Augustine Birrell.

Andrew Marvell online

. (page 8 of 19)
Online LibraryAugustine BirrellAndrew Marvell → online text (page 8 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

curious fact.

One of these bits of local business related to a patent alleged to have
been granted by the Crown to certain persons, authorising them to erect
and maintain _ballast wharfs_ in the various ports, and to make charges
in respect of them. This was resented by the members for the ports, and
on Marvell's motion the matter was referred to the Committee of
Grievances, before whom the patentees were summoned. When they came it
appeared that the patent warranted none of the exactions that had been
demanded, and also that the warrant sent down to Hull naming these
charges was nothing more than a draft framed by the patentees
themselves, and not authorised in any way. The patent was at once
suspended. Marvell, like a true member of Parliament, wishes to get any
little local credit that may be due for such prompt action, and
writes: -

"In this thing (although I count all things I can do for your service
to be mere trifles, and not worth taking notice of in respect of what
I owe you) I must do myself that right to let you know that I, and I
alone, have had the happiness to do that little which hitherto is

The matter required delicate handling, for a reason Marvell gives:
"Because, if the King's right in placing such impositions should be
weakened, neither should he have power to make a grant of them to you."

Another much longer business related to a lighthouse, which some
outsiders were anxious to build in the Humber. The corporation of Hull,
acting on Marvell's advice, had petitioned the Privy Council, and were
asked by their business-like member "to send us up a dormant credit for
an hundred pound, which we yet indeed have no use of, but if need be
must have ready at hand to reward such as will not otherwise befriend
your business." Some months later Marvell forwards an account, not of
the £100, but of the legal expenses about the lighthouse. He wishes it
were less, but hopes that the "vigorous resistance" will discourage the
designers from proceeding farther. This it did not do. As a member of
the bar, I find two or three of the items in this old-world Bill of
Costs interesting: -

To Mr. Scroggs to attend the Council, £3 6 0
" " " again for the same, 3 6 0
Spent on Mr. Scroggs at dinner, 18 0
To Mr. Scroggs again, 3 0 0
Fees of the Council Table, 1 10 0
Fee to Clerk of the Council, 2 0 0
For dinner for Mr. Scroggs and wine after, 1 0 0
To Mr. Cresset (the Solicitor), 20 0 0
To Mr. Scroggs for a dinner, 1 0 0

The barrister who was so frequently "refreshed" by Marvell lived to
become "the infamous Lord Chief Justice Scroggs" of all school

A week before the prorogation of Parliament, which happened on the 19th
of May 1662, Marvell went to Holland and remained there for nine months,
for he did not return until the very end of March 1663, more than a
month after the reassembling of the House.

What took him there nobody knows. Writing to the Trinity House about the
lighthouse business on the 8th of May 1662, Marvell says: -

"But that which troubles me is that by the interest of some persons
too potent for me to refuse, and who have a great direction and
influence upon my counsels and fortune, I am obliged to go beyond
sea before I have perfected it (_i.e._ the lighthouse business). But
first I do thereby make my Lord Carlisle (who is a member of the
Privy Council and one of them to whom your business is referred)
absolutely yours. And my journey is but into Holland, from whence I
shall weekly correspond as if I were at London with all the rest of
my friends, towards the affecting your business. Then I leave Col.
Gilbey there, whose ability for business and affection to yours is
such that I cannot be wanted though I am missing."

It is plain from this that Lord Carlisle is one of the powerful persons
referred to - but beyond this we cannot go.

Whilst in Holland Marvell wrote both to the Trinity House and to the
corporation on business matters.

In March 1663 Marvell came back in a hurry, some complaints having been
made in Hull about his absence. He begins his first letter after his
return as follows: -

"Being newly arrived in town and full of business, yet I could not
neglect to give you notice that this day (2nd April 1663) I have been
in the House and found my place empty, though it seems, as I now
hear, that some persons would have been so courteous as to have
filled it for me."

In none of these letters is any reference made to the debates in the
House on the unhappy Bill of Uniformity, nor does any record of those
discussions anywhere exist. The Savoy Conference proved a failure, and
no lay reader of Baxter's account of it can profess wonder. Not a single
point in difference was settled. In the meantime the restored Houses of
Convocation, from which the Presbyterian members were excluded, had
completed their revision of the Book of Common Prayer and presented it
to Parliament.

