« PreviousContinue »
able ornaments. Education, certainly, is far more generally dif fufed in our days, and accomplishments infinitely more common; but the perufal of this volume has taught us to doubt, whether the better fort of women were not fafhioned of old by a better and more exalted standard, and whether the most eminent female of the present day would not appear to disadvantage by the fide of Mrs Hutchinson. There is, for the most part, fomething intriguing and profligate and theatrical in the clever women of this generation; and if we are dazzled by their brilliancy, and delighted with their talent, we can scarcely ever guard against fome diftruft of their judgment, or fome fufpicion of their purity. There is something in the domestic virtue and the calm and commanding mind of our English matron, that makes the Corinnes and Heloifes appear very small and infignificant.
The admirers of modern talent will not accuse us of choosing an ignoble competitor, if we defire them to weigh the merits of Mrs Hutchinson against those of Madame Roland. The English revolutionist did not indeed compofe weekly pamphlets and addreffes to the municipalities; because it was not the fashion, in her days, to print every thing that entered into the heads of politicians. But the shut herself up with her husband in the garrifon with which he was entrufted, and fhared his counfels as well as his hazards. She encouraged the troops by her cheerfulness and heroifm-ministered to the fick; and dreffed with her own hands the wounds of the captives, as well as of their victors. When her husband was imprifoned on groundless fufpicions, the laboured, without ceafing, for his deliverance-confounded his oppreffors by her eloquence and arguments-tended him with unfhaken fortitude in fickness and folitude-and, after his decease, dedicated herself to form his children to the example of his virtues; and drew up the memorial which is now before us of his worth, and her own genius and affection. All this, too, fhe did without ftepping beyond the province of a private woman-without hunting after compliments to her own genius or beauty-without fneering at the dulnefs, or murmuring at the coldness of her husband-without hazarding the fate of her country on the dictates of her own enthusiasm, or fancying for a moment that she was born with talents to enchant and regenerate the world. With equal power of difcriminating character, with equal candour and eloquence and zeal for the general good, the is elevated beyond her French competitor by fuperior prudence and modefty, and by a certain fimplicity and purity of character, of which, it appears to us, that the other was unable to form a conception.
After detaining the reader so long with these general observations, we shall only withhold him from the quotations which we mean to lay before him, while we announce, that Mrs HutchinA 3
son writes in a sort of lofty, classical, translated style; which is occasionally diffuse and pedantic, but often attains to great dignity and vigour, and still more frequently charms us by a sort of antique simplicity and sweetness, admirably in unison with the sentiments and manners it is employed to represent.
The fragment of her own history, with which the volume opens, is not the least interesting, and perhaps the most characteristic part of its contents. The following brief account of her; nativity, will at once make the reader acquainted with the pitch of this lady's sentiments and expressions.
It was on the 29th day of January, in the yeare of our Lord 1648, that in the Tower of London, the principall citie of the Eng. ligh Isle, I was about 4 of the clock in the morning brought forth to behold the ensuing light. My father was Sr. Allen Apsley, leiftenant of the Tower of London; my mother, his third wife, was Lucy, the youngest daughter of Sr. John St. John, of Lidiard Tregoz, in Wiltshire, by his second wife. My father had then living a sonne and a daughter by his former wives, and by my mother three sonns, I being her eldest daughter. The land was then att peace, (it being towards the latter end of the reigne of King James), if that quiettnesse may be call'd a peace, which was rather like the calme and smooth surface of the sea, whose darke womb is allready impregnat ed of a horrid tempest. p. 2, 3, 3.
She then draws the character of both her parents in a very graceful and engaging manner, but on a scale somewhat too large to admit of their being transferred entire into our pages. We give the following as a specimen of the style and execution.
