Nonfiction > Lucy Hutchinson > Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson
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Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681).  Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson.  1906.
 
The Life of John Hutchinson
[1619]
 
  There is a story of her father and mother so memorable that though it be not altogether pertinent to their grandchild’s affairs, which I only intend, yet I shall here put it in, since the third generation, for whom I make this collection, is not altogether unconcerned in the great grandfather. He (the great grandfather) was not the eldest son of his father Sir John Biron, but had an elder brother who had married a private gentleman’s daughter in the country, and so displeased his father in that match, that he intended an equal part of his estate to this Sir John Biron, his younger son, and thereupon married him to a young lady who was one of the daughters of my lord Fitzwilliam, that had been deputy of Ireland in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and lived as a prince in that country. 1 This daughter of his having an honourable aspiring to all things excellent, and being assisted by the great education her father gave her, attained to a high degree of learning and language, to such an excellency in music and poetry, that she made rare compositions in both kinds; and there was not any of those extraordinary qualities, which are therefore more glorious because more rare in the female sex, but she was excellent in them: and besides all these ornaments of soul, she had a body of as admirable form and beauty, which justly made her husband so infinitely enamoured of her as never man was more. She could not set too high a value on herself if she compared herself with other women of those times; yet it was an alloy to her glories that she was a little grieved that a less woman, the elder brother’s wife, was superior to her in regard of her husband, though inferior in regard of her birth and person; but that grief was soon removed by a sad accident. That marriage wherein the father had not been obeyed was fruitless, and the young gentleman himself being given to youthful vanity, as he was one day to go out a hunting with his father, had commanded something to be put under the saddle of a young serving man, that was to go out with them, to make sport at his affright when his horse should prove unquiet. The thing succeeded as it was designed, and made them such sport, that the young gentleman, in the passion of laughter, died, and turned their mirth into mourning; leaving a sad caveat by his example, to take heed of hazarding men’s precious lives for a little sport. The younger brother by this means became the heir of the family, and was father of a numerous and hopeful issue. But while the incomparable mother shined in all the human glory she wished, and had the crown of all outward felicity to the full, in the enjoyment of the mutual love of her most beloved husband, God in one moment took it away, and alienated her most excellent understanding in a difficult child-birth; wherein she brought forth two daughters which lived to be married, and one more that died I think as soon or before it was born. 2 But after all, all the art of the best physicians in England could never restore her understanding: yet she was not frantic, but had such a pretty deliration, that her ravings were more delightful than other women’s most rational conversations. Upon this occasion her husband gave himself up to live retired with her, as became her condition, and made haste to marry his son; which he did so young that I have heard say when the first child was born, the father, mother, and child, could not make one-and-thirty years old. The daughters and the rest of the children as soon as they grew up were married and dispersed. I think I have heard she had some children after that childbirth which distempered her, and then my lady Hutchinson must have been one of them, for she was the youngest daughter, and at nine years old so taking, and of such an amiable conversation, that the lady Arabella 3 would needs take her from her parents, along with her to the court; where she minded nothing but her lady, and grew up so intimate in all her counsels, that the princess was more delighted in her than in any of the women about her; but when she (the princess) was carried away from them to prison, my lady’s brother fetched her home to his house, and there, although his wife, a most prudent and virtuous lady, laboured to comfort her with all imaginable kindness, yet so constant was her friendship to the unfortunate princess, that I have heard her servants say, even after her marriage, she would steal many melancholy hours to sit and weep in remembrance of her. Meanwhile her parents were driving on their age, and in no less constancy of love to each other; for even that distemper which had estranged her mind in all things else had left her love and obedience entire to her husband and he retained the same fondness and respect for her, after she was distempered, as when she was the glory of her age. He had two beds in one chamber, and she being a little sick, two women watched by her, some time before she died. It was his custom, as soon as ever he unclosed his eyes, to ask how she did; but one night, he being as they thought in a deep sleep, she quietly departed towards the morning. He was that day to have gone a hunting, his usual exercise for his health, and it was his custom to have his chaplain pray with him before he went out; and the women, fearful to surprise him with the ill news, knowing his dear affection to her, had stolen out and acquainted the chaplain, desiring him to inform him of it. Sir John waking, did not on that day, as was his custom, ask for her, but called the chaplain to prayers, joining with him, in the midst of the prayer, expired, and both of them were buried together in the same grave. Whether he perceived her death, and would not take notice, or whether some strange sympathy in love or nature, tied up their lives in one, or whether God was pleased to exercise an unusual providence towards them, preventing them both from that bitter sorrow which such separations cause, it can be but conjectured; but the thing being not ordinary, and having received it from the relation of one of his daughters and his grandchild, I thought it not impertinent here to insert. I shall now proceed to our own story.  3
  As soon as my lady Hutchinson 4 was dead, her brother, Sir John Biron, came over and found the most desolate afflicted widower that ever was beheld, and one of his sisters, the lady Ratcliffe, who was the dear sister of the dead lady, scarce alive for sorrow; and indeed such an universal lamentation in the house and neighbourhood, that the protraction of then griefs for such a funeral as was intended her, might possibly have made them all as she: Sir John therefore the next morning privately, unknown to her husband, with only her own family, carried her to the church, which was but the next door, and interred her without further ceremony. It booted not Sir Thomas to be angry at her friend’s care of him; who pursued it so far, that the next day he carried away Sir Thomas, lady Radcliffe, and Mr. John Hutchinson, towards his own house at Bulwell, leaving Mr. George at his nurse’s. But the horses of the coach being mettled, in the halfway between Owthorpe and Nottingham ran away, overthrew it, and slightly hurt all that were in the coach; who all got out, one by one, except the maid that had the child in her arms, and she stayed as long as there was any hope of preventing the coach from being torn to pieces: but when she saw no stop could be given to the mad horses, she lapped him as close as she could in the mantle, and flung him as far as she could from the coach into the ploughed lands, whose furrows were at that time very soft; and by the good providence of God the child, reserved to a more glorious death, had no apparent hurt. He was taken up and carried to Bulwell, where his aunt had such a motherly tenderness for him that he grew and prospered in her care. As the fresh memory and excessive love they bore the mother, endeared the young child to all her relations at the first, so as he grew, he discovered so much growing wisdom, agility, and pretty sprightfulness, had such a natural gravity without sullenness, and such sweet innocence, that every child of the family loved him better than their own brothers and sisters, and Sir John Biron and my lady were not half so fond of any of their own. When it was time for them to go to school, both the brothers were sent to board with Mr. Theobalds, 5 the master of the free school at Nottingham, who was an excellent scholar; but having no children, some wealth, and a little living that kept his house, he first grew lazy, and after left off his school. Sir Thomas then removed his sons to the free school at Lincoln, where there was a master very famous for learning and piety, Mr. Clarke; but he was such a supercilious pedant, and so conceited of his own pedantic forms, that he gave Mr. Hutchinson a disgust of him, and he profited very little there. At this place it was that God began early to exercise him with affliction and temptation; he was deprived of the attendance and care he had been used to, and met with many inconveniences unsuitable to his tender and nice constitution; but this was little, for he had such discretion in his childhood that he understood what was fit for him to require, and governed wherever he lived; for he would not be denied reasonable, and would not ask other things. He was as a father over his brother, and having some advantage of years, took upon him to be the guide of his youth, yet with such love, that never were children more commendable and happy in mutual affections. But it pleased God to strike his brother with a sad disease, the falling sickness, 6 wherein Mr. Hutchinson most carefully attended him while he continued at Lincoln; which his father permitted him to do, for the opportunity of Dr. Pridgeon, 7 one of the best physicians in those parts. When he had in vain exercised all his art on the young gentleman, and found no success in it, he advised he should return to his father’s house, and be entertained with all the sports that could be found to delight his mind or exercise his body. Accordingly he was carried home, and had a pack of hounds, huntsmen, and horses kept for him, and was something recreated, but not cured thereby; till afterwards it pleased God to effect that cure by a young practitioner, which the ablest physicians of the country could not work. This separation from his brother, to whom he had such an entire affection, considered with the sad occasion of it, was a great affliction to the elder brother; who remained in a place where he had little to delight him, having an aversion to his austere, pedantic master, increased by an opinion that his severity had been the cause of his dear brother’s distemper.  4
 
