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It is the opinion of Clarendon, that in Waller's plan no violence or sanguinary resistance was comprised; that he intended only to abate the confidence of the rebels by public declarations, and to weaken their power by an opposition to new supplies. This, in calmer times, and more than this, is done without fear; but such was the acrimony of the commons, that no method of obstructing them was safe.
About this time another design was formed by sir Nicholas Crispe, a man of loyalty that deserves perpetual remembrance; when he was a merchant in the city, he gave and procured the king, in his exigencies, an hundred thousand pounds; and, when he was driven from the Exchange, raised a regiment, and commanded it.
Sir Nicholas flattered himself with an opinion, that some provocation would so much esasperate, or some opportunity so much encourage, the king's friends in the city, that they would break out in open resistance, and would then want only a lawful standard, and an authorised commander; and extorted from the king, whose judgment too frequently yielded to importunity, a commission of array, directed to such as he thought proper to nominate, which was sent to London by the lady Aubigney. She knew not what she carried, but was to deliver it on the communication of a certain token which sir Nicholas imparted.
This commission could be only intended to lie ready till the time should require it. To have attempted to raise any forces would have been certain destruction; it could be of use only when the forces should appear.' This was, however, an act preparatory to martial hostility. Crispe would undoubtedly have put an end to the session of parliament, had his strength been equal to his zeal ; and out of the design of Crispe, which involved very little danger, and that of Waller, which was an act purely civil, they compounded a horrid and dreadful plot.
The discovery of Waller's design is variously related. In Clarendon's History it is told, that a servant of Tomkyns, lurking behind the hangings when his master was in conference with Waller, heard enough to qualify him for an informer, and carried his intelligence to Pym. A manuscript, quoted in the Life of Waller, relates, that “he was betrayed by his sister Price, and her presbyterian chaplain Mr. Goode, who stole some of his papers; and, if he had not strangely dreamed the night before that his sister had betrayed him, and thereupon burnt the rest of his papers by the fire that was in his chimney, he had certainly lost his life by it." The question cann decided. It is not unreasonable to believe, that the men in power, receiving intelligence from the sister, would employ the servant of Tomkyns to listen at the conference, that they might avoid an act so offensive as that of destroying the brother by the sister's testimony.
The plot was published in the most terrific manner.
On the 31st of May (1643), at a solemn fast, when they were listening to the sermon, a messenger entered the church, and communicated his errand to Pym, who whispered it to others, that were placed near him, and then went with them out of the church, leaving the rest in solicitude and amazement. They immediately sent guards to proper places, and that night apprehended Tomkyns and Waller ; having yet tracednothing but that letters had been intercepted, from which it appears, that the parliament and the city were soon to be delivered into the hands of the cavaliers. They perhaps yet knew little themselves, beyond some general and indistinct notices.
Clarendon, was so confounded with fear, that he confessed whatever be had heard, said, thought, or seen; all that lie knew of himself, and all that he
“ But Waller," says
suspected of others, without concealing any person of what degree or quality soever, ot any discourse which he had ever upon any occasion entertained with them; what such and such ladies of great honour, to whom, upon the credit of his wit and great reputation, he had been admitted, had spoke to him in their chambers upon the proceedings in the houses, and how they had encouraged him to oppose them ; what correspondence and intercourse they had with some ministers of state at Oxford, and how they had conveyed all intelligence thither.” He accused the earl of Portland and lord Conway as co-operating in the transaction; and testified, that the earl of Northumberland had declared bimself disposed in favour of any attempt that might check the violence of the parliament, and reconcile them to the king.
He undoubtedly confessed much which they could never have discovered, and perhaps somewhat which they would have wished to have been suppressed; for it is inconvenient, in the conflict of factions, to have that disaffection known, which cannot safely be punished.
Tomkyns was seized on the same night with Waller, and appears likewise to have partaken of his cowardice ; for he gave notice of Crispe's commission of array, of which Clarendon never knew how it was discovered. Tomkyns had been sent with the token appointed, to demand it from lady Aubigney, and had buried it in his garden, where, by his direction, it was dug up; and thus the rebels obtained, what Clarendon confesses them to have had, the original copy.
It can raise no wonder, that they formed one plot out of these two designs, however remote from each other, when they saw the same agent employed in both, and found the commission of array in the hands of him, who was employed in collecting the opinions and affections of the people.
Of the plot, tbus combined, they took care to make the most. They sent Pym among the citizens, to tell them of their imminent danger, and happy escape ; and inform them, that the design was “ to seize the lord mayor and all the committee of militia, and would not spare one of them.” They drew up a vow and covenant, to be taken by every member of either house, by which he declared bis detestation of all conspiracies against the parliament, and his resolution to detect and oppose them. They then appointed a day of thanksgiving for this wonderful delivery; which shut out, says Clarendon, all doubts whether there had been such a deliverance, and whether the plot was real or fictitious.
On June 11, the earl of Portland and lord Conway were committed, one to the custody of the mayor, and the other of the sheriff: but their lands and goods were not seized.
Waller was still to immerse himself deeper in ignominy. The earl of Portland and lord Conway denied the charge ; and there was no evidence against them but the confession of Waller, of which undoubtedly many would be inclined to question the veracity. With these doubts he was so much terrified, that he endeavoured to persuade Portland to a declaration like his own, by a letter extant in Fenton's edition. for me," says he, “ you had never known any thing of this business, which was prepared for another; and therefore I cannot imagine why you should hide it so far as to contract your own ruin by concealing it, and persisting unreasonably to hide that truth, which, without you, already is, and will every day be made more manifest. Can you imagine yourself bound in honour to keep that secret, which is already revealed by another? or possible it should still be a secret, which is known to one of the other sex?
If you persist to be cruel to yourself for their sakes who deserve it not, it will nevertheless be made appear, ere long, I fear, to your ruin. Surely, if I had the happiness to wait on you, I could move you to compassionate both yourself and me, who, desperate as my case is, am desirous to die with the honour of being known to have declared the truth. You have no reason to contend to hide what is already revealed inconsiderately to throw away yourself, for the interest of others, to whom you are less obliged than you are aware of.”
This persuasion seems to have had little effect. Portland sent (June 29) a letter to the lords, to tell them, that he “is in custody, as he conceives, without any charge ; and that, by what Mr. Waller had threatened him with since he was imprisoned, he doth apprehend a very cruel, long, and ruinous restraint :-He therefore prays, that he may not find the effects of Mr. Waller's threats, a long and close imprisonment; but may be speedily brought to a legal trial, and then he is confident the vanity and falsebood of those informations which have been given against him will appear."
In consequence of this letter, the lords ordered Portland and Waller to be confronted; when the one repeated his charge, and the other his denial. The examination of the plot being continued (July 1), Thinn, usher of the house of lords, deposed, that Mr. Waller having had a conference with the lord Portland in an upper room, lord Portland said, when he came down, “ Do me the favour to tell my lord Northumberland, that Mr. Waller has extremely pressed me to save my own life and his, by throwing the blame upon the lord Conway and the earl of Northumberland.”
Waller, in his letter to Portland, tells bim of the reasons which he could urge with resistless efficacy in a personal conference; but he over-rated his own oratory; bis vehemence, whether of persuasion or entreaty, was returned with contempt.
One of his arguments with Portland is, that the plot is already known to a woman. This woman was doubtless lady Aubigney, who, upon this occasion, was committed to custody ; but who, in reality, when she delivered the commission, knew not what it was.
The parliament then proceeded against the conspirators, and committed their trial to a council of war. Tomkyns and Chaloner were hanged near their own doors. Tomkyns, when he came to die, said it was a foolish business ; and indeed there seems to have been no hope that it should escape discovery ; for, though never more than three met at a time, yet a design so extensive must, by necessity, be communicated to many, who could not be expected to be all faithful, and all prudent. Chaloner was attended at his execution by Hugh Peters. His crime was, that he had commission to raise money for the king; but it appears not that the money was to be expended upon the advancement of either Crispe's or Waller's plot.
The earl of Northumberland, being too great for prosecution, was only once examined before the lords. The earl of Portland and lord Conway, persisting to deny the charge, and no testimony but Waller's yet appearing against them, were, after a long imprisonment, admitted to bail. Hassel, the king's messenger, who carried the letters to Oxford, died the night before his trial. Hampden escaped death, perhaps by the interest of his family; but was kept in prison to the end of his life. They whose sames were inserted in the commission of array were not capitally punished, as it could Rot be proved, that they had consented to their own nomination; but they were considered as malignants, and their estates were scized.
« Waller, thougb confessedly,” says Clarendon, “ the most guilty, with incredible dissimulation affected such a remorse of conscience, that his trial was put off, out of Christian compassion, till he might recover bis understanding.” What use he made of this interval, with what liberality and success he distributed flattery and money, and how, when he was brought (July 4) before the house, he confessed and lamented, and submitted and implored, may be read in the History of the Rebellion (B. vii.) The speech, to which Clarendon ascribes the preservation of his dear-bought life, is inserted in his works. The great historian, however, seems to have been mistaken in relating, that he prevailed, in the principal part of his supplication, not to be tried by a council of war; for, according to Whitlock, he was by expulsion from the house abandoned to the tribunal which he so much dreaded, and, being tried and condemned, was reprieved by Essex ; but after a year's imprisonment, in which time resentment grew less acrimonious, paying a fine of ten thousand pounds, he was permitted to recollect himself in another country.
Of bis behaviour in this part of his life, it is not necessary to direct the reader's opinion. “Let us not,” says his last ingenious biographer“, “ condemn him with unteinpered severity, because he was not a prodigy which the world hath seldom seen, because his character included not the poet, the orator, and the hero."
