« PreviousContinue »
2 line 14. for constituted read constitutes
line 5. from bottom, for Parker read Parkes
line 36. for 1s. 5d. read ls. 11d.
ART. I. Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, Governor of
Nottingham Castle and Town, Řepresentative of the County of Not-
Quarto. Longman & Co. London. 1806.
curious than this volume. Independent of its being a contemporary narrative of by far the most animating and important part of our history, it challenges our attention as containing an accurate and luminous account of military and political affairs from the hand of a woman; as exhibiting the most liberal and enlightened sentiments in the person of a puritan; and sustaining a high tone of aristocratical dignity and pretension, though the work of a decided republican. The views which it opens into the character of the writer, and the manners of the age, will be to many a still more powerful attraction.
Of the times to which this narrative belongs-times to which England owes all her freedom and all her glory-we can never hear too much, or too often; and though their story has been transmitted to us both with more fulness of detail and more vivacity of colouring than any other portion of our annals, every reflecting reader must be aware that our information is still extremely defective, and exposes us to the hazard of great misconception. The work before us, we think, is calculated in a good degree to supply these deficiencies, and to rectify these errors. VOL. XIII. NO. 25..
After örinciple of try in partie past histons:
By far the most important part of history, as we have formers ly * endeavoured to explain, is that which makes us acquainted with the character, dispositions and opinions of the great and eficient population by whose motion or consent all things are ultimately governed. After a nation has attained to any degree of intelligence, every other principle of action becomes subordinate ; and, with relation to our own country in particular, it may be said with safety, that we can know nothing of its past history, or of the applications of that history to more recent transactions, if we have not a tolerably correct notion of the character of the people of England in the reign of Charles I., and the momentous periods which ensued. This character depended very much on that of the landed proprietors and resident gentry; and Mrs Hutchinson's memoirs are chiefly valuable, as containing a pica ture of that class of the community.
Agriculture was at this period still the chief occupation of the people; and the form of the society was consequently that of a rustic aristocracy. The country gentlemen, who have since been worn down by luxury and taxation, superseded by the activity of office, and eclipsed by the opulence of trade, were then all and all in England; and the nation at large derived from them its habits, prejudices, and opinion's. Educated almost entirely at home, their manners were not yet accommodated to a general European standard, but retained all those national peculiarities which united and endeared them to the rest of their countrymen. Constitutionally serious, and living much with their families, they had in general more solid learning and more steady morality than the gentry of other countries. Exercised in local magistracies, and frequently assembled for purposes of national cooperation, they became conscious of their power, and jealous of their privi. leges : and having been trained up in a dread and detestation of that popery which had been the recent cause of so many wars and persecutions, their religious sentiments had contracted somewhat of an austere and polemical character, and had not yet settled from the ferment of reformation into tranquil and regulated piety. It was upon this side, accordingly, that they were most liable to error : and the extravagances into which a great part of them was actually betrayed, has been the chief cause of the misrepresentations to which they were then exposed, and of the misconception which still prevails as to their character and principles of action.
In the middle of the reign of Charles I., almost the whole na. tion was serious and devout. The license and excess which is
* NO. XXIV. p. 282, &c.
in some is who notality hatredal front om fectie imposta
in some degree inseparable from a state of war, fell chiefly upon the Royalists; who made it a point of duty indeed to deride the sanctity and rigid morality of their opponents; and they again exaggerated, out of party hatred, the peculiarities by which they were most obviously distinguished from their antagonists.' Thus mutually receding from each other, from feelings of general hostility, they were gradually led to realize the imputations of which they were reciprocally the subjects. The cavaliers gave way to a certain degree of licentiousness; and the adherents of the parlia. ment became, for the most part, really morose and enthusiastic. ‘At the restoration, the cavaliers obtained a complete and final triumph over their sanctimonious opponents; and the exiled monarch and his nobles imported from the continent a taste for dissipation, and a toleration for debauchery, far exceeding any thing that had previously been known in England. It is from the wits of that court, however, and the writers of that party, that the succeeding and the present age have derived their notions of the puritans. In reducing these notions to the standard of truth, it is not easy to determine how large an allowance ought to be made for the exaggerations of party hatred, the perversions of witty malice, and the illusions of habitual superiority. It is certain, however, that ridicule, toleration, and luxury, gradually annihilated the puritans in the higher ranks of society; and after times seeing their practices and principles exemplified only among the lowest and most illiterate of mankind, readily caught the tone of contempt which had been assumed by their triumphant enemies; and found no absurdity in believing that the base and contemptible beings who were described under the name of puritans by the courtiers of Charles II., were true representatives of that valiant and conscientious party which once numbered half the gentry of England among its votaries and adherents.
That the popular conceptions of the austerities and absurdities of the old Roundheads and Presbyterians are greatly exaggerated, will probably be allowed by every one at all conversant with the fubject; but we know of nothing fo well calculated to dissipate the existing prejudices on the subject as this book of Mrs Hutchinson. Instead of a set of gloomy bigots waging war with all the elegàncies and gaieties of life, we find, in this calumniated order, ladies of the first birth and fashion, at once converting their husbands to Anabaptism, and instructing their children in mufic and dancing, -valiant Presbyterian, colonels refuting the ertors of Arminius, collecting pictures, and practifing, with great applaufe, on the violin,-stout esquires, at the fame time, praying and quaffing O&ober with their godly tenants and noble lords. difputing with their chaplains on points of theology in the
eve puritansactices anate of man
evening, and taking them out a-hunting in the morning. There is nothing, in short, more curious and instructive, than the glimpses which we here catch of the old hospitable and orderly life of the country gentlemen of England, in those days when the national character was so high and fo peculiar,—when civilization had produced all its effect but that of corruption,ếand when serious studies and dignified pursuits had not yet been abandoned to a paltry and effeminate derision. Undoubtedly, in reviewing the annals of those times, we are struck with a loftier air of manhood than presents itself in any after era ; and recognize the same characters of deep thought and steady enthusiasm, and the same principles of fidelity and self-command which ennobled the better days of the Roman Republic, and have made every thing else appear childish and frivolous in the comparison.
. One of the most striking and valuable things in Mrs Hutchinson's performance, is the information which it affords us as to the manners and condition of women in the period with which she is occupied. This is a point in which all histories of public events are almost neceffarily defective; though it is evident that, without attending to it, our notions of the state and character of any people must be extremely imperfect and erroneous. Mrs Hutchinson, however, enters into no formal disquisition upon this subject. What we learn from her in relation to it, is learnt incidentally-partly on occasion of some anecdotes which it falls in her way to recite-but chiefly from what she is led to narrate or disclose as to her own education, conduct, or opinions. If it were allowable to take the portrait which she has thus indirectly finished of herself as a juft representation of her fair contemporaries, we should form a moft exalted notion of the republican matrons of England. Making a flight deduction for a few traits of austerity, borrowed from the bigotry of the age, we do not know where to look for a more noble and engaging character than that under which this lady presents herself to her readers ; nor do we believe that any age of the world has produced so worthy a counterpart to the Valerias and Portias of antiquity. With a high-minded feeling of patriotism and public honour, the seems to have been poffeffed by the most dutiful and devoted attachment to her husband ; and to have combined a taste for learning and the arts with the most active kindness and munificent hospitality to all who came within the sphere of her bounty. To a quick perception of character, the appears to have united a masculine force of understanding, and a fingular capacity for affairs; and to have pofseffed and exercised all those talents, without affecting any su. periority over the reft of her sex, or abandoning for a Gngle inItant the delicacy and reserve which were then its most indispens