Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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been commemorated by one of those friends in im-
perishable verse. Thougli Atterbury's classical attain-
ments were not great, liis taste in English literature
was excellent ; and his admiration of genius was so
strong that it overpowered even liis political and re-
ligious antipathies. His fondness for Milton, the
mortal enemy of the Stuarts and of the church, was
such as to many Tories seemed a crime. On the sad
night on which Addison was laid in the chapel of
Henry VII., the Westminster boys remarked that At-
terbury read the funeral service with a peculiar tender-
ness and solemnity. The favourite companions, how-
ever, of the great Tory prelate were, as might liave
been expected, men whose politics had at least a tinge
of Toi-yism. He lived on friendly tonus with Swifl,
Arbuthnot, and Gay. With Prior he had a close in*



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FR.VNCIS AriERBURY. 125

timacy, which some misundei-standing about public
afifairs at last dissolved. Pope found in Atterbury, not
only a warm admirer, but a most faithful, fearless, and
judicious adviser. The poet was a frequent guest at
the episcopal palace among tlie elms of Bromley, and
entertained not the slightest suspicion that his host,
now declining in years, confined to an easy chair by
li^out, and apparently devoted to Iit^*ature, was deeply
concerned in criminal and perilous designs against the
government.

The spirit of the Jacobites had been cowed by the
events of 1715. It revived in 1721. The failure of the •
South Sea project, the panic in the money market, the
down&li of great commercial houses, the distress from
which no part of th« kingdom was exempt, had pro-
duced general discontent. It seemed not improbable
that at such a moment an insurrection might be suc-
cessful. An insurrection was planned. The streets
of London were to'be barricaded ; the Tower and the
Bank were to be surprised ; Kiiig Greorge, his family,
and his chief captains and councillors, were to be ar-
rested ; and King James was to te prochiimed. The
design became known to the Duke of Orleans, regent
of France, who was on terms of friendship with the
House of Hanover. He i>ut the Engli^^ government
on its guard. Some of the chief malcontents were
committed to prison ; and among them was Atterbury.
No Ushop of the Church of England had been taken
into custody since that memorable day when the ap-
plauses and prayers of all London had followed the
seven bishops to the gate of the Tower. The Opposi-
tion entertained some hope that it might be possible to
eixcite among the people an enthusiasm resembling that
of their fathers, who rushed into the waters of the



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12G FRANCIS ATTKKBURY.

Thames to implore the blessing of Sancroft. Picturea
of the heroic confessor in his cell were exhibited at the
shop windows. Verses in his praise were sung about
the streets. The restraints by which he was prevented
from communicating with his accomplices were repre-
sented as cruelties worthy of the dungeons of the In-
quisition. Strong appeals were made to the priest-
hood. Would they tamely permit so gross an insult to
be oflfered to their cloth ? Would they suffer the ablest,
the most eloquent member of their profession, the man
who had so often stood up for their rights against the
civil power, to be treated like the vilest of mankind ?
There was consideraUe excitement ; but it was allayed
by a temperate and artful letter to the clergy, the
work, in all probability, of Bishop Gibson, who stood
high in the favour of Walpole, and shortly afW be-
came minister for ecclesiastical afiairs.

Atterbury remained in close confinement during
some months. He had carried on his correspondence
with tlie exiled family so cautiously that the circum-
stantial proofs of his guilt, though sufficient to pro-
duce entire moral conviction, were not sufficient to
justify legal conviction. He could be reached only by
a bill of pains and penalties. Such a bill the Whig
|)arty, then decidedly predominant in both houses, was
quite prepared to support. Many hot-headed members
of tliat party were eager to follow the precedent which
had been set in the case of Sir J^ohn Fenwick, and to
f>a8s an act for cutting off the bishop's head. Cado-
gan, wlio commanded the army, a brave soldier, but a
headstrong politician, is said to have exclaimed with
great vehemence : *' Fling him to tlie lions in the
Tower." But the wiser and more humane Walpole
was always unwilling to shed blood ; and his influence



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FRANCIS ATTEKBURY. 127

prevailed. When parliament met, tlie evidence against
the bishop was laid before committees of both houses.
Those committees reported that his guilt was proved.
In the Commons a resolution, pronouncing him a trai-
tor, was carried by nearly two to one. A bill was then
introduced which provided that he should be deprived
of his spiritual dignities, that he should be banished
for life, and that no British subject should hold any
intercourse with him except by the royal permission.

