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consideration of such improvement and melioration as in reason and good
conscience they shall think fit."

It takes nothing short of a catastrophe to suspend in England, even for
a few months, those rules of evidence that often make justice
impossible, and those rights of landlords which for centuries have
appropriated public expenditure to private gain.[126:1]

The moneys required to pay for the land taken under the Act to widen
streets and to accomplish the other authorised works were raised, as
Marvell informs his constituents, by a tax of twelve pence on every
chaldron of coal coming as far as Gravesend. Few taxes have had so
useful and so harmless a life.

All this time the Dutch War was going on, but the heart was out of it.
Nothing in England is so popular as war, except the peace that comes
after it. The king now wanted peace, and the merchants on 'Change had
glutted their ire. In February 1667 the king told the Houses of
Parliament that all "sober" men would be glad to see peace. Unluckily,
it seems to have been assumed that we could have peace whenever we
wanted it, and the fatal error was committed of at once "laying up" the
first-and second-rate ships. It thus came about that, whilst still at
war, England had no fleet to put to sea. It did not at first seem likely
that the overtures for peace would present much difficulty, when
suddenly arose the question of Poleroone. It is amazing how few
Englishmen have ever heard of Poleroone, or even of the Banda Islands,
of which group it is one. Indeed, a more insignificant speck in the
ocean it would be hard to find. To discover it on an atlas is no easy
task. Yet, but for Poleroone, the Dutch would never have taken
Sheerness, or broken the chain at Gillingham, or carried away with them
to the Texel the proud vessel that had brought back Charles the Second
to an excited population.

Poleroone is a small nutmeg-growing island in the Indian Archipelago,
not far from the eastern extremity of New Guinea. King James the First
imagined he had some right to it, and, at any rate, Oliver Cromwell,
when he made peace with the Dutch, made a great point of Poleroone. Have
it he would for the East India Company. The Dutch objected, but gave
way, and by an article in the treaty with Oliver bound themselves to
give up Poleroone to the Company. All, in fact, that they did do, was to
cut down the nutmeg trees, and so make the island good for nothing for
many a long year. Physical possession was never taken. For some
unaccountable reason Charles, who had sold Oliver's Dunkirk to the
French for half a million of money, stuck out for Poleroone. What
Cromwell had taken he was not going to give up! On the other hand,
neither would the Dutch give up Poleroone. This dispute, about a barren
island, delayed the settlement of the peace preliminaries; but
eventually the British plenipotentiaries did get out to Breda, in May
1667. Our sanguine king expected an immediate cessation of hostilities,
and that his unpreparedness would thus be huddled up. All of a sudden,
at the beginning of June, De Ruyter led out his fleet, and with a fair
wind behind him stood for the Thames. All is fair in war. England was
caught napping. The doleful history reads like that of a sudden
piratical onslaught, and reveals the fatal inefficiency of the
administration. Sheerness was practically defenceless. "There were a
Company or two of very good soldiers there under excellent officers, but
the fortifications were so weak and unfinished, and all other provisions
so entirely wanting, that the Dutch Fleet no sooner approached within a
distance but with their cannon they beat all the works flat and drove
all the men from the ground, which, as soon as they had done with their
Boats, they landed men and seemed resolved to fortify and keep
it."[128:1] Capture of Sheerness by the Dutch! No need of a halfpenny
press to spread this news through a London still in ruins. What made
matters worse, the sailors were more than half-mutinous, being paid with
tickets not readily convertible into cash. Many of them actually
deserted to the Dutch fleet, which made its leisurely way upstream,
passing Upnor Castle, which had guns but no ammunition, till it was
almost within reach of Chatham, where lay the royal navy. General Monk,
who was the handy man of the period, and whose authority was always
invoked when the king he had restored was in greater trouble than usual,
had hastily collected what troops he could muster, and marched to
protect Chatham; but what were wanted were ships, not troops. The Dutch
had no mind to land, and after firing three warships (the _Royal James_,
the _Royal Oak_, and the _London_), and capturing the _Royal Charles_,
"they thought they had done enough, and made use of the ebb to carry
them back again."[129:1] These events occupied the tenth to the
fifteenth of June, and for the impression they produced on Marvell's
mind we are not dependent upon his restrained letters to his
constituents, but can turn to his longest rhymed satire, which is
believed to have been first printed, anonymously of course, as a
broadsheet in August 1667.

