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said, and it is perhaps unfortunately true, that people in general are satis fied with Clarendon's History of the Grand Rebellion: which Warburton, in his letters to Hurd, styles" an incomparable performance." Clarendon was a lively and florid narrator, a framer of stately periods, and a painter of characters plausibly coloured. But he was a prejudiced and bigoted statesman; and how far his candour may be trusted, sufficiently appears from the false glosses and false facts detected by Oldmixon, in his "Clarendon and Whitlock compared, in a comparison between the history of the Rebellion and other histories of the Civil War."
This task has usually been undertaken in a spirit of faction or partisanship. Hume, who is full in this part of his general history, although in other parts negligently brief and careless, has always an apology ready for a king. Catharine Macaulay, who is not deficient in industry, and who writes with spirit, was a zealous and romantic republican; nor is her reputation for fairness without speck. Thus she affirms that, "motives of mistaken selfishness, a few bigots excepted, may," she believes, "be very justly ascribed to all those who embarked in the royal cause:" and even on the point of religious liberty she will allow no merit to Cromwell, though if there were a redeeming virtue in the mixed character of that extraordinary man, it was his zeal in favour of toleration.+
From previous reasoning we should not have presumed the fitness of Mr. Godwin to undertake a work like the present. We had met with him in other walks. He had carried the lawlessness of a poetical imagination into the fields of severe logical induction, and speculated like an enthusiast in the metaphysics of politics
and morals. The fanciful spirit of his romances had pursued him into his biographies; and he had dragged us along with him through long episodes of conjectural adventure, and probable or possible incident. He has since, under another name, compiled some of the most intelligent and useful histories that have issued from the juvenile press. Whether it be owing to his practice in this meritorious, though comparatively humble, avocation, or to the circumstance that the book before us is, as he states it to be, "the production of his mature life, we do not know; but we are glad to hail in it a sobered tone in the comparison and estimate of facts, and a cautious leaning towards authenticated evidence.
The great merit of Mr. Godwin's book will, as we think, be found to be this: that it does justice to names which the virulence of party spirit has done its utmost to asperse. "The men," he observes," who figured during the interregnum, were, immediately after the Restoration, spoken of with horror, and their memoirs were composed after the manner of the Newgate Calendar. What was begun from party-rage has been continued from indolence. No research has been exercised: no public measures have been traced to their right authors: even the succession of judges, public officers, and statesmen, has been left in impenetrable confusion. It is the object of the present work to remedy this defect; to restore the just tone of historical relation on the subject, to attend to the neglected, to remember the forgotten, and to distribute an impartial award on all that was planned and achieved during this eventful period."
We think he should have noticed that something towards this, at least, has been done by Dr. William Harris and Mrs. Macaulay. In expressing
able to defend it four months; but which, to the surprise of all parties, on the parliament forces entering the lines by storm, he delivered up to the enemy on terms of capitulation." Vol. iv. 174.
The character of this writer will perhaps one day be cleared from the aspersions cast upon it. His " History of the Reigns of the Royal House of Stuart" contains a va riety of curious facts not elsewhere to be found.
"In the point of religious liberty the usurper, as it served his purposes, encouraged and oppressed all the different sectaries." Vol. v. p. 197. "He spoke at all times (says Harris) with honour of those who differed from him, treated them with much respect and decency, and openly declared for their toleration and encouragement. Indeed, he constantly was a friend to religious liberty, and an opposer of spiritual tyranny." Life of Oliver Cromwell.
also his surprise that so "copious a source of knowledge and certainty as the parliamentary journals had been so little explored, and accounting for it by their being put in print too late to allow of their being "incessantly consulted by Hume and our most considerable historians," he overlooks the fact that they are continually referred to by Macaulay.
The tone of historic impartiality is maintained by Mr. Godwin with very tolerable steadiness; consistently, at the same time, with that free and manly avowal of his likings and dislikings to men and measures, which, in this renewed era of crawling sycophancy to stars and whiskers, we would not have discouraged. His prejudices, however, for such he has, sometimes interfere with his liberality as when refuting, from the journals of the House of Lords, a misrepresentation of Clarendon, on the proceedings of the bill for abolishing episcopacy, he cannot forbear throwing an odium on the whole order of the wig and gown: "here we have an instructive example of the character of a lawyer, full charged with all the tricks of his profession, and drawn with his own hand:" and in his survey of the five systems of church government, he leaves it to be supposed that Diocesan Episcopacy, otherwise the Church of England, indulges itself at the present day, by a sort of necessity of its nature, in the slitting of noses and the cropping of
His natural strong bias to the side of the parliament occasionally also obscures his perceptions of political justice. To make our meaning clear, we shall extract his reasoning on the cases of Strafford and Laud; and we quote the former passage at length, as it will, also, serve as a sample of the style of the work.
