Imágenes de páginas



wife of the unfortunate exile from the Palatinate. He soon became a great favourite with Frederick's family, and later we find him trying to repay the kindness which they showed him, by appealing to the Commons to help them in their misfortunes. With Frederick he went for a time to the Court of Denmark. On his return he left his position at the Hague, and with a view to completing his education, moved on through Flanders and France to Italy. We know little of his travels, except that he learned the languages of the countries he visited, and made careful observations of their political and social institutions. Isolated stories have been preserved to the effect that he refused to kiss the Pope's toe, and expressed disbelief in contemporary Italian miracles. But that is all. After a stay at Venice, which made a profound impression on him —not by the beauty of its canals, but by the beauty of its constitution—he came home through the west of Germany

The exact date of his return to England is not known. At any rate he was back before the outbreak of the Civil War, equipped with a peculiar training. He had received hospitality from monarchs. He had travelled over the continent at the time of the great unrest and disorder, which spread over the whole of western Europe in the train of the Thirty Years' War. He had witnessed something of the great religious struggles, which seemed to him to cast so deep a stain on the name of religion ; he had visited the Holy See and seen the holder of the office which he accounted solely responsible for this degradation of Christianity ; ? he had found one little bright spot in a world of chaos

1 Hist. MSS. Commission, XIII. i. 210.

: "Oceana,” p. 59. References are to the third edition of his collected Works (1747).



an island city with a sense of order and permanence about it. The Netherlands and Venice alike captivated his imagination and roused his enthusiasm, but in a rather different way. In the Netherlands he had seen what a people can do. In Venice he was shown what institutions can achieve. The former turned his interests in the direction of politics ;' the latter made him believe in political science. With his faith in the people and his faith in institutions his mind was moving in the direction of republicanism.

Having assisted in settling the future of his brothers and sisters, who were now growing up and had been left fatherless, while their elder brother was at Oxford, Harrington had his own problem to decide. His interests were political, and it was apparent that he must play a part either as actor or student in the world of politics. The rapid march of events and the growing breach between King and Parliament necessitated some decision, if only a decision to remain neutral. The choice of sides, which troubled many minds at the beginning of the Civil War in England, must have been peculiarly difficult for one whose traditional connection with the court was counterbalanced by a theoretical admiration of continental republicanism. It is therefore not surprising that after having accompanied his Majesty to Scotland in the first Bishops' War (1639) as a member of the Privy Chamber Extraordinary, Harrington retired from activity till the fighting was over. It is true that he is reported to have attempted to enter Parliament in 1642, but it was not till January 1647 that he came before the public eye, when hoping to use his influence with Charles to bring about a settlement he attached himself to the Commissioners

1 Ibid. xv.

i Toland's Introduction, xiv.

Wood, “ Athena Oxonienses,” ii. 1115.



of the Parliament, who were sent to treat with the King at Newcastle. He remained with his Majesty until May, and he was then appointed, with Thomas Herbert, Groom of the Bedchamber. He was the obvious man for the post, being in sympathy with the parliamentary party, but liked by the King; and he had moved in continental courts. He was with Charles during his stay at Holmby House, and went with him to Carisbrooke Castle and then to Hurst Castle. Here he offended the Governor and some Roundhead officers by what was a very moderate defence of the King's attitude with regard to the Treaty of Newport and the proposal for the establishment of Presbyterianism in England, and was dismissed from his post.2 On Charles's removal to Windsor he was permitted to return for three or four days, but was again dismissed for refusing to swear not to assist in any attempt to procure his Majesty's escape. He was imprisoned for a short time for his obstinacy, but he managed to see his beloved King once again before his death, received a present from him, and witnessed the execution.

This affection between one of the most determined, if not one of the greatest, of the republicans of the time and the sovereign who has enchanted half posterity by his kingliness is not a little remarkable. But both were men who could admire the personal qualities of their friends, however much they disagreed on questions of politics. Harrington was a good example of an English gentleman. He is described as a man

1 Wood, "Athenæ Oxonienses,” iii. 1115, and Herbert, Memoirs of the Two Last Years of the Reign of . . . King Charles I.,” p. 7.

; Ibid. iii. 1116; Herbert, p. 90.

3 Toland, xvii., and Kingdom's Moderate Intelligencer" of Jan. 2, 1649. If we follow Toland and accept two dismissals of Harrington, the difficulty which Gardiner sees (vide " Civil War," iii. 548, note) disappears.




of a middling stature, a well trussed man, strong and thick, well sett, sanguine, quick-hott-fiery hazell eie, thick moyst curled hair ";' a man “ of a very liberal and compassionate nature”; ?

2 “in his conversation very friendly and facetious and hospitable.” 3 He was adored by his family; he was beloved by various friends, to whom he gave financial support as well as friendship ; he delighted the young princesses at the Hague by his grace ; he found a place in the heart of the King. Aubrey, who was one of Harrington's greatest friends, alluding to the political discourses with which Harrington entertained the King during this unhappy period, bears witness how “the King loved his company; only he would not endure to heare of a Commonwealth; and Mr Harrington passionately loved his Majestie"; and he says further that Harrington was so much distressed by the death of the King that he “contracted a

disease by it.”

But he was not shaken in his republican principles by the charms of one that bore the name of King

While England was making her first experiments in republican government, her republican philosopher remained in retirement. He was studying ancient history and continuing the collection of political writings, which he had started at Venice, preparing for future fame. One of his hobbies during this period was a translation of Vergil. He was no poet, as his friend Nevile, the author of “ Plato Redivivus " and the leader of Harrington's party in the parliament of 1659, wisely told him. But he was inspired by the examples of the statesmen he admired-Moses, Lycurgus, Machiavelli

· Aubrey, “ Brief Lives," i. 293.
• Aubrey, i. 293.
Ibid. i. 289.

: Toland, xvi.

Ibid. i. 288-89.



—to try his hand at versification, and he produced translations of certain Vergilian eclogues and the first six books of the “ Æneid,” which were published in 1658 and 1659. The translations are not very successful. They are not without interest as early specimens of English renderings of Vergil, but their chief importance lies in the light which they throw on the nature of Harrington's mind; for they show an artistic sense, subservient always to the artist's interest in politics. In his rendering of the “ Eclogues” he could not refrain from introducing his pet theory of the

balance or property,” first as a note explaining the fall of the Roman Empire, then as an ode to the theory which could explain it, while in his translation of the “ Æneid ” he did not hesitate to distort a passage in the fourth book so as to introduce the same theory into the text itself. But translating Vergil was only a hobby. The real work in which he was engaged during the seven years which succeeded the execution of the King was preparation for the composition of

Oceana." The book which was to win him fame was written in response to a request for some public protest against the Instrument of Government. A fairly persistent rumour credited Nevile with a share


1 "An Essay upon two of Virgil's Eclogues and two books of his Æneid," 1658, and Virgil's Æneid, the Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Books." James Harrington, 1659.

9 The title of this ode was The Political Ballance." • The passage runs as follows :

“ Lawgiving Ceres that inventing corn

Is she, of whom bright Empire first was born,
While men for Acorns tasting bread, began
To parcel fields by laws Agrarian,
And hence (as lots have chanc'd to rise or fall)

Become the prize of One or Few or All." This means, as will be seen when the theory is examined in chapter iii., that power depends on property, and that the number of the landowners determines whether the government is monarchial, oligarchic, or democratic.

« AnteriorContinuar »