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of a Christian matron than “old Mrs. Ferrar;" obeying to the last every prescription of a strict rule, and thereby retaining every faculty unimpaired; so zealous for the honour of God's house, as not to rest from a wearying journey, until she had seen it cleansed from profanation; presiding over the studies of her grandchildren, who nightly knelt to ask her blessing? Where, for a more honest chronicler than John Ferrar, whose simple records of the brother whose superiority he felt are as free from envy as from exaggeration? Where, for a wiser exercise of a mother's authority, or more touching expressions of a mother's love, than in Mrs. Collett's letters to her children? If we turn to the sisters, we see in them expert housewives, patient nurses, gentle surgeons, “none of them nice of dressing with their own hands poor people's wounds, were they never so offensive;" handy artists, who accounted it an honourable occupation to reduce to harmony, to illustrate, even to bind, the sacred volume; eager students, now instructing the country children, now committing to memory those dialogues in which their uncle had enshrined the brightest examples of history, and which to them supplied the place of the misrule customary at the high-tides of the Church. In Nicholas Ferrar himself, “ the Levite in his own house,” we have the rare spectacle of a man whose one end in
life “was to make himself or others better;" by his veneration for saints and martyrs entitling himself to like veneration ; “spending eighteen hours out of the twenty four in useful business, serious study, devout prayers, or heavenly meditations ;" comforting and supporting his companions in every trial; on his death-bed "passing the days and nights in heavenly counsels to all the family;" reprobating the fatal and still prevalent delusion that literary power atones for an author's want of moral purpose, or exhorting his young charge to persevere in those pursuits, which had hitherto depended on his guidance; in the last scene of all crowning the witness of his life by that practical evidence of religion, which to those who behold it is still the strongest, “ the death of the righteous.”
Such being the character of the man, we cannot marvel that much pains' have been bestowed to preserve his memory from oblivion. It must
1 See the Appendix. As further proofs of interest in the subject may be mentioned three transcripts of the Arminian Nunnery (Harl. MS. 7055, art. 6, by Wanley; Middle Hill MSS. 6829, 9527), Dr. Woodward's Fair warning to a careless world, ed. 3, p. 120, Knight's Life of Dean Colet. The reader may remark for how many of these remains we are indebted to men who made no noise in the literary world. Wm. Robinson, for instance; who ever heard of him ? yet he gave many documents a new chance for life, whilst few perhaps of those whose eyes will fall on these words have rescued even one.
however in fairness be allowed, that the chorus of praise has been interrupted by a few discordant voices. That in the spreading ferment of puritanism, when the celebration of Christmas and the decoration of houses were abominated as dregs of heathenism, and organs and surplices as rags and furniture of Babylon',—that amid such jealous suspicions, I say, the Ferrars would not .escape calumny, was to have been anticipated, nor would mere vague rumours admit of serious refutation. In their more tangible form, as embodied in the Arminian Nunnery, these slanders were silenced by Lenton, whose letter the libeller had taken as his groundwork. Gough’s imputation of “useless enthusiasm” called
i See Prynne's Histriomastix. This most learned of libellers is far better known by the cruel usage, which could not still his restless tongue and pen, than by his works. Yet hear the weighty sentence of one of his few readers. “I take Wm. Prynne to have been at the bottome an honest Man, his zeal for the Protestant Religion led him to great excesses, and to writing Books, that were interpreted (and really were) libels against the Church and Government: but when he saw into the bloody designs of the Independent Party, he stopt, and was an utter enemy to bringing the King to a Tryall, as he has sufficiently shown in his Preface to this Book ; and was an enemy to Cromwell, and to the Rump, more then to the King. And this may be said for his Books, that being most Historical, he always quotes his Authorities, so that if there be any mistakes, he fairly offers them to be examined. This too is like an honest Man.” Baker's MS. note in Prynne's Saints Loyalty.
forth indignant protests at the time', and was more gravely discussed than it deserved by Dr. Peckard. These accusations and replies have been long forgotten; but a continually increasing circle, embracing men of every party, holds in honour the name of Ferrar, if only as that of a congenial friend of Herbert, now happily restored to his rightful rank among our national poets.
There is however one exception to the general unanimity which cannot be thus summarily dismissed. Raised far above most writers on our civil wars not less by his industry and scholarship: than
i Gent. Mag. xlii. 322. Cole's Athence.
2 Witness the publishers of the three latest biographies, Rivington, Nisbet, Masters.
3 Understand it of modern scholarship, in which Mr. Carlyle is beyond question far better versed than in ancient, if we are to estimate his proficiency in that by the following passage, wherein, it is true, party spirit (Hero Worship) seems to have led him astray. “Pientissimo, which might as well be piantissimo if conjugation and declension were observed, is accredited barbarous-latin for most pious, but means properly most expiative; by which title the zealous individual of later date indicates his martyred Majesty; a most 'expiative' Majesty indeed.” Cromwell's Letters, &c. i. 58. When did Mr. Carlyle see a superlative formed from an active participle not used as an adjective ? or when did he meet with pians rex in the sense of an expiative king? Doubtless such an anomalous inflection as pientissimus from pians is “barbarous-latin." It is hardly needful to say, that those who remember Cicero's ridicule of Antony's piissimus, and know the superlative of munificus, will readily divine the origin of pientissimus.
by his singular power of bringing a scene before us in all its picturesque features, Mr. Carlyle has asserted his superiority by nothing more, than by assigning a place in his narrative to many incidents and many persons, significant types of their class, but unnoticed by ordinary historians. Among other portraits that of Ferrar hangs in this gallery; and his friends, how little soever they may acknowledge the likeness, must at least rejoice that so eminent an artist has thus confessed his importance. To enable the reader to judge for himself, it will be necessary to introduce Mr. Carlyle's account by the authority to which it appeals (the same, by the way, which was caricatured in the Arminian Nunnery) and that by an explanatory letter', which Mr. Carlyle appears to have overlooked.
If your messenger had staid but one night longer, I would not have delayed my answer to your so discreet and respective a letter ; which makes me wish we were better acquainted, in hope to confirm your good and charitable opinion of me.
Sir, I confess I should much degenerate from my birth (being a gentleman), my breeding (well known to the world), and the religion I profess, if having, upon something a bold visit, been entertained in your family with kind and civil
i Both printed after Peckard, his unnecessary interpolations alone being omitted. The copies in Hearne’s Caius offer only minute verbal differences.