Curiosities of Literature, Vol. II (of 3) - Edited, With Memoir And Notes, By His Son, The Earl Of Beaconsfield
by Isaac D'Israeli
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When the national character retained more originality and individuality than our monotonous habits now admit, our later ancestors displayed a love of application, which was a source of happiness, quite lost to us. Till the middle of the last century they were as great economists of their time as of their estates; and life with them was not one hurried yet tedious festival. Living more within themselves, more separated, they were therefore more original in their prejudices, their principles, and in the constitution of their minds. They resided more on their estates, and the metropolis was usually resigned to the men of trade in their Royal Exchange, and the preferment-hunters among the backstairs at Whitehall. Lord Clarendon tells us, in his "Life," that his grandfather, in James the First's time, had never been in London after the death of Elizabeth, though he lived thirty years afterwards; and his wife, to whom he had been married forty years, had never once visited the metropolis. On this fact he makes a curious observation: "The wisdom and frugality of that time being such, that few gentlemen made journeys to London, or any other expensive journey, but upon important business, and their wives never; by which Providence they enjoyed and improved their estates in the country, and kept good hospitality in their house, brought up their children well, and were beloved by their neighbours." This will appear a very coarse homespun happiness, and these must seem very gross virtues to our artificial feelings; yet this assuredly created a national character; made a patriot of every country gentleman; and, finally, produced in the civil wars some of the most sublime and original characters that ever acted a great part on the theatre of human life.

This was the age of DIARIES! The head of almost every family formed one. Ridiculous people may have written ridiculous diaries, as Elias Ashmole's;[103] but many of our greatest characters in public life have left such monuments of their diurnal labours.

These diaries were a substitute to every thinking man for our newspapers, magazines, and Annual Registers; but those who imagine that these are a substitute for the scenical and dramatic life of the diary of a man of genius, like Swift, who wrote one, or even of a lively observer, who lived amidst the scenes he describes, as Horace Walpole's letters to Sir Horace Mann, which form a regular diary, only show that they are better acquainted with the more ephemeral and equivocal labours.

There is a curious passage in a letter of Sir Thomas Bodley, recommending to Sir Francis Bacon, then a young man on his travels, the mode by which he should make his life "profitable to his country and his friends." His expressions are remarkable. "Let all these riches be treasured up, not only in your memory, where time may lessen your stock, but rather in good writings and books of account, which will keep them safe for your use hereafter." By these good writings and books of account, he describes the diaries of a student and an observer; these "good writings" will preserve what wear out in the memory, and these "books of account" render to a man an account of himself to himself.

It was this solitary reflection and industry which assuredly contributed so largely to form the gigantic minds of the Seldens, the Camdens, the Cokes, and others of that vigorous age of genius. When Coke fell into disgrace, and retired into private life, the discarded statesman did not pule himself into a lethargy, but on the contrary seemed almost to rejoice that an opportunity was at length afforded him of indulging in studies more congenial to his feelings. Then he found leisure not only to revise his former writings, which were thirty volumes written with his own hand, but, what most pleased him, he was enabled to write a manual, which he called Vade Mecum, and which contained a retrospective view of his life, since he noted in that volume the most remarkable occurrences which happened to him. It is not probable that such a MS. could have been destroyed but by accident; and it might, perhaps, yet be recovered.

"The interest of the public was the business of Camden's life," observes Bishop Gibson; and, indeed, this was the character of the men of that age. Camden kept a diary of all occurrences in the reign of James the First; not that at his advanced age, and with his infirm health, he could ever imagine that he should make use of these materials; but he did this, inspired by the love of truth, and of that labour which delights in preparing its materials for posterity. Bishop Gibson has made an important observation on the nature of such a diary, which cannot be too often repeated to those who have the opportunities of forming one; and for them I transcribe it. "Were this practised by persons of learning and curiosity, who have opportunities of seeing into the public affairs of a kingdom, the short hints and strictures of this kind would often set things in a truer light than regular histories."

A student of this class was Sir Symonds D'Ewes, an independent country gentleman, to whose zeal we owe the valuable journals of parliament in Elizabeth's reign, and who has left in manuscript a voluminous diary, from which may be drawn some curious matters.[104] In the preface to his journals, he has presented a noble picture of his literary reveries, and the intended productions of his pen. They will animate the youthful student, and show the active genius of the gentlemen of that day. The present diarist observes, "Having now finished these volumes, I have already entered upon other and greater labours, conceiving myself not to be born for myself alone,

"Qui vivat sibi solus, homo nequit esse beatus, Malo mori, nam sic vivere nolo mihi."

He then gives a list of his intended historical works, and adds, "These I have proposed to myself to labour in, besides divers others, smaller works: like him that shoots at the sun, not in hopes to reach it, but to shoot as high as possibly his strength, art, or skill will permit. So though I know it impossible to finish all these during my short and uncertain life, having already entered into the thirtieth year of my age, and having many unavoidable cares of an estate and family, yet, if I can finish a little in each kind, it may hereafter stir up some able judges to add an end to the whole:

"Sic mihi contingat vivere, sicque mori."

Richard Baxter, whose facility and diligence, it is said, produced one hundred and forty-five distinct works, wrote, as he himself says, "in the crowd of all my other employments." Assuredly the one which may excite astonishment is his voluminous autobiography, forming a folio of more than seven hundred closely-printed pages; a history which takes a considerable compass, from 1615 to 1684; whose writer pries into the very seed of events, and whose personal knowledge of the leading actors of his times throws a perpetual interest over his lengthened pages. Yet this was not written with a view of publication by himself; he still continued this work, till time and strength wore out the hand that could no longer hold the pen, and left it to the judgment of others whether it should be given to the world.

These were private persons. It may excite our surprise to discover that our statesmen, and others engaged in active public life, occupied themselves with the same habitual attention to what was passing around them in the form of diaries, or their own memoirs, or in forming collections for future times, with no possible view but for posthumous utility. They seem to have been inspired by the most genuine passion of patriotism, and an awful love of posterity. What motive less powerful could induce many noblemen and gentlemen to transcribe volumes; to transmit to posterity authentic narratives, which would not even admit of contemporary notice; either because the facts were then well known to all, or of so secret a nature as to render them dangerous to be communicated to their own times. They sought neither fame nor interest: for many collections of this nature have come down to us without even the names of the scribes, which have been usually discovered by accidental circumstances. It may be said that this toil was the pleasure of idle men:—the idlers then were of a distinct race from our own. There is scarcely a person of reputation among them, who has not left such laborious records of himself. I intend drawing up a list of such diaries and memoirs, which derive their importance from diarists themselves. Even the women of this time partook of the same thoughtful dispositions. It appears that the Duchess of York, wife to James the Second, and the daughter of Clarendon, drew up a narrative of his life; the celebrated Duchess of Newcastle has formed a dignified biography of her husband; Lady Fanshaw's Memoirs have been recently published; and Mrs. Hutchinson's Memoirs of her Colonel have delighted every curious reader.

Whitelocke's "Memorials" is a diary full of important public matters; and the noble editor, the Earl of Anglesea, observes, that "our author not only served the state, in several stations, both at home and in foreign countries, but likewise conversed with books, and made himself a large provision from his studies and contemplation, like that noble Roman Portius Cato, as described by Nepos. He was all along so much in business, one would not imagine he ever had leisure for books; yet, who considers his studies might believe he had been always shut up with his friend Selden, and the dust of action never fallen on his gown." When Whitelocke was sent on an embassy to Sweden, he journalised it; it amounts to two bulky quartos, extremely curious. He has even left us a History of England.

