Isaac Disraeli.

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thoughts in any thing rather than matters of state. Her
conversation was lively and obliging ; every thing in her was
easy and natural The king told the Earl of Shrewsbury,
that though he could not hit on the right way of pleasing
England, he was confident she would, and that we should all
be very happy under her." Such is the miniature of the
queen which Burnet offers ; we see nothing but her tranquil-
lity, her simplicity, and her carelessness, amidst the impor-
tant transactions passing under her eye ; but I lift the curtain
from a larger picture. The distracted state amidst which
the queen lived, the vexations, the secret sorrows, the agonies
and the despair of Mary in the absence of William, nowhere
appear in history ! and as we see, escaped the ken of the
Scotch bishop I They were reserved for the curiosity and
instruction of posterity; and were found by Dalrymple, in
the letters of Mary to her husband, in king William's cabi-
net. It will be well to place under l^e eye of the reader the
suppressed cries of this afflicted queen at the time when
" every thing in her was so easy and natural, employing her
time and thoughts in any thing rather than matters of state —
often busy at work ! "

I shall not dwell on the pangs of the queen for the fete of
William— or her deadly suspicions that many were unfaithful
about her ; a battle lost might have been fatal ; a conspiracy
might have undone what even a victory had obtained ; the
continual terrors she endured were such, that we might be
at a loss to determine who suffered most, those who had been
expelled from, or those who had ascended, the throne.

So far was the queen from not " employing her thoughts "
on "matters of state," that every letter, usually written
towards evening, chronicles the conflicts of the day; she
records not only events, but even dialogues and personal
characteristics ; hints her suspicions, and multiplies her fears ;
her attention was incessant — " I never write but what I think
others do not;" and her terrors were as ceaseless, — "I pray
God, send you back quickly, for I see all breaking out into

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flames." The queen's difficulties were not eased by a single
confidential intercourse. On one occasion she observes, " As
I do not know what I ought to speak, and when not, I am as
silent as can be." " I ever fear not doing well, and triist to
what nobody says but you. It seems to me that every one
is afraid of themselves. — I am very uneasy in one thing,
which is want of somebody to speak my mind freely to, for
it's a great constraint to think and be silent ; and there is
so much matter, that I am one of Solomon's fools, who am
ready to burst. I must tell you again how Lord Monmouth
endeavours to frighten me, and indeed things have but a
melancholy prospect." She had indeed reasons to fear Lord
Monmouth, who, it appears, divulged all the secrets of the
royal councils to Major Wildman, who was one of our old
republicans ; and, to spread alarm in the privy council, con-
veyed in lemon-juice all their secrets to France, often on the
very day they had passed in council ! They discovered the
fact, and every one suspected the other as the traitor ! Lord
Lincoln even once assured her, that "the Lord President
and all in general, who are in trust, were rogues." Her
council was composed of factions, and the queen's suspicions
were rather general than particular : for she observes on
them, " Till now I thought you had given me wrong charac-
ters of men ; but now I see they answer my expectation of
being as little of a mind as of a body." — For a final extract,
take this full picture of royal misery — " I must see company
on my set days; I must play twice a week; nay, I must
laugh and talk, though never so much against my will: I
believe I dissemble very ill to those who know me ; at least,
it is a great constraint to myself, yet I must endure it. All
my motions are so watched, and all I do so observed, that if
I eat less, or speak less, or look more grave, all is lost in the
opinion of the world ; so that I have this misery added to
that of your absence, that I must grin when my heart is
ready to break, and talk when my heart is so oppressed that
I can scarce breathe. I go to Kensington as often as I can

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for air ; but then I never can be quite alone, neither can I
complain — that would be some ease ; but I have nobody
whose humour and circumstances agree with mine enough to
speak my mind freely to. Besides I must hear of business,
which being a thing I am so new in, and so unfit for, does
but break my brains the more, and not ease my heart."

