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We proceed to select from his Diary some interesting passages in illustration (1) of the writer's character, and (2) of the manners and customs of the age in which he lived.
Here is a description of a scene, which, in its coarse brutality, was a not altogether unfitting prologue to the tragi-comedy of Charles II.'s reign. The date is January 30th, 1661 :
“[This] was the first solemn mass and day of humiliation to deplore the sins which so long had provoked God against this afflicted church and people, ordered by Parliament to be annually celebrated to expiate the guilt of the execrable murder of the late King.
“ This day (o the stupendous and inscrutable judgments of God !) were the carcases of those anti-rebels, Cromwell, Bradshaw (the judge who condemned His Majesty), and Ireton (son-in-law to the usurper) dragged out of their superb tombs in Westminster, among the kings, to Tyburn, and hanged on the gallows there from nine in the morning till six at night, and then buried under that fatal and ignominious monument in a deep pit; thousands of people, who had seen them in all their pride, being spectators. Look back at October 22nd, 1658 [Oliver Cromwell's funeral], and be astonished ! and fear God and honour the King ; but meddle not with them who are given to change!'
A higher interest attaches to our next quotation :
“ 1661 : May 3rd. I went to see the wonderful engine for weaving silk stockings, said to have been the invention of an Oxford scholar, forty years since.”
The credit of inventing the stocking-frame is generally attributed to William Lee, who is said to have been a native of Woodborough, near Nottingham, a man of good estate, and a graduate of St. John's College, Cambridge. According to a picturesque tradition, he invented the knitting machines in 1589, because a pretty girl with whom he was in love paid more attention to her knitting than to his soft speeches. It is, at all events, a fact that, in Cromwell's time, the London stocking-weavers petitioned to be incorporated as a guild; and in their petition they attach the name of Lee to the stocking-frame as its inventor.
“August 9th. I tried several experiments on the sensitive plant and humilis, which contracted with the least touch of the sun through a burning-glass, though it rises and opens only when it shines on it.
“November 10th.-In the afternoon preached at the Abbey, Dr. Basire, that great traveller, or rather French Apostle, who had been planting the Church of England in divers parts of the Levant and Asia. He showed that the Church of England was, for purity of doctrine, substance, decency, and beauty, the most perfect under Heaven, that England was the very land of Goshen” (including, of course, Charles II.'s. Court, with its gallants and harlots).
“November 26th.--I saw 'Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,' played; but now the old plays began to disgust this refined age, since His Majesty's being so long abroad.”
As a commentary on Dr. Basire's sermon, take the following :
“ January 6th, 1662.—This evening, according to custom, His Majesty opened the revels of that night by throwing the dice himself in the privy-chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his £100. (The year before he won £1,500.) The ladies also played very deep. I came away when the Duke of Ormond had won about
£1,000, and left them still at passage, cards, &c. At other tables, both there and at the Groom-porter's, observing the wicked folly and monstrous excess of passion amongst some losers; sorry am I that such a wretched custom as play to that excess should be countenanced in a Court, which ought to be an example of virtue to the rest of the kingdom.”
“February 20th.—This night was buried in Westminster Abbey the Queen of Bohemia (Elizabeth, daughter of James I.], after all her sorrows and afflictions being come to die in the arms of her nephew, the King: also this night and the next day fell such a storm of hail, thunder, and lightning, as never was seen the like in any man's memory, especially the tempest of wind, being south-west, which subverted, besides huge trees, many houses, innumerable chimneys (amongst others that of my parlour at Sayes Court), and made such havoc at land and sea, that several perished on both. Divers lamentable fires were also kindled at this time; so exceedingly was God's hand against this ungrateful and vicious nation and Court."
“ August 17th.—Being the Sunday when the Common Prayer Book, reformed and ordered to be used for the future, was appointed to be read, and the solemn League and Covenant to be abjured by all the incumbents of England under penalty of losing their livings.”
Of the water-pageants in which our ancestors delighted, before the Thames became the cloaca maxima of a great city, we have a specimen under the date of August 22nd :
“I was spectator of the most magnificent triumph* that
* A general term for public pageants, shows, and processions. Frequently used by Shakespeare:–With triumphs, mirth, and rare solemnity...."
.. "With stately triumphs. ...” “Those triumphs held at Oxford.”
ever floated on the Thames, considering the innumerable boats and vessels, dressed and adorned with all imaginable pomp, but, above all, the thrones, arches, pageants, and other representations, stately barges of the Lord Mayor and Companies, with various inventions, music and peals of ordnance both from the vessels and the shores, going to meet and conduct the new Queen from Hampton Court to Whitehall, at the first time of her coming to town. In my opinion, it far exceeded all the Venetian Bucentaras, &c., on the Ascension, when they go to espouse the Adriatic. His Majesty and the Queen came in an antique-shaped open vessel, covered with a state, or canopy, of cloth of gold, made in form of a cupola, supported with high Corinthian pillars, wreathed with flowers, festoons, and garlands."
It was on this occasion that a speaker in the waterman's barge thus addressed the King :-“God blesse thee, King Charles, and thy good woman there; and blest creature she is, I warrant thee, and a true.
Go thy ways for a wag! thou hast had a merry time on't in the West; I need say no more! But do'st hear me? Don't take it in dudgeon that I am so familiar with thee; thou may'st take it rather kindly, for I am not alwayes in this good humour; though I thee thee, and thou thee, I am no Quaker, take notice of that.”
Pepys says that on this occasion there were at least 1,000 barges and boats—"we could see no water for them, nor discern the King nor Queen.”
A water-pageant was always a part of the Show on Lord Mayor's Day; the civic ruler going to Westminster in his gorgeously-gilded barge, with much pomp and circumstance, and speeches for the occasion being duly prepared
by the civic poets-laureate, who, in the Tudor reigns, were men of literary mark, such as Webster, Dekker, Peele, and Munday. During the Civil War, and under the Protectorate, these pageants seem to have been omitted,* though some attempt at their revival was made by the Mayor, Sir John Dethick, in 1655, and by Sir Richard Chiverton in 1657. At the Restoration they resumed all their ancient brilliancy. The designer of the Show in 1660, and in many succeeding years, was John Tatham; then came Thomas Jordan. The last was Elkanah Settle, who invented the yearly shows until 1708, and annually published descriptions of them. So says Pope :
“'Twas on the day when Thorold, rich and grave,
That lived in Settle's numbers one day more.” The Mayoral banquet was frequently attended by Charles II. When he was entertained by Sir Robert Clayton, a "prodigious rich scrivener,” the wines were so strong and so plentiful that both host and royal guest grew exceedingly merry, and the Mayor, on Charles's rising to depart, hiccuped a request that he would sit down and “ take t'other bottle.” To this “the Merry Monarch" good-humouredly assented, humming the words of the old song
“ The man that is drunk is as great as a king ! ” “Sept. 16th, 1668.—There died of the Plague in London this week, 1,100; and, in the week following, above 2,000.”
* Evelyn, on 29th October, 1661, writes: "I saw the Lord Mayor pass in his water triumph to Westminster, being the first solemnity of this nature after twenty years."