Yet all is not told of Whitelocke; and we have deeply to regret the loss, or at least the concealment, of a work addressed to his family, which apparently would be still more interesting, as exhibiting his domestic habits and feelings, and affording a model for those in public life who had the spirit to imitate such greatness of mind, of which we have not many examples.—Whitelocke had drawn up a great work, which he entitled, "Remembrances of the Labours of Whitelocke in the Annales of his Life, for the instruction of his Children." To Dr. Morton, the editor of Whitelocke's "Journal of the Swedish Ambassy," we owe the notice of this work; and I shall transcribe his dignified feelings in regretting the want of these MSS. "Such a work, and by such a father, is become the inheritance of every child, whose abilities and station in life may at any time hereafter call upon him to deliberate for his country,—and for his family and person, as parts of the great whole; and I confess myself to be one of those who lament the suppression of that branch of the Annales which relates to the author himself in his private capacity; they would have afforded great pleasure as well as instruction to the world in their entire form. The first volume, containing the first twenty years of his life, may one day see the light; but the greatest part has hitherto escaped my inquiries." This is all we know of a work of equal moral and philosophical curiosity. The preface, however, to these "Remembrances," has been fortunately preserved, and it is an extraordinary production. In this it appears that Whitelocke himself owed the first idea of his own work to one left by his father, which existed in the family, and to which he repeatedly refers his children. He says, "The memory and worth of your deceased grandfather deserves all honour and imitation, both from you and me; his 'Liber Famelicus,' his own story, written by himself, will be left to you, and was an encouragement and precedent to this larger work." Here is a family picture quite new to us; the heads of the house are its historians, and these records of the heart were animated by examples and precepts, drawn from their own bosoms; and, as Whitelocke feelingly expresses it, "all is recommended to the perusal and intended for the instruction of my own house; and almost in every page you will find a dedication to you, my dear children."

The habit of laborious studies, and a zealous attention to the history of his own times, produced the Register and Chronicle of Bishop Kennett. "Containing matters of fact, delivered in the words of the most authentic papers and records, all daily entered and commented on:" it includes an account of all pamphlets as they appeared. This history, more valuable to us than to his own contemporaries, occupied two large folios, of which only one has been printed: a zealous labour, which could only have been carried on from a motive of pure patriotism. It is, however, but a small part of the diligence of the bishop, since his own manuscripts form a small library of themselves.

The malignant vengeance of Prynne in exposing the diary of Laud to the public eye, lost all its purpose, for nothing appeared more favourable to Laud than this exposition of his private diary. We forget the harshness in the personal manners of Laud himself, and sympathise even with his errors, when we turn over the simple leaves of this diary, which obviously was not intended for any purpose but for his own private eye and collected meditations.[105] There his whole heart is laid open: his errors are not concealed, and the purity of his intentions is established. Laud, who too haughtily blended the prime minister with the archbishop, still, from conscientious motives, in the hurry of public duties, and in the pomp of public honours, could steal aside into solitude, to account to God and himself for every day, and "the evil thereof."

The diary of Henry Earl of Clarendon, who inherited the industry of his father, has partly escaped destruction; it presents us with a picture of the manners of the age, from whence, says Bishop Douglas, we may learn that at the close of the last century, a man of the first quality made it his constant practice to pass his time without shaking his arm at a gaming-table, associating with jockeys at Newmarket, or murdering time by a constant round of giddy dissipation, if not of criminal indulgence. Diaries were not uncommon in the last age: Lord Anglesea, who made so great a figure in the reign of Charles the Second, left one behind him; and one said to have been written by the Duke of Shrewsbury still exists.

But the most admirable example is Lord Clarendon's History of his own "Life," or rather of the court, and every event and person passing before him. In this moving scene he copies nature with freedom, and has exquisitely touched the individual character. There that great statesman opens the most concealed transactions, and traces the views of the most opposite dispositions; and, though engaged, when in exile, in furthering the royal intercourse with the loyalists, and when, on the Restoration, conducting the difficult affairs of a great nation, a careless monarch, and a dissipated court, yet besides his immortal history of the civil wars, "the chancellor of human nature" passed his life in habitual reflection, and his pen in daily employment. Such was the admirable industry of our later ancestors: their diaries and their memoirs are its monuments!

James the Second is an illustrious instance of the admirable industry of our ancestors. With his own hand this prince wrote down the chief occurrences of his times, and often his instant reflections and conjectures. Perhaps no sovereign prince, said Macpherson, has been known to have left behind him better materials for history. We at length possess a considerable portion of his diary, which is that of a man of business and of honest intentions, containing many remarkable facts which had otherwise escaped from our historians.

The literary man has formed diaries purely of his studies, and the practice may he called journalising the mind, in a summary of studies, and a register of loose hints and sbozzos, that sometimes happily occur; and like Ringelbergius, that enthusiast for study, whose animated exhortations to young students have been aptly compared to the sound of a trumpet in the field of battle, marked down every night, before going to sleep, what had been done during the studious day. Of this class of diaries, Gibbon has given us an illustrious model: and there is an unpublished quarto of the late Barre Roberts, a young student of genius, devoted to curious researches, which deserves to meet the public eye.[106] I should like to see a little book published with this title, "Otium delitiosum in quo objecta vel in actione, vel in lectione, vel in visione ad singulos dies Anni 1629 observata representantur." This writer was a German, who boldly published for the course of one year, whatever he read or had seen every day in that year. As an experiment, if honestly performed, this might be curious to the philosophical observer; but to write down everything, may end in something like nothing.

A great poetical contemporary of our own country does not think that even Dreams should pass away unnoticed; and he calls this register his Nocturnals. His dreams are assuredly poetical; as Laud's, who journalised his, seem to have been made up of the affairs of state and religion;—the personages are his patrons, his enemies, and others; his dreams are scenical and dramatic. Works of this nature are not designed for the public eye; they are domestic annals, to be guarded in the little archives of a family; they are offerings cast before our Lares.

Pleasing, when youth is long expired, to trace The forms our pencil or our pen design'd; Such was our youthful air, and shape, and face, Such the soft image of our youthful mind. SHENSTONE.


In the history of literature, and perhaps in that of the human mind, the institution of the LICENSERS OF THE PRESS, and CENSORS OF BOOKS, was a bold invention, designed to counteract that of the Press itself; and even to convert this newly-discovered instrument of human freedom into one which might serve to perpetuate that system of passive obedience which had so long enabled modern Rome to dictate her laws to the universe. It was thought possible in the subtlety of Italian astuzia and Spanish monachism, to place a sentinel on the very thoughts as well as on the persons of authors; and in extreme cases, that books might be condemned to the flames as well as heretics.

Of this institution, the beginnings are obscure, for it originated in caution and fear; but as the work betrays the workman, and the national physiognomy the native, it is evident that so inquisitorial an act could only have originated in the Inquisition itself. Feeble or partial attempts might previously have existed, for we learn that the monks had a part of their libraries called the inferno, which was not the part which they least visited, for it contained, or hid, all the prohibited books which they could smuggle into it. But this inquisitorial power assumed its most formidable shape in the council of Trent, when some gloomy spirits from Rome and Madrid foresaw the revolution of this new age of books. The triple-crowned pontiff had in vain rolled the thunders of the Vatican, to strike out of the hands of all men the volumes of Wickliffe, of Huss, and of Luther, and even menaced their eager readers with death. At this council Pius IV. was presented with a catalogue of books of which they denounced that the perusal ought to be forbidden; his bull not only confirmed this list of the condemned, but added rules how books should be judged. Subsequent popes enlarged these catalogues, and added to the rules, as the monstrous novelties started up. Inquisitors of books were appointed; at Rome they consisted of certain cardinals and "the master of the holy palace;" and literary inquisitors were elected at Madrid, at Lisbon, at Naples, and for the Low Countries; they were watching the ubiquity of the human mind. These catalogues of prohibited books were called Indexes; and at Rome a body of these literary despots are still called "the Congregation of the Index." The simple Index is a list of condemned books which are never to be opened; but the Expurgatory Index indicates those only prohibited till they have undergone a purification. No book was allowed to be on any subject, or in any language, which contained a single position, an ambiguous sentence, even a word, which, in the most distant sense, could be construed opposite to the doctrines of the supreme authority of this council of Trent; where it seems to have been enacted, that all men, literate and illiterate, prince and peasant, the Italian, the Spaniard and the Netherlander, should take the mint-stamp of their thoughts from the council of Trent, and millions of souls be struck off at one blow, out of the same used mould.

The sages who compiled these Indexes, indeed, long had reason to imagine that passive obedience was attached to the human character: and therefore they considered, that the publications of their adversaries required no other notice than a convenient insertion in their indexes. But the heretics diligently reprinted them with ample prefaces and useful annotations; Dr. James, of Oxford, republished an Index with due animadversions. The parties made an opposite use of them: while the catholic crossed himself at every title, the heretic would purchase no book which had not been indexed. One of their portions exposed a list of those authors whose heads were condemned as well as their books: it was a catalogue of men of genius.

