, or any other matter whatever; that, hitherto, nothing but the most trivial discussions had passed in parliament, and so great an assembly was only wasting their time, and saw themselves entirety useless. They, however, supplicated her majesty, that she would be pleased to declare her will on this point, or at once to put an end to the parliament, so that every one might retire to his home.

"The Duke of Norfolk then spoke, and, after him, every one of the other lords, according to his rank, holding the same language in strict conformity with that of the great treasurer.

"The queen returned no softer answer than she had on the preceding Saturday, to another party of the same company; saying that 'The commons were very rebellious, and that they had not dared to have attempted such things during the life of her father: that it was not for them to impede her affairs, and that it did not become a subject to compel the sovereign. What they asked was nothing less than wishing her to dig her grave before she was dead.' Addressing herself to the lords, she said, 'My lords, do what you will; as for myself, I shall do nothing but according to my pleasure. All the resolutions which you may make can have no force without my consent and authority; besides, what you desire is an affair of much too great importance to be declared to a knot of hare-brains.[90] I will take counsel with men who understand justice and the laws, as I am deliberating to do: I will choose half-a-dozen of the most able I can find in my kingdom for consultation, and after having their advice, I will then discover to you my will.' On this she dismissed them in great anger.

"By this, sire, your majesty may perceive that this queen is every day trying new inventions to escape from this passage (that is, on fixing her marriage, or the succession). She thinks that the Duke of Norfolk is principally the cause of this insisting,[91] which one person and the other stand to; and is so angried against him, that, if she can find any decent pretext to arrest him, I think she will not fail to do it; and he himself, as I understand, has already very little doubt of this.[92] The duke told the earl of Northumberland, that the queen remained steadfast to her own opinion, and would take no other advice than her own, and would do everything herself."

The storms in our parliament do not necessarily end in political shipwrecks, whenever the head of the government is an Elizabeth. She, indeed, sent down a prohibition to the house from all debate on the subject. But when she discovered a spirit in the commons, and language as bold as her own royal style, she knew how to revoke the exasperating prohibition. She even charmed them by the manner; for the commons returned her "prayers and thanks," and accompanied them with a subsidy. Her majesty found by experience, that the present, like other passions, was more easily calmed and quieted by following than resisting, observes Sir Symonds D'Ewes.

The wisdom of Elizabeth, however, did not weaken her intrepidity. The struggle was glorious for both parties; but how she escaped through the storm which her mysterious conduct had at once raised and quelled, the sweetness and the sharpness, the commendation and the reprimand of her noble speech in closing the parliament, are told by Hume with the usual felicity of his narrative.[93]


Prince Henry, the son of James I., whose premature death was lamented by the people, as well as by poets and historians, unquestionably would have proved an heroic and military character. Had he ascended the throne, the whole face of our history might have been changed; the days of Agincourt and Cressy had been revived, and Henry IX. had rivalled Henry V. It is remarkable that Prince Henry resembled that monarch in his features, as Ben Jonson has truly recorded, though in a complimentary verse, and as we may see by his picture, among the ancient English ones at Dulwich College. Merlin, in a masque by Jonson, addresses Prince Henry,

Yet rests that other thunderbolt of war, Harry the Fifth; to whom in face you are So like, as fate would have you so in worth.

A youth who perished in his eighteenth year has furnished the subject of a volume, which even the deficient animation of its writer has not deprived of attraction.[94] If the juvenile age of Prince Henry has proved such a theme for our admiration, we may be curious to learn what this extraordinary youth was even at an earlier period. Authentic anecdotes of children are rare; a child has seldom a biographer by his side. We have indeed been recently treated with "Anecdotes of Children," in the "Practical Education" of the literary family of the Edgeworths; but we may presume that as Mr. Edgeworth delighted in pieces of curious machinery in his house, these automatic infants, poets, and metaphysicians, of whom afterwards we have heard no more, seem to have resembled other automata, moving without any native impulse.

Prince Henry, at a very early age, not exceeding five years, evinced a thoughtfulness of character, extraordinary in a child. Something in the formation of this early character may be attributed to the Countess of Mar. This lady had been the nurse of James I., and to her care the king intrusted the prince. She is described in a manuscript of the times, as "an ancient, virtuous, and severe lady, who was the prince's governess from his cradle." At the age of five years the prince was consigned to his tutor, Mr. (afterwards Sir) Adam Newton, a man of learning and capacity, whom the prince at length chose for his secretary. The severity of the old countess, and the strict discipline of his tutor, were not received without affection and reverence; although not at times without a shrewd excuse, or a turn of pleasantry, which latter faculty the princely boy seems to have possessed in a very high degree.

The prince early attracted the attention and excited the hopes of those who were about his person. A manuscript narrative has been preserved, which was written by one who tells us, that he was "an attendant upon the prince's person since he was under the age of three years, having always diligently observed his disposition, behaviour, and speeches."[95] It was at the earnest desire of Lord and Lady Lumley that the writer of these anecdotes drew up this relation. The manuscript is without date; but as Lord Lumley died in April, 1609, and leaving no heir, his library was then purchased for the prince, Henry could not have reached his fifteenth year; this manuscript was evidently composed earlier: so that the latest anecdotes could not have occurred beyond his thirteenth or fourteenth year,—a time of life when few children can furnish a curious miscellany about themselves.

