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Art. I. Lives of Eminent British Statesmen. By John Forster, Esq.,

of the Inner Temple. Sir John Eliot. Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia. Longman. London : 1839.

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that which described Anchises in Hades, as pointing out to his son the future heroes of the Roman empire :

Devenere locos lætos et amena vireta
Fortunatorum nemorum, sedesque beatas :-
Hic manus ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi,
Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo:
Omnibus his niveâ cinguntur tempora vitta.

History, however, and still more biography, seems to realize what Virgil only feigned. Through their means, we hold sweet converse with the mighty dead ; and gather instruction or admonition from the examples of the departed. The publication, now before us, has introduced us to the noblest British worthies of the seventeenth century. We wander up and down, through the Elysian fields of faithful narrative, with Eliot, and Pym, and Hampden; while from afar are beheld Laud, and Strafford, and Cromwell, or the guilty monarch himself, all reaping the bitter harvest their own

hands had sown,

Ausi omnes immane nefas, ausoque potiti !

We propose commencing a short series of portraits, to begin with no less a person than the renowned knight of Cornwall, Sir John Eliot,-a pure and perfect patriot,-a pattern beyond price

VOL. VI.

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to his own age,-as well as a subject for admiration to the latest posterity.

He was born at his paternal seat of Port Eliot, on the 20th of April, 1590, with a temper naturally so ardent, as to need considerable restraint; which nevertheless was little thought of in the house of his father,-a hearty, easy, hospitable country-gentle

The result, therefore, will excite no surprise, when we hear that passion, rather than reason, usurped a dominion over his mind; until an incident, in his seventeenth or eighteenth year, brought him at once to his senses. A neighbour, named Moyle, had reported to the parent of the youth, some of those extravagances into which the latter had fallen. Excessive irritation ensued, on the part of the culprit towards the informant. He rushed to his house, and remonstrated against tale-telling: words begat words, until they ended in a downright quarrel; and Eliot, having drawn his sword, slightly wounded Moyle, through a thrust at his side. He fled immediately; but repentance forthwith overtook him. Upon the testimony of a daughter of the injured party, he soon detested the fact, and became as remark• able for his private deportment, in every view of it, as for his * public conduct.' His apology is yet in existence. It was accompanied, and followed by every acknowledgment, both public and private, in his power. It led to an unbroken friendship between the two disputants; and to the unsullied reformation of the culpable one. His biographer justly observes, that the anecdote thus related, assumes more than ordinary interest, as describing • the line drawn between his passing youth and coming man• hood.' The event startled him into the most complete vigilance and command over his own mind. An apparition of murder bad crossed his path, and horrified his wilfulness into serenity. From that hour, he was another man: nor need we here do more than mention the slanders of Archdeacon Echard, and a certain living author of a work entitled . Commentaries upon History.' They roundly charge the great patriot with the basest treachery and homicide : which would have been believed to the present moment, had not the publication of the original papers scattered the accusation into thin air. Had Eliot been a royalist, or an aristocrat, he might have treacherously stabbed ’half a dozen friends, and all would have been covered with the mantle of chivalry, or the generous ebullitions of intoxication. But because he was on the side of the many against the usurpations of the few ;--because he dared to arrest the sceptre from crushing the subject,--and that too amidst sacrifices and virtues which seldom have been suffered, or attained;—therefore an archdeacon must blot his memory if he can, and conservatism give currency to atrocious misstatements, although known and proved to be such, within the compass

of a single season in London.

He was

It is stated, that immediately after this affair, young Eliot left his home for the University of Oxford, where he was entered, as a gentleman commoner, at Exeter College in Michaelmas term, 1607. After three years, a strong desire to become acquainted with jurisprudence, induced him to leave Alma Mater, for one of the inns of court, in the metropolis. Although without an academical degree, he had neither wasted his time, nor failed to cultivate many sympathies with a body of men calling themselves the country party. A seat in parliament, whenever opportunity might offer, floated before his imagination : but to complete his education, it was necessary that he should pass some considerable interval on the continent. Here he fell in with the handsome George Villiers, with whom he travelled, and grew intimate ; little dreaming then of their future destiny. On his return home, he married happily, and had two sons by his lady, whom he soon lost. His fellow-traveller had now mounted into unmerited fortune and fame, as the successor of Somerset in the graces of King James. Amongst other honours showered upon the new favorite, was that of Lord High Admiral of England, with the privilege of appointing vice-admirals in the several counties. It followed therefore as almost a matter of course, that Eliot, possessing one of the largest paternal estates of any gentleman of the time, should be nominated representative of the Duke of Buckingham somewhere ; and Devonshire was chosen. also appointed chairman of the committee of stannaries, and knighted upon the occasion. Towards the close of 1623, he took his seat for the borough of Newport : but before we contemplate him as emerging into his public and patriotic career, we must glance for a moment at the peculiar circumstances of the nation.

