Page images
PDF
EPUB

truth, by the profligacy of the succeeding times, in fixing the discredit of human infirmity and folly upon a cause in itself ineffably pure and perfect. Whoever reads with attention the popular productions of the press, those especially which reflect the state of general thinking, feeling, and habits, for more than half the century following the pernicious reign of Charles II, will see that when the political proceedings by which it was disgraced had left no trace of their existence, except in the checks to which they gave occasion, the prostitute raillery, the profane derision of religious decency, and the sarcastic contempt of all Christian selfdenial, which characterized the court of Charles, lived on through all changes, and still maintains its cancerous hold upon the vitals of society. To the moral reign of his present Majesty, and his exemplary, though much calumniated Queen, we owe the most successful check which has been, under Providence, opposed to the injury done to our moral constitution. His long and eventful reign has been exposed, not only to the old mischief, but to a new leaven of malice, more fatal still in its tendency; yet such has been the steady dignity of his domestic rule, such the model of his magnanimous moderation, such his practical illustration of the spirit, and discipline, and doctrine of the Church of England, that neither faction, nor licentiousness, nor sedition, nor treason, nor Jacobinism itself, have been able to shake his throne, or divide him from his people. The only security which the nation has for the continuance of this blessing is the permanence of the impression; all other dependance is vain; neither the laws, nor what is called our constitution, without this moral guarantee, are of more avail towards keeping us whole, and sound, and erect, than the crown and diadem in the archives of the Tower, or the sword of state, or the cap of liberty, or any other symbol of sovereignty or freedom. If history is indeed philosophy, teaching by examples, the history of England is profound philosophy. It proposes, among other lessons, three great examples most instructively unfolded in their consequences. Cromwell and

Charles II still live in the habits and errors which they have bequeathed; their fierce extremes, equally remote from virtue, still silently work and ferment among us; but we have a breathing pattern of kingly perfections, from which we may learn to avoid pretence on the one hand, and impiety on the other, and to shape our religious course in practical obedience to the Gospel. From Mr. Evelyn's diary we deduce abundant motives to respect a Sovereign who, for more than half a century, has opposed a sober religion to what remains of the fanaticism of a regicide people, and a religious life to what survives of the example of a profligate prince.

The contents of the second of the two volumes into which the

[ocr errors]

diary has been divided furnish somewhat less entertainment than the first. Though Mr. Evelyn does not spare the vices and errors of the Stuarts, he appears to have felt no particular delight in the proceedings of the revolution, nor much interest in the character of King William. Charles I, and his sons, had treated him with uniform kindness; and, being persons of better taste than their warlike successor, and certainly of a far more agreeable deportment, gained more upon the affections of this accomplished gentleman. He scarcely forgave Queen Mary for receiving the crown taken from her father; and insinuates, with some deficiency of candour, an insensibility or levity in her manner and deportment upon the occasion. The praise, indeed, which he feels himself compelled to afford her, in recording her untimely death, seems rather reluctantly bestowed; it has not the particularity or the heartiness, with which he relates the deaths, and draws the characters, of much less deserving persons. He states, however, that he supped at the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry's, who related to him "the pious behaviour of the Queen in all her sickness, which was admirable."

"She never enquired of what opinions persons were, who were objects of charity! and on opening a cabinet a paper was found wherein she had desired that her body might not be opened, nor any extraordinary expence at her funeral, whenever she should die. There were other excellent things under her owne hand, to the very least of her debts, which were very small, and every thing in that exact method as seldom is found in any private person. In sum she was such an admirable woman, abating for taking the crown without a more due apology, as does, if possible, outdo the renowned Queen Elizabeth." (Vol. ii. p. 46.)

We do not forget the testimonies of Burnet and other writers to the excellence of this Princess, in whom were summed up all the perfections of womanhood. To compare her to Queen Elizabeth was very inadequate praise. Her exact sense of duty repressed her queenly qualities; but, had she survived her husband, the errors of the Stuarts would have been balanced in their own family, and the name would have come down to us with honour.