He was a most indulgent husband, and no lesse kind to his children; a most noble master, who thought it not enough to maintaine his servants honorably while they were with him, but, for all that deserv'd it, provided offices or settlements as for children. He was a father to all his prisoners, sweetning with such compassionate kindnesse their restraint, that the afliction of a prison was not felt in his dayes. He had a singular kindnesse for all persons that were eminent either in learning or armes; and when, through the ingratitude and vice of that age, many of the wives and chilldren of Queene Elizabeth's glorious captaines were reduc'd to poverty, his purse was their common treasury, and they knew not the inconvenience of decay'd fortunes till he was dead; many of those valliant seamen he maintain'd in prison, many he redeem'd out of prison and cherisht with an extraordinary bounty. He was severe in the regulating of his famely; especially would not endure the least immodest behaviour or dresse in any woman under his roofe. There was nothing he hated more then an insignificant gallant, that could only make his Jeggs and prune himselfe, and court a lady, but had not braines to employ himselfe in things more suteable to man's nobler sex. Fidelity in his trust, love and loyalty to his prince, were not the least of his
vertues, but those wherein he was not excell'd by any of his owne or succeeding times. He gave my mother a noble allowance of 300l. a yeare for her owne private expence, and had given her all her owne portion to dispose of how she pleas'd, as soone as she was married; which she suffer'd to encrease in her friend's hands; and what my father allow'd her she spent not in vanities, although she had what was rich and requisite upon occasions, but she lay'd most of it out in pious and charitable uses. Sr. Walter Rawleigh and Mr. Ruthin being prisoners in the Tower, and addicting themselves to chimistrie, she suffer'd them to make their rare experiments at her cost, partly to comfort and divert the poore prisoners, and partly to gaine the knowledge of their experiments, and the medicines to helpe such poore people as were not able to seeke to phisitians. By these means she acquir'd a greate deale of skill, which was very profitable to many all her life. She was not only to these, but to all the other prisoners that came into the Tower, as a mother. All the time she dwelt in the Tower, if any were sick she made them broths and restoratives with her owne hands, visited and tooke care of them, and provided them all necessaries: If any were aflicted she comforted them, so that they felt not the inconvenience of a prison who were in that place. She was not lesse bountifull to many poore widdowes and orphans, whom officers of higher and lower rank had left behind them as objects of charity. Her owne house was fill'd with distressed families of her relations, whom she supplied and maintain'd in a noble way.' p. 12-15.
For herself, being her mother's first daughter, unusual pains were bestowed on her education; so that, when she was seven years age, she was attended, she informs us, by no fewer than eight several tutors. In consequence of all this, she became very grave and thoughtful; and withal very pious. But her early attainments in religion seem to have been by no means answerable to the notions of sanctity which she imbibed in her maturer years. There is something very innocent and natural in the Puritanism of the following passage.
It pleas'd God that thro' the good instructions of my mother, and the sermons she carried me to, I was convinc'd that the knowledge of God was the most excellent study; and accordingly applied myselfe to it, and to practise as I was taught. I us'd to exhort my mother's maides much, and to turne their idle discourses to good subjects; but I thought, when I had done this on the Lord's day, and every day perform'd my due taskes of reading and praying, that then I was free to anie thing that was not sin, for I was not at that time convinc'd of the vanity of conversation which was not scandalously wicked; I thought it no sin to learne or heare wittie songs and amorous sonnetts or poems, and twenty things of that kind; wherein I was so apt that I became the confident in all the loves that were managed among my mother's young weomen, and A 4
there was none of them but had many lovers and some particular friends belov'd above the rest; among these I have'. p. 17, 18,
Here the same spirit of austerity which dictated the preceding passage, had moved the fair writer, as the editor informs us, to tear away many pages immediately following the words with which it concludes and thus to defraud the reader of the only love story with which he had any chance of being regaled in the course of this narrative. Although Mrs Hutchinson's abhorrence of any thing like earthly or unsanctified love, has withheld her on all occasions from the insertion of any thing that related to such feelings, yet it is not difficult, we think, to perceive that she was originally constituted with an extraordinary sensibility to all powerful emotions; and that the suppression of these deep and natural impressions has given a singular warmth and animation to her descriptions of romantic and conjugal affection. In illustration of this, we may refer to the following story of her husband's grandfather and grandmother, which she recounts with much feeling. and credulity, After a very ample account of their mutual love and loveliness, she proceeds
