« السابقةمتابعة »
his time, adds in corroboration : “Aye-our tears were not yet brewed.''
What with pleasant talk, the various incidents of the road, and the stay in Cambridge (where they were mightily edified by their vicar's dialectics in the schools and by the festivities which followed), we need not unduly commiserate the four parishioners. Willingly, at the same time, will we believe them to have been good men and true. No doubt but it was personal observation at Broadwindsor (tempered by his own ideal) which suggested to Fuller the features of “ The Good Parishioner ”2-who, “though near to the church, is not far from God”; who “is timely at the beginning of Common Prayer"; who "in sermon sets himself to hear God in the minister"; who "at every point that concerns himself, turns down a leaf in his heart”; who“ hides not himself from any parish-office which seeks for him”; who wis bountiful in contributing to the repair of God's house”; and “pays his tithes willingly with cheerfulness." Not that we are to suppose that all bis parishioners were of this quality : who, in an imperfect world, would expect so much? He may have had to suffer from individuals such as vexed the divine in Cowper's poem :
A rarer man than you
You sell it plaguy dear." He may have been annoyed by the presence in his flock of idle fellows like that John Matthews who was rebuked by Sir Roger de Coverley in the middle of the service for kicking his heels for his diversion. But these were minor matters. “As long as there are spots in the moon ”-the words are his own—“it is vain to expect anything spotless under it."'3 On the whole he was well contented. Discontent, indeed, was foreign to his nature. We find no splenetic outburst like that of poor Herrick in the next county, who at this very time was finding Dean Prior so intolerable.
A people currish, churlish as the seas,
Fuller complains of no such “rocky generation”; but it is fair to point out that in respect of society he had undoubtedly the better of it. Dean Prior is a tiny village on the edge of Dartmoor,
(1) See the Life of Sir Francis Drake in the Holy and Profane State. (2) Holy and Profane State. (3) Sermon on The Old Light, preached at Exeter in 1646.
whose scenery men had not then learnt to admire, even were it possible to live on scenery ; Broadwindsor lies in a fertile district, in a county affirmed by Fuller to be self-supporting, a region where many families of position were content to dwell. He had friends and neighbours among the Pouletts of Hinton Saint George, the Napiers of Middlemarsh Hall, the Windhams of Pilsden Court, the Gibbs of South Perrott, and (across the Devon border) the Rolles of Bicton. “The gentry of Dorset,” he has himself recorded, “in birth, brains, spirit, and estate were inferiors to no county in England ; ”l and they had the good sense to perceive that the vicar of Broadwindsor was a man worth knowing.
So, then, as on that June evening Master Thomas Fuller gazed from his garden over the farmsteads, meadows and orchards of his cure, beholding in the distance the flash of a white cliff and a glimmering expanse of sea, he may well have murmured to himself-for Scripture was very generally the stuff of his meditations-" The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” And if regret for the closer sociability and keener intellectual life of Cambridge ever visited him, he was too shrewd a man to entertain it long. He believed in the value of his work ; his head was full of the books he was to write. He knew, and may have exclaimed with Horace (being a good Latinist as well), “Quod petis hic est, est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit æquus”; a mind at peace with itself can find happiness anywhere,
From very shades the darkness can exclude,
AT BASING HOUSE.
Leave we now (the phrase is Fuller's) the orchard-vale of Broadwindsor and its pleasant pastures. Farewell to the quiet chamber, looking seaward, where he penned his Holy War in days of peace. No more conferences with rural folk upon what concerns their souls and bodies; no more leisurely rambles and musings on the slopes of Pillesdon Hill, where later Wordsworth was to sojourn, and with him Coleridge, to whom Fuller's genius appealed so closely! Large national issues are at stake, and retirement must now irk the spirit of one who is an Englishman as well as a clergyman. The same mutterings of coming storm, continually more ominous and angry, which shortened Milton's Italian journeys, and brought him home to champion the (1) Worthies of England.
(2) Cowley (adapted).
Parliamentary cause, penetrate also to the Dorsetshire vicarage, where their call, although it wakes a different response, is equally compelling. London, the centre of the disturbance, draws to its troubled heart this pair of men, who, though born in the same year and “nursed upon the self-same hill,” seem never to have met. Fuller, moreover, has another incentive; he has lost his wife after a few years of marriage, and looks to new scenes and wider interests to mitigate his grief. For exactly twelve months after the raising of the Royal standard at Nottingham he is found in London, openly of the King's party, and devoting all his energies and his gift of persuasive speech to the promotion of peace, an object which good men still conceived as possible. At last he sees that the attempt is hopeless, and joins the King at Oxford ; presently, persuaded of the justice of his cause and desirous of sharing in its hardships, he takes service with General Sir Ralph Hopton, as camping chaplain" to the troops.
He was, after several months' campaigning, to be separated from his commander. On the evening of March 29, 1644, Hopton, defeated near Alresford by Waller earlier in the day, reached Basing House, that memorable stronghold of the Royalists, and on his departure left Fuller there, presumably to act as chaplain to such of the garrison as were of the established religion; the Marquis of Winchester, its owner and defender, being a Roman Catholic, and a goodly proportion of those with bim professing that faith. At any rate, whatever the precise reason, for the next four or five weeks Fuller had his residence at Basing House-a situation unusual enough, it must be owned, for the occupant of a quiet country vicarage.
