Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

upon her;" When you are as young, madam," said he, “and as handsome, as you were then.” In this part of his life it was that he was known to Clarendon, among the rest of the men who were eminent in that age for genius and literature. From the verses written at Penshurst, it has been collected that he diverted his rejection by Sacharissa by a voyage; and his biographers, from his poem on the Whales, think it not improbable that be visited the Bermudas; but it seems much more likely that he should amuse himself with forming an imaginary scene, than that so important an incident, as a visit to America, should have been left foating in conjectural probability. Aubrey gives us a report that some time between the age of twenty-three and thirty, “ he grew mad," but did not remain long in this unhappy state; and he seems to think that the above disappointment might have been the cause. It is remarkable that Clarendon insinuates something of this kind as having happened to him, when taken up for the plot bereafter to be mentioned. The historian's words are, “After Waller had, with incredible dissimulation, acted such a remorse of conscience, his trial was put off out of Christian compassion, till be might recover his understanding." Neither of these perhaps is decisive as to the fact, but the coincidence is striking.

From his twenty-eighth to his thirty-fifth year, he wrote his pieces on the reduction of Sallee; on the reparation of St. Paul's; to the King on his navy; the panegyric on the Queen mother; the two poems to the earl of Northumber. land; and perhaps others, of which the time cannot be discovered. When he had lost all hopes of Sacharissa, he looked round him for an easier conquest, and gained a lady of the family of Bresse, or Breaux. The time of his marriage is not exactly known. It has not been discovered that his wife was won by his poetry; nor is any thing told of her, but that she brought him many children. He doubtless, says Johnson, praised some whom he would have been afraid to marry, and perhaps married one whom he would have been ashamed to praise. Many qualities contribute to domestic happiness, upon which poetry has no colours 10 bestow; and many airs and sallies may delight imagination, which he who flatters them never can approve. There are charms made only for distant admiration. No spectacle is nobler than a blaze. Of this wife, however, his biographers have recorded that she gave him five sons and eight daughters, and Aubrey says that she was beautiful and very prudent.

During the long interval of parliament, he is represented as living among those with whom it was most honourable to converse, and enjoying an exuberant fortune with that independence of liberty of speech and conduct which wealth ought always to produce. Being considered as the kinsman of Hampden, he was therefore supposed by the courtiers not to favour them; and when the parliament was called in 1640, it appeared that his political character had not been mistaken. The king's demand of a supply produced from him a speech full of complaints of national grievances, and very vehement; but while the great position, that grievances ought to be redressed before supplies are granted, is agreeable enough to law and reason, Waller, if his biographer may be credited, was not such an enemy to the king, as not to wish his distresses lightened ; for he relates, " that the king sent particularly to Wailer, to second his demand of some subsidies to pay off the army; and sir Henry Vane objecting against first voting a supply, because the king would not accept unless it came up to his proportion, Mr. Waller spoke earnestly to sir Thomas Jermyn, comptroller of the household, to save his master from the effects of so bold a falsity: 'for,' he said, 'I am but a country gentleman, and cannot pretend to know the king's mind:' but sir Thomas durst not contradict the secretary ; and his son, the earl of St. Alban's, afterwards told Mr. Waller, that his father's cowardice ruined the king.”

In the Long Parliament, which met Nov. 3, 1640, Waller represented Agmondesham the third time; and was considered by the discontented party as a man sufficiently trusty and acrimonious to be employed in managing the prosecution of Judge Crawley, fur his opinion in favour of ship-money; and his speech shews that he did not disappoint their expectations. He was probably the more ardent, as his uncle Hampden had been particularly engaged in the dispute, and, by a sentence which seems generally to be thought unconstitutional, particularly injured. was not however a bigot to his party, nor adopted all their opinions. When the great question, whether episcopacy ought to be abolished, was debated, he spoke against the innovation with great coolness, reason, and firmness; and it is to be lainented that he did not act with spirit and uniformity. When the Commons began to set the royal authority at open defiance, Waller is said to hare withdrawn

He

from the House, and to have returned with the king's permission; and, when the king set up his standard, he sent him a thousand broad-pieces. He continued, however, to sit in 'parliament; but spoke,” says Clarendon, "with great sharpness and freedom, wbich, now there was no danger of being out-voted, was not restrained; and therefore used as an argument against those who were gone upon pretence that they were not suffered to deliver their opinion freely in the House, which could not be believed, when all men knew what liberty Mr. Waller took, and spoke every day with iinpunity against the sense and proceedings of the House."

Waller, as he continued to sit, was one of the commissioners nominated by parliament to treat with the king at Oxford : and when they were presented, the king said to him, “Though you are the last, you are not the lowest, nor the least in my favour.” Whitlock, another of the commissioners, imputes this kind compliment to the king's knowledge of the plot, in wbich Waller appears afterwards to have been engaged against the parliament. - Fenton, with equal probability, believes that this attempt to promote the royal cause arose from his sensibility of the king's tenderness. Of Waller's conduct at Oxford we have no account. The attempt, just mentioned, known by the name of Wallers plot, was soon afterwards discovered.

