Page images

persons, whom I liked very well; but could not per ceive that any part of their greatness was to be liked or desired, no more than I would be glad or content to be in a storm, though I saw many ships which rid safely and bravely in it. A storm would not agree with my stomach, if it did with my courage; though I was in a crowd of as good company as could be found any where, though I was in business of great and honourable trust, though I eat at the best table, and enjoyed the best conveniences for present subsistence that ought to be desired by a man of my condition, in banishment and public distresses; yet I could not abstain from renewing my old school-boy's wish, in a copy of verses to the same effect:

Well then; I now do plainly see,

This busy world and I shall ne'er agree, &c.

And I never then proposed to myself any other advantage from his majesty's happy restoration, but the getting into some moderately convenient 'retreat in the country, which I thought in that case I might easily have compassed, as well as some others, who, with no greater probabilities or pretences, have arrived to extraordinary fortunes. But I had before written a shrewd prophecy against myself, and I think Apollo inspired me in the truth, though not in the elegance of it:

Thou neither great at Court, nor in the War,
Nor at the Exchange shalt be, nor at the wrangling bar;
Content thyself with the small barren praise,

Which neglected verse does raise, &c.

However, by the failing of the forces which I had expected, I did not quit the design which I had resolved on; I cast myself into it a corpus perdi, without making capitulations, or taking counsel of for tune. But God laughs at man, who says to his soul, Take thy case: I met presently not only with many little incumbrances and impediments, but with so much sickness, (a new misfortune to me) as would have spoiled the happiness of an emperor, as well as mine. Yet I do neither repent nor alter my course'; Non ego perfidum dixi sacramentum. Nothing shall separate me from a mistress which I have loved so long, and have now at last married; though she neither has brought me a rich portion, nor lived yet so quietly with me as I hoped from her.

Nec vos dulcissima mundi

Nomina vos Musa, Libertas, Otia, Libri,
Hortique, Sylvaque, animâ remanente relinquam.

-Nor by me e'er shall you,

You of all names the sweetest and the best,
You Muses, Books, and Liberty, and Rest;
You Gardens, Fields, and Woods forsaken be,
As long as life itself forsakes not me.

Dr. Johnson's character of his prose style merits quotation: "No author (says he) ever kept his verse and prose at a greater distance from each other. His thoughts are natural, and his style has a smooth and placid equability, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far-sought, or hard-laboured, but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness."

[merged small][ocr errors]


WAS the second surviving son of Robert, earl of Leicester, by his wife Dorothy, eldest daughter of Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland. He was born about the year 1621-2. His father, when ambassador successively to the courts of Denmark and France, took young Sidney with him, though a mere youth, to give him every opportunity of improvement.

On the breaking out of the rebellion in Ireland, 1641, he obtained a commission for a troop of horse in his father's regiment, who was then lord lieutenant of Ireland; and in 1643, had the king's permission to return to England with his brother, the lord Lisle, but with express orders, on their allegiance, to repair to his majesty at Oxford. The parliament, how

ever, getting intelligence of this arrangement, caused them to be taken into custody on their landing in Lancashire. The king suspecting this to be a concerted scheme, was greatly in→ censed; from which they took occasion to join the parliament, under which Algernon accepted a command. This was at first a captaincy. of a troop of horse in the regiment of the earl of Manchester. On the following year, Fair fax, the commander in chief, made him colonel of a regiment of horse. His other appointments and services it is unnecessary to mention. He was nominated one of the judges of Charles I. though he did not appear.

Algernon Sidney was a republican upon principle; and when Oliver Cromwell had usurped the government, he refused to act under him or his son who succeeded him in the protectorship; but as soon as the long parliament was restored, he became one of the council of state. On the restoration of Charles II. he was abroad, with others, with a view to mediate a peace between Denmark and Sweden; and as his principles were decided and well known, he could not with safety return to his own country. He employed himself therefore in moving about from one part of Europe

« PreviousContinue »