Page images
[ocr errors]

not improbable, if we may believe the following account of some proceedings in convocation at Oxford, in August, 1605cutis bus b They pressed in so thick that the Register being there, with pen and ink in his hand, could not take their names, neither did he, or any man else, ask what they were; so they looked like gentlemen, and had gotten on a gown and hood, they were admitted.'-Progresses of King James, vol. i., pp. 553, 4.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Jonson alludes to one of these scrambles,' probably that at Cambridge, in The Staple of News :'—

'He is my barber, Tom,

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A pretty scholar, and a master of arts, Was made, or went out master of arts in a throng, At the University.". But it is unfair to dwell on these throngs at the University,' as certain Knights of the reign of King George IV. (whether or not they ever looked like gentlemen') could, would, or should bear us witness.

[ocr errors]

In tracing the minute record which Mr. Nichols has formed of James's habits and occupations, it is amusing to contrast the simple and, comparatively, blameless tenor of life thus exhibited, with the fiercely-coloured representations of those memoir-writers who have dressed him to posterity' as a monster of corruption and crime; a cruel and tyrannical king, a bad husband, a malevolent father, irreligious, grossly intemperate, an abominable sensualist, and an agent in several murders, including that of his own son. James's ruling inclinations were, as we have said, to literary studies and/sylvan exercises: he loved business, but not with a constant and uniform attachment; the spur of vanity, or of some other powerful feeling, was often necessary to revive his activity in public affairs; but the really predominant passion showed itself almost in death, when, arriving sick at Theobalds, in 1619, he had his deer mustered within sight of his litter; and again, when, on the verge of his last illness, he was carried abroad to see some flights at the brook.' The death-bed of (the original) Dandie Dinmont, who told his minister that 'the Lord had been guid to him,' in so ordering it that the fox-hounds should pass his window during his illness, was hardly more characteristic of the thoroughbred sportsman. As the king's palate required stimulants, so his mind loved to unbend in those amusements which, by magnificence or by grotesque humour, administered a strong and ready excitement: yet, on the one hand, his indulgences of the table never grew into a habit of debauch; and, on the other, though his taste in mat



Some writers have accused James of drinking, at times, to intoxication, Peyton, whose charge is the most specific and offensive, is a very worthless authority. Weldon describes him as sometimes overtaken,' in his old age, by the contrivance of Bucking


ters of pleasantry accorded with the coarseness still prevailing in his age, (and even Queen Elizabeth liked merry tales,) yet there are instances of his discouraging the too profane or indecent sallies of those admitted to his society, not excepting Buckingham himself; and the lighter literature which sought his patronage, though occasionally rude and ribald, never presumed to put on the character of libertinism. The masques of Jonson, the delight and glory of Whitehall for many years, might alone refute the historian who describes King James's court as incomparably the most disgraceful scene of profligacy which this country has ever witnessed,'* and even places it in disadvantageous comparison with the court of Charles II.

Conversation was one of the pleasures which James most loved; his table talk was celebrated; and the exercise of wit during the king's meal, by question, disputation, and repartee, was so active and vigorous, that it was often compared to a hunting party. In some of his facetious sallies, as when he said to the shabby candidate for knighthood, who knelt down with a too evident sense of his own unworthiness, Look up, man! I have more reason to be ashamed than thou,' even Charles the Second could not have outdone his grandfather. But, though he delighted in the company of men who could appreciate, and, in their turn, display wit and learning, James felt an equal, if not a more genuine satisfaction in society which offered few intellectual pleasures. It is far from uncommon with persons capable of strong literary and scientific exertion, to love those companions whose converse gives rest, not exercise, to the intellect; j'y me repose,' said the cleverest of living diplomatists, in reference to the fair lady who took Denon for Crusoe;-but James's fondness for gay and juvenile associates may be further traced to the habits and attachments of his early youth, and, in some degree, perhaps, to a certain spark of boyish wildness which hung about him to the end of his life, and often broke forth strangely from amidst his graver qualities. This part of the king's disposition, though it may not wholly account for, may assist in explaining his hasty predilections for Carr and Villiers ;-the zeal and eagerness with which he advanced the fortunes of a favourite once established in his regard, were characteristics of James in

ham, but denies that he was habitually intemperate. Mayerne, however, who was his physician during the last fourteen years of his life, states positively, in his professional minutes, that James's head was never disturbed by wine.-See the Second Series of Mr. Ellis's Letters, vol. iii.