The writer set down every little circumstance he considered worth noticing, as it occurred. I shall attempt a sort of arrangement of the most interesting, to show, by an unity of the facts, the characteristic touches of the mind and dispositions of the princely boy.

Prince Henry in his childhood rarely wept, and endured pain without a groan. When a boy wrestled with him in earnest, and threw him, he was not "seen to whine or weep at the hurt." His sense of justice was early; for when his playmate the little Earl of Mar ill-treated one of his pages, Henry reproved his puerile friend: "I love you because you are my lord's son and my cousin; but, if you be not better conditioned, I will love such an one better," naming the child that had complained of him.

The first time he went to the town of Stirling, to meet the king, observing without the gate of the town a stack of corn, it fancifully struck him with the shape of the top he used to play with, and the child exclaimed, "That's a good top." "Why do you not then play with it?" he was answered. "Set you it up for me, and I will play with it." This is just the fancy which we might expect in a lively child, with a shrewdness in the retort above its years.

His martial character was perpetually discovering itself. When asked what instrument he liked best, he answered, "a trumpet." We are told that none could dance with more grace, but that he never delighted in dancing; while he performed his heroical exercises with pride and delight, more particularly when before the king, the constable of Castile, and other ambassadors. He was instructed by his master to handle and toss the pike, to march and hold himself in an affected style of stateliness, according to the martinets of those days; but he soon rejected such petty and artificial fashions; yet to show that this dislike arose from no want of skill in a trifling accomplishment, he would sometimes resume it only to laugh at it, and instantly return to his own natural demeanour. On one of these occasions, one of these martinets observing that they could never be good soldiers unless they always kept true order and measure in marching, "What then must they do," cried Henry, "when they wade through a swift-running water?" In all things freedom of action from his own native impulse he preferred to the settled rules of his teachers; and when his physician told him that he rode too fast, he replied, "Must I ride by rules of physic?" When he was eating a cold capon in cold weather, the physician told him that that was not meat for the weather. "You may see, doctor," said Henry, "that my cook is no astronomer." And when the same physician, observing him eat cold and hot meat together, protested against it, "I cannot mind that now," said the royal boy, facetiously, "though they should have run at tilt together in my belly."

His national affections were strong. When one reported to Henry that the King of France had said that his bastard, as well as the bastard of Normandy, might conquer England, the princely boy exclaimed, "I'll to cuffs with him, if he go about any such means." There was a dish of jelly before the prince, in the form of a crown, with three lilies; and a kind of buffoon, whom the prince used to banter, said to the prince that that dish was worth a crown. "Ay!" exclaimed the future English hero, "I would I had that crown!"—"It would be a great dish," rejoined the buffoon. "How can that be," rejoined the prince, "since you value it but a crown?" When James I. asked him whether he loved Englishmen or Frenchmen better, he replied, "Englishmen, because he was of kindred to more noble persons of England than of France;" and when the king inquired whether he loved the English or the Germans better, he replied the English; on which the king observing that his mother was a German, the prince replied, "'Sir, you have the wyte thereof;'—a northern speech," adds the writer, "which is as much as to say,—you are the cause thereof."

Born in Scotland, and heir to the crown of England at a time when the mutual jealousies of the two nations were running so high, the boy often had occasion to express the unity of affection which was really in his heart. Being questioned by a nobleman, whether, after his father, he had rather be king of England or Scotland, he asked, "Which of them was best?" Being answered, that it was England; "Then," said the Scottish-born prince, "would I have both!" And once, in reading this verse in Virgil,

Tros Tyriusve mihi nullo discrimine agetur,

the boy said he would make use of that verse for himself, with a slight alteration, thus,

Anglus Scotusve mihi nullo discrimine agetur.

He was careful to keep alive the same feeling in another part of the British dominions; and the young prince appears to have been regarded with great affection by the Welsh; for when once the prince asked a gentleman at what mark he should shoot, the courtier pointed with levity at a Welshman who was present. "Will you see, then," said the princely boy, "how I will shoot at Welshmen?" Turning his back from him, the prince shot his arrow in the air. When a Welshman, who had taken a large carouse, in the fulness of his heart and his head, said in the presence of the king, that the prince should have 40,000 Welshmen, to wait upon him against any king in Christendom; the king, not a little jealous, hastily inquired, "To do what?" The little prince turned away the momentary alarm by his facetiousness: "To cut off the heads of 40,000 leeks."

His bold and martial character was discoverable in minute circumstances like these. Eating in the king's presence a dish of milk, the king asked him why he ate so much child's meat. "Sir, it is also man's meat," Henry replied; and immediately after having fed heartily on a partridge, the king observed that that meat would make him a coward, according to the prevalent notions of the age respecting diet; to which the young prince replied, "though it be but a cowardly fowl, it shall not make me a coward." Once taking strawberries with two spoons, when one might have sufficed, our infant Mars gaily exclaimed, "The one I use as a rapier and the other as a dagger!"

