« ElőzőTovább »
ADDRESS TO THE READER.
In laying before you, most worthy and respected reader, the following pages, I feel it is due both to you and to myself, for our mutual good understanding and satisfaction, that I should give some account of their contents, and in what manner the original papers came into my hands.
I am, respected reader, a descendant of a younger branch of the ancient and honourable house of Courtenay; and, in virtue of such descent was, even from my boyish days, much noticed and cherished by my kinsman and friend, that most worthy and ancient gentleman, the late proprietor of the manor and mansion of Walreddon, situated in the parish of Whitchurch, about two miles from the borough of Tavistock, in the county of Devon.
Of my personal history, I shall say little, having in truth but little to relate concern
ing myself that would be of any interest to the reader. I was, even in childhood, left an orphan, with no very great provision; my fortune being nothing more than that of the younger son of a younger branch, whose principal worldly possessions were those of his name and his coat of arms. I was, however, educated at Oxford, and though I did not gain the highest honours, I was not without distinction among my competitors for the college prizes.
My genius, however, inclining me more to arms than letters, I entered upon a military career about the twentieth year of my age. I wish it to be clearly understood, although I am here editor of papers connected with the times of Charles the First, (when my ancestors were loyal and devoted servants of that unhappy king,) yet I, who have had the honour to carry a pair of colours, and to trail a pike in Flanders, under the dynasty of the house of Brunswick, am really no Jacobite. I also served, I hope not unworthily, at the battle of Culloden, under the famous Duke of Cumberland, whom the Scots were wont to call
“ Billy the Butcher.” In that action, I was so severely wounded that I was obliged soon after to retire, early in life, from the dangers and honours of war; and being kindly entreated by my venerable kinsman before named, to become to him as a son, and to take up my residence at his mansion of Walreddon (of which our common great grandfather had been the proprietor in the times of the civil wars), I gladly complied with his request; and no man, living, as I did, in “single blessedness,” ever had a happier home.
Yet, notwithstanding this, as perfect happiness is reserved for a higher state of existence, I found some minor annoyances ; and as we have a vast deal of rain in this county of Devon, and I had no great taste for field sports, and moreover was liable to fits of low spirits, when I remembered how soon my career of arms had been brought to a close, I often found the time hang heavy on my hands.
In one of these moods of oppressive idleness, if I may be allowed to use the phrase, I amused myself in rummaging among a
vast quantity of old papers, in an old cracked japan cabinet, which had long since been turned into a room, where nothing but store china, hoarded apples, old black-letter books, with ragged bindings, pieces of ancient tapestry, damaged pictures in worm-eaten frames, and other lumber, had been deposited, time out of mind, at Walreddon. Well, to make a long story a short one, let me say at once, that in this antique cabinet I stumbled on a collection of papers that exceedingly interested me. They principally related to two very celebrated members of our family; my great-grandfather, Colonel Henry Courtenay, of St. Bennet's, Cornwall, and his son William Henry, also a colonel in his day, and my grandfather. Both were cavaliers in the service of King Charles the First.
I will not trouble the reader with giving him an account of the time and toil I bestowed on these papers; I will rather tell him what they were. It appeared, hy a note in his own hand, that the aforesaid grandfather, Colonel William Henry Courtenay, had intended to write his own memoirs for the information of his son, and, in so doing, to introduce a vast deal of the history of certain celebrated personages, and remarkable events, so closely connected with himself, that they might with truth be said to form a part and parcel of his own story. Now, for this purpose, it appears, that after the Restoration of monarchy (which he lived to see) he had applied to the immediate descendants of certain Royalists and other families in the county, in which he was greatly respected, for assistance. They freely complied with his request, and committed to his hands many of their family papers, old letters, diaries, &c.
From all this mass of curious information, like the industrious bee that culls the sweets from every flower it sips, (I used, reader, to be thought to have some taste for poetry in my youth,) my respected grandfather had commenced taking the pith and marrow, for the purpose of adding to and illustrating his own memoirs. No doubt he intended, had life been spared to him, to have written the latter in a regular