The results of these indexes were somewhat curious. As they were formed in different countries, the opinions were often diametrically opposite to each other. The learned Arias Montanus, who was a chief inquisitor in the Netherlands, and concerned in the Antwerp Index, lived to see his own works placed in the Roman Index; while the inquisitor of Naples was so displeased with the Spanish Index, that he persisted to assert that it had never been printed at Madrid! Men who began by insisting that all the world should not differ from their opinions, ended by not agreeing with themselves. A civil war raged among the Index-makers; and if one criminated, the other retaliated. If one discovered ten places necessary to be expurgated, another found thirty, and a third inclined to place the whole work in the condemned list. The inquisitors at length became so doubtful of their own opinions, that they sometimes expressed in their license for printing, that "they tolerated the reading, after the book had been corrected by themselves, till such time as the work should be considered worthy of some farther correction." The expurgatory Indexes excited louder complaints than those which simply condemned books; because the purgers and castrators, as they were termed, or as Milton calls them, "the executioners of books," by omitting, or interpolating passages, made an author say, or unsay, what the inquisitors chose; and their editions, after the death of the authors, were compared to the erasures or forgeries in records: for the books which an author leaves behind him, with his last corrections, are like his last will and testament, and the public are the legitimate heirs of an author's opinions.

The whole process of these expurgatory Indexes, that "rakes through the entrails of many an old good author, with a violation worse than any could be offered to his tomb," as Milton says, must inevitably draw off the life-blood, and leave an author a mere spectre! A book in Spain and Portugal passes through six or seven courts before it can be published, and is supposed to recommend itself by the information, that it is published with all the necessary privileges. They would sometimes keep works from publication till they had "properly qualified them, interemse calficam," which in one case is said to have occupied them during forty years. Authors of genius have taken fright at the gripe of "the master of the holy palace," or the lacerating scratches of the "corrector-general por su magestad." At Madrid and Lisbon, and even at Rome, this licensing of books has confined most of their authors to the body of the good fathers themselves.

The Commentaries on the Lusiad, by Faria de Souza, had occupied his zealous labours for twenty-five years, and were favourably received by the learned. But the commentator was brought before this tribunal of criticism and religion, as suspected of heretical opinions; when the accuser did not succeed before the inquisitors of Madrid, he carried the charge to that of Lisbon: an injunction was immediately issued to forbid the sale of the Commentaries, and it cost the commentator an elaborate defence, to demonstrate the catholicism of the poet and himself. The Commentaries finally were released from perpetual imprisonment.

This system has prospered to admiration, in keeping public opinion down to a certain meanness of spirit, and happily preserved stationary the childish stupidity through the nation, on which so much depended.

Nani's History of Venice is allowed to be printed, because it contained nothing against princes. Princes then were either immaculate or historians false. The History of Guicciardini is still scarred with the merciless wound of the papistic censor; and a curious account of the origin and increase of papal power was long wanting in the third and fourth book of his history. Velly's History of France would have been an admirable work had it not been printed at Paris!

When the insertions in the Index were found of no other use than to bring the peccant volumes under the eyes of the curious, they employed the secular arm in burning them in public places. The history of these literary conflagrations has often been traced by writers of opposite parties; for the truth is, that both used them: zealots seem all formed of one material, whatever be their party. They had yet to learn, that burning was not confuting, and that these public fires were an advertisement by proclamation. The publisher of Erasmus's Colloquies intrigued to procure the burning of his book, which raised the sale to twenty-four thousand!

A curious literary anecdote has reached us of the times of Henry VIII. Tonstall, Bishop of London, accused at that day for his moderation in preferring the burning of books to that of authors, which was then getting into practice, to testify his abhorrence of Tindal's principles, who had printed a translation of the New Testament, a sealed book for the multitude, thought of purchasing all the copies of Tindal's translation, and annihilating them in the common flame. This occurred to him when passing through Antwerp in 1529, then a place of refuge for the Tindalists. He employed an English merchant there for this business, who happened to be a secret follower of Tindal, and acquainted him with the bishop's intention. Tindal was extremely glad to hear of the project, for he was desirous of printing a more correct edition of his version; the first impression still hung on his hands, and he was too poor to make a new one; he gladly furnished the English merchant with all his unsold copies, which the bishop as eagerly bought, and had them all publicly burnt in Cheapside. The people not only declared this was a "burning of the word of God," but it inflamed the desire of reading that volume; and the second edition was sought after at any price. When one of the Tindalists, who was sent here to sell them, was promised by the lord chancellor, in a private examination, that he should not suffer if he would reveal who encouraged and supported his party at Antwerp, the Tindalist immediately accepted the offer, and assured the lord chancellor that the greatest encouragement they had was from Tonstall, the Bishop of London, who had bought up half the impression, and enabled them to produce a second!

In the reign of Henry VIII. we seem to have burnt books on both sides; it was an age of unsettled opinions; in Edward's, the Catholic works were burnt; and Mary had her pyramids of Protestant volumes; in Elizabeth's, political pamphlets fed the flames; and libels in the reign of James I. and his sons.

Such was this black dwarf of literature, generated by Italian craft and Spanish monkery, which, however, was fondly adopted as it crept in among all the nations of Europe. France cannot exactly fix on the era of her Censeurs de Livres; and we ourselves, who gave it its death-blow, found the custom prevail without any authority from our statutes. The practice of licensing books was unquestionably derived from the Inquisition, and was applied here first to books of religion. Britain long groaned under the leaden stamp of an Imprimatur. Oxford and Cambridge still grasp at this shadow of departed literary despotism; they have their licensers and their Imprimaturs. Long, even in our land, men of genius were either suffering the vigorous limbs of their productions to be shamefully mutilated in public, or voluntarily committed a literary suicide in their own manuscripts. Camden declared that he was not suffered to print all his Elizabeth, and sent those passages over to De Thou, the French historian, who printed his history faithfully two years after Camden's first edition, 1615. The same happened to Lord Herbert's History of Henry VIII. which has never been given according to the original, which is still in existence. In the poems of Lord Brooke, we find a lacuna of the first twenty pages; it was a poem on Religion, cancelled by the order of Archbishop Laud. The great Sir Matthew Hale ordered that none of his works should be printed after his death; as he apprehended that, in the licensing of them, some things might be struck out or altered, which he had observed, not without some indignation, had been done to those of a learned friend; and he preferred bequeathing his uncorrupted MSS. to the Society of Lincoln's Inn, as their only guardians, hoping that they were a treasure worth keeping. Contemporary authors have frequent allusions to such books, imperfect and mutilated at the caprice or the violence of a licenser.

The laws of England have never violated the freedom and the dignity of its press. "There is no law to prevent the printing of any book in England, only a decree in the Star-chamber," said the learned Selden.[107] Proclamations were occasionally issued against authors and books; and foreign works were, at times, prohibited. The freedom of the press was rather circumvented, than openly attacked, in the reign of Elizabeth, who dreaded the Roman Catholics, who were at once disputing her right to the throne, and the religion of the state. Foreign publications, or "books from any parts beyond the seas," were therefore prohibited.[108] The press, however, was not free under the reign of a sovereign, whose high-toned feelings, and the exigencies of the times, rendered as despotic in deeds, as the pacific James was in words. Although the press had then no restrictions, an author was always at the mercy of the government. Elizabeth too had a keen scent after what she called treason, which she allowed to take in a large compass. She condemned one author (with his publisher) to have the hand cut off which wrote his book; and she hanged another.[109] It was Sir Francis Bacon, or his father, who once pleasantly turned aside the keen edge of her regal vindictiveness; for when Elizabeth was inquiring whether an author, whose book she had given him to examine, was not guilty of treason, he replied, "Not of treason, madam, but of robbery, if you please; for he has taken all that is worth noticing in him from Tacitus and Sallust." With the fear of Elizabeth before his eyes, Holinshed castrated the volumes of his History. When Giles Fletcher, after his Russian embassy, congratulated himself with having escaped with his head, and on his return wrote a book called "The Russian Commonwealth," describing its tyranny, Elizabeth forbad the publishing of the work. Our Russian merchants were frightened, for they petitioned the queen to suppress the work; the original petition, with the offensive passages, exists among the Lansdowne manuscripts. It is curious to contrast this fact with another better known, under the reign of William the Third; then the press had obtained its perfect freedom, and even the shadow of the sovereign could not pass between an author and his work. When the Danish ambassador complained to the king of the freedom which Lord Molesworth had exercised on his master's government, in his Account of Denmark, and hinted that, if a Dane had done the same with a King of England, he would, on complaint, have taken the author's head off—"That I cannot do," replied the sovereign of a free people; "but if you please, I will tell him what you say, and he shall put it into the next edition of his book." What an immense interval between the feelings of Elizabeth and William, with hardly a century betwixt them!

