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“ It is certain, the king put no stop to the course of any enquiry : and as for laughing, to do his majesty right, he as seldom laughed in the wrong place, as any one of his subjects; if any thing was truly ridiculous, he was apt to smile, that he was. Therefore, I must needs say,
that the author doth his plot no justice, if he intends we should think the king laughed at it. As for his majesty, he honestly paid the pensions and rewards as was desired; his council doors were open to every paltry fellow, even to the Irish fool, Cummins, pretending to testify in the plot, and all business of state must give way to them." Examen, 214.
This remarkable and disgraceful plot was fortunate in the chief justice it found to preside over its diabolical disclosures, who, however, at length deserted its interests. The following extracts give us a good idea of Scroggs.
“ Before a committee of the commons, appointed to examine the proceedings of the judges, Francis Smith, bookseller, deposed, that he was brought before the chief justice (Scroggs,) by his warrant, charged with having a pamphlet, called Observations on Sir G. Wakeman's Trial, in his shop: upon which the chief justice told him, he would make him an example ; use him like a boor in France, and pile him and all the booksellers up in a prison like faggots; and so committed him to the king's bench, swearing and cursing at him in great fury, &c.
“And further, it appeared to the committee, that the said chief justice committed in like manner, Jane Curtis, she having a husband and children, for selling a book, called, A Satyr against Injustice, which his lordship called a libel against himself, and her friends tendering sufficient bail, he swore by the name of God, she should go to prison, and he would show her no more mercy than they could expect from a wolf that came to devour them, &c.
“Sir W. Scroggs, says Burnet, was a man more valued for a readiness in speaking, than either learning or virtue. His life had been indecently scandalous, and his fortunes very low. It was a melancholy thing to see so ignorant a man raised up to be chief justice. Yet he, now seeing how the stream ran (1678) went into it with so much zeal and heartiness, that he was become the favourite of the people. But, when he saw the king had an ill opinion of it, he grew cold in the pursuit of it. He began to neglect and check the witnesses : upon which they, who behaved as if they had been tribunes of the people, began to rail at him. Scroggs
the evidence on Wakeman's trial very favourably for the prisoners, far contrary to his former practice. The prisoners were acquitted, and now the witnesses saw they were blasted. And they were enraged upon it, which they vented with much spite upon Scroggs. And there was in him matter enough to work on for such foul-mouthed people as they were."
But the principal personage of the work, to whom we design to devote this article, now demands our more particular
attention ; we mean King Charles himself. We have stated that the present does not appear to us a successful vindication of his character; less because it is not ably and cleverly conducted, than because we are of opinion, that no vindication whatever could possibly be successful. It is a subject which bas employed alike both friends and foes; and has, in every instance, been drawn with some degree of fondness or resentment. The Marquis of Halifax has handed down to us a portrait of the master he served, and the wittiest of monarchs, as might naturally be expected, has been cleverly drawn by the wittiest of statesmen. We think his representation, however, as well as that of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, far too general, as well as too partially coloured, to convey to the reader an adequate or just conception of the original. Mr. Hume has taken their view of the subject; and throughout the history of this reign, evinces an evident partiality for the good-natured monarch. He seizes every opportunity of commendation, deals his censures sparingly, and by the composure with which he relates acts of dishonesty or violence, would seem as if he wished to diminish in his readers the sense of their enormity. Bishop Burnet, on the other hand, uses the darkest colours he can find, and these unsparingly; and dashes out a rough portrait of the king, at least as like the original, as the Saracen’s ferocious head, which hangs on the sign-post, is to the Saracen of real life. It is not our purpose to take our trial in drawing the bow, with which so many, if they have succeeded in bending it at all, have yet shot wide of the mark. We would rather, with the reader's approbation, throw together such notices illustrative of Charles's character, as the present work may furnish, and supply the deficiency, by having recourse to Clarendon, Burnet, Temple, Evelyn, and other contemporary writers, without caring to be particularly regular or connected. We know no better method of catching a fair view, and fixing in our minds a just conception of Charles's variable character; which, whenever we have considered it, has tempted us to exclaim
Quo teneam vultus mutantem Proteo nodo. We shall not attempt to follow any systematic plan, or regular method; but string our observations together in the best order we can.
The claim of Charles to be considered as a man of extreme good nature and amiable temper has been so universally allowed, that among the various epithets by which we are fond of distinguishing him from his brother kings, that of the good-natured monarch, appears to have obtained a sort of pre eminence. There have not been wanting, however, writers, to question, and even deny his right to this distinction; among the latter is Lord
Orrery, who says, that our historians, in representing him as a good-natured man, have ignorantly, or rather wilfully, mistaken good-humour and affability for tenderness and good-nature, “ neither of which last are to be reckoned among this monarch’s virtues.” How far he is justly or at all entitled to the reputation of a virtue, for which royalty has not been usually found the most favourable soil, the following particulars of his conduct in the various relations of life, may serve to inform us.
“There was a lady,” says Lord Clarendon, “ of youth and beauty, with whom the king had lived in great and notorious familiarity from the time of his coming into England." This however underwent the less reproach from the king's being young and vigorous, and upon a full presumption, that when he should be married, he would confine himself within the bounds of virtue and innocence. He was “piously sensible, too, of the infinite obligations he had to God Almighty, and that he expected another kind of return from him in purity of mind and integrity of life. Moreover, he had been heard to speak of the excess which a neighbour king had permitted himself, in making his mistress live, at court, in the queen's presence, as a piece of ill nature that he himself could never be guilty of—" that if he should ever act so ill as to keep a mistress, after he had a wife, which he hoped he never should, he would never add that to the vexation of which she would be sure to have enough.”
