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Chaste as th’ Arabian bird, who all the air denies,
SIR CHARLES SEDLEY.
BORN 1639.—DIED 1701.
“As he lived in the most glorious reign of wit and mirth, so he wns one of the glories of it. He was a man of the first class of wit and gallantry; his friendship was courted by every body, and nobody went out of his company but was pleased and improved. Time added but very little to nature ; he was every thing that an English gentleman should be.”
Sir Charles Sedley was the son of Sir John Sedley Baronet, of Aylesford in Kent,-grandson of Sir William Sedley, founder of the lecture on natural philosophy that bears his name, at the university of Oxford,-and his mother was the daughter of Sir Henry Saville, the learned Provost of Eton.-Sir Charles Sedley received a learned education, and was a gentleman commoner of Wadham College, Oxford, but left the University without a degree.
During the usurpation of Cromwell he lived in retirement, bis disposition not being sufficiently in unison with that of the party then in power.
Upon the restoration of the royal family, he immediately attached himself to the dissolute court of Charles
* Captain W. Ayloffe was the first editor of Sir Charles Sedley's works, and from the preface to his edition the passage inserted above is taken. He calls himself a relation, but in what degree of affinity we know not,
the Second, which he helped to enliven by his wit and gaiety, and disgrace by his dissipation. A drunken frolic in which he was engaged with a party of noblemen and men of fashion, in the year 1663, roused the indignation of the populace, and produced a riot, for which he suffered with the others, a prosecution in the Court of King's Bench, and was sentenced to pay a fine of £500. This served to rouse him from a long course of extravagance and debauchery; he procured a seat in parliament, and became an active member, and a frequent speaker.
In the following reign of James the Second, he was also in parliament, and opposed himself with manly firmness to the arbitrary measures of that infatuated monarch. From this period Sir Charles Sedley made ample amends for the dissipation of his youth, by bis public conduct as a member of the legislature, which was highly patriotic and independent. He exerted all his influence in promoting the revolution of 1688, and when he was taxed with ingratitude for having deserted a king who had been liberal of his favours to him and to his family, who had honoured his daughter with his affection, and elevated her to the rank of a countess, be replied with his usual felicity of wit,-" I hate ingratitude, and therefore as the king has made my daughter a countess, I will endeavour to make his daughter a queen.
In the reign of William and Mary, Sir Charles Sedley also continued in parliament, and seems to have been what is now called an opposition member. The following selection from his printed speeches, exhibit him to advantage as a patriot.
A Speech in the House of Commons made on the bill for
the raising monies for the civil lists, in the first year
of the reign of King William the Third. MR, SPEAKER,
“We have provided for the army; we have provided for the navy; and now, at last, a new reckoning is brought us; we must provide likewise for the Civil Lists. Truly, Mr. Speaker, it's a sad reflection, that some men should wallow in wealth and places, whilst others pay away in Taxes the fourth part of their revenue for the support of the same government. We are not upon equal terms for his majesty's service. The courtiers and great officers charge, as it were, in armour; they feel not the taxes by reason of their places, whilst the country gentlemen are shot through and through by them.
“The King is pleased to lay his wants before us, and I am confident expects our advice upon it; we ought therefore to tell him what pensions are too great; what places may be extinguished during the time of the war and public calamity. His majesty is encompassed with
His majesty sees nothing but coaches and six borses, and great tables, &c. and therefore cannot imagine the want and misery of the rest of his subjects. He is a brave and generous prince; but he is a young king, encompassed and hemmed in by a company of crafty old courtiers, to say no more. Some have places of 3000l. some of 6000l. and others 6800l. per annum; and I am told the Commissioners of the Treasury have 16001. per annum each. Certainly public pensions, whatever they may have been formerly, are much too great for the present want and calamity that reigns every where else,
* And it's a general scandal, that a government, so sick at heart as ours is, should look so well in the face.
“ We must save the King money wherever we can, for I am afraid the war is too great for our purses, if things be not managed with all imaginable thrift; when the people of England see all things are saved that can be saved; that there are no exorbitant pensions'nor unnecessary
salaries; and all this applied to the use to which they are given, we shall give, and they shall cheerfully pay, whatever his majesty can want to secure the Protestant religion, and to keep out the king of France, and king James too; whoni, by the way, I have not heard named this sessions; whether out of fear, discretion, or respect, I cannot tell. I conclude, Mr. Speaker, let us save the King what we can; and then let us proceed to give him what we are able."
A Speech in Parliament on the bill for disbanding the
army, anno 1699.
“I hope my behaviour in this House has put me above the censure of one who would obstruct his Majesty's affairs; I was as early in the apprehensions of the power of France, as any man: I never stuck at money for fleets, armies, alliances, or whatever expences seemed to have the preservation of our new-settled government for that end. I am still of the same mind; but that was war and this is peace ; and if I shall now differ from some worthy gentlemen who have spoke before me, they will be so just as to believe it is not about the end but the means we contend.