Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

affected his peaceful mind, that he invariably honours it with a capital letter. A slight, and perhaps involuntary, tribute to fallen greatness; but what more could a merchant-tailor do for the “Gun," when all Wyat's horses, and all Wyat's men, could do nothing?

But seriously—for this matter of authorities is a very serious one-if this period of history is to be studied, recourse must be had to Strype's works; and this, not only because they contain many things not to be found elsewhere, and correct many things which have been misstated by others, but because they are the most accessible, and readable, and stretch over so long a period, that, voluminous as they are, they may still be said to offer “ multum in parvo when viewed in reference either to shelf-room, or purchase-money. They must be, they will be, and they ought to be, read by all men who profess to have, or to desire, any knowledge of the History of England; and he who can study them without being sensible of his obligations to the writer, without acknowledging and admiring his good purpose, his integrity, simplicity, and industry, must be a stupid or a bad man. At the same time, he who takes Strype for his authority, without being aware of the honest spirit of prostrate "hero-worship" in which he wrote biography, and which seems to have rendered him incapable of estimating, or almost of considering, the genuineness, authenticity, or weight, of documents on which he relied, or the character and authority of writers whom he quoted, will be sadly misled.

To return, however, to Bishop Ponet. Of course when he had left Sir Thomas Wyat, the best thing that he could do was to leave England; for whether treason prospered or not, he was likely to be in an awkward predicament if he remained. So he “fled abroad,” and wrote, “A shorte Treatise of

politike pouuer, and of the true Obedience which subiectes 'owe to Kynges and other ciuile Gouernours, with an Ex'hortacion to all true naturall Englishe men: a work which is certainly entitled to particular notice, not only because it emanated from a person of more ability and higher station than most of his party, but because the author's practice forms so clear and plain a commentary on his doctrine. He and his " secret friends” were not closeted schoolmen who in the perlustration of all things and every thing else, hit upon the question of killing no murder,' and spoke daggers without a thought of using them. Ponet's valour seems to have lain chiefly in his tongue and pen, and to have been of that superior kind which consists in a very high degree of discretion, suggesting to its possessor, not merely that, “he who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day;” but that he who runs away without fighting, has a better chance of coming to a future conflict unmutilated. But what valour he had was unquestionable as to its kind. He stood by the rebel chief as long as there was any hope that treason might prosper, and truth prevail, by means of great pieces of ordinance. We are not to look for obscure quiddities, or dark hints, or dubious imaginations, or mystical meanings in his book. When this “ brave shoot” heads a chapter “ Wether it be laufull to depose an euil gouernour, and kill a tyranne," we know what he is about at once,we want no canon of interpretation but the “great Gun.”

I have, however, occupied so much more space than I expected by this prefatory, but I believe very necessary matter, that instead of entering into any discussion of Ponet's work in this paper, I will but add two remarks with general reference to such extracts as I hope to offer hereafter.

Two modes of arrangement immediately present themselves.

First, the order of time; and this I should be very glad to follow; but in dealing with books of this kind and period, it is not easy, if possible, to do it. For, in the first place, some have no dates, and offer no precise internal evidence. Secondly, some may be very reasonably suspected of wrong dates, as it is beyond all question that they bear the names of wrong places. Thirdly, in dealing with works intended for clandestine circulation among a particular sect or community, we must calculate on the probability of their having been passed from hand to hand, and circulated for a considerable time, in manuscript before they were printed at all. Fourthly, (and I would take the liberty of throwing it out as a hint to the editors of books belonging to this period,) we must be cautious how we judge of the date of a fact, or of the date of a book, because the fact is recorded in the book. The volume, without bearing any mark of it, may be a reprint with alterations, or interpolations, which may

lead to mistakes in opinions respecting dates formed upon them.

A second order which suggests itself is that of subjects; but this it would be difficult to accomplish, and if it were done it would only mince the matter into unintelligible or uninteresting scraps, and on the whole convey an indistinct, and in some degree incorrect, impression. For, in fact, there is only one great subject; or, to speak more strictly, it is to what I consider as the great subject of the books, and the great object of the writers, that I wish to call the attention of the reader. I mean the promotion of a revolution in the government of England by the dethronement of Queen Mary. As to the subdivisions which it may be right to make in considering this point, I hope to speak hereafter.

ESSAY VI.

PURITAN POLITICS. No. II.

RELATING TO THE DUTY OF SUBJECTS TO THEIR RULERS

GENERALLY.

KNOX-GOODMAN-WHITTINGHAM-KETHE-BECON-THE

SUPPLICACYON-BRADFORD-PONET,

It has been already stated, that a great object of the books which were written and sent over to this country by the protestant exiles, was to promote a revolution in the English Government by the dethronement of Queen Mary. The only difficulty in proving this, is that which arises from having to make a selection amidst a superabundance of evidence.

It is true, that much which would have increased that difficulty is lost. Many of the worst productions of that period—the worst, not only in a moral and religious point of view, but as being the most prejudicial, passing from hand to hand or from mouth to mouth, amongst the worst people, and such as were most easily excited to the worst practices--the profane ballad, that regaled the devotees of the ale-house; the seditious broadside, scattered in the streets by unseen hands; the interlude, that amused a simple and untaught audience with blasphemous ribaldry concerning the holiest and most sacred mysteries of religion-these are now seldom to be met with. But for our purpose the loss is the less to be regretted, because they mostly lie open to the objection, that as there probably never was a time when their authorship could be certainly fixed, so it is altogether impossible at this distance of time to attempt anything of the kind; and, also, that for anything we can prove, these very abominations may have been forged by the enemies of the puritans for the express purpose of bringing them into trouble. I lay no stress, therefore, on works of this description, though it may, on some occasions, be worth while, for the sake of illustration, to refer to them'. But I will beg the reader to bear in mind, that however obscure our intelligence respecting them may be, these things were in existence, and in active operation, while I quit them to speak, as Doctor (afterwards Archbishop) Parker did to the Lord Keeper Bacon, of certain books, “that went then about London, being printed and spread abroad, and their

1 This is not the place to enter into details on a very curious subject, but it may be to the purpose to refer to the case of Bartlet Green, whose history occupies a considerable space in Fox's Martyrology. (Vol. VII. p. 732. 8vo Ed.) He was a young Templar, the ground of whose apprehension Fox states very obscurely. “The cause hereof,” he says, 'a letter which Green did write unto the said Goodman, containing as well the report of certain Demands or Questions, which were cast abroad in London, (as appeareth hereafter in a letter of his own penning)," &c. Green, in the letter thus referred to, in which he gives an account of his having been examined as to the cause of his imprisonment, says, “I said that the occasion of mine apprehension was a letter which 'I wrote to one Christopher Goodman, wherein (certifying him of such 'news as happened here) among the rest, I wrote that there were certain

printed papers of questions scattered abroad. Whereupon, [was this quite all?] being suspected to be privy unto the devising or publishing

of the same, I was committed to the Fleet,” &c. Perhaps, however, the reader may hereafter come to doubt whether the very circumstance of correspondenoo with " one Christopher Goodman” was not enough to raise some suspicion of any man, and whether the “whereupon” might not admit of considerable expansion and illustration. Unfortunately for our curiosity, Bishop Bonner waived that matter altogether on the ground the prisoner was sent to him only on account of heresy spoken or written since his committal to the Fleet. Whether Green knew more or less of these Questions, how much do we know? I am not aware of any testimony to their existence, but this obscure notice.

[ocr errors]

was

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »