« PreviousContinue »
that he sailed for New England, and that he returned in better times. Dimly once, in 1641 or 1642, you catch a momentary glimpse of a 'Mr. Wells' in such predicament, and hope it was this Wells,—preaching for a friend, 'in the afternoon,' in a Church in London.*
Reverend Mark Noble says, the above Letter is very curious, and a convincing proof how far gone Oliver was, at that time, in religious enthusiasm.f Yes, my reverend imbecile friend, he is clearly one of those singular Christian enthusiasts, who believe that they have a soul to be saved, even as you do, my reverend imbecile friend, that you have a stomach to be satisfied,—and who likewise, astonishing to say, actually take some trouble about that. Far gone indeed, my reverend imbecile friend!
This then is what we know of Oliver at St. Ives. He wrote the above Letter there. He had sold his Properties at Huntingdon for 1,8007.; with the whole or with part of which sum he stocked certain Grazing-Lands on the Estate of Slepe Hall, and farmed the same for a space of some five years. How he lived at St. Ivp8: how he saluted men on the streets: read Bibles: sold cattle; and walked, with heavy footfall and many thoughts, through the Market Green or old narrow lanes in St. Ives, by the shore of the black Ouse River,—shall be left to the reader's imagination. There is in this man talent for farming; there are thoughts enough, thoughts bounded by the Ouse River, thoughts that go beyond Eternity,—and a great black sea of things that he has never yet been able to think.
I count the children he had at the time; and find them six: Four boys and two girls; the eldest a boy of fourteen, the youngest a girl of six: Robert, Oliver, Bridget, Richard, Henry, Elizabeth. Robert and Oliver, I take it, are gone to Felsted School, near Bourchier their Grandfather's in Essex. Sir Thomas Bouchier the worshipful Knight, once of London, lives at Felsted; Sir William Masham, another of the same, lives at Otes, hard by, as we shall see.
Cromwell at the time of writing this Letter was, as he him.
* Old Pamphlet: Title mislaid and forgotten t Noble, i., 259
self might partly think probable," about to quit St. Ives. His mother's brother, Sir Thomas Steward, Knight, lay sick at Ely, in tl.ose very days. Sir Thomas makes his will in this same month of January, leaving Oliver his principal heit; and on the 30th it was all over, and he lay in his last home: * Buried in the Cathedral of Ely, 30 January, 1635-6.'
Worth noting, and curious to think of, since it is indisputable: On the very day while Oliver Cromwell was writing this Letter at St. Ives, two obscure individuals, 'Peter Aldridge and Thomas Lane, Assessors of Shipmoney,' over in Buckinghamshire, had assembled a Parish Meeting in the Church of Great Kimble, to assess and rate the Shipmoney of the said Parish: there, in the cold weather, at the foot of the Chiltern Hills, '11 January, 1635,' the Parish did attend, 'John Hampden, Esquire,' at the head of them, and by a return still extant," refused to pay the same or any portion thereof,—witness the above 'Assessors,' witness also two ' Parish Constables ' whom we remit from such unexpected celebrity. John Hampden's share for this Parish is thirty-one shillings and sixpence; for another Parish it is twenty shillings; on which latter sum, not on the former, John Hampden was tried.
* Facsimile Engraving of it, in Lord Nugent'a Memorials of Hampdan (London, 1832), i., 331.
Oliver removed to Ely very soon after wilting the foregoing Letter. There is a ' receipt for 107.' signed by him, dated ' Ely, 10th June, 1636 ;* and other evidence that he was then resident there. He succeeded to his Uncle's Farming of the Tithes; the Leases of these, and new Leases of some other small lands oi fields granted him, are still in existence. He continued here till the time of the Long Parliament; and his Family still after that, till some unascertained date, seemingly about 1647, when it became apparent that the Long Parliament was not like to rise for a great while yet, and it was judged expedient that the whole household should remove to London. His Mother appears to have joined him in Ely; she quitted Huntingdon, returned to her native place, an aged grandmother,—was not, however, to end her days there.