"Such horrible robberies and murders were committed," says Mr. Evelyn, speaking of the latter end of King William's reign, "as had not been known in the nation; atheism, profaneness, blasphemy, amongst all sorts, portended some judgment, if not amended; on which a society was set on foot, who obliged themselves to endeavour the reforming of it, in London and other places, and began to punish offenders, and put the laws in more strict execution, which God prosper." But Mr. Evelyn does not tell us that the necessity of thus checking the career of vice, while it was recognized by all true lovers of their country, like

himself, was more especially felt by the excellent Princess then on the throne; that those societies were formed under her patronage, and encouraged by her royal husband, as affording a most salutary and constitutional assistance to the general police. And it is well worthy of remark, that societies for promoting Christian knowledge, for erecting and founding schools for the clothing and education of the poor, and for the suppression of vice and immorality, were the product of a period in which Britain first obtained a real and express constitution. When we celebrate "the immortal memory of King William," it should be remembered, that that wise and patriot Prince, when his great continental projects were full on his mind, and France had just declared in behalf of the son of James II, in his last speech to his parliament, concluded thus, "I hope what time can be spared, will be employed about those other very desirable things, which I have so often recommended from the throne; I mean the forming some good bills for the employing the poor, for encouraging trade, and for the further suppression of vice." If the society bearing the same name, and having similar objects, which modern patriotism has produced, has sunk under discouragement and calumny, we have only to say, that the failure of its virtuous efforts deserves a foremost place among the regrets of the wise and good. Perhaps the most effectual way of drawing out the strength of the respectable part of the community, and of saving the nation from the exertions of demoralizing demagogues, and from the funds subscribed by fools for the support of knaves, that human wisdom could devise, would be for those who have contributed to give the Bible circulation to follow out the principle by uniting to support a Society which has for its object the salutary, the firm, and intrepid execution of the laws.

Of Mr. Evelyn's good humour and agreeable manner of private letter-writing, a few specimens are given us in the notes; one of which we will present to our readers. The following letter was written to Dr. Bohun, dated January 9, 1696.

་་

'Having ben told that you have lately inquir'd what is become of y now old friends of Says-Court, the date hereof will acquaint you where they are, and the sequel, much of what they do and think. I believe I neede not tell you that after the marriage of my daughter, and the so kind offer of my good brother here, my then circumstances and times considered, I had reason to embrace it, not merely out of inclination to the place where I was born and have now an interest.

86 6

Amongst other things I had paid £300 for the renewing of my Lease, [at Deptford] with some augmentation of what I hold from the Crowne, which the Duke of Leeds was supplanting me of but I am not here on free cost.

"My L Godolphin (my ever noble patron and steady friend, now retir'd from a fatigueing station) got me to be named Treasurer to the

Marine Colledge erecting at Greenwich, with the sallary of £200 per ann. of which I have never yet receiv'd one penny of the Tallies assign'd for it, now two years at o Lady-day-my son-in-law Draper is my substitute. I have only had this opportunity to place my old (indeed faithfull) serv J. Strd in an employment at Greenwich, which with my other businesse, not small, among so many beggarly tenants as ya know I have at Deptford [is some provision for him]. I have let my house to Capt. Benbow, and have the mortification of seeing every day much of my former labours and expense there impairing for want of a more polite tennant.

My grandson is so delighted in books that he professes a library is to him the greatest recreation, so I give him free scope here, where I have neare upon 22,000 [qu. 2000] (wth my brother's), and whither I would bring the rest had I any roome, which I have not to my greate regrett, having here so little conversation with the Learn'd, unlesse it be when Mr. Wotton (the learned gentleman before mentioned; the friend of Dr. Bentley) comes now and then to visit me, he being tutor to Mr. Finch's son at Albury, but which he is now leaving to go to his living, that without books, and the best wife and bro. in the world, I were to be pitied; but with these subsidiaries, and the revising some of my old impertinencies, to which I am adding a Discourse I made on Medals (lying by me long before Obadiah Walker's Treatise appear'd), I passe some of my Attic nights, if I may be so vaine as to name them with the Author of those Criticisms. For the rest, I am planting an ever-green grove here to an old house ready to drop, the œconomy and hospitality of which my good old brother will not depart from, but more veterum kept a Christmas in wch we had not fewer than 300 bumkins every holy-day.

