Retrospective Review.


ART. I.-Examen; or, an Inquiry into the Credit and Veracity of a pretended Complete History; shewing the perverse and wicked Design of it, and the many Falsities and Abuses of Truth contained in it. Together with some Memoirs occasionally inserted. All tending to vindicate the Honour of the late King Charles II., and his happy Reign, from the intended Aspersions of that foul Pen. By the Hon. Roger North. London, Printed for Fletcher Gyles, against Grey's-Inn Gate in Hol

born. 1740.

In the last article of a preceding number, we endeavouredwith what success it is not for ourselves to pronounce-to select into one view such characteristic notices from contemporary writers, as, whilst they served to illustrate the subject we had undertaken to discuss, might also, in some degree, indirectly promote the great and more immediate object of our publication. To revive the recollection of works, whose sterling merits have been somewhat obscured by time and neglect, and to quicken the reader's appetite for the original and invaluable fountains of historical information, is a part of our duty, which, we conceive, cannot be more effectually discharged than by dispensing such portions from the living well itself, as may tend to stimulate rather than allay his thirst after a longer and deeper draught. The character of the royal personage under review is one of that stamp, which can hardly

[blocks in formation]

be thought to merit the trouble of much investigation; and we confess, we should have been extremely reluctant to waste our own time and the reader's patience in so unprofitable a labour as that of defining exactly the shades of his moral and political turpitude, had we not been tempted to proceed by the inexhaustible fund of amusement which is supplied by the anecdotic history of his life and reign. It originally formed part of our purpose to attempt to make the inquiry into his character and actions a vehicle of instruction as well as of amusement, but all more serious designs were soon lost sight of in the utter unsuitableness of the subject we had chosen for profound or sober disquisition. A saunterer among the gay and the frivolous, whom each successive morning called forth, like butterflies, to expand their painted wings in the sun-shine of the Mall-presiding with more grace and eclat over the business of a lady's toilette than the affairs of the nation, which heaven, in its wrath, had cursed with his government-living but to laugh, and laughing at every thing sanctified by the reason or prejudices of mankind, it were paying too much consideration to the memory of a worthless monarch to hope to derive any more serious advantage from the study of his character, than the amusement of a very idle hour. In this low estimate, we, of course, mean only to include the personal history of Charles-the public annals of his reign are fraught, God knows, with but too many subjects of deep and painful interest. By dwelling on this disgusting period of our history, we may discern, as in a putrid and offensive corpse, the latent seeds of those disorders which are ineident to our mixed constitution and national character; and thence derive such wise precautions, as may enable us to guard against the occurrence of future maladies, and such salutary prescriptions as may tend to the preservation of the general weal. But to unravel the complicated web into which the politics of that reign are woven, and, without clue to guide us, to find our way through the dire confusion of intrigues and conspiracies-plots and counterplots--requires more patience than we possess, more discernment than we boast, and much more space than our narrow limits can possibly afford. In pursuing, therefore, the present inquiry, we neither seek to enlighten what is obscure, nor to fix what is uncertain, but merely to divert into our pages some portion of that anecdotic wealth, which runs in so rich a vein through the works of contemporary writers. To this object, we confess, the consideration of Charles's merits and demerits is entirely subordinate; though we doubt not that our few pages will be found, in conclusion, to furnish a juster and more impartial view of his character and conduct than can be extracted from the pon

derous tome, whose title we have chosen to prefix to the present article.

Of the numerous catalogue of vices, with which men are apt to gratify their spleen by stigmatizing the characters of their rulers, there is none to which royalty has ever been more obnoxious, nor one from which it can, in general, be more easily exculpated, than that of political ingratitude. Not to mention the great difficulty there must always be in discriminating between those, who in troubled times have actually done and suffered, and those who have only talked and made empty professions of attachment, it seems a mistaken notion. to suppose, that services done to the crown constitute a necessary or binding claim upon the rewards and distinctions which it has to confer. So much is it the custom of common conversation to talk only of the king's service and the king's necessities, that we come insensibly to consider the monarch as the only party interested in the stake which may happen to be pending; and to forget, that, when we stand up in defence of church and king, we mean, if we mean any thing at all, to vindicate our own right to worship God after the way of our fathers, and to preserve inviolate the rights and property they have bequeathed us. He who, in civil commotions, draws his sword from any other than such interested motives, is an insane bigot to his own chivalrous and irrational loyalty; or, worst of all, fights, a mere mercenary, in the very fields and by the very hearth-stone of his ancestors. The only reward which a true citizen can propose to himself, as the recompense of his sufferings and privations in the cause to which he has devoted his life and property, must be the eventual firm and lasting security of both; or, if unsuccessful in the vindication of his rights, that he may, at least, bear away into foreign lands that balm, more healing than a king's favour-the ineffable quiet of an approving conscience. Regarding his services, not as a favour conferred, but as a debt due to his country and to himself, such a one will not invoke the faith of kings, and murmur loudly at finding his services neglected or overlooked; nor will he repine, that, in the distribution of places and distinctions, his own individual interests have been postponed to the general welfare of the community. Of such a stamp were many of those gallant cavaliers, whose loyal crests glanced in the sun-beam that shone upon the field of Edge-hill; but of a far different description were those younger royalists, who, with loud and obstreperous shouts, and the cry of "give!-give!" in their mouths, hastened to greet the royal wanderer, on his return from an almost hopeless exile.

If the debt, which the loyalty of subjects is understood, however erroneously, to impose upon the gratitude of the

sovereign, be, in most cases, too heavy to be easily discharged, that, which had been accumulating through so many years of destruction and civil broils, could hardly fail of galling the reluctant shoulders of him, who now literally took it up as a cross laid upon him for his sins. Not only did those who had poured out their blood like water, and had their persons as much emaciated by imprisonment, as their purses were reduced by sequestrations and compositions, think themselves entitled to expect recompense and reparation;-but every one who had but strained his throat in the universal shout of welcome-every one who had drained his cup in deep devotion to a treasonable toast-every one, in short, who had, by extravagant debauchery, brought his cause into disestimation, and himself under the notice of the presbyterian magistrate, was eagerly looking out for honours he could not support, or offices he could not discharge, or lands and money the king had not to give.*

""Twas this produced the joy, that hurried o'er
Such swarms of English to the neighbouring shore,
To fetch that prize—

[ocr errors]

No sooner was Charles arrived at Canterbury, which was within three hours after he had landed at Dover, than he found reason to lament the condition to which, in the character and situation of a restored monarch, he found he must necessarily be subject. Thither both those who had services on which to found their pretensions, and those who had none-those who had acted, and those who had only talked-those who had bled, and those who had drank in his cause, hastened alike, and were alike received with open arms and flowing expressions of grace. So universal appeared the welcome, that he was wont merrily to say, "it could be nobody's fault but his own that he had stayed so long abroad, when all mankind wished him so heartily at home." Such as were known to him, he addressed with some pertinent inquiry-others, he saluted more distantly, at a venture, as "old acquaintance"-and for all he had a smile, that thawed the frost work of every man's bosom, as a snow-wreath vanishes under the influence of the mid-day sun.

"On each side bowing popularly low,

His looks, his gestures, and his words he frames,
And with familiar ease repeats their names."

* Continuation of the Life of Lord Clarendon.


+ lbid.

« ForrigeFortsett »