Adam Newton appears to have filled his office as preceptor with no servility to the capricious fancies of the princely boy. Desirous, however, of cherishing the generous spirit and playful humour of Henry, his tutor encouraged a freedom of jesting with him, which appears to have been carried at times to a degree of momentary irritability on the side of the tutor, by the keen humour of the boy. While the royal pupil held his master in equal reverence and affection, the gaiety of his temper sometimes twitched the equability or the gravity of the preceptor. When Newton, wishing to set an example to the prince in heroic exercises, one day practised the pike, and tossing it with such little skill as to have failed in the attempt, the young prince telling him of his failure, Newton obviously lost his temper, observing, that "to find fault was an evil humour." "Master, I take the humour of you." "It becomes not a prince," observed Newton. "Then," retorted the young prince, "doth it worse become a prince's master!" Some of these harmless bickerings are amusing. When his tutor, playing at shuffle-board with the prince, blamed him for changing so often, and taking up a piece, threw it on the board, and missed his aim, the prince smilingly exclaimed, "Well thrown, master;" on which the tutor, a little vexed, said "he would not strive with a prince at shuffle-board." Henry observed, "Yet you gownsmen should be best at such exercises, which are not meet for men who are more stirring." The tutor, a little irritated, said, "I am meet for whipping of boys." "You vaunt, then," retorted the prince, "that which a ploughman or cart-driver can do better than you." "I can do more," said the tutor, "for I can govern foolish children." On which the prince, who, in his respect for his tutor, did not care to carry the jest farther, rose from the table, and in a low voice to those near him said, "he had need be a wise man that could do that." Newton was sometimes severe in his chastisement; for when the prince was playing at goff, and having warned his tutor, who was standing by in conversation, that he was going to strike the ball, and having lifted up the goff-club, some one observing, "Beware, sir, that you hit not Mr. Newton!" the prince drew back the club, but smilingly observed, "Had I done so, I had but paid my debts." At another time, when he was amusing himself with the sports of a child, his tutor wishing to draw him to more manly exercises, amongst other things, said to him in good humour, "God send you a wise wife!" "That she may govern you and me!" said the prince. The tutor observed, that "he had one of his own;" the prince replied, "But mine, if I have one, would govern your wife, and by that means would govern both you and me!" Henry, at this early age, excelled in a quickness of reply, combined with reflection, which marks the precocity of his intellect. His tutor having laid a wager with the prince that he could not refrain from standing with his back to the fire, and seeing him forget himself once or twice, standing in that posture, the tutor said, "Sir, the wager is won, you have failed twice." "Master," replied Henry, "Saint Peter's cock crew thrice."—A musician having played a voluntary in his presence, was requested to play the same again. "I could not for the kingdom of Spain," said the musician, "for this were harder than for a preacher to repeat word by word a sermon that he had not learned by rote." A clergyman standing by, observed that he thought a preacher might do that: "Perhaps," rejoined the young prince, "for a bishopric!"

The natural facetiousness of his temper appears frequently in the good humour with which the little prince was accustomed to treat his domestics. He had two of opposite characters, who were frequently set by the ears for the sake of the sport; the one, Murray, nicknamed "the tailor," loved his liquor; and the other was a stout "trencherman." The king desired the prince to put an end to these broils, and to make the men agree, and that the agreement should be written and subscribed by both. "Then," said the prince, "must the drunken tailor subscribe it with chalk, for he cannot write his name, and then I will make them agree upon this condition—that the trencherman shall go into the cellar, and drink with Will Murray, and Will Murray shall make a great wallet for the trencherman to carry his victuals in."—One of his servants having cut the prince's finger, and sucked out the blood with his mouth, that it might heal the more easily, the young prince, who expressed no displeasure at the accident, said to him pleasantly, "If, which God forbid! my father, myself, and the rest of his kindred should fail, you might claim the crown, for you have now in you the blood-royal."—Our little prince once resolved on a hearty game of play, and for this purpose only admitted his young gentlemen, and excluded the men: it happened that an old servant, not aware of the injunction, entered the apartment, on which the prince told him he might play too; and when the prince was asked why he admitted this old man rather than the other men, he rejoined, "Because he had a right to be of their number, for Senex bis puer."

Nor was Henry susceptible of gross flattery, for when once he wore white shoes, and one said that he longed to kiss his foot, the prince said to the fawning courtier, "Sir, I am not the pope;" the other replied that "he would not kiss the pope's foot, except it were to bite off his great toe." The prince gravely rejoined: "At Rome you would be glad to kiss his foot and forget the rest."

It was then the mode, when the king or the prince travelled, to sleep with their suite at the houses of the nobility; and the loyalty and zeal of the host were usually displayed in the reception given to the royal guest. It happened that in one of these excursions the prince's servants complained that they had been obliged to go to bed supperless, through the pinching parsimony of the house, which the little prince at the time of hearing seemed to take no great notice of. The next morning the lady of the house coming to pay her respects to him, she found him turning over a volume that had many pictures in it; one of which was a painting of a company sitting at a banquet: this he showed her. "I invite you, madam, to a feast." "To what feast?" she asked. "To this feast," said the boy. "What! would your highness give me but a painted feast?" Fixing his eye on her, he said, "No better, madam, is found in this house." There was a delicacy and greatness of spirit in this ingenious reprimand far excelling the wit of a child.

According to this anecdote-writer, it appears that James the First probably did not delight in the martial dispositions of his son, whose habits and opinions were, in all respects, forming themselves opposite to his own tranquil and literary character. The writer says, that "his majesty, with the tokens of love to him, would sometimes interlace sharp speeches, and other demonstrations of fatherly severity." Henry, who however lived, though he died early, to become a patron of ingenious men, and a lover of genius, was himself at least as much enamoured of the pike as of the pen. The king, to rouse him to study, told him, that if he did not apply more diligently to his book, his brother, duke Charles, who seemed already attached to study, would prove more able for government and for the cabinet, and that himself would be only fit for field exercises and military affairs. To his father, the little prince made no reply; but when his tutor one day reminded him of what his father had said, to stimulate our young prince to literary diligence, Henry asked, whether he thought his brother would prove so good a scholar. His tutor replied that he was likely to prove so. 'Then,' rejoined our little prince, 'will I make Charles Archbishop of Canterbury.'"

