Page images
PDF
EPUB

was spent most idly,' but soon recovered his better resolutions and learnt the German and Spanish tongues, now and then, he says, refreshing my dancing and such exercises as I had long omitted, and which are not in much reputation amongst the sober Italians. He frequented a course of chemistry, and M. Mercure began to teach him on the lute, though to small perfection;' and having become intimate in the family of Sir Richard Browne, the British resident at the court of France, and sat his affection on a daughter of the fanıily, he married her in the fourteenth year of her age, he being seven and twenty.—She lived with him, happy in his love and friendship, fifty-eight years and nine months, and was then left a widow; and when in her will she desired to be buried by his side, she speaks thus of her excellent husband : • his care of

my

education was such as might become a father, a lover, a friend and husband for instruction, tenderness, affection and fidelity to the last moment of his life, which obligation I mention with a gratitude to his memory ever dear to me; and I must not omit to own the sense I have of my parents care and goodness in placing me in such worthy hands.'

About three months after his marriage he was called into England to settle his affairs, leaving his wife with her parents. This was in the autumn of 1647, and on his arrival he saw the king at Hampton Court, and gave him an account of several things which he had in charge. Charles was then in the hands of his enemies. Evelyn remained in England till the conclusion of that tragedy, and after unkingship, as he calls it, had been proclaimed, he obtained a passport from Bradshaw for France. Having occasion to visit England again in 1650, he made the same passport serve for his return, as he could no longer procure one without taking the oath to Cromwell's government, which he had determined never to do. -Rather indeed than submit to it, he once counterfeited a pass, and luckily he found at Dover that ' money to the searchers and officers was as authentic as the hand and seal of Bradshaw himself.' Evelyn never mentioned the name of Bradshaw without coupling with it some opprobrious epithet; he abhorred his political conduct, and evidently did not like his personal character. But Bradshaw perhaps had some feeling of good-will towards him, as one to whose family he was obliged, and whose worth he knew; and apprehending no danger from him would not willingly molest him for his loyalty. Without some such protection he would hardly have escaped without molestation, connected as he was so directly with the royal party. He seems to have waited in France for the result of the last great effort of the Royalists; for a few weeks after

battle of Worcester he resolved to leave that country finally and return to England. For this resolution there were both private

and

and political motives. The estate of his father-in-law at Deptford was suffering much for want of some person to secure it from the usurpers, so that to preserve this property, and take some care of his other concerns, he was advised to reside on it, and compound with the government. Charles authorized him to do so, and charged him also with the perilous commission of corresponding with him and his ministers, a commission peculiarly dangerous, because bis close convection with Sir Richard Browne exposed hiin so naturally to suspicion. Fortunately for him and for the nation, while Croniwell lived there was so little hope of overthrowing him, that no bold designs were undertaken ; and after his death none were required to accelerate the destruction of a government which was manifestly falling to pieces of itself.

After he had been a few months in England and put his affairs in order, he sent for his wife. Colonel Morley, then one of the council of state, who had been his school-fellow, gave him a pass for her, wrote to the magistrates and searchers at Rye to shew her all civility at her landing, and did him many other civilities which he notices as a great matter in those days. The vessel in which she embarked passed through the Dutch tleet, and was mistaken for a fishing vessel,-thus she escaped capture. Evelyn himself was less fortunate, when having left his wife with her mother, Lady Browne, at Tunbridge, because the small-pox was rife in and about London, he went on to prepare for their reception. Near Bromley, at a place called the Procession Oak,' two fellows struck him from his horse, took away his sword, and dragged him into a thicket a quarter of a mile from the highway, where they robbed him, tied his feet, bound his hands behind him, and then set him upright against an oak and left him, swearing that if he made any outcry, they would return and cut his throat, an operation which one of them would have performed upon the spot, bad it not been for his companion. After two hours painful exertion, he succeeded ju turning his hands palm to palm, and was then enabled to loose himself. They robbed him of some valuable jewels, which he recovered, and one of the fellows was shortly taken. As Evelyn did not wishi to hang him, he would not appear against him, especially when it was understood that his father was an honest old farmer in Kent. He was charged with other crimes and condemned, but was reprieved to a more miserable end; for refusing afterwards to plead upon some fresh charges, he underwent the peine forte et dure. Lady Browne died in the ensuing month, and Evelyn obtained permission to have the burial service performed at her funeral, after it had been seven years disused at Deptford church. Perhaps this was one of those acts of kindness for which he was beholden to

Morley,

Morley, for these were the high days of fanaticism when no church was permitted to be open on Christmas day.

Sir Richard Browne being so decidedly what in the gentle language of the Puritans was called a malignant, his interest in the estate at Deptford, great part of which was held in lease from the crown, had been sequestered, and sold. Evelyn now purchased it, as Charles had authorized him to do, with a promise that if ever it should please God to bring about his restoration, he would secure the property to him in fee-farm. It cost him £5500, and a few days after the purchase was completed, the following entry appears in his journal : This day I paid all my debts to a farthing. O blessed day!' And now he commenced that undisturbed and even course of life which might almost be considered as realizing the fairest ideal of human felicity, so happy was it for himself and his family, so useful to his generation, and so honourable in the eyes of just posterity.

