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this nation. Public matters in a most sad condition ; seamen discouraged for want of pay, and are become not to be governed : nor, as matters are now, can any fleet go out next year. ... A sad, vicious, negligent Court, and all sober men thus fearful of the ruin of the whole kingdom this next year; from which, Good Lord deliver us." The few war-ships in commission were commanded by gay young nobles, wholly ignorant of sea affairs, one of whom had the audacity to say that he hoped not to see "a tarpaulin ”—that is, a seaman-in command of a ship for a twelvemonth; while the tarpaulins themselves complained sadly that “the true English valour we talk of is almost spent and worn out.” In the spring of 1667 it was well-known that Holland was making strenuous preparations to uphold and confirm her claim to naval supremacy.
“ Each day they bring the tale, and that too true,
How strong the Dutch their equipage renew.” But the Government made no effort to meet the coming danger. The House of Commons had voted reluctant supplies, conscious that they would never be applied to the objects for which they were nominally designed; and the King's treasurer had expended them on the King's mistresses and the gilded profligacy of the Court. The arsenals and dockyards remained unemployed. “Meantime,” says Marvell :
“Meantime through all the yards their orders run
To lay the ships up, cease the keels began.
When the Dutch fleet of seventy ships, under the famous Admiral De Ruyter, appeared off the Nore, neither ships nor ports were manned, and not a shot was fired to stay their progress up the river. The authorities in London at last awoke to a sense of their dangerous position; and Monk, Duke of Abermarle rushed down—"in his shirt,” says Marvell—to Gravesend, “ with a great many idle lords and gentlemen.” He collected a few score dockyard men; raised a couple of rude and feeble batteries, and sunk seven ships in the Medway to obstruct its channel. The Dutch fleet, continuing to advance, reached Sheerness on the 11th of June. “The alarm was so great," writes Evelyn, “ that it put both country and city into fear-a panic and consternation, such as I hope I shall never see more; everybody was flying, none knew why or whither.”
The Dutch fleet, assisted by a high tide and a strong east wind, entered the Medway, broke the chains and booms, easily silenced the batteries, and proceeded to attack Upnor Castle. This fort, however, was so strongly defended that the Dutch made little impression upon it. They then directed their fire against the men-of-war which lay at anchor in the river; as these were unprotected, their crews were soon overpowered. Three of them (the Royal London, the Great James, and the Royal Oak) were burned to the water's edge; and one, the Royal Charles, which had brought the King to England in 1660, was carried away as a memorial of victory. In connection with the loss of the Royal Oak occurred an incident which is the only bright spot in this dreary record of national disgrace. Captain Douglas, its commander, had made the stoutest defence within his means, and done his best to keep off the enemy. But the Dutch
fire-ships succeeded in setting his vessel on fire, and the flames spread with a rapidity that baffled all human effort to arrest them. The crew sprang overboard and made for the shore. The officers, as they left the blazing wreck, entreated the brave Douglas to follow their example. But, like the Roman sentry at Pompeii, the heavens might fall, and yet he would not desert the post of duty. “Never was it known,” he exclaimed, “ that a Douglas quitted his post without orders !” Calm and resolute, he remained upon the burning poop, the only man who in that day of shame upheld the ancient renown of England.
“ Down on the deck he laid himself and died,
Our English youth shall sing the valiant Scot.” With the Royal Charles as a trophy, the Dutch quietly sailed back to the Thames, where for several weeks they maintained a real blockade, cutting off the Londoners from their supplies of sea-borne coal. On the 24th of June Evelyn writes : “The Dutch fleet still continuing to stop up the river so as nothing could stir or come out, I was before the Council, and commanded by His Majesty to go with some others and search about the environs of the city, now exceedingly distressed for want of fuel, whether there could be any peat or turf fit for use.” On the 28th the Dutch were still lying triumphantly at the Nore: “a dreadful spectacle,” says Evelyn, “as ever Englishmen saw, and a dishonour never to be wiped
off."'* Such a spectacle, happily, we have never since iseen; such dishonour never since incurred.
We have thus, with the help of Evelyn's Diary, glanced at the three great events which distinguished the years 1666-1667. Our further extracts must be few and brief :
“1667, September 19th.—To London, with Mr. Henry Howard, of Norfolk, of whom I obtained the gift of his Arundelian Marbles, those celebrated and famous inscriptions, Greek and Latin, gathered with so much cost and industry from Greece, by his illustrious grandfather, the magnificent Earl of Arundel, f my noble friend, whilst he lived. When I saw those precious monuments universally neglected, and scattered up and down about the garden and other parts of Arundel House, and how exceedingly the corrosive air of London impaired them, I procured leive to bestow them on the University of Oxford. This he was pleased to grant me, and now gave me the key of the gallery, with leave to mark all those stones, urns, altars, &c., and whatever I found had inscriptions on them, that were not statues. This I did, and getting them removed and piled together with those which were incrusted in the garden walls, I sent immediately letters to the ViceChancellor of what I had procured, and that if they esteemed it a service to the University (of which I had been a member), they should take order for their transportation.”+
The University did esteem it a service, and rewarded Evelyn with a public vote of thanks.
* “Everybody now-a-days," says Pepys, “reflect upon Oliver and commend him; what brave things he did, and made all the neighbour princes fear him."
Thomas, Earl of Arundel, died 1592. # The statues were afterwards (1725) presented to the University by the Countess of Arundel.
“ 1670-1671, January 10th. This day I first acquainted His Majesty with that incomparable young man [Grinling] Gibbons, whom I had lately met with in an obscure place by mere accident, as I was walking near a poor, solitary, thatched house, in a field in our parish, near Sayes Court. I found him shut in ; but looking in at the window, I perceived him carving that large cartoon or crucifix of Tintoretto, a copy of which I had myself brought from Venice, where the original painting remains. I asked if I might enter; he opened the door civilly to me, and I saw him about such a work as for the curiosity of handling, drawing, and studious exactness I never had before seen in all my travels. I questioned him why he worked in such an obscure and lonesome place; he told me it was that he might apply himself to his profession without interruption, and wondered not a little how I found him out. I asked if he was unwilling to be made known to some great man, for that I believed it might turn to his profit. He answered he was yet but a beginner, but would not be sorry to sell off that piece. On demanding the price, he said £100. In good earnest, the very frame was worth the money, there being nothing in Nature so tender and delicate as the flowers and festoons about it, and yet the work was very strong. In the piece was more than one hundred figures of men, &c. I found he was likewise musical, and very civil, sober, and discreet in his discourses."
This rare and exquisite genius, Grinling Gibbons, was a native of Rotterdam, where he was born on the 4th of April, 1648. He came to London in 1667, after the Great Fire, and was first brought into notice by Evelyn, who, as we have seen, introduced