Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

6

his utmost influence, the scheme of an alliance meditated by Sir William Temple and others, between England, Holland, and Spain, against France. In the progress of this affair, he is accused of baving accepted two sums of money, of five hundred guineas each, from Barillon, a French minister at the court o: London. On what conditions, or for what services, these sums were paid to bim, or whether they were ever paid to him at all, cannot now be very clearly ascertained. That he was not a solitary pensioner on the bounty of France, appears from his answer to the ambassador D'Avaux, when soliciting his interest to prevent the alliance above-mentioned. • While the king of France,' said he, is assisting the king of England with sums of money, which may at once render him independent of the Parliament, and subservient to a foreign country, an alliance with the States General may, in turn, become expedient to controul his power.' Of M. Barillon, who is thus immortalized for having corrupted the most haughty and unbending republican of the age, Sydney himself humourously and contemptuously says:

• You know, Monsieur de Barillon governs us, if he be not mistaken ; but he seems not to be so much pleased with that, as to find his embonpoint increased, by the inoistness of our air, by frequently clapping his hands upon his thighs, shewing the delight he hath in the sharpness of the sound, that testifies the plumpness and hardpess of his flesh; and certainly, if this climate did not nourish him better than any other the hairs of his nose, and nails of his fingers, could not grow so fast, as to furnish enough of the one to pull out, and of the other to cut off, in all companies, which being done, he picks his ears with as good a grace as my Lord La.' p. 182.

Having already greatly extended this article, we hasten over the lesser incluents of Sydney's life, to notice, in very few words, his arrest, trial, and execution in 1683, under the pretence vi his being concerned in the kye House Plot, a real or pretended scheme for the assassination of the King and the Duke of York, on their return from New market. Sydney, Lora William Russel, the younger Hampúen, Lord Grey and a weak being cal ed Lord Howard, who afterwards turned evidence against his comrades, had trequently held private meetings, which were suspectt a to be for the purposes of maturing plans to overthrow the Royal Authority, and re-establish the Commonwealth. Sydney'. intimacy with these personis gave a colour to his arrest as an accomplice in the Rye House Plot, with wbich he appears to have mad not even the slightest connexion. Disd un ng to lee, tuough lus intended apprehension was publicly poken of, he per mitteu bisen anat his papers to be seized Had he concealed or destroyed the latter, even Judge Jedferies must have failed to convict him ; and though with these writings

/

none but a Jefferies could have convicted him, yet in such bands

a they were converted into warrants for his execution. Treason was deduced from his thoughts,-his unuttered thoughts, for they were unpublished,-since it could not be deduced either from his conduct or conversation; and his speculative theories concerning government in the abstract, were interpreted into acts of conspiracy years after they had been composed, during which time they had slumbered in his study, whence his persecutors themselves brought them to light, and were the first and the only promulgators of them, in his life-time! Sydney defended himself with undaunted fortitude, and unanswerable arguments; but he was finally condemned, not because he was found guilty, but because he was to be condemned. The circumstances of the trial are given at great length in this volume, and to it we must refer those of our readers, who are curious to understand the merits of the case. We will remark by the way, (as we have no room for particular criticism,) that Mr. Meadley, the Author, has few pretensions as a writer, except to tolerable industry, and a plain style of narrative: there is. nothing striking either in his reasoning or reflections. Of his hero we nust also take leave rather abruptly. In the short interval between his trial and execution, Sydney drew up an appeal to posterity on the injustice of his fate. We feel pleasure in quoting the following passage, as better evidence of the faith that was in him, than any thing we have found in his previous conduct or writings.

• I know that my Redeemer lives; and, as he hath, in a great measure, upheld me in the day of my calamity, hope that he will still uphold me by his spirit in this last moment, and, giving 'me grace to glorify him in my death, receive me into the glory prepared for those that fear him, when my body shall be dissolved.'

We remember nothing in the life or death of any political confessor, more sublime or affecting than Sydney's reply to the executioner, while his head was on the fatal block ;-his last words were worthy of the lips of a martyr.

• On the morning of the 7th of December, the sheriffs again proceeded to the Tower, and, about ten o'clock, receiving Sydney from the hands of the lieutenant, after signing and sealing counterparts of the indenture for his delivery, conducted him on foot, to the place of execution on Tower-hill. He was attended only by two of his brother's servants. He ascended the scaffold with a firm, undaunted mien, worthy of the man, who set up Marcus Brutus for his model He gave a paper, containing a manly vindication of his innocence, to the sheriffs, observing that, “ he had made his peace with God, and had nothing more to say to men:" but he declined either reading, or having it read to the multitude, and offered to tear

it, if it was not received. He then pulled off his hat, coat, and doublet, saying that “ he was ready to die, and would give them no further trouble.” He gave three guineas to the executioner, and perceiving the fellow grumble, as if the sum was inadequate, desired a servant to give him a guinea or two more.

He then kneeled down, and, after a solemn pause of a few moments, calmly laid his head upon the block. Being asked by the executioner if he should rise again, he replied intrepidly, “ not till the general resurrection;

-strike on.” The executioner obeyed the mandate, and severed his head from his body at a blow.'

