網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

268 A TEDIOUS COURT MOURNING.

pherson, in the Duke of Gloucester, ‘a judicious moderation; the obstinacy of the latter was in Gloucester a manly firmness of mind.' Years afterwards, James the Second paid this tribute to his lost brother: “He was a prince of the greatest hopes, undaunted courage, admirable parts, and a clear understanding.’ A tedious mourning rendered the brilliant festivities which followed, the more striking to the frequenters of Whitehall. Long had the galleries of that old palace been either silent, or had resounded only to the nasal discussions of Fifth Monarchy men. It now echoed with King Charles's footsteps even before daylight; for that monarch took his early walk at five, and generally tired out his courtiers before the day had fairly begun. At last the day of his coronation was fixed. It was on the 22nd of April, 1661, that the King rode in procession, previous to his coronation, from the Tower to Whitehall. Pepys, who gives a characteristic account of the occasion, does not fail to tell us that he himself, on that day, put on his new velvet coat for the first time, though made half a year previously. “It were impossible, he says, “to relate the glory of this day, expressed in the clothes of them that rid, and their horses and horse-clothes. The Knights of the Bath was a brave sight of itself.’ “Remarkable,” he adds, ‘were the two men that represent the two Dukes of Normandy and Aquitaine.' Next came the Bishops, ranking as Barons, though not yet members of the House of Peers. Monk, bareheaded, rode before the King, who, “in a most rich embroidered suit and cloak, looked most noble. Wadlow, the vintner, at the Devil, in Fleet Street, did lead a fine company of soldiers, all young, comely men in white doublets.” Both the King and the Duke ‘took notice of us as they saw us at the window.’ This was a proper prelude to the glories of the next morning: “All the officers of all kinds in the Abbey, so much as the very fiddlers, in red vests; the deans and prebends of

THE KING ENTERS WESTMINSTER HALL. 269

Westminster, and the bishops, many of them in cloth of gold copes, and the nobility, which was a most magnificent sight.” Then we behold the King afterwards enter Westminster Hall, under the canopy held up by the Barons of the Cinque Ports, with six little silver bells each corner. To behold the course carried up by Knights of the Bath ‘was a brave sight;" “infinitely pleased’ also was the judicious Pepys to see the bishops at this dinner; to hear of my Lord of Albemarle's going to the kitchen, ‘eating a bit of the first dish that was to go up to the King’ ‘Grand to witness the King's Champion (Dymock) all in armour, on horseback, ride up the hall and proclaim a l'outrance that Charles Stewart was lawful king of England'—and then fling down his gauntlet. (A gauntlet taken up by the great nephew of that same king when George the Third was crowned.) In the midst of all this, poor human nature was hungry. “Most refreshing” was it to get from some of Pepys's backstair friends four rabbits and a pullet, which he ate with his companions ‘at a stall; a “great deal of pleasure' had he in going up and down, and hearing the music and seeing the ladies, especially some, not of the refined sort, ‘who did tipple so’ in the evening. ‘Now, after all this,' Pepys winds up his narrative, ‘I can say that, besides the pleasure of the sight of these glorious things, I may now shut my eyes against any other objects, nor for the future trouble myself to see things of state and shewe, as being sure never to see the like again in this world.’ Among the strangers who looked on this “brave spectacle,' was Philibert, Comte de Grammont, who happened at that time to be in England. It was doubtless, among the strangers, foreign diplomats, that he witnessed the finest coronation, according to Lord Clarendon, both in order and expense, that had hitherto been seen in England. We are told that this dangerous foreigner (De Grammont) had laughing eyes, a well-shaped nose, a dimpled chin, a delicacy of physiognomy,