This bill passed the Commons with little difficulty.
For the bishop, though invited to defend himself, chose
to reserve his defence for the assembly of whiob he
was a member. In the Lords the contest was sharp.
The young Duke of Wharton, distinguished by his
parts, his dissoluteness, and his versatility, spoke for
Atterbury with great effect ; and Atterbury's own
voice was heard for the last time by that unfriendly
audience which had so often listened to him witli
mingled aversion and delight. He produced few wit-
nesses ; nor did tlioee witnesses say much that could
be of service to him. Among them was Pope. He
was called to prove that, while he was an inmate of the
palace at Bromley, the bishop's time was completely
occupied by literary and domestic matters, and that no
leisure was left for plotting. But Pope, who was quite
unaccustomed to speak in public, lost his head, and, as
he afterwards owned, though he had only ten words
to say, made two or three blunders.

The bill finally passed the Lords by eighty-three
rotes to forty-three. The bishops, with a single ex
ception, were in the majority. Their conduct drew on
them a sharp taunt from Lord Bathurst, a warm friend
of Atterbuiy and a zealous Tory. " The wild In-
dians," he said, "give no quarter, because they be-



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128 FRANCIS ATTERBUBT.

Heve that they shall inherit the skill and prowess of
every adversary whom they destroy. Perhaps the ani-
mosity of the right reverend prelates to their bmther
may be explained in the same way."

Atterbury took leave of those whom he loved witli
a dignity and tenderness worthy of a better man.
Three fine lines of his favourite poet were often in his
mouth : —

" Some natural tears he dropped, but wiped them soon :
The world was all before him, where to chase
His place of rest, and Providence his guide/*

At parting he presented Pope with a Bible, and said^
with a disingennousness of which no man who had
studied the Bible to much purpose would have been
guilty : " If ever you leam that I have any dealings
with the Pretender, I give you leave to say that my
punishment is just." Pope at this time reidly believed
the bishop to be an injured man. Arbuthnot seems to
have been of the same opinion. Swift, a few months
later, ridiculed with great bitterness, in the " Voyage
to Laputa," the evidence which had satisfied the two
Houses of Parliament. Soon, however, the most pai^
tial finends of the banished prelate ceased to assert his
innocence, and contented themselves with lamenting
and excusing what they could not defend. After a
short stay at Brussels, he had taken up his abode at
Paris, and had become the leading man among the
Jacobite refiigees who were assembled there. He was
invited to Rome by the Pretender, who then held his
mock court under the immediate protection of tlie
Pope. But Atterbury felt that a bishop of the Church
f>f England would be strangely out of place at the
Vatican, and declined the invitation. During some
months, however, he might flatter himself that he stoor]



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FRANCIS ATTERBURY. 129

high in the good graces of James. The correspondence
between the maater and the servant was constant.
Atterbury's merits were warmly acknowledged ; his
advice was respectfully received ; and he was, as Boling-
broke had been before him, the prime minister of a
king without a kingdom. But the new favourite found,
as Bohngbroke had found before him, that it was quito
as hard to keep the shadow of power under a vagrant
and mendicant prince as to keep the reality of power
at Westminster. Though James had neither territories
nor revenues, neither army nor navy, thei'e was more
£Eu:tion and more intrigue among his courtiers than
among tliose of Ids successful rival- Atterbury soon
perceived that his counsels were disregarded, if not dis-
trusted. His proud spirit was deeply wounded. He
quitted Paris, fixed his residence at Montpellier, gave
up politics, and devoted himself entirely to lettei's. In
the sixth year of his exile he ha^ so severe an illness
diat his daughter, herself in very delicate health, de-
termmed to run all risks that she might see him once
more. Having obtained a license from the English
Government, she went by sea to Bordeaux, but landed
there in such a state that she could travel only by boat
or in a Ktter. Her &ther, in spite of his infirmities,
set out firom Montpellier to meet her ; and she, with
the impatience which is often tlie sign of approaching
death, hastened towards hira. Those who were about
her in vain implored her to travel slowly. She said
tliat every hour was precious, that she only wished to
see her papa and to die. She met him at Toulouse,
embraced him, received from his hand the sacred bread
and wine, and thanked God that they had passed one
day in each other's society be£ore they parted for even
She died that night.



