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possibility of chance, can be interest thee or me about them; now when they have turned out to be facts of no nature at all, - mére wearisome ephemera, and cast-clothes of facts, gone all to dust and ashes now; which the healthy human mind résolutely, not without impatience, tramples under its feet! A Book filled, as so many are, with mere dim inanity, and moaning wind. Will nobody condense it into sixteen pages; instead of four thick octavo volumes? For there are, if you look long, some streaks of dull light shining even through it; perhaps, in judicious hands, one readable sheet of sixteen pages might be made of it; - and even the rubbish of the rest, with a proper Index, might be useful; might at least be left to rot quietly, once it was known to be rubbish. But enough now of poor Mr. Burton and his Diary, — who, as we say, is not“Mr. Burton" at all, if anybody cared to know who or what he was!* Undoubtedly some very dull man. Under chimerical circumstances he gives us, being fated to do it, an inane History of a Parliament now itself grown very inane and chimerical!
This Parliament, as we transiently saw., suppressed the, Major-Generals; refused to authorise their continued “Decimation" or Ten-per-centing of the Royalists; ** whereupon they were suppressed. Its next grand feat was that of James Nayler and his Procession which we saw at Bristol lately. Interminable Debates about James Nayler, - excelling in stupor all the Human Speech, even in English Parliaments, this Editor has ever been exposed to. Nayler, in fact, is almost all that survives with one, from Burton, as the sum of what this Parliament did. If they did aught else, the human mind, eager enough to carry off news of them, has mostly dropped it on the way hither. To Posterity they sit there as the James
* Compare the Diary, vol. ii, p. 404, line 2, and vol, ii. p. 347, line 7, with Commons Journals, vii. 588; and again Diary, vol. ii. p. 346, line 13, with Commons Journals, vii. 450, 580: Two Parliament-Committees, on both of which I' the writer of the Diary sat; in neither of which is there such a name as Burton. Guess rather, if it were worth while to guess, one of the two Suffolk Bacons; most probably Nathaniel Bacun, Master of the 6. Court of Requests," – a dim old Law-Court fallen obsolete now.
** Commons Journals, 7th to 29th Jan. 1656-7.
Nayler Parliament. Four-hundred Gentlemen of England, and I think a sprinkling of Lords among them, assembled from all Counties and Boroughs of the Three Nations, to sit in solemn debate on this terrific Phenomenon; a Mad Quaker fancying or seeming to fancy himself, what is not uncommon since, a new Incarnation of Christ. Shall we hang him, shall we whip him, bore the tongue of him with hot iron; shall we imprison him, set him to oakum; shall we roast, or boil, or stew him; - shall we put the question whether this question shall be put; debate whether this shall be debated; ; in Heaven's name, what shall we do with him, the terrific Phenomenon of Nayler? This is the history of Oliver's Second Parliament for three long months and odd. Nowhere does the unfathomable Deep of Dulness which our English character has in it, more stupendously disclose itself. Something almost grand in it; nay, something really grand, though in our impatience we call it “dull.” They hold by Use and Wont, these honourable Gentlemen, almost as by Laws of Nature, by Second Nature almost as by First Nature. Pious too; and would fain know rightly the way to new objects by the old roads, without trespass. Not insignificant this English character, which can placidly debate such matters, and even feel a certain smack of delight in them! A massiveness of eupeptic vigour speaks itself there, which perhaps the liveliest wit might envy. Who is there that has the strength of ten oxen, that is able to support these things? Couldst thou debate on Nayler, day after day, for a whole Winter? Thou, if the sky were threatening to fall on account of it, wouldst sink under such labour, appointed only for the oxen of the gods! - The honourable Gentlemen set Nayler to ride with his face to the tail, through various streets and cities; to be whipt (poor Nayler), to be branded, to be bored through the tongue, and then to do oakum ad libitum upon bread-and-water; after which he repented, confessed himself mad, and this worldgreat Phenomenon, visible to Posterity and the West of Eng. land, was got winded up.* * Sentence pronounced, Commons Journals, vii. 486, 7 (16th Dec. 1656); LETTER CCXVII. CONCERNING which, however, and by what power of juris. diction the honourable Gentlemen did it, his Highness has still some inquiry to make; - for the limits of jurisdiction between Parliament and Law-Courts, Parliament and Single Person, are never yet very clear; and Parliaments uncontrolled by a Single Person have been known to be very tyrannous before now! On Friday 26th December, Speaker Widdrington intimates that he is honoured with a Letter from his Highness; and reads the same in these words:
To our Right Trusty and Right Well-belovedl Sir Thomas Wid
drington, Speaker of the Parliament: To be communicated to. the Parliament.
