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also, there are inaccuracies enough,—here too, what is the general rule in these books, you can find as many inaccuracies as you like: dig where you please, water will come! As a crown to all the modern Biographies of Cromwell, let us note Mr. Forster's late one :* full of interesting original excerpts, and indications of what is notablest in the old books; gathered and set forth with real merit, with energy in abundance and superabundance; amounting in result, we may say, to a vigorous decisive tearing up of all the old hypotheses on the subject, and an opening of the general mind for new.
Of Cromwell's actual biography, from these and from all Books and sources, there is extremely little to be known. It is from his own words, as I have ventured to believe, from his own Letters and Speeches well read, that the world may first obtain some dim glimpse of the actual Cromwell, and see him darkly face to face. What little is otherwise ascertainable, cleared from the circumambient inanity and insanity, may be stated in brief compass. So much as precedes the earliest still extant Letters, 1 subjoin here in the form most convenient.
* Statesmen of the Commonwealth, by John Forstcr (London, 1840), vol» ir and r
OF THE CROMWELL KINDRED.
Oliver Cromwell, afterwards Protector of the Commonwealth of England,.was born at Huntingdon, in St. John's Parish there, on the 25th of April, 1599. Christened on the 29th of the same month; as the old Parish-registers of that Church still legibly testify.* His Father was Robert Cromwell, younger son of Sir Henry Cromwell, and younger brother of Sir Oliver Cromwell, Knights both; who dwelt successively, in rather sumptuous fashion, at the Mansion of Hinchinbrook hard by. His Mother was Elizabeth Steward, daughter of William Steward, Esquire, in Ely; an opulent man, a kind of hereditary Farmer of the Cathedral Tithes and Church lands round that city; in which capacity his son, Sir Thomas Steward, Knight, in due time succeeded him, resident also at Ely. Elizabeth was a young widow when Robert Cromwell married her: the first marriage, to one 'William Lynne, Esquire, of Bassingbourne in Cambridgeshire,' had lasted but a year; husband and only child are buried in Ely Cathedral, where their monument still stands; the date of their deaths, which followed near on one another, is 1589.f The exact date of the young widow's marriage to Robert Cromwell is nowhere given; but seems to have been in 15914 Our Oliver was their fifth child; their second bo; ; but the first soon died. They had ten children in all; of whom seven came to maturity, and Oliver was their only son. I may as well print the little Note, smelted long ago out of huge dross-heaps in Noble's Book, that the reader too may have his small benefit of it.§
'Noble, i., 92.
f Noble, ii., 198, and Ms. penes me. X Noble, i., 88.
§ Oliver Cromwell's Brothers And Sisters. Oliver's mother had been a widow (Mrs. Lynne of Bassingbourne) before marrying Robert Cromwell; neither her age nor his is discoverable here
This Elizabeth Steward, who had now become Mrs. Robert Cromwell, was, say the genealogists, 'indubitably descended from the Royal Stewart Family of Scotland;' and could still count kindred with them. 'From one Walter Steward, who had accompanied Prince James of Scotland,' when our inhospitable politic Henry IV. detained the poor Prince, driven in by stress of weather to him here. Walter did not return with the Prince to Scotland; having 'fought tournaments,'—having made an advantageous marriage-settlement here. One of his descendants, Robert Steward, happened to be Prior of Ely when Henry VIII. dissolved the monasteries; and, proving pliant on that occasion, Robert Steward, last Popish Prior, became the first Protostant Dean of Ely, and—' was remarkably attentive to his family,' says Noble. The profitable Farming of the Tithes at Ely, above mentioned; this, and other settlements, and good dotations of Church lands among his Nephews, were the fruits of Robert Steward's pliancy on that occasion. The genealogists say, there is no doubt of this pedigree ;—and explain in intricate tables, how Elizabeth Steward, Mother of Oliver Cromwell, was indubitably either the ninth, or the tenth, or some other fractional part of half a cousin to Charles Stuart King of England.
1. First child (seemingly), Joan, baptized 24th September, 1592; she died in 1000 (Noble, i., 88).
2. Elizabeth, 14th October, 1593; died unmarried, thinks Noble, in 1672, at Ely.
3. Henry, 31st August, 1595; died young, ' before 1617.'
4. Catherine, 7th February, 1596-7; married to Whitstone, a Parliamentary Officer; then to Colonel Jones.
5. Oliver, born 25th April, 1599.
6. Margaret, 22d February, 1600-1 ; she became Mrs. Wauton, or Walton, Huntingdonshire; her son was killed at Marston Moor,—as we shall Bee.