A proviso was inserted in the act of attainder of the case of Strafford, that " no judges or other magistrates should adjudge any thing to be treason, in any other manner than they would have adjudged if this
act had never been made." This has been used as an argument to prove, that the prosecutors of Strafford were conscious of the
injustice they committed. It proves no
such thing. It rather serves to illustrate the clearness of their conceptions, and the equability of their temper. Undoubtedly the prosecutors of Strafford were firmly averse to this proceeding being drawn into a precedent. Undoubtedly they were strongly persuaded, that, in all ordinary cases the letter of the law should be observ
ed, and no man be condemned unless that were against him.
vincible abhorrence to the taking away the For myself, I entertain an almost inlife of man, after a set form, and in cool blood, in any case whatever. The very circumstance that you have the man in your power, and that he stands defenceless before you, to be disposed of at your discretion, is the strongest of all persuasions that you should give him his life. To fetter a man's limbs, and, in that condition, to shed his blood, like the beasts who (that) serve us for food, is a thought, the human heart should ever be reconciled. to which, at first sight, we are astonished The strongest case, that can be made in its favour, is where, as in this business of Strafford, the public cause and the favourable issue of that cause seem to demand it. (P. 92.)
On the case of Laud he observes, p. 430:
It is evident on the face of the question, that no two things can be more distinct
than the case of Strafford and that of Laud.
In the former, there were reasons of no common urgency, why the ordinary rules
for the administration of justice should be
set aside. That was an affair, in which the
public safety was the only law that deserved to be consulted. The impeachment of Strafford was turned into a bill of attainder; it was voted that, if no one of his acts amounted technically to treason, the whole of them, taken together, constituted a
As Mr. Godwin confesses to the "not loving Clarendon," we marvel that he did not dwell on that historian's character of the assembly of divines, convened in synod at Westminster in 1643, to settle the question of church-government: especially as he (Mr. Godwin) says concerning it, "of the character and endowments of the members of this assembly it is necessary we should form a distinct idea." Now the idea conveyed of it by Clarendon is, that "there were not above twenty of the 120 members, who were not declared and avowed enemies of the doctrine and discipline of the church of England: some of them infamous in their lives and conversations, and most of them of very mean parts in learning, if not of scandalous ignorance; and of no other reputation than malice to the church." This is pretty well: but Calamy says, "these divines were men of eminent learning and godliness, ministerial abilities and fidelity."
TREASON BY EXCELLENCE: ALL WAS
FAIR in a case in the highest degree alarming, and that could scarcely encounter a parallel.
Mrs. Macaulay takes the same line of argument:
Every article and circumstance may so corroborate the charge, as to amount to a more convincing proof than what is required by the forms of law: these forms ought never to be dispensed with in any accusation of a private nature; yet the man, who would hesitate to prosecute or CONDEMN a criminal, who, it was rationally proved, had, like Strafford, been guilty of atrocious acts of oppression, must be very lukewarm in the cause of public justice, and have very narrow sentiments in regard to liberty.
These arguments are only an echo of those of St. John before the Lords: that,
Were the testimony against Strafford not strictly what the law required, YET, in this way of bill, private satisfaction to each man's conscience was sufficient; (and that) the earl had no title to plead law, because he had endeavoured to destroy the law. It is true we give law to hares and deers, for they are beasts of chase; but it was never accounted cruel nor UNFAIR to destroy foxes and wolves wherever they can be found, for they are beasts of prey.
We do not profess to understand the distinction between public and private JUSTICE; nor do we see the point of the stress laid on the forms of law: which we have always conceived to be, not formalities, but, regulations, of testimony and proof, essential to the calm and deliberative character of justice, and intended to protect, not the innocent only, but the accused: not the humble only, but the great criminal. Mrs. Macaulay did not live quite long enough to see the effects of committees of PUBLIC SAFETY, of the ardour for PUBLIC justice, and of WIDE sentiments in regard to liberty: Mr. Godwin has seen them.
which brings to our recollection Gilray's imaginary statue of French democratic Sensibility, weeping over a dead dove, and grasping a dagger. We recommend to him " fiat justitia, ruat cœlum," as a far better motto.
