Peter King King.

The life of John Locke, with extracts from his correspondence, journals, and common-place books online

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judged to be prayer, but observed no action that looked like consecration,
(I know not what the words were) ; when he had done, he placed himself



at the north end of the table, and the other minister that preached, at the
south end, so that their backs were toward one another ; then there marched
up to him on the north side a communicant, who, when he came to the mi-
nister, made a low bow, and knelt down, and then the minister put water
into his mouth; which done, he rose, made his obeisance, and went
to the other end, where he did the same, and had the wine poured into
his mouth, without taking the cup in his hand, and then came back to his
place by the south side of the church. Thus did four, one after another,
which were aU that received that day, and amongst them was a boy, about
thirteen or fourteen years old. They have at this church a sacrament every
Sunday morning : in the afternoon, at the Calvinists', I saw a christening.
After sermon there came three men and three women (one whereof was the
midwife, with a chUd in her arms, the rest were godfathers and godmothers,
of which they allow a greater number than we doj and so wisely get
more spoons) — to the table which is just by the pulpit. They taking
their places, the minister in the pulpit read a little of the Institution, then
read a short prayer ; then another minister, that was below, took the child,
and with his hand poured water three times on its forehead, which done,
he in the pulpit read another short prayer, and so concluded. AU this was
not much longer than the Lord's Prayer, Creed, and Ten Commandments ;
for aU their service is very short, beside their preaching and singing, and
there they allow good measure."


" The old opinion, that every man had his particular genius that ruled
and directed his course of life, hath made me sometimes laugh to think
what a pleasant thing it would be if we could see little sprights bestride
men, (as plainly as I see here women bestride horses,) ride them about, and
spvir them on in that way which they ignorantly think they choose them-
selves. And would you not smile to observe that they make use of us as
we do of our palfreys, to trot up and down for their pleasure and not ovir
own ? To what purpose this from Cleves ? I will tell you : if there be any
such thing, (as I cannot vouch the contrary,) certainly mine is an academic
goblin. When I left Oxford, I thought for awhile to take leave of all
University affairs, and should have least expected to have found any thing
of that nature here at Cleves of any part of the world. But do what I
can, I am still kept in that tract. I no sooner was got here, but I was


welcomed with a divinity disputation, which I gave you an account of in
my last ; I was no sooner rid of that, but I found myself up to the ears in
poetry, and overwhelmed in Helicon. I had almost or rather have been
soused in the Reyne, as frozen as it was, for it could not have been more
cold and intolerable than the poetry I met with. The remembrance of it
puts me in a chill sweat, and were it not that I am obhged to recount all
particulars, being under the laws of an historian, I should find it very
difficult to recaU. to mind this part of my story : but having armed myself
with a good piece of bag pudding, which bears a mighty antipathy to
poetry, and having added thereto half a dozen glasses of daring wine, I
thus proceed : — My invisible master, therefore, having mounted me, rode me
out to a place, where I must needs meet a learned bard in a threadbare
coat, and a hat, that though in its younger days it had been black, yet it
was grown grey with the labour of its master's brains, and his hard study
or time had changed the colour of that as well as his master's hair. His
breeches had the marks of antiquity upon them, were borne, I believe, in the
heroic times, and retained still the gallantry of that age, and had an an-
tipathy to base pelf. Stockings I know not whether he had any, but I am
sure his t'w^o shoes had but one heel, which made his own foot go as uneven
as those of his verses. He was so poor, that he had not so much as a rich
face, nor the promise of a carbuncle in it, so that I must needs say that his
outside was poet enough. After a little discourse, wherein he sprinkled
some bays on our British Druid Owen, out he drew from under his coat
a foho of verses ; and that you may be sure they were excellent, I must teU
you that they were acrostics upon the name and titles of the Elector of
Brandenburg. I could not escape reading of them : when I had done, I
endeavoured to play the poet a little in commending them, but in that he
outdid me clearly, praised faster than I could, preferred them to Lucan
and Virgil, showed me where his muse flew high, squeezed out aU the
verjuice of all his conceits, and there was not a secret conundrum which he
laid not open to me; and in that Httle talk I had with him after wards,, he
quoted his own verses a dozen times, and gloried in his works. The Poem
was designed as a present to the Elector, but I being Owen's countryman
had the honour to see them before the Elector, which he made me under-
stand was a singular courtesy, though I believe one hundred others had
been equally favoured. I told him the Elector must needs give him a
considerable reward ; he seemed angry at the mention of it, and told me
he had only a design to show his affection and parts, and spoke as if he

