« AnteriorContinuar »
would fain possess them; and, nobler and better office still, a voluntary almoner between the rich and the poor. Both are men of singular energy, brave, active, and full of vigour, long livers, keen observers, each with an insight of his own; and whether we admire the courage which keeps Mr Pepys in London at his post through all the horrors of the plague a courage which he cannot help admiring himself, with a mixture of wonder at his own intrepidity-or the promptitude which brings Evelyn to Court through the hot and perilous streets of the still burning city, with his "plot" for a new London-it is impossible to mistake the readiness for emergencies, the strength of exertion, and quick perception of necessity which distinguished these most dissimilar men.
With a stately bow of respect, owed fully more to his own importance than to his audience, John Evelyn presents himself to the courteous hearing of posterity. Third son of Richard Evelyn of Wotton, descendant of sundry families and persons of repute, whose names figure in county lists and on white marble tombstones, it would not beseem the well-born and well-mannered patrician to burst upon us without an introduction. He who at six years old sits for his picture, and at a still earlier period lays foundation-stones of local churches, is marked already by the public seal a small representative of all constitutional dignities, church and state; and it is by no means difficult to realise the miniature man, or rather miniature gentleman and courtier, in his little velvet coat and dainty ruffles, his cravat of point lace and inch of sword.
Yet there is a satisfaction in knowing that little Evelyn has heart to be idle, after all, and is able to indulge, though solemnly and with self-reproof, in the whims and erratic studies of youth. Farther on we have even dancing and trifling added to the catalogue, though not without a suspicion that all the lofty stripling's trifling and dancing are only additional modes of perfecting the education which is not complete without these lighter appendages. Talk of modern education, with all its strain and all its facts and figures! but
what is this to the positive coat-armour of accomplishment and perfection in which the youthful gentleman of King Charles I. was expected to indue himself?-not an easy working-day costume, flexible to ordinary human modes of operation, nor a fancy suit of æsthetics and philanthropies, such as does credit to the youth of leisure and wealth in these days, but such a pomp of buckram and embroidery, such wonderful Admirable Crichtonism, such virtuosity, that modern accomplishments must fall back dismayed before the ponderous splendour, and modern schoolmasters-let them be abroad as much as they will— shrink in conscious inferiority from the task of competing with this ancient manufacture of the polished gentleman,-a curious production of antique fashion and slow pace, it may be, yet we cannot deny with rare and noble qualities, and a solemn grace, the glory whereof has departed from this realm of England many a day and long.
To complete this weighty and elaborate process of self-manufacture, and not without a prudent motive, by the way, of removing himself from the disastrous scene of civil war, wherein, as Mr Evelyn wisely says, he and his brothers, from the locality of their estates, would but have exposed themselves to certain ruin, without doing corresponding service to the cause of King Charles, our youthful Paladin sets forth upon his travels, father and mother being dead by this time, and the family home at Wotton become his brother's inheritance. After a most stately and edifying fashion these travels are conducted, and when he has visited Rome and the greater cities of Italy, Evelyn returns to Paris to marry a very young and very fair wife, daughter of the English ambassador there, whom he has to leave very shortly, making his will with all solemnity, to look after his affairs in England. After an absence of a year and a-half he returns to Paris, King Charles of blessed memory being by this time the saint and martyr instead of the struggling monarch of his scattered party. By and by, a formal return of the family is made to England, where they manage to live
very comfortably, as it seems, and not without much interchange of pleasant visitings and occasions of rejoicing, multiplying and growing rich during the time of that "unnatural usurpation" which kept the virtuous Charles II. from his father's throne. There is nothing more remarkable in all contemporary histories of a troubled era than the quiet tenor of everyday, which, after all, public events agitate so little. To see, instead of the intense engrossing excitement which we look for, the busy plotting and perpetual ferment of so singular a period of national transition, and so high a tide of faction and party feeling, long lapses of quiet days, wherein common people go about common business, when sales are made and peaceable marriages, babies born and gardens planned, when travelling gentlemen have leisure to get robbed, and virtuoso ladies to make collections of china, and all the world to go on by the hour, according to its wont, in the calm unconsciousness of human custom, has a singular effect upon the distant spectator-vision of posterity. Good posterity of two hundred years hence, perusing with curious interest these worn and yellow pages for sake of the insight they may throw upon the perplexing history of the great Russian war! Not a doubt you will find in the brown enclosure of Maga something on the subject to convince you that British soil trembles all over with eager interest-that at board and fireside there is no other matter worthy of discussion-that troops and supplies-far-away movements of fleets and armies-far-off echoes of artillery and din of battle, ring through every household. Believe it not. The howl of little Johnnie, newly tumbled down stairs, is a much more moving sound than the Cossack war-cry in the distant fight; and not a resounding gun of all these armaments shall thrill our domestic heart with such potential horror as those three sharp strokes at which, with an instinctive shudder, we acknowledge the presence of the tax-collector, the most dread officer of state. In like manner yonder ancient days pass over the heads of John Evelyn and Mary his wife. A royal martyr and a royal
exile, an “unnatural usurpation," even a sequestered church, entirely fail to overthrow the natural balance. Daily human life, which can make nothing of the seven-leagued boots of history, but must tread on its ordinary pace with its prosaic ordinary footing, walks through revolutions blindfolded, nor ever finds out what burning coals it has passed over, nor what pitfalls it has escaped, till long after looking back upon them, in the light of recollection, when many a time the pulse quickens and the heart beats to perceive dangers at the time unknown.
