Page images
PDF

(that is, between the old midwife's declaration and death, and the sop thrown out to Bromley); then again for four years more, when Popham came finally to the rescue, had a retaining fee in the reversion of Littlecote, hurried down, though at some cost of dignity, to the Marlborough Sessions, and saved the life of his friend as counsel, though on this point at variance with the account given by Aubrey, who calls him a “Judge;” and so the curtain fell for a while on this dreary and doleful drama. They must indeed be “lovers of the marvellous” who can swallow all these ingredients and yet remain among the faithful. In conclusion, and wearisome though the recapitulation may be, I must be permitted to sum up this interminable case by plucking the plumage off the story in detail, and then leaving the old woman's narrative and its applicability to Darell and to Littlecote to be decided by your readers according to the evidence. First then of John Aubrey, the original conservator of the tradition, to whom your “credulous” correspondent lends so willing an ear. 1. He (Aubrey) speaks of Darell’s “lady's waiting woman.” Darell had no “lady,” consequently there was no “lady’s waiting woman.” 2. “The old woman,” he says, “went to a Justice of Peace— search was made—the very chamber found—the Knight was brought to his trial,” and, to be short, “this Judge had this noble house &c., for a bribe to save his (Darell’s,) life.” Now these are purely imaginary details, though founded no doubt on the old woman’s mutterings about a murder somewhere at some time or other. She did not go to a Justice of the Peace, for the reason that she was ill and dying and in bed: no search could have been made to which she was a party, and no chamber found, for a similar reason; not the slightest allusion to any trial of such a nature can be met with, and, if met with, Popham, who was not a Judge until after Darell's death eleven years subsequent, could never have presided. The enquiry, if there ever was an enquiry consequent upon Mrs. Barnes's deposition, was scattered to the winds, and although Darell was engaged in virulent altercations, first with Lord Pembroke in 1582, who was so exasperated against him that he declared

he would “not only blast him but baffle him like a knave;” and next with the Wroughton family in 1588, when Walsingham was so ready to serve him: not a single syllable of insinuation do we find thrown out on such tempting occasions to lead us to suppose that Darell lay even under the remotest suspicion of such a crime. Camden too, the enquiring Camden, who was 27 years of age when Mrs. Barnes made her deposition, and who subsequently wrote of the matters appertaining to the County; who speaks in glowing terms of Popham, and mentions the Darells, as previously connected with Littlecote, takes no notice whatever of this tale, fresh, as it must have been, in the memory of men then living. If Camden heard it, and in pursuing his researches he can hardly not have heard it, he evidently treated it as I now venture to treat it, as the got-up figment of a few persons desirous of damaging the reputation of an adversary. Earlier in his letter (p. 46) our friend says that “every version of the story” fixes the criminality on Darell, and the locality at Littlecote; but all versions trace their origin to Aubrey, and of what real value is his evidence, as now exhibited, with its grain of truth in its bushel of inaccuracies? Secondly, the traditional vagaries— the bed-curtain—the steps—the neck-breaking stile, &c., &c., all these adjuncts so hastily adopted by our Quarterly Essayist, but nevertheless so summarily discarded by our “Credulous Archaeogist,” appear, by a common consent, to be swept away, and nothing is now left of this analysis, as a residuum, but Old Mistress Barnes's narrative, and the insinuations of some parties, names unknown, that it related to Darell and to Littlecote. Our friend when writing as the annalist of his County, tells us that the story “will find believers to the end of time on the faith of Walter Scott's ‘Rokeby’ note.” On the faith of a note in a poem all fiction 1 It may be so, for great is the gullibility of mankind, and many are the “lovers of the marvellous:” witness the follies of our own day, the Bedlamite believers in spirit-rappings, and the conviction that an illiterate scullery-maid can tell us, in her pretended trances, what our friends, in another hemisphere, are about. The Historian of the “United Netherlands,” in speaking of the fictitious tale of Amy Robsart, has the same misgivings of mankind. “Nevertheless” he says “the calumny has endured for three centuries, and is like to survive as many more.” My only object has been the truth, and when I first began my researches my anxious desire was (for I then gave a sort of credit to the story) to discover the record of the trial at Salisbury; but time wore on, no trial could be found, other documents came to light, and then I formed the opinion that the whole thing was based on gossip. Had the old woman's declaration thrown a gleam of light upon Darell and Littlecote, and had that declaration produced investigation—committal—and trial, and so on, I might still have remained a little suspicious of our hero in spite of his acquittal: but when I find nothing of the kind; on the contrary, when I find the whole edifice crumbling to its foundation-stone, and the supposed culprit leading the life of a country gentleman of high position for eleven long years after the suspicion was set afloat, instead of breaking his neck the same year over a stile three feet high, I unhesitatingly say the case is “not proven,” and I now leave it to my readers, as jurors, to decide according to the evidence, whether, as against Darell the charge can be sustained: and I ask them whether, had it been a grave case of History, they are of opinion that a Hume or a Gibbon would have given it a place in their pages, or like Camden, would have cast it aside as utterly unworthy of credit. o I cannot conclude without quoting the following very apposite passage from a publication by Lord Campbell relating to Shakspeare:—“Observing ” he says, “what fictitious statements are introduced into the published ‘Lives’ of living individuals, in our own time, when truth in such matters can be so much more easily ascertained, and error so much more easily corrected, we should be slow to give faith to an uncorroborated statement made near three centuries ago by persons who were evidently actuated by malice.”

[merged small][merged small][graphic]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

WHILST the present number of our Magazine was passing through the press, intelligence was received of the Death of our esteemed associate, the contributor of the foregoing Article. Mr. Long died aged 65, on the 25th September last, at the Lord Warden Hotel, Dover, on his return from Homburg, at which place he had been residing for a short time in the hope of benefit to his failing health. Mr. Long was born at Benham-park, Berkshire, on the 28th of July, 1796. He was a grandson of Edward Long, Esq., Judge of the Admiralty Court in Jamaica, and the historian of that island; being the elder and only surviving son of Charles Beckford Long, Esq., of Langley-hall, Berks., who died in 1836, by Frances Monro, the daughter and heir of Lucius Tucker, Esq., of Norfolkstreet, Park-lane. He was educated at Harrow School, under the tuition of Dr. Butler, the late Dean of Peterborough ; and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained a Declamation prize, and in 1818 won the Chancellor's gold medal for English verse—subject “Rome.” He graduated B.A. 1819, M.A. 1822. With Harrow and its concerns he always maintained a friendly relation. He materially assisted the late Dr. Butler in his biographical notes to the Lists of Harrow Scholars, and during the last year we have observed his researches into the history of the founder John Lyon in the columns of the “Harrow Gazette.” Mr. Long was much attached to heraldry and genealogy; and his connection with the head-quarters of those studies, (the late Lord Henry Molyneux Howard, Deputy Earl Marshal, having married his aunt,) gave him an introduction that was peculiarly advantageous, and which his own intelligence and good sense, accompanied by very agreeable manners, did not fail to improve. His researches were made with great taste and perseverance, and with a severe regard for truth. His own descent gave him some personal interest in such investigations; for his great-grandfather, Samuel Long, Esq., eldest son of Charles Long, Esq., M.P., of Hurts-hall, Suffolk, had married Mary, second daughter of Bartholomew Tate, Esq., of Delapré Abbey, Northamptonshire, and sister (and at length co-heir) of Bartholomew Tate, Esq., a co-heir to the baronies of Zouche of Haringworth, St. Maur, and Lovell of Cary. During many years Mr. Long was a frequent correspondent of the Gentleman's Magazine. To the Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, he communicated several rolls of arms; the voluminous papers relative to the disputed kindred of Wickham of Swalcliffe to the founder of New College; and a series of Hampshire Church-notes, taken by himself. Several of his communications will also be found in the Journal of the Archaeological Institute; and many in “Notes and Queries.” Mr. Long also took a considerable interest in the history of Wiltshire, and was an earnest promoter of the objects of our Society. He contributed to this Magazine in 1856 the “Descent of the Manor of Draycot Cerne,” with a pedigree of Cerne and Hering, vol. iii. p. 178; and subsequently four successive articles on the biography and adventures of “Wild Darell” of Littlecote, the last of which appears in the present Number. He also procured for the same publication, from the Duchy of Lancaster Office, a survey of several manors in the county of Wilts, temp. Elizabeth. In the first of these contributions (vol. iii. p. 181), Mr. Long modestly disclaims the intention of putting himself forward as “of the undoubted blood and lineage of the knightly race of Wraxhall and Draycot,” but mentions “family traditions, a Wiltshire origin,

« PreviousContinue »