James the First proclaimed Buchanan's history, and a political tract of his, at "the Mercat Cross;" and every one was to bring his copy "to be perusit and purgit of the offensive and extraordinare materis," under a heavy penalty. Knox, whom Milton calls "the Reformer of a Kingdom," was also curtailed; and "the sense of that great man shall, to all posterity, be lost for the fearfulness or the presumptuous rashness of a perfunctory licenser."

The regular establishment of licensers of the press appeared under Charles the First. It must be placed among the projects of Laud, and the king, I suspect, inclined to it; for by a passage in a manuscript letter of the times, I find, that when Charles printed his speech on the dissolution of the parliament, which excited such general discontent, some one printed Queen Elizabeth's last speech as a companion-piece. This was presented to the king by his own printer, John Bill, not from a political motive, but merely by way of complaint that another had printed, without leave or license, that which, as the king's printer, he asserted was his own copyright. Charles does not seem to have been pleased with the gift, and observed, "You printers print anything." Three gentlemen of the bed-chamber, continues the writer, standing by, commended Mr. Bill very much, and prayed him to come oftener with such rarities to the king, because they might do some good.[110]

One of the consequences of this persecution of the press was, the raising up of a new class of publishers, under the government of Charles I., those who became noted for what was then called "unlawful and unlicensed books." Sparkes, the publisher of Prynne's "Histriomastix," was of this class. I have elsewhere entered more particularly into this subject.[111] The Presbyterian party in parliament, who thus found the press closed on them, vehemently cried out for its freedom: and it was imagined, that when they had ascended into power, the odious office of a licenser of the press would have been abolished; but these pretended friends of freedom, on the contrary, discovered themselves as tenderly alive to the office as the old government, and maintained it with the extremest vigour. Such is the political history of mankind.

The literary fate of Milton was remarkable: his genius was castrated alike by the monarchical and the republican government. The royal licenser expunged several passages from Milton's history, in which Milton had painted the superstition, the pride, and the cunning of the Saxon monks, which the sagacious licenser applied to Charles II. and the bishops; but Milton had before suffered as merciless a mutilation from his old friends the republicans; who suppressed a bold picture, taken from life, which he had introduced into his History of the Long Parliament and Assembly of Divines. Milton gave the unlicensed passages to the Earl of Anglesea, a literary nobleman, the editor of Whitelocke's Memorials; and the castrated passage, which could not be licensed in 1670, was received with peculiar interest when separately published in 1681.[112] "If there be found in an author's book one sentence of a venturous edge, uttered in the height of zeal, and who knows whether it might not be the dictate of a divine spirit, yet not suiting every low decrepit humour of their own, they will not pardon him their dash."

This office seems to have lain dormant a short time under Cromwell, from the scruples of a conscientious licenser, who desired the council of state, in 1649, for reasons given, to be discharged from that employment. This Mabot, the licenser, was evidently deeply touched by Milton's address for "The Liberty of Unlicensed Printing." The office was, however, revived on the restoration of Charles II.; and through the reign of James II. the abuses of licensers were unquestionably not discouraged: their castrations of books reprinted appear to have been very artful; for in reprinting Gage's "Survey of the West Indies," which originally consisted of twenty-two chapters, in 1648 and 1657, with a dedication to Sir Thomas Fairfax,—in 1677, after expunging the passages in honour of Fairfax, the dedication is dexterously turned into a preface; and the twenty-second chapter being obnoxious for containing particulars of the artifices of "the papalins," as Milton calls the Papists, in converting the author, was entirely chopped away by the licenser's hatchet. The castrated chapter, as usual, was preserved afterwards separately. Literary despotism at least is short-sighted in its views, for the expedients it employs are certain of overturning themselves.

On this subject we must not omit noticing one of the noblest and most eloquent prose compositions of Milton; "the Areopagitica; a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing." It is a work of love and inspiration, and breathing the most enlarged spirit of literature; separating, at an awful distance from the multitude, that character "who was born to study and to love learning for itself, not for lucre, or any other end, but, perhaps, for that lasting fame and perpetuity of praise, which God and good men have consented shall be the reward of those whose published labours advance the good of mankind."

One part of this unparalleled effusion turns on "the quality which ought to be in every licenser." It will suit our new licensers of public opinion, a laborious corps well known, who constitute themselves without an act of Star-chamber. I shall pick out but a few sentences, that I may add some little facts, casually preserved, of the ineptitude of such an officer.

"He who is made judge to sit upon the birth or death of books, whether they may be wafted into this world or not, had need to be a man above the common measure, both studious, learned, and judicious; there may be else no mean mistakes in his censure. If he be of such worth as behoves him, there cannot be a more tedious and unpleasing journey-work, a greater loss of time levied upon his head, than to be made the perpetual reader of unchosen books and pamphlets. There is no book acceptable, unless at certain seasons; but to be enjoyned the reading of that at all times, whereof three pages would not down at any time, is an imposition which I cannot believe how he that values time and his own studies, or is but of a sensible nostril, should be able to endure.—What advantage is it to be a man over it is to be a boy at school, if we have only 'scaped the ferula to come under the fescue of an Imprimatur?—if serious and elaborate writings, as if they were no more than the theme of a grammar lad under his pedagogue, must not be uttered without the cursory eyes of a temporising licenser? When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends, as well as any that writ before him; if in this, the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no years, no industry, no former proof of his abilities can bring him to that state of maturity as not to be still mistrusted and suspected, unless he carry all his considerate diligence, all his midnight watchings, and expense of Palladian oil, to the hasty view of an unleisured licenser, perhaps much his younger, perhaps inferior in judgment, perhaps one who never knew the labour of book writing; and if he be not repulsed or slighted, must appear in print like a Punie with his guardian, and his censor's hand on the back of his title to be his bail and surety that he is no idiot or seducer, it cannot be but a dishonour and derogation to the author, to the book, to the privilege and dignity of learning."

The reader may now follow the stream in the great original; I must, however, preserve one image of exquisite sarcasm.

"Debtors and delinquents walk about without a keeper; but inoffensive books must not stir forth without a visible jailor in their title; nor is it to the common people less than a reproach; for if we dare not trust them with an English pamphlet, what do we but censure them for a giddy, vitious, and ungrounded people, in such a sick and weak state of faith and discretion, as to be able to take nothing but thro' the glister-pipe of a licenser!"

The ignorance and stupidity of these censors were often, indeed, as remarkable as their exterminating spirit. The noble simile of Milton, of Satan with the rising sun, in the first book of the Paradise Lost, had nearly occasioned the suppression of our national epic: it was supposed to contain a treasonable allusion. The tragedy of Arminius, by one Paterson, who was an amanuensis of the poet Thomson, was intended for representation, but the dramatic censor refused a license: as Edward and Eleanora was not permitted to be performed, being considered a party work, our sagacious state-critic imagined that Paterson's own play was in the same predicament by being in the same hand-writing! Malebranche said, that he could never obtain an approbation for his "Research after Truth," because it was unintelligible to his censors; at length Mezeray, the historian, approved of it as a book of geometry. Latterly, in France, it is said that the greatest geniuses were obliged to submit their works to the critical understanding of persons who had formerly been low dependents on some man of quality, and who appear to have brought the same servility of mind to the examination of works of genius. There is something, which, on the principle of incongruity and contrast, becomes exquisitely ludicrous, in observing the works of men of genius allowed to be printed, and even commended, by certain persons who have never printed their names but to their licenses. One of these gentlemen suppressed a work, because it contained principles of government which appeared to him not conformable to the laws of Moses. Another said to a geometrician—"I cannot permit the publication of your book: you dare to say, that, between two given points, the shortest line is the straight line. Do you think me such an idiot as not to perceive your allusion? If your work appeared, I should make enemies of all those who find, by crooked ways, an easier admittance into court, than by a straight line. Consider their number!" This seems, however, to be an excellent joke. At this moment the censors in Austria appear singularly inept; for, not long ago, they condemned as heretical, two books; one of which, entitled "Principes de la Trigonometrie," the censor would not allow to be printed, because the Trinity, which he imagined to be included in trigonometry, was not permitted to be discussed: and the other, on the "Destruction of Insects," he insisted had a covert allusion to the Jesuits, who, he conceived, were thus malignantly designated.