With no such solemn introduction as his more dignified contemporary, Mr Secretary Pepys bustles into our presence on the eve of a new time. Left entirely in the dark, not only in respect to the colour of hair and stature of person belonging to the paternal Pepys, but to the very existence of such an individual, Samuel, spruce, full-grown, and curious, comes with a sudden leap out of chaos and the unknown, and reveals himself, no growth of years, no proper little boy, and much-educated young man, but an achieved and complete personage, a fait accompli to our admiring_eyeswith a wife and a servant Jane, a faithful adherence to "my Lord," a place in an office, a house in Axe Yard-where, nevertheless, he lives in the garret-a suit with great skirts (for Pepys is not Pepys without his costume), and a private_condition
very handsome, esteemed rich, but indeed very poor." In such aspect is it that Samuel Pepys rises upon the horizon, a man even then of much business and many occupations young, alert, and full of curiosity, " "a rising man," as the phrase goes-missing no opportunity of either advancement or emolument, and quite ready to strike in with the tide, however it may turn; nor much caring, as it seems, whether Charles Rex or Richard Protector win the day, so that my lord, and of natural consequence my lord's dutiful and serviceable kinsman, have a sufficiently good chance of getting to the top of the wave.
By and by, the lesser stars and satellites of Samuel appear in the firmament. Not to speak of the poor wife who burns her hand making ready
the remains of a turkey for the Sunday's dinner, and who has rather a secluded life of it in the garret at this present writing, but who for the rest seems to have wonderfully little to grumble at very much less than she comes to have by-and-by in Samuel's own person-and is my dear wife, and affectionately considered-there appears the father, whom Samuel finds in his "cutting-house" at his honest trade of tailor, and of whom, with his mother, he has a very unsatisfactory leave-taking on his going to sea, "without having them to drink or say anything of business one to another," -a brother John, who becomes visible as a scholar at Paul's school, having his declamation overlooked and corrected for him by Samuel, who is a good brother—another, Tom, cursorily mentioned afterwards as carrying home a new coat with silver buttons to the rising Admiralty official,-and sundry "cozins," who cross the stage now and then, giving and receiving dinners, advices, and such matters of ordinary reciprocity. The ground is strangely shifted in this second family group, from the lofty kinsfolk of Wotton and Godstone, the ambassador father-in-law, and magnificent connections of Evelyn and his wife; yet by no means contemptible people are these merry citizens, pleasure-loving and feast-giving, with their own pretensions, quite as decided, though of a lesser order of greatness. The time is manifestly a crisis, and vexed with cross currents of intelligence from every hand, poor good Richard Cromwell having broken down under the weight of his father's truncheon, the woeful Rump not knowing what to make of its dreary burden of life, and General Monk advancing towards the city-a powerful but uncomprehended fate, touching whose intentions the public mind is in great doubt and wonder. This public mind, like Pepys' own, seems to be fully more eager to hear of change than active to bring it about, and waits with great curiosity and eagerness, as the exhausted public mind, not fertile in expedients, is apt to wait for the command and leading of some visible Influence great enough to give authority to the general wish. At the coffee-house-at the House itself, where there is an undeniable
"muddle," and nothing half so grateful as coffee-in Westminster Hall, at church, and in every public place, all sorts of rumours are to be heard of, till rumour grows almost weary of perpetual self-contradiction. About this time occurs a pretty glimmer of picture, which shows that Samuel has an eye for the picturesque. General Monk has been appointed general-inchief of all the forces in the three kingdoms, and there is a universal satisfaction, although no other positive changes seem to be known. In Westminster Hall Pepys meets with Locke and Purcell, famous masters in their melodious art, and the three go to a coffee-house, where they are placed at windows overlooking the water. Before them lies the Thames, "the silent highway"-not over silent, one may conclude, in this time of public excitement-and full of the swift shooting wherries and gay barges, more graceful to see than coach and omnibus, which make a constant communication between the City and learned and stately Westminster. Purcell and Locke, and Pepys himself, who is no contemptible musician, sing "brave songs" by the windows of the coffee-house. The air tingles with the joyful sound of bells; the February afternoon, sunny and red, shines on the animated river, and, looking down its gay and busy tide, the chronicler says, "Here out of the windows it was a most pleasant sight to see the city, from one end to the other, with a glory about it, so high was the light of the bonfires, and so thick round the city, and the bells rang everywhere."