In considering the Bill for Uniformity, the House of Lords, where
Presbyterianism was powerfully represented, showed more regard for those
"tender consciences" to which the king (by the new Prayer Book called
for the first time "our most religious King") had referred in his Breda
Declaration than did the House of Commons. "The Book, the whole Book,
and nothing but the Book" was, in effect, the cry of the lower House,
and on the 19th of May, ten days after Marvell had left for the
Continent, the Act of Uniformity became law, and by the 24th of August
1662 all beneficed ministers and schoolmasters had to make the
celebrated subscription and profession, or go out into the wilderness.

There has always been a dispute as to the physical possibility of
perusing the compilation in question before the day fixed by the
Statute. The Book was advertised for sale in London on the 6th of
August, but how many copies were actually available on that day is not

The Dean and Chapter of Peterborough did not get their copies until the
17th of August. When the new folios reached the lonely parsonages of
Cumberland and Durham - who would care to say? The Act required a verbal
avowal of "unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained
and prescribed in and by the Book of Common Prayer, and administrations
of the Sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church according
to the use of the Church of England, together with the Psalter, and the
form of manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating Bishops, Priests,
and Deacons" to be made after the service upon "some Lord's day" before
the Feast of St. Bartholomew, _i.e._ the 24th of August 1662. The Act
also required subscription within the same time-limit to a declaration
of (_inter alia_) uniformity to the Liturgy of the Church of England "as
it is now by law established."

That this haste was indecent no layman is likely to dispute, but that it
wrought practical wrong is doubtful. The Vicar of Bray needed no time to
read his new Folio to enable him to make whatever avowal concerning it
the law demanded; and as for signing the declaration, all he required
for that purpose was pen and ink. Neither had the incumbent, who was a
good churchman at heart, any doubts to settle. He rejoiced to know that
his side was once more uppermost, and that it would be no longer
necessary for him, in order to retain his living, to pretend to tolerate
a Presbyterian, or to submit to read in his church the Directory of
Public Worship. Convocation had approved the new Prayer Book, which was
in substance the old one, and what more did any churchman require? As
for the Presbyterians and others who were in possession of livings, the
failure of the Savoy Conference must have made it plain to them that the
Church of England had not allowed the king to keep his word, that
compromise and comprehension had failed, and that if they were to remain
where they were, it could only be on terms of completely severing
themselves from all other Protestant bodies in the world, and becoming
thorough Episcopalians. No Presbyterian of any eminence was prepared to
make the statutory avowal. Painful as it always must be to give up any
good thing by a fixed date, it is hard to see what advantage would have
accrued from delay.

When the day came, some two thousand parsons were turned out of the
Church of England. Among them were included many of the most devout and
some of the most learned of our divines. Their "coming in" had been
irregular, their "going out" was painful.

Save so far as it turned these men out, the Act was a failure. It did
not procure that uniformity in the public worship of God which it
declared was so desirable; it prevented no scandal; it arrested no
decay; it allayed no distemper, and it certainly did not settle the
peace of the Church. Inside the Church the bishops were supine, the
parochial clergy indifferent, and the worshippers, if such a name can
properly be bestowed upon the congregations, were grossly irreverent.
Nor was any improvement in the conduct of the Church service noticeable
until after the Revolution, and when legislation had conceded a somewhat
shabby measure of toleration to those who by that time had become rigid,
traditional, and hereditary dissenters. Then indeed some attempts began
to be made to secure a real uniformity of ritual in the public worship
of the Church of England.[104:1] How far success has rewarded these
exertions it is not for me to say.

