Page images


"Soon after, according to his majesty's commands, he wrote a submissive letter to the house, and sent me to my Lord Windsor to know the result, which I was loth, at my return, to acquaint him with; for, alas! his sovereign's favour was not in so high a measure, but he, like the phoenix, must be sacrificed in flames of his own raising, and so perished, like Icarus, in that his lofty design: the great revenue of his office being lost, and his titles of honour saved but by the bishops' votes, whereto he replied, that he was only bound to thank his clergy.

"The thunder of which fatal sentence did much perplex my troubled thoughts as well as others, to see that famous lord, who procured his majesty to call this parliament, must be the first subject of their revengeful wrath, and that so unparalleled a master should be thus brought upon the public stage, for the foolish miscarriage of his own servants, whereof, with grief of heart, I confess myself to be one. Yet shortly after, the King dissolved the parliament, but never restored that matchless lord to his place, which made him then to wish the many years he had spent in state policy and law study had been solely devoted to true philosophy: for, said he, the one, at the best doth but comprehend man's frailty, in its greatest splendour; but the other, the mysterious knowledge of all things created in the six days' work.”

On the 11th of July the great seals were delivered to Williams, who was now Lord Keeper of England and Bishop of Lincoln, with permission to retain (a) the deanery

(a) "The bishopric of Lincoln was bestowed upon him by the royal congé d'elire, the largest diocess in the land, because this new elect had the largest wisdom to superintend so great a circuit. Yet inasmuch as the revenue of it was not great, it was well preced out with a grant to hold the deanery of Westminster, into which he had shut himself fast with as strong bolts and bars as the law could make: else when the changes began to sing in the fifth year after, he had been thrust out of doors in a storm, when he

of Westminster, and to hold the rectory of Waldegrave in commendam. (a)

had most need of a covering. Yet some suitors were so importunate to compass this deanery upon his expected leaving, that he was put to it to plead hard for that commenda before he carried it. The King was in his progress, and the lord marquis with him, to whom he writes to present his reasons to the King, which were, that the post of the lord keeper's place, though he would strike sail more than any that preceded him, must be maintained in some convenient manner. Here he was handsomely housed, which if he quitted, he must trust to the King to provide one for him as his majesty and his predecessors have ever done to their chancellors. Here he had some supplies to his housekeeping from the college in bread, beer, and fuel, of which if he should be deprived, he must be forced to call for a diet, which would cost the King 1,600l. per annum, or crave for some addition in lieu thereof, out of the King's own means, as all his foregoers in that office had done. He might have added, for it was in the bottom of his breast, he was loath to stir from that seat where he had the command of such exquisite music. A request laid out in such remonstrance could not be refused by so gracious a prince who granted twenty suits to one he denied. Magnarum largita opum, largitor honorum pronus, which singularly fits King James, though Claudian made it for Honorius. Likewise, by the indulgence of his commenda, he reserved the rectory of Waldegrave to himself, a trifle not worthy to be remembered, but his reason is not unworthy to be detailed. That in the instability of human things, every man must look for a dissolution of his fortunes, as well as for the dissolution of his body. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, kept his right to a poor cell in the monastery of Bec in Normandy, and that hospitality kept him when he fled out of England, and all the revenues of his mitre failed him: Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, held the mastership of Trinity to his dying day, and said often, if all his palaces were blown down by iniquity, he would creep honestly into that shell. They that will not be wise by these examples I will send them to school to a fable in Plautus. Cogitato mus pusillus quam sit sapiens bestia et ætatem qui ævi cubili nunquam committat suam, qui si unum ostium obsideatur aliud perfugium quævit. So in the upshot he said Waldegrave was but a mousehole, yet it would be a pretty fortification to entertain him if he had no other home to resort to. Many such divinations flashed from others, who saw the hills of the robbers afar off, who have now devoured the heritage of Jacob, and say they are not guilty; and they that have sold us and bought us say, Blessed be the Lord, for we are rich."-Hacket's Life of Williams, p. 62.

(a) How sagacious was the bishop in these stipulations, in refusing to advance till he had secured a retreat. Buckingham afterwards boasted,



1621 to 1626.