Waller had a brother-in-law, Tomkyns, who was clerk of the queen's council, and had great influence in the city. Waller and he, conversing with great confidence, told both their own secrets and those of their friends: and, surveying the wide extent of their conversation, imagined that they found in the majority of all ranks great disapprobation of the violence of the Commons, and unwillingness 'to continue the war. They knew that many favoured the king, whose fear concealed their loyalty : and they imagined that, if those who had these good intentions could be informed of their own strength, and enabled by intelligence to act together, they might overpower the fury of sedition, by refusing to comply with the ordinance for the twentieth part, and the other taxes levied for the support of the rebel army, and by uniting great numbers in a petition for peace. They proceeded with great caution. Three only met in one place, and no man was allowed to impart the plot to more than two others; so that, if any

should be suspected or seized, more than three could not be endangered.

Lord Conway joined in the design, and, Clarendon imagines, incidentally mingled, as he was a soldier, some martial hopes or projects, which however were only mentioned, the main design being to bring the loyal inhabitants to the knowledge of each other; for which purpose there was to be appointed one in erery district, to distinguish the friends of the king, the adherents to the parliament, and the neutrals. How far they proceeded does not appear; the result of their inquiry, as Pym declared, was, that within the walls, for one that was for the royalists, there were three against them; but that without the walls, for one that was against them, there were five for them. Wheiber this was said from knowledge or guess, was perhaps never inquired.

It is the opinion of Clarendon, that in Waller's plan no violence or sanguinary resistance was comprised ; that he intended only to abate the confidence of the rebels by public declarations, and to weaken their power by an opposition to new supplies. This, in calmer tiines, and more than this, is done without fear; but such was the acrimony of the Commons, that no method of obstructin: them was safe. About the same time another desigu was formed by sir Nicholas Crispe, an opulent merchant in the city, who gave and procured the king in his exigencies an hundred thousand pounds, and when he was driven from the royal exchange, raised a regiment and commanded it. His object appears to have been to raise a military force, but his design and Waller's appear to have been totally distinct.

The discovery of Waller's design is variously related. In “Clarendon's History” it is told, that a servant of Tomkyns, lurking behind the hangings when his master was in conference with Waller, heard enough to qualify him for an informer, and carried his intelligence to Pym. A manuscript, quoted in the “ Life of Waller,” relates, that “ he was betrayed by his sister. Price, and her Presbyterian chaplain Mr. Goode, who stole some of his papers; and, if he had not strangely dreamed the night before that his sister had betrayed him, and thereupon burnt the rest of his papers by the fire that was in his chimney, he had certainly lost his life by it." The question cannot be decided. It is not unreasonable to believe that the men in power, receiving intelligence from the sister, would employ the servant of Tomkyns to listen at the conference,

that they might avoid an act so offensive as that of destroying the brother by the sister's testimony.

The plot was published in the most terrific manner. On the 31st of May (1643), at a solemn fast, when they were listening to the sermon, a messenger entered the church, and communicated his errand to Pym, who whisperedd it to others that were placed near him, and then went with them out of the church, leaving the rest in solicitude and amazement. They immediately sent guards to proper places, and that night apprehended Tomkyns and Waller; having yet traced nothing but that letters had been intercepted, from which it appeared that the parliament and the city were soon to be delivered into the hands of the cavaliers, They perhaps yet knew litile themselves, beyond some general and indistinct notices. “But Waller," says Clarendon, “was so confounded with fear and apprehension, that he confessed whatever he had said, heard, thought, or seen; all that he knew of himself, and all that he suspected of others, without concealing any person of what degree or quality soever, or any discourse that he had ever, upon any occasion, entertained with them: what such and such la, dies of great honour, to whom, upon the credit of his wit and great reputation, he had been admitted, had spoken to him in their chambers upon the proceedings in the Houses, and how they had encouraged him to oppose them; what correspondence and intercourse they had with some ministers of state at Oxford, and how they had conveyed all intelligence thither." He accused the earl of Portland and lord Conway as co-operating in the transaction ; and testified that the earl of Northumberland had declared himself disposed in favour of any attempt that might check the violence of the parliament, and reconcile them to the king.

Tonkyns was seized on the same night with Waller, and appears likewise to bave partaken of his cowardice; for he gave notice of Crispe's having obtained from the king a commission of array, of which Clarendon never knew how it was discovered.' Tomkyns had buried it in his garden, where, by his direction, it was dug up; and thus the rebels obtained, what Clarendon confesses them to have bad, the original copy. It can raise no wonder that they formed one plot out of these two designs, however remote from each other, when they saw the same agent employed in both, and found the commission of array in the hands of

« PreviousContinue »