Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Character of Lord Falkland
By Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (16091674)
From the History of the Rebellion
BUT I must here take leave a little longer to discontinue this narration; and if the celebrating the memory of eminent and extraordinary persons, and transmitting their great virtues, for the imitation of posterity, be one of the principal ends and duties of history, it will not be thought impertinent, in this place, to remember a loss which no time will suffer to be forgotten, and no success or good fortune could repair. In this unhappy battle was slain the Lord Viscount Falkland; a person of such prodigious parts of learning and knowledge, of that inimitable sweetness and delight in conversation, of so flowing and obliging a humanity and goodness to mankind, and of that primitive simplicity and integrity of life, that if there were no other brand upon this odious and accursed civil war, than that single loss, it must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity.
Before this parliament, his condition of life was so happy that it was hardly capable of improvement. Before he came to twenty years of age, he was master of a noble fortune, which descended to him by the gift of a grandfather, without passing through his father or mother, who were then both alive and not well enough contented to find themselves passed by in the descent. His education for some years had been in Ireland, where his father was lord deputy; so that, when he returned into England, to the possession of his fortune, he was unentangled with any acquaintance or friends, which usually grow up by the custom of conversation; and therefore was to make a pure election of his company; which he chose by other rules than were prescribed to the young nobility of that time. And it cannot be denied, though he admitted some few to his friendship for the agreeableness of their natures, and their undoubted affection to him, that his familiarity and friendship, for the most part, was with men of the most eminent and sublime parts, and of untouched reputation in point of integrity, and such men had a title to his bosom.
He was a great cherisher of wit, and fancy, and good parts in any man; and, if he found them clouded with poverty or want, a most liberal and bountiful patron towards them, even above his fortune; of which, in those administrations, he was such a dispenser, as, if he had been trusted with it to such uses, and if there had been the least of vice in his expense, he might have been thought too prodigal. He was constant and pertinacious in whatsoever he resolved to do, and not to be wearied by any pains that were necessary to that end. And therefore having once resolved not to see London, which he loved above all places, till he had perfectly learned the Greek tongue, he went to his own house in the country, and pursued it with that indefatigable industry, that it will not be believed in how short a time he was, master of it, and accurately read all the Greek historians.
In this time, his house being within ten miles of Oxford, he contracted familiarity and friendship with the most polite and accurate men of that university; who found such an immenseness of wit, and such a solidity of judgment in him, so infinite a fancy bound in by a most logical ratiocination, such a vast knowledge, that he was not ignorant in any thing, yet such an excessive humility, as if he had known nothing, that they frequently resorted, and dwelt with him, as in a college situated in a purer air; so that his house was a university in a less volume; whither they came not so much for repose as study; and to examine and refine those grosser propositions which laziness and consent made current in vulgar conversation.
Many attempts were made upon him by the instigation of his mother (who was a lady of another persuasion in religion, and of a most masculine understanding, alloyed with the passion and infirmities of her own sex) to pervert him in his piety to the church of England and to reconcile him to that of Rome, which they prosecuted with the more confidence, because he declined no opportunity or occasion of conference with those of that religion, whether priests or laics; having diligently studied the controversies, and exactly read all, or the choicest of the Greek and Latin fathers, and having a memory so stupendous, that he remembered, on all occasions, whatsoever he read. And he was so great an enemy to that passion and uncharitableness, which he saw produced, by difference of opinion, in matters of religion, that in all those disputations with priests, and others of the Roman church, he affected to manifest all possible civility to their persons, and estimation of their parts; which made them retain still some hope of his reduction, even when they had given over offering farther reasons to him to that purpose. But this charity towards them was much lessened, and any correspondence with them quite declined, when, by sinister arts, they had corrupted his two younger brothers, being both children, and stolen them from his house, and transported them beyond seas, and perverted his sisters; upon which occasion he writ two large discourses against the principal positions of that religion, with that sharpness of style, and full weight of reason, that the church is deprived of great jewels in the concealment of them, and that they are not published to the world.