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130 FKANCIS ATTERBUKY.

It was some time before even the strong mind of
Atterbury recovered from this cruel blow. As soon as
he was himself again he became eager for action and
conflict; for grief, wliich disposes gentle natures to
retirement, to inaction, and to meditation, only makes
restless spirits more restless. The Pretender, dull and
bigoted as he was, had found out that he had not acted
wisely in parting with one who, though a heretic, was,
in abilities and accomplishments, the foremost man of
the Jacobite party. The bishop was courted back,
and was without much difficulty induced to return to
Paris and to become once more the phantom minister
of a phantom monarchy. But his long and troubled
life was drawing to a close. To the last, however, his
intellect retained all its keenness and vigour. He
learned, in the ninth year of his banishment, that he
had been accused by Oldmixon, as dishonest and ma-
lignant a scribbler as any that has been saved fixmi
oblivion by the Dunciad, of having, in concert with
other Christ-Church men, garbled Clarendon's History
of the Rebellion. The charge, as respected Atterbury,
had not the slightest foundation : for he was not one
of the editors of the History, and never saw it till it
was printed. He published a short vindication of him-
self, which is a model in its kind, luminous, temperate,
and dignified. A copy of this little work he sent to
the Pretender, with a letter singularly eloquent and
graceful. It was impossible, tlie old man said, that he
should write anything on such a subject without being
i*eminded of the resemblance between his own fate and
that of Clarendon. They were the only two English
subjects that had ever been banished from their country
and debarred from all communication with tlidr friends
by act of parliament. But here the resemblance ended.



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FRANCIS ATTERBURY. 131

One of the exiles had been so happy as to bear a
chief part in the restoration of the Royal house. All
that the other could now do was to die asserting the
rights of that house to the last. A few weeks after
this letter was written Atterbury died. He had just
completed his seventieth year.

His body was brought to England, and laid, witli
gi'eat privacy, under the nave of Westminster Abbey.
Only three mourners followed the coffin. No inscrip-
tion marks the grave. That the epitaph with which
Pope honoured the memory of his friend does not ap-
pear on the walls of the great national cemetery is no
subject of regret : for nothing worse was ever written
by Colley Gibber.

Those who wish for more complete information about
Atterbury may easily collect it from his sermons and
his controversial writings, from the report of the par-
liamentary proceedings against him, which will be
found in the State Trials, from the five volumes of his
correspondence, edited by Mr. Nichols, and from the
fii-st volume of the Stuart papers, edited by Mr. Glover.
A very indulgent but a very interesting account of the
bishop's political career will be found in Lord Mahon'i
valuable History of EInglancL



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JOHN BUNYAN.

(Eneyclcpcddia BriUmnica, May 18M.)

John Bunyan, the most popular religious writer in
the Etiglish language, was bom at Elstow, about a
mile fi'om Bedford, in the year 1628. He may be said
to have been born a tinker. The tinkers then formed
an hereditary caste, which was held in no high estima-
tion. They were generally vagrants and pilferers, and
were often confounded with the gipsies, whom in truth
they nearly resembled. Bunyan's father was more
respectable than most of the tribe. He had a fixed
residence, and was able to send his son to a village
school where reading and writing were taught.

The years of John's boyhood were those during
which the puritan spirit was in the highest vigour all
over England ; and nowhere had that spirit more in-
fluence than in Bedfordshire. It is not wonderful,
therefore, that a lad to whom nature had given a pow-
erful imagination, and sensibility which amounted to a
disease, should have been early haunted by religious
terrors. Before he was ten, his sports were interrupted
by fits of remorse and despair ; and his sleep was dis-
turbed by dreams of fiends trying to fly away with him.
As lie grew older, his mental conflicts became still
more violent. The strong language in which he de-
scribed them has strangely misled all his biographers



