« AnteriorContinuar »
the king was returning, and began to believe, as the play was almost at an end, he might personate a king's part no longer; and therefore, did again reinvest himself with his old rags of baseness, which were so tattered and poor. At the king's coming to Windsor, he attended two days at Buckingham's chamber, being not admitted to any better place than the room where trencher-scrapers and lacquies attended; there sitting upon an old wooden chest, amongst such as, for his baseness, were only fit companions, although the honour of his place did merit far more respect; with his purse and seal lying by him on that chest. Myself told a servant of my Lord of Buckingham, that it was a shame to see the purse or seal of so little value or esteem in his chamber, though the carryer without it merited nothing but scorn, being worst amongst the basest. He told me they had command it must be so.
After two days, he had admittance; at first entrance, he fell down flat at the Duke's foot, kissing it, vowing never to rise till he had his pardon; then was he again reconciled ; and since that time, so very a slave to the Duke, and all that family, that he durst not deny the command of the meanest of the kindred, nor oppose any thing. By this you see, a base spirit is ever concomitant with the proudest mind, and surely never so many brave parts, and so base and abject a spirit, tenanted together in any one earthen cottage, as in this one man. I shall not remember his baseness, being out of his place, of pinning himself, for very scraps, on that noble gentleman, Sir Julius Cæsar's hospitality, that at last he was forced to get the King's warrant to remove him out of his house. Yet, in his prosperity, the one being chancellor, the other master of the rolls, did so scorn and abuse him, as he would alter any thing the other did.” p. 130.
The authenticity of these anecdotes has been strenuously denied by the writer of the Life of Bacon, in the Biographia Britannica; and yet, it must be confessed, that many circumstances in his conduct give considerable countenance to them. It is said, by the editor of the Secret History of James I., that in the correspondence between Bacon and Villiers, there are no traces of servility on the part of the former, or of insolence on that of the latter; and yet surely, in the following letter, which was written on Bacon's restoration to favour, after the quarrel with Buckingham respecting the marriage of Purbeck Villiers, there is something not easily distinguishable from servility. “ My ever best Lord, now better than yourself,
“ Your Lordship's pen, or rather pencil, hath pourtrayed towards me such magnanimity and nobleness, and true kindness, as methinketh I see the image of some ancient virtue, and not any thing of these times. It is the line of my life and not the lines of my letter, that must express my thankfulness: wherein if I fail, then Ġod fail me, and make me as miserable, as I think myself at this time happy, by this reviver, through his majesty's singular clemency, and your incomparable love and favour."
The baseness and obsequiousness of Bacon, in his conduct towards the king, cannot be questioned, and it is but too probable, that he maintained the same deportment towards the favourite. Were it not for the evidence which we possess under his own hand, it would have been impossible to have conceived that a mind like Bacon's could have stooped to such singular ineanness.
The following is Weldon's character of Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, the brother of that Duke of Norfolk who lost his head for his attachment to Mary, Queen of Scots. He built the noble palace at the end of the Strand, now almost the last of the residences of our old nobility. He subsequently presented it to Lord Walden, the elder son of his nephew the Earl of Suffolk, whence it was called Suffolk House. sent, under the name of Northumberland House, it bids fair to rival its former splendour; and we rejoice that its noble possessor has had the good taste to restore it.
“ The next that came on the public theatre in favour, was Henry Howard, a younger son of the Duke of Norfolk, and Lord Thomas Howard; the one after, Earl of Northampton, the other, Earl of Suffolk, Lord Chamberlain, and after Lord Treasurer; who, by Salisbury's greatness with that family, rather than by any merit or wisdom in themselves, raised many great families of his children. Northampton, though a great clerk, yet not a wise man, but the grossest flatterer of the world; and, as Salisbury by his wit, so this by his fattery, raised himself. Yet, one great motive to the raising of all that name of Howard's was, the Duke of Norfolk suffering for the Queen of Scots, the King's mother; yet, did Suffolk so far get the start of Northampton, that Northampton never after loved him but from teeth outwards, only had so much discretion as not to fall to actual enmity, to the overthrow of both, to the weakening of that faction. Suffolk also, using him with all submissive respect, not for any love, but hope of gaining his great estate, and sharing it amongst his children; but Northampton's distaste was such, by the loss of the treasurer's place, which he had with such assurance promised to himself in his thoughts, that except what he gave to Master Henry Howard, the rest he gave to the Earl of Arundel, who by his observance, but more especially by giving Northampton all his estate if he never returned from travel, had wrought himself so far into his affections, that he doted upon him." p. 14.
