Imágenes de páginas

there are yet thirty-eight years of life. Of these we shall find that, during nearly twenty of them, as Milton has said, "he nursed his great soul in silence,"

” especially during the first ten years spent in Huntingdon.

It is not difficult to glance at the education of the hero. To the superintendence of a brewery we may be certain he added the superintendence of farms and fields; and about 1631 he removed from Huntingdon, about five miles down the river Ouse, to St. Ives, renting there a grazing farm. There he probably spent about seven years of his life. If, reader, thou hast ever walked, as we have done, by the banks of that river, through the lovely little rural villages of Houghton, and Hartford, and Hemingford, and Godmanchester, and the adjacent little ruralities, be sure thou hast trodden through some of the most remarkable scenery in England-in the world. There he was accustomed to walk to and fro. Fancy, immediately at our bidding, presents him to us, by the fireside of the old gabled farm-house, or in the field attending to his farm affairs, mowing, milking, marketing. We may think of Cromwell standing in the market with his fellow-tradesmen, and striding through those fields, and by those roadsides, and by the course of the stream, then sedgy and swampy enough. What thoughts came upon him ; for was he not fighting there the same battle

2 Luther fought at Erfurth ? He was vexed by fits of strange black hypochondria. Dr. Simcot, of Huntingdon, "in shadow of meaning, much meaning expressions,” intimates to us how much he suffered. He was oppressed with dreadful consciousness of sin and defect. He groaned in spirit like Paul, like later saints—Bunyan, for instance. A flat, level country is it about St. Ives, and then probably much more like the fen country of Norfolk than the quiet, lovely seclusion its neighbourhood wears at the present day; but there, in the experience of this man, powers of heaven, earth, and hell were struggling for masterdom. The stunted willows and sedgy watercourses, the flags and reeds, would often echo back the mourning words, “Oh, wretched man that I am !” What conception had he of the course lying before him? What knowledge had he of the intentions of Providence concerning him ? Life lay before him all in shadow. For fifteen years he appears to have had no other concern than “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.” But, then, it would be scarcely other than possible to hear, from news and scattered report, how one and another of God's faithful servants were shut up in prison, fined, pilloried, and persecuted to banishment and death, without additional anguish to the severe torture of the mind crying for salvation; nor uld it be possible to hear of

hear of successive tyrannic exactions and impositions, of libidinousness, intemperance at Court and throughout the country, without wonder, too, where all this should end. Men called and ordained by God to great actions have


strong presentiments and mental foreshadowings; and thus Cromwell would be probably visited by mysterious intimations that he was, in some way, to soive the mighty riddle of the kingdom's salvation. But how? What madness to dream it! How ?

Nor must we forget that during these years Cromwell had many times renewed the joys and anxieties of a father ; indeed, all his children were born before he emerged from the fen country into public life. They were as follows :

Robert, his first-born, baptized 13th October, 1621.

Oliver, baptized 6th of February, 1628. He was killed in battle early in the civil war. The Protector alluded to him on his death-bed :

“ It went to my heart like a dagger ; indeed it did.”

Bridget, baptized 4th of August, 1624. She was married to Ireton, and after Ireton's death to Fleetwood; and died at Stoke Newington, near London, 1681.

Richard, born 4th of October, 1626. Him Carlyle calls “a poor idle triviality.”

Henry, baptized 20th July, 1628.
Elizabeth, baptized 2nd July, 1629.

All the above children were born at Huntingdon ; the following at St. Ives and Ely:

James, baptized 8th January, 1631; died next day.

Mary, baptized at Huntingdon, 3rd February, 1639. Francis, baptized at Ely, 6th December, 1638. Preaching there, praying there, he passed his days

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

solacing persecuted ministers, and sighing in the bitterness of his soul."

In all, five sons and four daughters; of whom three sons, and all the daughters, came to maturity at Ely; for about 1638 Cromwell, probably, removed to Ely. His uncle, Sir Thomas, resided there. His mother's relatives—those of them who were left-were there ; and now his mother herself removed there, probably with the idea of there terminating her days in the presence of first impressions and associations. The time draws nigh for Oliver to leave his silence, his lonely wanderings to and fro, his plannings, and his doubtings. The storm is up in England, and Oliver has become a marked man; he probably knows that he will have to take a prominent part in the affairs of the kingdom. Halt we awhile to reflect on this. This obscure man, lone English farmer, untitled, unwealthy, no grace of manner to introduce himself, ungainly in speech and in action, unskilled in war, unused to the arts of courts and the cabals of senates and legislators—this man whose life had passed altogether with farmers and religious-minded men-was, at almost a bound, to leap to the highest place in the people's army, grasping the baton of the marshal. This man was to strike the successful blows on the field, shivering to pieces the kingly power in the land -himself was to assume the truncheon of the Dictator ; was to sketch the outline of laws, of home and foreign policy, which all succeeding legislators were to attempt to embody and imitate ; was to wring


concessions to his power from the most haughty monarchies of ancient feudal Europe, and to bear up, in arms, England, fast dwindling into contempt, to the very foremost place among the nations; was to produce throughout the world homage to the Protestant religion, making before his name the fame and terror of Gustavus, of Henry IV., of Zisca, to dwindle and look palė. And this with no prestige of birth or education. Is it too much, then, to call him the most royal actor England, if not the world, has produced ?

Notice, also, that when he was at Cambridge he won some money at gambling: £20, £50, £100. All these sums now were returned as moneys upon no principle his own. Here, too, is a letter of this Huntingdon time, just before the busy world called him away, giving a glimpse of the man :

To my beloved cousin, Mrs. St. John, at William

Masham, his house, called Otes, in Essex.
Present these.


"13th October, 1638. “DEAR COUSIN,

"I thankfully acknowledge your love in your kind remembrance of me upon this opportunity. Alas! you too highly prize my lines and my company. I may be ashamed to own your expressions, considering how unprofitable I am, and the mean improvement of my talent.

« AnteriorContinuar »