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JOHN BUNYAN. 1S3

except Mr. Southey. It has long been on ordinaiy
practice with pions writers to cite Bunyan as an in-
stance of the supernatural power of divine grace to
rescue the human soul from the lowest depths of wick-
edness. He is called in one book the most notorious
of profligates ; in another, the brand plucked from the
burning. He is designated in Mr. Ivimey's History
of the Baptists as the depraved Btmyan, the wicked
tinker of Elstow. Mr. Ryland, a man once of great
note among the Dissenters, breaks out into the follow-
ing rhapsody : — '^ No man of common sense and com-
mon integrity can deny that Bunyan was a practical
atheist, a worthless contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to
God and goodness, a common profligate, a soul-despis-
ing, a soul-murdering, a soul-damning, thoughtless
wretch as could exist on the ftice of the earth. Now
be astonished, O heavens, to eternity ! and wonder, O
earth and hell ! while time endures. Behold this very
man become a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom,
goodness, holiness, truth, and love*" But whoever
takes the trouble to examine the evidence will find that
the good men who wrote this had been deceived by a
phraseology which, as they had been hearing it and
using it all their lives, they ought to have understood
better. There cannot be a greater mistake than to in-
fer, from the strong expressions in which a devout, man
bemoans his exceeding sinfulness, that he has led a
worse life than his neighbours. Many excellent per-
sons, whose moral character from boyhood to old age
has been free from any stain discernible to their fellow
creatures, have, in their autobiographies and diaries,
applied to themselves, and doubtless with sincerity,
epithets as severe as could be applied to Titus Oates or
Mrs. Brown rigg. It is quite cei'tain that Bunyan was,



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134 JOHN BUN VAN.

at eighteen, wliat, in any but the most austerely puri-
tanical circles, would have been considered as a young
man of singular gmvity and innocence. Indeed, it
may be remarked that he, like many other penitents
who, in general terms, acknowledge themselves to have
been the worst of mankind, fired up and stood vigor-
ously on his defence, whenever any particular charge
was brought against him by others. He declares, it b
time, that he had let loose the reins on the neck of his
lusts, that he had delighted in all transgressions against
the divine law, ^nd that he had been the ringleader
of the youth of Elstow in all manner of vice. But,
when those who wished him ill accused him of licen-
tious amours, he called on God and the angels to attest
his purity. No woman, he said, in heaven, earth, or
hell, could charge him with having ever made any im-
proper advances to her. Not only had he been strictly
faithful to his wife ; but he had, even before his mar-
riage, l)een perfectly spotless. It does not appear from
his own confessions, or from the railings of his enemies,
that he ever was drunk in his life. One bad habit he
contracted, that of using pro&ne language; but he
tells us tliat a single reproof cured him so effectually
that he never dfended again. The worst that can be
laid to the charge of this poor youth, whom it has been
the fashion to represent as the most desperate of repro-
bates, as a village Rochester, is tliat he had a great
liking for some diversions, quite harmless in them-
selves, but condemned by the rigid precisians among
w hom he lived, and for whose opinion he had a great
I'espect. The four chief sins of which he was guilty
were dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church,
playing at tipcat, and reading the History of Sir Bevia
of Southampton. A rector of the school of Laud



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JOHN BUNYAN. 135

would have held such a young man up to the whole
parish as a model. But Bunyan's notions of good and
evil had been learned in a very different school ; and
he was made miserable by the conflict between his
tastes and his scruples.

When he was about seventeen, the ordinary course
of his life was interrupted by an event which gave a
lasting colour to his thoughts. He enlisted in the par*
liamentary army, and served during the decisive cam-
paign of 1645. All that we know of his military
cPTeer is that, at the siege of Leicester, one of his com-
rades, who had taken his post, was killed by a shot
from the town. Bunyan ever after considered himself
as having been saved from death by the special inter-
ference of Providence. It may be observed that his
imagination was strongly impressed by the glimpse
which he had caught of the pomp of war. To the
last he loved to draw his illustrations of sacred things
from c^mps and fortresses, fix>m guns, drums, trumpets,
flags of truce, and regiments arrayed, each under its
own banner. His Greatheart, his Captain Boanerges,
and his Captain Credence, are evidently portraits, of
which the originals were among those martial saints
who fought and expounded in Fairfax's army.