"We have here a very convenient appartment of 5 roomes together, besides a pretty closet, which we have furnish'd with the spoiles of Says Court, and is the rare-shew of the whole neighbourhood, and in truth we live very easy as to all domestic cares. Wednesday and Saturday nights we call Lecture Nights, when my wife and myselfe take our turnes to read the packets of all the newes sent constantly from London wch serves us for discourse till fresh newes comes; and so you have the history of a very old man and his no young companion, whose society I have enjoy'd more to my satisfaction these 3 yeares here, than in almost 50 before, but am now every day trussing up to be gon, I hope to a better place.

"My daughter Draper being brought to bed in the Christmas holidays of a fine boy, has given an heire to her most deserving husband, a prudent, well-natur'd Gent. a man of businesse, like to be very rich, and deserving to be so, among the happiest paires I think in England, and to my daughter's and our hearts' desir. She has also a fine girle, and a mother-in-law exceedingly fond of my daughter, and a most excellent woman, charitable and of a sweete disposition. They all live together, keepe each their coach, and with as suitable an equipage as any in towne.' (Vol. ii. p. 57, 58.)

999

We cannot take our leave of Mr. Evelyn without noticing his habit of regularly entering a prayer in his journal at the conclu

sion of every year. His last prayer, on his entering his eightysecond year, may serve as a specimen.

"31 Oct. 1702. Arriv'd now to the 82d year of my age, having read over all that pass'd since this day twelvemonth in these notes, I render solemn thanks to the Lord, imploring the pardon of my past sins, and the assistance of his grace; making new resolutions, and imploring that He will continue His assistance, and prepare me for my bless'd Saviour's coming, that I may obtain a comfortable departure after so long a term as has ben hitherto indulg'd me. I find by many infirmities this yeare (especially nephritic pains) that I much decline; and yet of His infinite mercy retain my intellects and senses in greate measure above most of my age. I have this yeare repair'd much of the mansion-house and severall tenants' houses, and paid some of my debts and ingagements. My wife, children and family in health, for all wch I most sincerely beseech Almighty God to accept of these my acknowledgm", and that if it be His holy will to continue me yet longer, it may be to the praise of His infinite grace, and salvation of Amen. (Vol. ii. p. 77, 78.)

[ocr errors]

my soul.

On the 31st day of October, 1705, Mr. Evelyn entered on his eighty-fifth year, and down to this period the notes of his diary are full of spirit and observation. He appears to have visited his friends to the last; and to have marked all the fluctuations of public counsels and events. In the last year of his life we find him dining at Lambeth, with the Archbishop, conversing with Dr. Dickenson, the celebrated chemist, on the subject of his science; holding conversation with the victorious Duke of Marlborough; dining with Sir John Chardine; till at length the journal ends with the life of this active, intelligent, and worthy man, as follows:

"31 Oct. 1705. I am this day arrived to the 85th year of my age. Lord teach me so to number my days to come that I may apply them to wisdom.

"1706. 1 Jan. Making up my accounts for the past year, paid bills, wages, and new years gifts according to custom. Tho' much indispos'd and in so advanc'd a stage I went to our chapel [in London] to give God public thanks, beseeching Almighty God to assist me and my family the ensuing yeare, if he should yet continue my pilgrimage here, and bring me at last to a better life with him in his heavenly kingdom. Divers of our friends and relations din'd with us this day. "27. My indisposition increasing, I was exceedingly ill this whole week."

"3 Feb. Notes of the sermons at the chapel in the morning and afternoon, written with his own hand, concludes this Diary. "He died the 27th of this month.' (Vol. ii. p. 85.)

As the volumes are large and expensive, and may probably,

« PreviousContinue »