For the place of his exile he chose France, and stayed some time at Roan, where his daughter Margaret was born, who was afterwards his favourite, and his amanuensis. He then removed to Paris, where he lived with great splendour and hospitality; and from time to time amused himself with poetry, in which he sometimes speaks of the rebels, and their usurpation, in the natural language of an honest man.
At last it became necessary, for his support, to sell his wife's jewels; and being reduced, as he said, at last to the rump-jewel, he solicited from Cromwell permission to return, and obtained it by the interest of colonel Scroop, to whom his sister was married. Upon the remains of a fortune which the danger of his life had very much diminished, he lived at Hallbarn, a house built by himself very near to Beaconsfield, where his mother resided. His mother, though related to Cromwell and Hampden, was zealous for the royal cause, and, when Cromwell visited her, used to reproach him ; he, in return, would throw a napkin at her, and say he would not dispute with his aunt; but finding in time, that she acted for the king, as well as talked, he made her a prisoner to her own daughter, in her own house. If he would do any thing, he could not do less.
Cromwell, now protector, received Waller, as his kinsman, to familiar conversation. Waller, as le used to relate, found him sufficiently versed in ancient history; and, when any of his enthusiastic friends came to advise or consult him, could sometimes overhear him discoursing in the cant of the times: but, when he returned, he would say, “Cousin Waller, I must talk to these men in their own way:” and resumed the common style of conversation.
He repaid the protector for his favours (1654) by the famous Panegyric, which has been always considered as the first of his poetical productions. His choice of encoiniastic topics is very judicious; for he considers Cromwell in his exaltation, without enquiring how he attained it; there is consequently no mention of the rebel or the regicide. All the former part of bis hero's life is veiled with shades; and nothing is brought to view but the chief, the governor, the defender of England's honour, and the
* Life of Waller by Percival Stockdale, prefixed to an edition of bis Works, published in 1775. C.
enlarger of her dominion. The act of violence by which he obtained the supreme power is lightly treated, and decently justified. It was certainly to be desired, that the detestable band should be dissolved, which had destroyed the church, murdered the king, and filled the nation with tumult and oppression; yet Cromwell had not the right of dissolving them, for all that he had before done could be justified only by supposing them invested with lawful authority. But combinations of wickedness would overwhelm the world by the advantage which licentious principles afford, did not those who have long practised perfidy grow faithless to each other.
In the poem on the War with Spain are some passages at least equal to the best parts of the Panegyric; and, in the conclusion, the poet ventures yet a higher flight of tattery, by recommending royalty to Cromwell and the nation. Cromwell was very desirous, as appears from his conversation, related by Whitlock, of adding the title to the power of monarchy, and is supposed to have been withheld from it partly by fear of the army, and partly by fear of the laws, which, when he should govern by the name of king, would have restrained his authority. When therefore a deputation was solemnly sent to invite bim to the crown, he, after a long conference, refused it; but is said to have fainted in his coach, when he parted from them.
The poem on the Death of the Protector seems to have been dictated by real veneration for his memory. Dryden and Sprat wrote on the same occasion; but they were young men, struggling into notice, and hoping for some favour from the ruling party. Waller had little to expect; he had received nothing but his pardon from Cromwell, and was not likely to ask any thing from those who should succeed him.
Soon afterwards, the Restoration supplied him with another subject; and he exerted his imagination, his elegance, and his melody, with equal alacrity, for Charles the Seennd. It is not possible to read, without some contempt and indignation, poems of the same author, ascribing the highest degree of power and piety to Charles the First, then transferring the same power and piety to Oliver Cromwell; now inviting Oliver to take the crown, and then congratulating Charles the Second on his recovered right. Neither Cromwell nor Charles could value his testimony as the effect of conviction, or receive his praises as effusions of reverence ; they could consider them but as the labour of invention, and the tribute of dependence.
Poets, indeed, profess fiction ; but the legitimate end of fiction is the conveyance of truth ; and be that has flattery ready for all whom the vicissitudes of the world happen to exalt, must be scorned as a prostituted mind, that may retain the glitter of wit, but has lost the dignity of virtue.
The Congratulation was considered as inferior in poetical merit to the Panegyric; and it is reported, that, when the king told Waller of the disparity, he answered, “ Poets, sir, succeed better in fiction than in truth.”
The Congratulation is indeed not inferior to the Panegyric, either by decay of genius, or for want of diligence; but because Cromwell had done much, and Charles had done little. Cromwell wanted nothing to raise him to heroic excellence but virtue; and virtue his poet thought himself at liberty to supply. Charles liad yet only the merit of struggling without success, and suffering without despair. A life of escapes and indigence could supply poetry with no splendid images.
In the first parliament summoned by Charles the Second (March 8, 1661), Waller sat for Hastings in Sussex, and served for different places in all the parliaments in that