He was superior to all those passions and affections which attend vulgar minds, and was guilty of no other ambition than of knowledge, and to be reputed a lover of all good men; and that made him too much a contemner of those arts, which must be indulged in the transactions of human affairs. In the last short parliament, he was a burgess in the house of commons; and, from the debates which were then managed with all imaginable gravity and sobriety, he contracted such a reverence to parliaments, that he thought it really impossible they could ever produce mischief or inconvenience to the kingdom; or that the kingdom could be tolerably happy in the intermission of them. And from the unhappy and unseasonable dissolution of that convention, he harboured, it may be, some jealousy and prejudice to the court, towards which he was not before immoderately inclined; his father having wasted a full fortune there, in those offices and employments by which other men used to obtain a greater. He was chosen again this parliament to serve in the same place, and, in the beginning of it, declared himself very sharply and severely against those exorbitances, which had been most grievous to the state, for he was so rigid an observer of established laws and rules, that he could not endure the least breach or deviation from them; and thought no mischief so intolerable as the presumption of ministers of state to break positive rules, for reasons of state; or judges to transgress known laws, upon the title of conveniency, or necessity; which made him so severe against the earl of Stratford, and the Lord Finch, contrary to his natural gentleness and temper; insomuch as they who did not know his composition to be as free from revenge as it was from pride, thought that the sharpness to the former might proceed from the memory of some unkindnesses, not without a mixture of injustice, from him towards his father. But without doubt he was free from those temptations, and was only misled by the authority of those, who, he believed, understood the laws perfectly; of which himself was utterly ignorant; and if the assumption, which was scarce controverted, had been true, that an endeavour to overthrow the fundamental laws of the kingdom had been treason, a strict understanding might make reasonable conclusions to satisfy his own judgment, from the exorbitant parts of their several charges.
The great opinion he had of the uprightness and integrity of those persons who appeared most active, especially of Mr. Hampden, kept him longer from suspecting any design against the peace of the kingdom; and though he differed from them commonly in conclusions, he believed long their purposes were honest. When he grew better informed what was law, and discerned in them a desire to control that law by a vote of one or both houses, no man more opposed those attempts, and gave the adverse party more trouble by reason and argumentation, insomuch as he was, by degrees, looked upon as an advocate for the court, to which he contributed so little, that he declined those addresses, and even those invitations which he was obliged almost by civility to entertain. And he was so jealous of the least imagination that he should incline to preferment, that he affected even a morosity to the court, and to the courtiers; and left nothing undone which might prevent and divert the kings or queens favour towards him, but the deserving it. For when the king sent for him once or twice to speak with him, and to give him thanks for his excellent comportment in those councils, which his majesty graciously termed doing him service, his answers were more negligent, and less satisfactory, than might be expected; as if he cared only that his actions should be just, not that they should be acceptable, and that his majesty should think that they proceeded only from the impulsion of conscience, without any sympathy in his affections; which, from a stoical and sullen nature, might not have been misinterpreted; yet, from a person of so perfect a habit of generous and obsequious compliance with all good men, might very well have been interpreted by the king as more than an ordinary averseness to his service; so that he took more pains, and more forced his nature to actions unagreeable, and unpleasant to it, that he might not be thought to incline to the court, than most men have done to procure an office there. And if any thing but not doing his duty could have kept him from receiving a testimony of the kings grace and trust at that time, he had not been called to his council; not that he was in truth averse to the court or from receiving public employment; for he had a great devotion to the kings person, and had before used some small endeavour to be recommended to him for a foreign negociation, and had once a desire to be sent ambassador into France; but he abhorred an imagination or doubt should sink into the thoughts of any man, that, in the discharge of his trust and duty in parliament, he had any bias to the court, or that the king himself should apprehend that he looked for a reward for being honest.
For this reason, when he heard it first whispered, that the king had a purpose to make him a counsellor, for which there was, in the beginning, no other ground, but because he was known sufficient (haud semper errat fama, aliquando et eligit), he resolved to decline it; and at last suffered himself only to be over-ruled, by the advice and persuasions of his friends, to submit to it. Afterwards, when he found that the king intended to make him secretary of state, he was positive to refuse it; declaring to his friends, that he was most unfit for it, and that he must either do that which would be great disquiet to his own nature, or leave that undone which was most necessary to be done by one that was honoured with that place; for that the most just and honest men did, every day, that which he could not give himself leave to do. And indeed he was so exact and strict an observer of justice and truth, ad amussim, that he believed those necessary condescensions and applications to the weakness of other men, and those arts and insinuations which are necessary for discoveries, and prevention of ill, would be in him a declension from his own rules of life; which he acknowledged fit, and absolutely necessary to be practised in those employments; and was, in truth, so precise in the practice of the principles he prescribed to himself (to all others he was as indulgent), as if he had lived in republica Platonis, non in fæce Romuli.2
Two reasons prevailed with him to receive the seals, and but for those he had resolutely avoided them. The first, the consideration that it (his refusal) might bring some blemish upon the kings affairs, and that men would have believed that he had refused so great an honour and trust, because he must have been with it obliged to do somewhat else not justifiable. And this he made matter of conscience, since he knew the king made choice of him, before other men, especially because he thought him more honest than other men. The other was, lest he might be thought to avoid it out of fear to do an ungracious thing to the House of Commons, who were sorely troubled at the displacing Sir Harry Vane, whom they looked upon as removed for having done them those offices they stood in need of; and the disdain of so popular an incumbrance wrought upon him next to the other. For as he had a full appetite of fame by just and generous actions, so he had an equal contempt of it by any servile expedients; and he so much the more consented to and approved the justice upon Sir Harry Vane, in his own private judgment, by how much he surpassed most men in the religious observation of a trust, the violation whereof he would not admit of any excuse for.