D 2


thought himself fitter to give than to receive any thing from the Elector,
and that he was the greater person of the two ; and indeed, what need had
he, of any gift, who had all Tagus and Pactolus in his possession? could
make himself a Tempe when he pleased, and create as many Ely slums as he
had a mind to. I applauded his generosity and great mind, thanked him
for the favour he had done me, and at last got out of his hands. But my
University goblin left me not so ; for the next day, when I thought I had
been rode out only to airing, I was had to a foddering of chopped bay or
logic forsooth ! Poor materia prima was canvassed cruelly, stripped of all the
gay dress of her forms, and shown naked to us, though, I must confess, I
had not eyes good enough to see her ; however, the dispute was good sport,
and would have made a horse laugh, and truly I was like to have broke
my bridle. The young monks (which one would not guess by their looks)
are subtile people, and dispute as eagerly for materia prima, as if they were
to make their dinner on it, and, perhaps, sometimes it is all their meal, for
which other's charity is more to be blamed than their stomachs^ The Pro-
fessor of philosophy and moderator of the disputation was more acute at
it than Father Hudibras ; he was top full of distinctions, which he pro-
duced with so much gravity, and applied with so good a grace, *that igno-
rant I, began to admire logic again, and could not have thought that " sim-
pHciter et secundum quid materialiter et formaJiter" had been such gallant
things, which, with the right stroking of his whiskers, the settling of his
hood, and his stately walk, made him seem to himself and me something
more than Aristotle and Democritus. But he was so hotly charged by one
of the seniors of the fraternity that I was afraid sometimes what it would
produce, and feared there would be no other way to decide the controversy
between them but by cuffs ; but a subtile distinction divided the matter
between them, and so they parted good friends. The truth is, here hog-
shearing is much in its glory, and our disputing in Oxford comes as far
short of it as the rhetoric of Carfax does that of Bilingsgate. But it behoves
the monks to cherish this art of wrangling in -its declining age, which they
first nursed, and sent abroad into the world, to give it a troublesome, idle
employment. I being a brute, that was rode there for another's pleasure,
profited little by all their reasonings, and was glad when they had done,
that I might get home again to my ordinary provender, and leave them
their sublime speculations, which certainly their spare diet and private cells
inspire abundantly, which such gross feeders as I am are not capable of."


" DEAR SIR, . Dec, 11664.

" This day our public entertainment upon the Elector's account ended,
much to my satisfaction ; for I had no great pleasure in a feast where,
amidst a great deal of meat and company, I had little to eat, and less to say.
The advantage was, the lusty Germans fed so heartily themselves, that they
regarded not much my idleness ; and I might have enjoyed a perfect quiet,
and slept out the meal, had not a glass of wine now and then jogged me ;
and indeed, therein lay the care of their entertainment, and the sincerity
too, for the wine was such as might be known, and was not ashamed of
itself. But for their meats, they were all so disguised, that I should have
guessed they had rather designed a mass than a meal, and had a mind
rather to pose than feed us. But the cook made their matamorphosis like
Ovid's, where the change is usually into the worse. I had, however, courage
to venture upon things unknown ; and I could not often tell whether I ate
flesh or fish, or good red herring, so much did they dissemble themselves ;
only now and then, a dish of good honest fresh water fish came in, so far
from all manner of deceit or cheat, as they hid not so much as their tails in
a drop of butter ; nor was there any sauce near to disguise them. What
think you of a hen and cabbage ? or a piece of powdered beef covered over
with preserved quinces ? These are no miracles here. One thing there is
that I like very well, which is, that they have good salads all the year,
and use them frequently. It is true, the Elector gave his victuals, but
the ofiicers that attended us valued their services, and one of them had
ready in his pocket a list of those that expected rewards at such a rate,
that the attendance cost more than the meat was worth.

