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During the time of his exaltation, when his plot was in full force, efficacy, and virtue, he walked about with his guards, assigned for fear of the papists murdering him. He had lodgings in Whitehall, and one thousand two hundred pounds per annum pension; and no wonder, after he had the impudence to say to the House of Lords, in plain terms, that if they would not help him to more money, he must be forced to help himself. He put on an episcopal garb, except the lawn sleeves, silk gown and cassock, great hat, sattin hat-band and rose, long scarf,* and was called, or most blasphemously called himself, the saviour of the nation. Whoever he pointed at was taken up and committed; so that many people got out of his way, as from a blast, and glad they could prove their two last year's conversation.
On his examination before the council, he committed palpable blunders. One of Oates's scenes lay in Spain, where, upon his conversion he had been sent to be trained up a jesuit, and for his absolute incapacity was soon sent back again. He spoke of Don Juan doing some great thing towards killing the king; as I remember(says North) it was said to have been paying ten thousand pounds to the jesuits, which they were to furnish for that end, and this done in his (Oates's) presence, who was then amongst them. The king asked him quick, What manner of man Don Juan was? Oates, knowing the Spaniards are commonly reputed tall and black, answered, He was a tall black man; at which the king fell into a laugh, for he had known Don Juan personally in Flanders, and he happened to be a low, reddish-haired man. By this it was manifest he had never seen Don Juan; and farther, when Oates spoke of the jesuits' college at Paris, the king asked him where it stood, and he answered as much out of the way, as if he had said, Gresham college stood in Westminster.
Oates never would say all he knew, for that was not consistent with the uncertainty of events. For he could not foresee what sort of evidence there might be occasion for, nor whom it might be thought fit to accuse: all which matters were kept in reserve, to be launched or not as occasion, like fair weather, invited, or storms discouraged. When Oates was examined in the House of Commons, and was asked if he knew of any farther design against his majesty, &c., instead of answering that question, he told a tale of a fox and a goose; that the fox, to see if the ice would bear him and his goose, first
• After the king had expelled him from Whitehall, and withdrawn his guards, Oates altered his dress, assumed a sword, and associated with Colledge, Ferguson, and those men.
carried over a stone as heavy as the goose. And neither then, nor ever after, during his whole life, would he be brought to say he had told all he knew.
“ Every new witness that came in made us start—now we shall come to the bottom. And so it continued from one witness to another, year, after year, till, at length, it had no bottom, but in the bottomless pit." Yet in defiance of all this tergiversation, partial disclosures, and gross and palpable falsehoods, “ 'Twas worse than plotting to suspect his plot:"--one might have denied his Redeemer, says our author, with less contest than attainted the veracity of Oates. “What! don't you believe the plot ?" was the reply to every man who attempted to reason or talk sense on the subject. “ The city,” says the author of the Examen, “ for fear of papists, put up their posts and chains; and the chamberlain, Sir Thomas Player, in the court of aldermen, gave his reason for the city's using that caution, which was, that he did not know but the next
morning they might rise all with their throats cut!” The king early perceived it to be a mere fiction; and when first revealed by Dr. Tong, positively forbad the making any other persons privy to it, although Lord Danby pressed very much for it. The king said he would alarm all England, and put thoughts of killing him into their heads, who had no such thoughts before. And afterwards, that nobleman had ample occasion to regret, in the leisure of the Tower, his having introduced it into parliament, contrary to the king's advice, observing, that the event had proved his majesty the best prophet
, of them all. This incredulity, however, was productive of some inconvenience ; for notwithstanding the absurdity of making him an accessory before the fact, to an attempt upon his own life, it gave rise to a general idea, that he knew more of the matter than he would be thought to know, and Oates did not afterwards hesitate to drag him in for a share in the conspiracy. The suspicions vulgarly entertained of his religion, too, furnished a handle against him,-as the following dialogue, which was given in deposition, on the trial of Colledge by one Smith, will show. He deposed, that while one day they were going to dinner at the house of an alderman Wilcox, Colledge told him, “He (the alderman) was as true as steel, and a man that would endeavour to root out popery.” Says I, " That may be easily done, if you can but prevail with the king to pass the bill against the Duke of York.”—“ No, no,” said he, are mistaken, for Rowley is as great a papist as the Duke of York is, (now he called the king Rowley), and every way as dangerous to the protestant interest." (State Trials.) Thus was good King Charles himself brought in a notorious encourager of stifling and ridiculing the plot. This charge our author treats thus :
“ It is certain, the king put no stop to the course of any enquiry : and as for laughing, to do his majesty right, he as seldom laughed in the wrong place, as any one of his subjects; if any thing was truly ridiculous, he was apt to smile, that he was. Therefore, I must needs say, that the author doth his plot no justice, if he intends we should think the king laughed at it. As for his majesty, he honestly paid the pensions and rewards as was desired; his council doors were open to every paltry fellow, even to the Irish fool, Cummins, pretending to testify in the plot, and all business of state must give way to them."Examen, 214.
This remarkable and disgraceful plot was fortunate in the chief justice it found to preside over its diabolical disclosures, who, however, at length deserted its interests. The following extracts give us a good idea of Scroggs.
“ Before a committee of the commons, appointed to examine the proceedings of the judges, Francis Smith, bookseller, deposed, that he was brought before the chief justice (Scroggs,) by his warrant, charged with having a pamphlet, called Observations on Sir G. Wakeman's Trial, in his shop: upon which the chief justice told him, he would make him an example ; use him like a boor in France, and pile him and all the booksellers up in a prison like faggots; and so committed him to the king's bench, swearing and cursing at him in great fury, &c.