A curious literary anecdote has been recorded of the learned Richard Simon. Compelled to insert in one of his works the qualifying opinions of the censor of the Sorbonne, he inserted them within crotchets. But a strange misfortune attended this contrivance. The printer, who was not let into the secret, printed the work without these essential marks: by which means the enraged author saw his own peculiar opinions overturned in the very work written to maintain them!

These appear trifling minutiae; and yet, like a hair in a watch, which utterly destroys its progress, these little ineptiae obliged writers to have recourse to foreign presses; compelled a Montesquieu to write with concealed ambiguity, and many to sign a recantation of principles which they could never change. The recantation of Selden, extorted from his hand on his suppressed "Historie of Tithes," humiliated a great mind; but it could not remove a particle from the masses of his learning, nor darken the luminous conviction of his reasonings; nor did it diminish the number of those who assented and now assent to his principles. Recantations usually prove the force of authority rather than the change of opinion. When a Dr. Pocklington was condemned to make a recantation, he hit the etymology of the word, while he caught at the spirit—he began thus: "If canto be to sing, recanto is to sing again." So that he rechanted his offending opinions, by repeating them in his recantation.

At the Revolution in England, licenses for the press ceased; but its liberty did not commence till 1694, when every restraint was taken off by the firm and decisive tone of the Commons. It was granted, says our philosophic Hume, "to the great displeasure of the king and his ministers, who, seeing nowhere in any government, during present or past ages, any example of such unlimited freedom, doubted much of its salutary effects; and probably thought that no books or writings would ever so much improve the general understanding of men, as to render it safe to entrust them with an indulgence so easily abused."

And the present moment verifies the prescient conjecture of the philosopher. Such is the licentiousness of our press, that some, not perhaps the most hostile to the cause of freedom, would not be averse to manacle authors once more with an IMPRIMATUR. It will not be denied that Erasmus was a friend to the freedom of the press; yet he was so shocked at the licentiousness of Luther's pen, that there was a time when he considered it necessary to restrain its liberty. It was then as now. Erasmus had, indeed, been miserably calumniated, and expected future libels. I am glad, however, to observe, that he afterwards, on a more impartial investigation, confessed that such a remedy was much more dangerous than the disease. To restrain the liberty of the press, can only be the interest of the individual, never that of the public; one must be a patriot here: we must stand in the field with an unshielded breast, since the safety of the people is the supreme law. There were, in Milton's days, some who said of this institution, that, although the inventors were bad, the thing, for all that, might be good. "This may be so," replies the vehement advocate for "unlicensed printing." But as the commonwealths have existed through all ages, and have forborne to use it, he sees no necessity for the invention; and held it as a dangerous and suspicious fruit from the tree which bore it. The ages of the wisest commonwealths, Milton seems not to have recollected, were not diseased with the popular infection of publications, issuing at all hours, and propagated with a celerity on which the ancients could not calculate. The learned Dr. James, who has denounced the invention of the Indexes, confesses, however, that it was not unuseful when it restrained the publications of atheistic and immoral works. But it is our lot to bear with all the consequent evils, that we may preserve the good inviolate; since, as the profound Hume has declared, "The LIBERTY OF BRITAIN IS GONE FOR EVER, when such attempts shall succeed."

A constitutional sovereign will consider the freedom of the press as the sole organ of the feelings of the people. Calumniators he will leave to the fate of calumny; a fate similar to those who, having overcharged their arms with the fellest intentions, find that the death which they intended for others, in bursting, only annihilates themselves.


The "true" modern critics on our elder writers are apt to thunder their anathemas on innocent heads: little versed in the eras of our literature, and the fashions of our wit, popular criticism must submit to be guided by the literary historian.

Kippis condemns Sir Symonds D'Ewes for his admiration of two anagrams, expressive of the feelings of the times. It required the valour of Falstaff to attack extinct anagrams; and our pretended English Bayle thought himself secure in pronouncing all anagrammatists to be wanting in judgment and taste: yet, if this mechanical critic did not know something of the state and nature of anagrams in Sir Symonds' day, he was more deficient in that curiosity of literature which his work required, than plain honest Sir Symonds in the taste and judgment of which he is so contemptuously deprived. The author who thus decides on the tastes of another age by those of his own day, and whose knowledge of the national literature does not extend beyond his own century, is neither historian nor critic. The truth is, that ANAGRAMS were then the fashionable amusements of the wittiest and the most learned.

Kippis says, and others have repeated, "That Sir Symonds D'Ewes's judgment and taste, with regard to wit, were as contemptible as can well be imagined, will be evident from the following passage taken from his account of Carr Earl of Somerset, and his wife: 'This discontent gave many satirical wits occasion to vent themselves into stingie [stinging] libels, in which they spared neither the persons nor families of that unfortunate pair. There came also two anagrams to my hands, not unworthy to be owned by the rarest wits of this age.' These were, one very descriptive of the lady, and the other, of an incident in which this infamous woman was so deeply criminated.

FRANCES HOWARD. THOMAS OVERBURIE. Car finds a Whore. O! O! base Murther."

This sort of wit is not falser at least than the criticism which infers that D'Ewes' "judgment and taste were as contemptible as can well be;" for he might have admired these anagrams, which, however, are not of the nicest construction, and yet not have been so destitute of those qualities of which he is so authoritatively divested.

Camden has a chapter in his "Remains" on ANAGRAMS, which he defines to be a dissolution of a (person's) name into its letters, as its elements; and a new connexion into words is formed by their transposition, if possible, without addition, subtraction, or change of the letters: and the words must make a sentence applicable to the person named. The Anagram is complimentary or satirical; it may contain some allusion to an event, or describe some personal characteristic.[113]

Such difficult trifles it may be convenient at all times to discard; but, if ingenious minds can convert an ANAGRAM into a means of exercising their ingenuity, the things themselves will necessarily become ingenious. No ingenuity can make an ACROSTIC ingenious; for this is nothing but a mechanical arrangement of the letters of a name, and yet this literary folly long prevailed in Europe.

As for ANAGRAMS, if antiquity can consecrate some follies, they are of very ancient date. They were classed, among the Hebrews, among the cabalistic sciences; they pretended to discover occult qualities in proper names; it was an oriental practice; and was caught by the Greeks. Plato had strange notions of the influence of Anagrams when drawn out of persons' names; and the later Platonists are full of the mysteries of the anagrammatic virtues of names. The chimerical associations of the character and qualities of a man with his name anagrammatised may often have instigated to the choice of a vocation, or otherwise affected his imagination.

Lycophron has left some on record,—two on Ptolemaeus Philadelphus, King of Egypt, and his Queen Arsinoee. The king's name was thus anagrammatised:—


and the queen's,


Learning, which revived under Francis the First in France, did not disdain to cultivate this small flower of wit. Daurat had such a felicity in making these trifles, that many illustrious persons sent their names to him to be anagrammatised. Le Laboureur, the historian, was extremely pleased with the anagram made on the mistress of Charles the Ninth of France. Her name was

Marie Touchet. JE CHARME TOUT:

which is historically just.

In the assassin of Henry the Third,

Frere Jacques Clement,

they discovered


I preserve a few specimens of some of our own anagrams. The mildness of the government of Elizabeth, contrasted with her intrepidity against the Iberians, is thus picked out of her title; she is made the English ewe-lamb, and the lioness of Spain:—

Elizabetha Regina Angliae. ANGLIS AGNA, HIBERIAE LEA.

The unhappy history of Mary Queen of Scots, the deprivation of her kingdom, and her violent death, were expressed in this Latin anagram:—

Maria Steuarda Scotorum Regina: TRUSA VI REGNIS, MORTE AMARA CADO:

and in

Maria Stevarta VERITAS ARMATA.

Another fanciful one on our James the First, whose rightful claim to the British monarchy, as the descendant of the visionary Arthur, could only have satisfied genealogists of romance reading:—

Charles James Steuart. CLAIMS ARTHUR'S SEAT.

Sylvester, the translator of Du Bartas, considered himself fortunate when he found in the name of his sovereign the strongest bond of affection to his service. In the dedication he rings loyal changes on the name of his liege, James Stuart in which he finds a just master!

The anagram on Monk, afterwards Duke of Albemarle, on the restoration of Charles the Second, included an important date in our history:—

Georgius Monke, Dux de Aumarle. Ego regem reduxi An deg.Sa. MDCLVV.

