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ORATION ON CHARLES II.

395

merely for maintaining, but for exhibiting in full splendour, the pomp and dignity of a powerful prince. Nor did they fail to contribute largely from their own private resources, giving, by this means, the most noble proofs of strong affection for their sovereign, and not making the slightest mention of any conditions to be imposed on him. So eagerly did they hasten to show their zeal and obedience, that they forgot alike what they owed to the memory of their ancestors, to themselves, and to posterity; and that nothing might be wanting to testify their obedience and submission to the voice of their king, those who had the chief share in the glory of his restoration, took upon themselves, in the name of the whole nation, the guilt of the murder of the Blessed Martyr, as they called him, and besought the clemency of their sovereign to pardon the crime which they had committed. Yet the sovereign did not so far yield to clemency as to deem all deserving of forgiveness, but tempered his natural inclination to mercy by just severity, and sentenced such of his father's judges as had consented to his death from principle, and because they thought it for the good of the state, to suffer the severest punishment; while to those who had voted for his decapitation from the pressure of the time, and who, he thought, might afterwards prove subservient agents in his own schemes, he vouchsafed, by a prudent and generous sentence, a full and complete pardon. But for my own part, to say what I think freely and without disguise, it must be acknowledged, I consider, by those whose feelings do not mislead their judgment, that Charles offended alike against kingly dignity and sound policy, in not consigning all past transgressions to oblivion. Or even if the favourers of the Stuarts should deny this, they will surely not deny (for they neither can nor dare) that, of the punishments which the law inflicts upon rebels, the severer portion, as being of a nature at variance with the laws of humanity, ought to have been remitted.

Although the people, as we have already observed, had granted what was enough, and more than enough, for the expense of a properly conducted royal household; yet,

that they might give the richest proof of love for their new king, they proceeded to vote extraordinary supplies, to fill, not only his coffers, but those of his brother. Lest anything should be wanting, too, to indicate their feelings as fond subjects, they abrogated, by a resolution not less ridiculous than foolish, whatever acts the Parliament of Cromwell had passed during the preceding twenty years. If the historians of that period are to be trusted, however, these extravagances may be in some degree excused, as having been committed, for the most part, by men of easy principles and morals, careless and half-intoxicated; though the laxity, which admitted such characters into all but the highest council of the nation, appears not altogether deserving of praise.

There is also another matter, not indeed to be too much regarded, and yet not wholly to be neglected; I mean a certain thirst and eagerness for bloodshed, by which Charles was strongly influenced through the whole course of his reign; yet we can scarcely conceive it was from innate cruelty, in a prince of such a character, that so many innocent men were put to death in violation of divine and human laws, and in violation even at times of his own promises; it seems more probable that such spectacles were to this king a source of jest and amusement. Nor should I greatly wonder, indeed, if Charles, who had often witnessed, when in France, how easily the king of that country condemned his subjects to death, exile, or confiscation of property, and whom the people of England greeted with no less flattery than the French paid to Louis, wished to exercise in this respect the same arbitrary power as the King of France. Assuredly, unless we allow some force to these palliations, we must admit that there are scarce any acts related in all history, concerning the worst and most odious of tyrants, which are more opposed to humanity, or more at variance with all lenity and prudence, to say nothing of regard for law, than those proceedings of the reign of Charles. Among the noblemen brought to the bar in his days, the most eminent were Vane, Russell, and Sidney, whose unjust and cruel deaths

ORATION ON CHARLES II.

397

will stamp eternal infamy on Charles's memory. If we look on acts of such atrocity with the indignation that they deserve, we shall imagine ourselves reading the crimes of another Tiberius or Nero.

But if we had no cause to complain of the administration of the government at home, the disgrace of the wars which Charles undertook, and the treaties which he concluded, is such as was scarcely incurred by King John when he begged the Pope to restore him his crown. By sending an army against the Dutch, from whom he had experienced the most noble hospitality, he met with the just punishment of avarice and ingratitude; for, as the Dutch proved victorious, Charles was forced to make peace on the most unfavourable terms. What induced him to engage in war was, if we speak the truth, the desire of gain, a desire which in the end was not ungratified; for though he got nothing from the States of Holland but ignominy, he had the art to convert to his own use the money which the liberality of his subjects had voted for the expenses of the war. Many of his faults, too, which, if committed by any other prince, would have been called crimes, are designated by a lighter name from being compared with his greater and more flagrant offences; among which the shameful resignation to the enemy of Dunkirk and Tangier, two of the greatest fortresses and defences of the empire, justly holds a prominent position. But all his basenesses are crowned by his compact with Louis, by which he submitted to become a pensioner of France.

