Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

abroad unless furrounded with guards, never returned by the fame road, nor flept above thrice in the fame apartment. A flow fever, the refult of conftant agitation, preyed upon his body, and, degenerating into a tertian ague, undermined a conftitution which was naturally robuft. The phyficians pronounced his diforder dangerous, and he began to confider his death as imminent; but his fanatical chaplains affured him that his life might yet be restored by their prayers. His original enthufiafm prevailed over his hypocrify, which, in the tumults of the camp, and amidst the bufinefs of the cabinet, had been substituted in its ftead; and he affured his phyficians that his life was conceded to the faithful, to intercede for the people as a mediator with God. In his laft lethargic moments, his affent was extorted to the fucceffion of his eldest fon Richard to the office of protector; and he expired at the age of fixty, on the third of September, a day which he confidered as propitious, from his victories at Worcester and Dunbar.

to fubvert the liberties of a free people, had been the lot of others; but, by combining thefe crimes, he was the first who brought the monarch whom he had dethroned to a public execution, and reduced the people whom he ferved to the moft complete fubjection. A magnanimous and daring fpirit, an invincible courage, military talents, addrefs, perfeverance, and uniform fuccefs, were neceflary to accom-" plifh his greatnefs and his crimes. But to thefe qualities he added the moft extravagant enthufiafm; the moft confummate hypocrify; a profound fagacity in difcerning the characters and defigns of others; an impenetrable fecrecy in difguif, ing his own. From the diffipation of his early years, he retained a fpecious franknefs, which degenerated often into grofs buffoonery, but without which hypocrify itfelf is of little avail. His magnanimity was naturally imperious and overbearing; nor did he stoop to diffimulation and artifice where it was poffible to command. His military talents are rather confpicuous in the enthusiasm with which he infpired, and in the difcipline to which he inured his troops, than in the evolutions of the field or the conduct of a campaign. His victories were due to their difcipline and irrefiftible valour; and as he entered into the army late in life, his military character, though furpaffed by none of his countrymen, never equalled the reputation of Condé and Turenne. If inferior to Vane in addrefs and dexterity, his vigorous understanding was excelled by none. Neither wholly illiterate nor deftitute of elocution, he united an apparent incoherence of thought and expreffion, with a clear and fteady conception of his object, and a prompt decifion in the

"He was born of refpectable parents, remotely allied, on his mother's fide, to the Stewart family, and on his father's fprung from a fifter of Cromwell, the minifter and victim of Henry VIII. From a diffolute and licentious youth, he paffed at once to the oppofite extreme of enthufiaftic devotion; and, when the wars commenced, afcended rapidly to the natural level of his genius and ambition. From a command of horfe, he rofe to the first rank in the army and in the ftate; from the obfcure and humble mediocrity of a private ftation, to the abfolute dominion and ultimate difpofal of three kingdoms. To fuppiant a monarch, or

[ocr errors][merged small]

"His ambition, however, was guided by events, and, like his talents, appeared to expand with every opportunity that occurred. At one period it was confined to a ribband, a title, a competent fortune, and the command of the army; till the duplicity of Charles left him, he faid, only this alternative: If it is my head or the king's that must fall, can I heftate which to choofe? If Ireton, a genuine republican, had furvived, or the parliament had confented to a timely diffolution, his ufurpation

SHORT APOLOGETIC SKETCH of the LIFE and WRITINGS of GEORGE BUCHANNAN.

[ocr errors]

might have been prevented; but the diffolution of the long parlia ment had become not lefs neceffary for his prefervation than the de ftruction of the king. His domeftic government was a reign of expedients, vigorous indeed, but without a plan. It was believed that his refources and arts were exhaufted with his life; but to furmount the original obstacles to his greatnefs, was more difficult far than to prolong its duration. His morals were irreproachable in private life. His government was just and lenient where his fafety or intereft had no immediate concern; and although humanity never obflructed the execution of his defigns, even his enemies acknow ledged that he was not unworthy of the crown he rejected, had he been born to reign. He died with the character of the worst and greatest man in modern times, which with fome abatements is ftill preferved and as he enjoyed more than regal power while alive, he was interred with more than regal pomp and expence."

[From the Second Volume of OBSERVATIONS ON a TOUR THROUGH THE HIGHLANDS, &C. of SCOTLAND, by T. GARNETT, M.D.]

HIS writer, who was diftin- his education; but in lefs than two

years the death of his uncle, and his own bad ftate of health, obliged him to return home. He then became a foldier under John duke of Albany; and the feverity of the campaign brought on a difeafe which confined him to his bed during the whole of the next winter. While ftruggling with poverty

fixteenth century as a poet, hiftorian, and man of univerfal genius, was defcended from an ancient family, which was never rich, but by the extravagance of his grandfather was reduced to great indigence. His mother's brother faw that he had genius, and fent him to Paris for

kind. He was imprifoned, and would have been tried had he not efcaped from his keepers. When he arrived in Paris, he found Beaton there as ambaffador to that court. This induced him imme. diately to quit that city for Bourdeaux, where he taught in the public fchools for three years. Beaton found him out, and would have had him tried in France, if the affairs in Scotland had not put an end to his embassy.

ty and fickness, he was, at the age of twenty years, admitted into the college of St. Barbe in Paris, where he taught grammar for three years, and became acquainted with the earl of Caffils, who was fo delighted with his wit and manners, that he made him his companion and tutor. With him he remained five years abroad, and two years at home; at the end of which the earl died, and he was about to return to France, when James V. made him preceptor to his illegitimate fon, who was afterwards the famous regent Murray. While he was in this fituation, there was a confpiracy against the king, who, believing the Francifcans to be concerned in it, ordered Buchanpan to write against them. He did fo, but in fuch gentle terms that the king was diffatisfied, and commanded him to write with more feverity. The fecond order produced the famous Francifcanus, of which only one copy was given to the king, who let other perfons fee it, and it would feem in a difhonourable manner; for it foon became public, and Buchannan found the animofity of the church more powerful than the favour of the crown*. Cardinal Beaton offered a fum of money for his head; and the prosecution of him became a common cause, not only to mendicants but to ecclefiaftics of every

"From Bourdeaux, after infpecting the education of the celebra ted Montaigne, he went to Paris, and taught the fecond clafs in the college of Bourbon. In the year 1547 he went to Portugal, in order to teach philofophy and polite learning; and he fays that he did fo, because his companions were rather familiar friends than ftrangers, and because that corner of the world appeared to him moft likely to be free from tumults. He was happy in that country for fome time; but when his friend Goveanus died, he was imprison ed, firft in the inquifition †, and afterwards in a monaftery. At last he obtained his liberty, and was made tutor to the fon of marefchal Brifac, with whom he fpent five years in France and Italy. He returned to Scotland in the fame year that proteftantifm became the eftablished religion of that country.

"This poem confifts of 936 lines. It is a fatire upon the Francifcans, or monks of the order of St. Francis, who in France were called Cordeliers, from the cords with which they were girt. A Francifcan is fuppofed by the poet to converse with his brethren, and to inftruct novices; in do ng which, he displays all the abominable principles and practices with which that order has been charged."

"When Buchannan was accufed in Portugal, the first charge against him was, That he had written the Francifcanus: the fecond, That he had eaten flesh in Lent; and the third, That he had no good opinion of the Romish religion. To the first he anfwered, That before he left France he had fent an account of that affair to the king of Portugal, and that he had given but one copy of that poem to the king of Scotland, by whole order it was written, His own words are, Unum enim ejus exemplum, Regi Scotorum, qui fcribendi auctor fuerat, erat datum.””

He

He was mide principal of St. Leo-
nard's college in St. Andrew's,
and was elected moderator of the
general affembly of the church
an office of great importance at
that time, and which has never
been conferred upon a layman
but in that inftance only. He was
appointed preceptor to the young
king by the authority of par-
liament. He was one of the
commiffioners to York, and after-
wards to Hampton-court, upon the
affairs of queen Mary; and, at his
return, he was made director of
chancery, and penfioner of the
crofs regal in Ayrshire. Honours
were heaped upon him, even after
the death of his great friend the
regent Murray; for he was made
one of the lords of council, and
lord privy-feal. He retired from
court about a year before his death,
and died a bachelor in December
1582, in the feventy-Sixth year of

his money in charity. This feems,
the more probable, because, in all
the calumnies that were thrown out
against him, he is not fo much
as charged with extravagance; be-
caufe prodigality is feldom the
vice of old age; and because,
when he was near his end, he.
defired his fervant to give to the
poor what little money was in
his purfe, as there was not enough
to defray the expences of his fa-
neral; faying, If they will not
bury my corpfe, they may let
it lie where I am, or they may
throw it where they pleafe.'