Our Henry was devoutly pious, and rigid in never permitting before him any licentious language or manners. It is well known that James the First had a habit of swearing,—expletives in conversation, which, in truth, only expressed the warmth of his feelings; but in that age, when Puritanism had already possessed half the nation, an oath was considered as nothing short of blasphemy. Henry once made a keen allusion to this verbal frailty of his father's; for when he was told that some hawks were to be sent to him, but it was thought that the king would intercept some of them, he replied, "He may do as he pleases, for he shall not be put to the oath for the matter." The king once asking him what were the best verses he had learned in the first book of Virgil, Henry answered, "These:—

'Rex erat AEneas nobis, quo justior alter Nec pietate fuit, nec bello major et armis.'"

Such are a few of the puerile anecdotes of a prince who died in early youth, gleaned from a contemporary manuscript, by an eye and ear witness. They are trifles, but trifles consecrated by his name. They are genuine; and the philosopher knows how to value the indications of a great and heroic character. There are among them some which may occasion an inattentive reader to forget that they are all the speeches and the actions of a child!


Of court-etiquette few are acquainted with the mysteries, and still fewer have lost themselves in its labyrinth of forms. Whence its origin? Perhaps from those grave and courtly Italians, who, in their petty pompous courts, made the whole business of their effeminate days consist in punctilios; and, wanting realities to keep themselves alive, affected the mere shadows of life and action, in a world of these mockeries of state. It suited well the genius of a people who boasted of elementary works to teach how affronts were to be given, and how to be taken; and who had some reason to pride themselves in producing the Cortegiano of Castiglione, and the Galateo of Della Casa. They carried this refining temper into the most trivial circumstances, when a court was to be the theatre, and monarchs and their representatives the actors. Precedence, and other honorary discriminations, establish the useful distinctions of ranks, and of individuals; but their minuter court forms, subtilised by Italian conceits, with an erudition of precedents, and a logic of nice distinctions, imparted a mock dignity of science to the solemn fopperies of a master of the ceremonies, who exhausted all the faculties of his soul on the equiponderance of the first place of inferior degree with the last of a superior; who turned into a political contest the placing of a chair and a stool; made a reception at the stairs'-head, or at the door, raise a clash between two rival nations; a visit out of time require a negotiation of three months; or an awkward invitation produce a sudden fit of sickness; while many a rising antagonist, in the formidable shapes of ambassadors, were ready to despatch a courier to their courts, for the omission or neglect of a single punctilio. The pride of nations, in pacific times, has only these means to maintain their jealousy of power: yet should not the people be grateful to the sovereign who confines his campaigns to his drawing-room: whose field-marshal is a tripping master of the ceremonies; whose stratagems are only to save the inviolability of court-etiquette; and whose battles of peace are only for precedence?

When the Earls of Holland and Carlisle, our ambassadors extraordinary to the court of France, in 1624, were at Paris, to treat of the marriage of Charles with Henrietta, and to join in a league against Spain, before they showed their propositions, they were desirous of ascertaining in what manner Cardinal Richelieu would receive them. The Marquis of Ville-aux-Clers was employed in this negotiation, which appeared at least as important as the marriage and the league. He brought for answer, that the cardinal would receive them as he did the ambassadors of the Emperor and the King of Spain; that he could not give them the right hand in his own house, because he never honoured in this way those ambassadors; but that, in reconducting them out of his room, he would go farther than he was accustomed to do, provided that they would permit him to cover this unusual proceeding with a pretext, that the others might not draw any consequences from it in their favour. Our ambassadors did not disapprove of this expedient, but they begged time to receive the instructions of his majesty. As this would create a considerable delay, they proposed another, which would set at rest, for the moment, the punctilio. They observed, that if the cardinal would feign himself sick, they would go to see him: on which the cardinal immediately went to bed, and an interview, so important to both nations, took place, and articles of great difficulty were discussed by the cardinal's bedside! When the Nuncio Spada would have made the cardinal jealous of the pretensions of the English ambassadors, and reproached him with yielding his precedence to them, the cardinal denied this. "I never go before them, it is true, but likewise I never accompany them; I wait for them only in the chamber of audience, either seated in the most honourable place, or standing till the table is ready: I am always the first to speak, and the first to be seated; and besides, I have never chosen to return their visit, which has made the Earl of Carlisle so outrageous."[96]

Such was the ludicrous gravity of those court etiquettes, or punctilios, combined with political consequences, of which I am now to exhibit a picture.

When James the First ascended the throne of his united kingdoms, and promised himself and the world long halcyon days of peace, foreign princes, and a long train of ambassadors from every European power, resorted to the English court. The pacific monarch, in emulation of an office which already existed in the courts of Europe, created that of MASTER OF THE CEREMONIES, after the mode of France, observes Roger Coke.[97] This was now found necessary to preserve the state, and allay the perpetual jealousies of the representatives of their sovereigns. The first officer was Sir Lewis Lewknor,[98] with an assistant, Sir John Finett, who at length succeeded him, under Charles the First, and seems to have been more amply blest with the genius of the place; his soul doted on the honour of the office; and in that age of peace and of ceremony, we may be astonished at the subtilty of his inventive shifts and contrivances, in quieting that school of angry and rigid boys whom he had under his care—the ambassadors of Europe!