For now, instead of the plover's call or the lowing of cattle, the sound of shot and shell must be the accompaniment of his thoughts. In place of freedom to wander over hill and dale, his walks must be confined within the battlements of a fortress. He may indeed pace the garden, and watch the denizens of the old dovecote circling round their home, but not without danger; must also at times be present at the little orchard close, where the slain are laid, when, for the survivors' sake, there is no lingering over the last sad rites. “I saw a cannon shot off," he says, with memories perhaps of interrupted obsequies. “The men at whom it was levelled fell flat on the ground, and so escaped the bullet. Against such blows falling is all the fencing, and prostration all the armour of proof.' From this, as is his manner, he draws a moral, with which we are not here concerned. Elsewhere he speaks, not (I think) in metaphor, of a narrow escape from death, a missile having pierced his hat. Indeed, (1) Good Thoughts in Worse Times. (2) Good Thoughts in Bad Times.
he bore his share of privations and perils, yet therein found his solace. It comforted him, he says, “ to draw in the same yoke with his neighbours, and with them jointly bear the burden that our sins jointly brought upon us.”] Yet even at this juncture the habit of composition was too strong with him to be wholly given up; and upon the march he gathered material for his pen. He does indeed say, “ For the first five years of our actual civil war I had little list or leisure to write, fearing to be made a history, and shifting daily for my safety. All that time I could not live to study, who only studied to live”; yet he has also recorded the fact that he was employed upon his Worthies of England during these very weeks. Indeed, he complains” that the noise of the cannonading disturbed him at his task! If he had less power of concentration than Archimedes in somewhat similar circumstances, he was at least more fortunate.
Of one thing we may be certified, his good sense forbade his complaining to be more than momentary. The position in which he was placed had certainly its attractions for a mind always ready to receive new impressions and apt to study character. First, there was the place itself, then its beleaguered tenants, in whom was a rich field for various observation; among them many cultivated men, was the Marquis himself, Thomas Johnson, the noted herbalist, Inigo Jones, and Hollar the engraver. In such company Fuller would be at his ease.
But the stronghold itself, which he had seen several times as he rode along the great highway to the west, with what keen interest must he have explored it! What Basing House was may be partly understood from old prints, but more fully imagined by an examination of its ruins. The battlements of red brick, whose injuries the kindly turf has done its best to hide, enclosed within their vast circuit what was at once one of the strongest fortresses of England and the greatest of any subject's house, in which were quarters for upwards of five hundred persons. The dining-hall measured some eighty feet by forty, with chapel, guard-rooms, and domestic buildings in proportion. But what more than all attracted Fuller, than whom the King had no truer subject, was the motto or posy, Aimez Loyauté, which the Marquis himself had written with a diamond in every window. Basing House, resisting its assailants year in, year out, was a visible embodiment of that injunction, an assurance to the Cavaliers of the reality of their faith. Who can doubt that this motto strengthened the hearts of the defenders, or that Thomas Fuller's heart beat high in response to its appeal? He himself
(1) Good Thoughts in Bad Times.
has told us little of his sojourn here, but that is in keeping with his character." That spoke in the wheel which creaketh most," as he says, " doth not bear the greatest burden in the cart.” 1 But his anonymous biographer, less reticent than he, assures us that his exhortations and encouragement were of the utmost value to the soldiers, and that to them chiefly is to be attributed the happy issue of more than one sortie. Without literal subscription to this statement, and without supposing, as some appear to have done, that our divine tucked up his gown, seized a musket, and sallied forth to victory with the rest, we are positive that he was never found wanting to his duty; that he did encourage the troops with glowing words, that he did tend the wounded, that he did offer ghostly comfort to the dying.
A place of mixed memories must Basing House have been, in later days, to Thomas Fuller. It was still, after he left it, to hold out for another seventeen months. Without doubt he followed its fortunes at a distance, being then once more with Hopton, in the West. Surely he had a sigh to spare for Thomas Johnson, when that gentle herbalist lost his life in a sortie. Surely his pulse quickened as he heard of the daring exploit of Colonel Gage, so vividly narrated in the page of Clarendon, "and,” says that historian, “confessed by enemies as well as friends to be as soldierly an action as had been performed in the war on either side." One can picture Hopton, with his officers and his chaplain about him, drinking in the details of it, as they had them from some travel-stained and tired express; how Gage, with Hawkins' regiment of foot and two hundred and fifty well-mounted horse, left Oxford on a Monday evening, and marched through the short June night, reaching a wood near Wallingford at dawn, amid continual dread of collision with patrols from Reading, Abingdon, and Newbury; how, after refreshing themselves in this wood for some hours, he and his men travelled through bye-lanes to Aldermaston, “a village out of any great road”; how there the advanced party of horsemen, forgetting their disguise of orange-tawny scarfs and ribbons—the colour of the Parliament-fell upon some troopers of the enemy, and so betrayed themselves; how, in consequence, the whole force must, weary as they were, push on through the night to Basing, which they reached between four and five o'clock on Wednesday morning ; how they found the besiegers on the alert, but drove them back after a fierce and stubborn engagement, thereafter sending into Basing House from Basingstoke as much ammunition and stores of all kinds as would provision the garrison for two months at least. The group of eager listeners heard also
(1) Appeal of Injured Innocence. VOL, LXXXIV. N.S.