0. P. Right Trusty and Well-beloved, We greet you well. Having taken notice of a Judgment lately given by Yourselves against one James Nayler: Although We datest and abhor the giving or occasioning the least countenance to persons of such opinions and ptactices, or who are under the guilt of the crimes commonly imputed to the said Person: Yet We, being entrusted in the present Government, on behalf of the People of the Nations; and not knowing how far such Proceeding, entered into wholly without Us, may extend in the consequence of it, — Do desire that the House will let Us know the grounds and reasons whereupon they have proceeded.
Given at Whitehall, the 25th of December 1856.9
A pertinent inquiry; which will lead us into new wildernesses of Debate, into ever deeper wildernesses; - and in fact executed in part, Thursday 18th Dec. (ib. 470); - petitions, negotiations on it do not end till May 26th, 1657. James Nayler's Recantation is in Somers Tracts, vi. 22-29.
& Burton, í. 370; see Commons Journals, vii. 475.
into our far notablest achievement, what may be called our little oasis, or island of refuge: That of reconstructing the Instrument of Government upon a more liberal footing, explaining better the boundaries of Parliament's and Single Person's jurisdiction; and offering his Highness the Title of King.
Readers know what choking dust-whirlwind in certain portions of “the Page of History" this last business has given rise to! Dust-History, true to its nature, has treated this as one of the most important businesses in Oliver's Protectorate; though intrinsically it was to Oliver, and is to us, a mere "feather in a man's cap," throwing no new light on Oliver; and ought to be treated with great brevity indeed, had it not to many thrown much new darkness on him. It is now our painful duty to deal with this matter also; to extricate Oliver's real words and procedure on it from the detestable confusions and lumber-mountains of Human Stupidity, old and recent, under which, as usual, they lie buried. Some Seven, or even Eight, Speeches of Oliver, and innumerable Speeches of other persons on this subject have unluckily come down to us; and cannot yet be consumed by fire; - not yet, till one has painfully extricated the real speakings and proceedings of Oliver, instead of the supposititious jargonings and imaginary dark pettifoggings of Oliver; and asked candid mankind, Whether there is anything particular in them? Mankind answering No, fire can be applied; and mountains of rubbish, yielding or not some fractions of Corinthian brass, may once more be burnt out of men's way.
The Speeches and Colloquies, reported by one knows not whom, upon this matter of the Kingship, which extend from March to May of the year 1657, and were very private at the time, came out two years afterwards as a printed Pamphlet, when Kingship was once more the question, Charles Stuart's Kingship, and men needed incitements thereto. Of course it is with the learned Law-arguments in favour of Kingship that the Pamphleteer is chiefly concerned; the words of Oliver, which again are our sole concern, have been left by him in a very accidental condition! Most accidental, often enough quite meaningless, distracted, condition; -- growing ever more distracted, as each new Imaginary-Editor and unchecked Printer, in succession, did his part to them. Till now in Somers Tracts, * which is our latest form of the business, they strike description silent! Chaos itself is Cosmos in comparison with that Pamphlet in Somers. In or out of Bedlam, we can know well, gods or men never spake to one another in that manner! Oliver Cromwell's meaning is there; and that is not it. O Sluggardship, Imaginary-Editorship, Flunkeyism, Falsehood, Human Platitude in general -!- But we will complain of nothing. Know well, by experience of him, that Oliver Cromwell always had a meaning, and an honest manful meaning; search well for that, after ten or twenty reperusals you will find it even there. Those frightful jungles, trampled down for two centuries now by mere bisons and hoofed cattle, you will begin to see, were once a kind of regularly planted wood! - Let the Editor with all brevity struggle to indicate so much, candid readers doing their part along with him; and so leave it. A happier next generation will then be permitted to seek the aid of fire; and this immense business of the Kingship, throwing little new light, but also no new darkness, upon Oliver Protector, will then reduce itself to very small compass for his Biographers.
Monday, 230 February 1656-7. Amid the Miscellaneous business of this day, Alderman Sir Christopher Pack, one of : the Members for London, a zealous man, craves leave to introduce “Somewhat tending to the Settlement of the Nation," — leave, namely, to read this Paper “which has come to his hand," which is written in the form of a “Remonstrance from the Parliament" to his Highness; which if the Parliament please to adopt, they can modify it as they see good, and present the same to his Highness. Will not the Honourable House consent at least to hear it read? The Honourable House has great doubts on that subject; debates at much length, earnestly puts the question whether the question shall
*' vi. 349-403.