Sir John Finett, like a man of genius in office, and living too in an age of diaries, has not resisted the pleasant labour of perpetuating his own narrative.[99] He has told every circumstance, with a chronological exactitude, which passed in his province as master of the ceremonies; and when we consider that he was a busy actor amidst the whole diplomatic corps, we shall not he surprised by discovering, in this small volume of great curiosity, a vein of secret and authentic history; it throws a new light on many important events, in which the historians of the times are deficient, who had not the knowledge of this assiduous observer. But my present purpose is not to treat Sir John with all the ceremonious punctilios, of which he was himself the arbiter; nor to quote him on grave subjects, which future historians may well do.

This volume contains the rupture of a morning, and the peace-makings of an evening; sometimes it tells of "a clash between the Savoy and Florence ambassadors for precedence;"—now of "questions betwixt the Imperial and Venetian ambassadors, concerning titles and visits," how they were to address one another, and who was to pay the first visit!—then "the Frenchman takes exceptions about placing." This historian of the levee now records, "that the French ambassador gets ground of the Spanish;" but soon after, so eventful were these drawing-room politics, that a day of festival has passed away in suspense, while a privy council has been hastily summoned, to inquire why the French ambassador had "a defluction of rheum in his teeth, besides a fit of the ague," although he hoped to be present at the same festival next year! or being invited to a mask, declared "his stomach would not agree with cold meats:" "thereby pointing" (shrewdly observes Sir John) "at the invitation and presence of the Spanish ambassador, who, at the mask the Christmas before, had appeared in the first place."

Sometimes we discover our master of the ceremonies disentangling himself and the lord chamberlain from the most provoking perplexities by a clever and civil lie. Thus it happened, when the Muscovite ambassador would not yield precedence to the French nor Spaniard. On this occasion, Sir John, at his wits' end, contrived an obscure situation, in which the Russ imagined he was highly honoured, as there he enjoyed a full sight of the king's face, though he could see nothing of the entertainment itself; while the other ambassadors were so kind as "not to take exception," not caring about the Russian, from the remoteness of his country, and the little interest that court then had in Europe! But Sir John displayed even a bolder invention when the Muscovite, at his reception at Whitehall, complained that only one lord was in waiting at the stairs'-head, while no one had met him in the court-yard. Sir John assured him that in England it was considered a greater honour to be received by one lord than by two!

Sir John discovered all his acumen in the solemn investigation of "Which was the upper end of the table?" Arguments and inferences were deduced from precedents quoted; but as precedents sometimes look contrary ways, this affair might still have remained sub judice, had not Sir John oracularly pronounced that "in spite of the chimneys in England, where the best man sits, is that end of the table." Sir John, indeed, would often take the most enlarged view of things; as when the Spanish ambassador, after hunting with the king at Theobalds, dined with his majesty in the privy-chamber, his son Don Antonio dined in the council-chamber with some of the king's attendants. Don Antonio seated himself on a stool at the end of the table. "One of the gentlemen-ushers took exception at this, being, he said, irregular and unusual, that place being ever wont to be reserved empty for state!" In a word, no person in the world was ever to sit on that stool; but Sir John, holding a conference before he chose to disturb the Spanish grandee, finally determined that "this was the superstition of a gentleman-usher, and it was therefore neglected." Thus Sir John could, at a critical moment, exert a more liberal spirit, and risk an empty stool against a little ease and quiet; which were no common occurrences with that martyr of state, a master of ceremonies!

But Sir John,—to me he is so entertaining a personage that I do not care to get rid of him,—had to overcome difficulties which stretched his fine genius on tenter-hooks. Once—rarely did the like unlucky accident happen to the wary master of the ceremonies—did Sir John exceed the civility of his instructions, or rather his half-instructions. Being sent to invite the Dutch ambassador and the States' commissioners, then a young and new government, to the ceremonies of St. George's day, they inquired whether they should have the same respect paid to them as other ambassadors? The bland Sir John, out of the milkiness of his blood, said he doubted it not. As soon, however, as he returned to the lord chamberlain, he discovered that he had been sought for up and down, to stop the invitation. The lord chamberlain said Sir John had exceeded his commission, if he had invited the Dutchmen "to stand in the closet of the queen's side; because the Spanish ambassador would never endure them so near him, where there was but a thin wainscot board between, and a window which might be opened!" Sir John said gently, he had done no otherwise than he had been desired; which however the lord chamberlain, in part, denied, (cautious and civil!) "and I was not so unmannerly as to contest against," (supple, but uneasy!) This affair ended miserably for the poor Dutchmen. Those new republicans were then regarded with the most jealous contempt by all the ambassadors, and were just venturing on their first dancing-steps, to move among crowned heads. The Dutch now resolved not to be present; declaring they had just received an urgent invitation, from the Earl of Exeter, to dine at Wimbledon. A piece of supercherie to save appearances; probably the happy contrivance of the combined geniuses of the lord chamberlain and the master of the ceremonies!

I will now exhibit some curious details from these archives of fantastical state, and paint a courtly world, where politics and civility seem to have been at perpetual variance.

