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To snatch the roseleaf, and ne'er heed the thorn-
Art. XI. - Memoirs of Sir Benjamin Rudyerd, Knt. : containing his
Speeches and Poems. Edited by J. A. MANNING, of the Inner Temple.
London: Boone. MR. MANNING is a modest and industrious editor, and has done good service both to the cause of British literature and the British constitution by these Memoirs, Speeches, and Poems, collected from a variety of sources not within the reach of the general reader, yet worthy of a place in every library; for Sir Benjamin was illustrious in his time as a statesman, an orator, and a poeta lawyer, and a judge. We could have wished, however, that Mr. M. had been a degree less complimentary and laudatory in his Dedication and Preface; or, to vary our position, somewhat less depreciating in respect of self. For instance, when alluding in general terms to the eloquence, the excellence, and the virtues of the “ Silver Trumpet," as the amiable and honest knight was called, the editor wonders “why his name bath been permitted to rest in undisturbed slumber, in the quiet and unbroken possession of the marble tomb for a period of nearly two hundred years, during which, neither political tongues nor literary hands have attempted to rescue his memory from almost total oblivion."
“ He can only regret that, in this age of literature, whose votaries lay (lie) restless on their oars, and even monarchs in the world of letters sigh for subjects, a theme so worthy the exercise of their experience should have been left to one so ignorant of the art of book-making.” Nevertheless, we pronounce the book a fair and good contribution both to political and family history; diligence in the way of research, aptness of observation and illustration (making allowance for some partizan symptoms), and regularity of arrangement, being manifest throughout the volume.
It may be objected to Mr. Manning's estimate of his hero, that he takes, like many other biographers and memorialists, an exaggerated view of his subject when he ranks Rudyerd by the side of Pym and Hampden, on account of his services to the state ; for we shall find that Sir Benjamin's were lip-labours, and that he was unfitted for the actions to which these labours of speech naturally tended. Not that he was a traitor to the cause of liberty or to the great men with whom he had gone hand in hand in the earlier years of the struggle with monarchy. But he was timid and gentle constitutionally, and trembled when things reached an extremity; a compromise being then his usual prescription and grand specific. The passages in his life, his parliamentary displays, and his literary compositions, which we are about to notice, will exhibit the amiable and virtuous temperament, as well as the accomplishments of the worthy knight, with sufficient distinctness to afford a key to his character and career.
Benjamin Rudyerd was desended from a very ancient family of the same name. He was a third son, and was born on St. Stephen's day in 1572. After receiving a college education, he was entered of the Middle Temple, in 1500, and was called to the bar in 1600. He seems to have been distinguished amongst his companions at this early period, for he was chosen by his brethren of the Inn to record their gallant adventures during one of their Christmas festivals. This he did by composing " A Briefe Chronicle of the Darke Designe of the Bright Prince of Burning Love,” which the editor has introduced into the Memoirs, as copied from the autograph in the Harleian Collection of MSS.
Mr. Manning has not been able to discover what progress Benjamin made in his profession, at its commencement.
But he must have been distinguished in some way, for during the reign of Elizabeth he had the honour to enjoy her esteem.
Wood has noticed the “polite learning with which his youthful days were adorned.” But the most important friendship which he formed was with one of a congenial spirit in various respects, viz., William, the Earl of Pembroke, a nobleman of high talents, and first-rate accomplishments, a wit and a poet. He rose to high offices in the state under James, and no doubt contributed to Rudyerd's success. Here we must quote a passage regarding the congenial pursuits of the two, in which Mr. Manning expresses himself on certain points very unguardedly and erroneously. He says
“ Lord Pembroke was a great patron of learning and learned men. He was a poet of no mean capacity. That his poems are quaint is not surprising, the language of society at that period was equally so. In his time there were but few stars in the poetical hemisphere. Shakspeare, the greatest philosophical poet the world had produced, confined himself principally to the grander style of blank verse. It cannot be denied that the
language of Ben Jonson is often cramped and quaint, as compared with that of the present day; and if we except these two great men, whom Nature had sent to teach the young idea, poetry may be said to have been in its infancy. Poetry, indeed, at the period in question, was almost mechanical, and consisted in preserving a consistent metre in imitation of Latin verse, with idem sonantes terminations. An easy flowing verse, an euphonious line, is rarely to be met with in the poems of that age, if we except Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, Spenser, and a few others, in whose works they are occasionally discovered ; though very shortly afterwards they burst forth in all the splendour of native genius. Comparing Poetry with Music, of which it is the twin sister, it may be said that poets had not then discovered those half notes and discords which now so much enhance the charms of intonation, and give a softness and elegance to the composition which are not to be found either in ancient music or poetry, notwithstanding the grandeur and sublimity of their conceptions. These observations are not offered as an apology for the poems of Lord Pembroke or Sir Benjamin Rudyerd, for the Editor considers that their beauties more than overbalance the defects ; at the same time, he would wish to guard himself against the supposition of his offering them to public criticism as specimens of poetry, when his only object is to present to the reader the compositions of the individuals in question as part and parcel of their literary labours, which ought not, in his humble judgment, to be omitted in these Memoirs, and to place before him specimens of poetry which were highly approved and extolled at the period when they were written.”
We shall have occasion to notice the editor's uncalled-for apologetic tone, when we come to the poems themselves, which are thrown into an Appendix. But in the meanwhile just think of an editor of our day asserting that, at the time of which he is speaking, “ there were but few stars in the poetical hemisphere;" that poetry at that period“ was almost mechanical,” &c. ; that quaintness was one of its principal characteristics ; that “poets had not then discovered those half-notes," &c.; and that “the language of Ben Jonson is often cramped and quaint, as compared with that of the present day.” According to this manner of speaking, Chaucer will be quainter still, and far less harmonious; for the present day is to be held as the standard, and all other fashions going before us were oddities, and, more or less, grotesque conceits.
