« PreviousContinue »
worth "riches fineless;" and perhaps only on this occasion, and on the latter subject, did he forget his principles in any thing which he deliberately advocated.
Passing over various speculations, we shall just notice that contained in the "Conversation concerning a right regulation of Governments for the common good of mankind:" an end for which it is pretty clear that they are not very uniformly regulated as things were then, or are now.
The project is to take about twelve of the principal cities of the three kingdoms, and having proportionally divided the land, to constitute each city the sovereign of the adjacent country, all the little states thus formed being federally united, under the authority of delegates, or of a monarch, as might be deemed most expedient; and a similar division and union, obtaining in Europe, or all the world over, according to the great boundaries which the hand of nature or similarity of language, manners, or religion, has prescribed. It is argued, that such an arrangement would annihilate many of the greatest evils by which the world has been afflicted.
First, the interests of distant or subordinate provinces would no longer be sacrificed to the pride or selfish policy of a dominant state, as were those of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the American colonies, to England. Each of these instances is adduced by Fletcher, and he thus states the effects of the union of the two crowns, on the condition of his own country:
"I desired to inform him, that the trade of Scotland was considerable before the union of the two crowns: that as the increase of the English trade had raised the value of their lands, so the loss of our trade had sunk the rents in Scotland, impoverished the tenant, and disabled him in most places from paying his landlord any otherwise than in corn; which practice has been attended with innumerable inconveniences and great loss: that our trade was formerly in so flourishing a condition, that the shire of Fife alone had as many ships as now belong to the whole kingdom: that ten or twelve towns, which lie on the south coast of that province, had, at that time, a very considerable trade, and in our days are little better than so many heaps of ruins that our trade with France was very advantageous, by reason of the great privileges we enjoyed in that kingdom: that our commerce with Spain had been very considerable, and began during the wars between England and that nation; and that we drove a great trade in the Baltic with our fish, before the Dutch had wholly possessed themselves of that advantageous traffic. Upon the union of the crowns not only all this went to cay, but our money was spent in England, and not among ourselves; the furniture of our houses, and the best of our clothes and equipage, was bought at London: and though particular persons of the Scots' nation had many great and profitable places at court, to the high displeasure of the English, yet that was no advantage to our country, which was totally neglected,
VOL. IV. PART I.
like a farm managed by servants, and not under the eye of the master."
Notwithstanding the loss of America, all the lessons of experience, and all the increasing lights of the age on the subject of political economy, this evil is not yet worn out altoge ther, and in part it is evidently irremediable, unless by some such plan as this of Fletcher's. Even supposing the legislature of a large empire to make the wisest and most impartial laws, as to commerce; or, what is perhaps still better, to make no laws at all; still, if there be any good in the gradations of society, any advantage in the existence of a class of superior rank, wealth, and education, their general diffusion over the face of a country, the expenditure of their revenues in the neighbourhoods where those revenues are raised, and the influence of their acquirements and superiority on those who are condemned to toil, that they may be great and wise, is evidently more useful, as well as more just, than their collection into splendid masses to adorn a court.
Secondly.-As, under this arrangement, the capital of each state would be but of moderate size, an end would be put, or at least comparatively narrow limits would be fixed, to the vice and suffering inseparable from crowding together such immense multitudes as form the population of London, for instance; where the inducements to crime, from example, necessity, the chance of secrecy, the aid of combination, and the absence of that neighbourhood which makes every man feel that he has a character to support, are so very much greater than they could be if the same number of people were distributed into several cities or towns; and where, too, so much larger a quantity of wretchedness may exist without exciting the attention of the benevolent, or being, when noticed, so easily alleviated. By the moralist, at least, a great city has always been considered a great evil.
Thirdly. In such a form of society, there would be little war; for while the confederated states were powerful for defence, they would be feeble for attack, and to hold conquests in common would be scarcely practicable.
"his ardent mind
Shape goodliest plans of happiness on earth,
And peace and liberty. Wild dreams! but such
As Plato lov'd; such as with holy zeal
Even the reveries of great and original thinkers are not only worth preserving, but worth studying. However inade
quate the means, or unattainable the end may be, in the Utopian speculations of such men, there is still this advantage, that we see their notions of the causes of the numerous evils which afflict society; and though the proposed remedy may be unavailing, it is still something to become acquainted with the origin of the disease. A great service would doubtless be rendered to the human race, by ascertaining how much of what we endure results from the constitution of our nature, and is essential to our condition; and how much, being merely the fruit of unwise institutions, or erroneous principles, may be removed by persevering and well-directed efforts. The various schemes of perfect governments, and new states of society, which have been offered to the world, may be advantageously used as aids in the prosecution of this important inquiry; nor can such men as Plato, More, Harrington, Fletcher, Wallace, Hume, and Godwin, have laboured, or even sported, on the subject, without contributing, and that largely, towards supplying materials for a rational conclusion. The last mentioned author called forth the most imposing attempt which has yet been made, to prove, that while man exists, oppression, vice, misery, and war, must exist also. But even this philosophy of despair has been gradually modified, in successive editions, by the introduction of moral restraint, as a check on that tendency of population to increase, which is represented as the source of "all our woe," and the enlarged sphere assigned to its operations. Our hope for man now appears to have been only drugged with opiates, not absolutely poisoned, and she begins to revive from her slumbers. So should it be; for there is nothing more deadly, than despair of man, to all honourable, patriotic, and philanthropic exertions. The "aliquid immensum infinitumque," floating before the mind, is as needful for the inspiration of the patriot, as of the orator. Christianity has directed him who would shine mo worth to "go on unto perfection;" and Fletcher, and men like Fletcher, have done, and will do, not all they wish indeed, but more of good than without such glorious visions they would ever achieve, by striv ing to make an Utopia of their country.
