ePub 版

exposed all his ecclesiastical measures to alternate hatred and contempt. Let us add, that here too may be seen full evidence of all those “private virtues” which have been so eloquently illustrated by the pen of Clarendon: and that no one, in our opinion, can close this volume without a full conviction that Laud was a just, a sincere, and a really benevolent man.

The first question suggested by the title of this work isWhat is the evidence of its genuineness ? and that question admits, we think, of a very satisfactory answer. From an illwritten and rambling preface by the editor, it appears that the history of the work is shortly this : During Laud's imprisonment in the Tower, his papers were taken from him by an order of the House of Commons, the execution of which was intrusted to his inveterate enemy, Prynne; "who thereupon (says the editor) took from the archbishop twenty-one bundles of papers, which he had prepared for his defence; his Diary, his Book of Private Devotions, the Scotch Service-book, and directions accompanying it, &c. And although he then faithfully promised restitution of them within three or four days, yet never restored any more than three bundles ; employed such against the archbishop at his trial, as might seem prejudicial to his cause; suppressed those which might be advantageous to him ; published many, embezzelled some, and kept the rest to the day of his death.” After Prynne's decease, Archbishop Sheldon procured an order from the court for seizing those of his papers which had been taken from Laud; among them was found this Diary, in Laud's own hand. By Sheldon the papers were transferred to Archbishop Sancroft; and were finally, under Sancroft's revision, published by Mr. Wharton, the editor. That the work is genuine admits, therefore, of no doubt.

Before, however, we can place confidence in the authenticity of this volume, another question presents itself: Does the work appear to have been intended by Laud for publication ? for if it does, of course the statements it contains must be taken with considerable distrust. But to us it seems quite clear, that the Diary, at least, was never composed for any eye but his own; and our reasons for thinking so are these : First, it was Laud's custom, from childhood, to preserve a brief record of the principal transactions of his life; so that the Diary must have had its origin long before the writer could have conceived the design of giving it to the world. Secondly, the work itself is replete with incidents, which could by no possibility be interesting to any one but the individual to whom they had occurred. It is, moreover, the archbishop's common practice to write only the initials of those names which he introduces; a practice which surely testifies, on the part of the author, a cautious apprehension that his work might, rather

than an intention that it should, obtain publicity. Let our readers judge whether the following passages, which are taken nearly at random, could have been intended for the world :

“ July 17. Sunday.—I went again to Windsor. I stood by the king at dinner time : some matters of philosophy were the subject of discourse. I dined: afterwards I eat in the house of the Bishop of Gloucester. Baron Vaughan was there present with his eldest son. The next day one of the bishop's servants, who had waited at table, was seized with the plague. God be merciful to me and the rest. That night I returned, being become lame on the sudden, through I know not what humour falling down upon my left leg, or (as R. An. thought) by the biting of bugs. I grew well within two days.”

“ August 25. Friday. Two robin red-breasts flew together through the door into my study, as if one pursued the other. That sudden motion almost startled me. I was then preparing a sermon on Ephes. 4. 30. and studying.”

September 27. Saturday.-I fell sick, and came sick from Hampton Court.—Tuesday, Septemb. ult. I was sore plucked with this sickness."

“ October 20. Monday.-I was forced to put on a truss for a rupture. I know not how occasioned, unless it were with swinging of a book for my exercise in private.”

Or can any one believe, that the following memoranda were intended to enlighten posterity?

Hope was given to me of A. H. Jan. 1, &c. I first began to hope it."

“My great unfortunateness with S. S. June 13."
Lu. Bos. B. to E. B. May 2. Et quid ad me?"

March 26. Sunday.-D. B. sent me to the king. There I gave to the king an account of those two businesses, which, &c. His majesty thanked me.”

We think, therefore, that we hardly assume too much in taking for granted both the authenticity and genuineness of this Diary. With respect to the History of his Tryal and Troubles, Laud's intentions as to its publication after his death appear somewhat more dubious. In one passage, indeed, he uses these words : “ How things in particular succeeded there (i. e. at the great council of lords and prelates, held at York A.D. 1640, I know not; nor belongs it much to the scope of this short history, intended only for myself.—p. 84. But we admit, that there is not that same degree of unexceptionable internal evidence to his intention in that respect, which we perceive in the Diary.

The great and primary cause of Laud's inadequacy to the duties of prime minister (for such he certainly was in point

of influence) seems to have been his very narrow and unstatesman-like education. We, of course, do not mean that his education was not sufficiently liberal, in the ordinary sense of the word ; a statesman more learned and less wise has perhaps never existed. Nature appears to have destined him for the head of a college ; but by some unlucky bias, he deviated into politics, and became a minister of state. From that moment, his life seems to have been one of uneasiness to himself, and of calamity to his country. Had he been content to sway his petty sceptre at Oxford, to prescribe university canons and regulate university manners, he might have been known to posterity as the best President that ever ruled St. John's; his life might have passed in works of humble but unquestionable utility, and have terminated in peace. But, in evil hour, Laud attracted the notice of James I., and the affectionate patronage with which he appears to have been honoured by that monarch, induced him to link his fortunes to those of a falling crown. Fresh from college, with all his academical prejudices in full vigour, with much knowledge of books and no experience of mankind, he became a confidential adviser at court. During the early part of his political life, he seems to have been content to forward the silly and violent schemes of Buckingham, the reigning favourite, without venturing, in any instance, to oppose them. Indeed, he appears to have looked upon Buckingham as his patron, and probably would have deemed himself ungrateful had he opposed any plan which it might have pleased the favourite to construct. And, in truth, we have never read of any man in whom “the sin of political gratitude” was more flagrantly exemplified than in Laud: from James he received favours, from Buckingham, and from Charles; and therefore, we conscientiously believe, he found himself unable to perceive a defect in any of their measures. His vanity was flattered by his speedy rise at court, by the deference shown to his piety and learning, and, above all, by the confidential intimacy in which he lived with two successive kings. In short, Laud was a man completely deceived himself, without the smallest wish to deceive others; vain, though meaning to be humble; ignorant, though profoundly learned—“ by much the wisest fool” that ever aspired to the name of statesman.