" Dec. 9.— I was invited and dined at a monastery with the Franciscan
friars, who had before brought a Latin epistle to us for relief; for they
live upon others' charity, or more truly, live idly upon others' labours. But
to my dinner, for my mouth waters to be at it, and no doubt you will
long for such another entertainment when you know this. After some-
thing instead of grace or music, choose you whether, for I could make
neither of it ; for though what wasj^ sung were Latin, yet the tune was
such, that I neither understood the Latin nor the harmony. The begni-
ning of the Lord's Prayer to the first petition, they repeated aloud, but
went on silently to " sed Hbera nos," &c. and then broke out into a loud
chorus, which continued to the end; during their silence, they stoojped
forwards, and held their heads as if they had been hstening to one an-


other's whispers. After this preludium, down we sat : the chief of the
monks (I suppose the prior) in the inside of the table, just in the middle,
and aU. his brethren oif each side of him ; I was placed just opposite to
him, as if I had designed to bid battle to them aU. But we were all
very quiet, and after some silence, in marched a solemn procession of peas
porridge, every one his dish. I could not teU by the looks what it was,
till putting my spoon in for discovery, some few peas in the bottom peeped
up. I had pity on them, and was willing enough to spare them, but was
forced by good manners, though against my nature and appetite,' to destroy
some of them, and so on I fell. AU this while not a word; I could not
tell whether to impute, the silence to the eagerness of their stomachs,
which allowed their mouths no other employment but to fiU them, or any
other reason : I was confident it was not in admiration of their late music.
At last, the oracle of the place spoke, and told them he gave them leave
to speak to entertain me. I returned my compliment, and then to discourse
we went, helter-skelter, as hard as our bad Latin, and worse pronunciation
on each side, would let us ; but no matter, we cared not for Priscian,
whose head suflFered that day not a little. However, this saved me from
the peas-pottage, and the peas-pottage from me ; for now I had something
else to do. Our next course was, every one his act of fish, and butter to
boot ; but whether it were intended for fresh or salt fish I cannot tell,
and I believe it is a question as hard as any Thomas ever disputed : our
third service was cheese and butter, and the cheese had this peculiar in
it, which I never saw any where else, that it had carraway seeds in it.
The prior had upon the table by him a little bell, which he rang when
he wanted any thing,, and those that waited never brought him any thing
or took away, but they bowed with much reverence, and kissed the table;
The prior was a good plump fellow,, that had more belly than brains ; and
methought was very fit to be reverenced, and not much unlike some head
of a college. I liked him well for an entertainment ; for if we had had a
good dinner, he would not have disturbed me much with his discourse.
The first that kissed the table did it so leisurely, that I thought he had
held his head there that the prior, during oiu- silence, might have wrote
something on his bald crown, and made it sink that way into his under-
standing. Their beer was pretty goodj but their countenances bespoke
better : their bread brown, and their table-hnen neat enough. After din-
ner, we had the second part of the same tune, and after that I departed.


The truth is, they were very civil and courteous, arid seemed good-natured :
it was their time of fast in order to Christmas : if I have another feast
there, you shall be my guest. You will perhaps have reason to think
that whatever becomes of the rest, I shall bring home my beUy weU-im-
proved, since all I teU you is of eating and drinking ; but you must
know that knight-errants do not choose their adventures, and those who
sometimes live pleasantly in brave castles, amidst feasting and ladies, are
at other times in battles and wildernesses, and you must take them as
they come.