A slight reversing of the letters in a name produced a happy compliment; as in Vernon was found Renoun; and the celebrated Sir Thomas Wiat bore his own designation in his name, a Wit.[114] Of the poet Waller the anagrammatist said,

His brows need not with Lawrel to be bound, Since in his name with Lawrel he is crown'd.

Randle Holmes, who has written a very extraordinary volume on heraldry, was complimented by an expressive anagram:—

Lo, Men's Herald!

These anagrams were often devoted to the personal attachments of love or friendship. A friend delighted to twine his name with the name of his friend. Crashawe, the poet, had a literary intimate of the name of Car, who was his posthumous editor; and, in prefixing some elegiac lines, discovers that his late friend Crashawe was Car; for so the anagram of Crashawe runs: He was Car. On this quaint discovery, he has indulged all the tenderness of his recollections:—

Was Car then Crashawe, or was Crashawe Car? Since both within one name combined are. Yes, Car's Crashawe, he Car; 'tis Love alone Which melts two hearts, of both composing one, So Crashawe's still the same, &c.

A happy anagram on a person's name might have a moral effect on the feelings: as there is reason to believe, that certain celebrated names have had some influence on the personal character. When one Martha Nicholson was found out to be Soon calm in Heart, the anagram, in becoming familiar to her, might afford an opportune admonition. But, perhaps, the happiest of anagrams was produced on a singular person and occasion. Lady Eleanor Davies, the wife of the celebrated Sir John Davies, the poet, was a very extraordinary character. She was the Cassandra of her age; and several of her predictions warranted her to conceive she was a prophetess. As her prophecies in the troubled times of Charles I. were usually against the government, she was at length brought by them into the court of High Commission. The prophetess was not a little mad, and fancied the spirit of Daniel was in her, from an anagram she had formed of her name—


The anagram had too much by an L, and too little by an s; yet Daniel and reveal were in it, and that was sufficient to satisfy her inspirations. The court attempted to dispossess the spirit from the lady, while the bishops were in vain reasoning the point with her out of the scriptures, to no purpose, she poising text against text:—one of the deans of the Arches, says Heylin, "shot her thorough and thorough with an arrow borrowed from her own quiver:" he took a pen, and at last hit upon this elegant anagram:


The happy fancy put the solemn court into laughter, and Cassandra into the utmost dejection of spirit. Foiled by her own weapons, her spirit suddenly forsook her; and either she never afterwards ventured on prophesying, or the anagram perpetually reminded her hearers of her state—and we hear no more of this prophetess!

Thus much have I written in favour of Sir Symonds D'Ewes's keen relish of a "stingie anagram;" and on the error of those literary historians, who do not enter into the spirit of the age they are writing on.

We find in the Scribleriad, the ANAGRAMS appearing in the land of false wit.

But with still more disorder'd march advance, (Nor march it seem'd, but wild fantastic dance,) The uncouth ANAGRAMS, distorted train, Shifting, in double mazes, o'er the plain. C. ii. 161.

The fine humour of Addison was never more playful than in his account of that anagrammatist, who, after shutting himself up for half a year, and having taken certain liberties with the name of his mistress, discovered, on presenting his anagram, that he had misspelt her surname; by which he was so thunderstruck with his misfortune, that in a little time after he lost his senses, which, indeed, had been very much impaired by that continual application he had given to his anagram.

One Frenzelius, a German, prided himself on perpetuating the name of every person of eminence who died by an anagram; but by the description of the bodily pain he suffered on these occasions, when he shut himself up for those rash attempts, he seems to have shared in the dying pangs of the mortals whom he so painfully celebrated. Others appear to have practised this art with more facility. A French poet, deeply in love, in one day sent his mistress, whose name was Magdelaine, three dozen of anagrams on her single name!

Even old Camden, who lived in the golden age of anagrams, notices the difficilia quae pulchra, the charming difficulty, "as a whetstone of patience to them that shall practise it. For some have been seen to bite their pen, scratch their heads, bend their brows, bite their lips, beat the board, tear their paper, when their names were fair for somewhat, and caught nothing therein." Such was the troubled happiness of an anagrammatist: yet, adds our venerable author, notwithstanding "the sour sort of critics, good anagrams yield a delightful comfort and pleasant motion in honest minds."[115]

When the mania of making ANAGRAMS prevailed, the little persons at court flattered the great ones at inventing anagrams for them; and when the wit of the maker proved to be as barren as the letters of the name, they dropped or changed them, raving with the alphabet, and racking their wits. Among the manuscripts of the grave Sir Julius Caesar, one cannot but smile at a bundle emphatically endorsed "Trash." It is a collection of these court-anagrams; a remarkable evidence of that ineptitude to which mere fashionable wit can carry the frivolous.

In consigning this intellectual exercise to oblivion, we must not confound the miserable and the happy together. A man of genius would not consume an hour in extracting even a fortunate anagram from a name, although on an extraordinary person or occasion its appositeness might be worth an epigram. Much of its merit will arise from the association of ideas; a trifler can only produce what is trifling, but an elegant mind may delight by some elegant allusion, and a satirical one by its causticity. We have some recent ones, which will not easily be forgotten.

A similar contrivance, that of ECHO VERSES, may here be noticed. I have given a specimen of these in a modern French writer, whose sportive pen has thrown out so much wit and humour in his ECHOES.[116] Nothing ought to be contemned which, in the hands of a man of genius, is converted into a medium of his talents. No verses have been considered more contemptible than these, which, with all their kindred, have been anathematised by Butler, in his exquisite character of "a small poet" in his "Remains," whom he describes as "tumbling through the hoop of an anagram" and "all those gambols of wit." The philosophical critic will be more tolerant than was the orthodox church wit of that day, who was, indeed, alarmed at the fantastical heresies which were then prevailing. I say not a word in favour of unmeaning ACROSTICS; but ANAGRAMS and ECHO VERSES may be shown capable of reflecting the ingenuity of their makers. I preserve a copy of ECHO VERSES, which exhibit a curious picture of the state of our religious fanatics, the Roundheads of Charles I., as an evidence, that in the hands of a wit even such things can be converted into the instruments of wit.

At the end of a comedy presented at the entertainment of the prince, by the scholars of Trinity College, Cambridge, in March, 1641, printed for James Calvin, 1642, the author, Francis Cole, holds in a print a paper in one hand, and a round hat in the other. At the end of all is this humorous little poem.


Now, Echo, on what's religion grounded? Round-head! Whose its professors most considerable? Rabble! How do these prove themselves to be the godly? Oddly! But they in life are known to be the holy, O lie! Who are these preachers, men or women-common? Common! Come they from any universitie? Citie! Do they not learning from their doctrine sever? Ever! Yet they pretend that they do edifie: O fie! What do you call it then, to fructify? Ay. What church have they, and what pulpits? Pitts! But now in chambers the Conventicle; Tickle! The godly sisters shrewdly are belied. Bellied! The godly number then will soon transcend. End! As for the temples, they with zeal embrace them. Rase them! What do they make of bishop's hierarchy? Archie![117] Are crosses, images, ornaments their scandall? All! Nor will they leave us many ceremonies. Monies! Must even religion down for satisfaction? Faction! How stand they affected to the government civil? Evil! But to the king they say they are most loyal. Lye all! Then God keep King and State from these same men. Amen!


We are often perplexed to decide how the names of some of our eminent men ought to be written; and we find that they are even now written diversely. The truth is, that our orthography was so long unsettled among us, that it appears by various documents of the times which I have seen, that persons were at a loss how to write their own names, and most certainly have written them variously. I have sometimes suspected that estates may have been lost, and descents confounded, by such uncertain and disagreeing signatures of the same person. In a late suit respecting the Duchess of Norfolk's estate, one of the ancestors has his name printed Higford, while in the genealogy it appears Hickford. I think I have seen Ben Jonson's name written by himself with an h; and Dryden made use of an i. I have seen an injunction to printers with the sign-manual of Charles II., not to print Samuel Boteler esquire's book or poem called Hudibras, without his consent; but I do not know whether Butler thus wrote his name. As late as in 1660, a Dr. Crovne was at such a loss to have his name pronounced rightly, that he tried six different ways of writing it, as appears by printed books; Cron, Croon, Crovn, Crone, Croone, and Crovne; all of which appear under his own hand, as he wrote it differently at different periods of his life. In the subscription book of the Royal Society he writes W. Croone, but in his will at the Commons he signs W. Crovne. Ray the naturalist informs us that he first wrote his name Wray, but afterwards omitted the W. Dr. Whitby, in books published by himself, writes his name sometimes Whiteby. And among the Harleian Manuscripts there is a large collection of letters, to which I have often referred, written between 1620 and 1630, by Joseph Mead; and yet in all his printed letters, and his works, even within that period, it is spelt Mede; by which signature we recognise the name of a learned man better known to us: it was long before I discovered the letter-writer to have been this scholar. Oldys, in some curious manuscript memoirs of his family, has traced the family name through a great variety of changes, and sometimes it is at such variance that the person indicated will not always appear to have belonged to the family. We saw recently an advertisement in the newspapers offering five thousand pounds to prove a marriage in the family of the Knevetts, which occurred about 1633. What most disconcerted the inquirers is their discovery that the family name was written in six or seven different ways: a circumstance which I have no doubt will be found in most family names in England. Fuller mentions that the name of Villers was spelt fourteen different ways in the deeds of that family.

