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inhabitants could be made to yield to the influence of money. To this taste was added, a still more general and ardent one for the literature of the Greeks and Romans. The scholarship which had so long occupied the English schools of learning began to lose its hold, and a thirst for general information appeared to seize the whole of the civilized orders of the state. Hence it was affirmed that very few new works appeared in any foreign language, which were not speedily presented to the British public in their own language; and the versions of voyages and travels which had been published in this country, were scarcely sufficiently abundant to meet the public avidity for them. Several individuals, natives of England, also rendered themselves eminent at this period by their works, such as Sandys, Knowles, Camden, Speed, Daniel, and others. Antiquities, general and natural, as well as those connected with civil and ecclesiastical matters, were pursued with ability, learning, and heroic perseverance: the time was adorned with a Spelman, a Sir Robert Cotton, a Selden, and an Usher, whilst a Bacon stood forth the apostle of a new philosophy. From the whole survey of the commerce, arts, luxury, education, and manners of England, on the accession of Charles, it certainly would appear that the state of the country was highly prosperous, and rapidly improving; nevertheless some relics of the former ferocity of the people still lingered amongst them.
“ It was still the custom,” says Miss Aikin, "for gentlemen to go constantly armed; and in what manner they often exercised their weapons, we may learn from what is said in Microcosmography of 'a sergeant or catchpole.'--The common way to run from him is to run thorough him, which is often attempted and achieved, and no man is more beaten out of charity. He is one makes the streets more dangerous than the highways, and men go better provided in their walks than their journey. He is the first handsel of the young rapiers of the Templers, and they are as proud of his repulse as an Hungarian of killing a Turk.' That even the ladies bore the household sceptre' somewhat rudely, may be inferred from the same book; where it is said of a 'she-precise hypocrite,'
She overflows so with the bible that she spills it upon every occa. sion, and will not cudgel her maids without scripture.' It was a considerable point gained, that everything fierce or boisterous was now banished froin the diversions of the court. These chiefly consisted of plays, masques, revels and balls, followed by splendid banquets. Something of a romantic spirit they still retained, a last memory of chivalry, but pomp and luxury were their principal characteristics. The cruel coinbats of the cock-pit, prohibited by Elizabeth, were indeed revived and diligently frequented by her suc. cessor; but the ruder, if not more inhuman sports of the bear-garden, appear to have been no longer patronized by the court, nor often witnessed by the ladies. Even the chace, though passionately followed by James himself, and by most of the rural gentry, was na
longer an object of paramount or universal interest to the highest class of society, which now comprised many individuals whose manners were refined, and their leisure occupied by literature and the elegant arts; many also whose attention was largely shared by the pursuits of politics and the pleasures of the town."
The new king's reign was ushered in by a fresh breaking out of the plague, as was before the case on James's accession. The superstitious fears of the people considerably augmented the evils of the visitation, for they concluded that it was a punishment on the nation for the marriage of the king with a papist and idolater, in the person of a princess of Spain. Whitlocke's description of the ravages of the pestilence are truly impresssive :-“ The plague,” he says “still raged in London, so that in one week there died 5000 persons; it was also spread in many places in the country. In some families, both master and mistress, children and servants, were all swept away. For fear of infection, many persons who were to pay money did first put it in a tub of water, and then it was taken out by the party that was to receive it. When the plague was somewhat assuaged, and there died in London but 2500 in a week, it fell to Judge Whitlocke's turn to go to Westminster Hall, to adjourn Michaelmas term from thence to Reading; and accordingly he went from his house in Buckinghamshire, to Horton near Colnbrook, and the next morning to Hyde Park Corner, where he and his retinue dined on the ground, with such meat and drink as they brought in the coach with them ; and afterwards he drove fast through the streets, which were empty of people and overgrown with grass, to Westminster Hall; where the officers were ready, and the judge and his company went straight to the King's Bench, adjourned the court, returned to his coach, and drove away presently out of town.”