" Dec. 10. — I went to the Lutheran church, and found them all
merrily singing with their hats on ; so that by the posture they were in, and
the fashion of the building, not altogether unlike a theatre, I was ready to
fear that I had mistook the place. I thought they had met only to exercise
their voices ; for after a long stay they still continued on their melody, and
I verily believe they sung the 119th Psalm, nothing else could be so long :
that that made it a little tolerable was, that they sung better than we do
in our churches, and are assisted by an organ. The music being done, up
went the preacher, and prayed ; and then they sung again ; and then, after a
little prayer at which they all stood up, (and, as I understand since, was the
Lord's Prayer) read some of the Bible ; and then, laying by his book,
preached to them memoriter. His sermon, I think, was in blank verse ; for
by the modulation of his voice, which was not very pleasant, his periods seemed
to be all nearly the same length ; bjit if his matter were no better than his
delivery, those that slept had no great loss, and might have snored as har-
moniously. After sermon a prayer, and the organ and voice again ; and to
conclude aU,, up stood another minister at a little desk, above the commu-
nion table, (for in the Lutheran and Calvinist churches here there are no
chancels), gave the benediction, which I was told was the " Ite in Nomine
Domini ;" crossed himself, and so dismissed them. In the church I ob-
served two pictures, one a crucifix, the other I could not well discern ; but
in the Calvinist church no picture at aU. Here are, besides Catholics, Cal-
vinists, and Lutherans (which three are allowed) Jews, Anabaptists, and
Quakers. The Quakers, who are about thirty families, and some of
them not of the meanest ; and they increase, for as much as I can learn, they
a^ee with ours in other things as well as name, and take no notice of the
Elector's prohibiting their meeting.

" Dec. 11.— I had formerly seen the size and arms of the Duke's guards.


but to-day I had a sample of their stomachs, (I mean to eat, not to fight ;)
for if they be able to do as much that way too, no question but under their
guard the Duke is as much in safety as I believe his victuals are in danger.
But to make you the better understand my story, and the decorum which
made me take notice of it, I mitst first describe the place to you. The
place where the Elector commonly eats is a large room, into which you enter
at the lower end by an ascent of some few steps ; just without this is a lobby, :
as this evening I was passing through it into the court, I saw a company
of soldiers very close together, and a steam rising from the midst of them.
I, as strangers used to be, being a little curious, drew near to these men of
mettle, where I found three or four earthen fortifications, wherein were
intrenched peas-porridge, and stewed turnips or apples, most valiantly
stormed by those men of war: they stood just opposite to the Duke's
table, and within view of it ; and had the Duke been there at supper, as it *
was very near his supper time, I should have thought they had been set
there to provoke his appetite by example, and serve as the cocks have done
in some countries before battle, to fight the soldiers into courage, and cer-
tainly these soldiers might eat others into stomachs. Here you might have
seen the court and camp drawn near together, there a supper preparing with
great ceremony, and just by it a hearty meal made without stool, trencher,
table-cloth, or napkins, and for ought I could see, without beer, bread, or
salt ; but I stayed not long, for methought 'twas a dangerous place, and so I left
them in the engagement. I doubt by that time you come to the end of
this course of entertainment, you will be as weary of reading as I am of
writing, and therefore I shall refer you for the rest of my adventures
(wherein you are not to expect any great matter) to the next chapter of my
history. The news here is, that the Dutch have taken Lochem from the
Bishop of Munster, and he, in thanks, has taken and killed five or six hun-
dred of their men. The French, they say, run away, some home, and some
to the Bishop, who has disposed his men into garrisons, which has given the
Dutch an opportunity to besiege another of his towns, but not very consi-
derable : all things here seem to threaten a great deal of stir next summer,
but as yet the Elector declares for neither side. I sent my uncle a letter
of attorney before I left England, to authorise him to dispose of my affairs
there, and order my estate as he should think most convenient : I hope he
received it. I think it best my tenants should not know that I am out of
England, for perhaps that may make them the more slack to pay their


rents. If he tells you any thing that concerns me, pray send word to your
faithful friend,

J. L."

" Throw by this in some corner of your study till I come, and then we wiU
laugh together, for it may serve to recall other things to my memory, for
'tis like I may have no other journal."

Locke returned to England in February 1665, and was at that
time undecided whether or not to continue in the public employ-
ment, and accept an offer to go to Spain. In a letter to the same
friend, Mr. Strachy, after mentioning the latest news : —

" That the French fiU their towns towards England and HoUand with
soldiers ; but whatever we apprehend, I scarce believe with a design of land-
ing in England ;" he says, " what private observations I have made wiU be
fitter for our table at Sutton than a letter, and if I have the opportunity to
see you shortly, we may possibly laugh together at some German stories, but
of my coming into the country I write doubtfully to you, for I am now
offered a fair opportunity of going into Spain with the Ambassador ; if I
embrace it, I shall conclude this my wandering year ; if not, you wiU ere
long see me in Somersetshire. If I go I shall not have above ten days' stay
in England : I am puUed both ways by divers considerations, and do yet
waver. I intend to-morrow for Oxford, and shall there take my resolution.
This town affords little news, and though the return of the Court gives
confidence to the timorous that kept from it for fear of the infection, yet
I find the streets very thin, and methinks the town droops.

Yours most faithfully,

" London, Feb. 22, 65." JOHN LoCKE."

The resolution was taken soon after his arrival at Oxford not to
accept the offer of going to Spain.


" I wrote to you from London as soon as I came thither, to let you
know you had a servant returned to England, but very likely to leave it
again before he saw you. But those fair offers I had to go to Spain have
not prevailed with me : whether fate or fondness kept me at home I know
not ; whether I have let slip the minute that they say every one has once



in his life to make himself, I camiot tell : this I am sure, I never trouble
myself for the loss of that which I never had ; and have the satisfaction
that I hope shortly to see you at Sutton Court, a greater rarity than my
travels have afforded me ; for, believe it, one may go a long way before one
meet a friend. Pray write by the post, and let me know how you do, and
what you can tell of the concernment of.

Your most affectionate friend,

" Oxford, Feb. 28, 65." J. LoCKE."

The following letter from Locke to his friend, Mr. Strachy, de-
scribing the disaster at Chatham, when the Dutch fleet sailed into
the Medway, may not be uninteresting; it was in all probability
written during his residence with Lord Shaftesbury in London.

« SIR, J^ie 15, 67.

" I believe report hath increased the ill news we have here, therefore,
to abate what possibly fear may have rumoured, I send you what is vouched
here for nearest the truth. The Dutch have burned seven of our ships in
Chatham, viz. the Royal James, Royal Oak, London, Unity, St. Matthias,
Charles V., and the Royal Charles, which some say they have towed off,
others that they have burned. One man of war of theirs was blown up,
and three others they say are stuck in the sands ; the rest of their fleet is
fallen down out of the Medway into the Thames. It was neither excess of
courage on their part, nor want of courage in us, that brought this loss upon
us ; for when the English had powdter and shot they fought like themselves,
and made the Dutch feel them; but whether it were fortune, or fate, or any
thing else, let time and tongues teU you, for I profess I would not believe
what every mouth speaks. It is said this morning the French fleet are seen
off the Isle of Wight. I have neither the gift nor heart to prophesy, and
since I remember you bought a new cloak in the hot weather, I know you
are apt enough to provide against a storm. Should I tell you that I believe
but half what men of credit and eye witnesses report, you would think the
world very wicked and foolish, or me very credulous. Things and persons
are the same here, and go on at the same rate they did before, and I, among
the rest, design to continue.

Your faithful friend and servant,

J. L."

" I think the hull of three or four of our great ships are saved, being


sunk to prevent their burning totally. We are all quiet here, but raising
of forces apace."

This and other letters to Mr. Strachy, were probably returned
again to Locke, after the death of the friend to whom they had
been written.

He had again an offer of an employment abroad in the following
August, and continued, as late as May 1666, to receive letters from
an agent in Germany, who appears to have been employed to send
intelligence for the information of some member of the Government
here. There exist several letters, dated Cleve, from this person to
Locke, then at Oxford ; but as they relate to events no longer of any
importance, it is unnecessary to give their contents, however amusing
the German description of the Coyness and Coquetry of a German
Elector and his Minister, on those truly national and interesting
questions, soldier-selling and subsidies.

In 1666 an offer of a different nature was made through a friend
in Dublin, to procure a considerable preferment in the Church from
the Duke of Ormond, then Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, if Locke
should be inclined to engage in the clerical profession, and a draft

Online LibraryPeter King KingThe life of John Locke, with extracts from his correspondence, journals, and common-place books → online text (page 3 of 37)