Nothing can more strongly exemplify the character of the times in which he lived, than the history of Lord Northampton. Of a powerful and favoured family, he held some of the highest offices in the kingdom. His wealth was immense, and far beyond his necessities, for he died a bachelor. He was a learned man, and devoted much of his time to study; and so able a pen did he possess, that Sir Walter Raleigh used to say, that the Earl of Salisbury was a good orator but a bad writer; the Earl of Northampton, a good writer but a bad orator ; but, that Sir Francis Bacon excelled in both. With all these advantageswith nothing to excite bim to guilt, Northampton was implicated in two of the most infamous and atrocious transactions of his time—the divorce of Lady Essex, and the murder of Overbury. His letters to Rochester, and to the Lieutenant of the Tower, respecting Overbury, are disgraceful to an extreme. The only motive which could have induced him to act thus, must have been a desire to stand well with the favourite. Such was the scale of morality at the court of Jaines I.! The following is the character which the writer of Aulicus Coquinaria gives us of this nobleman, from which we may judge of the credit which is to be given to our author's antagonist. “ He was religious, and gave testimony thereof in his life, built that handsome convent at Greenwich, and endued it with revenue for ever, for maintenance of decayed gentlemen, a sufficient number, and for women, also considerable.” He certainly died at a very happy time for himself, as he just escaped a conviction for murder.
In the same style of strong and coarse, but characteristic drawing, Weldon presents us with portraits of the other most distinguished men of his time. His picture of James is, as it ought to be, the most complete, and certainly does give a very perfect idea of his personal appearance and peculiar habits.
“ He was of a middle stature, more corpulent through his cloaths than in his body, yet fat enough, his cloaths ever being made large and easy; the doublets quilted for stiletto proof; his breeches in great plaits and full stuffed; he was naturally of a timorous disposition, which was the reason of his quilted doublets ; his
eye large, ever rolling after any stranger that came in his presence, insomuch that many for shame have left the room, as being out of countenance : his beard was very thin; his tongue too large for his mouth, which made him drink very uncomely, as if eating his drink, which came out into the cup of each side of his mouth; his skin was as soft as taffeta sarsnet, which felt so because he never washed his hands, only rubbed his fingers' ends slightly with the wet-end of a napkin : his legs were very weak, having had as some thought) some foul play in his youth, or rather before he was born, that he was not able to stand at seven years of age; that weakness made him for ever leaning on other men's shoulders ; his walk was ever circular."--Character of King James.
Our author then gives some account of the king's diet and mode of life: “ That he drank very often, which was rather out of custom than any delight, and that his drinks were of that kind for strength, as Frontiniac, Canary, High Country wine,
Tent, and Scottish ale.” So Roger Coke tells us, that the king was fond not of ordinary French and Spanish wines, but strong Greek wines, and that by drinking, he became so fat and unwieldy that he used to be tied on horseback. Though he was exceedingly pleased with seeing his courtiers attired in gay apparel, he was very negligent of his own dress, never changing his clothes until they were worn to rags, “insomuch as one bringing to him a hat off a Spanish block, he cast it from him, swearing he neither loved them nor their fashions. Another one, bringing him roses on his shoes, he asked, if they would make him a ruff-footed dove? One yard of sixpenny ribbon served that turn.” Osborn has represented him at the chase, “in colours as green as the grass he trod upon, with a feather in his cap, and a horn instead of a sword by his side.”
Many entertaining anecdotes are to be found in the pages of Weldon. The following one of Queen Elizabeth is characteristic enough.
