« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
CHARACTER OF THE DRAMA-BOOK OF SPORTS.
haunters being so augmented now, all the ancient devils' chapels (for so the Fathers style all play-houses) being five in number, are not sufficient to contain their troops, whence we see a sixth new added." He especially notes of "the inns-of-court men," that "one of the first things they learn as soon as they are admitted, is to see stage-plays and take smoke at a play-house," and to this cause he ascribes that "they prove altogether lawless instead of lawyers, and to forget that little learning, grace, and virtue which they had before." It must indeed be admitted that, notwithstanding the learning of Jonson, the grace and vivacity of Beaumont and Fletcher, the dignity of Massinger, and the infinite variety of the pictures of real life which these and a host of inferior dramatists present, there is a taint more or less amongst them all, which has prevented many of these most remarkable productions of any age or country coming down with a sweet savour to posterity. It is not merely that we find in them loose and profane expressions, as we sometimes find in Shakspere, but that, wholly different from the general character of his works, there is such an interweaving of licentiousness with the entire dramatic structure of many of the pieces that were once the most popular, that, as has been especially said of Fletcher, "very few of them can be so altered as to become tolerable at present on the stage." And yet Beaumont and Fletcher's plays were those most frequently acted before the king and his court. The most serious part of the community had evidently turned with disgust from all dramatic exhibitions; and though Charles was personally careful that all profane expressions should be removed from new plays, we may believe that if the play-books indiscriminately found admission to decent families, there were many besides the stricter Puritans who would think that Prynne was a sacrifice to the cause of public morals. There was a more marked distinction than had before existed, growing up to separate society into two great classes of the pious and the profane. This general division was as imperfect a test of real religion and sound morality as any such sweeping separations can be at any period. There were many amongst those who were first pointed at as Puritans, and afterwards as Roundheads, who had not that bigoted dislike of innocent amusements, that tasteless indifference to elegant literature and the arts, which were unjustly attributed to their religious earnestness. In the same way there was undoubtedly an equal proportion of those who tolerated what others held to be immoral, who were themselves of pure lives, and sincere in their devotional observances, though they did not call the Lord's day the Sabbath, and thought the re-publication of king James' Book of Sports was a wise measure to prevent the hard-worked peasantry being molested in their reasonable recreations. There was no act of the government which more distinctly than this publication indicated a temper which set at nought the opinions of a class too powerful, because too zealous, to be crushed. Ministers might be deprived for refusing to read this Book of Sports in their churches; the citizen who kept his apprentices at home after evening service, instead of leading them to the archery and leaping of Finsbury fields, might be disliked by the young men of his ward; the yeoman who was never seen on the village-green to sanction the commands of his king, might be suspected as a non-conformist. But the great party that
*Hallam. "Literature of Europe," vol. iii. p. 289.
THOROUGH, IN CHURCH AND STATE-MONOPOLIES.
was growing daily into a visible power only acquired solidity from this external pressure. Garrard tells his patron how the Book of Sports was received in some churches in London: "One Dr. Dawson read it, and presently after read the ten commandments; then said, ' Dearly beloved, you have heard now the commandments of God and man, obey which you please.' The very first Statute of the reign of Charles expressed the growing feeling upon this subject, when it forbade all people to go out of their own parishes for any sports or pastimes whatsoever "on the Lord's day;" and enacted that in their own parishes there should be no bear-baitings or bull-baitings, common plays, or other unlawful exercises. The Book of Sports defined certain amusements as lawful. The puritans regarded them as unlawful. It was a judicial blindness in the rulers to intermeddle in so delicate a question.
The more important parts of the despatches of Laud and Wentworth are in cypher; but there are occasional expressions in the published correspondence which sufficiently show for what object they were both striving. Laud, immediately after his translation to Canterbury, apologises for his want of power to accomplish what they both desired. "As for the Church, it is so bound up in the forms of the Common Law, that it is not possible for me, or for any man, to do that good which he would or is bound to do.