Art. VI.-Tirall Poetry; with Notes and Illustrations. By Arthur

Clifford, Esg Editor of Sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers. 4to. pp.

xl. 409. Price 21. 2s. Longman and Co. 1813. OUR sensations on opening this volume and surveying, the

huge mass of miscellaneous poetry which it comprises, though not of so ecstatic a nature as those of the Editor on opening the great trunk which contained the precious deposite, were not, in other respects, wholly dissimilar. Like him, we were at first ' appalled and daunted;' and though we did not exclaim

• Visions of glory, spare my aching sight!'not anticipating much that would render the exclamation appropriate, we at length summoned up a degree of heroic resolution, and set about exploring its contents. Upon the whole, we have been sufficiently repaid for our labour, as the preface which had conciliated us by its amusing details, given with all the minuteness and zeal of an antiquary, prepared us for what we were to expect in these occasional effusions of ladies and gentlemen,' in the reign of Charles the First writing verses to occupy their leisure, and for their mutual entertainment;' without any intention, probably, of publication. The Editor ingenuously applies to them the character which Pope, in a letter to Cromwell, gives of the poetry of Crashaw, and which is well worth transcribing

• I take this poet to have writ like a gentleman, that is, at leisure hours, and more to keep out idleness, than to establish a reputation : so that nothing regular or just can be expected of him All that regards design, form, fable, (which is the soul of poetry) all that concerns exactress, or consent of parts (which is the body,) will probably be wanting: only pretty conceptions, fine metaphors, glittering expressions, and something of a neat cast of verse (which are properly the dress, gems, or loose ornaments of poetry,) may be found in these verses. This is, indeed, the case of most other poetical writers of miscelladies : nor can it be well otherwise, since no man can be a true poet who writes for diversion only. These authors

should be considered as versifiers and witty men, rather than as poets: and under this head will fall the thoughts, the expression, and the numbers These are only the pleasing part of poetry, which may be judged of at a view, and comprehended all at once and (to express myself like a painter) their colouring entertains the sight, but the lines and lite of the picture are not to be inspected too narrowly.'

As the interest of such productions essentially depends on their authenticity, Mr. Clifford was right in obviating all doubt on this subject by the particulars furnished in the preface relative to their discovery. Soon after the publication of Sir Ralph Sadler's state papers, he' happened to make a visit' at Tixall

, where he suspected that some valuable manuscripts in addition to those actually in the library, might still be found by a diligent search, as Sir Walter, afterwards Lord Aston, who married the grand-daughter and heiress of Sir Ralph Sadler, and whose family long continued to reside at Tixall, had been twice ambassador in Spain during the reigns of James I. and Charles I. His inquiries were crowned with complete success.

• Besides an additional packet of letters, which had belonged to Sir Ralph Sadler, and which contain some further particulars, respecting the confinement of the Queen of Scotland, in Tutbury Castle I discovered, l. ill the poems which now offer to the public, under the title of Tixall Poetry; 2 A large quantity of letters, and other papers, relating to the Aston family; 3. a complete collection of the state papers, and letters, of Sir Walter Aston, during his two einbassies in Spain.

• The reader will judge of the vast mass of papers I had to wade through, and of the extent of my labour and perseverance, when I inform him that I was almost continually occupied for about ten days from breakfast to dinner, and frequently an hour or more be- ( fore breakfast, and another in the evening before 1 beheld the bottom of the trunk.?

The head of many an antiquary has been turned by a discovery of very far less importance than this. Here was abundant food for soliloquy and speculation to the philosophical or senti. mental essayist, -- for the intellectual botanist, whose delight it is to pore over the dried specimens of other ages, not so much to inhale their remaining and imperishable fragrance, or to contemplate their beauty, as to analyze their external form, their variatious from others of the same species, to observe their minute configuration, and sist the very dust which envelops ihem! What a mysterious charm does the obscurity of age throw over the simplest relic of the past ! That the hand which framed it has long since mouldered into dust, that the heart wbici gare the impulse or felt the pleasure of achievement has dong ceased to beat, that the feelings and the joys once linked with the scenes

or the productions we contemplate are all over, are sufficient to awaken our sympathy, and to employ the imagination with a thousand busy associations. We feel to belong ourselves to a successive, not a contemporary race of beings, and while we are anxiously curious to know how those who were our predecessors, but are now, as to this world, nothing, looked, and thought, and felt, we cannot avoid the recollection that hints as dim as those which guide our researches into their history, will be all that will one day remain of what we were. We survey the record of the once sentient and active human being, conscious of a common nature and a common destiny.

" He saw whatever thou hast seen,

Encountered all that troubles thee :
He was-whatever thou hast been ;

He is—what thou shalt be.' The moral, however, is one of the last things which a thorough antiquary would think of searching for ; but Mr. Clifford is something better; he is a poet; and he has apostrophized the venerable remains of Tixall in a poem subjoined to the Preface, from which we might be tempted to extract some pleasing lines, if it were not high time to proceed to give some specimens of the l'ixall Poems. The following is extracted from the first division of the work, 'entitled · Poems collected by the Hon. Herbert Aston, 1658.'. The idea is simple and striking, though it is much too attenuated in the expression.

• On the death of Mr. Morgan, whose last words were “O God, what is man."

• As sad Symiramis was sate

Hard by the window of her cell,
To teach a note more passionate

Unto her sister Philomell ;
Halfe sighing, and halfe singing slie

Thus to the bird : Cease to repine
Thy brother's cruelty to thee,

And weepe with me the fall of mine,
Weepe, weepe with me the fate of him,

Who, at his life's extended spaun,
Left me the burden of this hymne ;

O God, O God, O what is man!
The bird heard all, and soone replyed;

Sweet, cease thy brother to bewaile ;
(It was an angell lately try'd

The feathers of a nightingale :)
Oh, cease thy brother's fate to moane,

Transfér a to heaven s more blest abode,
And sing with me this nobler tone,

O man, o man, O what is God!

« AnteriorContinuar »