Page images

In the month of March, 1619, he left England" to lie lieger” in France, where he remained until July, 1621. The most conspicuous event in his Memoirs, during this period, is the quarrel with the great constable, Monsieur de Luisnes, which was in fact the cause of his recal. Luisnes was strongly opposed to the protestant interest, and endeavoured by every means in his power to exasperate the young king against his subjects of that religion. The French minister was, of course, exceedingly jealous of the interference of England in favour of the Huguenots, and could ill brook our ambassador's offer to mediate a peace between the monarch and his heretical subjects; nor could the fiery spirit of Sir Edward Herbert, for a moment, suffer his master's name or conduct to be slighted. But a quarrel between a prime-minister and an ambassador deserves to be related at full length.

“ Being arrived within a small distance of that place, I found by divers circumstances, that the effect of my negociation had been discovered from England, and that I was not welcome thither; howbeit, having obtained an audience from the king, I exposed what I had in charge to say to him, to which yet I received no other answer but that I should go to Monsieur de Luisnes, by whom I should know his majesty's intention. Repairing thus to him, I did find outwardly good reception, though yet I did not know how cunningly he proceeded to betray and frustrate my endeavours for those of the religion ; for, hiding a gentleman, called Monsieur Arnaud, behind the hangings in his chamber, who was then of the religion, but had promised a revolt to the king's side, this gentleman, as he himself confessed afterwards to the Earl of Carlisle, had in charge to relate unto those of the religion, how little help they might expect from me, when he should tell them the answers which Monsieur de Luisnes made me. Sitting thus in a chair before Monsieur de Luisnes, he demanded the effect of my business; I answered, that the king, my master, commanded me to mediate a peace betwixt his majesty and his subjects of the religion, and that I desired to do it in all those fair and equal terms, which might stand with the honour of France, and the good intelligence betwixt the two kingdoms : to which he returned this rude answer only, What hath the king, your master, to do with our actions ? My reply was, That the king, my master, ought not to give an account of the reason which induced him hereunto, and for me it was enough to obey him ; howbeit, if he did ask me in more gentle terms, I should do the best I could to give him satisfaction; to which, though he answered no more than the word bien, or well, I pursuing my instructions, said, that the king, my master, according to the mutual stipulation betwixt Henry the Fourth and himself, that the survivor of either of them should procure the tranquillity and peace of the other's estate, had sent this message; and that he had not only testified this his pious inclination heretofore, in the civil wars of France, but was desirous on this occasion also, to show how much he stood affected to the good of the king

dom; besides, he hoped that when peace was established here, that the French king might be the more easily disposed to assist the Palatine, who was an ancient friend and ally of the French crown. His reply to this was, we will have none of your advices: whereupon I said, that I took those words for an answer, and was sorry only that they did not understand sufficiently the affection and good will of the king my master; and since they rejected it upon those terms, I had in charge to tell him, that we knew very well what we had to do. Luisnes seeming offended herewith, said, nous ne vous craignons pas, or, we are not afraid of you. I replied hereupon, that if you had said you had not loved us, I should have believed you, but should have returned you another answer; in the mean while, that I had no more to say. than what I told him formerly, which was, we knew what we had to do. This, though somewhat less than was in my instructions, so angered him, that in much passion he said, Par Dieu, si vous n'éties Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, je vous traiterois d'un autre sorte; by God, if you were not Monsieur Ambassador, I would use you after another fashion. My answer was, that as I was an ambassador, so I was also a gentleman, and therewithal, laying my hand upon the hilt of my sword, told him, there was that which should make him an answer, and so arose from my chair; to which Monsieur de Luisnes made no reply, but, arising likewise from his chair, offered civilly to accompany me to the door; but I telling him there was no occasion for him to use ceremony, after so rude an entertainment, I departed from him.”

