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He must have conducted himself with uncommon prudence and address: for he had personal friends in the Court of Cromwell, at the same time that he was corresponding with his father-in-law, Sir Richard Browne, the ambassador of King Charles II. at Paris; and at the same period that he paid his court to the king, he maintained his intimacy with a disgraced minister.
In his travels, he made acquaintance not only with men eminent for learning, but with men ingenious in every art and profession.
His manners we may presume to have been most agreeable: for his company was sought by the greatest men, not merely by inviting him to their own tables, but by their repeated visits to him at his own house; and this was equally the case with regard to the ladies, of many of whom he speaks in the highest style of admiration, affection, and respect. He was master of the French, Italian, and Spanish languages. That he had read a great deal is manifest; but at what time he found opportunities for study, it is not easy to say. He acknowledges himself to have been idle, while at Oxford; and, when on his travels, he had little time for reading, except when he stayed about nineteen weeks in France, and at Padua, where he was likewise stationary for several months. At Rome, he remained a considerable time ; but, whilst there, he was so continually engaged in viewing the great variety of interesting objects to be seen in that city, that he could have found little leisure for reading. When resident in England, he was so much occupied in the business of his numerous offices, in paying visits, in receiving company at home, and in examining whatever was deemed worthy of curiosity, or of scientific observation, that it is astonishing how he found the opportunity to compose the numerous books which he published, and the much greater number of Papers, on almost every subject, which still remain in
manuscript; * to say nothing of the very extensive and voluminous correspondence which he appears to have carried on during his long life, with men of the greatest eminence in Church and State, and the most distinguished for learning, both Englishmen and foreigners. In this correspondence, he does not seem to have made use of an amanuensis; and he has left transcripts in his own hand of great numbers of letters both received and sent. He observes, indeed, in one of these, that he seldom went to bed before twelve, or closed his eyes before one o'clock. He was happy in a wife of congenial dispositions with his own, of an enlightened mind, who had read much, and was skilled in etching and painting, yet attentive to the domestic concerns of her household, and a most affectionate mother. Of her personal attractions an idea may be formed from the print accompanying this work, engraved from a most exquisite drawing, in pencil, by that celebrated French artist, Nanteuil, in 1650. So many particulars of Mr. Evelyn have been given in the “Biographia Britannica,”f and in Mr. Chalmers’s valuable memoir in the “Biographical Dictionary,” that it is unnecessary to repeat them ; but some circumstances have been there omitted, and others, which are mentioned, admit of elucidation, or addition. Such it is proposed to notice here, in addition to the foregoing personal sketch. His grandfather, George, was not the first of the family who settled in Surrey. John, father of this George, was of Kingston, in 1520, and married a daughter of David Vincent, Esq., Lord of the Manor of Long Ditton, near Kingston, which afterwards came into the hands of George, who there carried on the manufacture of gunpowder. He purchased very considerable estates in Surrey, and three of his sons became heads of three families, viz., Thomas, his eldest son, at Long Ditton; John at Godstone, and Richard at Wotton. Each of these three families had the title of Baronet conferred on them at different times, viz., at Godstone, in 1660; Long Ditton, in 1683; and Wotton, in 1713.
* Amongst these is a Bible bound in three volumes, the pages filled with notes. See Appendix to the Second Volume of this Edition for a list of Evelyn's published and unpublished writings, as far as it has been possible to ascertain them. + Second Edition, 1793, vol. v.
The manufacture of gunpowder was carried on at Godstone as well as at Long Ditton; but it does not appear that there ever was any mill at Wotton, or that the purchase of that place was made with such a view. Nor does it appear, from the words quoted in the “Biographia,” that Mr. Evelyn's grandfather planted the timber, with which Wotton was, and always has been, so well stored. The soil produces it naturally, and, in addition to what has been planted, it has at all times been carefully preserved.
It may be not altogether incurious to observe that, though Mr. Evelyn's father was a man of very considerable fortune, the first rudiments of this son’s learning were acquired from the village schoolmaster over the porch of Wotton Church. Of his progress at another school, and at College, he himself speaks with great humility; nor did he add much to his stock of knowledge, whilst he resided in the Middle Temple, to which his father sent him, with the intention that he should apply to what he calls “an impolished study,” which he says he never liked. More will be said of this in a subsequent page.
The “Biographia” does not notice his tour in France, Flanders, and Holland, in 1641, when he made a short campaign as a volunteer in an English regiment then in service in Flanders.”
* This expression is, perhaps, hardly applicable to the fact of Evelyn's having witnessed a siege merely as a curious spectator. He reached the camp on the 2nd, and left it on the 8th of August, 1641. It is certain, however, that during these six days he took his turn on duty, and trailed a pike. —See Diary, v. i., p. 19. [u.]
Nor does it notice his having set out, with intent to join King Charles I. at Brentford; and subsequently desisting when the result of that battle became known, on the ground that his brother's as well as his own estates were so near London as to be fully in the power of the Parliament, and that their continued adherence would have been certain ruin to themselves without any advantage to his Majesty. In this dangerous conjuncture he asked and obtained the King's leave to travel. Of these travels, and the observations he made therein, an ample account is given in this Diary.
The national troubles coming on before he had engaged in any settled plan for his future life, it appears that he had thoughts of living in the most private manner, and that, with his brother's permission, he had even begun to prepare a place for retirement at Wotton. Nor did he afterwards wholly abandon his intention, if the plan of a college, which he sent to Mr. Boyle in 1659, was really formed on a serious idea. This scheme is given at length in the “Biographia,” and in Dr. Hunter's edition of the “Sylva” in 1776; but it may be observed that he proposes it should not be more than twenty-five miles from London.
As to his answer to Sir George Mackenzie’s panegyric on Solitude, in which Mr. Evelyn takes the opposite part, and urges the preference to which public employment and an active life is entitled,—it may be considered as the playful essay of one who, for the sake of argument, would controvert another's position, though in reality agreeing with his own opinion; if we think him serious in two letters to Mr. Abraham Cowley, dated 12th March and 24th August, 1666, in the former of which he writes: “You had reason to be astonished at the presumption, not to name it affront, that I, who have so highly celebrated recess, and envied it in others, should become an advocate
for the enemy, which of all others it abhors and flies from. I conjure you to believe that I am still of the same mind, and that there is no person alive who does more honour and breathe after the life and repose you so happily cultivate and advance by your example; but, as those who praised dirt, a flea, and the gout, so have I public employment in that trifling Essay, and that in so weak a style compared with my antagonist's, as by that alone it will appear I neither was nor could be serious, and I hope you believe I speak my very soul to you.
* Sunt enim Musis sua ludicra, mista Camoenis
In the other, he says, “I pronounce it to you from my heart as oft as I consider it, that I look on your fruitions with inexpressible emulation, and should think myself more happy than crowned heads, were I, as you, the arbiter of mine own life, and could break from those gilded toys to taste your well-described joys with such a wife and such a friend, whose conversation exceeds all that the mistaken world calls happiness.” But, in truth, Mr. Evelyn’s mind was too active to admit of solitude at all times, however desirable it might appear to him in theory.
After he had settled at Deptford, which was in the time of Cromwell, he kept up a constant correspondence with Sir Richard Browne (his father-in-law), the King's Ambassador at Paris; and though his connexion must have been known, it does not appear that he met with any interruption from the government here. Indeed, though he remained a decided Royalist, he managed so well as to have intimate friends even amongst those nearly connected with Cromwell; and to this we may attribute his being able to avoid taking the Covenant, which he says he never did take. In 1659, he published “An Apology for the Royal Party;” and soon after printed a paper which