Historians appear to have agreed in ascribing to the high prerogative notions of Charles I., and to his extraordinary obstinacy, a large share of the calamities which signalized his reign. And it was certainly most unfortunate, both for the country and for Charles himself, that his confidence was ever given to Laud; a man, if possible, more wedded to the principles of despotism, than even the monarch whom he served, and whose obstinacy, by encouraging and countenancing that

[ocr errors]

of Charles, served only to render it more impracticable. Unfortunately, too, the influence which Laud obtained over his royal master was not exerted at the council-board only; but he seems to have possessed a power much more extensive, filling, like the Earl of Bute at the commencement of the late reign, the invidious situation of confidential guide to the monarch in all affairs-public and private, ecclesiastical and temporal.

That Laud assumed the government at a season of peculiar difficulty is unquestionably true; and it may be fairly doubted whether that circumstance does or does not render his conduct susceptible of excuse. Had he been forced into the situation of first minister after the death of Buckingham, it would have been incumbent on us to make due allowances for the difficulties of his situation; on the contrary, if it should be true (and we fear impartial history will affirm it) that the dizzy height to which he attained was sought by himself, the guilt of his impotent ambition is greatly aggravated. But whatever judgement we may form as to Laud's conduct in assuming the reins at such a time, it is quite impossible to deny that the difficulties of his station might have foiled the talents even of a Ximenes or a Richlieu. For upwards of twenty years, the discontents of the nation had been advancing with slow, but steady pace; while the current of free opinion, so long frozen up under the chilling rule of the Tudors, had burst its icy fetters, and now rolled on through the whole reign of James, becoming, in each succeeding year, a wider, and a deeper, and a more resistless stream. Wonderful, too, as were the strides by which, at that very time, philosophy was advancing under the auspices of Bacon, we can hardly regard as less extraordinary the rapid increase of sound political knowledge, and correct political feeling. Men began to perceive, that the absurdities which prerogative had been talking and acting for so many years were both ridiculous and oppressive; that the British constitution, which had been so long perverted to serve only the purposes of royalty, contained many latent virtues, which, if resolutely elicited, might elevate and ennoble the degraded commons of the land ; that liberty was the true nurse of the virtues and the sciences, while despotism lived by the suppression of both.

Hume has observed, that“ although the British erown, on the accession of the Stuarts, was possessed of a very extensive authority, that authority was founded merely on the opinion of the people influenced by ancient precedent and example: it was not supported either by money or by force of arms; and for this reason we need not wonder that the princes of that line were so extremely jealous of their prerogative,-being sensible that when those claims were ravished from them, they pos

[ocr errors]

sessed no influence by which they could maintain their dignity, or support the laws."* In this observation we think there is much truth; and it is an observation which deserves to be attended to, as accounting for that singular combination of violence and impotency, which signalized the prerogative measures of the first Stuarts. Luckily, however, public opinion, hitherto the scaunch friend of court-ascendancy, now took a decided turn; luckily, we say, because the court-system, which had been gaining strength rapidly under the vigorous and prudent reign of Elizabeth, might have attained, even under a James or a Charles, such a degree of real power, as would have proved fatal to popular rights. The contest, henceforth, was indeed unequal; against the violence and imbecility of an ill-defined prerogative were matched the temperance, the wisdom, and the vigour of a prudent nation, awakened to a sense of its rights; against the mean intellect and narrow views of a Buckingham were ranged the mighty and energetic minds of a Hambden, a Pym, a Hollis, a Hyde, and a Falkland.

We have no space to recapitulate all the distresses into which Buckingham's rashness and folly precipitated his royal master. Our readers, no doubt, have present to their minds, his mad wars and ignominious treaties; his profligate extravagance, and his contemptible and illegal shifts; his tyrannical prosecutions of individuals, and his undisguised attacks upon the national laws. It is sufficient for our purpose to observe, that after he had exasperated popular indignation to the uttermost, after he had ruined his royal master in the opinions of his subjects, and after he had sown in folly the seeds of those misfortunes which his successors reaped in a bitter harvest, he fell by the hand of the assassin,-bequeathing his principles and his station to Laud.

It was under these circumstances, then, that the author of the work before us began his ill-starred administration; and how utterly unqualified he was to cope with such difficulties, may be learned, partly from the evidence of history, and in no small degree from the volume now under review. We shall lay before our readers some specimens of the political and ecclesiastical views of the archbishop as given by himself, that they may form some judgement of his qualifications for that post into which his own misfortune or his own temerity introduced him.

The following is the philosophical view taken of the public discontents by the king's chief adviser :

“ The synod thus ended, and the canons having this success;

* Hist. of Eng. Appendix to the reign of James I.

« 上一頁繼續 »