Fair promises ! and, at least, as faithfully observed as they were sincerely made. When the queen, who had wit and beauty enough to make herself agreeable to the king, came to Hampton Court, she brought with her the resolution never to suffer the lady, who was so much spoken of, to be in her presence. “ Her mother,” she said, “ had enjoined her to do so,” On the other hand, the king thought he had prepared matters so well, that within a day or two after her arrival, he himself led the lady into the presence chamber, and presented her to the queen, who
received her with the same grace as she had done the rest.
But whether her Majesty in the instant knew who she was, or upon recollection found it out afterwards, she was no sooner sat in her chair, but her colour changed, and tears gushed out of her eyes, and her nose bled, and she fainted.
The king was mightily indignant to have such an earnest of defiance given him in the face of the whole court, on the great question of nuptial supremacy, on which head he was understood to be the most positive man alive.
From that time he forebore her society, and sought ease and refreshment in that jolly company, to which he grew every day more addicted ; and though never man's nature was remote from roughness or hard heartedness,” he was yet re
solved to vindicate his royal jurisdiction, and make it manifest to the world, that "he would not be governed.”
He had been lately reading too a book newly printed at Paris, called the Amours of Henry IV.; and resolved to make his grandfather's example the rule of his own conduct. One night, in particular, the fire flamed higher than ever : king reproached the queen with stubbornness and want of duty, and she him with tyranny and want of affection ;-he used threats and menaces, which he never intended to put in execution, and she talked loudly how ill she was treated, and that she would return again to Portugal. He replied, that she would do well first to know, whether her mother would receive her: and he would give her a fit opportunity to know that, by sending to their home all her Portuguese servants.” The noise of this contention was so loud, as to be overheard by many; and their mutual carriage next day confirmed all that had been heard or imagined. They spake not, hardly looked on one another. The queen sat melancholic in her chamber in tears, and he sought his divertisements in that company, that said and did all things to please him; and there he spent all the nights.” When they happened to be together, he did not address her, but amused himself with the conversation of people, who made it their“ business to laugh at all the world, and who were as bold with God Almighty, as with any of his creatures.” The Portuguese were shipped off without remorse, and without delay; only upon the queen's entreaty, “that she might not be wholly left in the hands of strangers," a certain old Countess Penalva, who scarce stirred out of her chamber from ill-health, was permitted to remain. All this time “the lady” came to court, -was lodged there,-was every day in the queen's presence, and the king in continual conference with her ; whilst the queen sat unnoticed; "and if she rose at the indignity, and retired into her chamber, it may be one or two attended her, but all the company remained in the room she left, and too often said those things aloud, which nobody ought to have whispered.' In the beginning of the conflict the king's face had been cloudy, and his countenance sad, as if he regretted its having proceeded so far; until now chafed with the reproach of being governed, he suppressed every appearance of concern, and appeared every day more gay and pleasant. Whether his good humour were affected or feigned, to the queen it appeared real, and made her only the more sensible “ that she alone was left out in all jollities, and not suffered to have any part of those pleasant applications and caresses which she saw used to almost every body else.” Mirth reigned in every company but in her's, and in all places but in her chamber. Her own servants showed more respect and more diligence to the person
of “the lady,” than towards their own mistress; who, they found, could do them less good. All these mortifications were too heavy to be borne: so that, at last, she suddenly let herself fall, first to conversation—then to familiarity-and, finally, to a confidence with “ the lady;" was merry with her in public, talked kindly of her, and in private behaved to no one else in a more friendly manner. Alas! poor lady—this change of behaviour and low demeanour, were so far from winning, as she had doubtless hoped, the king's good graces, that he concluded all her former aversion was merely feigned, and acted to the life, by a nature crafty and perverse. He congratulated his own illnatured perseverance, by which he had discovered what remedy to apply to all future indispositions. How bent the king was upon reducing the poor queen to the humiliation, for which, when it at length took place, he heartily despised her, may be seen from the following extract of a letter to Lord Clarendon, dated Hampton Court. It expresses any thing but good nature or kind feeling. “And now I am entered on this matter, I think it very necessary to give you a little good counsel in it, least you may think that, by making a farther stir in the business, you may divert me from my resolution; which all the world shall never do: and I wish I may be unhappy in this world, and in the world to come, if I fail in the least degree of what I have resolved, which is, of making my Lady Castlemaine of my wife's bed-chamber: and whosoever I find use any endeavours to hinder this resolution of mine, I will be his enemy to the last moment of my life.” In such a way could this goodnatured monarch, at a time too, when neither
age nor vexation could be alledged to have corroded his temper, treat a defenceless woman, whose only crime was a claim to conduct herself worthily of the character and station of his wife.
“ Michal of royal blood, the crown did wear,
A soil ungrateful to the tiller's care ;"
and though the good chancellor thought her agreeable enough in person, yet, in the eyes of others, she was a woman of but a mean appearance, and no very pleasant temper; fond too of dancing to a ridiculous excess, and so bigotted, that at her marriage, she would neither repeat the words of matrimony, nor bear the sight of the archbishop.* But, as the editor of Dryden (Sir Walter Scott) has justly observed, on the lines above quoted, loving a ball is not a capital sin, “even in a person, whose figure excluded her from the hopes of gracing it; that a