According to the argument of Godwin and Macaulay, the despised forms of law must be acknowledged to be superfluous: there seems no reason why Strafford should not have been knocked on the head, like a pole-cat, without any ceremony of trial at all. "Killing by forms of law," observes Lord Russel, in the paper which he delivered on the scaffold," is the worst sort of murder."
In fact, it appears from the case of that distinguished martyr in the cause of liberty, of how little avail was the "firm aversion of the parliament" to this proceeding on Strafford (after it had answered their end) being drawn into a precedent. "After all the declaiming against a constructive treason in the case of Lord Strafford (remarks Burnet), the court was always running into it, when they had a mind to destroy any that stood in their way." The exception from ordinary rules of justice is as good on the side of a monarchy as on that of a republic. The "clearness of conception and equability of temper," which fixed on Strafford the "treason by excellence," cut short the thread of Russel's life, and spilled the blood, though they could not flutter the pulse, of Algernon Sidney.
We wish Mr. Godwin to weigh well these remarks, before he enters on that momentous event, the TRIAL of CHARLES THE FIRST. It will exact his most patient attention, his utmost watchfulness over himself, his most severe and magnanimous impartiality. Let him remember that so clear-headed a statesman, so pure a lover of justice, so generous and open-hearted a philanthropist as the late Mr. Fox, was seduced by his strong dislike of absolute power to recognise in a forcibly packed junto the Commons of England, and to see only an imposing and magnificent* spectacle in a solemn mockery of justice.
See the History of James the Second.
The Dio English Testers.
No VII. PEELE.
MERRIE CONCEITED IESTS, OF GEORGE PEELE GENTLEMAN, SOMETIMES STVDENT IN OXFORD. WHEREIN IS
SHEWED THE COURSE OF HIS LIFE, HOW HE LIUED: A MAN VERY WELL KNOWNE IN THE CITY OF LONDON AND ELSEWHERE.
Buy, read and iudge,
The price doe not grudge:
It will doe thee more pleasure, Than twice so much treasure. LONDON, PRINTED FOR HENRY BELL, DWELLING IN THE LITTLE OLD BAILY IN ELIOTS COURT. (Without date) Quarto; containing twenty one pages and the title.
The merry Jests of George Peele formed a very attractive volume, and were eagerly sought after by the readers of such publications, at the time of their appearance. Wood says that they came at last to be sold on the stalls of ballad-mongers, but that he had never been able to get a sight of them. The same writer calls them Peele's Jests or Clinches, a word of which we cannot immediately discover the etymology, although it probably means his shifts or stratagems.
The first edition appeared, we believe, in 1607;t there was a second in 1627; that now before us, without date, but probably either a few years earlier or later; one in 1657, and a fifth, London, printed for William Whitwood, and to be sold in Duck Lane, 1671. They were also reprinted for R. Triphook, in 1809.
The author, George Peele, was undoubtedly an Oxford man, and appears to consider the place of his education, and the degree he ac
* Athena Oxonienses, vol. i. col. 688.
quired there, as adding no slight dignity and lustre to his name, for he invariably designates himself as "Maister of Artes in Oxenforde." He occurs as a member of Broadgate's Hall (now Pembroke College) in the first list extant of the members of the university, which was taken about the year 1564.§ Mr. Malone supposes him to have been born in 1557 or 1558,|| but it is not likely that he entered before the age of 12 or 13, which would carry back the time of his birth to 1552 or 1553. He is said to have been a native of Devonshire, although no positive authority to corroborate this assertion has been yet discovered. It is, we think, probable that his parents were obscure, and in some humble situation of life, that he was sent originally to the university in the capacity of a poor scholar, or servitor, where his quick parts, attracting the notice and approbation of his seniors, succeeded in obtaining for him a studentship of Christ Church, and he then proceeded through the regular academical course, taking the degree of bachelor of arts, June 12, 1577, that of master, July 6, 1579.** The natural bent of Peele's disposition to gaiety, his poetical talents, and, above all, his fondness for dramatic composition, seem to have prevented him from pursuing any of the learned professions, for which he was doubtless well qualified by his abilities and education. He repaired to London, and was there probably indebted to his pen for a maintenance, becoming an author by profession. Here too
+"The merrie conceited Jests of George Peele. Printed by Nicholas Okes, 1607," 4to. West's Auction Catalogue, No. 1821, and a similar edition is mentioned in Egerton the bookseller's Shop Catal. 1794, where it was marked at one guinea. Major Pearson also had a copy. Auction Cat. No. 2705.