We are under the necessity of passing over the chief public events which employ the pen of Miss Aikin, for a considerable portion of the first volume, as they belong to that portion of the history of the period which is familiar to most of our readers. In the same way, we are obliged to dismiss the description of Felton's assassination of Buckingham, as no new light appears to be shed on that well known transaction. From the pains which Miss Aikin has taken to exhibit the part adopted by the queen of Charles the First, it would appear that her majesty had a much greater share than history usually assigns to her, in the overthrow of her husband's dynasty. The folly with which she supported her religious views, obnoxious as they were to every party in the country, at once marks her out as being a deserving object of public dislike, and we shall have an accurate criterion whereby to estimate the arrogant contempt of the nation's opinion, which must have been entertained by the government, when it sanctioned the stupid whim of the queen in ostentatiously laying the first stone of her own chapel in a court in Somerset House. Her majesty, says the record of this most impo
litic transaction, “ with her own hands helped to lay the two first corner stones, with a silver plate of equal dimensions between them —which stones, in the presence of 2000 people at least, they consecrated with great ceremony, having caused to be engraven upon the upper part of that plate, the pictures of their majesties as founders, and the lower side, of the capuchins as consecrators.”
But even in her amusements this woman gave to the nation fresh provocation against her; and when a dramatic pastoral was written by a favourite poet, Walter Montague, to be performed at court, the queen volunteered to play a female part. It was the first time in England that the delicacy of the fair sex was so decisively violated on even the private stage, for the characters of women at the most public of the theatrical exhibitions were still personated by boys, so That such an example from such an authority was highly calculated to excite alarm and disgust amongst that class which could not be charged with puritanic austerity. It is well known how this affair subsequently affected William Prynn. This individual was the author of a famous invective called “Histriomastix, the Players Scourge, or Actor's Tragedy.” In this performance the author designated women actors by a name too coarsely opprobrious to be repeated in decent society, and though it was published long before the indelicate conduct of the queen, still the intrigues and influence of Laud brought upon Prynn all the consequences of having written a malicious libel on her majesty. A word or two on this very extraordinary production will not be unseasonable in this place: “ The Histriomastix, as its title indicates, is an invective consisting of no less than 1000 closely printed quarto pages. Of the mode in which theatrical amusements were in his own time conducted, and their practical effects upon morals, the author was little qualified by personal knowledge to speak; for he informs his readers, that having once in his life been drawn by the importunity of his companions to the theatre, the compliance appeared to him so exceed. ingly sinful, that he sat during the whole performance with his hat plucked over his eyes, groaning in spirit, and wondering what amusement any person could possibly find in these exhibitions. His information on his subject appears nevertheless to have been full and correct; and the work has gained an artificial value with posterity from the curious notices which it preserves of the manners and fashions of the times, which have been culled with profane diligence from the mass, and employed to illustrate various obscure points in the early history of the English drama.”
Miss Aikin very properly describes the body of the work as a yast ferrago of texts of scripture, decisions of synods and councils, which, it is to be remarked, that the puritans of those days cited with as much reverence as their prelatical or even their Romish adversarics,- quotations from christian fathers, from divines, ancient and modern, catholic and protestant ; from acts of parliament, statutes of universities, and even from heathen poets, philosophers and historians, all tending to show, according to the titlepage, “ That popular stage plays, (the very pomps of the devil, which we renounce in public baptism if we believe the fathers,) are simply heathenish, leud, ungodly spectacles, and most pernicious corruptions ; condemned in all ages as intolerable mischiefs to churches, to republics, to the manners, minds, and souls of men.”
