of The Tablet's first edition
Lives of Eminent British Statesmen . By John Foster, Esq., of the Inner Temple. Vols. 78, 91, 99, 108, 115, of Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia . Longman, London.
The statesmen, to whose histories these volumes are devoted, are those of the reign of Charles I., and of the Commonwealth. They are Eliot, Strafford, Pym, Hampden, Vane, Marten, and Cromwell. To the last, two volumes are devoted: the others are disposed of in pairs, in the order in which we here placed them. In the same order do we now propose to review them.
The author has brought to his task, in this set of biographies, great industry, indefatigable research, a good and happy style, and the highest admiration for each and every of his personages. They are all "giants" and "demigods" in his eyes, and, as if he had a personal interest in ushering them into the world with a good character, he magnifies their virtues, and slurs over, or at least is not very diligent in exposing their vices and defects. He is, in fact, the kindest of literary parents; and at the same time we must admit - taking everything into consideration - an exceedingly good one.
In the life of Sir John Eliot he exhibits the most laudable zeal and research in refuting the statement of Mr. D'Israeli and others, respecting his origin, his conduct, and character. He proves Eliot to have been of a very ancient and respectable Devonshire family, that settled in Cornwall somewhere about the middle of the sixteenth century. He disproves the calumny of Echard and D'Israeli as to Eliot's treacherously stabbing a Mr. Moyle, on account of some grudge, while he was taking a glass of wine with him. He shews, from documents which leave not a doubt of the fact, that Eliot, at the time of this unfortunate occurrence, could not have been 20 years of age: that he stabbed Mr. Moyle while in a passion, and after warmly remonstrating with him for complaining of him to his father; that he immediately after wrote an apology to Mr. Moyle; and that the latter became perfectly reconciled to him, and for 40 or 50 years was one of his most sincere admirers.
Eliot entered Oxford in 1607, at the age of 17, but left it after the lapse of three years, without a degree, and became a barrister, in order to prepare himself for supporting in Parliament the principles of the country party. He then went to travel on the Continent, met with George Villiers, afterwards the well-known Duke of Buckingham, and became intimate with him. He next came home and married, but not (in "the young Lochinvar" fashion) by running away with Sir Daniel Norton's daughter, as D'Israeli states without the slightest authority. On Villiers's accession to the office of royal favourite, Eliot's intercourse with him was resumed, and when he was made Lord High Admiral and thus had the appointment of the vice-admirals in the several counties, he made Eliot, who possessed one of the largest paternal estates of any gentleman of the time, Vice-admiral of Devonshire. About the same time, the latter was also made Chairman of the Committee of Stannaries, and honoured with knighthood. Mr. Foster refutes the silly calumny that Eliot, on stabbing Mr. Moyle, paid Buckingham a large sum of money to obtain his pardon, and that on Moyle's recovery, the money having been expended in the necessities of the court, he was repaid with a gilt spur instead of the current coin of the realm. D'Israeli accuses Eliot of inconsistency in saying that he was at first the sycophantic adulator of Buckingham, and in two years after became his bitterest enemy and selected him out as a victim of state. This imputation is satisfactorily disposed of my Mr. Foster, who proves that Eliot was consistent throughout his entire career, having never been the adulator of Buckingham, and never having given his support to any but the popular party. He was returned as one of the members for the borough of Newport in Cornwall, to the Parliament which met on the 12th of February 1623, and at once distinguished himself as a leader of the country party. There is no question that a feeling of bitterness existed between Eliot and Wentworth, all through the greater part of their parliamentary career. This has been attributed, by different writers, to various motives, but Mr. Foster seems to have hit upon the right one - Eliot's having taken part with Sir John Saville in a dispute that took place between him and Wentworth, in the first parliament of Charles I. as to the return for Yorkshire, and having succeeded in influencing the House to declare Wentworth's return void. With Buckingham Eliot maintained a personal intercourse almost up to the time that he was appointed one of the managers of the impeachment. To him was committed the duty of winding up the proceedings, and the following is the closing passage of the speech which he delivered on that occasion, which Mr. Foster says "was tremendous, and must have electrified the House."