Thus different from the representation of Burnet was the
actual state of Queen Mary : and I suspect that our warm
and vehement bishop had but little personal knowledge of
her majesty, notwithstanding the elaborate character of the
queen which he has given in her funeral eulogium. — He
must have known that she did not always sympathize with
his party-feelings ; for the queen writes, " The Bishop of
Salisbury has made a long thundering sermon this morning,
which he has been with me to desire to print ; which I could
not refuse, though I should not have ordered it, for reasons
which I told him." Burnet (whom I am very far from calling
what an inveterate Tory, Edward Earl of Oxford, does in
one of his manuscript notes, "that lying Scot") unques-
tionably has told many truths in his garrulous page ; but the
cause in which he stood so deeply engaged, coupled to his
warm sanguine temper, may have sometimes dimmed his
sagacity, so as to have caused him to have mistaken, as in
the present case, a mask for a face, particularly at a time
when almost every individual appears to have worn one I

Both these cases of Charles the Second and Queen Mary
show the absolute necessity of researches into secret history,
to correct the appearances and the fallacies which so often
deceive us in public history.

" The appetite for Remains," as the noble author whom I
have already alluded to calls it, may then be a very whole-
some one, if it provide the only materials by which our
popular histories can be corrected, and since it often infuses
a freshness into a story which, after having been copied
from book to book, inspires another to tell it for the tenth
time I Thus are the sources of secret history unsuspected

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by the idler and the superficial, among those masses of un-
touched manuscripts — that subterraneous history! — which
indeed may terrify the indolent, bewilder the inexperienced,
and confound the injudicious, if they have not acquired the
knowledge which not only decides on facts and opinions, but
on the authorities which have furnished them. Popular his-
torians have written to their readers ; each with different
views, but all alike form the open documents of history ;
like fee*d advocates, they declaim, or like special pleaders,
they keep only on one side of their case : they are seldom
zealous to push on their cross-examinations ; for they come
to gain their cause, and not to hazard it !

Time will make the present age as obsolete as the last, for
our sons will cast a new light over the ambiguous scenes
which distract their fathers ; they will know how some things
happened, for which we cannot account ; they will bear wit-
ness to how many characters we have mistaken ; they will
be told many of those secrets which our contemporaries hide
from us ; they will pause at the ends of our beginnings ; they
will read the perfect story of man, which can never be told
while it is proceeding. All this is the possession of posterity,
because they will judge without our passions ; and all this
we ourselves have been enabled to possess by the secret
history of the last two ages! *

* Since this article has been sent to press I rise from reading one in
the Edinburgh Review on Lord Orford's and Lord Waldegrave's Memoirs.
This is one of the very rare articles which could only come from the hand
of a master, long exercised in the studies he criticizes. The critic, or
rather the historian, observes, that " of a period remarkable for the estab-
lishment of our present system of government, no authentic materials had
yet appeared. Events of public notoriety are to be found, though often
inaccurately told, in our common histories; but the secret springs of
action, the private views and motives of individuals, &c. are as little
known to us, as if the events to which they relate had taken place in
China or Japan.'* The clear, connected, dispassionate, and circumstan-
tial narrative, with which he has enriched the stores of English History,
is drawn from the sources 0/ seobrt histoby; from published memoirs and
wntemporary correspondence.

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Men of genius have usually been condemned to compose
their finest works, which are usually their earliest ones, under
the roof of a garret ; and few literary characters have lived
like Pliny and Voltaire, in a villa or chcUeau of their own.
It has not therefore often happened, that a man of genius
could raise local emotions by his own intellectual suggestions.
Ariosto, who built a palace in his verse, lodged himself in a
small house, and found that stanzas and stones were not put
together at the same rate : old Montaigne has left, a descrip-
tion of his library ; " over the entrance of my house, where I
view my court-yards, and garden, and at once survey all the
operations of my family ! "