The history of Laud's infamous practices are then followed up by Miss Aikin, who, we perceive, has very justly acquitted herself of the duty which most other historians treating of those times have so strangely neglected. We allude to the attempt which Laud made to revive a power which, in a former age, had been so abused as to provoke the interference of the legislature to extirpate it. The circumstances under which this wicked eifort was conceived were as follow :-The cathedral of St. Paul had been allowed to fall into a state little short of ruin. In James's time money had been raised for repairing it, but nothing was done, and the money in all probability was directed to some less useful and creditable purpose. When Laud was translated to the See of London, an event which took place in the early part of Charles's reign, one of his most favourite projects was to rescue the venerable edifice from decay. The purpose cannot possibly be objected to; the motive was most just, but the means of bringing about the end were worthy of the deepest reprobation. Amongst other instruments employed by Laud for the purpose of raising money, he caused a commission under the great seal to be promulgated, declaring that the judges of the Prerogative Courts, and all officials throughout the kingdom, should be excited when persons died intestate, “ to remeinber this church out of what was proper to be given to pious uses.” It is scarcely necessary to remind the learned reader that at a period long anterior to that of Charles, the goods of intestate persons fell to the crown, and were principally employed by the ordinaries in what were called pious uses; but the abuses to which the power gave rise were so intolerable, that it was condemned by the general voice, and an express law of the 31st of Edward III. completely put it down. Nevertheless it was revived by the fiat of Laud, who, when he found that these and other congenial instruments proved ineffectual, absolutely contrived to have the high cominission and the star chamber armed with the power of levying fines for the purpose of increasing the funds for his cathedral. Miss Aikin follows up the development of the strange character of Laud by an account of two other charcteristic specimens of his arbitrary disposition:
· The king's printers, in an edition of the Bible, had committed the awkward error of omitting the word not in the seventh commandment: the bishop, not content with ordering the impression to be called in for correction, caused the high commission to inflict on the involuntary culprits an exorbitant fine, with part of which he directed fine Greek types to be provided, for publishing such ancient manuscripts as should be brought to light. Sherfield, recorder of Sarum, having, by direction of a vestry, and in obedience to both statutes and canons, commanding the destruction of monu. ments of idolatry, ordered a disgusting representation of God the Father in the window of his parish church to be taken down and broken to pieces, Laud caused him to be prosecuted in the star chamber for what he pretended to be a lay usurpation on the jurisdiction of the bishop, or on that of his majesty, as head of the church. Here," he did not only aggravate the crime as much as he could, in reference to the dangerous consequences which might follow on it,-amongst which he mentioned that of deterring moderate catholics from attending the church,” but defended the use itself of "painted images, in the way of ornament and remembrance.” In conclusion, after warm debates, in which some members of the court ventured to express their jealousy of the bishop's leaning towards popery, the majority concurred in sentencing the accused, by a judgment comparatively lenient, to pay 5001. to the king,—to lose his office of recorder, and be bound to his good behaviour; “as also to make a public acknowledgment of his offence, not only in the parish church of St. Edmonds, where it was committed, but in the cathedral church itself ; that the bishop, in contempt of whose authority he had played this pageant, might have reparation.”
This act, by the confession of his biographer, drew upon Laud " such a clamor as not only followed him to his death, but hath since been continued in sundry pamphlets.” In fact, a more flagrant breach of every principle by which civil society is held together, cannot easily be conceived : and it is impossible to reflect without a kind of wonder at the guilty boldness of this ecclesiastic, who, in his efforts to re-assert the most arrogant assumptious of his order, had taken means to render it more penal for an Englishman to give effect to the laws of his country than to violate them. That such proceedings should have obtained the sanction of any proportion of the lay judges in the star chamber,--those prime counsellors of the nation,-is an equal reproach to their wisdom and their integrity. If once the power of the church were thus enabled to erect itself above the authority of the law, it signified little whether that power were to be wielded by a pope or a patriarch ; for not only the spirit of the Reformation was gone, but that of the English nation itself, and of its venerable and free constitution. vol. i. pp. 325, 326.
Amongst the records of the University of Oxford, to which we turn with a sense of humiliation, shame, and disgust, we mark out as worthy of particular condemnation, the mean sycophancy of which it was guilty to the person of Laud. In the epistles of this body addressed to him in the popish dialect of the Latin tongue, they styled him Sanctitas tua,-“Your Holiness," Summus Pontifex—“ Chief Pontiff;"_" Filled to overflowing with the Holy Ghost,” &c. &c.
The portion of this volume which the authoress has devoted to the ill-fated Strafford, is by no means the least interesting. This nobleman, at the period when he sojourned in Ireland as its lord deputy, like other considerable men of his time who were engaged in places distant from the court, had his private correspondent in