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a practice informed of in Mr. Withers, and one Mr. Andrewes Burrell, of accusing Sir Richard Onslow that he sent monies to the King at Oxon; and the several examinations, and the instances and inferences out of them, were all read by the Reporter.
"The humble petition of George Wither was read, desiring further time to prove what he suggested in his book.
"Another humble petition of George Wither was read, expressing his sorrow for his error in transgressing against the privileges of this House."
It having been resolved that the reflections upon Onslow, in the Justiciarius Justificatus were unfounded, "false and scandalous," the question was "propounded, that Mr. George Wither should pay unto Sir Richard Onslow the sum of five hundred pounds for his damages."
"The question being put, the House divided, and there appeared for the question 65; against it 54; leaving a majority of 11 in favour of the fine."
It was then resolved, "That the book called Justiciarius Justificatus shall be burned at Kingston upon Thames, and at Guildford, upon the market days there, by the Marshal attending the Committee at Kingston aforesaid."
According to Wood, our poet was, at the time of this debate, in prison for the libel; and he afterwards asserted that he knew nothing of the impeachment until he was startled by the news of the conviction. The accusation, he says, in the Fragmenta Prophetica, was brought on early in the morning, but so many members "abominated what they perceived to be intended, that the whole day was spent, before the author's enemies could prevail against him." That he had many friends in the House is proved by the small majority; and it may be remarked that Jjieutenant-General Cromwell was "Teller for the Noe." After a confinement of nearly twelve months, he was released without "petitioning or mediation for it," and, we may conclude, without paying the fine.
His imprisonment neither taught him discretion, nor improved his fortunes.
Much of the disquiet that imhittered so many years of his life, was occasioned by the difficulty he experienced in obtaining compensation for the plunder of his estate by the Royalists, and the liquidation of the debt due to him from the Parliament. A great portion of his time was wasted in fruitless attendance upon various Committees. On one petition, he tells us, he bestowed two months; on another, ten; and on a third, a year and nine months. Milton, in a passage supposed to refer to his own sufferings, bitterly complained that the truest friends of the republic, after having afforded the aid of their labours and fortunes, were tossed from one Committee to another with petitions in their hands.
The various methods employed by Wither to attract the notice of Parliament, were very ingenious. On the 12th of November, 1646, he placed an humble memorandum in the hands of several members as they entered the House.—It was in these words:—
Mind your faithful servant; for my need
His efforts were not altogether ineffectual. On the loth of March, 1647, an order was agreed to by the Lords and Commons, for payment of 18CKW. out of Discoveries at Haberdashers' Hall; and on the 22nd of the same month, a further order was made for the payment of 16811. 15*. 8d. out of the Excise. Nothing, however, Was gained by these orders, which do not seem to have been ever enforced, and the House was at length induced to appoint some "selected members" to provide him with a temporary employment until his claims could be adjusted. "When he published his Si Quis*, in 1648, he stood recommended to a situation of considerable value, which he does not appear to have obtained.
About this time, he says, when he was living upon the charity of friends, "God providentially, beyond his hope, enabled him to purchase a considerable estate, by means of their acting against him who thereby intended their own benefit and his ruin;" and the Parliament also sold him a Manor, worth 3001. per annum, in consideration of "his debt of 1600Z. and more by him paid." I suppose the property alluded to belonged to the See of Winchester. Wither's purchases of church-lands are detailed in Gale's History of Winchester Cathedral:—
The Manor of North Walton, in Hampshire, sold to George Wither and Thomas Allen, July 5, 1648, for 964/. 13s. 6d.
The Manor of Bentley and Alverstock, and Borough of Gosport, sold to George Wither and Elizabeth his wife, for 1185/. 4s. 5id., September 25, 1648.
The Manor of Itchinswell and Northampton Farm, sold to Nicholas Love and George Wither, for 1756/. 9s. Id, September 28, 1648.
The Manor of Hantden, sold to George Wither for 3796/. 18s. lid., March 23, 1650.
Misfortunes still followed him: the "estate was lost again," and the Manor, after he had " enjoyed it awhile," was re-sold by the Parliament to a member of their own, who pretended to have a mortgage upon it, and the poet was ejected "by a Suit in Law," without any satisfaction for the loss of his purchase-money, and was even compelled to
* Weaver, in his Life and Death of Sir John Oldcastle, says, "Set up a Si Quis, give intelligence." A Si Quis was formerly a term for what we now call a hand-bill.—Brit. Bib., vol. i., p. 314.
I'll fix a Si Quis (or it may be mo)
Wither's Perpetual Parliament, p. 72.
pay the expenses of the suit, with other charges, amounting to several hundred pounds. His calls for relief, however, were not entirely disregarded. In 1649, a few members of Parliament, "without his seeking," endeavoured to provide him with some occupation in order to satisfy his "just demands," and he acknowledged their kindness in a A Thankful Retribution. The office which they sought, unsuccessfully, to procure, seems to have been that of Registrar in the Court of Chancery. Instead of this, Park thinks he was appointed one of the Commissioners for levying assessments in Surrey, as appears from the Usurpation Acts of 1649-50. A gentleman of the name of Lloyd possessed a certificate, attested by Wither on the 10th of December, 1651, while acting under this Commission, and entitled, "The report of Colonel John Humphreys, and Major George Wither, touching the demands and accounts of M. Rene Angier, made upon a reference to them by the Committee for the sale of the king's goods." M. Angier had been agent in France both for the king and the parliament.
In 1649, the poet hailed the victory of General Jones in Dublin over the troops of the Marquis of Ormond, with a Thank-Oblation, which occupies six quarto pages. This ode of gratulation is alluded to in one of the periodicals of the day. "At Westminster they are very lazy, and have done very little more of public concernment; but as it appears, George Withers has been very much busied in composing a Hymn of Praises for their great achievement and victory against Ormond, which he presented most of the members with on Thursday last, in hopes they would have sung it the day after, being the thanksgiving day appointed *."
We have already seen that the orders made for Wither's
* Mercurius Elencticus, Monday, August 27, to September 3,1649.
relief were productive of no benefit to him, and on the 2nd of January, 1650, a Report upon his case was delivered to the House by Colonel Dove, from which it appeared that 3958/. 15s. 8d., with interest, were then due. The Report recommended that for the 1681?. charged upon the Excise, eight per cent, should be paid every six months; and that for the remainder of the sum of 3958/. the Manor of Little Horksley, in Essex, should be settled on Wither and his heirs. This estate, which was valued by the sequestrators at a yearly rent of 240Z., formed a part of the inheritance of Sir John Denhani, whom the Report calls the poet's "chief plunderer." Colonel Dove's suggestions were only partially adopted. The 1681/. were secured, according to the recommendation of the Report, upon the Excise; but instead of the entire estate of Little Horksley, only 150/. was settled upon the the poet in " full satisfaction and discharge of all demands," and Mr. Garland was ordered " to bring in an Act for that purpose."
Neither Withers private troubles, nor his labours as a Commissioner, prevented him from occasionally observing the political world. Upon the rumour of an intention suddenly to dissolve the Parliament in September, 1652, he immediately issued a Timely Caution, comprehended in seven double trimeters. The only classical portion of the pamphlet is the title. He also employed some of the November nights of the same year in visionary schemes for remodelling the external and internal construction of the House of Commons. In the Perpetual Parliament, published April 24, 1653, he proposed to build a new House of Assembly at Whitehall, of a fair and imposing aspect, and beautified with walks and pleasant gardens. The members were to be arrayed in a senatorial robe or toga, wearing wreaths of gold around their necks, from which was to be suspended a tablet with the British Isles