Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

education ; and, as a means of inducing James to consent to the arrangement, engaged to advance him such sums of money as might be necessary for securing his succession to the throne of England. James, however, had still wisdom and virtue enough left to reject so insidious an offer. On the removal of the royal family to England, James thought proper to invest his son, at nine years of age, with the order of the garter, and to place him with a numerous and costly establishment of his own in one of the royal palaces. The prince's household consisted at first of seventy servants; but their number was doubled the next year, and, in 1610, had swelled to the amount of four hundred and twenty

six persons.

Little, certainly, was to be expected from a pupil so situated as prince Henry. So early treated with all the deference paid to royalty, and surrounded with persons whose only interest it was to gain his ear and heart by gratifying his childish caprices to the utmost,—courted also by those who now looked forward to his wielding, at no distant period, the sceptre of England, -it would not have been wonderful had he given early manifestation of a temper every thing the reverse of amiable. But nature had done more for him than his guardians. From his cradle he had evinced uncommon sweetness of disposition and quickness of understanding; and these qualities strengthened with his growth. Amongst those who narrowly watched the development of the young prince's character was M. la Boderic the French ambassador, who, in October, 1606, writes thus of him to his minister: “ None of his pleasures savour in the least of a child. He is a particular lover of horses and what belongs to them: but is not fond of hunting, and when he does engage in it, it is rather for the pleasure of galloping than for any which the dogs give him. He is fond of playing at tennis, and at another Scottish diversion very like mall, but always with persons elder than himself, as if he despised those of his own age. He studies two hours in the day, and employs the rest of his time in tossing the pike, or leaping, or shooting with the bow, or throwing the bar, or vaulting, or some other exercise of that kind ; and he is never idle. He is very kind to his dependents, supports their interests against all persons whatsoever, and urges all that he undertakes for them or others with such zeal as insures its success: for, besides his exerting his whole strength to compass what he desires, he is already feared by those who have the management of affairs, and especially by the earl of Salisbury, who appears to be greatly apprehensive of the prince's ascendancy; as the prince, on the other hand, shows little esteem for his lordship.”

His moral dispositions were still more promising. He was ever assi. duous in the performance of his public and private devotions. He strictly forbade all profane swearing in his household, and readily asso. ciated with the more religiously inclined of the nobility, especially with the amiable Sir John Harrington, son, and for a short time successor to the first Lord Harrington of Exon. Sir Charles Cornwallis has left is the following interesting anecdote of the young prince: “Once when the prince was hunting the stag, it chanced the stag, being spent, crossed the road where a butcher and his dog were travelling. The dog killed the stag, which was so great that the butcher could not carry him off When the huntsman and the company came up, they fell at odds with the butcher, and endeavoured to incense the prince against him, to

[ocr errors]

whom the prince soberly answered, “What if the butcher's dog killed the stag, what could the butcher help it ?' They replied, if his father had been served so, he would have sworn so as no man could have endured it. *Away !' replied the prince, all the pleasure in the world is not worth an oath.' In the management of his extensive household, he betrayed equal generosity and prudence. While he allowed no really meritorious servant to pass unnoticed, he sternly reproved every offender. “Whatever abuses,” says Cornwallis, “were represented to hirn, he immediately redressed, to the entire satisfaction of the parties aggrieved. In his removal from one of his houses to another, and in his attendance on the king on the same occasions, or in progresses, he would suffer no provisions or carriages to be taken up for his wise, without full contentment given to the parties. And he was so solicitous to prevent any person from being prejudiced or annoyed by himself or any of his train, that whenever he went out to hunt or hawk before the harvest was ended, he would take care that none should pass through the corn, and, to set them an example, would himself ride rather a furlong about.”

To these amiable qualities he added an active and inquiring mind, ever bent on adding to its acquisitions, and exploring all possible sources of knowledge. “He loved and did mightily strive to do somewhat of every thing, and to excel in the most excellent.

He greatly delighted in all kinds of rare inventions and arts, and in all kinds of engines belonging to the wars, both at land and sea,-in shooting and levelling great pieces of ordnance,—and in ordering and marshalling of armies,-in building and in gardening,-in all sorts of rare music, chiefly the trumpet and drum,-in sculpture, limning, and carving, – and in all sorts of excellent and rare pictures, which he had brought unto him from all countries."