There is, however, a feeling among literary men, of build-
ing up their own elegant fancies, and giving a permanency to
their own tastes ; we dwell on their favourite scenes as a
sort of portraits, and we eagerly collect those few prints,
which are their only vestiges. A collection might be formed
of such literary residences chosen for their amenity and their
retirement, and adorned by the objects of their studies ; from
that of the younger Pliny, who called his villa of literary
leisure by the endearing term of viUvla, to that of Cassio-
dorus, the prime minister of Theodoric, who has left so
magnificent a description of his literary retreat, where all
the elegancies of life were at hand; where the gardeners
and the agriculturists laboured on scientific principles ; and
where, amidst gardens and parks, stood his extensive library,
with scribes to multiply his manuscripts ; — ^from Tycho
Brahe's, who built a magnificent astronomical house on an
island, which he named after the sole objects of his musings
Uranienburgh, or the castle of the heavens ; — ^to that of Eve-
lyn, who first began to adorn Wotton, by building " a little
study," till many years after he dedicated the ancient house
to contemplation, among the '^ delicious streams and venerable

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woods, the gardens, the fountains, and the groves, most tempt-
ing for a great person and a wanton purse ; and indeed gave
one of the first examples to that elegancy since so much in
vogue." — From Pope, whose little garden seemed to multiply
its scenes by a glorious union of nobility and literary men
conversing in groups; — down to lonely Shenstone, whose
" rural elegance," as he entitles one of his odes, compelled
him to mourn over his hard fate, when

" Expense

Had lavished thousand ornaments, and taught
CoNVEKiEKCE to perplex him, Art to pall,
Pomp to deject, and Beauty to displease."

We have all by heart the true and delightful reflection of
Johnson on local associations, when the scene we tread sug-
gests to us the men or the deeds, which have left th'eir celeb-
rity to the spot. We are in the presence of their fame, and
feel its influence !

A literary friend, whom a hint of mine had induced to
visit the old tower in the garden of Buffon, where the sage
retired every morning to compose, passed so long a time in
that lonely apartment, as to have raised some solicitude
among the honest folks of Montbar, who having seen " the
Englishman ^ enter, but not return, during a heavy thunder-
storm which had occurred in the interval, informed the good
mayor, who came in due form, to notify the ambiguous state
of the stranger. My friend is, as is well known, a genius of
that cast, who could pass two hours in the Tower of Buffon,
without being aware that he had been all that time occupied
by suggestions of ideas and reveries, which in some minds
such a locality may excite. He was also busied with his
pencil ; for he has favoured me with two drawings of the
interior and the exterior of this old tower in the garden: the
nakedness within can only be compared to the solitude with-
out Such was the studying-room of Buffon, where his eye
resting on no object, never interrupted the unity of his medi
tations on nature.

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In return for my friend's kindness, it has cost me, I think,
two hours, in attempting to translate the beautiful picture of
this literary retreat, which Vicq d*Azyr has finished with all
the warmth of a votary. "At Montbar, in the midst of an
ornamented garden, is seen an antique tower ; it was there
that Buffon wrote the History of Nature, and from that spot
his fame spread through the universe. There he came at
sunrise, and no one, however importunate, was suffered to
trouble him. The calm of the morning hour, the first war-
bling of the birds, the varied aspect of the country, all at
that moment which touched the senses, recalled him to his
model. Free, independent, he wandered in his walks ; there
was he seen with quickened or with slow steps, or standing
wrapped in thought, sometimes with his eyes fixed on the
heavens in the moment of inspiration, as if satisfied with the
thought that so profoundly occupied his soul ; sometimes,
collected within himself, he sought what would not always
be found; or at the moments of producing, he wrote, he
effaced, and rewrote, to efface once more; thus he harmo-
nized, in silence, all the parts of his composition, which he
frequently repeated to himself, till, satisfied with his correc-
tions, he seemed to repay himself for the pains of his beauti-
ful prose, by the pleasure he found in declaiming it aloud.
Thus he engraved it in his memory, and would recite it to
his friends, or induce some to read it to him. At those
moments he was himself a severe judge, and would again
recompose it, desirous of attaining to that perfection which
is denied to the impatient writer."

A curious circumstance, connected with local associations,
occurred to that extraordinary oriental student Fourmont.
Originally he belonged to a religious community, and never
failed in performing his ofiices ; but he was expelled by the
superior for an irregularity of conduct, not likely to have
become contagious through the brotherhood — he frequently
prolonged his studies far into the night, and it was possible
that the house might be burnt by such superfluity of learning.