Note 1. By mistake Mrs. Hutchinson calls him lord. The person here meant was Sir William Fitzwilliam, appointed governor of Ireland seven times with the different titles of Lord Justice and Lord Deputy, by that distinguishing and judicious princess. A sufficient eulogy! From him descends in a direct line the present Earl Fitzwilliam. Fortes creantur fortibus et bonis. The reader will most likely find this episode too beautiful and affecting to think it needs the apology the writer makes.—J. H. [back]
Note 2. The twins here mentioned as daughters are said by Thoroton to have been sons, viz., Sir John, presently herein spoken of as the brother-in-law of Sir Thomas Hutchinson, and Sir Nicholas, who served Charles the First with the same zeal as the rest of that family.—J. H. [back]
Note 3. Arabella Stuart, daughter of Lord Darnley’s younger brother, and consequently cousin of James I. She married, in May 1610, William Seymour, son of Lord Beauchamp, a descendant of Mary, the younger sister of Henry VIII. James, who had forbidden this marriage, committed both the culprits to prison, July 1610, where she died September 27, 1615.
  See Gardiner’s History of England, vol. ii, pp. 113–119, and Miss Cooper’s Letters and Life of Arabella Stuart. [back]
Note 4. The mother of Col. Hutchinson: see p. 35. [back]
Note 5. In the Nottingham records, under the year 1615, is the following entry, ‘Mr. Theobald recommended by the master and fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, chosen the new master at the free school, at a salary of twenty marks per annum, with the house, and liberty of taking boarders’.—Bailey, Annals of Nottinghamshire, vol. ii, p. 590. [back]
Note 6. i.e., epilepsy. [back]
Note 7. Sir Francis Prujean, admitted a Fellow of the College of Physicians in 1626. He practised in the country between 1626 and 1639, and is described as living in Lincolnshire in 1637. Charles II knighted him in 1661, and from 1650 to 1654 he was president of the College of Physicians. Munk, Roll of the Royal College of Physicians, i, 185. [back]
 
 
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