Mr. Manning admits that there had appeared by the time of Rudyerd a “ few stars in the poetical hemisphere;" and instances Shakspere and Jonson as exceptions, volunteering crude observations concerning them. With these exceptions, however, he declares, poetry may be said " to have been in its infancy.” This is passing strange. Why, we had thought that the Elizabethan period was studded with constellations of poets—with what are called the Old Dramatists especially. To be sure, Mr. Manning admits Spenser, after Sackville, and a few others, and says that in their works there is occasionally discovered “an easy flowing verse, an euphonious
line.” But we need not do more than place in juxtaposition, and according to an arrangement somewhat different from that of the editor, these random and utterly mistaken opinions, in order to draw forth exclamations at their novelty and the ignorance or want of taste which they betray.
Amongst the friends whom it was Mr. Rudyerd's good fortune to acquire, was another very eminent and influential personage, Sir John Harrington, afterwards Lord Harrington, of Exton. Mr. Manning conjectures that it was owing to this connexion, and still closer ties with others of the Harrington family, that the subject of the present Memoirs obtained such a favourable reception at the court of King James. In fact his wife was of the family. But what is not less worthy of remark, the probability is that Rudyerd's opinions were considerably influenced by the political moderation and the personal virtues which distinguished the noble race with whom he became so closely allied.
In the 15th of King James, Rudyerd was appointed, it appears, to the office of Surveyor of His Majesty's Court of Wards and Liveries, then a high and distinguished office, though an arbitrary tribunal, and often made the instrument of extreme oppression. Sir Benjamin is said, however, to have so acquitted himself as a judge, that he earned the approbation even of his enemies, on account of his purity and justice.
Before his appointment to the court of Wards and Liveries, Rudyerd had been several times a parliament man. He travelled, too, in foreign countries, and accompanied Sir Henry Wotton on several missions to the Low Countries. With regard to his displays and speeches in the House of Commons, previous to the accession of Charles, nothing particular need be said by us. He had not hitherto stood prominently forward; but in the new reign he placed himself, to use the editor's words, "in the highest rank of parliamentary debaters of that period." His speeches are, without a doubt, extremely good; although not very numerous, even after all the industrious research of Mr. Manning, who has brought to light two or three for the first time. Take as a specimen of Sir Benjamin's eloquence, of his moderation and conciliatory tone, but, at the same time, of his independence and sense of the grievances under which the country laboured, a speech delivered on the meet. ing of the third parliament of Charles. The grievances were warmly debated, and the House inclined not to supply his Majesty till they were redressed. This is the moderator's harangue,
“Mr. Speaker - It is the goodness of God, and the favour of the King, that hath brought us again to this place, and if we be as thankful to both as our duty to both requires, our meeting certainly will be crown'd with a blessing. This is the crisis of Parliaments. We shall know by this if Parliaments live or die : the King and the kingdom will be valued or dis
valued both by enemies or friends, by the success of this Parliament. The counsels of this House will have operations on all, 'tis fit we be wise. His Majesty begins to us with affection, proclaiming that he will rely on his people's love, which if we do not answer in our actions, we are worse than unworthy of his. The cause why we are called hither is to save ourselves; and self-preservation is a thing so natural, as sure no man needs to be persuaded to it. We are not now upon the bene esse of the kingdom, we are upon the very esse of it; whether we shall be a kingdom or no. When we have made it sure that England is ours, then may we have time to prune and to dress it. Is it a small matter, think you, that we have actually invaded the territories of two of the most powerful kings of Christendom, provoking them only, without weakening them at all ? Nay, that they are both united and become better friends than ever they meant to have been? Seems it a small thing unto you, that we have beaten ourselves more than our enemies could have done? And shall we still continue to do so by our divisions, by our distractions ? Men and brethren, what shall we do? Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no remedy here? Then is it nowhere to be found but in ruin? If we persevere, the King to draw one way, the Parliament another, the Commonwealth must sink in the midst: but I hope better things of so grave, so wise an assembly. I am no man's advocate ; for I ever held it a thing beneath the dignity, against the integrity, of this House, to respect any particular, but as he concerns the general; neither am I so wise or so presumptuous, as to condemn whatsoever hath been determined by a major part in this place. Yet, Sir, give me leave to say this, that one Parliament may instruct another, as one day telleth another. Out of which consideration I humbly beseech this House to be curiously wary and careful to avoid all manner of contestation, personal or real. The hearts of kings are great as are their fortunes ; then are they fitted to yield when they are yielded unto. It is comely and mannerly that princes, in all fair appearance, should have the better of their subjects. Let us give the King a way to come off like himself, for I do verily believe that he doth, with longing, expect the occasion. Notwithstanding, it is not only lawful for us, but it is our duty, both to advertise and advise the King concerning the weighty affairs of the kingdom, else are we so far from being a great council, that we are no council at all. But the way to show that we are the wise counsellors that we should be, is to take a right course to attain the end of our counsels, which, in my opinion, may by this means be compassed : by trusting the King, thereby to breed a trust in him towards us ; for, without mutual confidence, a good success is not to be expected : by giving a large and ample supply, proportionable to the greatness and importance of the work in hand; for counsel without money is but a speculation : by prostrating our grievances and advices modestly and humbly at his Majesty's feet; for, from thence are they likeliest to find a way to his heart : by making it appear, that whatsoever we shall omit or abate, proceeds merely out of a dutiful and awful respect to the King only; for the body of a Parliament acknowledgeth but one head; and, to say all at once, let our labours and endeavours be to get the King on our side, for then we shall obtain whatsoever we can reasonably expect or desire. And this may be no hard