It is well enough known in the present day that Charles had attached himself to the same religious faith as his brother James, the faith of Rome, which, when opportunity should serve, he had determined, with the aid of the King of France, to disseminate through Great Britain, substituting the doctrines of the Pope for those of the Reformers, and overthrowing at the same time the whole constitution, and establishing tyranny in the place of civil liberty. But he pursued that object so timidly and coldly, he concealed his intentions with such cunning (shall I say?) or malice, that many of the Catholics suffered the severest punishments

under the sanction of a king who had embraced the same faith with themselves.

These examples of the public virtues of Charles we have selected from an infinite number. Let us see if his conduct as a man made amends for his deficiencies as a ruler. His father, whatever were the errors of his government, atoned for them in some degree by his private virtues. But in this respect he left a son sadly degenerate and dissimilar; a son who visited no country in Europe but to bring away from it new follies and new vices. His grandfather James used to be called by his flatterers a second Solomon. That which was wanting to complete the likeness to Solomon in the grandfather was supplied by the grandson, for no one that counts the number of Solomon's concubines and Charles's, will deny that Charles resembled Solomon in this particular. With women of loose character, and men equally depraved, he amused his leisure in every kind of luxury and licentiousness. What sort of man he really was, was shown, as some one has not unhappily remarked, by the words which he uttered at the point of death, when he spoke, not of his country, nor of any of his friends or relatives, but of a harlot.

But perhaps it will be said he devoted his resources to supply the wants of the followers and supporters of his father and himself, and seized with eagerness opportunities of testifying how grateful he felt towards all who had assisted him, whether in adversity or prosperity, with their money, swords, or publications. Nothing was ever further from his thoughts; the most faithful advocates of kingly power he either neglected, like Cowley and Butler, or drove, like Clarendon, from their country, exposed to all the perils and sufferings of exile.

Those who strain every nerve to free the memory of Charles in some degree, by fair means or by foul, from the infamy that hangs over it, enlarge on his affability and suavity of manner, and tell, with delight, how witty and full of humour he was at the festal board. Witty and full of humour doubtless he was, if we take scurrility and buffoonery for wit

CHARADES.

and humour; for those he had in the greatest abundance, since he made no attempt at wit but to offend modesty, and thought nothing a jest that was not directed against religion. Through the whole of this prince's reign, indeed, there was not the slightest regard paid to modesty, chastity, sincerity, temperance, or piety; nor was there any shorter or surer road to the favour of the king than by becoming notorious for buffoonery, irreligion, drunkenness, and prodigality. To embrace his history in a few words, he was, before he obtained the crown, a beggar; when he had obtained it, he was not a king; he had neither dignity, nor wisdom, nor courage; he had no sense either of friendship or of honour; he was neither affectionate to his brother, nor true to his wife; he lived an atheist, and died a papist. Such was Charles the Second.

"Manibus date lilia plenis;

Purpureos spargam flores, animamque tyranni
His saltem accumulem donis."

399

Porson's Charades.

Porson had, as Beloe observes, "a great talent for splendid trifles." He exercised this talent, at times, in making charades to amuse ladies with whom he was intimate, and whom he wished to please, for he was not equally ready to please all. Some of these were written for Mrs. Gordon and Mrs. Perry, others for Miss Raine and Mrs. Goodall. One of the best, on the word Cornix, was composed for Mrs. Clarke, on a small piece of vellum shaped like a heart. It was first printed in the "Gentleman's Magazine," for Sept. 1808, sent by a correspondent who signs himself " W. P."

Te PRIMUM incauto nimiùm, propiùsque tuenti,
Laura mihi furtim surripuisse queror.
Nec tamen hoc furtum tibi condonare recusem,

Si pretium tali solvere merce velis.

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