But while the incomparable mother shin'd in all the humane glorie she wisht, and had the crowne of all outward felicity to the full, in the enjoyment of the mutuall love of her most beloved husband, God in one moment tooke it away, and alienated her most excellent understanding in a difficult childbirth, wherein she brought forth two daughters which liv'd to be married, and one more that died, I think assoone or before it was borne. But after that, all the art of the best physitians in England could never restore her understanding. Yet she was not frantick, but had such a pretty deliration, that her ravings were more delightfull than other weomen's most rationall conversations. Upon this occasion her husband gave himselfe up to live retired with her, as became her condition. The daughters and the rest of the children as soon as they grew up were married and disperst. I think I have heard she had some children after that childbirth which distemper'd her, and then my lady Hutchinson must have bene one of them. I have heard her servants say, that even after her marriage, she would steale many melancholly houres to sitt and weepe in remembrance of her. Meanewhile her parents were driving on their age, in no lesse constancy of love to sach other, when even that distemper which had estrang'd her mind in all things elce, had left her love and obedience entire to her husband, and he retein'd the same fondnesse and respect for her, after she was distemper'd, as when she was the glory of her age. He had two beds in one chamber, and she being a little sick, two weomen watcht by her, some time before she died. It was his custome, as soon as ever he unclos'd his eies, to aske how she did; but one night, he being as they thought in a deepe sleepe, she quietly departed towards the morning. He was that day to have gone a
hunting, his usuall exercise for his health; and it was his custome to have his chaplaine pray with him before he went out: the weomen, fearfull to surprize him with the ill newes, knowing his deare affection to her, had stollen, out and acquainted the chaplaine, desiring him to informe him of it. Sr. John waking, did not that day, as was his custome, ask for her; but call'd the chaplaine to prayers, and ioyning with him, in the middst of the prayer, expir'd,-and both of them were buried together in the same grave. Whether he perceiv'd 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 pleas'd to exercise an unusuall providence towards them, preventing them both from that bitter sorrow which such separations cause, it can be but coniectur'd.' &c. p. 26-28.
The same romantic and suppressed sensibility is discernible, we think, in her whole account of the origin and progress of her husband's attachment to her. As the story is in many respects extremely characteristic of the times as well as the persons to which it relates, we shall make a pretty large extract from it. Mr Hutchinson had learned, it seems, to dance and vault' with great agility, and also attained to great mastery on the violl' at the University; and, upon his return to Nottingham, in the twentieth year of his age, spent much of his time with a licentious but most accomplished gentleman, a witty but prophane physician, and a pleasant but cynical old schoolmaster. In spite of these worldly associations, however, we are assured that he was a most godly and incorruptible person; and, in particular, proof against all the allurements of the fair sex, whom he frequently reproved, but in a handsome way of raillery, for their pride and vanity." In this hopeful frame of mind, it was proposed to him to spend a few summer months at Richmond, where the young princes then held their court.
Mr. Hutchinson considering this, resolv'd to accept his offer; and that day telling a gentleman of the house whither he was going, the gentleman, bid him take heed of the place, for it was so fatall for love, that never any young disengag'd person went thither, who return'd againe free. Mr. Hutchinson laught at him; but he, to confirme it, told him a very true story of a gentleman, who not long before had come for some time to lodge there, and found all the people he came in company with, bewailing the death of a genLeweman that had lived there. Hearing her so much deplor'd, he made enquiry after her, and grew so in love with the description, that no other discourse could at first please him, nor could he at last endure any other; he grew desperately melancholly, and would goe to a mount where the print of her foote was cutt, and lie there pining and kissing of it all the day long, till att length death in some months space concluded his languishment. This story was very true; but Mr. Hutchinson was neither easie to believe it, nor