Hallam. But the estimates of court morality are sometimes made up from singular data. In Mr. Nichols's Progresses of James, (vol. i., p. 498,) it is mentioned as evidence of the profligacy of the court,' that some persons of quality in attendance Whitehall had their rooms broken open and robbed.


most undertakings which he had at heart. But this brings us to the verge of a discussion for which we have no desire, and which would be ill placed in these pages. We shall only add, therefore, on the subject of favourites, that the surmises which have been raised by contemporary insinuation, and supported by ambiguous passages of correspondence, appear to us very imperfectly grounded, and repugnant to a great body of undisputed facts. Mr. Nichols has two or three curious passages on the attempts made at court (but without success) to draw the king's eye upon new minions, when a cloud seemed lowering upon Buckingham. Several of these 'gallants' vanished at once, on a hint from the Lord Chamberlain to young Monson,' (son of Sir William, who was implicated in the affair of Somerset and Overbury;)-and Arthur Brett, whom his brother-in-law, the Earl of Middlesex, endeavoured to set up as a new idol,' received a much heavier rebuke.

James has been stigmatized as a woman-hater, and yet no man loved better to be a principal gossip on those occasions when the female sex is most predominant; he was often at weddings and christenings, and was an eminent match-maker. Harvey, the Lord Mayor of London, was so sick and surfeited' with royal messages, on a proposed marriage between his daughter and a brother of Buckingham, that he lay at death's door.' The king even visited him in the city to press Villiers's suit, and once sent for him, his lady and daughter, from a dinner at Merchant Taylors' Hall. These efforts, however, proved ineffectual. The interest taken by James in the marriage and domestic happiness of Buckingham, is worthy of remark on more than one account. In his latter years, James was continually surrounded by the ladies and children of the Villiers' family.

It has been strangely imputed to this king as a fault, that he suffered women to be presented on their knees, a ceremony of which the semblance, at least, is still preserved in a reign of unexceptionable gallantry. The practice of kneeling in the sovereign's presence was maintained with more rigour in Elizabeth's time than in that of James, and its discontinuance by the king would probably have been an occasion of scandal, when his subjects held state so high, that the coachman sometimes rode bareheaded before his master. But it must be owned that James did much to compromise his popularity among his female subjects. One source of lively dissatisfaction was the royal spleen, not sparingly expressed, against high-handed women,' and the acrimony with which his majesty censured the pride of maids and wives, who insisted on being brought to London by their fathers and husbands when they had no calling or errand' to dwell there. In the winter of 1622 an edict was issued, commanding lords and gen

[ocr errors]


tlemen to repair to their houses in the country, and theres keep hospitality during Christmas, upon pain and peril that might fall thereon.* Many who had come to town, with their wives and families, to nestle' for the winter, were compelled to pack away again," while it was observed with discontent that Lord Burleigh obtained permission to stay, merely, as scandal averred, because a court masque was preparing, in which his daughter (afterwards the Countess of Oxford) was to sustain a part. At first, the men only complied, taking the order literally; but a second proclamation came forth, for their wives and widows to be gone likewise, and that henceforward gentlemen should remain here during the terms only, or other business, without bringing their wives and families; which,' adds Mr. Chamberlain quaintly, is durus sermo to the women.' At another time, James attacked the rights of the sex in a still more direct manner, by a proclamation against farthingales, which naturally aggravated the evil.