“ In this employment, I must not pass over one pretty passage which I have heard himself (Sir Roger Aston, a courtier of James I.) relate, that he did never come to deliver any letters from his master, but ever he was placed in the lobby, the hangings being turned him, where he might see the Queen dancing to a little fiddle, which was to no other end than that he should tell his master, by her youthful disposition, low likely he was to come to the possession of the crown he so much thirsted after; for, you must understand, the wisest in that kingdom did believe the King should never enjoy this crown, as long as there was an old wife in England, which they did believe we ever set up, as the other was dead.” p. 5.
The ambassadors of Great Britain never assumed so much state and splendour, and yet were never so little respected, as during the reign of James I. Nothing could equal the gorgeousness of the Earl of Carlisle's entry into Paris, of which Wilson has left a minute account, and we may perceive the estimation in which the English government was held abroad, from the conduct of the French minister to Lord Herbert, at that time ambassador to the court of Versailles. * Fortunately for our reputation abroad, the representatives whom James had the discretion to select, were often men of high character and courage, as Lord Herbert, Sir Henry Wotton, and Sir Ralph Winwood, who in some degree rescued the country from the disgrace which was cast upon it by the timorous and vacillating conduct of the monarch. *Early in his reign, Howard, Earl of
* Life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, p. 158.
Nottingham, the Lord High Admiral, was despatched into Spain; and we have the following account, in Weldon, of the spirited behaviour of Sir Robert Mansel, who accompanied the embassy.
“ Sir Robert Mansel, who was a man born to vindicate the honour of his nation, as his own, being vice admiral, and a man on whom the old admiral wholly relied; having despatched the ships to begone the next morning, came in very late to supper. Sir Richard Levison, sitting at the upper end of the table, amongst the grandees, the admiral himself not supping that night, being upon the despatch of letters, upon Sir Robert Mansel's entrance, offered to rise to give him place, but he sate down instantly at the lower end and would not let any man stir, and falling to his meat, did espy a Spaniard, as the dishes emptied, ever putting some in his bosom, some in his breeches, that they both strutted. Sir Robert Mansel sent a message to the upper end of the table, to Sir Richard Levison, to be delivered in his ear; that whatsoever he should see bim do, he should desire the gentlemen and grandees to sit quiet, for there should be no cause of any disquiet. On the sudden, Sir Robert Mansel steps up and takes the Spaniard in his arms, at which the table began to rise--Sir Richard Levison quiets them-brings him up to the end amongst the grandees, there pulls out the plate from his bosom, breeches, and every part about him, which did so amaze the Spaniard, and vindicate that aspersion cast upon our nation, that never after was there any such syllable heard, but all honour done to the nation, and all thanks to him in particular.
" From thence, next day, they went to Madrid, where all the royal entertainment Spain could yield, was given them; and at the end of the grand entertainment and revels, which held inost part of the night, as they were all returning to their lodgings, the street being made light by white wax lights, and the very night forced into a day by shineing light, as they
were passing on the street, a Spaniard catcheth off Sir Robert Mansel's hat, with a very rich jewel in it, and away he fies; Sir Robert not being of a spirit to have any thing violently taken from him, nor of such a court-like compliment to part with a jewel of that price, to one no better acquainted with him, hurls open the boot, follows the fellow, and some three gentlemen did follow him, to secure him ; houseth the fellow in the house of an Alguazil, which is a great officer or judge in Spain. This officer, wondering at the manner of their coming, the one without his hat and sword in his hand, the others with all their swords, demands the cause; they tell him ; he saith, surely none can think his house a sanctuary, who is to punish such offenders. But Sir Robert Mansel would not be so put off with the Spaniard's gravity, but enters the house, leaving two at the gate, to see that none should come out while he searched. A long time they could find nothing, and the Alguazil urging this as an affront; at last, looking down into a well of a small depth, he saw the fellow stand up to the neck in water. Sir Robert Mansel seized on his hat and jewel, leaving the fellow to the Alguazil, but he had much rather have fingered the jewel; and his gravity told Sir Robert Mansel, he could not have it without form of law, which Sir Robert dispensed with, carrying away his hat and jewel, and never heard further of the business."