This poem is called _The Last Instructions to a Painter about the Dutch
Wars_, 1667. The title was derived from Waller's panegyric poem on the
occasion of the Duke of York's victory over the Dutch on the 3rd of June
1665, when Opdam, the Dutch admiral, was blown up with his ship.[129:2]
Sir John Denham, a brother satirist of Marvell's, and with as good an
excuse for hating the Duke of York as this world affords, had seized
upon the same idea and published four satirical poems on these same
Dutch Wars, entitled _Directions to a Painter_ (see _Poems on Affairs of
State_, 1703, vol. i.).

Marvell's satire, which runs to 900 lines, is essentially a House of
Commons poem, and could only have been written by a member. It is
intensely "lobbyish" and "occasional." To understand its allusions, to
appreciate its "pain-giving" capacity to the full, is now impossible.
Still, the reader of Clarendon's _Life_, Pepys's _Diary_, and Burnet's
_History_, to name only popular books, will have no difficulty in
entering into the spirit of the performance. As a poem it is rough in
execution, careless, breathless. A rugged style was then in vogue. Even
Milton could write his lines to the Cambridge Carrier somewhat in this
manner. Marvell has nothing of the magnificence of Dryden, or of the
finished malice of Pope. He plays the part, and it is sincerely played,
of the old, honest member of Parliament who loves his country and hates
rogues and speaks right out, calling spades spades and the king's women
what they ought to be called. He is conversational, and therefore
coarse. The whole history of the events that resulted in the national
disgrace is told.

"The close cabal marked how the Navy eats
And thought all lost that goes not to the cheats;
So therefore secretly for peace decrees,
Yet for a War the Parliament would squeeze,
And fix to the revenue such a sum
Should Goodricke silence and make Paston dumb.
Meantime through all the yards their orders were
To lay the ships up, cease the keels begun.
The timber rots, the useless axe does rust,
The unpractised saw lies buried in the dust,
The busy hammer sleeps, the ropes untwine."

Parliament is got rid of to the joy of Clarendon.

"Blither than hare that hath escaped the hounds,
The house prorogued, the chancellor rebounds.
What frosts to fruits, what arsenic to the rat,
What to fair Denham mortal chocolate,[130:1]
What an account to Carteret, that and more,
A parliament is to the chancellor."

De Ruyter makes his appearance, and Monk

"in his shirt against the Dutch is pressed.
Often, dear Painter, have I sat and mused
Why he should be on all adventures used.
Whether his valour they so much admire,
Or that for cowardice they all retire,
As heaven in storms, they call, in gusts of state,
On Monk and Parliament - yet both do hate.
Ruyter, the while, that had our ocean curbed,
Sailed now amongst our rivers undisturbed;
Surveyed their crystal streams and banks so green,
And beauties ere this never naked seen."

His flags fly from the topmasts of his ships, but where is the enemy?

"So up the stream the Belgic navy glides,
And at Sheerness unloads its stormy sides."

Chatham was but a few miles further up.

"There our sick ships unrigged in summer lay,
Like moulting fowl, a weak and easy prey,
For whose strong bulk earth scarce could timber find,
The ocean water, or the heavens wind.
Those oaken giants of the ancient race,
That ruled all seas, and did our channel grace;
The conscious stag, though once the forest's dread,
Flies to the wood, and hides his armless head.
Ruyter forthwith a squadron doth untack;
They sail securely through the river's track.
An English pilot too (O, shame! O, sin!)
Cheated of 's pay, was he that showed them in."

The chain at Gillingham is broken, to the dismay of Monk, who

"from the bank that dismal sight does view;
Our feather gallants, who came down that day
To be spectators safe of the new play,
Leave him alone when first they hear the gun,
(Cornbury,[131:1] the fleetest) and to London run.
Our seamen, whom no danger's shape could fright,
Unpaid, refuse to mount their ships for spite,
Or to their fellows swim on board the Dutch,
Who show the tempting metal in their clutch."

Upnor Castle avails nought.

"And Upnor's Castle's ill-deserted wall
Now needful does for ammunition call."

The _Royal Charles_ is captured before Monk's face.