And for the State, indeed, my lord, I am for Thorough, but I see that both thick and thin stays Somebody, where I conceive it should not." The common law was indeed some shield of the nation against the attempt which lord Falkland, who saw the errors of the Church, but was honestly averse to its destruction, thus described: "Some have evidently laboured to bring in an English though not a Roman popery; I mean not only the outside dress of it, but equally absolute,—a blind dependence of the people upon the clergy and of the clergy upon themselves."+ This was the Thorough which Laud contemplated. The "Somebody" who opposed the Thorough for the State was no doubt the king. Charles had the sense to see that he could not do much more than he was doing, unless he had an army to compel an obedience far beyond what the star-chamber could enforce. But he did contrive to dash through" thick and thin," to the accomplishment of many illegal acts, without drawing the sword. The partnership in Thorough between the Church and the State was so complete, that it is sometimes difficult to separate the theological from the political principle of action; and precisely in the same manner the resistance to the united movement of power became a compound of civil and religious enthusiasm. Whether the partners in power were outwardly acting in their conjoined or several capacities, the result was pretty much the same.
During this anomalous period, when proclamations had the force of statutes, the general statements of historians give us little notion of the heartburnings which were produced by these displays of authority. When Clarendon tells us of "projects of all kinds, many ridiculous, many scandalous, all very grievous," the "reproach of which came to the king, the profit to other men," he points at the barefaced introduction of monopolies, in defiance or evasion of positive laws. Let us take one or two of these grievances, to sec
* Strafford Letters, vol. i. p. 166.
Speech, Feb. 9, 1641, in Nalson's "Historical Collections." It is quoted in Dr. Arnold's "Lectures on Modern History."
PROCLAMATIONS AGAINST BUILDING IN LONDON. [1629-1637.
how they were borne. The whole trade of soap-boiling throughout the kingdom was to be extinguished or limited, that a Company of Soapmakers might be the sole manufacturers. These gentlemen, who were to produce better soap, and no doubt cheaper than all the rest of the world, had given the king £10,000 for the patent, and agreed to pay him £8 per ton upon all the soap produced. Clarendon admits that the government obtained £200,000 by this and similar devices, but he says that "scarce £1500 came to the king's use;" from which we infer that the king's officers pocketed the balance. Garrard tells us how the new soap was received in London. "There is much ado about the soap business. I hear a proclamation. shall come forth to stop all mouths that speak against it." Commissioners of rank, with the lord-mayor and aldermen, were to report upon the soap. "They have had two general washing days at Guildhall; most of them have given their verdict for the new soap to be the better, yet continnal complaints rise up, that it burns linen, scalds the laundress's fingers, wastes infinitely in keeping, being full of lime and tallow." The king is indignant at the opposition; commands the lord-mayor to be reprimanded for his "pusillanimity, in this business, being afraid of a troop of women that clamourously petitioned him against the new soap."* Truly, the government is in a dignified attitude. One of the Lord Deputy's own schemes for keeping Ireland in dependence was to make the people "to take their salt from the king." He sets forth "the easiness of making his majesty sole merchant" of salt-an article of SO absolute necessity as it cannot possibly stay upon his hand, but must be had whether they will or no, and may at all times be raised in price." To show the easiness and profit he says, " Wituess the Gabelle of salt in France." Witness, indeed. Those who have read of the extremity of suffering to which the unhappy peasantry of France were reduced by the Gabelle, may form some notion of the condition to which these islands were fast drifting under the rule of Thorough. There was scarcely an industrious occupation, from the sale of coals to the collection of rags, that was not made the subject of a monopoly.
But many other ingenious devices were resorted to for the supply of the wants of the crown beyond its large hereditary revenues. There had been proclamations by James and Charles against the increase of buildings in London. The chaplain of the Venetian ambassador, in 1617, thought that the proclamation of James was for the intent of extorting fines, rather than with the hope of preventing the extension of the capital when there was abundant space for its enlargement. There could be no doubt of the intention of Charles, when in 1633 a Commission was harassing every owner of a new house from St. Martin's in the Fields to Blackwall, by levying enormous fines, or commanding the houses to be pulled down. Garrard is very minute in his relation of these proceedings. Refusal to the arbitrary command was dangerous. "Writs are gone forth from the Star-chamber to the sheriff to pull down the houses of Mr. Moor, and to levy £2000 fine for not having pulled them down by Easter." These were forty-two houses near St. Martin's Church; and they were "pulled down to the ground." The inter
* Strafford Letters, vol. p. 176.
See article in "Quarterly Review," October, 1857, on Mr. Rawdon Brown's "Diaries and Dispatches of the Venetian Embassy; unpublished."
OTHER ARBITRARY PROCLAMATIONS.
ference with the supply of house room was not more arbitrary than the interference with the supply of food. "The taverns," writes Garrard, "begin to victual again; some have got leave. 'Tis said that the vintners within the city will give £6000 to the king to dress meat, as they did before."* Proclamations were issued minutely regulating the price of all provisions. There were examples enough of such folly in former times which are held to be necessarily unenlightened; but in the days when the intellect of England was in the fullest activity, the rating of all eatables appears the merest freak of individual idiotcy. "The proclamations," says Garrard, "have done little good. They will not bring them [the provisions] in; so that housekeeping in London is grown much more chargeable than it was before these proclamations were published." Some of the proclamations of Charles appear to have had no other object than that of a wanton interference with the convenience of the people. It was the age of HackneyCoaches. Garrard says, that there were one thousand nine hundred in London and Westminster. At the beginning of 1635 he writes, "There is a proclamation coming forth to prohibit all hackney-coaches to pass up and down in London streets; out of town they may go at pleasure, as hereto
fore." It is true that the narrow streets were somewhat overcrowded with the coaches. The great enemy of these vehicles, John Taylor, the waterpoet, who saw the demand for the Thames wherries grievously reduced, tells
* Strafford Letters, vol. i. p. 262.
FIRST PROJECT OF SHIP-MONEY.
us that "butchers cannot pass with their cattle for them; market-folks, which bring provision of victuals to the city, are stopped, stayed, and hindered."
The streets were kept narrow by the absurd proclamations through which the natural extension of the town was impeded. It is clear enough that no interference of the government could put down the coaches; but the limitation of their use had the effect of encouraging the system which was introduced in 1634, by a speculating traveller, of "carrying people up and down in close chairs," called Sedans.
Whilst the Star-chamber was pulling down houses in London, those who pulled down cottages in the country, called depopulators, were equally fined. "Much noise is here of the depopulators that are come into the Star-chamber; it will bring in great sums of money." Such means of filling the Treasury were, however, small affairs. Six years of irresponsible government have made the administration bolder. In the spring of 1635 Garrard writes that it was resolved in full council, "to take double rates, just as much more as was taken before, of all goods imported into the kingdom." Double rates upon imports were nothing, however, compared to an universal tax. There is gone out a special writ to the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, requiring him, for the safeguard of the sea and defence of the realm, to issue forth writs to the several counties, cities, and towns, therein mentioned, to provide ships, men, ammunition, provision, and wages. The Lord Mayor of London demurred to the writ; but, being threatened, the corporation yielded, “and instantly fell to seizing in all the wards." The courtly Mr. Garrard, who rejoiced in all the monopolies because they brought money to the king, is 'rather discomposed about a tax which at last touches himself. "I had rather give," he says, " and pay ten subsidies in parliament, than ten shillings this new-old way of dead Noy's." Dead Noy, the old Attorney-General, who plagued all mankind with his writs, has in this, the last of his performances, left a terrible bequest to the government that bought his desertion of the popular party, as it had bought Wentworth's, by the offer of great place. He had always a precedent ready for an injustice, and thus Garrard calls his writ of ship-money a "new-old way." Yet Noy's scheme was a very limited one compared with that which was afterwards adopted; on the suggestion, it is said, of Finch, chief justice of the Common Pleas-the courtly Speaker whom Eliot and Hollis held in the chair, when he refused to put a remonstrance to the vote. The original writs were only sent to London and to the sea-port towns; and there was some reason in the demand, for the English navy had fallen into such a miserable condition that Algerine pirates boldly seized upon merchant vessels in the Channel, and the whole commerce of England had become insecure. These first writs required that certain maritime places should furnish one or more ships, or their equipments, or