The Tudors had extended their authority far beyond that of their predecessors, who were circumscribed, and overawed by the arrogance and feudal influence of their nobles. They handed down an example, which the Stuarts seemed nothing loth to follow. Elizabeth had passed away; and when, some months before her decease, that royal virago was observed muttering to herself

, in the decline of her intellect, and thrusting an old rusty ‘sword through the arras of her apartment,' an affecting picture was thus represented of despotism at its wit's end, irritated into impotent fury against the changes of a noble, but approaching age, which threw its shadows before it. At first, however, they were very indistinct and tremulous. The Magna Charta of nature was felt in its full force, only by a favored few. It involved the rights of persons, property, and conscience; all of which British princes had held, and were resolved to hold, in avowed contempt. Hooker had entertained, and in the latter books of his Ecclesiastical Polity, developed some predilections

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for liberal principles of government: yet these were for a long while little more than flashes in the dark, diamonds engendered in the depths of the mine, glow-worms glimmering in the libraries of the conteinplative and the curious. Stern oppression it was that roused the country at last : when men, like Eliot, were beginning to learn that lesson, which Bishop Burnet says, the father of his own patron was taught in a prison,—that “allegiance and protection were mutual obligations, and that therefore the

one went for the other. He thought the law was the measure of • both, and that when a legal protection was denied to one that

paid a legal allegiance, the subject had a right to defend him'self. How sublime and simple is this straightforward common sense, enabling an honest man to walk through the political firmament, even when the sun of liberty was absent, like the moon in the glory of her brightness. Elizabeth had been a loving mother to her poor commons, after the fashion of an ancient schoolmistress, who could speak in the parish about nothing but her affection to two score wretched children, whom she whipped every Innocents' day, for the benefit of their souls and bodies. If ever the fame of freedom fitted about her precincts, it allured its followers to destruction. Her palace was that of an enchantress, surrounded with marshes and quagmires, and guarded by courtiers and lawyers, hungry as wolves, irresistible as lions, and artful as hyænas. Halls of justice, as they were most treacherously denominated, were scarcely better, in regard to cases of treason, than caverns of murderers. With inquisitors for judges, the crown for a prosecutor, entrenched in as many privileges as the queen wore ruffles, and with a phantasm of antiquated righteousness in some passive pusillanimous jury, every culprit was a doomed victim, tortured with the forms of a trial, like a mouse under the claws of its tormentor. When at length the king of terrors was beckoning to her own awful account the persecutrix of the Puritans, she vowed in solemn words that no * rascal' should succeed her; and folding her fingers into the shape of a diadem, made signs which were understood, or at least were interpreted, to mark out James of Scotland as the prince to sit upon her throne, for the weal or woe of no less than three mighty kingdoms.

Accordingly he came, 'to give unto all that were well-affected exceeding cause of comfort;' as our venerable translators of the Scriptures have with slender regard for truth declared. He was indeed a nondescript amongst sovereigns,- of a middle stature, says Balfour, more corpulent through his clothes than in his body, yet fat enough; his garments being ever made large and

easy, the doublets quilted to be proof against a stiletto, his • breeches also having great plaits full stuffed. He was naturally of a very timorous disposition; his eye large and always rolling

‘after any stranger, that came into his presence, insomuch that

many for shame have left the room, as being out of countenance. * His beard was very thin ; his tongue too large for his mouth, * which made him speak very thickly, and drink very uncomely,

as if eating his drink, that would come out again into the cup, < from each side of his mouth. His skin was as soft as taffety or

sarsnet; which felt so, because he never washed his hands; only “rubbing his fingers at their tips slightly with the wet end of a napkin. His legs were very weak, having had as was thought some foul play in his youth, or rather before he was born.' Wilson mentions his limping, wheedling, awkward gait, causing him to be constantly leaning on other people's shoulders, and with a lolling walk, which was sure to be circular. Francis Osborne says, "I shall leave him dressed for posterity, in the colour • I saw him in, the next progress after his inauguration ; which • was as green as the grass he trod on; with a feather in his cap,

and a horn instead of a sword by his side.' Such was the Lord's Anointed, who had pretended to govern these reaims for twenty years, when Sir John Eliot first appeared in parliament. He fancied himself the Solomon of his day, being often styled so, by the bishops who called themselves the breath of his nostrils : and indeed Henry the Great of Navarre wittily admitted, that he might perchance have been Solomon the son of David Rizzio, the celebrated paramour of his infamous mother! England must have smitten her thigh for very shame at the sight of her worthless monarch-proud without courage,-learned without knowledge,--profuse without liberality,--and parsimonious without economy. The common people formed a more honest estimate of him, than the prelates and parasites, who whilst worshipping the royal pedant, contrived to plunder most effectually the coffers of his treasury. Towns and villages could have resounded with the distich of an old song, which we have met with somewhere,

Under good King Elizabeth England was seen
As great as now little through Jemmy our queen!

With no personal qualities to command respect, he nevertheless proclaimed himself a lieutenant and vicegerent of God, bearing about him sundry sparkles of divinity. In utter ignorance of the nature of society, nothing could shake his vain conceit of the awe to be inspired by his regal wisdom. He honestly believed, that he possessed in his own proper person, and was bound to transmit unimpaired to his descendants an authority absolute, and above all law; this last being a thing to which,' in his own phraseology, although a good king will frame bis actions, yet he is not bound thereunto, but of his own free-will, and for example

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