See the Duke of Roxburghe's Auction Catalogue, No. 6685. It sold for seven guineas! § In the university archives, Reg. P. page 490. He had probably only just entered at the time this census academicus was taken.
In the MS. notes to his copy of Wood's Athena.
** Register of Congregation marked KK. folios 324, b. 252, 276, b.
he married. In 1585 we find him regularly employed in the capacity of the City poet, whose province it was to furnish the dialogue and addresses which accompanied the pageant usual at the inauguration of the new lord mayor, and from several passages in his Jests it is clear that his wit and humour rendered him a welcome visitant at the City tables. At this time he lived on the Bank-side, over against Blackfriars. About the year 1593 he was taken under the patronage of the Earl of Northumberland, to whom he dedicated his poem, entitled The Honour of the Garter, written on the Earl's being installed a knight of that order; but it seems that the irregularity of his life, and his constant extravagance and immorality of conduct prevented his deriving any permanent advantage from this nobleman's countenance and support. Robert Greene, a poet of the same stamp, and his companion, throws some light on the character of our author, in his Groatsworth of Wit, first printed in 1592. Driven (he says) like himself to extreme shifts, he calls upon Peele to be warned by his misery and example, " Delight not in irreligious oaths, despise drunkenness, flee lust, abhor those epicures whose loose life hath made religion loathsome to your eares, and when they sooth you with terms of mastership, remember Robert Greene, whom they have often flattered, perishes now for want of comfort." Peele himself tells his patron, in the poem we have just mentioned, that cares had been his bedfellows for almost twenty years, but his misfortunes and privations do not appear to have wrought any reformation in his conduct, and it is lamentable to relate, on the authority of Meres, that he fell a sacrifice to his
irregularities in or before 1598,† leaving a widow and one daughter.
The following, we believe, to be the most perfect list of Peele's works yet given. They are all of the greatest rarity.
1. The Arraignment of Paris a dramatic pastoral. Lond. 1584, 4to. 2. The Devise of the Pageant, borne before Woolstone Dixi. Lond. 1585, 4to.
3. A Farewell to the famous and fortunate Generalls of our. English Forces, Sir John Norris and Syr Frauncis Drake. Lond. 1589, 4to.§
4. An Eglogue gratulatorie, entituled to the right honourable and renowned Shepheard of Albion's Arcadia, Robert, Earle of Essex and Ewre, for his welcome into England from Portugal. Lond. 1589, 4to.||
5. Polyhymnia; describing the honourable Triumphs at Tylt before her Maiestie, with Sir Henry Lea his Resignation of honour at Tylt. Lond. 1590, 4to.
6. Descensus Astrææ. The Devise of a Pageant borne before M. William Web, Lord Maior. Lond. 1591, 4to.**
7. The Hunting of Cupid.++
8. The famous Chronicle of King Edward the First, an historical play. Lond. 1593, 4to. Second Edition, 1599.
9. The Honour of the Garter displaied in a Poeme gratulatorie, entitled to the worthie and renowned Earle of Northumberland. Lond. 1593, 4to.
10. The Old Wives Tale, a Comedy. Lond. 1595, 4to. A play of very great rarity. There is a copy in the King's library, purchased at Mr. Steevens's sale for twelve pounds, and a second copy was sold among the Duke of Roxburghe's books for 12. 17s.
11. The Love of King David and
* See Oldys's Catalogue of Harleian Pamphlets, No. 224. +"As Anacreon died by the pot, so George Peele by the p-." Meres's Wits Treasury, 8vo. Lond. 1598, p. 286.
Reprinted in Nichols's Progresses of Elizabeth, and in the Supplement to the Harleian Miscellany, vol. x. p. 351. The original copy, which is probably unique, consists of a single sheet, and is in the Bodleian library. It was purchased at Dr. Farmer's sale for a guinea and a half.
§ Censura Literaria, vol. ii. p. 15. Ed. 1815.
This we have never seen. It is mentioned by Mr. Malone in his MS. additions to Langbaine's Dramatic Poets.
** In the late Mr. Bindley's library. Reprinted in the Supplement to the Harleian Miscellany.
++ This has never yet been discovered. It was licensed to R. Jones in 1591.