ART. VIII. Lucasta: Epodes, Odes, Sonnets, Songs, &c. &c.; to which is added Aramantha, a Pastoral. By Richard Lovelace, Esq. Lond. 1649, octavo.
Lucasta: Posthume Poems of Richard Lovelace, Esq.
Those honours come too late,
Mart. lib. 1. Ep. 26.
There was a period in our literary history when a power of versifying was the fashionable distinction,-the last grace of an accomplished courtier; the most approved means of approach to a lady's favour in a lover; and the most elegant relaxation or resource of the occupied or idle gallant. In those times, a man would have had but small pretensions to the haughty charms of a reigning beauty, unless he could immortalize them in verse, or bestow the sanctifying grace of rhyme on her meanest decoration. Every lover was then poet-laureate to his mistress, and, by office, celebrated every accident of her immaculate person. His song of triumph was the glory of her resplendent beauty. The achievements which he sounded forth were broken hearts, fatal glances, routed resolution. And the homage which he paid with never failing perseverance, was the comparison of her particular graces with all the flowers that fade, and all the gems of enduring brilliancy. When such was the employment of so many high-born gallant cavaliers, of lofty spirits and good education, we cannot be surprised, that, amidst much forced and unnatural composition, it frequently happened that, in a happy mood, they struck out noble pieces of sentiment and imagery, which deserve to be rescued from the surrounding lumber; which, like mirrors in the midst of old fashioned furniture that has lost its original splendour and become dull and tawdry, still retain their brightness and their utility. Amidst all the poetical efforts of a long series of years, it would be strange indeed, if a noble race of gallant Englishmen, full of youth and wealth, and stimulated by the example of the court, had not, even when writing for an ephemeral purpose, given birth to much deserving of preservation. It is true, that the pernicious taste of the age directed them into an unnatural and artificial vein, but nature could not but break out at intervals, and shew itself by the freedom of the air and the ease of the versification. They could not always keep up that elaborate search after novel contrasts and unnatural composition, and when the impulse of their own feelings got the better of their
vitiated habits of writing, they sometimes gave themselves up to the effusion of those parts of their poems, which they perhaps thought of least value, but which alone we think worthy of being preserved. Among all the gay and sprightly courtiers of Charles I., none was more distinguished than Colonel Richard Lovelace; whether for the exquisite beauty of his person, the elegant endowments of his mind, or the witty and sparkling ingenuity of his conversation. Like numberless others of his rank and station, he was remarkable for his attachment to his sovereign, in whose misfortunes he soon became involved. In his service he spent great part of his property, the rest appears to have been consumed by the expenses of his family, and the exactions of the men in power. The calamities of the party, to which he adhered, his own loss of fortune, his imprisonments, and, indeed, the blighting of all the high raised views and expectations, which his brilliant entrance into life would doubtless cause to spring up in such a mind, at last brought on a state of despairing wretchedness, which, ending in a fatal consumption, soon terminated his life in a garret. The narrative of his life by Anthony Wood, in the Athena Oxoniensis, is exceedingly interesting, and, as described in his quaint and forcible language, becomes an instance of one of the most melancholy reverses of fortune, to be found in the annals of a set of men, the early poets of England, distinguished for the calamitous variety of their adventures. After recording his birth and parentage, &c., the Antiquary proceeds to his entry at Gloucester Hall, Oxford, in the "year 1634, and at the year of his age, sixteen, being then accounted the most amiable and beautiful person that eye ever beheld; a person also of innate modesty, virtue, and courtly deportment, which made him then, but especially after, when he retired to the great city, much admired and adored by the female sex. In 1636, when the king and queen were for some days at Oxon, he was, at the request of a great lady belonging to the queen, made to the Archbishop of Canterbury, then Chancellor of the University, actually created, among other persons of quality, Master of Arts, though but of two years' standing; at which time his conversation being made public, and consequently his ingenuity and generous soul discovered, he became as much admired by the male, as before by the female sex. After he had left the university, he retired in great splendour to the court, &c." Again, after speaking of his imprisonment by the parliament, for presenting the Kentish petition to the House of Commons, for the restoration of the king to his rights; Wood says,
during this time of confinement to London, he lived beyond . the income of his estate, either to keep up the credit and reputation of the king's cause, by furnishing men with horses and