SUCH was the storm in which he was wrecked. "Methinks," says Archbishop Tennison, "they are resembled by those of Sir George Summers, who being bound by his employment to another coast, was by tempest cast upon the Bermudas: and there a shipwrecked man made full discovery of a new temperate fruitful region, where none had before inhabited; and which mariners, who had only seen as rocks, had esteemed an inaccessible and enchanted place.

This temperate region was not unforeseen by the Chancellor.

In a letter to the King, on the 20th March, 1622, he says, "In the beginning of my trouble, when in the midst of the tempest, I had a kenning of the harbour, which I hope now by your majesty's favour I am entering into: now my study is my exchange, and my pen my practice for the use of my talent."

It is scarcely possible to read a page of his works without seeing that the love of knowledge was his ruling

"that of all he had given him he would leave him nothing," a threat which he fulfilled to the letter.-Hacket's Life of Williams, part 2, p. 19. The Countess of Buckingham told the Lord Keeper that St. David's was the man that did undermine him with her son, and would underwork any man that himself might rise.

In two years of King Charles's reign Buckingham pulled down Williams, Lee, Conway, Suckling, Crew, and Walter.

passion; that his real happiness consisted in intellectual delight. How beautifully does he state this when enumerating the blessings attendant upon the pursuit and possession of knowledge:

"The pleasure and delight of knowledge and learning far surpasseth all other in nature: for, shall the pleasures of the affections so exceed the senses, as much as the obtaining of desire or victory exceedeth a song or a dinner; and must not, of consequence, the pleasures of the intellect or understanding exceed the pleasures of the affections? We see in all other pleasures there is satiety, and after they be used their verdure departeth, which sheweth well they be but deceits of pleasure, and not pleasures; and that it was the novelty which pleased, and not the quality; and therefore we see that voluptuous men turn friars, and ambitious princes turn melancholy; but of knowledge there is no satiety, but satisfaction and appetite are perpetually interchangeable; (a) and therefore appeareth to be good in itself simply, without fallacy or accident. Neither is that pleasure of small efficacy and contentment to the mind of man, which the poet Lucretius describeth elegantly,

Suave mari magno, turbantibus æquora ventis, &c.

'It is a view of delight, to stand or walk upon the shore side, and to see a ship tossed with tempest upon the sea; or to be in a fortified tower, and to see two battles join upon a plain; but it is a pleasure incomparable for the mind of man to be settled, landed, and fortified in the certainty of truth; and from thence to decry and behold the errors, perturbations, labours, and wanderings up and down of other men.'" (b)

(a)" Heaven and earth pass away, but my words do not pass away." (b) Advancement of Learning.

Happy would it have been for himself and society, if following his own nature, he had passed his life in the calm but obscure regions of philosophy.

He now, however, had escaped from worldly turmoils, and was enabled, as he wrote to the King, to gratify his desire "to do, for the little time God shall send me life, like the merchants of London, which, when they give over trade, lay out their money upon land: so, being freed from civil business, I lay forth my poor talent upon those things, which may be perpetual, still having relation to do you honour with those powers I have left."

In a letter to Buckingham, on the 20th of March, 1621, he says, "I find that, building upon your lordship's noble nature and friendship, I have built upon the rock, where neither winds nor waves can cause overthrow:" and, in the conclusion of the same year, (a) “ I am much fallen in love with a private life, but yet I shall so spend my time, as shall not decay my abilities for use."

And in a letter to the Bishop of Winchester, (b) in which, after having considered the conduct in their banishments, of Demosthenes, Cicero, and Seneca, he proceeds thus: "These examples confirmed me much in a resolution, whereunto I was otherwise inclined, to spend my time wholly in writing, and to put forth that poor talent, or half talent, or what it is that God hath given me, not as heretofore to particular exchanges, but to banks or mounts of perpetuity, which will not break. Therefore having not long since set forth a part of my Instauration, which is the work that in mine own judgment, si nunquam fallit imago, I may most esteem, I think to proceed in some new parts thereof; and although I have received from many parts beyond the seas testimonies touching that

(«) Sept. 5, 1621.

(b) See vol. vii. p. 113.

« PreviousContinue »