Marvell did not remain long at home after his return from Holland. A
strange adventure lay before him. He thus introduces it in a letter
dated 20th June 1663: -

"GENTLEMEN, MY VERY WORTHY FRIENDS, - The relation I have to your
affairs, and the intimacy of that affection I ow you, do both
incline and oblige me to communicate to you, that there is a
probability I may very shortly have occasion to go beyond sea; for
my Lord of Carlisle being chosen by his Majesty, Embassadour
Extraordinary to Muscovy, Sweden, and Denmarke, hath used his power,
which ought to be very great with me, to make me goe along with him
Secretary in those embassages. It is no new thing for Members of our
House to be dispens'd with for the service of the King and Nation in
forain parts. And you may be sure that I will not stirre without
speciall leave of the House; that so you may be freed from any
possibility of being importuned or tempted to make any other choice,
in my absence. However, I can not but advise also with you, desiring
to take your assent along with me, so much esteeme I have both of
your prudence and friendship. The time allotted for the embassy is
not much above a yeare: probably it may not be much less betwixt our
adjournment and next meeting; and, however, you have Colonell Gilby,
to whom my presence can make litle addition, so that if I cannot
decline this voyage, I shall have the comfort to believe, that, all
things considered, you cannot thereby receive any disservice. I
shall hope to receive herein your speedy answer...."

What was the "power" Lord Carlisle had over Marvell is not now
discoverable, but the tie, whatever it may have been, was evidently a
close one.

A month after this letter Marvell started on his way.

"GENTLEMEN, MY VERY WORTHY FRIENDS, - Being this day taking barge for
Gravesend, there to embark for Archangel, so to Muscow, thence for
Sweden, and last of all Denmarke; all of which I hope, by God's
blessing, to finish within twelve moneths time: I do hereby, with my
last and seriousest thoughts, salute you, rendring you all hearty
thanks for your great kindnesse and friendship to me upon all
occasions, and ardently beseeching God to keep you all in His
gracious protection, to your own honour, and the welfare and
flourishing of your Corporation, to which I am and shall ever
continue a most affectionate and devoted servant. I undertake this
voyage with the order and good liking of his Majesty, and by leave
given me from the House and enterd in the Journal; and having
received moreover your approbation, I go therefore with more ease
and satisfaction of mind, and augurate to myselfe the happier
successe in all my proceedings...."

It was Marvell's good fortune to be in Lord Carlisle's frigate which
made the voyage to Archangel in less than a month, sailing from
Gravesend on the 22nd of July and arriving at the bar of Archangel on
the 19th of August. The companion frigate took seven weeks to compass
the same distance.

Nothing of any importance attaches to this Russian embassy. It cost a
great deal of money, took up a great deal of time, exposed the
ambassador and his suite to much rudeness and discomfort, and failed to
effect its main object, which was to secure a renewal of the privileges
formerly enjoyed in Muscovy by British merchants.

One of the attendants upon the ambassador made a small book out of his
travels, which did not get printed till 1669, when it attracted little
notice. Mr. Grosart was the first of Marvell's many biographers to
discover the existence of this narrative.[106:1] He found it in the
first instance, to use his own language, "in one of good trusty John
Harris' folios of _Travels and Voyages_" (two vols. folio, 1705); but
later on he made the sad discovery that this "good trusty John Harris"
had uplifted what he called his "true and particular account" from the
book of 1669 without any acknowledgment. "For ways that are dark" the
old compiler of travels was not easily excelled, but why should Mr.
Grosart have gone out of his way to call an eighteenth-century
book-maker, about whom he evidently knew nothing, "good and trusty"?
Harris was never either the one or the other, and died a pauper!