"That sacred Keel that had, as he, restored
Its excited sovereign on its happy board,
Now a cheap spoil and the mean victor's slave
Taught the Dutch colours from its top to wave."

Horrors accumulate.

"Each doleful day still with fresh loss returns,
The loyal _London_ now a third time burns,
And the true _Royal Oak_ and _Royal James_,
Allied in fate, increase with theirs her flames.
Of all our navy none shall now survive,
But that the ships themselves were taught to dive,
And the kind river in its creek them hides.
Freighting their pierced keels with oozy tides."

The situation was indeed serious enough. One wiseacre in command in
London declared his belief that the Tower was no longer "tenable."

"And were not Ruyter's maw with ravage cloyed,
Even London's ashes had been then destroyed."

But the Dutch admiral returns the way he came.

"Now nothing more at Chatham's left to burn,
The Holland squadron leisurely return;
And spite of Ruperts and of Albemarles,
To Ruyter's triumph led the captive _Charles_.
The pleasing sight he often does prolong,
Her mast erect, tough cordage, timber strong,
Her moving shape, all these he doth survey,
And all admires, but most his easy prey.
The seamen search her all within, without;
Viewing her strength, they yet their conquest doubt;
Then with rude shouts, secure, the air they vex,
With gamesome joy insulting on her decks.
Such the feared Hebrew captive, blinded, shorn,
Was led about in sport, the public scorn."

The poet then indulges himself in an emotional outburst.

"Black day, accursed! on thee let no man hail
Out of the port, or dare to hoist a sail,
Or row a boat in thy unlucky hour!
Thee, the year's monster, let thy dam devour,
And constant Time, to keep his course yet right,
Fill up thy space with a redoubled night.
When agèd Thames was bound with fetters base,
And Medway chaste ravished before his face,
And their dear offspring murdered in their sight,
Thou and thy fellows saw the odious light.
Sad change, since first that happy pair was wed,
When all the rivers graced their nuptial bed;
And father Neptune promised to resign
His empire old to their immortal line;
Now with vain grief their vainer hopes they rue,
Themselves dishonoured, and the gods untrue;
And to each other, helpless couple, moan,
As the sad tortoise for the sea does groan:
But most they for their darling Charles complain,
And were it burned, yet less would be their pain.
To see that fatal pledge of sea-command,
Now in the ravisher De Ruyter's hand,
The Thames roared, swooning Medway turned her tide,
And were they mortal, both for grief had died."

A scapegoat had, of course, to be at once provided. He was found in Mr.
Commissioner Pett, the most skilful shipbuilder of the age.

"After this loss, to relish discontent,
Some one must be accused by Parliament.
All our miscarriages on Pett must fall,
His name alone seems fit to answer all.
Whose counsel first did this mad war beget?
Who all commands sold through the navy? Pett.
Who would not follow when the Dutch were beat?
Who treated out the time at Bergen? Pett.
Who the Dutch fleet with storms disabled met?
And, rifling prizes, them neglect? Pett.
Who with false news prevented the Gazette?
The fleet divided? writ for Rupert? Pett.
Who all our seamen cheated of their debt,
And all our prizes who did swallow? Pett.
Who did advise no navy out to set?
And who the forts left unprepared? Pett.
Who to supply with powder did forget
Languard, Sheerness, Gravesend, and Upnor? Pett.
Who all our ships exposed in Chatham net?
Who should it be but the fanatic Pett?"

This outburst can hardly fail to remind the reader of a famous outburst
of Mr. Micawber's on the subject of Uriah Heep.

The satire concludes with the picture of the king in the dead shades of
night, alone in his room, startled by loud noises of cannons, trumpets,
and drums, and then visited by the ghost of his father.

"And ghastly Charles, turning his collar low,
The purple thread about his neck does show."

The pensive king resolves on Clarendon's disgrace, and on rising next
morning seeks out Lady Castlemaine, Bennet, and Coventry, who give him
the same advice. He knows them all three to be false to one another and
to him, but is for the moment content to do what they wish.

I have omitted, in this review of a long poem, the earlier lines which
deal with the composition of the House of Commons. All its parties are
described, one after another - the old courtiers, the pension-hunters,
the king's procurers, then almost a department of State.

