« PreviousContinue »
"That though she had lived in a private station, her excellencies could not have passed unobserved by the eye of the world." So unwilling was she that any of her virtue or praise should be owing to the height of her fortune.
But if I should enter upon her praises, whether moral or political, I must either fall into a common-place of virtues, which will be unworthy of so extraordinary a princess; or if I would give them their proper grace and lustre, I must enter into a history of her life; which requires more leisure, and a richer vein than mine. To speak the truth, the only proper encomiast of this lady is time; which, for so many ages as it has run, never produced any thing like her of the same sex, for the government of a kingdom.
JAMES I. He was deeply learned, without possessing useful knowledge; sagacious in many individual cases, without having real wisdom; fond of his power, and desirous to maintain and augment it, yet willing to resign the direction of that, and of himself, to the most unworthy favourites; a big and bold asserter of his rights in words, yet one who tamely saw them trampled on in deeds; a lover of negotiations, in which he was always outwitted; and a fearer of war, where conquest might have been easy. He was fond of his dignity, while he was perpetually degrading it by undue familiarity; capable of much public labour, yet often neglecting it for the meanest amusement; a wit, though a pedant; and a scholar, though fond of the conversation of the ignorant and uneducated. Even his timidity of temper was not uniform; and there were moments of his life, and those critical, in which he showed the spirit of his ancestors. He was laborious in trifles, and a trifler where serious labour was required; devout in his sentiments, and yet too often profane in his language; just and beneficent by nature, he yet gave way to the iniquities and oppression of others. He was penurious respecting money which he had to give from his own hand, yet inconsiderately and unboundedly profuse of that which he did not see. In a word, those good qualities which displayed themselves in particular cases and occasions, were not of a nature sufficiently firm and comprehensive to regulate his general conduct; and, showing themselves as they occasionally did, only entitled James to the character bestowed on him by Sully—that he was the wisest fool in Christendom.
That the fortunes of this monarch might be as little of a piece as his character, he, certainly the least able of the Stuarts, succeeded peaceably to that kingdom, against the power of which his predecessors had, with so much difficulty, defended his native throne. And, lastly, although his reign appeared calculated to ensure to Great Britain that lasting tranquillity and internal peace which so much suited the king's disposition, yet, during that very reign, were sown those seeds of dissension, which, like the teeth of the fabulous dragon, had their harvest in a bloody and universal civil war. Sir W. Scott.
James was of a middle stature, of a fine complexion, and a soft skin; his person plump, but not corpulent; his eyes large and rolling, beard thin, his tongue too big for his mouth; his countenance disagreeable, his air awkward, and his gait remarkably ungraceful, from a weakness in his knees that prevented his walking without assistance; he was tolerably temperate in his diet, but drank of little else than rich and strong wines. His character, from the variety of grotesque qualities that compose it, is not easy to be delineated. The virtues he possessed were so loaded with a greater proportion of their neighbouring vices, that they exhibit no lights to set off the dark shades; his principles of generosity were tainted by such a childish profusion, that they left him without means of paying his just obligations, and subjected him to the necessity of attempting irregular, illegal, and unjust methods of acquiring money. His friendship, not to give it the name of vice, was directed by so puerile a fancy and so absurd a caprice, that the objects of it were contemptible, and its consequences attended with such an unmerited profusion of favours, that it was, perhaps, the most exceptionable quality of any he possessed. His distinctions were formed on principles of selfishness; he valued no person for any endowments that could not be made subservient to his pleasures or his interest, and thus he rarely advanced any man of real worth to preferment. His familiar conversation, both in writing and in speaking, was stuffed with vulgar and indecent phrases. Though proud and arrogant in his temper, and full of the importance of his station, he descended to buffoonery, and suffered his favourites to address him in the most disrespectful terms of gross familiarity.
Himself affected a sententious wit, but rose no higher in those attempts than to quaint, and often stale, conceits. His education had been a more learned one than is commonly bestowed on princes: this, from the conceit it gave him, turned out a very disadvantageous circumstance, by contracting his opinions to his own narrow views. His pretences to a consummate knowledge in divinity, politics, and the art of governing, exposed him to a high degree of ridicule; his conduct showing him more than commonly deficient in all these points. His romantic idea of the natural rights of princes caused him publicly to avow pretensions that impressed into the minds of the people an incurable jealousy; this, with an affectation of a profound skill in the art of dissembling, or king-craft, as he termed it, rendered him the object of fear and distrust; when, at the same time, he was himself the only dupe to an impertinent, useless hypocrisy.
If the laws and constitution of England received no prejudice from his government, it was owing to his want of ability to effect a change suitable to the purpose of an arbitrary sway. Stained with these vices, and sullied with these weaknesses, if he is even exempt from our hatred, the exemption must arise from motives of contempt. Despicable as he appears through his own Britannic government, his behaviour when king of Scotland was in many points unexceptionable; but, intoxicated with the power he received over a people whose privileges were but feebly established, and who had been long subjected to civil and ecclesiastical tyranny, he at once flung off the moderation that hid his deformities from the common eye. It is alleged that the corruption he met with in the court of England, and the timeserving genius of the English noblemen, were the great means that debauched him from his circumspect conduct. Among the forwardest of the worthless tribe was Cecil, afterwards Earl of Salisbury, who told him on his coming to the crown, that he should find his English subjects like asses, on whom he might lay any burthen, and should need neither bit nor bridle, but their asses' ears. Mac Ah Ley.
In the character of Charles, as represented by his panegyrists, we find the qualities of temperance, chastity, regularity, piety, equity, humanity, dignity, condescension, and equanimity: some have gone so far as to allow him integrity; and many writers, who condemn his political principles, give him the title of a moral man. In the comparison of this representation with Charles's conduct, accurately and justly described, it is discernible that vices of the worst tendency, when shaded by a plausible and formal carriage, when concordant to the interests of a faction, and the prejudices of the vulgar, assume the