I shall illustrate this subject by the history of the names of two of our most illustrious countrymen, Shakspeare and Rawleigh.

We all remember the day when a violent literary controversy was opened, nor is it yet closed, respecting the spelling of our poet's name. One great editor persisted in his triumphant discovery, by printing Shakspere, while another would only partially yield, Shakspeare; but all parties seemed willing to drop the usual and natural derivation of his name, in which we are surely warranted from a passage in a contemporary writer, who alludes by the name to a conceit of his own, of the martial spirit of the poet.[118] The truth seems to be, then, that personal names were written by the ear, since the persons themselves did not attend to the accurate writing of their own names, which they changed sometimes capriciously, and sometimes with anxious nicety. Our great poet's name appears Shakspere in the register of Stratford church; it is Shakspeare in the body of his will, but that very instrument is indorsed Mr. Shackspere's will. He himself has written his name in two different ways, Shakspeare and Shakspere. Mr. Colman says, the poet's name in his own county is pronounced with the first a short, which accounts for this mode of writing the name, and proves that the orthoepy rather than the orthography of a person's name was most attended to; a very questionable and uncertain standard.[119]

Another remarkable instance of this sort is the name of Sir Walter Rawley, which I am myself uncertain how to write; although I have discovered a fact which proves how it should be pronounced.

Rawley's name was spelt by himself and by his contemporaries in all sorts of ways. We find it Ralegh, Raleigh, Rawleigh, Raweley, and Rawly; the last of which at least preserves its pronunciation. This great man, when young, subscribed his name "Walter Raweley of the Middle Temple" to a copy of verses, prefixed to a satire called the Steel-Glass, in George Gascoigne's Works, 1576. Sir Walter was then a young student, and these verses, both by their spirit and signature, cannot fail to be his; however, this matter is doubtful, for the critics have not met elsewhere with his name thus written. The orthoepy of the name of this great man I can establish by the following fact. When Sir Walter was first introduced to James the First, on the King's arrival in England, with whom, being united with an opposition party, he was no favourite, the Scottish monarch gave him this broad reception: "Rawly! Rawly! true enough, for I think of thee very Rawly, mon!" There is also an enigma contained in a distich written by a lady of the times, which preserves the real pronunciation of the name of this extraordinary man.

What's bad for the stomach, and the word of dishonour, Is the name of the man, whom the king will not honour.

Thus our ancient personal names were written down by the ear at a period when we had no settled orthography; and even at a later period, not distant from our own times, some persons, it might be shown, have been equally puzzled how to write their names; witness the Thomsons, Thompsons; the Wartons, Whartons, &c.


Lord Orford has in one of his letters projected a curious work to be written in a walk through the streets of the metropolis, similar to a French work, entitled "Anecdotes des Rues de Paris." I know of no such work, and suspect the vivacious writer alluded in his mind to Saint Foix's "Essais Historiques sur Paris," a very entertaining work, of which the plan is that projected by his lordship. We have had Pennant's "London," a work of this description; but, on the whole, this is a superficial performance, as it regards manners, characters, and events. That antiquary skimmed everything, and grasped scarcely anything; he wanted the patience of research, and the keen spirit which revivifies the past. Should Lord Orford's project be carried into execution, or rather should Pennant be hereafter improved, it would be first necessary to obtain the original names, or the meanings, of our streets, free from the disguise in which time has concealed them. We shall otherwise lose many characters of persons, and many remarkable events, of which their original denominations would remind the historian of our streets.

I have noted down a few of these modern misnomers, that this future historian may be excited to discover more.

Mincing-lane was Mincheon-lane; from tenements pertaining to the Mincheons, or nuns of St. Helen's, in Bishopsgate-street.

Gutter-lane, corrupted from Guthurun's-lane; from its first owner, a citizen of great trade.

Blackwall-hall was Bakewell's-hall, from one Thomas Bakewell; and originally called Basing's-haugh, from a considerable family of that name, whose arms were once seen on the ancient building, and whose name is still perpetuated in Basing's-lane.

Finch-lane was Finke's-lane, from a whole family of this name.

Thread-needle-street was originally Thrid-needle-street, as Samuel Clarke dates it from his study there.

Billiter-lane is a corruption of Bellzetter's-lane, from the first builder or owner.

Crutched-friars was Crowched or Crossed-friars.

Lothbury was so named from the noise of founders at their work; and, as Howell pretends, this place was called Lothbury, "disdainedly."

Garlick-hill was Garlicke-hithe, or hive, where garlick was sold.

Fetter-lane has been erroneously supposed to have some connexion with the fetters of criminals. It was in Charles the First's time written Fewtor-lane, and is so in Howell's "Londinopolis," who explains it from "Fewtors (or idle people) lying there as in a way leading to gardens." It was the haunt of these Faitors, or "mighty beggars." The Faitour, that is, a defaytor, or defaulter, became Fewtor; and in the rapid pronunciation, or conception, of names, Fewtor has ended in Fetter-lane.

Gracechurch-street, sometimes called Gracious-street, was originally Grass-street, from a herb-market there.

Fenchurch-street, from a fenny or moorish ground by a river side.

Galley-key has preserved its name, but its origin may have been lost. Howell, in his "Londinopolis," says, "here dwelt strangers called Galley-men, who brought wines, &c. in Galleys."

"Greek-street," says Pennant, "I am sorry to degrade into Grig-street;" whether it alludes to the little vivacious eel, or to the merry character of its tenants, he does not resolve.

Bridewell was St. Bridget's-well, from one dedicated to Saint Bride, or Bridget.

Marybone was St. Mary-on-the-Bourne, corrupted to Marybone; as Holborn was Old Bourn, or the Old River; Bourne being the ancient English for river; hence the Scottish Burn.

Newington was New-town.

Maiden-lane was so called from an image of the Virgin, which, in Catholic days, had stood there, as Bagford writes to Hearne; and he says, that the frequent sign of the Maiden-head was derived from "our Lady's head."

Lad-lane was originally Lady's-lane, from the same personage.

Rood-lane was so denominated from a Rood, or Jesus on the cross, there placed, which was held in great regard.

Piccadilly was named after a hall called Piccadilla-hall, a place of sale for Piccadillies, or turn-overs; a part of the fashionable dress which appeared about 1614. It has preserved its name uncorrupted; for Barnabe Rice, in his "Honestie of the Age," has this passage on "the body-makers that do swarm through all parts, both of London and about London. The body is still pampered up in the very dropsy of excess. He that some fortie years sithens should have asked after a Pickadilly, I wonder who would have understood him; or could have told what a Pickcadilly had been, either fish or flesh."[120]

Strype notices that in the liberties of Saint Catharine is a place called Hangmen's-gains; the traders of Hammes and Guynes, in France, anciently resorted there; thence the strange corruption.

Smithfield is a corruption of Smoothfield; smith signifies smooth, from the Saxon smeeth. An antiquarian friend has seen it designated in a deed as campus planus, which confirms the original meaning. It is described in Fitz Stephen's account of London, written before the twelfth century, as a plain field, both in reality and name, where "every Friday there is a celebrated rendezvous of fine horses, brought hither to be sold. Thither come to look or buy a great number of earls, barons, knights, and a swarm of citizens. It is a pleasing sight to behold the ambling nags and generous colts, proudly prancing." This ancient writer continues a minute description, and, perhaps, gives the earliest one of a horse-race in this country. It is remarkable that Smithfield should have continued as a market for cattle for more than six centuries, with only the change of its vowels.