As Sir Thomas Steward, Oliver's Uncle, farmed the Tithes of Ely, it is reasonable to believe that he, and Oliver after him, occupied the House set apart for the Tithe-Farmer there; as Mark Noble, out of dim Tradition, confidently testifies. This is 'the -house occupied by Mr. Page ;'f under which name, much better than under that of Cromwell, the inhabitants of Ely now know it. The House, though somewhat in a frail state, is still standing; close to St. Mary's Churchyard; at the corner of the great Tithe-barn of Ely, or great Square of tithe-barns and offices,—which ' is the biggest barn in England but one,' say the Ely people. Of this House, for Oliver's sake, some Painter will yet perhaps take a correct likeness:—it is needless to go to Stuntney, out on the Soham road, as Oliver's Painters usually do; Oliver never lived there, but only his Mother's cousins! Two years ago this House in Ely stood empty; closed finally up,
deserted by all the Pages, as 'the Commutation of Tithes ' had rendered it superfluous: this year (1845), I find, it is an Alehouse, with still some chance of standing. It is by no means a sumptuous mansion; but may have conveniently held a man of three or four hundred a year, with his family, in those simple times. Some quaint air of gentility still looks through its ragged dilapidation. It is of two stories, more properly of one and a half; has many windows, irregular chimneys and gables. Likely enough Oliver lived here; likely his Grandfather may have lived here, his Mother have been born here. She was now again resident here. The tomb of her first husband and child, Johannes Lynne and poor little Catharina Lynne, is in the Cathedral hard by. 'Such are the changes which fleeting Time procureth.'—
This Second extant Letter of Cromwell's is dated Ely, October, 1638. It will be good to introduce, as briefly as possible, a few Historical Dates, to remind the reader what o'clock on the Great Horologe it is while this small Letter is a-writing. Last year in London there had been a very strange spectacle; and in three weeks after, another in Edinburgh, of still more significance in English History.
On the 30th of June, 1637, in Old Palaceyard, three men, gentlemen of education, of good quality, a Barrister, a Physician and a Parish Clergyman of London were set on three Pillories; stood openly, as the scum of malefactors, for certain hours there; and then had their ears cut off,—bare knives, hot branding-irons, —and their cheeks stamped 'S. L.' Seditious Libeller; in the sight of a great crowd,' silent' mainly, and looking' pale.'* The men were our old friend William Prynne,—poor Prynne, who had got into new trouble, and here lost his ears a second and final time, having had them 'sewed on again' before: William Prynne, Barrister; Dr. John Bastwick; and the Rev. Henry Burton, Minister of Friday-street Church. Their sin was against Laud and his surplices at Allhallow-tide, not against any other man or thing. Prynne, speaking to the people, defied all Lambeth, with
* State Trials (Cobbetf s, London, 1809), iii., 746.
Rome at the back of it, to argue with him, William Prynne alone, and these practices were according to the Law of England ; "and if I fail 11 prove it," said Prynne, " let them hang tny body at the door of that Prison there," the Gate-house Prison. 'Whereat the people gave a great shout,'—somewhat of an ominous one, I think. Bastwick's wife, on the scaffold, received his ears in hei lap, and kissed him.* Prynne's ears the executioner 'rathei sawed than cut.' "Cut me, tear me," cried Prynne; "I fear thee not; I fear the fire of Hell, not thee!" The June sun had shone hot on their faces. Burton, who had discoursed eloquent religion all the while, said, when they carried him, near fainting, into a house in King-street, "It is too hot to last."
Too hot indeed. For at Edinburgh, on Sunday the 23d of July following, Archbishop Laud having now, with great effort and much manipulation, got his Scotch Liturgy and Scotch Pretended-Bishops ready,f brought them fairly out to action,—and Jenny Geddes hurled her stool at their head. "Let us read the Collect of the Day," said the Pretended-Bishop from amid his tippets;—" De'il colic the wame of thee!" answered Jenny, hurling her stool at his head. "Thou foul thief, wilt thou say mass at my lug V'% I thought we had got done with the mass some
* Towers's British Biography.
t Rush worth, ii., 321, 343; iii., Appendix, 153—5; &c.
% 'No sooner was the Book opened by the Dean of Edinburgh, but
'» number of the meaner sort, with clapping of their hands and outcries, made a great uproir; and one of them, called Jane or Janot Gaddis (yet living at the writing of this relation) flung a little folding-stool, whereon she sat, at the Dean's head, saying, "Out thou false thief! dost thou say the mass at my lug?" Which was followed with so great a noise,' &c. These-words are in the Continuation of Baker's Chronicle, by Phillips (Milton's Nephew); fifth edition of Baker (London, 1/570), p. 47S. They are not in (he fourth edition of Baker, 1665, which is the first that contains the Continuation; they follow as here in all the others. Thought to be the first grave mention of Jenny Geddes in Printed History; a heroine still familiar to Tradition everywhere in Scotland.
In a foolish Pamphlet, printed in 1661, entitled Edinburgh's Joy, &c.— Joy for the Blessed Restoration and Annus Mirabilis,—there is mention made of' the immortal Jenet Geddis,' whom the writer represents as rejoicing exceedingly in that miraculous event; she seems to be a well-known person keeping ' a cabbage-stall at the Tron Kirk,' at that date. Burnt, in