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DEPRESSION OF INDUSTRY
[1642 without swords or staves," seems to point to a contrast with the usual truculent demeanour of their fraternity; and suggests that "the great long club" and "the long dagger" of the "well-grown sturdy apprentices," described by Stow, were still the weapons which made the rallying-cry of "'Prentices and clubs!" a terror to civic dignitaries.
It would have been more than strange if, amidst all the excitements of this summer, the preparations for civil war-the doubts and fears of those whose property or industry would surely be affected by the loss of internal peace,the prosperity of the kingdom generally, and that of the Londoners as much as any portion of the nation, had not been materially affected. There is a curious tract, issued "in the year of disasters, 1642," which sets forth the general stagnation of employments. It is a bitter outpouring of wrath against "that master-piece or idea of dissimulation, which Nature made her example to portraiture a rogue by, the Roundhead." Evidently written by a lawyer, it pours forth "St. Hilary's tears for want of a stirring Midsummer term." In Westminster Hall "those few judges left have time enough to get a nap, and no noise to awake them;"—" the lawyers, instead of perusing the breviates, and reducing the matter in question to cases, were buying up all the pamphlets, and dispersing themselves in corners to read them." The coaches that used to rumble up and down Palace-yard, challenging heaven with their thunder, are here and there one. The cooks in King-street lean against their door-posts. The lodgings in the Strand are empty. "At the Exchange, the only question that is asked is, what news ?-not from Aleppo, Constantinople, the Straits, or Indies, but from York, Ireland, and the Parliament." In the halls of the City Companies there is no feasting but for the masters and wardens. In the shops there is no talk amongst the tradesmen, "but condoling the want of the courtiers' money." This is not a very touching feature of distress. It presents us nothing of the miseries of the poor, the first to suffer in a time of public distraction. Yet, from all the indications of this remarkable period, we may collect that public order was strictly maintained in London; that there were no attacks upon property; that life was perfectly secure. London was the general resort of those whose opinions exposed them to danger in the country. Ellwood, the quaker, says, "In my infancy, when I was but about two years old, I was carried to London.” His father "favoured the parliament side, though he took not arms. Not holding himself safe at his country habitation, which lay too near some garrisons of the king's, he betook himself to London." The little boy was the playfellow of the daughter of the lady Springett; "being admitted as such to ride with her in her little coach, drawn by her footman about Lincoln'sinn-Fields."* The children in the little coach give an appearance of perfect security to Lincoln's-inn-Fields. It was in the country that the distractions of the time bore hard upon the richer families. Every manor-house was liable to attack by a royalist or a parliamentary band. Lady Brilliana Harley had to put her castle of Brompton, in Herefordshire, in a posture of defence, whilst her husband, sir Robert Harley, was engaged in his parliamentary vocation. The courageous woman, who died at her post, writes to her son, "My dear Ned, I thank God I am not afraid; it is the Lord's cause that we
* "Life of Thomas Ellwood, written by himself."
DISTURBANCES IN COUNTRY DISTRICTS.
have stood for." * The people of Herefordshire were mostly for the king. In Essex, the party of the Parliament predominated. Arthur Wilson, in "The Tract of my Life," says, "The twentieth of August, 1642, the king having left the parliament, and thereby a loose rein being put into the mouth of the unruly multitude, many thousands swarmed to the pulling down of Long Melford House, a gallant seat belonging to the countess of Rivers; and to the endangering of her person. She being a recusant, they made that their pretence, but spoil and plunder was their aim. This fury was not only in the rabble, but many of the better sort behaved themselves as if there had been a dissolution of all government. No man could remain in his own house without fear, nor be abroad with safety." At such a time, in a country where all were arming themselves, with the purpose, or the pretence, of joining one party or the other, lawless bands would undoubtedly seize the occasion of tumult and rapine. A circumstance recorded in July, 1643, may be anticipated in point of time as an illustration of this inevitable result of civil commotion. There was an insurrection in Kent against the Parliament. The house of Thomas Weller, the collector of the subscription money for the parliamentary army, was broken into and plundered; and one Parry, a smith, of Crayford, and another man named Smale, held the following colloquy: "We have sped well here," says Parry: "let us go to Hadlow and Peckham, and plunder there, for they are rich rogues, and so we will go away into the woods." Smale replied, "But we must plunder none but Roundheads." With a great oath Parry rejoined, "We will make every man a Roundhead that hath anything to lose: this is the time we look for."‡
Amidst scenes such as these, "in all quarters of English ground, with swords getting out of their scabbards," there is one neutral power not wholly cast down-"the constable's baton still struggling to reign supreme."§ That power never ceased to assert itself amidst hostile armies. The judges went their usual circuits. The Sessions and the County Courts were regularly held. The constable kept watch and ward, arrested night-walkers, pursued hue and cry after felons, apprehended vagabonds, presented disorderly ale-houses. The overseer provided the common stock to set the poor to work, and relieved the impotent poor. The local organisation of England might be disturbed, but it was never destroyed. The assumption of executive authority by the Parliament, if it were sometimes abused, was everywhere directed to the maintenance of order. Whilst the chief nobles and gentlemen, who were the natural conservators of the peace in their several counties, were gathered round the king at York or at Oxford, the leaders of the parliament were not only looking after the particular interests of their cause, and that very sharply, but were keeping the people under a strict rule, however irregular. The sons of sir John Bramston are coming from the king at York, in July of 1642. Near Huntingdon they are commanded to stand by certain musketeers, who start out of the corn, "telling us we must be searched, and to that end must go before Mr. Cromwell, and give account from whence we
"Letters of Lady Brilliana Harley," p. 180.
Peck's "Desiderata Curiosa," lib. xii. p. 23. Folio.