A journey to Moscow in 1663-64 was no joke. Lord Carlisle, who was
accompanied by his wife and eldest son, although ready to start from
Archangel by the end of September, was doomed to spend both the 5th of
November and Christmas Day in the gloomy town of Vologda, which they had
reached, travelling by water, on the 17th of October. Some of this time
was spent in quarrelling as to who was to supply the sledges that were
required to convey the ambassador and all his _impedimenta_ along the
now ice-bound roads to Moscow. It was one of Marvell's many duties to
remonstrate with the authorities for their cruel and disrespectful
indifference; he did so with great freedom, but with no effect, and at
last the ambassador was obliged to hire two hundred sledges at his own
charges. Sixty he sent on ahead, following with one hundred and forty on
the 15th of January 1664. It was an intensely cold journey, and the
accommodation at night, with one happy exception, proved quite infamous.
On the 3rd of February Lord Carlisle and his _cortége_ found themselves
five versts from Moscow. The 5th of February was fixed for their entry
into the city in all their finery. They were ready on the morning of
that day, awaiting the arrival of the Tsar's escort, but it never came.
Lord Carlisle had sent his cooks on to Moscow to prepare the dinner he
expected to eat in his city-quarters. Nightfall approached, and it was
not till "half an hour before night" that the belated messengers
arrived, full of excuses. The ambassador was hungry, cold, and furious,
nor did his anger abate when told he was not to be allowed to enter
Moscow that night, as the Tsar and his ladies were very anxious to
enjoy the spectacle. The return of the cooks from Moscow and the
preparation of dinner, though a mitigation, was no cure for wounded
pride, and Lord Carlisle, calling Marvell to his side, and with his
assistance, concocted a letter in Latin to the Tsar, complaining
bitterly of their ill-treatment _inter fumosi gurgustii sordes et
angustias sine cibo aut potu_, and going so far as to assert that had
anything of the kind happened in England to a foreign ambassador, the
King of England would never have rested until the offence had been
atoned for with the blood of the criminals. When, some forty years
afterwards, Peter the Great asked Queen Anne to chop off the heads of
the rude men who had arrested his ambassador for debt, he had, perhaps,
Marvell's letter before him.

On the 6th of February Lord Carlisle and his suite made their public
entry into Moscow; but so long a time was occupied over the few versts
they had to travel, that it was dusk before the Kremlin was reached.

The formal reception of the ambassador was on the 11th of February.
Marvell was in the ambassador's sledge and carried his credentials upon
a yard of red damask. The titles of the Russian Potentate would, if
printed here, fill half a page. All the Russias, Great, Little, and
White, emperies more than one, dukedoms by the dozen, territories,
countries, and dominions - not all easy to identify on the map, and very
hard to pronounce - were read out in a loud voice by Marvell. At the end
of them came the homely title of the Earl and his offices, "his
Majesty's Lieutenant in the Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland."

The letters read and delivered, the Tsar and his Boyars rose in their
places simultaneously, and their tissue vests made so strange, loud, and
unexpected a noise as to provoke the ever too easily moved risibility
of the Englishmen.[109:1] When Marvell and the rest of them had ceased
from giggling, the Tsar inquired after the health of the king, but the
distance between his Imperial Majesty and Lord Carlisle being too great
for the question to carry, it had to be repeated by those who were
nearer the ambassador, who gravely replied that when he last saw his
master, namely on the 20th of July then last past, he was perfectly
well. To the same question as to the health of "the desolate widow of
Charles the First," Carlisle returned the same cautious answer. He then
read a very long speech in English, which his interpreter turned into
Russian. The same oration was rendered into Latin by Marvell, and
presented. Over Marvell's Latin trouble arose, for the Russians were
bent on taking and giving offence. Marvell had styled the Tsar
_Illustrissimus_ when he ought, so it was alleged, to have called him
_Serenissimus_. Marvell was not a schoolmaster's son, an old scholar of
Trinity, and Milton's assistant as Latin Secretary for nothing. He
prepared a reply which, as it does not lack humour, has a distinct
literary flavour, and is all that came of the embassy, may here be given
at length: -