In a few months Bunyan returned home and mar-
ried. His wife had some pious relations, and brought
hi::i as her only portion some pious books. And now
his mind, excitable by nature, verj' imperfectly disci-
plined by education, and exposed, without any protec-
tion, to the infectious virulence of the enthusiasm
which was then epidemic in England, began to be
fearfully disordered. In outward things he soon be-
came a strict Pharisee. He was constant in attendance
at prayers and sermons. His favourite amusements



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136 JOHN BUNYAN.

were one after another relinquislied, though not witb«
out many painful struggles. Iri tlie middle of a game
at tipcat he paused, and stood staring wildlj upwards
with his stick in his hand. He had heard a Toice ask-
ing him whether he would leave his sins and go to
heaven, or ke^ liis sins and go to hell ; and he had
seen an awAil countenance frowning on him tvom the
sky. The odious vice of bell*-ringing he renounced ;
but he still for a time ventured to go to the church
tower and look on while others pulled the ropes. But
soon the thought struck him that, if he persisted in
such wickedness, the steeple would fall on his head ;
and he fled in terror from the accursed place. To give
up dancing on the village green was still harder ; and
some months elapsed before he had the fortitude to
part with this darUng sin. When this last sacrifice
had been made, he was, even when tried by the
maxims of that austere time, faultless. All Elstow
talked of him as an eminently pious youth. But his
own mind was more unquiet tiuin ever» Having noth-
ing more to do in tlie way of visible reformation, yet
finding in religion no pleasures to supply the place of
the juvenile amusements whidh he had relinquished,
he began to apprehend that he lay under some special
maledictipn ; and he was tormented by a succession of
fantasies which seemed likely to drive him to suicide
or to Bedlam.

At one time he took it into his head that all persons
of Israelite blood would be siived* and tried to make
out that he partook of that blood ; but his hopes were
speedily destroyed by Ids &ther, who seems to have had
no ambition to be regarded as a Jew-

At another time Bunyan was disturbed by a strange
dilemma: ^^If I liave not faith, I am lost ; if I have



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JOHN BUNYAN. 137

fiuih, I can work miracles." He was tempted to cry
to the puddles between Elstow and Bedford, " BeT ye
diy," and to stake his eternal hopes on the event.

Then he took up a notion that the day of grace for
Bedfmxl and the neighbouring villages was past ; that
all who were to be saved in that part of England were
already converted ; and that he had begun to pray and
strive some months too late.

Then he was harassed by doubts whether the Turks
were not in the right, and the Christians in the wrong.
Then he was troubled by a maniacal impulse which
prompted him to ))ray to the trees, to a broomstick, to
the parish bull. As yet, however, he was only enter-
ing the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Soon the
dilrtcness grew thicker. Hideous forms floated before
him. Sounds of cursing and wailing were in his ears.
His way ran through stench and fire, close to the
mouth of the bottomless pit. He began to be haunted
by a strange curiosity about the unpardonable sin, .
and by a morbid longing to commit it. But the most
frightfiil of all the forms which his disease took was a
propensity to utter blasphemy, and especially to i^e-
nounoe his share in the benefits of the redemption.
Night and day, in bed, at table, at work, evil spirits,
as he imagined, were repeating close to his ear the
words, " Sell him, sell him." He struck at the hob-
goblins ; he pushed them from him ; but still they
were ever at his side. He cried out in answer to
them, hour after hour : " Never, never ; not for thou*
sands of worlds ; not for thousands." At length, worn
out by this long agony, he suffered the fatal words to
escape him, " Let him go, if he will." Then his
misery became more fearful than ever. He had douo
what could not be forgiven. He had forfeited his part



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138 JOHN BUNYAN.

of the great sacrifice. Like Esau, he bad sold his
birthright ; aiid there was no longer any place for re-
pentance. " None," he afterwards wrote, " knows the
terrors of those days but myself." He has described
liis sufterings with singular energy, simplicity, and
pathos. He envied the brutes ; he envied the very
stones in the street, and the tiles on the how^es*
The sun seemed to withhold its light and warmth
from him. His body, thou^ cast in a sturdy mould,
and though still in the highest vigour of youth,
trembled whole days together with the fear of death
and judgment. He &ncied that this trembling was
the sign set on the worst reprobates, the sign which
God had put on Cain. The unhappy man's emotion
destroyed his power of digestion. He had such pftiuB
that he ex])ected to burst asunder like Judas, whom
he regarded as his prototype.

Neither the books which Bunyan read, nor the
advisers whom he consulted, were Ukely to do much
good in a case like his. His small library had received



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 50 of 84)