For these reasons he submitted to the kings command, and became his secretary, with as humble and devout an acknowledgment of the greatness of the obligation, as could be expressed, and as true a sense of it in his heart. Yet two things he could never bring himself to, whilst he continued in that office, that was to his death; for which he was contented to be reproached, as for omissions in a most necessary part of his place. The one, employing of spies, or giving any countenance or entertainment to them. I do not mean such emissaries, as with danger would venture to view the enemys camp, and bring intelligence of their number, or quartering, or such generals as such an observation can comprehend; but those, who by communication of guile, or dissimulation of manners, wound themselves into such trusts and secrets, as enabled them to make discoveries for the benefit of the state. The other, the liberty of opening letters, upon a suspicion that they might contain matter of dangerous consequence. For the first, he would say, such instruments must be void of all ingenuity, and common honesty, before they could be of use; and afterwards they could never be fit to be credited: and that no single preservation could be worth so general a wound, and corruption of human society, as the cherishing such persons would carry with it. The last, he thought such a violation of the law of nature, that no qualification by office could justify a single person in the trespass; and though he was convinced by the necessity and iniquity of the time, that those advantages of information were not to be declined, and were necessarily to be practised, he found means to shift it from himself; when he confessed he needed excuse and pardon for the omission; so unwilling he was to resign any thing in his nature to an obligation in his office.
In all other particulars he filled his place plentifully, being sufficiently versed in languages to understand any that are used in business, and to make himself again understood. To speak of his integrity and his high disdain of any bait that might seem to look towards corruption, in tanto viro, injuria virtutum fuerit.3 Some sharp expressions he used against the archbishop of Canterbury, and his concurring in the first bill to take away the votes of bishops in the House of Peers, gave occasion to some to believe, and opportunity to others to conclude and publish, that he was no friend to the church, and the established government of it, and troubled his very friends much, who were more confident of the contrary, than prepared to answer the allegations.
The truth is, he had unhappily contracted some prejudice to the archbishop; and having only known him enough to observe his passion, when, it may be, multiplicity of business, or other indisposition, had possessed him, did wish him less entangled and engaged in the business of the court, or state; though, I speak it knowingly, he had a singular estimation and reverence of his great learning, and confessed integrity; and really thought his letting himself to those expressions, which implied a disesteem of him, or at least an acknowledgment of his infirmities, would enable him to shelter him from part of the storm he saw raised for his destruction; which he abominated with his soul.
The giving his consent to the first bill for the displacing the bishops, did proceed from two grounds; the first, his not understanding the original of their right and suffrage there; the other, an opinion that the combination against the whole government of the church by bishops, was so violent and furious, that a less composition than the dispensing with their intermeddling in secular affairs, would not preserve the order. And he was persuaded to this by the profession of many persons of honour, who declared, they did desire the one, and would not then press the other; which, in that particular, misled many men. But when his observation and experience made him discern more of their intentions, than he before suspected, with great frankness he opposed the second bill that was preferred for that purpose; and had, without scruple, the order itself in perfect reverence; and thought too great encouragement could not possibly be given to learning, nor too great rewards to learned men; and was never in the least degree swayed or moved by the objections which were made against that government (holding them most ridiculous), or affected to the other, which those men fancied to themselves.
He had a courage of the most clear and keen temper, and so far from fear, that he was not without appetite of danger; and therefore, upon any occasion of action, he always engaged his person in those troops, which he thought, by the forwardness of the commanders, to be most like to be farthest engaged; and in all such encounters he had about him a strange cheerfulness and companiableness, without at all affecting the execution that was then principally to be attended, in which he took no delight, but took pains to prevent it, where it was not, by resistance, necessary; insomuch that at Edgehill, when the enemy was routed, he was like to have incurred great peril, by interposing to save those who had thrown away their arms, and against whom, it may be, others were more fierce for their having thrown them away; insomuch as a man might think, he came into the field only out of curiosity to see the face of danger, and charity to prevent the shedding of blood. Yet in his natural inclination he acknowledged he was addicted to the profession of a soldier; and shortly after he came to his fortune, and before he came to age, he went into the Low Countries, with a resolution of procuring command: and to give himself up to it, from which he was converted by the complete inactivity of that summer; and so he returned into England, and shortly after entered upon that vehement course of study we mentioned before, till the first alarum from the north; and then again he made ready for the field, and though he received some repulse in the command of a troop of horse, of which he had a promise, he went a volunteer with the Earl of Essex.
