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added little to him besides their burthen. He was a person of that rare conversation, that upon frequent recollection and calling to mind passages of his life and discourse, I could never charge him with the least passion or inadvertence.” He was “ so exact and temperate that I have heard he never had been surprised by excess, being ascetic and sparing.” Moreover, his complexion was clear and fresh, “his eyes quick and piercing ;" he had an ample forehead and manly aspect, low of stature, but very strong." His hair, which was light, turned grey before he was thirty, with a “beard, which he wore a little picked, as the mode was, of a brownish colour. His estate was esteemed about 40001.
per annum, well wooded, and full of timber."*
Such is the character which Mr. Evelyn has given of his father, in his Diary. His description of his mother is not less quaint and pleasing. “My mother's name was Elianor, sole daughter and heiress of John Standsfield, Esq. of an ancient and honourable family (though now. extinct) in Shropshire, by his wife Elianor Comber, of a good and well-known house in Sussex. She was of proper personage ; of a brown complexion ; her eyes and hair of a lovely black; of constitution inclined to a religious melancholy, or pious sadness ; of a rare memory and most exemplary life; for economy and prudence esteemed one of the most conspicuous in her country."
“ So much touching my parents,” he says; it reasonable I should speak less of them, to whom I owe so much.” Of these parents, John was the fourth child, and second son. He was born at Wotton on the 31st of October 1620, and at four years of age was taught to read by the village schoolmaster, in the porch of the parish church.
* The quotations from Mr. Evelyn's Diary have been made in modern spelling in this memoir; and a few obsolete expressions have been altered.
nor was ous.
The five earliest years of his life were passed in his native place, on the paternal estates; and, since the tastes of mature age are frequently to be attributed to very early impressions, it is sufficiently probable that his love of rural pursuits was implanted amidst the beautiful scenery of Wotton, in which he commenced his days. “ The house," he says, “ is large and ancient, and so sweetly environed with those delicious streams and venerable woods, as in the judgment of strangers as well as Englishmen, it may be compared to one of the most pleasant seats in the nation, and most tempting for a great person and a wanton purse to render it conspicu
It has rising grounds, meadows, woods, and water in abundance.” He elsewhere speaks with delight of the “ store' of woods and timber of prodigious size. The distance from London little more than twenty miles, [really twenty-six,] and yet so securely placed as if it were a hundred; three miles from Dorking, which serves it abundantly with provisions, as well of land as sea; six from Guildford, twelve from Kingston. I will say nothing of the air, because the preeminence is universally given to Surrey, the soil being dry and sandy. But I should speak much of the gardens, fountains, and groves that adorn it, were they not as generally known to be amongst the most natural, and (till this later and universal luxury of the whole nation, since abounding in such expenses,) the most magnificent that England afforded, and which indeed gave one of the first examples to that elegancy, since so much in vogue and followed, in managing of their waters, and other ornaments of that nature. Let me add, the contiguity of five or six manors, the patronage of the livings about it, and, what is none of the least advantages, a good neighbourhood."
From this abode, upon the beauties of which he loved to expatiate, he was sent when five years old, to reside with his grandfather Standsfield, at the Cliff near Lewes. In his eighth year he began to learn writing and Latin, at Lewes; and two years after was removed to the free school at Southover, near that town. His grandfather had then recently died, and his father fearing that the boy would be spoiled by “ the fondness of his too-indulgent grandmother," proposed to send him to Eton. This was in the year 1632; but that good-natured relative dreading the thought of the rough usage to which her young charge would be exposed in a public school, so worked upon the boy's fears, and tamed his spirit, that his father was induced to abandon his intention. "I was so terrified at the report of the severe discipline there, that I was sent back to Lewes, which perverseness of mine I have since a thousand times deplored;" and there he remained till he was sent to the university.
At the age of fifteen he lost his excellent mother; and the circumstances of the closing scene of her life were such as might have left a deep impression, even upon a mind less susceptible than his. 66 When near her death, she summoned all her children then living, (I shall never forget it,) and expressed herself in a manner so heavenly, with instructions so pious and christian, as made us strangely sensible of the extraordinary loss then imminent; after which, embracing every one of us, she gave to each a ring, with her blessing. Then taking my father by the hand, she recommended us to his care ; and having importuned him, that what he designed to bestow upon her funeral he would rather dispose among the
poor, she laboured to compose herself for the blessed change, which she now expected. There was not a servant in the house whom she did not expressly send for, advise, and infinitely affect with her counsel. ...
She was many days impairing, and endured the sharpest conflicts of her sickness with admirable patience and most christian resignation, retaining her intellects and ardent desires for her dissolution, to the
article of her departure. When near her dissolution she laid her hand on every one of her children, and taking solemn leave of my father, with elevated heart and eyes, she quietly expired, and resigned her soul to God.”
John Evelyn had been, by his own account, tremely remiss in his studies," at school, and when he went to the university in May 1637, it was “rather out of shame of abiding longer at school, than for any fitness.” He was admitted a fellow-commoner of Balliol college, Oxford, where he speaks very humbly of his progress in learning. From Oxford he was removed to the Middle Temple for the purpose of studying the law. Not long after, he received intelligence of the serious illness of his father, which in the course of a few months took a very alarming turn, and eventually terminated fatally. His “ disorder appeared to be a dropsy, an indisposition the most unsuspected, being a person so exemplarily temperate. On the 24th of December (1640) he died, retaining his senses and piety to the last, which he most tenderly expressed in blessing us, whom he now left to the world and the worst of times, whilst he was taken from the evil to come.”
“ 1641. 2 January. We at night followed the mourning hearse to the church at Wotton, when, after a sermon and funeral oration, my father was interred near his formerly erected monument, and mingled with the ashes of our mother, his dear wife. Thus we were bereft of both our parents, in a period when we most of all stood in need of their assistance, especially myself, of a law, vain, uncertain, and very unwary inclination : but so
it pleased God to make trial of my conduct in a conjuncture of the greatest and most prodigious hazard that ever the youth of England saw. If I did not amidst all this, impeach my liberty nor my virtue, with the rest who made shipwreck of both, it was more the infinite goodness and mercy of God than the least discretion of mine own, who now thought of nothing but the pursuit of vanity, and the confused imaginations of young men.”
The riots in London, the general diffusion of seditious libels, and the execution of the earl of Strafford, “ whose crime,” he says,
under the cognizance of no human law,” inclined him “ to absent himself from this ill face of things at home;" particularly as he feared that the calamities of his country were “ but yet in their infancy.” He accordingly resolved to make a tour in Holland, and he proposed to himself, as an object of some interest, to witness the siege of Gennep, a strong castle on the river Waal, which was then attacked by the French and Dutch armies. In company with a gentleman named Caryll, and their servants, he embarked at Gravesend on the 21st of July 1641 ; and landing at Flushing on the next day about noon, proceeded by way of Dort, Rotterdam, and Delft, to the Hague, where he attended the court of the estimable queen of Bohemia. Although they stayed a very short time in the towns through which they passed, they found on their arrival at Gennep that the castle had been taken a few days before, and so, he says, “we had only a sight of the demolitions.” He was, however, complimented by being received a volunteer in Captain Apsley's company, and took his turn in “watching on a horn-work, and trailing a pike,” till the fortifications were repaired. His military services, however, were of short duration, for in about a week he took his leave, and continued his tour