« EdellinenJatka »
that it should be so-For the condition of mankind would not, upon the whole, be bettered, by our feeling less strongly about each other's concerns.
Among these problems, a few of the most remarkable are Who wrote the Book which bears the name of Thomas a Kempis ? Who was Perkin Warbeck ? Was Queen Mary an accomplice in the murder of Lord Darnley? Who was the Prisoner in the Iron Mask? Who was the writer of the Whole Duty of Man ? Who wrote the Letters of Junius? Who wrote Icon Basilike?
The first and most voluminous of these disputes, which was carried on as a natural contest between France, Italy, and the Netherlands, from the beginning of the sixteenth to the beginning of the eighteenth century, * ended in a general conviction that the author of the book - De Imitatione Christi'-a book which, for three hundred years, has continued to be the favourite companion of devotional readers of all communions and opinions—was Thomas a Kempis, a monk of Zwoll in Overyssel, memorable as the first restorer of literature in the North of Europe, whose scholar Hegius was the preceptor of Erasmus. +
The legitimacy of Perkin Warbeck is a mere freak of paradoxical ingenuity. There would be no historical certainty remaining, if it were possible to disbelieve such a contemporary witness as Sir Thomas More.
The participation of Queen Mary in the murder of her husband, is an historical fact, which never would have been disputed, if her unparalleled reverses of fortune, the barbarity of her execution, † and the magnanimity with which she suffered and died, had not enabled her Catholic and Jacobite advocates to entice the generous sympathies of mankind into their service.
The problem of the Man with the Iron Mask seems to have been solved within these few months. All the official docu
* Gerson. Opera, vol. i. Dissert. de Dupin. t Jortin's Erasmus, I. 2. Eich. Gesch. Lit. iii. 883. $ Occisa, FEMINÆ IMPERIO, FEMINA ET COGNATA ET SUPPLEX ET REGINA !'— Grotii Histor. de Reb. Belg. Lib. XII,
§ Delort, Histoire de l'Homme au Masque de Fer. Paris 1825. Since the text was written, we have seen the English volume of Mr Agar Ellis, who has substituted a very agreeable and interesting narrative of this remarkable incident, extracted from the authentic documents, for the obscure and confused tale of Delort; and, from the stores of his own historical knowledge, has thrown a clear light on every circumstance of the transaction. In one opinion we differ from him. He attributes the extraordinary precautions for the con
ments respecting him have been published at Paris; from which it now appears, that the prisoner was Ercolo Matthioli, prime minister of the Duke of Mantua, who, having been bribed by Louis XIV. to sell the fortress of Casal to that monarch, in order to open Piedmont and Lombardy to the French armies, afterwards betrayed the secret to the Courts of Vienna and Turin, by whom he appears to have been bought off; which, being discovered by new bribery and treachery, he was inveigled by D’Estrades to a place near the frontiers of Dauphiné, and seized at that place by a party of dragoons under Catinat, who brought him prisoner to the fortress of Pignerol, where he was committed to the custody of St Mars, whom he followed in the successive governments of Exiles, the Isles St Marguerite and the Bastile, in which last prison Matthioli died in 1703, after an imprisonment of thirty-four years. The story is thus deprived of the romantic character which other explanations had given to it: But it is a new instance of the execrable policy with which Louis XIV. employed his ambassadors in sowing corruption and division among neighbours, under the mask of friendship, and in times of profound peace. A letter of Louvois to St Mars, dated 15th May 1679, is perhaps an unparalleled instance of explicit injunctions in writing, from a sovereign to his officer, to treat his prisoner with cruelty. The intention of the King is not that the pri
ry ne le 10
cealment of Matthioli, to an anxiety on the part of Louis XIV. that such a breach of the law of nations as the imprisonment of a minister plenipotentiary, should remain concealed. But, Ist, It is impossible that the sudden disappearance of Matthioli and his valet, after conferences with French agents, and on the frontiers of France, should not have excited the strongest suspicions of the truth, especially among those who knew the offence given by the Mantuan minister to Louis. 2d, The imprisonment of a Mantuan secretary at Pige nerol did transpire, and was published in a periodical work, printed at Leyden in August 1687, (Ellis, 348), in which it is mentioned, that the prisoner was then at the Isles St Marguerite. In that age of slow circulation of news, the event must have been long known to all Courts before it could have reached a Dutch journalist. 3d, It seems improbable that Louis, at the moment of his highest power and insolence, should have dreaded the effect of a mere precedent, in the case of a petty and almost nominal sovereign. 4th, This improbability is increased by the well known fact, that he caused several persons to be seized and brought away prisoners from the territory of so powerful a State as the United Provinces, with scarcely any affectation of secrecy. 5th, Some precautions appear to have been used at Pignerol towards Fouquet and Laureen, whose imprisonment was no breach of international law, although a flagrant violation of humanity and justice. The truth seems rather to be, that such precautions were then a part of the ferocious code of all absolute monarchies in the case of state prisoners. That interruption of all intercourse with the external world, which could not be completely insured without concealing the place of imprisonment, and even the existence of the prisoner, was considered both as a part of the punishment, and as the means of calling off the possibility of rescue or escape.
soner be well treated ! His Majesty does not wish, that, ex
cept the necessaries of life, any thing should be given him to • make him pass it agreeably!' The whole treatment of Matthioli appears to have flowed from revenge against an obscure individual : For the fortress of Casal was actually bought and received from the Duke of Mantua in 1681, only two years after Matthioli's arrest; and as the imprisonment was secret, it could have had no effect in intimidating other ministers by the example. As the letters of the Dutchess of Orleans throw open the gross and coarse depravity of the court, which has so long enjoyed an undeserved reputation for refinement, so the history of the Iron Mask exemplifies the falsehood of Louis XIV., his contempt for the independence of nations, his treachery to absolute princes themselves, and his personal, deliberate, dark, and unrelenting cruelty to the victims of his ambition and revenge.
It is peculiar to the question of the authorship of the Whole Duty of Man, that even the sex of the
writer is disputed. It is a question, whether it was written by a Dean of Christ Church, or by a Baronet's lady in Worcestershire. The methodical and even systematic spirit; the calmness approaching to coldness; the precision, clearness, and elegant correctness of diction, which run through all the tracts of the writer, neither correspond to the edueation of women in that age, nor to their susceptible feelings at any time. Yet, in the long and able preface to that collection of tracts, in which the author is spoken of in the third person, much labour and skill are employed in avoiding the natural and usual employment of the personal pronouns, either of which must have referred exclusively to one sex. The writer of the Preface (Dr Fell) was therefore certainly desirous that his readers should ascribe the Tracts to a woman : and it is hard to conceive any motive for this wish but a repuguance to deceit. +
* Works of the Author of the Whole Duty of Man. Oxford, 1726.
+ It appears to be certain from the testimony of the very learned Dr Hickes, in the Dedication of his Anglo-Saxon Grammar to Sir John Pakington, that Dorothy Lady Pakinton, the daughter of Lord Keeper Coventry, was the writer of the Whole Duty of Man, if not The writer of the Letters of Junius is still undiscovered. The only claim entitled to discussion, is that set up for Sir Philip Francis, in spite of that gentleman himself, by Mr Taylor, in the very ingenious book, too boldly entitled · Junius Identified.' From that book, especially from the interest taken by Junius in the petty intrigues of the War Office, and from the coincidence of the artificial handwriting of Junius with the artificial handwriting of Sir Philip, in the possession of Mr Giles, we may probably infer, that Sir P. was in the confidence of Junius, and perhaps his amanuensis. The supposition however most prevalent among contemporary politicians and men of letters was, that the Letters were written by Mr Dyer, an original member of Johnson's Club, and an intimate friend of Burke, from whom the writer might have received some of his information, perhaps casually; and from whose conversation the few but striking Burkisms, so much at variance with the general tenor of the style, might have overflowed into the mind of Dyer, and almost insensibly dropped from his pen. A simple test ascertains the political connexion of Junius,-the only circumstance which he could not disguise, because it could not be concealed without defeating his general purpose. ported the cause of authority against America, — with Mr Grenville, the minister who passed the Stamp Act. He maintained the highest popular principles on the Middlesex Election,—with the same statesman, who was the leader of opposition on that question. No other party in the kingdom but the Grenvilles combined these two opinions; and it is very unlikely that a private writer, unpledged and unconnected, should have spontaneously embraced political doctrines, which, though ingenuity might reconcile them in rea
of all the Tracts published as the works of the same author. * The manuscript is said to be still extant in the hands of the family. As some of the Tracts were published before the Restoration, the writer deserves to be numbered with Cowley, as one of the earliest purifiers of English style from pedantry. After the lapse of a hundred and seventy years, they contain scarcely a word or a phrase which has become superannuated. Other female writings there doubtless are, which please more permanently, partly because they more display the graceful talents of the sex ; but it would be hard to name a large volume written by a woman in any language, which contains 80 equable and uniformly sustained an exhibition of the order, knowledge, vigorous sense, and mature taste, which are supposed to be masculine endowments.
* Ballard's Learned Ladies, 316.
soning, were, in the disputes of that period, the opposite extremes. Whoever revives the inquiry, therefore, unless he discovers positive and irresistible evidence in support of his claimant, should show him to be politically attached to the Grenville party, which Junius certainly was, and must also produce some specimens of his writings of tolerable length, such as might afford reasonable ground for believing that he could have written these Letters- which must be allowed to be finished models, though not of the purest and highest sort of composition. The general vigour of a man's mental powers affords little more proof that he could be a good writer, than that he could be a great painter. There may indeed be evidence so positive as will establish the truth of the supposition which appeared most improbable-as has actually happened in the case of the Iron Mask. But such possibilities must exist in all moral reasonings.
The question, Who wrote Icon Basilike?' seemed more than once to be finally determined. Before the publication of the
* It is not to be understood that other persons may not have held opinions adverse to the cause of the Americans, and favourable to that of Wilkes. The value of the criterion depends on the improbability, that, on the two most important questions which occurred for ten years, a writer of great ability should zealously, frequently, and for a long period, write in support of the popular side on one, and of the unpopular on the other, unless he, or those whom he supported, had been pledged to these opposite opinions, by measures of so public and decisive a nature as to cut off all retreat. It may be observed also, that Junius, who is unfriendly to Lord Chatham in the beginning, loads that nobleman with panegyric after he was reconciled to Lord Temple and Mr Grenville. There did, and perhaps there still does exist, a private letter from Junius to Mr Grenville, professing political attachment, and at the same time discouraging all attempts to pluck off his mask. Wilkes was originally Member for Aylesbury, and Lieutenant-Colonel of the Bucks Militia, under Lord Temple. Hence the extravagantly disproportioned interest taken by Junius in any petty intrigue of aldermen and sheriffs which touched that celebrated adventurer. Though a few letters were written after the death of Mr Grenville, yet to that event and the dissolution of his party, the cessation of Junius is to be attributed. In these circumstances, and others not yet publicly known, originated the supposition that Mr Lloyd was Junius. But some specimen of his writing is wanting to countenance that supposition. In the cases of Dyer and Francis, the two candidates of most plausible pretension, no proof has hitherto appeared of connexion with the Grenville party. Some resemblance of style in Francis is a very inconsiderable argument; for almost every contributor to a newspaper, during the twenty years which followed the Letters, was an imitator of Junius.