I'he estate at Sayes Court, when it became his property, was wholly unadorned, consisting of one entire field of an hundred acres in pasture, with a rude orchard and a holly hedge. He began immediately to set out an oval garden. This was the beginning of all the succeeding gardens, walks, groves, enclosures, and plantations there;' and he planted an orchard, new moon, wind west.' The house was out of repair ; he made large additions to it, to my great costs,' he says, and better I had done to have pulled all down at first, but it was done at several times. Dr. Hammond used to speak of a certain man who, when he was upon his death-bed; enjoined his son to spend his time in composing verses, and cultivating a garden, because he thought that no temptation could creep into either of these employments. The good man seems not to have considered that it is very easy to compose such verses as shall be very mischievous, or perhaps he depended upon the virtuous principles of the son whom he thus advised; buit he was right in recommending gardening as a wholesome and delightful occupation for spare time. It

may be too much to say of it, as has been said, that it is the purest of human pleasures; but it was in a garden that man was placed when he came pure from the hand of his Creator, and it is in gardens that they who are blest with means and opportunity may create an image of Eden for themselves, as far as earth is now capable of the resemblance. An Eden of Evelyn's invention, indeed, would have differed widely from Milton's; his scheme of a Royal Garden comprehended knots, trayle-work, parterres, compartements, borders, banks and embossinents, labyrinths, dedals; cabinets, cradles, close-walks, galleries, pavilions, porticos, lanterns and other relievos of topiary and hortulan architecture; fountains, ettos, cascades, piscines, rocks, gibtts, cryptæ, mounts, precipices

and

VOL. XIX. XXXVII.

B

and ventiducts; gazon-theatres, artificial echos, autoinate and hydraulic music. No wonder he should think that it would still require the revolution of many ages, with deep and long experience, for any man to emerge a perfect and accomplished artist gardener! It is probably to himself that he alludes in saying a person of his acquaintance spent almost forty years, 'in gathering and anassing materials for an hortulan design to so enormous an heap as to till some thousand pages, and yet be comprehended within two or three acres of ground; nay, within the square of less than one, (skilfully planned and cultivated,) sufficient to entertain his time and thoughts all his life long, with a most innocent, agreeable and useful employment.

Ornamental gardening had never flourished in England. While the castles of the great were strong-holds, there was no room for it; and much of wbat had been done during fourscore years of prosperity, was either destroyed during the civil wars, or in consequence of them had fallen to decay. The gardens of Theobalds seem to have been the tinest in this country at that time, before this princely seat was pulled to pieces by the Levellers. Evelyn remembered to have seen cypresses there cultivated with the greatest care, and probably the first which were reared in Great Britain. Exotic animals as well as trees were introduced there, a camel stable, sixty-three feet in length, is mentioned in the description of the buildings ;-in that age attempts were made to naturalize the camel in Europe,—there were no less than eighty at Aranjuez, but even in that climate the experiment failed. There still exists, though in decay, the moss walk which formerly made part of the gardens of Theobalds,—a singular and beautiful scene, where Elizabeth held counsel with Burleigh, where James revolved his plans for preserving the peace of Europe, and Charles played with his children, or lent too easy an ear to the counsels of his About thirty years ago, and before the storm had made a breach through the old elms by which it was overshaded, we remember this singular walk, in its beauty; the only remains of all which rendered Theobalds the favourite palace of two succeeding sovereigns. It is surprizing that the elms escaped when the palace was destroyed by parliament in spite even of the commissioners' report, that it was an excellent building, in very good repair, by no ineans fit to be demolished.' But these commissioners were unfortunately bound to add that its materials were worth $2756. 11s.; and therefore demolished it was, that the money night be divided among the army. All the royal palaces were marked for the same fate, and many of the woods were cut down ; the few trees at Greenwich were felled, those in St. James's Park narrowly escaped, and Hyde Park, Evelyn notices in his diary, that every coach was made

to

queen.

to pay a shilling, and every horse sixpence, by the sordid fellow who had purchased it of the state.—So much did the people gain by its transfer from the crown into the hands of an individual !

Poor as our art of gardening was before the troubles began, it. was necessarily neglected during their continuance, and when Evelyn began his horticultural pursuits there were no models for imitation in his own country, and other countries afforded him none but what were bad in themselves, or inappropriate to the English climate. He speaks with great delight of a large walk in some gardens of the Grand Duke of Florence, at the sides whereof several slender streams of water gush out of pipes concealed underneath, that interchangeably fall into each other's channels, making a lofty and perfect arch, so that a man on horseback may ride under it and not receive one drop of wet.' This he thought one of the most surprising magnificences he had ever seen. Sir Henry Wotton has also noticed this continual bower and hemisphere of water as an invention for refreshment, surely far excelling all the Alexandrian delicacies, and pneumatics of Hiero.? Nothing could be more delightful under an Italian sun,—there it is a splendid luxury, suitable to a glorious climate,—but for the English garden it might be convenient as a dry walk when it rained, far more free quently than any gratification could be derived from its coolness. and its shade. In thirsty countries, therefore, the fountain is the inost appropriate of all embellishments, and its sound, whether gurgling from a spout, or falling in showers from a jet, the niost grateful of all symphonies. Rapin allots one book of the four of which his poem consists, to fountains and water-works.

Imprimis medio fons constituendus in horto,
Qui salientis aquæ, tubulo prorumpat ab arcto,
Plurimus, et vacuas jactu se libret in auras,

Quasque accepit aquas, cælo, ventisque remittat.' Even the wretched taste with which fountains are commonly designed is forgiven for the sake of the refreshment which they impart. But dolphins with icicles pendant from their open mouths, Tritons with frozen conchs, and naked naiads in the midst of an icy basin, are too obviously incongruous, and have nothing to compensate for their absurdity. Our climate is as little suitable for statues and sculptured vases, the beauty of their surface is soon corroded and defaced with weather stains : but how poor is the French style of gardening if it be deprived of its water-works and its'marbles!

In that age however the French genius was lord of the ascendant. De rerum nostrarum elegantiâ, says the French Jesuit Rapin, longe potiori jure prædicare possumus quàm poeta Venusinus,

Venimus ad summum fortunæ ;

« PreviousContinue »