"Then the Procurers under Prodgers filed
Gentlest of men, and his lieutenant mild
Bronkard, love's squire; through all the field arrayed,
No troop was better clad, nor so well paid."

Clarendon had his friends, soon sorely to be needed, and after them,

"Next to the lawyers, sordid band, appear,
Finch in the front and Thurland in the rear."

Some thirty-three members are mentioned by their names and habits. The
Speaker, Sir Edward Turner, is somewhat unkindly described. Honest men
are usually to be found everywhere, and they existed even in Charles the
Second's pensionary Parliament: -

"Nor could all these the field have long maintained
But for the unknown reserve that still remained;
A gross of English gentry, nobly born,
Of clear estates, and to no faction sworn,
Dear lovers of their king, and death to meet
For country's cause, that glorious thing and sweet;
To speak not forward, but in action brave,
In giving generous, but in council grave;
Candidly credulous for once, nay twice;
But sure the devil cannot cheat them thrice."

No member of Parliament's library is complete without Marvell, who did
not forget the House of Commons smoking-room: -

"Even iron Strangways chafing yet gave back
Spent with fatigue, to breathe awhile tabac."

Charles hastened to make peace with Holland. He was not the man to
insist on vengeance or to mourn over lost prestige. De Ruyter had gone
after suffering repulses at Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Torbay. Peace was
concluded at Breda on the 21st of July. We gave up Poleroone. _Per
contra_ we gained a more famous place, New Amsterdam, rechristened New
York in honour of the duke. All prisoners were to be liberated, and the
Dutch, despite Sheerness and the _Royal Charles_, agreed to lower their
flag to all British ships of war.

The fall, long pending, of Clarendon immediately followed the peace.
Men's tempers were furious or sullen. Hyde had no more bitter, no more
cruel enemy than Marvell. Why this was has not been discovered, but
there was nothing too bad for Marvell not to believe of any member of
Clarendon's household. All the scandals, and they were many and
horrible, relating to Clarendon and his daughter, the Duchess of York,
find a place in Marvell's satires and epigrams. To us Lord Clarendon is
a grave and thoughtful figure, the statesman-author of _The History of
the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England_, that famous, large book,
loftily planned, finely executed, full of life and character and the
philosophy of human existence; and of his own _Autobiography_, a
production which, though it must, like Burnet's _History_, be read with
caution, unveils to the reader a portion of that past which usually is
as deeply shrouded from us as the future. If at times we are reminded in
reading Clarendon's _Life_ of the old steward in Hogarth's plate, who
lifts up his hands in horror over the extravagance of his master, if his
pedantry often irritates, and his love of place displeases, we recognise
these but as the shades of the character of a distinguished and
accomplished public servant. But to Marvell Clarendon was rapacious,
ambitious, and corrupt, a man who had sold Oliver's Dunkirk to the
French, and shared the price; who had selected for the king's consort a
barren woman, so that his own damaged daughter might at least chance to
become Queen of England, who hated Parliaments and hankered after a
standing army, who took money for patents, who sold public offices, who
was bribed by the Dutch about the terms of peace, who swindled the
ruined cavaliers of the funds subscribed for their benefit, and had by
these methods heaped together great wealth which he ostentatiously
displayed. Even darker crimes than these are hinted at. That Marvell was
wrong in his estimate of Clarendon's character now seems certain;
Clarendon did not get a penny of the Dunkirk money. The case made
against him by the House of Commons in their articles of impeachment was
felt even at the time to be flimsy and incapable of proof, and in the
many records that have come to light since Clarendon's day nothing has
been discovered to give them support. And yet Marvell was a singularly
well-informed member of Parliament, a shrewd, level-headed man of
affairs, who knew Lord Clarendon in the way we know men we have to see
on business matters, whose speeches we can listen to, and whose conduct
we discuss and criticise. "Gently scan your brother-man" is a precept
Marvell never took to heart; nor is the House of Commons a place where
it is either preached or practised.

When Clarendon was well nigh at the height of his great unpopularity, he
built himself a fine big house on a site given him by the king where now
is Albemarle Street. Where did he get the money from? He employed, in
building it, the stones of St. Paul's Cathedral. True, he bought the
stones from the Dean and Chapter, but if the man you hate builds a great
house out of the ruins of a church, is it likely that so trivial a fact
as a cash payment for the materials is going to be mentioned? Splendid
furniture and noble pictures were to be seen going into the new
palace - the gifts, so it was alleged, of foreign ambassadors. What was
the consideration for these donations? England's honour! Clarendon House
was at once named Dunkirk House, Holland House, Tangiers House.

