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—they might have bounded the power of the throne without murdering our dear master.”
It was, perhaps, well for these faithful mourners, that the arrival of some personages of consequence prevented a continuance of their complaining dialogue; or some ready ears might have treasured up their words, to be repeated to those who would not have greatly compassionated their sorrow, or very ardently seconded
their zeal. “ Master Herbert," said the Earl of Lindsey, “ you tarry long. Is not the vault yet opened?”
My good lord, I pray you to believe that I have exercised all needful diligence. The workmen have difficulty to find the entrance to the vault, and they are even now labouring in a fresh direction."
“ Why then, Master Herbert, we must change our plan. Your warrant is to bury the King this 7th day of February, and
do well to observe it to the letter. See you not, by that gleam of sun in the western aisle, that the day is waning ?”
I remember," said the Marquis of Hertford,“ to have heard it affirmed, that Henry the Eighth’s vault is at the eastern end of the choir. Lend me thy staff, Master Herbert.”
The Lord advanced toward the altar, and commenced a series of experiments, which caused the labourers, who had suspended their fruitless operation, to admire at his sagacity. At last the pavement returned a hollow sound, and the by-standers agreed that it would be prudent to direct all their labours to this new attempt.
“ It is certainly indifferent in the eye of reason," ejaculated Herbert, “ whether he sleepeth with the House of York, or the House of Tudor. One more choice is yet left, and if this fail, we may lay him with another Royal—' martyr,
?" he would have said ; but Bishop Juxon, who stood by in silence, laid his finger on his lip, and Herbert stammered out, personage-the unhappy Henry VI.”
The pavement was removed, and with some considerable exertion, the vault was soon discovered and opened. A ladder and a lantern were procured, and Herbert, with the good bishop, fearlessly descended. The lords had no desire to contemplate mortality so closely.
“Here is the end of all,” said the bishop. " There lies the high-crested tyrant, reckless alike of his pleasures and his sins ; and though he departed in the plenitude of his power and his iniquity, he is as humbled as our poor master, who is come to the tomb a sufferer and a saint. Well-well—the day of retribution will arrive.”
They soon ascended. • Is there room ?” said the Duke of Rutland.
Ample,” replied Herbert. Henry has one of his wives by his side; but there is no quarrelling for a new love."
“Canst thou, in two hours,” said the bishop to one of the workmen, “ canst thou cut a plate or girdle of lead with these wordsKing Charles, beheaded by his Parliament, 1648 ?!”
I think there be not time enough for so much,” said the man. “ Nor have we warrant for it,” said the Earl of Lindsey. “Cut the words— King Charles, 1648,' and see that all be ready at six of the clock." The party left the chapel.
In the bed-chamber, in which the unhappy Charles had slept only twelve days previous to his execution, was now placed his coffin. The apartment was nearly in the same order as when he left it. Herbert and the bishop entered. The recollections of his master's sufferings pressed upon the faithful usher, and he dropped a few unbidden tears. The good bishop took up the King's book of devotions, which lay upon the table; the leaf was folded down at the penitential Psalms, and the bishop also wept at this sign of the contrite heart which had passed to a bar of mercy.
The door opened, and Colonel Whitchot, the Parliamentary Governor of the Castle, entered. “ Well, Master Herbert," he exclaimed with a tone of contemptuous exultation, your master be soon returned to his old lodgings; but we shall now have less trouble to guard him.” “ His soul, Sir,” answered the bishop," is now in company with the seraphic hosts; he is above all danger and all fear; and he is as far removed from earthly insult, as his virtues were triumphant over the malice of his enemies. I hope at the great day of account his persecutors will not be shut out from that mercy which they denied to him.”
“Look you, doctor," exclaimed the colonel, “ your office is to bury Charles Stuart, and not to preach over him. So be busy about it. Within there! Bear this body to its grave, and look that none of the town people enter the gates.
“ With your leave, Sir," said the bishop, “ we have appointed six of the clock for the hour of interment; and if it be your pleasure till that time, the body may be placed in St. George's Hall, that those who follow it may arrange themselves in decent order.” The governor paused suspiciously; but at length yielded a reluctant assent; and to that hall of revelry and of triumph were borne the lonely remains ; and a few stood round them with a sincere sorrow; and a few looked on with a vague and not uncharitable curiosity. The pause was brief; and the state, if such it could be called, sudden and scanty. A few glimmering torches were lighted; six of the king's faithful friends lifted the coffin on their shoulders; about a dozen gentlemen in mourning arranged themselves behind it; and the procession moved forward.
The spectators of this sad ceremony were few. Here and there a soldier of the Parliament walked by the side of the corpse - and some muttered an exclamation of compassion-and some repeated a sentence from the scriptures, which they applied to the fall of him whom they held as a scourge and a tyrant. The inner gates of the fortress creaked heavily on their massy hinges as the funeral passed ; and here the guard was numerous. At intervals a file of Parliamentary troops were under arms ;but such precautions seemed unnecessary. Few of the people were admitted within the ward; and no knell announced the melancholy business that was in hand. The evening was lowering ;-and fitful gusts of wind echoed along the old and tenantless towers, the only requiem to the soul of the departed. The day was just closed; and the few torches were required, not for splendour but for use. They deepened the gloom;—and the whole scene wore such a character of solemn indistinctness, that those who loved the King felt their weight of grief almost insupportable, and those who hated him had surrendered almost all of their fierceness and their levity, to the associations of death that were about them.