This is sufficient to show how the names of our streets require either to be corrected, or explained by their historian. The French, among the numerous projects for the moral improvement of civilised man, had one, which, had it not been polluted by a horrid faction, might have been directed to a noble end. It was to name streets after eminent men. This would at least preserve them from the corruption of the people, and exhibit a perpetual monument of moral feeling and of glory, to the rising genius of every age. With what excitement and delight may the young contemplatist, who first studies at Gray's Inn, be reminded of Verulam-buildings!

The names of streets will often be found connected with some singular event, or the character of some person; and anecdotes of our streets might occupy an entertaining antiquary. Not long ago, a Hebrew, who had a quarrel with his community about the manner of celebrating the Jewish festival in commemoration of the fate of Haman, called Purim, built a neighbourhood at Bethnal-green, and retained the subject of his anger in the name which the houses bear, of Purim-place. This may startle some theological antiquary at a remote period, who may idly lose himself in abstruse conjectures on the sanctity of a name, derived from a well-known Hebrew festival; and, perhaps, in his imagination be induced to colonise the spot with an ancient horde of Israelites!


It is an odd circumstance in literary research, that I am enabled to correct a story which was written about 1680. The Aubrey Papers, recently published with singular faithfulness, retaining all their peculiarities, even to the grossest errors, were memoranda for the use of Anthony Wood's great work. But beside these, the Oxford antiquary had a very extensive literary correspondence; and it is known, that when speechless and dying he evinced the fortitude to call in two friends to destroy a vast multitude of papers: about two bushels full were ordered for the fires lighted for the occasion; and, "as he was expiring, he expressed both his knowledge and approbation of what was done, by throwing out his hands." These two bushels full were not, however, all his papers; his more private ones he had ordered not to be opened for seven years. I suspect also, that a great number of letters were not burnt on this occasion; for I have discovered a manuscript written about 1720 to 1730, and which, the writer tells us, consists of "Excerpts out of Anthony Wood's papers." It is closely written, and contains many curious facts not to be found elsewhere. These papers of Anthony Wood probably still exist in the Ashmolean Museum; should they have perished, in that case this solitary manuscript will be the sole record of many interesting particulars.

By these I correct a little story, which may be found in the Aubrey Papers, vol. iii. 395. It is an account of one Nicholas Hill, a man of great learning, and in the high confidence of a remarkable and munificent Earl of Oxford, travelling with him abroad. I transcribe the printed Aubrey account.

"In his travels with his lord (I forget whether Italy or Germany, but I think the former), a poor man begged him to give him a penny. 'A penny!' said Mr. Hill; 'what dost say to ten pounds?'—'Ah! ten pounds,' said the beggar; 'that would make a man happy.' Mr. Hill gave him immediately ten pounds, and putt it downe upon account. Item, to a beggar ten pounds to make him happy!"—The point of this story has been marred in the telling: it was drawn up from the following letter by Aubrey to A. Wood, dated July 15, 1689. "A poor man asked Mr. Hill, his lordship's steward, once to give him sixpence, or a shilling, for an alms. 'What dost say, if I give thee ten pounds?' 'Ten pounds! that would make a man of me!' Hill gave it him, and put down in his account, 'L10 for making a man,' which his lordship inquiring about for the oddness of the expression, not only allowed, but was pleased with it."

This philosophical humorist was the steward of Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford, in the reign of Elizabeth. This peer was a person of elegant accomplishments; and Lord Orford, in his "Noble Authors," has given a higher character of him than perhaps he may deserve. He was of the highest rank, in great favour with the queen, and, in the style of the day, when all our fashions and our poetry were moulding themselves on the Italian model, he was the "Mirrour of Tuscanismo;" and, in a word, this coxcombical peer, after seven years' residence in Florence, returned highly "Italianated." The ludicrous motive of this peregrination is given in the present manuscript account. Haughty of his descent and alliance, irritable with effeminate delicacy and personal vanity, a little circumstance, almost too minute to be recorded, inflicted such an injury on his pride, that in his mind it required years of absence from the court of England ere it could be forgotten. Once making a low obeisance to the queen, before the whole court, this stately and inflated peer suffered a mischance, which has happened, it is said, on a like occasion—it was "light as air!" But this accident so sensibly hurt his mawkish delicacy, and so humbled his aristocratic dignity, that he could not raise his eyes on his royal mistress. He resolved from that day to "be a banished man," and resided for seven years in Italy, living in more grandeur at Florence than the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He spent in those years forty thousand pounds. On his return he presented the queen with embroidered gloves and perfumes, then for the first time introduced into England, as Stowe has noticed. Part of the new presents seem to have some reference to the earl's former mischance. The queen received them graciously, and was even painted wearing those gloves; but my authority states, that the masculine sense of Elizabeth could not abstain from congratulating the noble coxcomb; perceiving, she said, that at length my lord had forgot the mentioning the little mischance of seven years ago!

This peer's munificence abroad was indeed the talk of Europe; but the secret motive of this was as wicked as that of his travels had been ridiculous. This Earl of Oxford had married the daughter of Lord Burleigh, and when this great statesman would not consent to save the life of the Duke of Norfolk, the friend of this earl, he swore to revenge himself on the countess, out of hatred to his father-in-law. He not only forsook her, but studied every means to waste that great inheritance which had descended to him from his ancestors. Secret history often startles us with unexpected discoveries: the personal affectations of this earl induced him to quit a court where he stood in the highest favour, to domesticate himself abroad; and a family pique was the secret motive of that splendid prodigality which, at Florence, could throw into shade the court of Tuscany itself.


The memorable grand dinner given by the classical doctor in Peregrine Pickle, has indisposed our tastes for the cookery of the ancients; but, since it is often "the cooks who spoil the broth," we cannot be sure but that even "the black Lacedaemonian," stirred by the spear of a Spartan, might have had a poignancy for him, which did not happen at the more recent classical banquet.

The cookery of the ancients must have been superior to our humbler art, since they could find dainties in the tough membranous parts of the matrices of a sow, and the flesh of young hawks, and a young ass. The elder Pliny records, that one man had studied the art of fattening snails with paste so successfully, that the shells of some of his snails would contain many quarts.[121] The same monstrous taste fed up those prodigious goose livers; a taste still prevailing in Italy. Swine were fattened with whey and figs; and even fish in their ponds were increased by such artificial means. Our prize oxen might have astonished a Roman as much as one of their crammed peacocks would ourselves. Gluttony produces monsters, and turns away from nature to feed on unwholesome meats. The flesh of young foxes about autumn, when they fed on grapes, is praised by Galen; and Hippocrates equals the flesh of puppies to that of birds. The humorous Dr. King, who has touched on this subject, suspects that many of the Greek dishes appear charming from their mellifluous terminations, resounding with a floios and toios. Dr. King's description of the Virtuoso Bentivoglio or Bentley, with his "Bill of Fare" out of Athenaeus, probably suggested to Smollett his celebrated scene.

The numerous descriptions of ancient cookery which Athenaeus has preserved indicate an unrivalled dexterity and refinement: and the ancients, indeed, appear to have raised the culinary art into a science, and dignified cooks into professors. They had writers who exhausted their erudition and ingenuity in verse and prose; while some were proud to immortalise their names by the invention of a poignant sauce, or a popular gateau. Apicius, a name immortalised, and now synonymous with a gorger, was the inventor of cakes called Apicians; and one Aristoxenes, after many unsuccessful combinations, at length hit on a peculiar manner of seasoning hams, thence called Aristoxenians. The name of a late nobleman among ourselves is thus invoked every day.

Of these Eruditae gultae Archestratus, a culinary philosopher, composed an epic or didactic poem on good eating. His "Gastrology" became the creed of the epicures, and its pathos appears to have made what is so expressively called "their mouths water." The idea has been recently successfully imitated by a French poet.[122] Archestratus thus opens his subject:—

I write these precepts for immortal Greece, That round a table delicately spread, Or three, or four, may sit in choice repast, Or five at most. Who otherwise shall dine, Are like a troop marauding for their prey.

The elegant Romans declared that a repast should not consist of less in number than the Graces, nor of more than the Muses. They had, however, a quaint proverb, which Alexander ab Alexandro has preserved, not favourable even to so large a dinner-party as nine; it turns on a play of words:—

Septem convivium, Novem convicium facere.[123]

An elegant Roman, meeting a friend, regretted he could not invite him to dinner, "because my number is complete."

When Archestratus acknowledges that some things are for the winter, and some for the summer, he consoles himself, that though we cannot have them at the same time, yet, at least, we may talk about them at all times.

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