Here is Marvell upon it: -


"Here lie the sacred bones
Of Paul beguilèd of his stones:
Here lie golden briberies,
The price of ruined families;
The cavalier's debenture wall,
Fixed on an eccentric basis:
Here's Dunkirk-Town and Tangier-Hull,
The Queen's marriage and all,
The Dutchman's _templum pacis_."

Clarendon's fall was rapid. He knew the house of Stuart too well to
place any reliance upon the king. Evelyn visited him on the 27th of
August 1667 after the seals had been taken away from him, and found him
"in his bed-chamber very sad." His enemies were numerous and powerful,
both in the House of Commons and at Court, where all the buffoons and
ladies of pleasure hated him, because - so Evelyn says - "he thwarted some
of them and stood in their way." In November Evelyn called again and
found the late Lord-Chancellor in the garden of his new-built palace,
sitting in his gout wheel-chair and watching the new gates setting up
towards the north and the fields. "He looked and spoke very
disconsolately. After some while deploring his condition to me, I took
my leave. Next morning I heard he was gone."[139:1]

The news was true; on Saturday, the 29th of November, he drove to Erith,
and after a terrible tossing on the nobly impartial Channel the weary
man reached Calais, and died seven years later in Rouen, having well
employed his leisure in completing his history. His palace was sold for
half what it cost to the inevitable Monk, Duke of Albemarle.

On the 3rd of December Marvell writes that the House, having heard that
Lord Clarendon had "withdrawn," forthwith ordered an address to his
Majesty "that care might be taken for securing all the sea ports lest he
should pass there." Marvell adds grimly, "I suppose he will not trouble
you at Hull." The king took good care that his late Lord-Chancellor
should escape. An act of perpetual banishment was at once passed,
receiving the royal assent on the 19th of December.

Marvell was kept very busy during the early months of 1668, inquiring,
as our English fashion is, into the "miscarriages of the late war." The
House more than once sat from nine in the morning till eight at night,
finding out all it could. "What money, arising by the poll money, had
been applied to the use of the war?" This was an awkward inquiry. The
House voted that the not prosecuting the first victory of June 1665 was
a miscarriage, and one of the greatest: a snub to the Duke of York. The
not furnishing the Medway with a sufficient guard of ships, though the
king had then 18,000 men in his pay, was another great miscarriage. The
paying of the fleet with tickets, without money, was a third great
miscarriage. All this time Oliver Cromwell's skull was grinning on its
perch in Westminster Hall.

Besides the honour of England, that of Hull had to be defended by its
member. A young Lieutenant Wise, one of the Hull garrison, had in some
boisterous fashion affronted the corporation and the mayor. On this
correspondence ensues; and Marvell waits upon the Duke of Albemarle, the
head of the army, to obtain reparation.

"I waited yesterday upon my Lord General - and first presented your
usual fee which the General accepted, but saying that it was
unnecessary and that you might have bin pleased to spare it, and he
should be so much more at liberty to show how voluntary and
affectionate he was toward your corporation. I returned the civilest
words I could coin on for the present, and rendered him your humble
thanks for his continued patronage of you ... and told him that you
had further sent him up a small tribute of your Hull liquor. He
thanked you again for all these things which you might - he said - have
spared, and added that if the greatest of your military officers
should demean himself ill towards you, he would take a course with

A mealy-mouthed Lord-General drawing near his end.[140:1]

Wise was removed from the Hull garrison. The affronted corporation was
not satisfied, and Marvell had to argue the point.

"And I hope, Sir, you will incline the Bench to consider whether I am
able or whether it be fit for me to urge it beyond that point. Yet it
is not all his (Wise's) Parliament men and relations that have
wrought me in the least, but what I simply conceive as the state of
things now to be possible and satisfactory. What would you have more
of a soldier than to run away and have him cashiered as to any
command in your garrison? The first he hath done and the second he

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Online LibraryAugustine BirrellAndrew Marvell → online text (page 10 of 19)