Imágenes de páginas


in its composition. Hobbes appears to have started it, and it was continually hinted at by Stubbe, one of Harrington's chief literary opponents, who speaks of the "authors” and not the author of “Oceana." But it is of very little importance whether the rumour was true or not. As soon as the book was published and its doctrines popularised, the history of Harrington becomes merged in the history of the Harringtonians.

The publication of the work was not an easy matter. Thurloe's well-trained secret service got wind of its existence while it was passing through the press, and confiscated it. The year 1656 was not a happy year for authors who wished to promulgate doubtful doctrines. The Press Act of June 14, 1643 against which Milton had written “ Areopagitica,” the ordinance of September 28, 1647, Bradshaw's Act of September 20, 1649, renewed on January 7, 1653, and the further Order of the Council of September 5, 1655, were directed almost entirely against the anti-Cromwellian newspapers and prurient and indecent publications. Imprimaturs for books and pamphlets had not been hard to obtain, and both sides of most of the burning questions of the day had been stated with considerable freedom. But by the order of August 18, 1655, “ against Scandalous Books and Pamphlets and for the Regulation of Printing,” a much greater strictness was enforced, affecting the regular book trade. Cromwell was gradually tightening the reins of his government; he had instituted his system of major-generals; and on November 27th he issued instructions for the suppression of the use of the Prayer Book in private houses. The greater stringency in dealing with the press was a part of this process

1 Masson, “ Life of Milton," v. 51, 60, 259, 351.



of extirpating opposition to his rule by measures of police.

The story told by Toland of how permission to print Oceana" was finally obtained is a pretty one, illustrating Harrington's fondness for doing things in a picturesque way. He won the father over by first getting at his favourite daughter. The Lady Claypole was the child of Cromwell's heart, and it was her early death that helped to hurry him to the grave. She was generally able to get her way with her father. As Toland wrote, “she acted the part of a Princess very naturally, obliging all persons with her civility, and frequently interceding for the unhappy.” To this Lady, though an absolute stranger to him, he thought fit to make his application; and being led into her Antichamber, he sent in his Name with his humble request that she would admit him to her presence. While he attended, som of her Women coming into the room were followed by her little Daughter about three years old, who staid behind them. He entertained the Child so divertingly, that she suffer'd him to take her up in his arms till her Mother came ; whereupon he stepping towards her, and setting the Child down at her feet, said ' Madam, 'tis well you are com at this nick of time, or I had certainly stolen this pretty little Lady.' The mother was somewhat astonished and could not understand Harrington's behaviour, and she was no more enlightened when it was explained as a retaliation for Cromwell's theft of his own offspring. But when she learnt that “ Oceana

was meant, that the book had been misrepresented and contained nothing prejudicial to Cromwell's government, she was won over, and having been promised one of the first copies, persuaded her father to restore the confiscated material.



“Oceana ” was finally published late in 1656, without the author's name. It was dedicated to the Protector, who was given the formidable task of converting England into Oceana and retiring into private life at the conclusion of his work, to die at the ripe age of one hundred and sixteen.

1 It is advertised as newly published in “ Mercurius Politicus,” October 23 November 6. Cf. Firth, “ Last Years of the Protectorate," i. 68.



OCEANA," the only one of his works by which Harrington is now remembered, is written in the form of a Utopia. This fact accounts for whatever notoriety it has to-day, as well as for the merriment with which it was received at the time of its composition. Utopias are generally regarded as literary curiosities which have been made respectable by illustrious names, rather than as serious contributions to the political problems which troubled the age at which they appeared. Plato, the greatest of all writers of Utopias, in some of the most pathetic words that were ever used in literature, acknowledged in the end that his suggestions were impracticable. “I don't think it exists anywhere on earth,” he said of the Republic, " but perhaps in heaven it is set up as a pattern for him who will to gaze on and by his gaze to make himself like it. It doesn't matter, if it does or can exist." 1 More made no such apology, but as Chancellor of England he never attempted to introduce the reforms which he had sketched in “Utopia " into the country which he helped to govern. Harrington was at once classed in the same category as an unpractical idealist.

But “Oceana,” although in the form of an ideal state, is a work of a different type from the “ Republic or “ Utopia.” It was meant neither for the skies nor for some spot on earth that did not exist, but for England. Its author had very clearly defined views

· Plato, “Republic,” 592 B.




as to the needs of his country, and his love of the picturesque prompted him to bring them forward in the form of what he called a “political romance." The scene is laid in England, which appears as Oceana. The hero of the story is Cromwell, who under the pseudonym of Olphaus Megaletor is depicted as being troubled at night time by pondering over what a single man, Lycurgus, was able to do for Sparta. Fired by this example, he calls together a number of political scientists, and together they produce a new constitution. Cromwell is given a post not unlike that of Protector, and institutes the new order. He waits till the wheels are running smoothly, and finally retires into private life, leaving England the most prosperous and contented republic in the world. The book, stripped of its allegorical trappings, is little more than a magnified written constitution. Without having the poetical atmosphere of the legendary Utopia, it goes into details which a constitutional document does not presume to include, but it never leaves the political standpoint or wanders off into impossible suggestions that could not be realised in practice. It is a definite proposal for solving the difficulties in which England had become entangled since the abolition of monarchy, and one which its author hoped Cromwell might be induced to consider.

In presenting his theories in this guise and employing fictitious names, Harrington was adopting a literary trick not uncommon at the time. James Howell had, in 1645, written what he called an "allegorical discourse” which was partly satirical,” in which he had veiled various monarchs and countries of Europe under names coined from Latin or Greek words for trees, introducing into this setting discussions,

« AnteriorContinuar »