Page images

where sober sense could possibly be so wanting in a parliament.

“ The odium and offences, which some men's rigour, or remissness in church and state, had contracted upon his

government, he resolved to have expiated with better laws and regulations.” And yet the worst of misdemeanours committed by the worst of all his favourites in the height of their dominion, whether acts of rigour or remissness, he hath from time to time continued, owned, and taken upon himself by public declarations, as often as the clergy, or any other of his instruments, felt themselves overburdened with the people's hatred. And who knows not the superstitious rigour of his Sunday's chapel, and the licentious remissness of his Sunday's theatre;* accompanied with that reverend statute for dominical jigs and inaypoles, published in his own name, and derived from the example of his father, James? Which testifies all that rigour in superstition, all that remissness in religion, to have issued out originally from his own house, and from his own authority.

Much rather then may those general miscarriages in state, his proper sphere, be imputed to no other person chiefly than to himself. “And which of all those oppressive acts or impositions did he ever disclaim or disavow, till the fatal awe of this parliament hung ominously over him? Yet here he smoothly seeks to wipe off all the envy of his evil government upon his substitutes and under officers; and promises, though much too late, what wonders he purposed to have done in the reforming of religion: a work wherein all his undertakings heretofore declared him to have had little or no judgment : neither could his breeding, or his course of life, acquaint him with a thing so spiritual. Which may well assure us what kind of reformation we could expect from him ; either some

; politic form of an imposed religion, or else perpetual vexation and persecution to all those that complied not with such a form.

Tħe like amendment he promises in state; not a step further 6 than his reason and conscience told him was fit to

* It may be observed that our wise and pious ancestors thought Sunday the day best adapted for theatrical representations : and that, during a great part of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the theatres were licensed to be open only on that day. (Origin of the English Stage, p. 222.) Stephen Gosson, in his School of Abuse, (12mo. 1579,) says

of the players,—“ These, because they are allowed to play every Sunday, make four or five Sundays, at least, every week."-ED.



be desired;" wishing “ he had kept within those bounds, and not suffered his own judgment to have been overborne in some things,” of which things one was the Earl of Strafford's execution. And what signifies all this, but that still his resolution was the same, to set up an arbitrary government of his own, and that all Britain was to be tied and chained to the conscience, judgment, and reason of one man; as if those gifts had been only his peculiar and prerogative, entailed upon him with his fortune to be a king? Whenas doubtless no man so obstinate, or so much a tyrant, but professes to be guided by that which he calls his reason and his judgment, though never so corrupted; and pretends also his conscience. In the meanwhile, for any parliament or the whole nation to have either reason, judgment, or conscience, by this rule was altogether in vain, if it thwarted the king's will; which was easy for him to call by any other plausible name. He himself hath many times acknowledged to have no right over us but by law; and by the same law to govern us : but law in a free nation hath been ever public reason, the enacted reason of a parliament; which he denying to enact, denies to govern us by that which ought to be our law; interposing his own private reason, which to us is no law. And thus we find these fair and specious promises, made upon the experience of many hard sufferings, and his most mortified retirements, being thoroughly sifted, to contain nothing in them much different from his former practices, so cross, and so reverse to all his parliaments, and both the nations of this island. What fruits they could in likelihood have produced in his restorement, is obvious to any prudent foresight.*

* Warburton observes that “the king's best friends dreaded his ending the war by conquest, as knowing his despotic disposition.” (Clarendon's History, vii. 563.) His revenge also was feared by others, and the apprehension of it seems to have frequently stood in the way of peace. Clarendon having loosely hinted that the persons of his opponents might be secured, in case of a reconciliation between the king and the parliament, Warburton pertinently asks,—“ Did these grandees believe they might be secured, or does the historian assure us that they would ? If the first, it is certain they did not confide in the king's security offered to them, as appears throughout their whole conduct.” And again :-“The leaders in the house of commons wanted some extraordinary security against the king's vindictive temper on his return to power ; and the last treaty had shown that he would not give it them, so they grew resolved that the sword should decide all." (Clarendon's History, vii. 576.)-Ev.

[ocr errors]

And this is the substance of his first section, till we come to the devout of it, modelled into the form of a private psalter. Which they who so much admire, either for the matter or the manner, may as well admire the archbishop's late breviary, and

many other as good manuals and handmaids of devotion, the lip-work of every prelatical liturgist, clapped together and quilted out of Scripture phrase, with as much ease and as little need of Christiar. diligence or judgment, as belongs to the compiling of any ordinary and saleable piece of English divinity, that the shops value. But he who from such a kind of psalmistry, or any other verbal devotion, without the pledge and earnest of suitable deeds, can be persuaded of a zeal and true righteousness in the person, hath much yet to learn; and knows not that the deepest policy of a tyrant hath been ever to counterfeit religious. And Aristotle, in his Politics, hath mentioned that special craft among twelve other tyrannical sophisms. Neither want we examples: Andronicus Comnenus, the Byzantine emperor, though a most cruel tyrant, is reported by Nicetas to have been a constant reader of Saint Paul's Epistles;* and by continual study had so incorporated the phrase and style of that transcendent apostle into all his familiar letters, that the imitation seemed to vie with the original. Yet this availed not to deceive the people of that empire, who, notwithstanding his saint's vizard, tore him to pieces for his tyranny.