"I reply, saith he, that I sent no such paper into the
Embassy-office, but upon the desire of his Tzarskoy Majesty's
Councellor Evan Offonassy Pronchissof, I delivered it to him, not
being a paper of State, nor written in the English Language wherein I
treat, nor put into the hands of the near Boyars and Councellors of
his Tzarskoy majesty, nor subscribed by my self, nor translated into
Russe by my Interpreter, but only as a piece of curiosity, which is
now restored me, and I am possessed of it; so that herein his
Tzarskoy majestie's near Boyars and Councellors are doubtless ill
grounded. But again I say concerning the value of the words
_Illustrissimus_ and _Serenissimus_ compared together, seeing we must
here from affaires of State, fall into Grammatical contests
concerning the Latin tongue; that the word _Serenus_ signifieth
nothing but still and calm; and, therefore, though of late times
adopted into the Titles of great Princes by reason of that benigne
tranquility which properly dwells in the majestick countenance of
great Princes, and that venerable stillness of all the Attendants
that surround them, of which I have seen an excellent example when I
was in the presence of his Tzarskoy majesty, yet is more properly
used concerning the calmness of the weather, or season. So that even
the night is elegantly called _Serena_ by the best Authors, Cicero in
Arato 12, Lucretius i. l. 29. '_Serena nox_'; and upon perusing again
what I have writ in this paper, I finde that I have out of the
customariness of that expression my self near the beginning said, And
that most serene night, &c. Whereas on the contrary _Illustris_ in
its proper derivation and signification expresseth that which is all
resplendent, lightsome, and glorious, as well without as within, and
that not with a secondary but with a primitive and original light.
For if the Sun be, as he is, the first fountain of light, and Poets
in their expressions (as is well known) are higher by much than those
that write in Prose, what else is it when Ovid in the 2. of the
Metamorphoses saith of Phoebus speaking with Phaëthon, _Qui terque
quaterque concutiens Illustre caput_, and the Latin Orators, as
Pliny, Ep. 139, when they would say the highest thing that can be
exprest upon any subject, word it thus, _Nihil Illustrius dicere
possum_. So that hereby may appear to his Tzarskoy Majestie's near
Boyars and Counsellors what diminution there is to his Tzarskoy
Majesty (which farr be it from my thoughts) if I appropriate
_Serenissimus_ to my Master and _Illustrissimus_ to Him than which
_nihil dici potest Illustrius_. But because this was in the time of
the purity of the Latin tongue, when the word _Serenus_ was never
used in the Title of any Prince or Person, I shall go on to deale
with the utmost candor, forasmuch as in this Nation the nicety of
that most eloquent language is not so perfectly understood, which
gives occasion to these mistakes. I confess therefore that indeed in
the declination of the Latin tongue, and when there scarce could be
found out words enough to supply the modern ambition of Titles,
Serenissimus as several other words hath grown in fashion for a
compellation of lesser as well as greater Princes, and yet befits
both the one and the other. So there is _Serenissima Respublica
Veneta_, _Serenitates Electoriæ_, _Serenitates Regiæ_, even as the
word Highness or _Celsitudo_ befits a Duke, a Prince, a King, or an
Emperour, adjoyning to it the respective quality, and so the word
_Illustris_. But suppose it were by modern use (which I deny)
depressed from the undoubted superiority that it had of _Serenus_ in
the purest antiquity, yet being added in the transcendent degree to
the word Emperour, the highest denomination that a Prince is capable
of, it becomes of the same value. So that to interpret
_Illustrissimus_ unto diminution is to find a positive in a
superlative, and in the most orient light to seek for darkness. And I
would, seeing the near Boyars and Counsellors of his Tzarskoy Majesty
are pleased to mention the Title given to his Tzarskoy Majesty by his
Cesarian Majesty, gladly be satisfied by them, whether ever any
Cesarian Majesty writ formerly hither in High-Dutch, and whether then
they styled his Tzarskoy Majesty Durchluchtigste which is the same
with _Illustrissimus_, and which I believe the Cæsar hath kept for
Himself. But to cut short, his Royal Majesty hath used the word to
his Tzarskoy Majesty in his Letter, not out of imitation of others,
although even in the Dutch Letter to his Tzarskoy Majesty of 16 June
1663, I finde Durchlauchtigste the same (as I said) with
_Illustrissimus_, but out of the constant use of his own Court,
further joyning before it Most High, Most Potent, and adding after it
Great Lord Emperour, which is an higher Title than any Prince in the
World gives his Tzarskoy Majesty, and as high a Title of honour as
can be given to any thing under the Divinity. For the King my Master
who possesses as considerable Dominions, and by as high and
self-dependent a right as any Prince in the Universe, yet contenting
Himself with the easiest Titles, and satisfying Himself in the
essence of things, doth most willingly give to other Princes the
Titles which are appropriated to them, but to the Tzarskoy Majesties
of Russia his Royal Ancestors, and to his present Tzarskoy Majesty
his Royal Majesty himself, have usually and do gladly pay Titles even
to superfluity out of meer kindness. And upon that reason He added
the word most Illustrious, and so did I use it in the Latin of my
speech. Yet, that You may find I did not out of any criticisme of
honor, but for distinction sake use it as I did, You may see in one

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryAugustine BirrellAndrew Marvell → online text (page 8 of 19)