On the death of the Duke de Luisnes, Sir Edward Herbert was commanded to resume his character of ambassador at Paris, when, in 1624, he published his first work, De Veritate, prout distinguitur à revelatione verisimili, possibili, et à falso. Beyond this period he has not continued his own memoirs, and with the remainder of his life we are therefore but imperfectly acquainted. In 1625 he was created a baron of Ireland, by the title of Lord Herbert, of Castle Island, and, in 1631, was raised to the English peerage, by that of Lord Herbert, of Cherbury, in Shropshire. On the commencement of the civil war, he embraced the party of the crown, but, on further consideration, was induced to abandon his royal politics, and to attach himself to the parliamentarian interests. He died in 1648, in his house, in Great Queen Street, London, and was buried at St. Giles's in the Fields. He was succeeded by his son, Richard, Lord Herbert.

Neither the fatigues of the camp, nor the allurements of the court, could wholly divest the active mind of Lord Herbert from those nobler studies which had formed the delight of his youthful hours. In the intervals of his martial toils, his chivalrous gallantries, and his public engagements, he devoted himself with ardour to the pursuit of literature and philosophy. His first publication, as we have mentioned above, was his treatise De Veritate, a singular work, in which he inculcates the doctrine of the efficacy of natural religion. His creed is contained in five articles. 1. That there is one supreme God. 2. That he is chiefly to be worshipped. 3. That piety and virtue are the principal parts of his worship. 4. That we must repent of our sins, and that if we do so, God will forgive them. 5. That there are rewards for good men and punishments for bad men, in a future state. Many answers to this work were published by Gassendi, by Baxter, in his More Reasons for the Christian Religion, and by the Rev. Mr. Halyburton, in a volume entitled Natural Religion insufficient, and Revealed necessary to Man's Happiness. A full account of this work, as well as of the treatise De Religione Gentilium, and the Religio Laici, may be found in Leland's View of the Deistical Writers of England. The ability displayed in these compositions was such as to excite the attention of Locke, who allows his lordship to be a man of parts, while Leland considers him as the most eminent of the deistical writers, and, in several respects, superior to those that succeeded him. It is highly singular, that a writer, holding opinions like these, should, when doubtful as to the propriety of promulgating them, look for a special revelation of the divine pleasure. In what strange inconsistencies may the human mind entangle itself! When on the point of publishing a book, which was to prove the inefficacy of Revelation, Lord Herbert put up a prayer for an especial interposition of Providence to guide him!

“My book, De Veritate, prout distinguitur à revelatione verisimili, possibili, et à falso, having been begun by me in England, and formed there in all its principal parts, was about this time finished ; all the spare hours which I could get from my visits and negociations, being employed to perfect this work, which was no sooner done, but that I communicated it to Hugo Grotius, that great scholar, who, having escaped his prison in the Low Countries, came into France, and was much welcomed by me and Monsieur Tieleners also, one of the greatest scholars of his time, who, after they had perused it, and given it more commendations than it is fit for me to repeat, exhorted me earnestly to print and publish it; howbeit, as the frame of my whole book was so different from any thing which had been written heretofore, I found I must either renounce the authority of all that had written formerly concerning the method of finding out truth, and consequently insist upon my own way, or hazard myself to a general censure, concerning the whole argument of my book; I must confess it did not a little animate me, that the two great persons above mentioned did so highly value it, yet, as I knew it would meet with much opposition, I did consider whether it was not better for me a while to suppress it. Being thus doubtful in my chamber, one fair day in the summer, my casement being open towards the south, the sun shining clear, and no wind stirring, I took my book, De Veritate, in my hand, and, kneeling on my knees, devoutly said these words :

“O thou eternal God, author of the light which now shines upon me, and giver of all inward illuminations, I do beseech thee, of thy infinite goodness, to pardon a greater request than a sinner ought to make; I am not satisfied enough whether I shall publish this book, De Veritate; if it be for thy glory, I beseech thee give me some sign from heaven ; if not, I shall suppress it.

“I had no sooner spoken these words, but a loud, though yet gentle noise came from the heavens, (for it was like nothing on earth,) which did so comfort and cheer me, that I took my petition as granted, and that I had the sign I demanded, whereupon also I resolved to print my book.

“ This, how strange soever it may seem, I protest before the eternal God is true, neither am I any way superstitiously deceived herein, since I did not only clearly hear the noise, but in the serenest sky that ever I saw, being without all cloud, did to my thinking see the place from whence it came.”

The observations of Dr. Leland, on this part of Lord Herbert's history, are candid and judicious.

“I have no doubt of his lordship's sincerity in this account; the serious air with which he relates it, and the solemn protestation he makes, as in the presence of the eternal God, will not suffer us to question the truth of what he relates; viz. that he both made that address to God which he mentions, and that in consequence of this, he was persuaded that he heard the noise he takes notice of, and regarded as a mark of God's approbation of the request he had made, and accordingly, this great man was determined by it to publish his book. He seems to have considered it as a kind of imprimatur given to it from heaven, and as signifying the divine approbation of the book itself, and of what was contained in it.”Leland's View of the Deistical Writers, i. 27.

The Life and Reign of Henry the Eighth has been termed, by Lord Orford,“ a master-piece of historic biography.” From the dedication (which is not given in Kennet's Complete History of England) it appears, that this work was written at the instigation and under the eye of James I. The chief error in this production is, that the noble historian is too favourably disposed towards his hero, and treats with too lenient and palliating a hand the cruelties and vices of that monarch. In other respects, the Life of Henry VIII. is a highly valuable work, and contains much information which is not to be found elsewhere. “ The author,” says Bishop Nicolson, in his excellent book, the English Historical Library, “has acquitted himself with the like reputation as Lord Chancellor Bacon gained by the Life of Henry VII., having, in the polite and martial part, been admirably exact, from the best records that remain.” To this it may be added, that he throws considerable light upon our legal history.

Lord Herbert's other works consist of Occasional Verses of Edward Lord Herbert, Baron of Cherbury and Castle Island, who deceased in 1648, Lond. 1665, 8vo. a volume published by his younger son, Henry Herbert. Like his brother, George Herbert, whose poems we noticed in a former volume, Lord Herbert is often both rugged and obscure in his verses. The sword was much better suited to his hand than the lyre, and we shall not therefore, at present, favour the reader with any specimens of his verses.

The character of Lord Herbert has been ably drawn by Horace Walpole, in the advertisement prefixed to this volume.

“ The noble family which gives these sheets to the world, is above the little prejudices which make many a race defraud the public of what was designed for it by those, who alone had a right to give or withhold. It is above suppressing what Lord Herbert dared to tell. Foibles, passions, perhaps some vanity, surely some wrong-headedness, these he scorned to conceal, for he sought truth, wrote on truth, was truth. He honestly told when he had missed or mistaken it. His descendants, not blind to his faults, but through them conducting the reader to his virtues, desire the world to make this candid observation with them : • that there must have been a wonderful fund of internal virtue, of strong resolution, and manly philosophy, which, in an age of such mistaken and barbarous gallantry, of such absurd usages and false glory, could enable Lord Herbert to seek fame better founded, and could make him reflect, that there might be a more desirable kind of glory than that of a romantic duellist. None shut their eyes so obstinately against seeking what is ridiculous, as they who have attained a mastery in it: but that was not the case with Lord Herbert. His valour made him a hero, be the heroism in vogue what it would ; his sound parts made him a philosopher. Few men, in truth, have figured so conspicuously in lights so various; and his descendants, though they cannot approve him in every walk of glory, would perhaps injure his memory, if they suffered the world to be ignorant, that he was formed to shine in every sphere, into which his impetuous temperament, or predominant reason, conducted him.

“ As a soldier, he won the esteem of those great captains, the Prince of Orange, and the Constable de Montmorency. As a knight, his chivalry was drawn from the purest founts of the Fairy Queen. Had he been ambitious, the beauty of his person would have carried him as far as any gentle knight can aspire to go. As a public minister, he supported the dignity of his country, even when his prince disgraced it; and that he was qualified to write its annals, as well as to ennoble them, the history I have mentioned proves, and must make us lament, that he did not complete, or that we have lost, the account he purposed to give of his embassy. These busy scenes were blended with, and terminated by meditation and philosophic inquiries. Strip each period of its excesses and errors, and it will not be easy to trace out, or dispose the life of a man of quality into a succession of employments which would better become him. Valour and military activity in youth, business of state in the middle age, contemplation and labour for the

« PreviousContinue »