Almost immediately my lord emerges from the darkness, goes to sea-which is to say, lies in the Channel, waiting the turn of events-taking with him this faithful historian; and finally has the honourable office of bringing home the king. The most noticeable thing in this part of the record, and the most amusing, is the unfailing industry and pains of Samuel in picking up all the small perquisites and fees pertaining to his office. His "half-piece," which he gets from a person who would be chaplain; his whole piece and twenty shillings in silver from the captain whose commission he draws; his various droppings in of little streams of revenue; his addings up and thanks
givings for the same; together with his simple delight in being addressed as S. P., Esq., and his satisfaction in sitting at table with my lord, and having so much honour in the fleet. How these transactions might look at the present day, or if any one above seventeen dare acknowledge to his inmost heart a stray spark of pleasure in the Esquire on the back of a letter, is quite a different matter. Samuel Pepys makes no boggling at his official dishonesty, if dishonesty it was; his vanity is so simple, genuine, and warm, that one almost likes him for it; and we believe that never one of the public whom he has admitted so largely into his confidence, grudged him a farthing of that £30 which Samuel devoutly thanks heaven he is "worth" on the conclusion of his voyage.
Up to the same period of time his contemporary has progressed in stately prosperity-has become the purchaser of Say's Court, the ancestral property of his father-in-law, Sir Richard Browne; the father of several children, and the sorrowful survivor of one infant prodigy, whom he calls the light of his life; has owned to a human thankfulness in paying every farthing of debt he owes ;-that the immaculate Evelyn should ever have permitted himself to be in debt seems the wonder! And now, having taken an active part in plotting for the Restoration, so soon as this was practicable, is in high favour at the restored Court, a friend of both Charles and James, and a most joyful and triumphant sympathiser in their changed fortunes. Shrewd Samuel, who is no enthusiast, looks on with a cooler eye of observation; Evelyn rejoices, with stately propriety, but with all his heart.
The beginning of the new reign confers upon each a public appointment, and hereafter they gradually approach each other. Pepys, at the close of another year, has made a leap from his £80 to near £300, advancing steadily to the higher elevation and Evelyn, suave and courtly, and full of devices for the spread of the arts and the enlightenment of the age, having a ready eye for all ingenious, learned, and curious spirits, among whom there can be little doubt Samuel has an admirable right to be placed.
The canvass widens and enlarges; busy London throbbing with gay life and energy, a world of new affairs in hand, a new reign and a youthful ruler-a throng of foreign guests and congratulations, and a very flood of homereturning exiles open to our view. Foremost on the scene is the King-of whom no one as yet has begun to speak evil, and who, amid gorgeous processions, and in the splendour of his ancestral palace, is still the ideal type of monarchy to his rejoicing people-and the Duke, who gives signs of vigour, honesty, and spirit, and is still an orthodox Protestant, so far as appearances go;-no time yet for poor Cavaliers to feel the bitter pangs of disappointment-no time for balked and ruined creditors of the Crown to bewail the unrewarded misery of their loyal sacrifices;-a host of new delights and new enterprises sprang into sudden being, and a long retinue of placemen, after Pepys' fashion, or perhaps after a fashion still less honest, nursing their £80 into £300, and much contented with the process. Rising men everywhere making themselves visible-rising statesmen, wits, philosophers, and favourites — and abundance of interest to fill the public mind on every topic, and keep the busy throng perpetually astir.