* Of this tyrant Gibbon gives the following curious account:4"Andronicus, grandson of Alexius Comnenus, is one of the most conspicuous characters of the age; and his genuine adventures might form the subject of a very singular romance. To justify the choice of three ladies of royal birth, it is incumbent on me to observe, that their fortunate lover was cast in the best proportions of strength and beauty; and that the want of the softer graces was supplied by a manly countenance, a lofty stature, athletic muscles, and the air and deportment of a soldier. The preservation, in his old age, of health and vigour, was the reward of temperance and exercise. A piece of bread and a draught of water was often his sole and evening repast ; and if he tasted of a wild boar, or a stag, which he had roasted with his own hands, it was the well-earned fruit of a laborious chase. Dexterous in arms, he was ignorant of fear. His persuasive eloquence could bend to every situation and character of life; his style though not his practice, was fashioned by the example of St. Paul; and, in every deed of mischief, he had a heart to resolve, a head to contrive, and a hand to execute.” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. ix. p. 93.) The rest of his character, and his adventures, must be read in the history itself, where they are developed with the hand of a master.--En.


From stories of this nature both ancient and modern which abound, the poets also, and some English, have been in this point so mindful of decorum, as to put never more pious words in the mouth of any person, than of a tyrant. I shall not instance an abstruse author, wherein the king might be less conversant, but one whom we well know was the closest companion of these his solitudes, William Shakspeare ;* who introduces the person of Richard the Third, speaking in as high a strain of piety and mortification as is uttered in any passage of this book, and sometimes to the same sense and purpose with some words in this place: “I intended,” saith he," not only to oblige my friends, but my enemies.” The

* To the advocates of arbitrary power, and the admirers, for there are still such, of the fallen Stuarts, whatever Milton writes, whether on politics or literature, supplies matter of calumny. His mention, in this place, of Shakspeare, whom we well know he regarded with enthusiastic admiration, has been converted, by these industrious writers, into a handle for vituperation. The absurdity has, however, already been pointed out by Dr. Symmons, who treats the paltry malignity of Warton with deserved contempt. “In a note on Milton's first elegy, Mr. Warton observes,— His warmest poetical predilections were at last totally obliterated by civil and religious enthusiasm. Seduced by the gentle eloquence of fanaticism,'—make of it, gentle reader ! what sense you can,—'he listened no longer to the wild and native woodnotes of fancy's sweetest child. In his Eikonoklastes he censures King Charles for studying one whom we know was the closest companion of his solitudes, William Shakspeare. This remonstrance, which not only resulted from his abhorrence of a king, but from his disapprobation of plays, would have come with more propriety from Prynne or Hugh Peters.' To talk of the poetical predilections of the future author of Paradise Lost as totally obliterated, or to impute an abhorrence of plays to the man, who not only wrote Samson Agonistes, but who has left behind him a variety of subjects for the drama selected, at a period subsequent to the publication of the Eikonoklastes, from profane history, among which is the story of Macbeth, is abundantly strange, if we must not call it absurd. But to enter into a serious contest with the perverse imbecility of this note of Mr. Warton's, would be to the last degree idle.” (Life of Milton, p. 331, 332.) He then quotes the whole of this, and a portion of the preceding section, to prove

that Milton intended not to censure Charles I. for the study of Shakspeare. This is true; but, to a man who professed, at least in his supposed book, to pique himself on his constant prayers and monkish devotions, he might, not altogether without a sneer, object the reading of such works as Shakspeare's, which, in our own age, have not been thought fit, without numerous expurgations, to be read in families at all. It looked something like St. Chrysostom's partiality for Aristophanes. Without any “abhorrence of kings,” or “ disapprobation of plays,” therefore, he may have reproached a superstitious Trappist, such as Dr. Gauden's Charles I. appears to be, with the reading, “ in his solitude and sufferings,” of any comic writer whatever ; and so much, I think, he intended to do; not blaming the reading of Shakspeare, but exposing the inconsistency of his adversary. Sir Walter Scott, (Life of Dryden, p. 18,) having revived the charge, Dr. Symmons thus angrily remarks upon it :-“ But this repeated refutation of the injurious falsehood has not prevented its revival,—with the aggravation of making Milton contemptuously call Shakspeare a player,-by Mr. Walter Scott, in his newly published Life of Dryden. Are we hence to conclude that this slander of Milton is to be

like saith Richard, act ii. scene 1.

“ I do not know that Englishman alive,
With whom my soul is any jot at odds,
More than the infant that is born to-night;

I thank my God for my humility.” Other stuff of this sort may be reud throughout the whole tragedy, wherein the poet used not much licence in departing from the truth of history, which delivers him a deep dissembler, not of his affections only, but of religion.

In praying, therefore, and in the outward work of devotion, this king we see hath not at all exceeded the worst of kings before him. But herein the worst of kings, professing Christianism, have by far exceeded him. They, for aught we know, have still prayed their own, or at least borrowed from fit authors. But this king, not content with that which, although in a thing holy, is no holy theft, to attribute to his own inaking other men's whole prayers, hath as it were unhallowed and unchristened the very duty of prayer itself, by borrowing to a Christian use prayers offered to a heathen god. Who would have imagined so little fear in him of the true all-seeing Deity, so little reverence of the Holy Ghost, whose office is to dictate and present our Christian prayers, so little care of truth in his last words, or honour to himself, or to his friends, or sense of his afflictions, or of that sad hour which was upon him, as immediately before his death to pop into the hand of that grave bishop who attended him, for a special relique of his saintly exercises, a prayer stolen word for word from the mouth of a heathen woman praying to a heathen god ;* and that in no serious book, but the vain employed, as a commonplace, by every writer who may be attached to the despicable Stuarts, and who can force it into his page ?(Life, &c. p. 333, note.) From the mistake of Sir Walter Scott, in introducing the word player, as Milton's, there can be little doubt that he used some old quotation as his authority, without consulting the work of Milton itself; but, though such a practice is not to be commended, the reader will probably smile at tne Doctor's overstrained indignation.—ED.

* The king's partisans seeni to have been ashamed of this prayer,—though,


« PreviousContinue »