The scanty procession at length reached the western entrance of the chapel." It was here again met by a file of musqueteers, but they exhibited no martial reverence to the remains of a king. No gorgeous tapers shed their illumination over the lofty columns and the fretted roof;-10 choral voices sung the sacred dirge which proclaims the hopes of immortality; no crowds of nobles came in their mantles of state to bear witness to the vanity of all earthly dignities. At the grave, however, stood the faithful Juxon. The bearers put down the corpse in silence;Herbert and those who followed the king crowded round those remains which would soon pass for ever from their view; and the bishop opened his service book. After a moment's interval he began his duty with a broken and tremulous voice:
“ I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue.”
A loud knocking was heard at the outer door. The bishop paused, but proceeded:
“ I will keep my mouth as it were with a bridle, while the ungodly is in my sight.”
Colonel Whitchot strode into the choir, and with a peremptory voice, exclaimed, “Silence, Master Juxon, silence.” The mourners looked up tremblingly, and the good bishop said,
May we not quietly pay the last duties to our master?"" may not be, Sir, it may not be. Know you not that the Directory has forbidden all vain, and catholic, and anti-christian cere
monies over the dead, which smell of the abominations of the great Harlot ? Soldiers, lower the body into the grave.”
The mandate was quickly executed. The servant of God and the faithful mourners lifted up their eyes to heaven, and waited the issue of this violence. After the musqueteers had lowered the coffin, the three lords, with Dr. Juxon, and Herhert, and two or three anxious followers, went down into the vault; and there the bishop threw himself upon his knees, a motion which all present involuntarily imitated, and exclaimed,
“ Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of them that depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; we give thee hearty thanks for that it hath pleased thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, beseeching thee that it may please thee, of thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of thine elect, and to hasten thy kingdom.”
“ Amen," answered all with a firm voice and Whitchot heard that holy sound from the bowels of the grave, and his heart smote him,
ON THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE.
This is the age of societies. There is scarcely one Englishman in ten who has not belonged to some association for distributing books, or for prosecuting them; for sending invalids to the hospital, or beggars to the treadmill; for giving plate to the rich or blankets to the poor. To be the most absurd institution among so many institutions, is no small distinction; it seems, however, to belong indisputably to the Royal Society of Literature. At the first establishment of that ridiculous academy, every sensible man predicted that, in spite of regal patronage and episcopal management, it would do nothing, or do harm. And it will scarcely be denied that those expectations have hitherto been fulfilled.
I do not attack the founders of the association. Their characters are respectable; their motives, I am willing to believe, were laudable. But I feel, and it is the duty of every literary man to feel, a strong jealousy of their proceedings. Their society can be innocent only while it continues to be despicable, Should they ever possess the power to encourage merit, they must also possess the power to depress it. Which power will be more frequently exercised, let every one who has studied literary history, let every one who has studied human nature, declare.
Envy and faction insinuate themselves into all communities. They often disturb the peace, and pervert the decisions, of benevolent and scientific associations. But it is in literary academies that they exert the most extensive and pernicious influence. In the first place, the principles of literary criticism, though equally fixed with those on which the chemist and the surgeon proceed, are by no means equally recognized. Men are rarely able to assign a reason for their approbation or dislike on questions of taste; and therefore they willingly submit to any guide who boldly asserts his claim to superior discernment. It is more difficult to ascertain and establish the merits of a poem, than the powers of a machine, or the benefits of a new remedy. Hence it is in literature, that quackery is most easily puffed, and excellence most easily decried.
In some degree this argument applies to academies of the fine arts ; and it is fully confirmed by all that I have ever heard of that institution which annually disfigures the walls of Somerset-House with an acre of spoiled canvass. But a literary tribunal is incomparably more dangerous. Other societies, at least, have no tendency to call forth any opinions on those subjęcts which most agitate and inflame the minds of men. The sceptic and the zealot, the revolutionist and the placeman, meet on common ground in a gallery of paintings or a laboratory of science. They can praise or censure without reference to the differences which exist between them. In a literary body this can never be the case. Literature is, and always must be, inseparably blended with politics and theology; it is the great engine which moves the feelings of a people on the most momentous questions. It is, therefore, impossible that any society can be formed so impartial as to consider the literary character of an individual abstracted from the opinions which his writings inculcate. It is not to be hoped, perhaps it is not to be wished, that the feelings of the man should be so completely forgotten in the duties of the academician. The consequences are evident. The honours and censures of this Star-chamber of the Muses will be awarded according to the prejudices of the particular sect or faction which may at the time predominate. Whigs would canvass against a Southey, Tories against a Byron. Those who might at first protest against such conduct as unjust, would soon adopt it on the plea of retaliation; and the general good of literature, for which the Society was professedly instituted, would be forgotten in the stronger claims of political and religious partiality.
Yet even this is not the worst. Should the institution ever acquire any influence, it will afford most pernicious facilities to every malignant coward who may desire to blast a reputation which he envies. It will furnish a secure ambuscade, behind