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“No kind of danger, James,” said Charles; “ for no man in England will take away my life to make you king.”
There is, however, an instance on record of his not always treating the danger of assassination with so much levity. One day his barber, while shaving him, hazarded, with his usual familiarity, the following remark; “I consider that none of your majesty's officers have a greater trust than I.” “How so, friend ?" quoth the king.Why," said the barber, “I could cut your majesty's throat whenever I liked.” Charles started up at the idea, and using his favourite oath, exclaimed, “ Odds fish, the very thought is treason! you shall shave me no more.”
Evelyn tells us that “ he took great delight in having a number of little spaniels follow him and lie in his bedchamber, where he often suffered the bitches to puppy and give suck, which rendered it very offensive, and made the whole court nasty and stinking.” Indeed his fondness for these animals was so extraordinary, that rewards were constantly being offered for the king's dogs stolen or strayed from Whitehall. (This breed is now being called King Charles's breed.)
The Earl of St. Alban's, secretary to Queen Henrietta Maria in all her misfortunes, found himself at the Restoration in a very indifferent condition. Happening one day to make a party of pleasure with his majesty, where all distinctions were laid aside, a stranger came with an importunate suit for an employment just vacant, of considerable value. The king ordered him to be admitted, and the earl to personate his majesty. The gentleman made his addresses accordingly, enumerated his services to the royal family, and hoped such a place would not be thought too great a reward for them. “By no means," replied the earl, “but as soon as I heard of the vacancy I conferred it on my faithful friend the Earl of St. Alban's (pointing at the king), who has constantly followed the fortunes of my father and myself, but hitherto gone unrewarded.” The gentleman withdrew, and Charles, after a hearty laugh at the jest, confirmed the grant.
Granger relates, that William Penn, the Quaker and Pennsylvanian legislator, on one occasion had an audience with Charles, and, with the true spirit of his sect, kept his hat on. As a gentle rebuke, Charles quietly took off his hat and stood
uncovered before him. “Friend Charles," said Penn, “why dost thou not keep on thy hat ?" "'Tis the custom of this place," replied the king," for only one person to remain covered at a time.”
Charles more than once dined with the good citizens of London on their Lord Mayor's day, and did so the year Sir Robert Viner was mayor. Sir Robert was a very loyal man, and, if you will allow the expression, very fond of his sovereign ; but what with the joy he felt at heart for the honour done him by his prince, and the warmth he was in with continual toasting healths to the royal family, his lordship grew a little too fond of his majesty, and entered into a familiarity not altogether graceful in so public a place. The king understood very well how to extricate himself in all such difficulties, and with a hint to the company to avoid ceremony, stole off, and made towards his coach, which stood ready for him in Guild-hall yard. But the mayor liked his company so well, and was grown so intimate, that he pursued him hastily, and catching him fast by the hand, cried out with a vehement oath and accent, “Sir, you shall stay and take t'other bottle.” The airy monarch looked kindly at him over his shoulder, and with a smile and graceful air repeated this line of the old song:
“He that's drunk is as great as a king," and immediately returned back and complied with his host's invitation.
On another occasion Gregorio Leti, a voluminous historical writer, who had been promised the place of historiographer to the English court, was introduced to Charles, and graciously received by him. One day at his levee the king said to him, “Leti, I hear that you are writing the history of the Court of England.” Leti acknowledged that he was collecting materials for such a work. .“ Take care, then,” said the king, " that it gives no offence.” “Sir," replied Leti, “I will do what I can, but if a man were as wise as Solomon, he would scarcely be able to avoid giving offence.” “Why, then," rejoined the king, “be as wise as Solomon; write proverbs, not histories,”
Charles employed Sir Christopher Wren to build a palace for him at Newmarket, and in the course of a conversation with him, he complained of the small size of the rooms. Wren, who was a short man, glanced consequentially round the apartment; “I think,” he said, “if it please your majesty, they are high enough.” Charles squatted down to Wren's height, and creeping about in this ridiculous posture, “Ay," he said, “ I think now, Sir Christopher, they are high enough.”
In the Richardsoniana is given the following account of the origin of the king's nickname of Rowley: “ There was an old goat that used to run about the Privy-garden, to which they had given this name ; a rank lecherous devil, that everybody knew and used to stroke, because he was good-humoured and familiar; and so they applied this name to Charles.” One evening Charles heard one of the maids of honour singing a ballad in their apartments, in which old Rowley was mentioned in a rather unpleasant manner. After listening for a few moments he knocked at the door. “Who is there?” cried Miss Howard, who turned out to be the vocalist. “Only old Rowley," was the good-natured reply.
