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258 NEW FASHIONS IN DRESS.
thought it necessary to invent a new dress for his courtiers, to teach them thrift. ‘This day, writes Pepys (Oct. 15, 1666), ‘the King begins to put on his vest, and I did see several persons of the House of Lords and Commons too, great courtiers, who are in it: being a long cassocke close to the body, of black cloth, and pinked with white silk under it, and a coat over it, and the legs ruffled with black riband, like a pigeon's leg; and upon the whole, I wish the King may keep it, for it is a very fine and handsome garment. Lady Carteret tells me the ladies are to go into a new fashion shortly; and that is to wear short coats, above their ancles; which she and I do not like, but conclude this long trayne to be mighty graceful.” But any endeavour even to reform the court in this, was hopeless, and Whitehall became entirely deserted by the country gentry and by the more reputable party of the nobility in London. And no wonder, if as a specimen of the whole tone of society we take the case of Sir John and Lady Denham only. It is true that accounts as to the age of the ancient bridegroom differ: some authorities stating that he was, at the time of his marriage, only fifty-three. He was, at all events, wholly unsuited to be the husband of a girl of eighteen. It was one object of Lady Denham's ambition to be made a lady of the bedchamber to Anne, Duchess of York, who had borne with so much patience the open infidelity of her husband. At this fresh insult, however, Anne recoiled; and, whilst a most notorious intimacy was carried on between James, Duke of York, and Lady Denham, jealousy maddened Sir John. Jealousy was, in those days, an unfashionable passion; and it may have been its effects only that seemed like insanity to a world so wholly tainted, and so indifferent to every sense of virtue. However, Sir John's mental malady assumed such a form that, whilst under its influence, he is supposed to have planned the death of his young and culpable wife.
LADY DENEIAM LONG III. 259
She was long ill—but went on to the last, parading her influence over the Duke. It is strange to think that the man whom Denham had saved, when a boy, and had conveyed to France, thus injured him. But the treachery was consistent with the character of James the Second. At last Lady Denham died; then the populace, convinced that her husband had poisoned her, resolved to tear him into pieces whenever they could find him in the streets. The wretched man remained, therefore, in his house, and endeavoured to appease the mob by preparing a grand funeral for his guilty wife's remains, and by distributing, on that occasion, four times more burnt wine than had ever been given at any burial in England. Sir John's frenzy was of short duration; but left its traces still in his conversation, as many thought. “Poor Sir John Denham, Lord Lisle wrote (in 1667) to Sir William Temple, “is fallen to the ladies also. He is at many of the meetings at dinner; talks more than ever he did, and is extremely pleased with those that seem willing to hear him; and, from that obligation, extremely praises the Duchess of Monmouth and my Lady Cavendish. If he had not the name of being mad, I believe, in most companies, he would be thought wittier than ever he was. He seems to have few extravagancies except that of telling stories of himself, which he is always inclined to. Some of his acquaintance say that extreme vanity was the cause of his madness, as well as it is the effect.” Denham, however, recovered to write what Dr. Johnson styles “his excellent poem’ on the death of Cowley, whom he did not long survive. On the 19th of March, 1668, he was buried by the side of that poet, and near the tombs in which Chaucer and Spenser repose. Denham is supposed to have been one of the anonymous authors concerned in the volume in which ‘Clarendon's house-warning, a satire of Lord Chan
* De Grammont, vol. ii. p. 310. Note to p. 37.
260 wenTwoRTH DILLON, EARL OF ROSCOMMON.