From a prince so well-endowed, so amiable, and so energetic, much was to be expected; the father's failings contributed, likewise, to cause the nation centre its hopes for the future in the son. “ The palpable partiality,” says Osborne, “ that descended from the father to the Scots, did excite the whole love of the English upon his son, Henry, whom they engaged by so much expectation, as it may be doubted whether it ever lay in the power of any prince, merely human, to bring so much felicity into a nation as they did all his life propose to themselves at the death of King James."

All these high hopes, however, were soon blighted. In the spring of 1612, the young prince's health began to decline. Lingard takes care to inform us that some writers attributed this to the prince's debauchery, but is pleased to add that he regards the opinion of others who traced the prince's early decline to his own ' turbulence and obstinacy'3 as the more probable. He has adduced no proofs, however, either of Henry's debauchery or his turbulence : if by the latter term we are to understand any thing more than the natural sprightliness and activity of a youth of nineteen years of age. As to the prince's debauchery, we are at a loss to conceive upon what authority worthy of a national historian, Lingard has condescended to repeat such an insinuation, in the face of the most direct and positive evidence that the prince's habits were the reverse of every thing implied in the term.

2

· Cornwallis.

· Hist. of Eng., vol. vi. p. 98.

He expired on the 6th of November, 1612. The disease of which he died was a putrid fever which, acting upon a constitution already weakened, and aggravated by injudicious medical treatment, cut him off in a short time. His death was bewailed by the whole nation, and most of the poets of the day hastened to strew their voluntary offerings on his tomb. The charge which has been insinuated, that Henry was poisoned by the wicked Rochester, though very generally believed at the time, seems, upon the whole, as improbable as the still darker one of his father having been privy to the crime.

John, Lord Harrington.

BORN A. D. 1591.-DIED A. D. 1613.

This amiable youth was the eldest son of that Lord Harrington, to whose care King James committed the education of his daughter Elizabeth. He is styled by Gataker, in his • Discourse Apolegetical,' “a mirror of nobility,” and Dr Birch has made honourable mention of him in his life of Prince Henry. While yet a boy, he was distinguished for the extent, variety, and accuracy of his learning. He was an accomplished classical scholar, and spoke French and Italian with fluency. During a tour which he made on the continent, accompanied by Mr Tovey, 'a grave and learned man,' he is said to have excited the deadly enmity of the Jesuits, by his ardent attachment to the reformed doctrines, and his bold and eager avowal of them in public; and it was supposed that his premature death was occasioned by poison which had been administered to him by some of these ecclesiastics during his residence abroad His tutor, Mr Tovey, is said to have been poisoned at the same time, and to have died in consequence soon after his return to England, although Lord Harrington's more youthful and vigorous constitution resisted the effects of the deadly draught longer. It is extremely probable that the whole of this statement may be referred to the violent religious prejudices and antipathies of the times. While in Italy and the Venetian States, “those schools of impurity, whence few return such as they went out, he spent not his time,” says the author of the

Nugæ Antiquæ,' “ in courting of ladies and contemplating the beauty of women ; but he preferred his books before their beauty, and, for his society, chose men of parts and learning for arts and arms. Besides, he was very temperate in his diet, frequent in fasting, and hated idle. ness and much sleep.” On succeeding to the family title and estates, he honourably discharged all the debts which his father had contracted by his magnificent style of housekeeping. But the splendour of his religion outshone all his mural and natural accomplishments. He was eminently and deeply pious, spending the greater part of the day in religious meditation and exercises, and devoting the tenth part of his income to charitable purposes. He died in 1613, in the 22d year of his age. His estate descended to his two sisters, Lucy, countess of Bedford, and Anne, wife of Sir Robert Chichester.

[ocr errors]

Sir Thomas Overbury.

BORY CIRC. A. D. 1581.-DIED A, D, 1613.

Sir Thomas OvERBURY, the son of Nicholas Overbury of Bourtonor-the-hill, in Gloucestershire, was born at Compton-Scorfen, about the year 1581. He distinguished himself while a student at Oxford, by his successful pursuit of the logic and hilosophy of the day. On leaving the university, he entered the Middle Temple, and devoted himself for a time to the study of the municipal law, previous to his going abroad. He spent several years on the continent, where he accomplished an extensive tour. On his return home, he attracted the notice of James' minion, Rochester, who made him his secretary, and in 1608, procured for him the honour of knighthood. Overbury was a man of very considerable natural powers, and had greatly improved his talents by observation and travel; he proved an able counsellor, and was soon regarded by his patron as “an oracle of wisdom. His rash and presumptuous temper, however, soon blighted the hopes of a political career begun under such favourable auspices. He had early incurred the displeasure of James for an insult offered to the queen, but Rochester's inAuence sufficed to screen him from more unpleasant consequences at the moment, and his influence continued to be courted by all who had favours to solicit from that dispenser of court-patronage, up to the very day of his arrest and committal to the tower.