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Fourmont retreated to the college of Montaign, where he
occupied the very chambers which had formerly been those
of Erasmus ; a circumstance which contributed to excite his
emulation, and to hasten his studies. He who smiles at the
force of such emotions, only proves that he has not ex-
perienced what are real and substantial as the scene itself —
for those who are concerned in them. Pope, who had far
more enthusiasm in his poetical disposition than is generally
understood, was extremely susceptible of the literary associa-
tions with localities : one of the volumes of his Homer, was
begun and finished in an old tower over the chapel of Stanton
Harcourt ; and he has perpetuated the event, if not conse-
crated the place, by scratching with a diamond on a pane of
stained glass this inscription : —

" In Ike year 1718

Alexander Pope

Finished here

TheJifOi volume of Homer,'* *

It was the same feeling which induced him one day, when
taking his usual walk with Harte in the Haymarket, to desire
Harte to enter a little shop, where going up three pair of
stairs into a small room, Pope said, " In this garret Addison
wrote his Campaign ! " Nothing less than a strong feeling
impelled the poet to ascend this garret — ^it was a consecrated
spot to his eye ; and certainly a curious instance of the power
of genius contrasted with its miserable locality! Addison,
whose mind had fought through " a campaign ! " in a gan*et,
could he have called about him " the pleasures of imagina-
tion," had probably planned a house of literary repose,
where all parts would have been in harmony with his

Such residences of men of genius have been enjoyed by
some; and the vivid descriptions which they have left us

* On a late inquiry it appears that this consecrated pane has been re-
moved — ^and the relic is said to be preserved at Nuneham.

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convey something of the delightfubiess which charmed their
studious repose.

The Italian Paul Jovius has composed more than three
hundred concise eulogies of statesmen, warriors, and literary
men, of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries ;
but the occasion which induced him to compose them is per-
haps more interesting than the compositions.

Jovius had a villa, situated on a peninsula, bordered by
the lake of Como. It was built on the ruins of the villa of
Pliny, and in his time the foundations were still visible.
When the surrounding lake was calm, the sculptured marbles,
the trunks of columns, and the fragments of those pyramids
which had once adorned the residence of the friend of Trajan,
were still viewed in its lucid bosom. Jovius was the enthu-
siast of literature, and the leisure which it loves. He was
an historian, with the imagination of a poet, and though a
Christian prelate, almost a worshipper of the sweet fictions of
pagan mythology; and when his pen was kept pure from
satire or adulation, to which it was too much accustomed, it
becomes a pencil. He paints with rapture his gardens bathed
by the waters of the lake ; the shade and freshness of his
woods ; his green slopes ; his sparkling fountains, the deep
silence and calm of his solitude ! A statue was raised in his
gardens to Nature ! In his hall stood a fine statue of Apollo,
and the Muses around, with their attributes. His library
was guarded by a Mercury, and there was an apartment
adorned with Doric columns, and with pictures of the most
pleasing subjects dedicated to the Graces! Such was the
interior! Without, the transparent lake here spread its
broad mirror, and there was seen luminously winding by
banks covered with olives and laurels ; in the distance, towns,
promontories, hills rising in an amphitheatre, blushing with
vines, and the first elevation of the Alps, covered with
woods and pasture, and sprinkled with herds and flocks.

It was in a central spot of this enchanting habitation that
a cabinet or gallery was erected, where Jovius had collected

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with prodigal cost the portraits of celebrated men ; and it
was to explain and to describe the characteristics of these
illustrious names that he had composed his eulogies. This
collection became so remarkable, that the great men his
contemporaries presented our literary collector with their
own portraits, among whom the renowned Fernandez
Cortes sent Jovius his before he died, and probably others
who were less entitled to enlarge the collection ; but it is
equally probable that our caustic Jovius would throw them
aside. Our historian had often to describe men more famous
than virtuous ; sovereigns, politicians, poets, and philosophers,
men of all ranks, countries, and ages, formed a crowded
scene of men of genius or of celebrity; sometimes a few
lines compress their character, and sometimes a few pages
excite his fondness. If he sometimes adulates the living, we
may pardon the illusions of a contemporary ; but he has the
honour of satirizing some by the honest freedom of a pen
which occasionally broke out into premature truths.