It has been represented that James was indifferent, if not averse, to his queen, and ever best when farthest from her.' Osborne, who describes him as caressing her majesty in public rather indecorously, (for a habit of unseemly fondling was among his slovenly peculiarities,) takes care to prevent any favourable inference, by observing that he was more uxorious before the people than in private, a comparison which our Pauls-walker had, no doubt, excellent opportunities of drawing! James was at least comis in uxorem, but the volumes before us shew him to have been also kind and affectionate, whatever temporary clouds of discord or mistrust may, especially in the early periods of the reign, have arisen between the royal partners. That they lived separately, and kept distinct courts, may be rather considered a proof (and it was a costly one) of the king's indulgence, than of his neglect. Their pursuits, indeed, were, for the most part, widely different; but James was a constant and delighted attendant on the queen's masques; and of the prodigal expense with which he has been so bitterly reproached, a considerable part was lavished on the magnificence of Anne. Her jewels, at the time of her death, (including, of course, many left by Queen Elizabeth,) were supposed to be worth four hundred thousand pounds; one jeweller (Herrick) swore that he had supplied her to the value of thirty-six thousand. It accords ill with the supposition of dislike or coldness in the king, that her good offices were frequently employed by those who sought his majesty's favour; and she was always a

James might have found something like a precedent for this ordinance in an act of the Scottish parliament, passed during his own reign, A.D. 1581, (om 1 eromle +Nichols's Progresses of James, iii. 802.,

Melvil bears a strong testimony to this effect, in his Memoirs."




kind and zealous intercessor. We find several not uninteresting notices of the mutual visits paid by the royal couple, and their solicitude for each other, when the queen was drawing near the close of her life, and both were failing in health. The following incident sets James's domestic character in a very brilliant light; and the conduct described has a grace and gallantry, surprising in this homely monarch, but illustrating the familiar observation, that the truest politeness is the offspring of heartfelt benevolence.) ..: -At their last being at Theobalds,' (July 1613) 'the queen, shooting a deer, mistook her mark, and killed Jewel, the king's most special and favourite hound, at which he stormed exceedingly awhile; but, after he knew who did it, he was soon pacified, and with much kindness wished her not to be troubled with it, for he should love her neyer the worse; and the next day sent her a diamond worth two thousand pounds, as a legacy from his dead dog. Love and kindness increase daily between them, and it is thought they never were on better terms.'-Progresses of James, ii. 671. (From a letter of Mr. Chamberlain.) The king soon after gave her majesty Greenwich Palace.'-Ibid, n. 5, and see p.704.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Such were the acts of a woman-hater, and a prince under whom one man might with more safety have killed another than a rascal deer!' *

Queen Anne, though by no means faultless in temper, or eminent in understanding, appears to have had qualities which attracted general regard, and the people watched her last illness with

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

affectionate concern. In the early part of the reign, her supposed disposition to interfere in politics excited a jealousy far greater, apparently, than circumstances really warranted. In the secret correspondence maintained by Cecil with James before the death of Elizabeth, Anne is mentioned with anxiety as liable, from facility of disposition, to be acted upon by sinister influences. But he evil never became Her manners were exformidable. very tremely popular. Cooke, in his Detection,' boldly panegyrizes her piety, prudence, temperance, and chastity.' Even Weldon confesses that she was a very brave queen ;' and Osborne, while he censures her uncovered shoulders, yet condescends to observe that her skin was amiable,' and her disposition 'debonair.' As she passed through London to the coronation, she so mildly saluted her subjects,' that the women were weeping ripe.' 'Her fidelity as a wife is unimpeached, except by the most vague scandal, for we ascribe little importance to the advances unhandsomely hinted at by Lord Herbert of Cherbury as wasted upon himself; and even the impartial' Harris is ashamed of Peyton, when among slanders yet more infamous, he avers that Prince Henry was the son, not of James, but of Lord Saintcleare,' and that the father brrrl

* Osborne.

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »