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1639, the earl of Sunderland, who died at Newberry in the king's cause; and, in her old age, meeting somewhere with Waller, asked him, when he would again write such verses upon her? “When you are as young, madam,” said he, “ and as handsome as you were then.”
In this part of his life it was that he was known to Clarendon, among the rest of the men who were eminent in that age for genius and literature; but known so little to his advantage, that they who read his character will not much condemn Sacharissa, that she did not descend from her rank to his embraces, nor think every excellence com. prised in wit.
The lady was, indeed, inexorable: but his uncommon qualifications, though they had no power upon her, recommended him to the scholars and statesmen; and undoubtedly many beauties of that time, however they might receive his love, were proud of his praises. Who they were, whom he dignifies with poetical names, cannot now be known. Amoret, according to mr. Fenton, was the lady Sophia Murray. Perhaps, by traditions preserved in families, more may be discovered.
From the verses written at Penshurst, it has been collected that he diverted his disappointment by a voyage; and his biographers, from his poem on the whales, think it not improbable that he visited the Bermudas; but it seems much more likely that he should amuse himself with forming an imaginary scene, than that so important an incident, as a visit to America, should have been left floating in conjectural probability.
From his twenty-eighth to his thirty-fifth year, he wrote his pieces on the reduction of Sallee;; on the reparation of St. Paul's; to the king on his navy; the panegyric on the queen mother; the two poems to the earl of Northumberland; and perhaps others, of which the time cannot be discovered.
When he had lost all hopes of Sacharissa, he looked round him for an easier conquest, and gained a lady of the family of Bresse, or Breaux. The time of his marriage is not exactly known. It has not been discovered that his wife was won by his poetry; nor is any thing told of her, but that she brought him many children. He doublless praised some whom he would have been afraid to marry, and perhaps married one whom he would have been ashamed to praise. Many qualities contribute to domestic happiness, upon which poetry has no colours to bestow; and many airs and sallies may delight imagination, which he who flatters them never can approve. There are charms made only for distant admiration. No spectacle is nobler than a blaze.
Of this wife, his biographers have recorded that she gare him five sons and eight daughters.
During the long interval of parliament, he is represented as living among those with whom it was most honourable to converse, and enjoying an exuberant fortune with that independence and liberty of speech and conduct which wealth ought always to produce. He was however considered as the kinsman of Hampden, and was therefore supposed by the courtiers not to favour them.
When the parliament was called in 1640, it appeared that Waller's political character had not been mistaken. The king's demand of a supply produced one of those noisy speeches which disaffection and discontent regularly dictate; a speech filled with hyperbolical complaints of imaginary grievances: “ They," says he, “ who think themselves already undone, can never apprehend themselves in danger; and they who have nothing left can never give freely.” Political truth is equally in danger from the praises of courtiers and the exclamations of patriots.
He then proceeds to rail at the clergy, being sure at that time of a favourable audience. His topic is such as will always serve its purpose; an accusation of acting and preaching only for preferment: and he exhorts the commons carefully to provide for their protection against pulpit law.
It always gratifies curiosity to trace a sentiment. Waller has in his speech quoted Hooker in one passage; and in another has copied him, without quoting. “ Religion,” says Waller,
ought to be the first thing in our purpose and desires; but that which is first in dignity is not always to precede in order of time; for well-being supposes a being; and the first impediment which men naturally endeavour to remove, is the want of those things without which they cannot subsist. God first assigned unto Adam maintenance of life, and gave him a title to the rest of the creatures, before he appointed a law to observe.”
“God first assigned Adam,” says Hooker, "maintenance of life, and then appointed him a law-to observe.—True it is that the kingdom of God must be the first thing in our purpose and desires; but inasmuch as a righteous life presupposeth life, inasmuch as to live virtuously it is impossible, except we live; therefore the first impediment which naturally we endeavour to remove is penury, and want of things without which we cannot live.” B. I. sect. 9.
The speech is vehement; but the great position, that grievances ought to be redressed before supplies are grant. ed, is agreeable enough to law and reason: nor was Waller, if his biographer may be credited, such an enemy to the king, as not to wish his distresses lightened; for he re. lates, “that the king sent particularly to Waller, to second his demand of some subsidies to pay off the ariny; and sir Henry Vane objecting against first voting a supply, because the king would not accept unless it came up to his proportion, mr. Waller spoke earnestly to sir Thomas Jermyn, comptroller of the household, to save his master from the effects of so bold a falsity; “ for,” he said, “I am but a country gentleman, and cannot pretend to know the king's mind:" but sir Thomas durst not contradict the secretary; and his son, the earl of St. Alban's, afterwards told mr. Waller, that his father's cowardice ruined the king."
In the long parliament, which, unhappily for the nation, met Nov. 3, 1640, Waller represented Agmondesham the third time; and was considered by the discontented party as a man sufficiently trusty and acrimonious to be employed in managing the prosecution of judge Crawley, for his opinion in favour of ship-money; and his speech shews that he did not disappoint their expectations. He was probably the more ardent, as his uncle Hampden had been particularly engaged in the dispute, and, by a sentence which seems generally to be thought unconstitutional, particularly injured.
He was not however a bigot to his party, nor adopted all their opinions. When the great question, whether episcopacy ought to be abolished, was debated, he spoke against the innovation so coolly, so reasonably, and so firmly, that it is not without great injury to his name that his speech, which was as follows, has been hitherto omitted in his works:
* " There is no doubt but the sense of what this nation had suffered from the present bishops hath produced these complaints; and the apprehensions men have of suffering the like in time to come, make so many desire the taking away of episcopacy: but I conceive it is possible that we may not, now, take a right measure of the minds of the people by their petitions ; for, when they subscribed them, the bishops were armed with a dangerous commission of making new canons, imposing new oaths, and the like; but now we have disarmed them of that power. These petitioners lately did look upon episcopacy as a beast armed with horns and claws; but now that we have cut and pared them, (and may, if we see cause, yet reduce it into narrower bounds), it may, perhaps, be more agreeable. Howsoever, if they be still in passion, it becomes us soberly to consider the right use and antiquity thereof; and not to comply further with a general desire, than may stand with a general good.
“We have already shewed, that episcopacy and the evils thereof are mingled like water and oil; we have also, in part, severed them ; but I believe you will find, that our laws and the present government of the church are mingled like wine and water; so inseparable, that the abrogation of, at least, a hundred of our laws is desired in these petitions. I have often heard a noble answer of the lords, commended in this house, to a proposition of like nature, but of less consequence; they gave no other reason of their refusal but this, Nolumus mutare leges Angliæ : it was the bishops who so answered then; and it would become the dignity and wisdom of this house to answer the people, now, with a Nolumus muture.
* This speech has been retrieved, from a paper printed at that time, by the writers of the parliamentary history.
“ I see some are moved with a number uf hands against the bishops; which, I confess, rather inclines me to their defence; for I look upon episcopacy as a counterscarp, or out-work; which, if it be taken by this assault of the people, and, withal, this mystery once revealed, that we must deny them nothing when they ask it thus in troops, we may, in the next place, have as hard a task to defend our property, as we have lately had to recover it from the prerogative. If, by multiplying hands and petitions, they prevail for an equality in things ecelesiastical, the next demand perhaps may be lex agraria, the like equality in things temporal.
“ The Roman story tells us, that when the people began to flock about the senate, and were more curious to direct and know what was done than to obey, that commonwealth soon came to ruin: their legem rogare grew quickly to be a legem ferre: and after, when their legions had found that they could make a dictator, they never suffered the senate to have a voice any more in such election.
“ If these great innovations proceed, I shall expect a flat and level in learning too, as well as in church-preferments : Honos alit artes. And though it be true, that grave and pious men do study for learning-sake, and embrace virtue for itself; yet it is as true that youth, which is the season when learning is gotten, is not without ambition ; nor will ever take pains to excel in any thing, when there is not some hope of excelling others in reward and dignity.
“ There are two reasons chiefly alleged against our church-government.
“ First, Scripture, which, as some men think, points out another form.
“ Second, The abuses of the present superiors.
“For scripture, I will not dispute it in this place ; but I am confident, that, whenever an equal division of lands and goods shall be desired, there will be as many places in scripture found out, which seem to favour that, as there are now alleged against the prelacy or preferment of the church. And, as for abuses, where you are now in the remonstrance told what this and that poor man hath suffered by the bishops, you may be presented with a thousand instances of poor men that have received hard measure from.