Such was the inspiration of literature and leisure which
had embellished the abode of Jovius, and had raised in the
midst of the lake of Como a cabinet of portraits ; a noble
tribute to those who are " the salt of the earth."

We possess prints of Rubens's house at Antwerp. That
princely artist perhaps first contrived for his studio the cir-
cular apartment with a dome, like the rotunda of the Pan-
theon, where the light descending from an aperture or window
at the top, sent down a single equal light, — that perfection of
light which distributes its magical effects on the objects
beneath. Bellori describes it una stanza rotonda con un solo
occhio in cima ; the solo occhio is what the French term
ceil de boeuf;. we ourselves want this single eye in our tech-
nical language of art. This was his precious museum, where
he had collected a vast number of books, which were inter-
mixed with his marbles, statues, cameos, intaglios, and all
that variety of the riches of art which he had drawn from
Rome : but the walls did not yield in value ; for they were

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covered by pictures of his own composition, or copies by his
own hand, made at Venice and Madrid, of Titian and Paul
Veronese. No foreigners, men of letters, or lovers of the
arts, or even princes, would pass through Antwerp without
visiting the house of Rubens, to witness the animated resi-
dence of genius, and the gi*eat man who had conceived the
idea. Yet, great as was his mind, and splendid as were the
habits of his life, he could not resist the entreaties of the
hundred thousand florins of our Duke of Buckingham, to
dispose of this studio. The great artist could not, however,
abandon for ever the delightful contemplations he was depriv-
ing himself of; and as substitutes for the miracles of art he
had lost, he solicited and obtained leave to replace them by
casts which were scrupulously deposited in the places where
the originals had stood.

Of this feeling of *the local residences of genius, the
Italians appear to have been, not perhaps more susceptible
than other people, but more energetic in their enthusiasm.
Florence exhibits many monuments of this sort. In the
neighbourhood of Santa Maria Novella^ Zimmerman has
noticed a house of the celebrated Viviani, which is a singular
monument of gratitude to his illustrious master Galileo.
The front is adorned with the bust of this father of science,
and between the windows are engraven accounts of the dis-
coveries of Galileo ; it is the most beautiful biography of
genius ! Yet another still more eloquently excites our emo-
tions — the house of Michael Angelo : his pupils, in perpet-
ual testimony of their admiration and gratitude, have orna-
mented it with all the leading features of his life ; the very
soul of this vast genius put in action : this is more than bio-
graphy ! — it is living as with a contemporary !

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The political economist replies that it is !

One of our old dramatic writers, who witnessed the sin-
gular extravagance of dress among the modellers of fashion,
our nobility, condemns their " superfluous bravery," echoing
the popular cry,

" There are a sort of men, whose coming heads
Are mints of all new fashions, that have done
More hurt to the kingdom, by superfluous bravery,
Which the foolish gentry imitate, than a war
Or a long famine. AU (he treasure by
This foul excess is got into the merchants^
£mhroid€rers\ silk-men' s^ Jewellers' y tailors' hands,
And the third part of the land too! the nobility
Engrossing titles orUyy

Our poet might have been startled at the reply of our
political economist. If the nobility, in follies such as these,
only preserved their " titles," while their " lands " were dis-
persed among the industrious classes, the people were not
suflPerers. The silly victims ruining themselves by their
excessive luxury, or their costly dress, as it appears some
did, was an evil which, left to its own course, must check
itself; if the rich did not spend, the poor would starve.
Luxury is the cure of that unavoidable evil in society — ^
great inequality of fortune ! Political economists therefore
tell us, that any regulations would be ridiculous which, as

Online LibraryIsaac DisraeliCuriosities of literature → online text (page 27 of 43)