« ПредишнаНапред »
was dull, obstinate, and busy: the king was indifferent about religion, the duke was one of the greatest bigots that ever lived. The Duke of Buckingham described their characters very well in a few words by saying, "Charles could see things if he would, James would see things if he could." *
Various relations have been given of the conversion of the Duke of York. He tells us himself, that he was converted by reading Hooker's Ecclesiastical Policy. t But, in fact, he could not fail to perceive that the Protestant religion was closely connected with freedom of opinion on other subjects, and that the Reformation was an example of resistance to ancient authority. Hence his preference of the Roman Catholic faith. Passive obedience was, in his opinion, the simple and sole duty of a subject to a sovereign. Such a political doctrine was the fit counterpart of a religious creed which acknowledged the infallibility of a living head. His opinions, formed from books, were confirmed by experience. He observed, when at Paris, that the English Catholics were generally royalists, whilst the Protestants were friends of Cromwell. It was impossible that a mind so
* Burnet, vol. i. 8vo. p. 214. fol. 169.
formed could be satisfied with the state of England, and he never relaxed in his endeavours to introduce the religion of Rome, and the government of France. He often lamented that a great fault had been committed at the Restoration in not making the crown for ever independent of parliaments. * He regarded the Habeas Corpus act as a malicious trick of Shaftesbury to diminish the just power of the crown. t And he entered into the treaty of 1669 with a zeal as strong as it was blind.
Yet it must not be imagined that James was without virtues. He was kind to his friends, and naturally just and true in his commerce with the world. But his bigotry, joined with his unnatural position, blotted out his good inclinations. The countenance he gave to the judgment against Argyle; his assisting at the torture in Scotland; and his attending races in the neighbourhood, when Lady Lisle was executed, leave an indelible stain upon his memory. He seems, by these instances, to have merited the retort of Ayloffe, who, when James advised him to make disclosures, for it was in his power to pardon, replied, "I know it is in your power, but it is not in your nature, to pardon."
* Life of James.
The court of Charles II. carried the dissolution of morals to the greatest pitch. And the stage, at that time, united the profligacy of French, with the coarseness of English manners. The king lived to practise, and was forward to encourage, the most unbounded licence in conversation as well as in conduct. The loosest jests and the most indecent words were admitted into polished society, and even disgraced the literature of the day. Nor was it found possible to import the gallantry and dissipation of other climates without some mixture of the darker vices. Sir John Denham and Lord Chesterfield have both been accused of murdering their wives by poison, and the latter is. said to have added deeper horror to his crime by administering death in the cup of the communion. These stories, whether true or false, could only have found belief in a profligate age. It seemed as if the domestic character of the .nation was about to undergo an alarming change. But the mass of the English gentry did not follow the example of their sovereign; and he who examined beneath the surface would have found the soil rich in honour and virtue. The same age which produced the poetry of Rochester, and the plays of Dryden, gave birth to the writings of South, Taylor, and Barrow. And whilst the wits of the court were ridiculing the epic poem of Milton, that sublime work was passing through the hands of thousands, and obtaining for its author that better sort of immortality which is gained by uniting the sentiments of a good man with the inspirations of a great poet. *
The following persons were the chief favourites at court:
The Duke of Buckingham had been bred up with Charles when he was a boy, and he is accused by Burnet of having been the first to pervert his principles, when they were together at Paris. But the sovereign seems to have been fully a match for the subject. His love of wit continually led him into satirical remarks on the conduct of Charles, and Charles as often showed himself incapable of long resentment. Every one knows the admirable lines of Dryden and Pope, to which his character has given rise.
He was the avowed lover of the Countess of Shrewsbury; and it is said that she held his horse, in the dress of a page, whilst he fought with and killed her husband. Such are the ex
* It is not true that Milton'* poem was not popular at first. Fifteen hundred copies were1 sold in two years. Of the first Tolume of Hume's history, containing the reigns of the Stewarts, the number sold in a year was under fifty.
ploits which illustrate the gallantry and gaiety of this famous reign!
Sir Harry Bennet, afterwards Lord Arlington, was a man of no great capacity, but extremely well fitted to his situation. He had great skill in foreign languages, joined with many accomplishments, and did not think any art beneath him which might serve to raise his fortunes. During a mission in Spain, he had corresponded with the king by means of a gentleman of the bed-chamber, without the knowledge of the Chancellor or the other ministers. After this, he became the decided enemy of Lord Clarendon, and did his utmost to stimulate the king against him. When he obtained power, he endeavoured to retain it by flattering the king's taste. He invited Louise de La Querouaille to his house at Euston, where, it is said, the King first enjoyed her favours *; and he afterwards married his daughter, when only five years old, to the Duke of Grafton, the King's natural son by another of his mistresses.
Arlington was secretly a Catholic, but having observed the antipathy of the people to persons of that religion, he became their decided enemy, and was an object of their jealousy and hatred. Clarendon says, that of the affairs of England