Charles enjoyed a practical joke. On one of his birthdays, a pick-pocket had obtained admittance to the drawingroom, disguised in the dress of a gentleman, and commenced the practice of his profession by extracting a gold snuff-box from a nobleman's pocket. Scarcely had he done so when he saw the king looking at him ; but knowing Charles's disposition, he had the consummate impudence to put his finger to his nose, and wink knowingly at his majesty to hold bis tongue. A few moments afterwards, by which time the thief had made off, the king was exceedingly amused by perceiving the nobleman feeling his pockets for the box. At length he could resist no longer, and ealled out to the victim, “ You need not trouble yourself, my lord; your box is gone, and I am an accomplice in the theft; the rascal made me his confidant!”
When Charles ascended the throne, one of his first acts of generosity was to send a grant of 10,000 acres of land to Lord Clarendon, which the latter at first declined, on account of the envy it would excite. When the king was told of it he said,
" My Lord Chancellor is a fool for all his wise head ; does he not know that it is better to be envied than pitied ?” · Lord Keeper Guildford said, that Charles was better acquainted with foreign affairs than all his ministers put together; because, whether drunk or sober, he made a point of conversing with every eminent foreigner that visited England ; and though notoriously unreserved himself, he could generally discover the secrets of others. The Duke of Buckingham said, that “Charles could have been a great king if he would, and that James would if he could.” · To Charles's partiality for his graceful and accomplished cousin, Frances Stuart, we owe the elegant representation of Britannia on our copper coin. She is said to have been the only woman with whom the king was ever really in love, and it was from one of the medals struck to perpetuate his admira-, tion of her delicate symmetry, that Britannia was stamped in the form she still bears on our balfpence and farthings. Guineas were introduced in the reign of Charles, and received this appellation from their having been made of the gold-dust brought from the coast of Guinea by Sir Robert Holmes. - In the Secret History of Whitehall, it is said that when Sir John Warner turned Papist he retired to a convent, and his uncle, Dr. Warner, who was the king's physician, pressed his majesty to order the Attorney-General to proceed at law for securing his estate to him, as next male, upon an apprehension that Sir John might convert it to popish uses. Charles said to him, “ Sir John at present is one of God Almighty's fools, but it will not be long before he returns to his estate, and enjoys it himself.”
During the debate in Parliament, on a bill for disabling all Papists from holding any court place or employment, the king was supposed to speak through the Earl of Shaftesbury, then Lord Chancellor, whilst his brother the Duke of York was represented by Clifford, then Lord Treasurer. On one occasion, the Lord Treasurer having made a violent speech in the House of Lords, he was unexpectedly opposed by Shaftesbury, who smartly answered all that he said from the beginning to the end. Charles and his brother were both present, and the latter beginning to get excessively angry, at length whispered the king, “What a rogue you have of a Lord Chancellor;" to which Charles replied, “and what a fool you have of a Lord Treasurer.”
Charles never lost his affability and courtesy. He touched people for the evil without evincing either nausea, or a temptation to mirth. But on solemn occasions he could never play the king. He read his speeches to Parliament like a schoolboy. At church he could never preserve his gravity, and would dally with Lady Castlemaine through the curtains which divided the royal box from the ladies' pew. If he saw an acquaintance at play, in the park, or even in a state procession, he would nod to him with the easy familiarity of an equal; and if the gentleman happened to have a handsome wife with him, he would cast on the husband a glance of significant meaning. Sometimes after perhaps he had ordered his coach and guards to be ready to conduct him to the park, he would call for a sculler and a pair of oars, and row himself down to Somerset House, to visit the Duchess of Richmond; and if he did not find the garden-door open, he would clamber over the wall. At the council he would jest instead of minding business, and play with his dogs. His ordinary amusements were playing at tennis, and weighing himself afterwardssauntering in the Mall, or idling away his mornings at the toilette of his favourites—dancing whole nights, and, occasionally, getting very drunk, hearing anthems in his chapel, and keeping time to the music with his head and hands— visiting the Tower or the Docks--going to the play and ogling the handsome women--and, in lack of all other amusements, gossiping with everybody, telling long stories of the French and Spanish courts, and, like good old Kent, “ marring a curious tale in telling it.” . “It was Charles the Second,” says Spence, “who gave Dryden the hint for writing his poem, called The Medal.' One day, as the king was walking in the Mall, and talking with Dryden, he said, “If I was a poet, and I think I am poor enough to be one, I would write a poem on such a subject, in the following manner; and then gave him the plan of it. Dryden took the hint, carried the poem as soon as written to the king, and had a present of a hundred broad pieces for his pains.”
Though Charles possessed but little religion, he does not