$ Carlyle's "Cromwell," vol. i. p. 98.
came, and whither we were going." Mr. Cromwell is not yet in military command, but he is a Justice of the Peace, and his name is already a word of strength. He is member for the town of Cambridge; and has there exercised a very unusual representative power, by seizing the magazine in the Castle, and stopping the transit of the University plate to the king's quarters. The country gentleman " in a plain cloth-suit," who farmed the tithes at Ely, and cultivated lands there, felt that he had the power within him to deal with great public exigencies. In a very startling manner did he deal with them.
In 1623 Charles heard, in Ben Jonson's "Prince's Masque," allusions to a power which was then beginning to make itself formidable. The "press in a hollow tree," worked by "two ragged rascals," expressed the courtly contempt of that engine which was to give a new character to all political action. In 1642, wherever Charles moved, he had his own press with him. His state papers, for the most part written by Hyde, were appeals to the reason and the affections of his people, in the place of the old assertions of absolute authority. In the same way, the declarations of the Parliament approached the great questions in dispute, in the like spirit of acknowledg ment that there was a court of appeal beyond the battle-field, where truth and right would ultimately prevail. This warfare of the pen gradually engaged all the master minds of the country; some using the nobler artillery of earnest reasoning and impassioned rhetoric; others emptying their quivers of vehement satire, or casting their dirty missiles of abuse, on the opponents of their party. Milton enters upon his task with a solemn expression of "small willingness to leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to embark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes, put from beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies." + Cleaveland rushes into the fray with an alacrity that suits his impetuous nature:
Ring the bells backward; I am all on fire;
Herrick was living in his vicarage of Dean Priors in Devonshire, disliking the "people currish, churlish as the seas," amongst whom he lived; scarcely venturing to print till he was ejected from his benefice; but solacing his loyalty with the composition of stanzas to "the Prince of Cavaliers," and recording his political faith in two lines, which comprehended the creed of the "thorough" royalists:
"The gods to kings the judgment give to sway;
The subjects only glory to obey." §
The general tone of the poets is expressed by Lovelace :—
"Our careless heads with roses bound,
Our hearts with loyal flames." ||
Butler, from the time when he left his father's cottage at Strensham, on the
"Autobiography of Sir John Bramston," p. 86.
"Reason of Church Government," book ii.
"The Rebel Scot." "To Althea."
banks of the Avon, to note down those manifold characteristics of his time which furnish the best picture of its common life, was a royalist. Cleaveland, Carew, Suckling, Denham, Herrick, Butler, form a galaxy of cavalier versemakers. The dramatic poets, who were left to see the suppression of the theatres, such as Shirley, were naturally amongst the most ardent haters of the puritan parliament. But Milton did not quite stand alone amongst
those with whom civil and religious liberty was a higher sentiment than loyalty to the king. George Wither was the poet of puritanism, as ready with bitter invective as Cleaveland. But in Wither, the exalted spirit of fervent piety, which warmed the hearts of the religious enthusiasts, whether "sitting by their studious lamps," or shouting "The Cause" amidst the noise of battle, imparts a majesty to his political poems for which we look in vain amidst the songs of the Cavaliers :
"With fury came our armed foes,
To blood and slaughter fiercely bent;
We on the place had dead been seen,
Or masked in blood and wounds had lain." *
The inferior men of letters then rushed to take up the weapons of party in the small newspapers of the time. Their name was legion. Their chief writers, Marchmont Needham on the parliament side, with his "Mercurius Britannicus," and John Birkenhead on the royalist side, with his " Mercurius Aulicus," were models of scurrility. The character which Aubrey gives of Birkenhead was probably true of the greater number of the journalists: "He was exceedingly confident, witty, not very grateful to his benefactors, would
* Song 88.
lie damnably." The parliament writers had evidently the best of it, if we may judge by the hatred which Cleaveland bears to the whole tribe of journalists: "A Diurnal Maker is the sub-almoner of history, queen Mab's register; one whom, by the same figure that a north-country pedlar is a merchant-man, you may style an author." + A London Diurnal he calls "a history in sippets." He says, "It begins usually with an Ordinance, which is a law still-born." Its chief ingredients are "plots, horrible plots." When the time of fighting came, Cleaveland regarded "the triumphs of a Diurnal " as "so many bladders of their own blowing;" and Butler ridicules those victories which called forth "thanksgiving day amongst the churches," as mere vapourings, though
"registered by fame eternal
In deathless pages of Diurnals." +
Whatever were their demerits, the little newspapers produced a powerful effect. They were distributed through the villages by the carriers and foot
posts. The country-woman brought a "Diurnal" from the market town in her egg-basket. They gave information to individuals, without committing indiscreet friends in correspondence. They probably did something towards general enlightenment in places that would have been otherwise wholly given up to local prejudices and superstitions. In a time of such great public troubles all men had a touch of superstition. Evelyn looks with wonder upon "a shining cloud in the air, in shape resembling a sword." After the fight of Edgehill, "in the very place where the battle was stricken, have since and doth appear strange and portentous apparitions of two jarring and contrary armies." § So records a tract, in which the "apparitions and prodigious noises of war and battles" are certified by a justice of the peace, a preacher, and "other persons of quality." Such a relation was evidently not an attempt at imposture; and must be received as a remarkable instance of the illusions of the imagination, when preternaturally excited by the immediate presence of extraordinary events. During these wars the belief in witches reached a frightful extent; and the astrologers, with Lilly at their head, were going beyond their ancient vocation of discovering lost spoons and prophesying happy marriages, to discover in the stars the certain victory for the party which offered the best rewards for their science.
· Lives, vol. ii. p. 239.
Hudibras, part i. canto 3.
+"Character of a Diurnal Maker," ed. 1657. § Diary.