Слике страница
PDF
ePub

i “These meditations resemble, in elegance, purity, neatness, and simplicity, the genius of those performances which we know with certainty to have flowed from the royal pen, but are so unlike the bombast, perplexed, rhetorical, and corrupt style of Dr. Gauden, to whom they are ascribed, that no human testimony seems sufficient to convince us that he was the author. Yet all the evidences which would rob the King of that honour tend to prove that Dr. Gauden had the merit of writing so fine a performance and the infamy of imposing it on the world as the King's.''

Persons contemporary with the publication of the Icon Basilikè aver that not only no man but King Charles could have written the book, but that the King himself could not have written it had he not been in trouble and suffering. If we consider it as a private book of devotion, we find a sincerity and depth of religious thought, a fervour of expression, which make it well-nigh impossible to believe that these meditations should not have sprung from the soul of the person who utters them. Again, the exactness of the personal application argues a perfect knowledge of those secrets of the inmost heart which are open to none but the individual himself and his God.

As a history of the King in his public capacity there is no record, not even that of Clarendon, which gives us a better opportunity of studying the minute details of his policy and the motives by which it was prompted. As a literary composition, it has been questioned whether the King was capable of arranging these fragments of autobiography in so clear and concise a manner, and of describing them in a style at once so simple and majestic. To this we may answer that the composition, when it first appeared as the King's work, excited no surprise in the minds of those who were best able to judge of his capabilities in this matter—Sir Edward Hyde and the Secretary of State Sir Edward Nicholas. They were indeed full of admiration, but surprise, much less distrust, never entered their thoughts. Sir Edward Nicholas calls it “the most exquisite, pious, and princely piece I ever read ;'2 Sir Edward Hyde, the “immortal monument he hath left behind him.' 3 And many a reference to the private letters of these and others of the King's friends and ministers will prove that, while they often bewail the errors of his policy, their confidence in his moral and intellectual abilities reniains to the last unshaken. The high opinion of the King's capacities was not

Hume, Hist. of England, vol. vii. p. 154. 2 Carte's Ormond Letters, vol. i. p. 226.

3 Clarendon Papers, vol. ii. p. 480, April 12, 1649, quoted in Tracts on the 'Icon Basilikd,' pp. 228-9.

'fooled them aling followed his omwell, it is know a persor

confined to the Royalists alone. Whitelock speaks of ‘his great parts and abilities, strength of reason, and quickness of apprehension. Sir Henry Vane complains that they have been much deceived in his Majesty, who was represented to them as a weak person, but that they found him a person of great parts and abilities. Cromwell, it is known, observed that had the King followed his own judgment he would have 'fooled them all.'? If we examine the twenty-eight chapters of which the book is composed, we shall find that in each and all of these chapters the King first appears in his public character as a monarch speaking to his people, and secondly as a private individual, examining in all humility and penitence his motives and actions, with a view to the strict account that he must one day render to his Maker. It records, it is hardly necessary to say, the chief events which occurred between the years 1640–8 of his reign. The first seven chapters treat of those which immediately preceded the civil war.

(1) The summoning of the last Parliament. (2) The death of Strafford. Here we read in every sentence the bitter repentance of the King, springing from the depths of his soul; nor could any hand but his own have traced the painful Auctuations of his mind between 'my own unsatisfiedness in conscience and a necessitie (as some told mee) of satisfying the importunities of some people,' till ‘I was perswaded by those that I think wished mee well to chuse rather what was safe than what seemed just, preferring the outward peace of my kingdom with men before that inward exactness of conscience with God.' We also find there the tribute to the one person (Juxon) who counselled mee not to consent against the voice of my conscience. And if we compare this chapter with the King's private letters to Strafford, we shall see that both open in the same manner. "I never met with a more unhappy conjuncture of affairs than in the business of this unfortunate Earl,' says the Icon. "Strafford,' the letter begins, “The misfortune that is fallen upon you by the strange mistaking and conjuncture of these times,' &c. And many points of resemblance similar to this are to be discovered throughout the two compositions. (3) His Majesty's going to the House of Commons to demand justice on the five members. (4) The insolence of the tumults. (5) The passing of the Bill for the Triennial Parliaments. (6) His retirement from Westminster, the date, as we have seen, when he first set his hand to paper to vindicate his innocence.' (7) The Queen's departure out of England, one of the most beautiful chapters in the book.

Carte's Life of Ormond, vol. ii. p. 12.

So far the Icon Basilikè had advanced when it was lost on the field of Naseby. After that time, on its being restored to the King, he added from time to time twenty-one more chapters, often revising and transcribing the whole during the enforced leisure of his captivity, during which transcriptions it is easy to understand that insertions were made in the previous chapters. It concludes with meditations upon death, after the votes of non-addresses and his closer imprisonment in Carisbrook Castle.

It may be interesting, before taking leave of this auto.biography, perhaps the most interesting of its kind that was ever written, to describe the external aspect of a copy of one of the earliest (1648) editions of the book. This copy, now in the hands of the writer, is a small duodecimo volume, bound in dark brown calf, with the royal initials surmounted by a crown on either side. The frontispiece, common to this and all subsequent editions, was designed and executed, according to Mr. Symmons, by the King's own hand. The mottoes were for the most part his choice also, with the exception of two or three added by Mr. Edward Hooker, the corrector of the press, and William Marshall, the engraver. The copy of verses which is placed beneath the engraving bears the signature 'G.D.,' not signifying, as the advocates of Gauden's claim have endeavoured to assert, •Gauden designed' or • Gauden, Dean,' but Guglielmus Dugardus,' the author of the verses, the learned printer and master of the Merchant · Taylors' School, who was utterly ruined at the time for the part he took in printing the King's book.