From the entrance into this unnatural war, his natural cheerfulness and vivacity grew clouded, and a kind of sadness and dejection of spirit stole upon him, which he had never been used to; yet being one of those who believed that one battle would end all differences, and that there would be so great a victory on one side, that the other would be compelled to submit to any conditions from the victor (which supposition and conclusion generally sunk into the minds of most men, and prevented the looking after many advantages, that might then have been laid hold of), he resisted those indispositions, et in luctu, bellum inter remedia erat.4 But after the kings return from Brentford, and the furious resolution of the two houses not to admit any treaty for peace, those indispositions, which had before touched him, grew into a perfect habit of uncheerfulness; and he, who had been so exactly unreserved and affable to all men, that his face and countenance was always present, and vacant to his company, and held any cloudiness, and less pleasantness of the visage, a kind of rudeness or incivility, became, on a sudden, less communicable; and thence, very sad, pale, and exceedingly affected with the spleen. In his clothes and habit, which he had intended before always with more neatness, and industry, and expense than is usual to so great a mind, he was not now only incurious, but too negligent; and in his reception of suitors, and the necessary or casual addresses to his place, so quick and sharp and severe, that there wanted not some men (who were strangers to his nature and disposition), who believed him proud and imperious, from which no mortal man was ever more free.
The truth is, that as he was of a most incomparable gentleness, application, and even demissiveness and submission to good, and worthy, and entire men, so he was naturally (which could not but be more evident in his place, which objected him to another conversation and intermixture, than his own election had done), adversus malos injucundus: and was so ill a dissembler of his dislike and disinclination to ill men, that it was not possible for such not to discern it. There was once, in the House of Commons, such a declared acceptation of the good service an eminent member had done to them, and, as they said, to the whole kingdom, that it was moved, he being present, that the speaker might, in the name of the whole house, give him thanks; and then, that every member might, as a testimony of his particular acknowledgment, stir or move his hat towards him; the which (though not ordered) when very many did, the Lord Falkland (who believed the service itself not to be of that moment, and that an honourable and generous person could not have stooped to it for any recompense), instead of moving his hat, stretched both his arms out, and clasped his hands together upon the crown of his hat, and held it close down to his head; that all men might see how odious that flattery was to him, and the very approbation of the person, though at that time most popular.
When there was any overture or hope of peace, he would be more erect and vigorous, and exceedingly solicitous to press any thing which he thought might promote it; and sitting among his friends, often, after a deep silence and frequent sighs, would, with a shrill and sad accent, ingeminate the word Peace, Peace; and would passionately profess, that the very agony of the war, and the view of the calamities and desolation the kingdom did and must endure, took his sleep from him, and would shortly break his heart. This made some think, or pretend to think, that he was so much enamoured on peace, that he would have been glad the king should have bought it at any price; which was a most unreasonable calumny. As if a man, that was himself the most punctual and precise in every circumstance that might reflect upon conscience or honour, could have wished the king to have committed a trespass against either. And yet this senseless scandal made some impression upon him, or at least he used it for an excuse of the daringness of his spirit; for at the leaguer before Gloucester, when his friends passionately reprehended him for exposing his person unnecessarily to danger (as he delighted to visit the trenches, and nearest approaches, and to discover what the enemy did), as being so much beside the duty of his place, that it might be understood against it, he would say merrily, that his office could not take away the privileges of his age; and that a secretary in war might be present at the greatest secret of danger; but withal alleged seriously, that it concerned him to be more active in enterprises of hazard, than other men; that all might see that his impatiency for peace proceeded not from pusillanimity, or fear to adventure his own person.
In the morning, before the battle, as always upon action, he was very cheerful, and put himself into the first rank of the Lord Byrons regiment, who was then advancing upon the enemy, who had lined the hedges on both sides with musketeers; from whence he was shot with a musket in the lower part of the belly, and in the instant falling from his horse, his body was not found till the next morning; till when, there was some hope he might have been a prisoner; though his nearest friends, who knew his temper, received small comfort from that imagination. Thus fell that incomparable young man, in the four and thirtieth year of his age, having so much despatched the business of life, that the oldest rarely attain to that immense knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more innocence; whosoever leads such a life, needs not care upon how short warning it be taken from him.