Evelyn has already propounded to Mr Robert Boyle his plan for a philosophic assembly of mutual edification, and already there is word of a youth of incomparable genius, Mr Christopher Wren, who is calling new buildings into being in the classic regions of Alma Mater; so here we have already the unformed Royal Society, and the unbuilt St Paul's, glimmering to the daylight. But, alas! less advanced in civilisation than might have been expected from his silver buttons, Mr Secretary Pepys is visible, correcting his cookmaid Luce, in the passage of his house, for leaving the door ajar, and much troubled to be seen in the act of administering the chastisement by Sir W. Penn's boy, who will tell it to the family-which fright, however, does not prevent this vigilant master from beating the same or another girl with a stick some time after, for domestic misbehaviour. Mr Pepys has not only a cookmaid now, but gives dinners, and has my ladies calling
upon his wife, to his intense satisfaction; his dining-parlour is hung with green serge and gilded leather, and he grows a person of importance-yet we fear, by this token, is still only externally refined.
Meanwhile Prince Rupert, emblem of fiery Cavaliers, subdued into the arts of peace, shows Evelyn, with his own hand, how to grave in mezzotinto-strange to hear of this, with Edgehill and Marston Moor, and the red-hot reputation of the impetuous soldier in one's memory! And there gleams across the scene a vision of Henrietta Maria—old Henrietta Maria, no longer the beautiful inspiration of royal councils, the hopeless perverter of royal faith, the idol of that melancholy, constant, doomed king of hers but a dowager and superannuated old lady, at the head of a little subsidiary court, telling Evelyn tales of sagacious dogs, yet sometimes growing garrulous over her escapes and troubles in the time of the rebellion: strange change of time once more. And now we hear of the execution of Harrison and others of the judges of King Charles, and of the meaner and less excusable revenge taken upon the remains of the great Usurper, the imperial rebel Cromwell. "Oh, the stupendous and inscrutable judgments of God!" writes Evelyn, speaking of this deplorable piece of vengeance. "Look back at October 22d, 1658, (Oliver's funeral), and be astonished! and fear God, and honour the King! but meddle not with them that are given to change!" Of the same event, when ordered by Parliament, Pepys records a somewhat different opinion: the thing troubles him, "that a man of so great courage as he (Oliver) was should have that dishonour, though otherwise he might deserve it enough." Far beyond the reach of his insulters was the dead; but after such dishonour as it was in their power to inflict, the restorers of Charles II. buried the bones of Oliver at Tyburn, under the gallows, on the first-observed fast for the "Martyrdom" of Charles I.,-a vulgar and impotent conclusion to the solemn tra. gedy which already connected these
There is, however, something of a lull in politics, and pleasure is the
business of the day. Mr Pepys, for his part, contrives to weave his occupations and enjoyments together with singular industry, and never undertakes an official journey, or goes about a piece of public duty, without abundant provision for "being merry," and making use of every opportunity that falls in his way. Even Evelyn sees innumerable plays; and the Clerk of the Admiralty, more given to dissipation than Evelyn, has to make solemn resolution against these fascinating vanities. We read with a little amusement the graver historian's record"I saw Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, played; but now the old plays begin to disgust this refined age, since his Majesty's being so much abroad;" which Pepys confirms by a similar observation of "Saw Romeo and Juliet the first time it was ever acted; but it is a play of itself the worst that ever I heard, and the worst acted that ever I saw these people do." Like every other present time, "this refined age," we presume, gave itself credit for fastidious taste and nice discrimination; and neither Evelyn's scholarly mind and graceful likings, nor the natural judgment of Pepys, has been able to judge by a higher standard than the opinion of their time.
The matter-of-fact and even-handed fashion in which religious observances are conjoined with these amusements, is one of the most remarkable features in the volumes before us. The scruples which vex many a righteous soul touching ordinary matters of conformity to "the world" were scarcely to be expected here; but the churchgoing and sermon-hearing takes place so quietly, and so entirely lacks any disturbing effect upon the profane levities that surround them, that we stand aside in silent admiration. The most famous orators of the ChurchJeremy Taylor, Dr South, Ken, and Hall, and Tillotson, and many a lesser light-illuminated the high places of orthodoxy; and a host of industrious and learned Nonconformists, led by a few notable divines, as great in their way as the daintier Episcopates, edified the pulpits of the city. Steadier church-goer than Mr Secretary Pepys it would be impossible to find; and after a year of the new reign, his enlightened appetite even labours hard