The comparison between the chapter on Strafford and the King's letter to that unfortunate nobleman has been quoted as an instance of the individual pieces of internal evidence which help to prove the authenticity of the King's book. We will only select one more out of the numerous testimonies which might be cited of this class. It was a constant habit with the King to write in his books and papers short sentences in Latin and other languages. A certain copy of verses called Majesty in Misery : an Imploration to the King of Kings, well known to be written by King Charles when at Carisbrook Castle, ends with the following Latin sentence : “Vota dabunt quæ bella negarunt,' and with this same sentence the Icon Basilikè also concludes. The poem and the book were written at the same time, and, in accordance with the King's usual practice, have this motto attached to them, a motto applicable to the subject of both compositions. This testimony, eminently satisfactory in support of the royal authorship, affords another proof of the falsity of Gauden's claim, for what can be more improbable than that he should hit upon the same words as those which had been used by the King at the close of a poem never seen by Dr. Gauden, and not known to the world till many years after his death ?1 Nor do we find that Gauden had any such opportunity of studying the King's character or temper of mind as to enable him to imitate exactly and reproduce his habits of thought. Thus the argument as to the Icon Basilikè being the work of a 'court parasite' or 'household priest’ falls to the ground. Once only was Gauden in the King's presence, when he preached a sermon before him in 1641. There is no record of Gauden's having had any private communication with him at that time, and how little his sermon would conciliate him we may imagine when we hear that Gauden had shortly before received a silver tankard as an honorarium for a sermon contrary to the royal cause, which won him the favour of the Parliament, before whom it was preached.

1 This remark, however obvious, is not unimportant, inasmuch as objections have been raised to the possibility of the earlier chapters having been written before Naseby fight, on the ground of their containing references to subsequent transactions.

2 The title-page still bears the name of Dr. Hewett,' showing that the copy must at one time have belonged to that excellent preacher and holy man,' as he is called by Evelyn in his Diary (p. 257.) Dr. Hewett perished on the scaffold in 1648, the last martyr to the Royal cause.

It is in the study of Gauden's own character that we find the best means of accounting for a forgery so shameless and so daring as his claim to the Icon Basilikè. We learn from Bishop Kennet's Register that • Gauden was capable of under-work. I took it once from the mouth of a very eminent primate that there was, in 1662, a declaration for liberty of conscience extending to Papists drawn up, and some printed copies of it worked off in a press, within Somerset House, though presently called in. And, what was the worst circumstance, the draught of it was framed by a bishop of the Church of England, even Dr. Gauden, the Bishop of Exeter, who had made himself the tool of the Court by the most sordid hopes of greater favour in it.'? And several other instances are quoted by Dr. Wordsworth from Gauden's writings to prove his time-serving nature. After the Restoration he speaks of the King (Charles I.)

as the greatest glory and most illustrious example of piety that sat on Christian throne, the most unspotted person, the wisest prince,' &c. &c. Before it he coldly says of him, · 1 It was first published by Burnet in his Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton.

Tracts on the 'Icon Basilike,' p. 377.

tains an actual Caroli Primace of doubl

•Whatever his sin may be, yet I think him not criminal,' &c.? But the most flagrant instance of double-dealing is his poem In Martyrium Caroli Primi (January 30, 1648), which contains an actual reference to the Icon Basilikè as the King's book. Which are we to believe, the statement in the poem or that contained in the letter to Lord Clarendon ? These and similar discrepancies are sufficient to show that Gauden was not a man whose character conciliates confidence. Dr. Wordsworth has certainly proved that upon his unsupported word rests the whole external evidence for his authorship of the book.

Long as Dr. Wordsworth's researches have been before the world, we think it in no way superfluous to bring their result once more before our readers now that renewed attention seems to be directed to the events and characters of the Caroline period. We do not forget the controversy which Dr. Wordsworth's publications roused, or the ingenuity of Dr. Todd, first in invalidating one or two points in the external evidence, and next in producing parallels between the Icon and known writings of Dr. Gauden's. But these were answered in Dr. Wordsworth's Tracts named at the head of this article, so that Dr. Wordsworth's evidence remains untouched, and we may well believe that the Icon is the genuine self-portraiture of the character of the unfortunate King. Many an historian has described the outline of that character, and each has put in the broad lights and shadows as they appeared in his eyes, but none but the individual himself could fill in those finer details of the mind, showing the stamp of solitude and suffering, those inward communings of the heart when he was ‘in his chamber' and was still. The closer study of the picture so portrayed would soften many a harsh judgment, and bring many a slander face to face with truth. More than two centuries have elapsed since this passage was written, and yet it continues to plead as with a living voice :

If I had not my own Innocencie and GOD'S protection, it were hard for Mee to stand out against those stratagems and conflicts of malice, which by Falsities seek to oppress the Truth, and by Jealousies to supplie the defect of Real causes which might seem to justifie so unjust Engagements against Mee. . . . For I can more willingly lose My Crown than My Credit ; nor are my Kingdoms so dear to Mee as My Reputation and Honour. Those must have a period with My Life, but these may survive to a glorious kind of Immortalitie when I am dead and gone : A good Name being the embalming of Princes, and a sweet consecrating of them to Eternitie of Love and Gratitude among Posteritie.'2 1 Tracts on the · Icon Basilike,' p. 389. 2 Icon Basilikè, ch. xv. p. 122.

« ПретходнаНастави »