cellor Clarendon, was printed. For this publication the printer was put in the pillory. It is agreeable to turn from such a character as that of Denham, to the virtuous and erudite Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon, whose name, happily, we do not find in a page of De Grammont. This accomplished nobleman was the son of James Dillon and of Elizabeth Wentworth, and the nephew of the ill-fated Strafford, who was his godfather. The family had hitherto been Papists; but the third Earl, Wentworth's father, having been converted by Usher to Protestantism, they ran some risk of being assassinated when the Popish rebellion in Ireland broke out; and Strafford, uneasy on account of his godson, sent him, both for safety and education, to his own seat in Yorkshire. When Strafford's misfortunes came, young Dillon was, however, no longer safe in Yorkshire. He was therefore sent to Caen, in Normandy, where there was at that time an university for Protestants. Bochart was his preceptor. Dillon was then nine years of age only. Aubrey relates the following anecdote of the manner in which, when a boy, Dillon anticipated the death of his father—warned as it were by a supernatural instinct. ‘The Lord Roscommon,’ he relates, “being a boy of ten years of age, at Caen, in Normandy, one day was, as it were, madly extravagant in playing, leaping, getting over the tables, boards, etc. He was wont to be sober enough; they said, “God grant this bodes no ill-luck to him " In the heat of this extravagant fit, he cries out “My father is dead.” A fortnight after, news came from Ireland that his father was dead. This account I had from Mr. Knolles, who was his governor, and then with him, since Secretary to the Earl of Strafford; and I have heard his lordship's relations confirm the same.’
It is very true, as Johnson in relating this anecdote re
FULL OF GOOD RESOLUTIONS. -- 261
marks, ‘that the name of Aubrey will not much recommend it to credit.’ The fact is however related, as he adds, “by a man who had no interest to deceive, and who could not be deceived himself: he quotes, therefore, what Osborne says of supernatural appearances, as a dictum to be applied to such presentiments as these:– “Do not wholly slight them, because they may be true: but do not wholly trust them, because they may be false.' An injunction about as decisive as Sir Roger de Coverley's reply when a case was put to him, ‘that there was much to be said on both sides of the question.’ Roscommon, after leaving Caen, travelled into Italy, and amused himself with the study of medals and other antiquities. He returned, like Rochester, full of good impulses as well as of talent, to the court of Charles the Second. Like Rochester he fell into excesses; but, unlike Rochester, he emerged from a dissolute life into one of study, of peace, and of repentance. He was made Captain of the Band of Pensioners; and in that dangerous post, hovering about the court, Roscommon contracted a passion for gaming. Still the generosity of his nature was not obliterated—still he was fit for greater and better things than to assist in the dissolute revels of Whitehall. His affairs, however, became embarrassed: and being obliged to go to Ireland, the Duke of Ormond made him Captain of the Guards in Dublin. One evening, whilst in that city, the young Earl was returning from a gaming-house to his own lodgings, when three ruffians attacked him in the dark, with an intention of murdering him. Roscommon was brave and skilful: he killed one of his assailants; a gentleman coming by disarmed a second; the third assassin took flight. Who, then, Roscommon inquired, ‘was his deliverer?” It proved that he was a disbanded officer, of an honourable character, but so poor that he could not, for want of a good suit of plain clothes, pay his respects to my Lord Deputy at the Castle. Roscommon not only presented him to the Duke,
262 MARRIES LADY FRANCES COURTENEY.
but begged that this meritorious and neglected man might have his commission in the Guards. The Duke consented; and, during three years, the officer enjoyed that post: at his death the commission was returned to Roscommon.
The Earl now settled down into a studious man: he married, choosing the Lady Frances Courteney, the daughter of the Earl of Burlington, as his wife.
He now showed that his foreign travels had not been without benefit; and formed a plan, in conjunction with Dryden, of establishing a society in order to refine our language, and fix a standard of purity. The design, though an excellent one, was rendered impracticable by the disturbed state of the nation whilst James the Second reigned, and it was, therefore, relinquished. Italy and France had, to a certain extent, succeeded in a similar effort. But in this country, a wiser head than Roscommon's had decided that an academy established on that plan would be inefficient. ‘If an academician's place were paid for,” says Johnson, “it would be given by interest; if attendance were gratuitous, it would be rarely paid, and no man would endure the least disgust.’
Alarmed at the aspect of affairs at home, Lord Roscommon was preparing to withdraw to Rome, when an attack of the gout ended his life. Impatient of suffering, he had employed a French quack doctor to relieve him, and the disorder became vital. As he expired, the Earl repeated, with deep devotion, these lines:
“My God, my Father, and my Friend,
They were taken from his version of ‘Dies Irae, one of the best of this poet's few works; for much greater credit is due to Roscommon for his endeavours to purify our language, than for his poems taken individually. Severe in judgment, he shone chiefly in the didactic style. He was considered as the most correct writer in verse before Addison's time; but