The occasion of his fall was a criminal intrigue betwixt Rochester and the Lady Frances Howard, the eldest daughter of the lord-chamberlain, Suffolk. “ No sooner," says Hume, “had James mounted the throne of England, than he remembered his friendship for the unfortunate families of Howard and Devereux, who had suffered for their attachment to the cause of Mary and to his own. Having restored young Essex to his blood and dignity, and conferred the titles of Suffolk and Northampton on two brothers of the house of Norfolk, he sought the farther pleasure of uniting these families by the marriage of the earl of Essex with Lady Frances Howard, daughter of the earl of Suffolk. She was only thirteen, he fourteen years of age ; and it was thought proper, till both should attain the age of puberty, that he should go abroad and pass some time in his travels. He returned into England after four years' absence, and was pleased to find his countess in the full lustre of beauty, and possessed of the love and admiration of the whole court. But, when the earl approached, and claimed the privileges of a husband, he met with nothing but symptoms of aversion and disgust, and a flat refusal of any farther familiarities.

He applied to her parents, who constrained her to attend him into the country, and to partake of his bed: but nothing could overcome her rigid sullenness and obstinacy, and she still rose from his side without having shared the nuptial pleasures. Disgusted with reiterated denials, he at last gave up the pursuit, and separating himself from her, thenceforth abandoned her conduct to her own will and discretion.

“ Such coldness and aversion in Lady Essex arose not without an attachment to another object. The favourite had opened his addresses, and had been too successful in making impression on the tender heart of the young countess She imagined, that so long as she refused the embraces of Essex, she never could be deemed his wife, and that a separation and divorce might still open the way for a new marriage with her beloved Rochester. Though their passion was so violent, and their opportunities of intercourse so frequent, that they had already indulged themselves in all the gratifications of love, they still lamented their un. happy fate, while the union between them was not entire and in lissoluble. And the lover as well as his mistress, was impatient, till their wutual ardour should be crowned by marriage.

“So momentous an affair could not be concluded without consulting Overbury, with whom Rochester was accustomed to share all his secrets. While that faithful friend had considered his patron's attachment to the countess of Essex merely as an affair of gallantry, he had favoured its progress; and it was partly owing to the ingenious and passionate letters which he dictated, that Rochester had met with such success in his addresses. Like an experienced courtier, he thought that a conquest of this nature would throw a lustre on the young favourite, and would tend still farther to endear him to James, who was charmed to hear of the amours of his court, and listened with attention to every tale of gallantry. But great was Overbury's alarm, when Rochester mentioned his design of marrying the countess; and he used every method to dissuade his friend from so foolish an attempt. He represented how invidious, how difficult an enterprize it would be to procure her a divorce from her husband: How dangerous, how shameful, to take into his own bed a profligate woman, who, being married to a young nobleman of the first rank, had not scrupled to prostitute her character, and to bestow favours on the object of a capricious and momentary passion. And, in the zeal of friendship, he went so far as to threaten Rochester, that he would separate himself for ever from him, if he could so far forget his honour and his interest as to prosecute the intended marriage.

“ Rochester had the weakness to reveal this conversation to the countess of Essex; and when her rage and fury broke out against Overbury, he had also the weakness to enter into her vindictive projects, and to swear vengeance against his friend, for the utmost instance which he could receive of his faithful friendship. Some contrivance was necessary for the execution of their purpose. Rochester addressed himself to the king, and after complaining that his own indulgence to Overbury had begotten in him a degree of arrogance which was extremely disagreeable, he procured a commission for his embassy to Russia ; which he represented as a retreat for his friend, both profitable and honourable. When consulted by Overbury, he earnestly dissuaded him froin accepting this offer, and took on himself the office of satisfying the king if he should be anywise displeased with the refusal. To the king again, he aggravated the insolence of Overbury's conduct, and obtained a warrant for committing him to the Tower, which James intended as a slight punishment for his disobedience. The lieutenant of the Tower was a creature of Rochester's, and had lately been put into the office for this very purpose: he confined Overbury so strictly, that the unhappy prisoner was debarred the sight of even his nearest relations ; and no communication of any kind was allowed with him during near six months which he lived in prison.” So closely were these orders ob

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »