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The study of man, always interesting, is fraught, in this particular instance, with results the most beneficial. It may be of service, in our dealings with our neighbours, to know the course of human passions; but of how much greater service is it in our relations to the mighty of the land, in whose hands, principally, the welfare of the community is lodged ; and who, as having the greatest trust reposed in them, ought to be the most thoroughly understood. He is no friend to society who would contribute to foster any delusion, which may prevent our forming a correct view of the characters of those, whom the community has, at any time, invested with power. The writer, who surrounds his story with graces not properly belonging to it, and palms upon the world the bright conceptions of his genius for the actual personages of the drama, is guilty of an outrage upon truth, and an injury to society. The Memoires de Grammont have done their part to adorn profligacy, and communicate the charm of elegance to that which was, in fact, mere heartless debauchery, and worse brutality. The author of Waverley, at this day, appears bent upon perpetuating and even augmenting the delusion. He has drawn a picture of Charles II. en couleur de rose ; and discountenanced virtue by recommending vice. We contemplated a comparison in detail between the fictions of these writers, and the realities contained in the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys. But for this we have not space. We recommend the reader, who has taken his ideas of manners from the pictures above-mentioned, or of characters from Hume, to contrast his former views with those which these contemporary works will suggest. We shall content ourselves with gleaning a few characteristic notices of the most celebrated individuals of the period, without venturing too deeply into the gulf of vice and iniquity that opens to our view.
Charles II.-The character of this person is marked by peculiarities so striking, that, like his harsh ill-favoured physiognomy, it is recognized at once in every attempt at a portraiture. If, however, the additional information recently afforded us, throws no new light upon the subject, it at least enables us to inspect it more closely, and discriminate its shades more nicely. It must be remembered that the period, during which these incidental notices respecting him were registered, was the most auspicious of his life and reign. Age had not yet deprived him of the zest for enjoyment; opposition had not yet fretted his temper; loyalty was still the order of the day; and in the licentiousness of his court, men beheld only a pleasing contrast to the austerity, which had recently prevailed in the seat of government. We can easily conceive the impression his first appearance must have made upon the hearts of a people predisposed to excessive loyalty ; relieved as
the gaiety and airiness of his demeanour were by the gloom and solemnity of the late republican rulers. No one ever knew so well, or practised so gracefully, those little attentions that are apt to delight, beyond measure, all who are unhacknied in the ways of courts, and to inspire them with ardent attachment to the person of the monarch. It is usually held to be a prerogative of royalty, to be raised above the necessity of shewing deference or respect to the feelings of others. In this kind of consideration for his subjects Charles was not deficient, though it was a respect which extended not to their persons, or their
purses. His courtesy was the result neither of art, nor of benevolence. It flowed from a total freedom from kingly, or any other description of pride or hauteur, from an easy companionable temper, and a sensitiveness of disposition, which made him almost instinctively to feel, and, feeling, to be distressed at any constraint, or unpleasant sensations, on the part of others-a tenderness strangely contrasted with his really callous and cold blooded heart. The lives of kings, who happen fortunately to be dead to the pleasures of ambition, are in general of an uniform insipidity, monotonous by reason of an established etiquette, and unfavourable to the sincere enjoyment of social pleasures. But this king's had been a life of jeopardy and adventures. He had known the extremities of good and bad fortune. He had seen various countries, and communicated with a great variety of characters. He had much to reflect upon and much to relate. The recollection of all this-the sour faces, and long prayers, and watchful jealousy of the Covenanters—the narrow escapes at Worcester-the privations and distresses of his exile-must have rendered his return to power not only a political triumph, but a source of personal enjoyment, altogether without a parallel in the history of princes. His naturally courteous deportment, rendered doubly gracious by the policy of cultivating popularity, as well as by the sun-shiny mood of mind in which he may be supposed to have been at a period of prosperity so unlooked for, were seen to advantage in his intercourse with those who flocked in shoals to his presence. Heart-expanding smiles, kind and familiar inquiries, good-natured nods of pretended recognition, and kisses of the hand repaid by cordial embraces, were, to all who partook of them, sure pledges of an auspicious reign. “They two got the child and me (the others not being able to crowd in) to see the king, who kissed the child very affectionately.” The sight of a king at his meals has always been considered worth something ; but what must have been the delight of every loyal subject then and there present, after the long privation under which the good people of England had Jaboured of spectacles so truly gratifying, to behold his majesty
at breakfast on ship-board, eating pease, pork, and boiled beef, with a heartiness, which shewed that his preference of those marine dainties was not feigned but sincere. How many a bosom, that morning, must have been dilated with the swelling emotions of loyalty, and how many an aspiration of unalterable devotion breathed by the by-standers, as they beheld the savoury viands disappearing down the royal throat.
His alertness, too, gave great satisfaction to those who had been led to expect in him the idle habits of self-indulgence. He walked up and down the vessel, active and stirring, with a quick step, that betokened alacrity of mind and soundness of body; chatted first with this person, and then with that; and told stories on the quarter-deck, of his adventures. At this time, his stories had an advantage, which, of course, they did not long retain, of being quite new ; for it was the misfortune of Charles, as well as of his friends, that they grew old long before he grew weary of telling them. The subject of his present discourse was his escape from Worcester; and the gentle audience were disposed almost to weep at the narrative. He related, how he had travelled four days and three nights, on foot, every step up to the knees in dirt, dressed in a green coat and a pair of country breeches, with hob-nailed shoes, which lamed him so, that he was scarcely able to drag one foot after the other:-how, at one public-house, a soldier of his own regiment at Worcester made him drink the king's health ; and how, at another, they made him undergo the like ceremony, in order that they might know he was not a Roundhead, which they swore he was :—finally, how, when he had at length effected his passage over into France, the people of the inn at Rouen, so beggarly was his appearance, came into the room before he left it, to be sure that he had not stolen something or other.
The merit of affability and courtesy he never lost; indeed, his graver subjects were disposed to think him but too condescending. At first, he seems to have assumed a kind of gravity, as becoming the exalted state to which he had been called. Thus, be touched people for the evil, in compliance with the humour of our wise ancestors, and evinced neither nausea, nor any inclination to mirth. Afterwards, he seems to have neglected this important business of state. Another of his duties was to wash the feet of the poor, on what was called Maundy Thursday; but he generally deputed a bishop to act for him in that honourable office. On the most solemn state occasions, he could not play the king with any thing like effect. When he delivered his speeches to parliament, he seldom or never looked off the paper from which he read; and even his style of reading was hesitating and imperfect, with a frequent school-boy-like repetition of his words. If he ever attempted an extempore oration,
it was invariably short, ill-expressed, and silly; often saying one thing and meaning another; then recollecting himself, and correcting what he had previously said, One day, a justice of peace repaired to Whitehall, on the occasion of a riot, which had for its object the pulling down those places. He reported his proceedings; and, speaking of the brothels, added, they were one of the grievances of the nation. To this the king answered, coldly, and with insipidity, “Why, why, do they go to them, then ?” This was said like Charles; but not, to use the words of Sir W. Temple, on another occasion,“ like a king.” At church, or chapel, he could never preserve his gravity, when the sermon happened to afford subject for merriment. He would laugh outright there, as well as elsewhere; and would dally with Madame Palmer through the curtains that divided the royal box from that in which the ladies sat. If he saw an acquaintance) at play, in the park, or even in a state procession, he would nod to him with the easy familiarity of an equal; and if the gentleman happened to have his wife with him, and she were handsome, he would cast on the husband a glance of significant meaning.
If he could not preserve the formal solemnity, which the rules of etiquette dictated, in public, it was still less to be expected that he should observe them in private. Thus, after he had ordered his guards and coach to be ready to conduct him to the park, or wherever else the gay world happened to be assembled, perhaps, if the whim took possession of him, he would call for a sculler and a pair of oars, and row himself down to Somerset-House, to visit the Duchess of Richmond ; and, on these occasions, if he did not find the garden door open, he would clamber over the wall. When that lady was only Mrs. Stewart, it constituted one of his prime amusements to get her, even in public, into a corner, and toy with her there, to the observation of all the company.
“Is the king below ?” meaning in Mrs. Stewart's apartment, during the period of her residence at court, was the usual query of his brother and his other intimates, when they wanted to see him.
He was often met of a morning trudging home alone, and on foot, to Whitehall, on his return from some assignation, which he had been keeping on the previous night. The sentries, stationed on their various posts, used to jest upon
his outgoings and in-comings to one another; and the man of business, early in his attendance at Whitehall, was often surprised to encounter his majesty, apparently a riser as early as himself.
A gay unconcern and insouciance distinguished his 'deportment on all occasions alike. At the council, he would jest instead of minding business, and play with his dog, if there
happened to be nobody to jest with, or nothing to cut a joke upon. His ordinary amusements were playing at tennis, and weighing himself afterwards, to ascertain how much he had lost in weight-sauntering in the Mall, or idling away his mornings at the toilette of his favourites-dancing whole nights, and, occasionally, getting very drunk-hearing anthems in his chapel, and keeping time to the music with his head and hand-visiting the Tower by water, to inspect the arms; and the docks, to enjoy the sight of a vessel built upon a new model, or with some improvement, perhaps, of his own suggestion-going to the play, and ogling the handsome women-and, in lack of all other amusements, gossiping with any body and every body, telling long stories of the French and Spanish courts, and, like good old Kent, “marring a curious tale in telling it.”
Lady Castlemaine.—Lord Sandwich once extolling his housekeeper's cakes, observed they were so good, that they were fit to present to my Lady Castlemaine. The charms of her person appear to have been sensibly felt by her contemporaries. To look upon her, was a treat that compensated even for a dull play and bad performers. The dress, which she at any time wore, seemed always that which became her best. Standing one day in the open air, to see a procession of barges on the Thames, anon, says our observer, there came up to her one booted and with whom she talked awhile. And, by and by, the wind discomposing her tresses, she put on his hat, which, though but an ordinary one, became her mightily, as, indeed, every thing else did that she wore.
It was strange to see her lord and her on the same spot, walking up and down, without taking the least notice of each other; only, at first entry, he put off his hat to her, which she acknowledged by a civil salute. On this occasion, there occurred an incident which betokened in her some goodness of heart. A scaffold, crowded with people, gave way, and it was feared some were injured. She alone, of all the great ladies, ran down into the throng, to see what harm had been sustained ; and there she took under her protection a child that had received a slight hurt. The high spirit of this woman discovered itself at first only in amusing eccentricities. One night, the king being with her at Bath, the cook came to announce that supper could not be served up, because the chine of beef could not be roasted, the tide having risen and flooded the kitchen,—“ Zounds !” exclaimed she, “set the house on fire, so it be roasted.” The Duke of Buckingham had made a private entertainment for the king and queen, to which she was not invited. “Well, much good may it do them,” said she, “and, for all that, I will be as merry as they ;” and immediately she caused a great supper to be prepared. Afterwards, when her sway over the king had become despotical, and the royal slave