6

6

"Another charge which has been urged against Buchannan as a writer, is indelicacy and licentioufnefs, particularly in his de fcription of an amorous Francis- can in his poem Francifcanus; but he may perhaps be defended when we compare the delicate. taste of the prefent age with that in which he wrote. The ancient fatirifts, as Hume obferves, often ufed great liberties in their expreffions; but their freedom no more refembles the licentiousness of Rochefter, than the nakednefs of an Indian does that of a common prostitute. In the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, when the church of Rome was in the height of her glory, there was a fettled, enmity between the priests of the fame church, viz. the feculars and, regulars, or parish priests and monks, because their manners and interefts were in fome respects different. The art of printing and capper-plate engraving was unknown at that time; and the feculars, who were in poffefion of the cathedrals, which were then the places of greateft refort, made fatirical ftatues and figures of the monks, inftead of * Hume's History of James II.

his age.

"There has fcarcely exifted a diftinguished perfon in public life, whofe moral character has not been calumniated through envy or other motives. Buchannan's was attacked with great virulence. The injuftice of the attack is, however, pretty certain, becaufe no other proof has been brought than vague affertions, and the chain of facts juft enumerated form the trongctt evidence of his probity and merit. The only circumftance which has not been well explained, is, how he fell into fuch poverty that he was buried at the expence of the city of Edinburgh. The offices which he held in Scotland, during the latter part of his life, were lucrative; I cannot therefore fee how he became fo indigent, but by fuppofing that he gave away

lampooning

anger, they had recourfe to their ⚫ common charge, to wit, that of herefy.' When he speaks of the perfecution which he and his colleagues met with in Portugal, it is in this manner: All their

"

Lampooning them, as would be done in our times, by prints and pam. phlets. In feveral cathedrals, for inftance, that of Glafgow, there are ftill remaining many figures of the monks in more indecent fituations than any defcribed by Buchan. nan; fo that he, in fact, faid no more against them than was com monly done by their brother ecclefiaftics. Thefe figures, which are to be found in the cathedrals of most countries in Europe, prefent a ftriking view of human nature. In the opinion of good catholics, every ftone in a religious building is holy in the ftrictest fenfe; while proteftants think there is nothing more facred in the fones of a church, than in thofe of any public edifice; and yet the first applied their holy fabrics to a ufe, of which a proteftant would be ashamed. So different are the manners of mankind in different ages, and fo wonderfully does the human mind reconcile the greatest inconfiftencies when the malevolent paffions are afloat, and fanned by party zeal.

"In the Life of Buchannan, written by himself, there is a dignity, good humour, modefty, and knowledge of the worki, which ftand forth as a reproach to almost all other felf-biographers. Though he was oppreffed with years and difeafe when he wrote it; and though the clergy had perfecuted him for a long time, and zealously fought his life, yet he fpeaks of them in the following terms: They, to wit, the Francifcans, who make a profeffion of gentlenefs, took that flight offence more amifs than feemed becoming in them, who were fo pious in the opinion of the vulgar; and not finding fufficient caufe to justify their immoderate

"

[ocr errors]

"

(

enemies, and all their rivals, firft fecretly, and then openly, feil upon them in the most hoftile manner; and they infulted Buchannan with the utmost bitternefs, for he was a stranger who had few to rejoice in his fafety, to lament his diftrefs, or to revenge his injury.' When fpeaking of the monaftery in which he was imprifoned, he fays, that though the monks who were appointed to inftruct him were extremely ignorant in religion, yet they were neither inhuman nor wicked.' It is remarkable that his cruel treatinent did not deprive him of tranquillity of mind; for during his confinement he employed his time in writing the tranflation of the Pfalms of David, which has been admired in every country. He was fo far from alfuming great importance on account of his literary fame, that when he speaks of himself it is in this manner: The judges, who had tired themselves and him for half a year, hot him up in a monaftery, that it might not be thought that they had without caufe haraffed a man who was not unknown.' And this it was proper for him to mention, becaufe, without it, no juft account could be given of his imprisonment after his trial.

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"Whether we confider Buchannan as a poet or a historian, he must be allowed to have poffeffed very uncommon abilities. The Francifcanus alone would have raifed him to great eminence as a poet; for there is hardly any fatire of the

fame

« AnteriorContinua »