" 'Your lordships have no idea of the man, what he is in himself, what in his affections! You have seen his power, and some, I fear, have felt it! You have known his practice; and have heard the effects. It rests then to be considered what, being such, he is in reference to the king and state - how compatible or incompatible with either? In reference to the king, he must be styled the canker in his treasure; in reference to the state, the moth of all goodness. What future hopes are to be expected, your lordships may draw out of his actions and affections. In all precedents I can hardly find him a match or parallel. None so like him as Sejanus, thus described by Tacitus: - Audas sui obtegens, in alios criminator, juxta adulator et superbus . My lords, for his pride and flattery it was noted of Sejanus that he did clientes suos provinciis adornare . Doth not this man the life? Ask England, Scotland, and Ireland, and they will tell you! Sejanus's pride was so excessive, Tacitus saith, that he neglected all council, mixed his business and service with the prince, seemed to confound their actions, and was often styled imperatoris laborum socius . How lately, and how often, hath this man commixed his actions, in discourse, with actions of the king! My lords, I have done. YOU SEE THE MAN! By him came all these evils; in him we find the cause; on him we expect the remedies; and to this we meet your lordships in conference.'"
The rage of Charles against Eliot knew no bounds, and he that day committed to the Tower Eliot and Sir Dudley Digges, another of the managers. The House of Commons, on hearing of this breach of privilege, broke up instantly. On their meeting the following morning, Sir Dudley Carleton let the court secret out. After complaining of the expressions used by Eliot and Digges, he said:
" 'I beseech you, gentlemen, move not his majesty with trenching on his prerogative, lest you bring him out of love with parliaments. In his message he hath told you, that if there were not correspondency between him and you, he should be enforced to use new counsels . Now, I pray you to consider what these new counsels are, and may be. I fear to declare those that I conceive. In all Christian kingdoms, you know that parliaments were in use anciently, until the monarchs began to know their own strength, and seeing the turbulent spirit of their parliaments, at length they, but little and little, began to stand upon their prerogatives, and at last overthrew the parliaments throughout Christendom, except here with us.'"
This simple-hearted expounder of history was instantly ordered to the bar, and narrowly escaped the necessity of apologising on his knees. Digges having consented to retract the expressions complained of was released, but Eliot refusing to listen to any proposal was detained in custody for eight days, and then at length the king was obliged to sign a warrant for his release.
"On his re-appearance in the house, the vice-chamberlain, by his master's command, repeated the charge of intemperate language; upon which Sir John, instead of denying anything he had said, or meanly endeavouring to explain away the harshness of the terms he had made use of, in a remarkably eloquent and sarcastic speech avowed and defended every name he had applied to Buckingham. The spirit of this great man communicated itself to the house; and by a unanimous vote, refusing even to order him to withdraw, they cleared him from every imputation."
When, after the dissolution of this Parliament, Charles attempted to impose a general forced loan, Eliot was the foremost to refuse it, was therefore arrested in Cornwall, brought up before the Privy Council, and committed to the Gatehouse, where he remained till a new parliament was summoned, when he was triumphantly returned for Cornwall. This parliament met in March 1628. In all the discussions which took place in it, Eliot was among the boldest supporters of the popular claims, and acted in every respect as the great leader of the "Opposition." Mr. Foster is almost enthusiastic in his admiration of him in this character. Take for instance the following passage:
" 'On Tuesday, the 3rd of June,' says Rushworth, 'the king's answer to the petition of right was read in the house of commons, and seemed too scant. Whereupon Sir John Eliot stood up, and made a long speech, wherein he gave forth so full and lively a representation of all grievances, both general and particular, as if they had never before been mentioned.' But observe with what consummate policy. It was not a representation of the grievances alone, such as had been urged some months before: it was a pursuit of them to their poisonous spring and source; it was an exhibition beside them of their hideous origin; it was a direction of the wrath of the people against one oppressor, whose rank was not beyond its reach; it was, in one word, a fatal blow at Charles through that quarter where alone he seemed to be vulnerable - it was in its aim and results, a philippic against the Duke of Buckingham. Demosthenes never delivered one more clear, plain, convincing, irresistible. It Calls to mind that greatest of orators. Eliot's general style was more immediately case in the manner of Cicero, but here he rose beyond it, into the piercing region of the Greek. Demosthenic strength and closeness of reasoning, clearness of detail, and appalling earnestness of style, are all observable in the naked outline I now present. What may have been the grandeur and the strength of its complete proportions? I recollect a remark of Mr. Hazlitt's, that the author of this speech might have originated in 'dogged style' of one of our celebrated political writers. "There is no affectation of wit in it," he continued, "no studied ornament, no display of fancied superiority. The speaker's whole hears and soul are in his subject; he is full of it; his mind seems, as it were, to surround and penetrate every part of it; nothing diverts him from his purpose, or interrupts the course of his reasoning for a moment. No thought of that personal loss, then frightfully incurred, no fear of the dangers that were sure to follow. His argument rose paramount, for it was the life of the nation's liberties."