7. Anna, 2d January, 1602-3; Mrs. Sewster, Huntingdonshire; died lsl November, 1646 :—her Brother Oliver had just ended the ' first Civil War' then.
8. Jane, 19th January, 1605-6; Mrs. Disbrowe, Cambridgeshire; died, teemingly, in 1656.
9. Robert, 18th January, 1608-9; died same April.
10. Robina, so named for the above Robert: uncertain date: became Mrs. Dr. French: then Mrs. Bishop Wilkins: her daughter by French, hot *ne child, was married to Archbishop Tillotson.
Howsoever related to Charles Stuart or to other parties, Robert Cromwell, younger son of the Knight of Hinchinbrook, brought her home, we see, as his Wife, to Huntingdon, about 1591; and settled with her there, on such portion, with- such prospects as a cadet of the House of Hinchinbrook might have. Portion consisting of certain lands and messuages round and in that Town of Huntingdon,—where, in the current name 'Cromwell's Acre,' if not in other names applied to lands and messuages there, some feeble echo of him and his possessions still survives, or seems to survive. These lands he himself farmed; the income in all is guessed or computed to have been about 3007. a year; a tolerable fortune in those times; perhaps something like 10007. now. Robert Cromwell's Father, as we said, and then his elder Brother, dwelt successively in good style at Hinchinbrook near by. It was the Father Sir Henry Cromwell, who from his sumptuosity was called the ' Golden Knight,' that built, or that enlarged, remodelled and as good as built, the Mansion of Hinchinbrook, which had been a Nunnery, while Nunneries still were: it was the son, Sir Oliver, likewise an expensive man, that sold it to the Montagues, since Earls of Sandwich, whose seat it still is. A stately pleasant House, among its shady lawns and expanses, on the left bank of the Ouse river, a short half mile west of Huntingdon ;—still stands pretty much as Oliver Crom. well's Grandfather left it; rather kept good and defended from the inroads of Time and Accident, than substantially altered. Several Portraits of the Cromwells, and other interesting portraits and memorials of the seventeenth and subsequent centu ries, are still there. The Cromwell blazonry ' on the great bay window,' which Noble makes so much of, is now gone; has given place to Montague blazonry; and no dull man can bore us with that any more.
Huntingdon itself lies pleasantly along the left bank of the Ouse; sloping pleasantly upwards from Ouse Bridge, which connects it with the old village of Godmanchester; the Town itself consisting mainly of one fair street, which towards the north end of it opens into a kind of irregular market-place, and then contracting again soon terminates. The two churches of All-Saints, and St. John's, as you walk up northward from the Bridge, ap< pear successively on your left; the churchyards flanked with shops or other houses. The Ouse, which is of very oircular course in this quarter, ' winding as if reluctant to enter the Fencountry,' says one Topographer, has still a respectable drabcolor, gathered from the clays of Bedfordshire; has not yet the Stygian black which in a few miles farther it assumes for good. Huntingdon, as it were, looks over into the Fens; Godmanchester, just across the river, already stands on black bog. The country to the East is all Fen (mostly unreclaimed in Oliver's time, and still of a very dropsical character); to the West it is hard green ground, agreeably broken into little heights, duly fringed with wood, and bearing marks of comfortable long-continued cultivation. Here on the edge of the firm green land, and looking over into the black marshes with their alder-trees and willow-trees, did Oliver Cromwell pass his young years. Drunken Barnabee, who travelled, and drank, and made Latin rhymes, in that country about 1635, through whose glistening satyr-eyes one can still discern this and the other feature of the Past, represents to us on the height behind Godmanchester, as you approach the scene from Cambridge and the south, a big Oak Tree, which lias now disappeared, leaving no notable successor.
Veni Godmanchester, ubi
And be adds in a Note,
Quercus anilis erat, tamen eminus oppida spectat;
Or in his own English version,
An aged Oak takes of this Town survey,
Finds birds their nests, tells passengers their way.*
If Oliver Cromwell climbed that Oak-tree, in quest of bird-nests or boy-adventures, the Tree, or this poor ghost of it, may still have a kind of claim to memory.
* Barnabae Itinerarium (London 1818), p. 96.