270 A COTERIE OF WITS AND POETs.

(by no means corresponding with his mind), and an elegant, though stooping figure.' Thus is he depicted by Bussy Rabutin. Those who knew De Grammont in later life could not believe the picture to have ever been faithful. As De Grammont gazed, and not only gazed, but took a part in the joyous scene, for he was, in the court of Whitehall, only in his original sphere, of what events, of what errors, of what misery must he not have seen the commencement, underneath all the madness of the hour, and among the groups of wits that ridiculed every one—even the gravest characters of the realm. There was a coterie consisting of John Wilmot, afterwards Earl of Rochester, of Sir Charles Sedley, and of Etherege. Rochester, whose birth took place whilst his father, the brave cavalier Henry, Earl of Rochester, was fighting. the battles of the Royalists, in 1647, was then quite a youth; he entered as a nobleman at Wadham College, Cxford, at twelve years of age, and at fourteen had, with others, been made Master of Arts by Lord Clarendon in person. His career, therefore, had hardly begun; but in the very precincts of the court which he, at that early age, adorned by his beauty of person, and unspoiled ingenuousness of nature, he was destined to play a conspicuous part when four years afterwards he committed one of his mad pranks. There was a Mistress Elizabeth Mallett, the daughter of a country squire, and an heiress, to whom Rochester, by that time the most licentious and intemperate among the courtiers of Charles the Second, paid his addresses. She had a fortune of £2,500 a year; and the King had evén condescended often to speak favourably of Rochester to her. This young lady, afterwards called la triste heritière, was going home one evening in a coach with her grandfather, Lord Haly, after supping with Mrs. Stewart in Whitehall, when Rochester was lying in wait for her. The coach in which she was driving was stopped, and she was seized and put into another, where two women received her. The vehicle was, however,

RoCHESTER SENT TO THE ToweR. 271

overtaken, at Uxbridge, and Rochester was sent to the Tower. Still the abduction did not prevent a marriage, neither did marriage impede a course of the most unblushing profligacy that ever disgraced the country at that or any other period. Rochester's mad pranks, nevertheless, amused the King; and were made the subject of Charles's witticisms even in public, at the theatre; Charles, indeed, delighted in nothing so much as in Rochester's company. “The King dining yesterday,’ writes Pepys, “at the Dutch Ambassador's, after dinner they drank, and were pretty merry; and among the rest of the King's company there was that worthy fellow my Lord of Rochester and Tom Killigrew, whose mirth and raillery offended the former so much, that he did give Tom Killigrew a box on the ear in the King's presence; which do give much offence to the people here at court to see how cheap the King makes himself, and the more, for that the King hath not only passed by the thing and pardoned it to Rochester already, but this very morning the King did publicly walk up and down, and Rochester I saw with him as free as ever; to the King's everlasting shame to have so idle a rogue for his companion. How Tom Killigrew takes it, I do not hear.” Killigrew was, indeed, a person of no ordinary influence with Charles the Second, whose fortunes he had followed, adverse as they had been, as Groom of the Bedchamber, and whose prosperous hours he enlivened by a vein of fearless drollery which carried off everything with Charles the Second, whose half French nature could never resist a joke. Rochester's career could not, in the course of nature, last many years, for no constitution could stand his excesses; he seems to have been the very acmé of mad, wild profligacy— which he ‘sheltered, as Dr. Johnson expresses it, ‘behind infidelity. If there were no other sins to be laid at the door of Charles the Second, his carelessness of this young man's true interests, his corrupting, in fact, the mind of the wretched boy—

272 HIS MIND MADDENED BY DRINKING.

when he ought to have advised him; his indifference to the fearful spectacle of a man of learning, of a certain application, of wit—such as wit was then esteemed—maddened by drinking, and by every possible excess, is one of the worst features of Charles's conduct; especially when the son of a Cavalier of true loyalty was concerned. To the last, Rochester was selected on all high occasions to join in the courtly pleasures. Pepys relates that on the Queen's birthday, he got up into the ‘loft’ or gallery, and looked down upon the dancers. Rochester was among the exclusive few. “Anon, the house grew full, and the candles light; and the King and Queen and all the ladies sat: and it was, indeed, a glorious sight to see Mrs. Stewart in black and white lace, and her head and shoulders dressed with diamonds, and the many like great ladies more (only the Queen none). Then the King in rich silk and silver trimming, and the Duke of York and others in cloth of silver, began the bransles (or brawles), a fashionable dance of the period; and amid all the great names comes that of Lord Rochester. Although he had then outraged every decency, the court welcomed him. It was one of the choice occasions,—and Pepys, though he avows that the dancing was not ‘extraordinary pleasing,” declares that every thing was so magnificent that he could “never expect to see more gallantry even if he came there twenty times.’ In spite of a life of continual excitement, of adventures in disguise—when sometimes he practised physic, of which he had a smattering—Rochester was, at intervals, a close student. He retired at times into the country, and being made Comptroller of Woodstock Park, he had there a delightful retreat not far from the capital. Of his contributions to the “Literature of Society, his poem on “Nothing, and his libels, are the only that can now be met with. Even in the time of Dr. Johnson they were scarce, and have not been reprinted; nor is it likely that they ever will. However unsettled may be the opinions of many casuists of our

« 上一頁繼續 »