“And further, it appeared to the committee, that the said chief justice committed in like manner, Jane Curtis, she having a husband and children, for selling a book, called, A Satyr against Injustice, which his lordship called a libel against himself, and her friends tendering sufficient bail, he swore by the name of God, she should go to prison, and he would show her no more mercy than they could expect from a wolf that came to devour them, &c.
“Sir W. Scroggs, says Burnet, was a man more valued for a readiness in speaking, than either learning or virtue. His life had been indecently scandalous, and his fortunes very low. It was a melancholy thing to see so ignorant a man raised up to be chief justice. Yet he, now seeing how the stream ran (1678) went into it with so much zeal and heartiness, that he was become the favourite of the people. But, when he saw the king had an ill opinion of it, he grew cold in the pursuit of it. He began to neglect and check the witnesses : upon which they, who behaved as if they had been tribunes of the people, began to Scroggs summed up the evidence on Wakeman's trial
favourably for the prisoners, far contrary to his former practice. The prisoners were acquitted, and now the witnesses saw they were blasted. And they were enraged upon it, which they vented with much spite upon Scroggs. And there was in him matter enough to work on for such
foul-mouthed people as they were."
rail at him.
But the principal personage of the work, to whom we design to devote this article, now demands our more particular attention ; we mean King Charles himself. We have stated that the present does not appear to us a successful vindication of his character; less because it is not ably and cleverly conducted, than because we are of opinion, that no vindication whatever could possibly be successful. It is a subject which has employed alike both friends and foes; and has, in every instance, been drawn with some degree of fondness or resentment. The Marquis of Halifax has handed down to us a portrait of the master he served, and the wittiest of monarchs, as might naturally be expected, has been cleverly drawn by the wittiest of statesmen. We think his representation, however, as well as that of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, far too general, as well as too partially coloured, to convey to the reader an adequate or just conception of the original. Mr. Hume has taken their view of the subject; and throughout the history of this reign, evinces an evident partiality for the good-natured monarch. He seizes every opportunity of commendation, deals his censures sparingly, and by the composure with which he relates acts of dishonesty or violence, would seem as if he wished to diminish in his readers the sense of their enormity. Bishop Burnet, on the other hand, uses the darkest colours he can find, and these unsparingly; and dashes out a rough portrait of the king, at least as like the original, as the Saracen's ferocious head, which hangs on the sign-post, is to the Saracen of real life. It is not our purpose to take our trial in drawing the bow, with which so many, if they have succeeded in bending it at all, have yet shot wide of the mark. We would rather, with the reader's approbation, throw together such notices illustrative of Charles's character, as the present work may furnish, and supply the deficiency, by having recourse to Clarendon, Burnet, Temple, Evelyn, and other contemporary writers, without caring to be particularly regular or connected. We know no better method of catching a fair view, and fixing in our minds a just conception of Charles's variable character; which, whenever we have considered it, has tempted us to exclaim
Quo teneam vultus mutantem Proteo nodo.
We shall not attempt to follow any systematic plan, or regular method ; but string our observations together in the best order we can.
The claim of Charles to be considered as a man of extreme good nature and amiable temper has been so universally allowed, that among the various epithets by which we are fond of distinguishing him from his brother kings, that of the good-natured monarch, appears to have obtained a sort of pre eminence. There have not been wanting, however, writers, to question, and even deny his right to this distinction; among the latter is Lord Orrery, who says, that our historians, in representing him as a good-natured man, have ignorantly, or rather wilfully, mistaken good-humour and affability for tenderness and good-nature, « neither of which last are to be reckoned among this monarch's virtues." How far he is justly or at all entitled to the reputation of a virtue, for which royalty has not been usually found the most favourable soil, the following particulars of his eonduct in the various relations of life, may serve to inform us.
“ There was a lady," says Lord Clarendon, “ of youth and beauty, with whom the king had lived in great and notorious familiarity from the time of his coming into England.” This however underwent the less reproach from the king's being young and vigorous, and upon a full presumption, that when he should be married, he would confine himself within the bounds of virtue and innocence. He was “piously sensible, too, of the infinite obligations he had to God Almighty, and that he expected another kind of return from him in purity of mind and integrity of life. Moreover, he had been heard to speak of the excess which a neighbour king had permitted himself, in making his mistress live, at court, in the queen's presence, as a piece of ill nature that he himself could never be guilty ofm" that if he should ever act so ill as to keep a mistress, after he had a wife, which he hoped he never should, he would never add that to the vexation of which she would be sure to have enough.”
Fair promises ! and, at least, as faithfully observed as they were sincerely made. When the queen, who had wit and beauty enough to make herself agreeable to the king, came to Hampton Court, she brought with her the resolution never to suffer the lady, who was so much spoken of, to be in her presence. “ Her mother,” she said, “ had enjoined her to do so." On the other hand, the king thought he had prepared matters so well, that within a day or two after her arrival, he himself led the lady into the presence chamber, and presented her to the queen, who received her with the same grace as she had done the rest. But whether her Majesty in the instant knew who she was, or upon recollection found it out afterwards, she was no sooner sat in her chair, but her colour changed, and tears gushed out of her eyes, and her nose bled, and she fainted.
The king was mightily indignant to have such an earnest of defiance given him in the face of the whole court, on the great question of nuptial supremacy, on which head he was understood to be the most positive man alive.
From that time he forebore her society, and sought ease and refreshment in that jolly company, to which he grew every day more addicted ; and though never man's nature was remote from roughness or hard heartedness,” he was yet re