When the Palatine arrived in England to marry Elizabeth, the only daughter of James the First, "the feasting and jollity" of the court were interrupted by the discontent of the archduke's ambassador, of which these were the material points:—

Sir John waited on him, to honour with his presence the solemnity on the second or third days, either to dinner or supper, or both.

The archduke's ambassador paused: with a troubled countenance inquiring whether the Spanish ambassador was invited. "I answered, answerable to my instructions in case of such demand, that he was sick, and could not be there. He was yesterday, quoth he, so well, as that the offer might have very well been made him, and perhaps accepted."

To this Sir John replied, that the French and Venetian ambassadors holding between them one course of correspondence, and the Spanish and the archduke's another, their invitations had been usually joint.

This the archduke's ambassador denied; and affirmed that they had been separately invited to Masques, &c., but he had never;—that France had always yielded precedence to the archduke's predecessors, when they were but Dukes of Burgundy, of which he was ready to produce "ancient proofs;" and that Venice was a mean republic, a sort of burghers, and a handful of territory, compared to his monarchical sovereign:—and to all this he added, that the Venetian bragged of the frequent favours he had received.

Sir John returns in great distress to the lord chamberlain and his majesty. A solemn declaration is drawn up, in which James I. most gravely laments that the archduke's ambassador has taken this offence; but his majesty offers these most cogent arguments in his own favour: that the Venetian had announced to his majesty that his republic had ordered his men new liveries on the occasion, an honour, he adds, not usual with princes—the Spanish ambassador, not finding himself well for the first day (because, by the way, he did not care to dispute precedence with the Frenchman), his majesty conceiving that the solemnity of the marriage being one continued act through divers days, it admitted neither prius nor posterius: and then James proves too much, by boldly asserting, that the last day should be taken for the greatest day!—as in other cases, for instance in that of Christmas, where Twelfth-day, the last day, is held as the greatest.

But the French and Venetian ambassadors, so envied by the Spanish and the archduke's, were themselves not less chary, and crustily fastidious. The insolent Frenchman first attempted to take precedence of the Prince of Wales; and the Venetian stood upon this point, that they should sit on chairs, though the prince had but a stool; and, particularly, that the carver should not stand before him. "But," adds Sir John, "neither of them prevailed in their reasonless pretences."

Nor was it peaceable even at the nuptial dinner, which closed with the following catastrophe of etiquette:—

Sir John having ushered among the countesses the lady of the French ambassador, he left her to the ranging of the lord chamberlain, who ordered she should be placed at the table next beneath the countesses, and above the baronesses. But lo! "The Viscountess of Effingham standing to her woman's right, and possessed already of her proper place (as she called it), would not remove lower, so held the hand of the ambassadrice, till after dinner, when the French ambassador, informed of the difference and opposition, called out for his wife's coach!" With great trouble, the French lady was persuaded to stay, the Countess of Kildare and the Viscountess of Haddington making no scruple of yielding their places. Sir John, unbending his gravity, facetiously adds, "The Lady of Effingham, in the interim, forbearing (with rather too much than little stomach) both her supper and her company." This spoilt child of quality, tugging at the French ambassadress to keep her down, mortified to be seated at the side of the Frenchwoman that day, frowning and frowned on, and going supperless to bed, passed the wedding-day of the Palatine and Princess Elizabeth like a cross girl on a form.

One of the most subtle of these men of punctilio, and the most troublesome, was the Venetian ambassador; for it was his particular aptitude to find fault, and pick out jealousies among all the others of his body.

On the marriage of the Earl of Somerset, the Venetian was invited to the masque, but not the dinner, as last year the reverse had occurred. The Frenchman, who drew always with the Venetian, at this moment chose to act by himself on the watch of precedence, jealous of the Spaniard newly arrived. When invited, he inquired if the Spanish ambassador was to be there? and humbly beseeched his majesty to be excused, from indisposition. We shall now see Sir John put into the most lively action by the subtle Venetian.

"I was scarcely back at court with the French ambassador's answer, when I was told that a gentleman from the Venetian ambassador had been to seek me, who, having at last found me, said that his lord desired me, that if ever I would do him favour, I would take the pains to come to him instantly. I, winding the cause to be some new buzz gotten into his brain, from some intelligence he had from the French of that morning's proceeding, excused my present coming, that I might take further instructions from the lord chamberlain; wherewith, as soon as I was sufficiently armed, I went to the Venetian."

But the Venetian would not confer with Sir John, though he sent for him in such a hurry, except in presence of his own secretary. Then the Venetian desired Sir John to repeat the words of his own invitation, and those also of his own answer! which poor Sir John actually did! For he adds, "I yielded, but not without discovering my insatisfaction to be so peremptorily pressed on, as if he had meant to trip me."

The Venetian having thus compelled Sir John to con over both invitation and answer, gravely complimented him on his correctness to a tittle! Yet still was the Venetian not in less trouble: and now he confessed that the king had given a formal invitation to the French ambassador,—and not to him!

This was a new stage in this important negotiation: it tried all the diplomatic sagacity of Sir John to extract a discovery; and which was, that the Frenchman had, indeed, conveyed the intelligence secretly to the Venetian.

Sir John now acknowledged that he had suspected as much when he received the message; and not to be taken by surprise, he had come prepared with a long apology, ending, for peace sake, with the same formal invitation for the Venetian. Now the Venetian insisted again that Sir John should deliver the invitation in the same precise words as it had been given to the Frenchman. Sir John, with his never-failing courtly docility, performed it to a syllable. Whether both parties during all these proceedings could avoid moving a risible muscle at one another, our grave authority records not.

The Venetian's final answer seemed now perfectly satisfactory, declaring he would not excuse his absence as the Frenchman had, on the most frivolous pretence; and farther, he expressed his high satisfaction with last year's substantial testimony of the royal favour, in the public honours conferred on him, and regretted that the quiet of his majesty should be so frequently disturbed by these punctilios about invitations, which so often "over-thronged his guests at the feast."

Sir John now imagined that all was happily concluded, and was retiring with the sweetness of a dove, and the quietness of a mouse, to fly to the lord chamberlain, when behold the Venetian would not relinquish his hold, but turned on him "with the reading of another scruple, et hinc illae lachrymae! asking whether the archduke's ambassador was also invited?" Poor Sir John, to keep himself clear "from categorical asseverations," declared "he could not resolve him." Then the Venetian observed, "Sir John was dissembling! and he hoped and imagined that Sir John had in his instructions, that he was first to have gone to him (the Venetian), and on his return to the archduke's ambassador." Matters now threatened to be as irreconcileable as ever, for it seems the Venetian was standing on the point of precedency with the archduke's ambassador. The political Sir John, wishing to gratify the Venetian at no expense, adds, "he thought it ill manners to mar a belief of an ambassador's making," and so allowed him to think that he had been invited before the archduke's ambassador!

This Venetian proved himself to be, to the great torment of Sir John, a stupendous genius in his own way; ever on the watch to be treated al paro di teste coronate—equal with crowned heads; and, when at a tilt, refused being placed among the ambassadors of Savoy and the States-general, &c., while the Spanish and French ambassadors were seated alone on the opposite side. The Venetian declared that this would be a diminution of his quality; the first place of an inferior degree being ever held worse than the last of a superior. This refined observation delighted Sir John, who dignifies it as an axiom, yet afterwards came to doubt it with a sed de hoc quaere—query this! If it be true in politics, it is not so in common sense, according to the proverbs of both nations; for the honest English declares, that "Better be the head of the yeomanry than the tail of the gentry;" while the subtle Italian has it, "E meglio esser testa di Luccio, che coda di Storione;" "better be the head of a pike than the tail of a sturgeon." But before we quit Sir John, let us hear him in his own words, reasoning with fine critical tact, which he undoubtedly possessed, on right and left hands, but reasoning with infinite modesty as well as genius. Hear this sage of punctilios, this philosopher of courtesies.

"The Axiom before delivered by the Venetian ambassador was judged upon discourse I had with some of understanding, to be of value in a distinct company, but might be otherwise in a joint assembly!" And then Sir John, like a philosophical historian, explores some great public event—"As at the conclusion of the peace at Vervins (the only part of the peace he cared about), the French and Spanish meeting, contended for precedence—who should sit at the right hand of the pope's legate: an expedient was found, of sending into France for the pope's nuncio residing there, who, seated at the right hand of the said legate (the legate himself sitting at the table's end), the French ambassador being offered the choice of the next place, he took that at the legate's left hand, leaving the second at the right hand to the Spanish, who, taking it, persuaded himself to have the better of it; sed de hoc quaere." How modestly, yet how shrewdly insinuated!

So much, if not too much, of the Diary of a Master of the Ceremonies; where the important personages strangely contrast with the frivolity and foppery of their actions.

By this work it appears that all foreign ambassadors were entirely entertained, for their diet, lodgings, coaches, with all their train, at the cost of the English monarch, and on their departure received customary presents of considerable value; from 1000 to 5000 ounces of gilt plate; and in more cases than one, the meanest complaints were made by the ambassadors about short allowances. That the foreign ambassadors in return made presents to the masters of the ceremonies from thirty to fifty "pieces," or in plate or jewels; and some so grudgingly, that Sir John Finett often vents his indignation, and commemorates the indignity. As thus,—on one of the Spanish ambassadors-extraordinary waiting at Deal for three days, Sir John, "expecting the wind with the patience of an hungry entertainment from a close-handed ambassador, as his present to me at his parting from Dover being but an old gilt livery pot, that had lost his fellow, not worth above twelve pounds, accompanied with two pair of Spanish gloves to make it almost thirteen, to my shame and his." When he left this scurvy ambassador-extraordinary to his fate aboard the ship, he exults that "the cross-winds held him in the Downs almost a seven-night before they would blow him over."

From this mode of receiving ambassadors, two inconveniences resulted; their perpetual jars of punctilio, and their singular intrigues to obtain precedence, which so completely harassed the patience of the most pacific sovereign, that James was compelled to make great alterations in his domestic comforts, and was perpetually embroiled in the most ridiculous contests. At length Charles I. perceived the great charge of these embassies, ordinary and extraordinary, often on frivolous pretences; and with an empty treasury, and an uncomplying parliament, he grew less anxious for such ruinous honours.[100] He gave notice to foreign ambassadors, that he should not any more "defray their diet, nor provide coaches for them," &c. "This frugal purpose" cost Sir John many altercations, who seems to view it as the glory of the British monarch being on the wane. The unsettled state of Charles was appearing in 1636, by the querulous narrative of the master of the ceremonies; the etiquettes of the court were disturbed by the erratic course of its great star; and the master of the ceremonies was reduced to keep blank letters to superscribe, and address to any nobleman who was to be found, from the absence of the great officers of state. On this occasion the ambassador of the Duke of Mantua, who had long desired his parting audience, when the king objected to the unfitness of the place he was then in, replied, that, "if it were under a tree, it should be to him as a palace."

Yet although we smile at this science of etiquette and these rigid forms of ceremony, when they were altogether discarded a great statesman lamented them, and found the inconvenience and mischief in the political consequences which followed their neglect. Charles II., who was no admirer of these regulated formalities of court etiquette, seems to have broken up the pomp and pride of the former master of the ceremonies; and the grave and great chancellor of human nature, as Warburton calls Clarendon, censured and felt all the inconveniences of this open intercourse of an ambassador with the king. Thus he observed in the case of the Spanish ambassador, who, he writes, "took the advantage of the license of the court, where no rules or formalities were yet established (and to which the king himself was not enough inclined), but all doors open to all persons; which the ambassador finding, he made himself a domestic, came to the king at all hours, and spake to him when, and as long as he would, without any ceremony, or desiring an audience according to the old custom; but came into the bed-chamber while the king was dressing himself, and mingled in all discourses with the same freedom he would use in his own. And from this never-heard-of license, introduced by the French and the Spaniard at this time, without any dislike in the king, though not permitted in any court in Christendom, many inconveniences and mischiefs broke in, which could never after be shut out."[101]


We converse with the absent by letters, and with ourselves by diaries; but vanity is more gratified by dedicating its time to the little labours which have a chance of immediate notice, and may circulate from hand to hand, than by the honester pages of a volume reserved only for solitary contemplation; or to be a future relic of ourselves, when we shall no more hear of ourselves.

Marcus Antoninus's celebrated work entitled [Greek: Ton eis eauton, Of the things which concern himself, would be a good definition of the use and purpose of a diary. Shaftesbury calls a diary, "A fault-book," intended for self-correction; and a Colonel Harwood, in the reign of Charles the First, kept a diary, which, in the spirit of the times, he entitled "Slips, Infirmities, and Passages of Providence." Such a diary is a moral instrument, should the writer exercise it on himself, and on all around him. Men then wrote folios concerning themselves; and it sometimes happened, as proved by many, which I have examined in manuscript, that often writing in retirement, they would write when they had nothing to write.

Diaries must be out of date in a lounging age, although I have myself known several who have continued the practice with pleasure and utility.[102] One of our old writers quaintly observes, that "the ancients used to take their stomach-pill of self-examination every night. Some used little books, or tablets, which they tied at their girdles, in which they kept a memorial of what they did, against their night-reckoning." We know that Titus, the delight of mankind, as he has been called, kept a diary of all his actions, and when at night he found upon examination that he had performed nothing memorable, he would exclaim, "Amici! diem perdidimus!" Friends! we have lost a day!

Among our own countrymen, in times more favourable for a concentrated mind than in this age of scattered thoughts and of the fragments of genius, the custom long prevailed: and we their posterity are still reaping the benefit of their lonely hours and diurnal records. It is always pleasing to recollect the name of Alfred, and we have deeply to regret the loss of a manual which this monarch, so strict a manager of his time, yet found leisure to pursue: it would have interested us much more even than his translations, which have come down to us. Alfred carried in his bosom memorandum leaves, in which he made collections from his studies, and took so much pleasure in the frequent examination of this journal, that he called it his hand-book, because, says Spelman, day and night he ever had it in hand with him. This manual, as my learned friend Mr. Turner, in his elaborate and philosophical Life of Alfred, has shown by some curious extracts from Malmsbury, was the repository of his own occasional literary reflections. An association of ideas connects two other of our illustrious princes with Alfred.

Prince Henry, the son of James I., our English Marcellus, who was wept by all the Muses, and mourned by all the brave in Britain, devoted a great portion of his time to literary intercourse; and the finest geniuses of the age addressed their works to him, and wrote several at the prince's suggestion. Dallington, in the preface to his curious "Aphorisms, Civil and Militarie," has described Prince Henry's domestic life: "Myself," says he, "the unablest of many in that academy, for so was his family, had this especial employment for his proper use, which he pleased favourably to entertain, and often to read over."

The diary of Edward VI., written with his own hand, conveys a notion of that precocity of intellect, in that early educated prince, which would not suffer his infirm health to relax in his royal duties. This prince was solemnly struck with the feeling that he was not seated on a throne to be a trifler or a sensualist: and this simplicity of mind is very remarkable in the entries of his diary; where, on one occasion, to remind himself of the causes of his secret proffer of friendship to aid the Emperor of Germany with men against the Turk, and to keep it at present secret from the French court, the young monarch inserts, "This was done on intent to get some friends. The reasonings be in my desk." So zealous was he to have before him a state of public affairs, that often in the middle of the month he recalls to mind passages which he had omitted in the beginning: what was done every day of moment, he retired into his study to set down.—Even James the Second wrote with his own hand the daily occurrences of his times, his reflections and conjectures. Adversity had schooled him into reflection, and softened into humanity a spirit of bigotry; and it is something in his favour, that after his abdication he collected his thoughts, and mortified himself by the penance of a diary.—Could a Clive or a Cromwell have composed one? Neither of these men could suffer solitude and darkness; they started at their casual recollections:—what would they have done, had memory marshalled their crimes, and arranged them in the terrors of chronology?

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse