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years been one of his principal justiciaries, was told that the king had spoken of him in terms of the highest commendation: "Then," he replied, "I am undone; for I never knew him praise a man whom he did not intend to ruin." The event justified his apprehensions. In an unguarded moment the prelate had boasted that the monastery which he was building at Eyrsham should equal that which Henry had founded at Reading. The words were carried to the king, and the fall of the favourite was consummated. He was immediately deprived of the office of justiciary; vexatious prosecutions were commenced against him; by fines and extortions all his wealth was drawn to the royal exchequer: and the bishop would probably have been compelled to resign his dignity, had he not died by a sudden fit of apoplexy, as he was speaking to Henry.
Malmesbury has allotted to the king the praise of temperance and continency. Perhaps his claim to the first, certainly his claim to the second, of these virtues, rests on no other ground than the partiality of his panegyrist. If, as many writers affirm, his death was occasioned by the excess with which he ate of a dish of lampreys, we may fairly doubt of his temperance: nor can the continency of that man be much commended, who is known to have been attached to several mistresses; and of whose illegitimate children no fewer than seven sons and eight daughters lived to the age of puberty. Lingard.
The character of Stephen at this period (his accession) has been drawn by his adversaries as well as his partisans: and if there be some difference in the colouring, the outlines of the two pictures are perfectly similar. It is admitted that he was prompt in decision, and bold in action; that his friends applauded his generosity, and his enemies admired his forbearance; that he won the high by courtesy, the low by condescension, all by an air of affability and benevolence. He had long been the most popular nobleman in England: and men were most inclined to favour the pretensions of one whom they loved. The royal treasures, which he distributed with profusion, while they confirmed the fidelity of his adherents, brought to his standard crowds of adventurers, who intimidated his enemies. Nor should it be forgotten, that there was a kind of spell in the very name of king, which he now bore: and that his claim was sanctified in the eyes of many by the imposing ceremony of his coronation. Ungard.
HENRY THE SECOND.
Between the conqueror and all his male descendants there existed a marked resemblance. The stature of Henry was moderate, his countenance majestic, and his complexion florid; but his person was disfigured by an unseemly protuberance of the abdomen, which he sought to contract by the united aid of exercise and sobriety. Few persons have equalled him in abstemiousness, none perhaps in activity. He was perpetually in motion, on foot or on horseback. Every moment which could be spared from more important concerns he devoted to hunting; but no fatigue could subdue his restlessness: after the chase he would snatch a hasty repast, and then rising from table, in spite of the murmurs of his attendants, keep them walking or standing till bedtime. During his education, in the castle of Gloucester, he had acquired a knowledge of letters; and after his accession delighted in the conversation of the learned. Such was the power of his memory, that he is said to have retained whatever he had heard or read, and to have recognised, at the first glance, every person whom he had previously seen. He was eloquent, affable, facetious; uniting with the dignity of the prince the manners of the gentleman: but under this fascinating outside was concealed a heart that could descend to the basest artifices, and sport with its own honour and veracity. No one would believe his assertions or trust his promises; yet he justified this habit of duplicity by the maxim, that it is better to repent of words than of facts, to be guilty of falsehood than to fail in a favourite pursuit. Though possessed of ample dominions, and desirous of extending them, he never obtained the laurels of a conqueror. His ambition was checked by his caution. Even in the full tide of prosperity he would stop to calculate the chances against him, and frequently plunged himself into real to avoid imaginary evils. Hence the characteristic feature of his policy was delay: a hasty decision could not be recalled: but he persuaded himself that procrastination would allow him to improve every advantage which accident might offer. In his own dominions he wished, says a contemporary, to concentrate all power within his own person. He was jealous of every species of authority which did not emanate from himself, and which was not subservient to his will. His pride delighted in confounding the most haughty of his nobles, and depressing the most powerful families. He abridged their rights, divided their possessions, and married their heiresses to men of inferior rank. He was careful that his favourites should owe every thing to himself, and gloried in the parade of their power and opulence, because they were of his own creation. But if he was a bountiful master, he was a most vindictive enemy. His temper could not brook contradiction. Whoever hesitated to obey his will, or presumed to thwart his desires was marked out for his victim, and was pursued with the most unrelenting vengeance. His passion was the raving of a madman, the fury of a savage beast. In its paroxysms his eyes were spotted with blood, his countenance seemed of flame, his tongue poured forth a torrent of abuse and imprecation, and his hands were employed to inflict vengeance on whatever came within his reach. On one occasion Humet, a favourite minister, had ventured to offer a plea, in justification of the king of Scots: Henry's anger was instantly kindled. He called Humet a traitor, threw down his cap, ungirt his clothes, pulled the silk coverlet from his couch, and, unable to do more mischief, sat down, and gnawed the straw on the floor. Hence the reader will perceive that pride and passion, caution and duplicity, formed the distinguishing traits in his character. Lingard.
In many respects a striking parallel presents itself between this ancient king of England and Charles XII. of Sweden. They were both inordinately desirous of war, and rather generals than kings. Both were rather fond of glory than ambitious of empire. Both of them made and deposed sovereigns. They both carried on their wars at a distance from home. They were both made prisoners by a friend and ally. They were both reduced by an adversary inferior in war, but above them in the arts of rule. After spending their lives in remote adventures, each perished at last near home, in enterprises not suited to the splendour of their former exploits. Both died childless: and both, by the neglect of their affairs, and the severity of their government, gave their subjects provocation and encouragement to revive their freedom. In all these respects the two characters were alike; but Richard fell as much short of the Swedish hero in temperance, chastity, and equality of mind, as he exceeded him in wit and eloquence. Some of his sayings are the most spirited that we find in that time; and some of his verses remain, which in a barbarous age might have passed for poetry.