It is needless to enter into details of Eliot's conduct in Parliament, after we have stated that he was the leader of the country party in all their measures of opposition to the king and his ministers. After the dissolution of the Parliament, in March 1629, he was summoned before the council-table, and asked "whether he had not spoken such and such words in the lower house of Parliament, and showed unto the House such and such a paper?" We shall close these last scenes of his public life by an extract from Mr. Foster's spirited and touching description of them.
"Keenly and resolvedly he answered, 'that whatsoever was said or done by him in that place, and at that time, was performed by him as a public man and a member of that house; and that he was, and always will be, ready to give an account of his sayings and doings in that place, whensoever he should he called unto it by that house, where, as he taketh it, it is only to be questioned; and, in the meantime, being now but a private man, he would not trouble himself to remember what he had either spoken or done in that place, as a public man.' He was instantly committed; his study was entered by the King's warrant, and his papers seized."
"Much time elapsed before his case was finally adjudged. I will present, however, in as few words as possible, the course of the proceedings that were taken. I am able to illustrate it by the help of letters of the time.
"Eliot sued for his habeas corpus. An answer was returned in the shape of a general warrant, under the king's sign manual. The insufficiency of this return was so clearly shown by Eliot's counsel in the course of the argument, that the judges, 'timid and servile, yet desirous to keep some measures with their own consciences, or looking forward to the wrath of future parliaments,' wrote what Whitelocke calls a 'humble and stout letter' to the king, stating that they were bound to bail Eliot, but requesting that he would send his directions to do so. This letter was not attended to; the judges in consequence deferred the time for judgment; and Eliot was continued in custody. When the day at last arrived that judgment could no longer be deferred, the body of Eliot was not forthcoming. In vain his counsel called for judgment; the judges, in the absence of the prisoner, declined. Eliot had been removed by the king's warrant, the evening before the meeting of the court, from the custody to whom his writ had been addressed! Some days after, however, Charles consented that he should be brought for admission to bail, on condition that he present a petition declaring he was sorry he had offended. The condition was spurned at once. The offer was repeated by the judges; but Eliot 'would do nothing, but resolutely move for his habeas corpus.' Whereat one of the judges said, 'Comes he to outface the court?' and the severity of his imprisonment was ordered to be increased. Some months passed away, and the question still remained unsettled. Charles then offered Eliot his bail, if he would give securities for his good behaviour. Eliot at once declared in answer, that he would never admit the possibility of offending the law by liberty of speech in parliament. The judges are described upon this to have suggested to him the possibility of his remaining in prison even seven years longer. He answered that he was quite prepared; his body would serve to fill up the breach that was made to the public liberties as well as any other. The king now showed himself equally resolute; and, refusing an enormous sum that had been offered for his bail, ordered the attorney-general to drop the proceedings in the Star Chamber, and to exhibit an information against him in the King's-bench for words spoken in parliament As member of a superior court at the period of the alleged offence, he pleaded to the jurisdiction, and thus brought in issue the great question of the privilege of the House of Commons, - the question in point of fact, upon which the character of 'the English constitution' altogether depended. The battle was fought bravely by his counsel, but vainly. The court held that they had jurisdiction; Eliot refused to put in any other plea; and judgment was finally given, that he 'should be imprisoned during the king's pleasure, should not be released without giving security for good behaviour and making submission, and, as the greatest offender and ringleader in parliament, should be fined in 2000l.'
"This iniquitous judgment found Eliot cheerfully prepared. He immediately sent to the lieutenant of the Tower, 'to provide him a convenient lodging, that he might send his upholsterer to trim it up.' On being told of the fine, he smiled, and said, 'that he had two cloaks, two suits, two pair boots and galashes; and if they could pick 2000l. out of that, much good might it do them.' (I have already mentioned the course he had taken to provide for the worldly welfare of his sons. His extensive estates were at present held by relatives in trust for their use.) 'When I was first committed close prisoner to the Tower,' he added, 'a commission was directed to the high sheriff of Cornwall, and five other commissioners, my capital enemies, to inquire into my lands and goods, and to seize upon them for the king; but they returned a nihil.'"
The only room he could get in the Tower was a dark and smoky one. In this he amused his solitude by writing a treatise which he entitled "The Monarchy of Man," having for its object the illustration of the good which would result from a man's acquiring a perfect control over himself, and good forms of political governments being universally established. Mr. Foster has rescued it from oblivion, by publishing the greater part of it in this volume, giving such passages as are particularly striking in their original form, and the substance of the rest, so that the reader has all the valuable portion of the treatise here before him. Even with this system of abridgment and condensation is occupies 50 closely printed pages of this volume. As a specimen of his style we give the following passage, in which he argues against immoderate grief for the death of a friend.
" 'Let me first ask this question of the sorrower. For whose sake that passion is assumed? For his that is so lost, or for thine own that lost him? Answer to this, and make a justification for thyself. If thou will say for his, where is the evil that he suffers? Wherein lies the reason of that grief? Design it out; give it some character to express it. Is it in that he is dead? in that he has made a transition to the elders? That cannot be; for death contains no evil, as our former proofs have manifested; but is a privilege of immortality, an eternity of happiness. Is it for that he is not? that he is not numbered with the living? That were to lament, but because he is not miserable. Thou canst not but acknowledge the distraction of thy fears, the anxiety of thy cares, the complexion of thy pleasures, the mixture of thy sorrows? With all these, and upon all, no rest, no quiet, no tranquility, but a continual vexation of thy thoughts, a servile agitation of thy mind from one passion to another! And wilt thou grieve for him, that has his freedom, his immunity from these? On the other side: is that sorrow for thyself, that thou hast lost a friend, - the sweetness, the benefit of his friendship - thy comfort in society - the assistance of thy business - the sublevation of thy cares - the extenuation of thy griefs - the multiplication of thy joys - thy castle - thy counsel - thy sword - thy shield - thy store - thy health - thy eye - thy ear - thy taste - thy touch - thy smell - the CATHOLICON of thy happiness (for all these are attributes of friendship)? - consider, first, whether friendship may not change, whether a breach and enmity may not follow it, as not seldom happens in the most strict conjunctions, with which then no enmity may compare! Then 't were better thus to have lost it, that evil being prevented, and the obligation, the virtue, kept intire! But, if that doubt prevails not; if thou supposest a perpetuity in that friendship, an assurance of that love; is it not envy in thee, and unworthiness thereof, for these respects, those temporary benefits to thyself, to grudge at his happiness and felicity, which is infinite and celestial? Justice may resolve how far this is from friendship, how unworthy of that name!' This sorrowing, Eliot afterwards observes, is variously applied. 'Marcellus wept when he had taken Syracuse; Alexander, to have no more worlds to conquer.'"
He committed the care of his two sons to Hampden, who discharged the duty with affectionate zeal. Many efforts were made for his release, but in vain. The whole county of Cornwall petitioned the king in his behalf, but no answer was given them. He was not even left in the same room, but removed about from one to another, each one as dark and smoky as the first. At length he became unwell, from the wet and cold of his prison, and symptoms of a consumption appeared. As his illness became more determined, the severity of his imprisonment was increased. His friends were debarred access to him: "Hardly my son," says he, "may have admittance to me." In a letter to Hampden, dated the 26th of December 1631, he states: "My lodgings are removed and I am now where candle-light may be suffered, but scarce fire." His health was sinking gradually, and a motion was therefore made in the King's Bench to release him for a time. This was, of course, rejected, and he was recommended to petition the king. Refusing to do this, he proceeded with his treatise, but when it was finished, he sank rapidly, and he then presented two petitions to the king, beseeching his majesty to order his judges to release him for a time till he should recover his health. These were not considered humble enough, and he was told that if he would, in a third, acknowledge his fault and crave a pardon, should obtain his liberty. To this humiliating proposal he would not consent. He died in his prison in the Tower, on the 27th of November 1632, and was buried in some obscure corner of the Tower church. His son had petitioned the king to permit the body to be carried into Cornwall, and there buried. The answer written at the foot of the petition was: "Lett Sir John Eliot's body be buried in the church of that parishe where he died."
The Earl of Strafford has attracted so much attention from historians of all parties, that we may dismiss him very shortly.
Mr. Foster considers Wentworth to have been, from the very commencement of his career, really hostile to the popular party; and to have joined them for a time only for the purpose of shewing the court how valuable his accession would be. To the proof of this position many pages are devoted - properly and successfully devoted. The following passage explains the view the writer before us takes of his conduct:
"I have thus endeavoured to trace at greater length, and with greater exactness than has been attempted hitherto, the opening passages in the political history of this extraordinary man. The common and vulgar account given by Heylin has been, it is believed, exploded, along with that of the no less vulgar Hacket. All Wentworth's movements in the path which has been followed, appear to me to be perfectly natural and intelligible, if his true character is kept in view. From the very intensity of the aristocratic principle within him, arose his hesitation in espousing at once the interests of the court. This, justly and carefully considered, will be found the solution of his reluctant advances, and still more reluctant retreats. The intervention of a favourite was hardly supportable by one whose ambition, as he felt obliged to confess to himself even then, would be satisfied with nothing short of the dignity of becoming 'the king's mistress, to be cherished and courted by none but himself.' He was to be understood, and then invited, - rather than forced to an explicit declaration, and then only accepted."
The atrocities of his Irish
administration have not been sufficiently exposed or reprobated in this
volume. The general outline of his conduct, in endeavouring to make his
mater "the most absolute prince in Christendom," so far as that country
was concerned, is given, but the details are slurred over in a manner
of which an inquirer after "the truth, and the whole truth" cannot approve.
The remainder of his career is too well known to justify our now retaining
it to our readers.
A Dictionary, Geographical, Statistical, and Historical . By J. R. McCullock, Esq. Parts I., II., and III.
Many geographical dictionaries and gazetteers have, from time to time, been published, but no compilation of the kind has ever appeared in this or any other country, on which so much care and labour had evidently been expended. Every modern book of travels appears to have been diligently studied, and though inaccuracies still remain, and an undue prominence is sometimes given to individual articles, yet, when complete, McCulloch's Geographical Dictionary bids fair to be quite as valuable a book of reference as his Commercial Dictionary has long been, a work to which the present will form a suitable companion. The third monthly number brings us as far as the article of Biscay, and the 384th page, and this may suffice to show that the work is likely to extend to a formidable bulk. Among the articles in the third number that have been most fully treated may be mentioned - Babylon, Bavaria, Belgium, Bengal, Birmah, Birmingham, &c.
The Romancist, and Novelist's Library . Edited by William Hazlitt. Vol. III.
For cheapness, this work may truly be said to bear the palm from every competitor. We have here in the third volume no less than forty novels, tales, and romances, or 121 works of fiction in the three volumes. According to the editor's preface, "The seventy-eight numbers now published contain, at a cost of thirteen shillings, no fewer than 3,572,400 words, or 17,862,000 moveable pieces of type, constituting the matter of sixty-five half-guinea novel volumes." The volume before us appears to be chiefly composed of translations from the French and German, many of which are now presented to the English reader for the first time.
A Reply to the Rev. Barnabas Rodrique's Almeda, a Priest of the Spanish Nation, and Professor in Divinity; fully discussing all his Reasons given to the Inhabitants of Gosport, for his recent apostacy from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Communion. By Alethphilos. S. Selby, Newport Isle of Wight; and Andrews, Little Britain, London. Price 1s.
This is an excellent little work, and has been productive of the happiest effects. The Rev. Author has by it succeeded in bringing back the unhappy gentleman to the communion of the Catholic Church.
A Letter to Dr. Addams, D.C.L., shewing Purgatory inseparably connected with Prayers for the Dead. Dedicated to the Oxford Divine . By Alethphilos. Newport and London. Price 1s.
Knight's English Miscellanies. The English Causes Celebres. Part I. Knight & Co., Ludgate Hill.
This is the first number of what appears to be a very meritorious collection and compilation. We shall have occasion to notice it more fully in a week or two.
A Description of British Guiana . By Robert H. Schomburgh, Esq. Simpkin, Marshall & Co.
A Pilgrimage to Palestine, Egypt, and Syria . By Maria-Joseph de Geramb, Monk of La Trapp. Colburn, 1840. We shall notice this interesting work as soon as possible.
Flakon Jarl. A Tragedy, translated from the Danish of Oelenschlager .
A Sketch of the State of Popular Education in Holland, Prussia, Belgium, and France . By the Rev. Thaddeus O'Malley. Second edition. Ridgway, 1840.
We shall have a word or two to say in answer to the Rev. Author of this attack on the Clergy of Belgium and France, in a week or two.