« PreviousContinue »
did King, James. Lastly, before any hostile act that we read of in the history, King Solomon died in peace, when he had lived about sixty years; and so you know did King James."*
Not satisfied with the praise conveyed by this parallel, which was, in many respects, curious enough, the right reverend preacher proceeded to insist, more at large, on the matchless perfections of his departed majesty. "Every action," he said, "of his sacred majesty was a virtue and a miracle, to exempt him from any parallel amongst the modern kings and princes." "He was," in short, "unto his people to the hour of his death another cherubim, with a flaming sword to keep out enemies from this paradise of ours."
Such was the glowing eulogium which a prelate, who knew James well, thought it not unbecoming in him, as a minister of truth, to pronounce over his remains; but, as Harris quaintly remarks, "for court bishops, by some fate or other, from the time of Constantine, down at least, to the death of James, and a little after, they have had the character of flatterers, and are therefore always to have great abatements made in their accounts of those who have been their benefactors." The believers in this pious fable could never have been many; and, in modern times, it has
Scandal might have supplied the bishop with an additional coincidence, as striking as any he has mentioned. When Henry IV. of France was told, that James delighted to be compared to another Solomon. "What!” replied he, " and is he really the son of DAVID?" (Rizzio.)
only to boast of the respect of Mr. Hume, who could believe in this when he could believe in nothing else.
What Bolingbroke says of James appears extremely just. "He had no virtues to set off, but he had failings and vices to conceal. He could not conceal the latter, and, void of the former, he could not compensate for them. His failings and his vices therefore stand in full view; he passed for a weak prince and an ill man, and fell into all the contempt wherein his memory remains to this day."
The mode by which Hume has contrived to arrive at so different a conclusion does credit to his ingenuity; but there is no other character, which, put through the same process, would not come out quite as "unspotted and unblemished." He allows, that James's failings and his vices stand in full view, but assumes, out of a peculiar tenderness, that they were all the natural offspring of so many excellent qualities. James was pusillanimous-it arose from a love of peace; he was cunning-it was the failing of wisdom; he was profuse-it was the excess of generosity; he was pliable and childish-it was the overflowing of good nature; he was pedantic-it was the foible of a man overlearned: whereas, the naked truth, separated from all assumption, is, that he had benefited little by all he had learned; was no more goodnatured than the froward child who is allowed its own way in every thing; wholly without generosity; wholly without wisdom; and lamentably destitute of the stuff which warlike men are made of.
The whole course of his life was in accordance with these deficiencies of the head and heart. It was made up of threats and compliances, of fondnesses
and treacheries, of sacrifices and aggressions. He admitted of no limits to his will, but want of power; no hold upon his affections, but unabated adulation. He was submissive only when he could not help it, or what is the same thing, when he had not the courage to be otherwise; faithful only as long as it suited his interest or his pleasure. When he deprecated violence, it was only because he was afraid to resort to it; for when he could play the tyrant with impunity, none could delight in the part more. Wi princes at the head of armies, he would use words only; but when he met with a poor heretic, whom all his words could not persuade, he threw him into the fire. Malignity in power could do no worse.
As an author, James is distinguished beyond most kings; but had he been only an author, his name would probably have long ere now sunk into oblivion. Beside the works which have been before incidentally mentioned, his Dæmonology,-his Apology for the Oath of Allegiance, his Premonition to all most Mighty Monarchs, and his Remonstrance for the Rights of Kings,-he wrote "the Essayes of A Prentise on the Divine Art of Poesie." "Poetical Exercises at Vacant Hours, containing the Furies and the Lepanto;" "the Trew Law of Free Monarchy;" some paraphrases on different passages of scripture; the “ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΟΝ ΔΩΡΟΝ ;” a Declaration concerning Vorstius; a "Counterblast to Tobacco;" and part of a "Translation of the Psalms of King David."
The “ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΟΝ ΔΩΡΟΝ,” the most important of these works, was addressed to his "dearest son and natural successor, Prince Henry," and was divided into three parts; "The first teacheth your duty to
wards God as a Christian; the next, your duty in your office as a king; and the third informeth you, how to behave yourself in indifferent things." "Notwithstanding," says a high authority, "the great alterations and refinements in national taste since that time, we must allow this to be no contemptible performance, and not to be inferior to the works of most contemporary writers, either in purity of style, or justness of composition."* Viewed merely as a literary exercise, it may be entitled to this commendation; but, if we regard it as a serious compendium of the duties of sovereigns, it has faults for which no elegance of composition can atone. It abounds in despotic sentiments, in partial recollections of history, and in most pernicious advice.
The "Trew Law of Free Monarchy," which was published about the same time as the BAZIAIKON APON, seems to have been intended as a companion to it. "The bent of it," says Calderwood, "was directed against the course of God's work, in the reformation of our kirk, and elsewhere, as rebellious to kings." It affirms the strange doctrine, that "the king is above the law, and that he is not bound thereto but of his good will, and for good example giving to his subjects." This was what James was pleased to consider as " Free Monarchy"! Need we be surprised, that from such doctrines there "gushed forth," to use the words of Lord Orrery, "a torrent of misery, which not only bore down his son, but overwhelmed the three kingdoms?"
The Counterblast to Tobacco" may take its place along with the Treatise on Witches.
The poetical portion of James's works, if it has no great merit, is, at least, the freest from censure.
The " Essayes of a Prentice," published when James was in his 18th year, include twelve sonnets to the gods." The Uranie or Heavenly Muse translated;" "The Metaphorical Invention of a Tragedy callit Phoenix;" "A Paraphrastical Translation out of the Poete Lucane ;" "A Treatise of the Art of Scottis Poesie;" "The 103rd Psalm of David translated out of Tremellius ;" and " A Poeme of Tyme.'
The Phoenix is supposed, by Sibbald, to relate to Queen Mary. "Under the semblance of that fabulous bird," he observes, "if I mistake not, the author attempts to exhibit the matchless beauty and sufferings of his unfortunate mother, whom he represents as dead; but performs his task with so much caution, and with such a timid and trembling hand, that one can scarcely recognize the resemblance.' Mr. Sibbald certainly is mistaken. James never saw his mother, to remember her person, and can scarcely therefore be supposed to have spoken of her even allegorically, as one whose
death maks lyfe to greif in me, She whom I rew my eyes did ever see.
Phonix, st. 31.
And, besides, the Phoenix was published, in 1584, two years before Mary's tragical end.
The "Poetical Exercises" consisted of " the Furies," a translation from Du Bartas; and of the