Gentleman of the Bedchamber
King Charles the First.
Written by himself.
Now first published from the original manuscript,
an Introductory Memoir.
This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.
Last updated Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 13:09.
To the best of our knowledge, the text of this
work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia.
HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work.
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
There is a charm in Autobiography under whatever form it may be presented to our notice, which is too universally felt to require recommendation; hence, an apology for publishing for the first time, from his own MS., an account of the early part of the life of one of the most extraordinary characters of his, or indeed of any age, would it is presumed be wholly superfluous.
The name of Sir Kenelm Digby is almost synonymous with genius and eccentricity; and his marriage with the beautiful Venetia Stanley, a lady of far purer birth than fame, has tended to create a lively interest in all which relates to him. Under feigned appellations, but to the greater proportion of which there is no difficulty in giving a key, Digby has detailed all the events of his life, from his childhood until his victory over the Venetian squadron at Scanderoon in June 1628; and as the narrative was solely written from feelings of affection for his wife, that celebrated woman is the heroine of his tale.
That so curious an article should have hitherto escaped the attention of his Biographers, is not a little singular; but it will be seen by the Memoir which it was necessary to prefix to it, that it throws important light, not only upon Digby s own character, but also upon the character and conduct of Lady Venetia; and many curious particulars will also be found of the most distinguished personages of their times.
As in the introductory account of Sir Kenelm Digby, the question of the authenticity of the MS., which is preserved in the Harleian Collection in the British Museum, No. 6768, is discussed, and every particular concerning it stated, any farther observations in this place are unnecessary.
June 1st, 1827.
The difficulty of writing the life of so diversified a genius as Sir Kenelm Digby, has been justly considered a perilous task; and that difficulty is but little lessened by the elaborate account of him in the “Biographia Britannica,” or the concise but incomparable summary of his character by Mr. Lodge.* In the former of those productions, every fact which the industry of more than one editor could collect is copiously detailed; whilst the successful manner in which the biographer who is just alluded to, has selected all that is really important concerning him, stated those deductions which are to be made from his conduct, and clothed his narration and remarks in the most polished and appropriate language, render it impossible that this Memoir of him can excel the minuteness of the one, or equal the terseness, the elegance, or the energy of the other.
* Portraits of Illustrious Personages of Great Britain, with Biographical and Historical Memoirs.
Nor will the attempt even be made: for the only hopes which can be entertained that this article will possess claims to attention of a different nature from former notices of Digby, are founded upon the curious particulars of his early life, and the life of the beautiful Venetia Stanley, his wife, which are presented under feigned names in this volume; the few unpublished letters which are introduced; and still more, upon the incontrovertible truth that Scarcely two writers view the same facts in one light, and that it is only by such repeated and various examinations of human Conduct that the real merits of mankind can be discovered.
Thus then, all which has been printed respecting Sir Kenelm Digby will be related in as brief a manner as is consistent with the intention of giving a simple narrative of his life; but the little which has been brought to light, either in this piece of autobiography, or from other sources, will be placed in that prominent view to which their novelty, if not their interest, entitle them. This is the more necessary, because, if it be proved that what is already known of him is consistent in the general features, in probability, and in dates, with his account of transactions with which we now become acquainted for the first time, the value of his statements will be fully established.
Kenelm Digby was the eldest son of Sir Everard Digby, one, and perhaps the most respectable, of the fanatic conspirators of the gunpowder treason, by Mary, daughter and co-heiress of William Mulsho, of Gothurst, in Buckinghamshire, Esq. and was scarcely three years of age when his father expiated his crime upon the scaffold. The precise day of his birth has been the subject of far greater controversy than it deserved, but there can be no just grounds for doubting that it occurred on the 11th of June, 1603. As his father was attainted, he says he inherited nothing from him “but a foul stain in his blood:"* but such was not strictly true; for two of Sir Everard’s manors, as well as his wife’s property, having been entailed, the crown was defeated in the effort to take possession of them, and Digby is considered to have inherited an estate of 3000l. per annum. His mother was a rigid Catholic, but submitted, Mr. Lodge considers, to her son being educated a Protestant from obvious political reasons; whilst his previous biographers conjecture that he was taken from her care when very young; because at an early period he renounced the faith of his ancestors, and was placed under the tuition of Archbishop Laud, then Dean of Gloucester. Be this as it may, Digby is thought to have been a Protestant until he formally returned to the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church, about the year 1638; but, as it will afterward be more fully pointed out, there are reasons for believing that he was a Catholic as early as 1623, in which case it may be fairly doubted whether he was ever, in reality, of any other religion. In 1618, when he was in his fifteenth year, he was sent to Oxford, and entered of Gloucesterhall, where the direction of his studies was committed to Mr. Thomas Allen, one of the most eminent scholars of the time, who it is said, accepted the task from affection for the family of his pupil, and a high opinion of his genius and capacity, rather than from the ordinary motives of a college tutor. Digby remained at the university but two years, in which he obtained a splendid reputation. Early in 1621, he proceeded on his travels, intending, if his own assertion is to be believed, to study for some time in the university of Paris;* but neither of his biographers give any other account of him between that year and 1623, when he returned to England, than they gleaned from a passage in one of his works, namely, that he attended on the Prince of Wales, afterward Charles the First, when his Royal Highness was at Madrid. Of that interesting period of Sir Kenelm’s life, the ensuing memoir presents many singular particulars, and as all of them which are capable of proof are fully supported by evidence, as well as by the general history of the period, there seems to be no just ground for suspecting the fidelity of the outline, however much it may be necessary to allow for the high colouring of the picture. But, fortunately, the former only is required for the purpose of filling up the chasm.
* p. 32.
* P. 79.
As it is impossible to avail ourselves of that information without alluding to the fair individual who became identified with Digby’s fortunes, this is, perhaps, the most convenient place for introducing her. Venetia Stanley, to whose names one writer has also added that of Anastatia,* was one of the daughters, and, eventually, coheirs of Sir Edward Stanley, of Tonge Castle in Shropshire, Knight of the Bath, eldest son of Sir Thomas Stanley, Knt. a younger son of Edward, third Earl of Derby, K.G. and was born on the 19th of December, 1600. Her mother was Lucy, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Percy, seventh Earl of Northumberland, who, we learn from this memoir, died when she was but a few months old. Truly, indeed, might Digby boast that his Venetia was “born of parents that, in the antiquity and lustre of their houses and in the goods of fortune, were inferior to none in Great Britain,”* and that some of her ancestors had exalted and pulled down Kings in England, and that their successors still have right to wear a regal crown upon their princely temples,* an allusion to the sovereignty of the Isle of Man, which was then possessed by the Earls of Derby.
* Hutchin’s History of Dorset.
* p. 13.
Her beauty and accomplishments equaled the lustre of her birth, but her character has been impeached in the most unqualified terms, and it must be confessed that there are many causes for believing in the accusations. This delicate subject cannot be passed over in silence, for as Digby himself alludes to rumours against her fame, the question demands that some attention should be given to it; but it is first necessary to notice what he previously says of her.
Sir Edward Stanley, he informs us, though a negligent husband, was so much afflicted at the loss of his wife, that he resolved on passing his life in absolute seclusion; and therefore committed Venetia to the care of the wife of one of his relations, whose house was situated near to that of Lady Digby, This naturally produced frequent visits between the two families, and Kenelm became known to Venetia in his childhood, when a mutual attachment arose, and which “grew with their growth.”
After a few years had thus passed away. Sir Edward Stanley sent for his daughter to his own house; but upon the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth with the Count Palatine, which soon afterward took place, he was summoned to the Court; and, being desirous of shewing her “the magnificent entertainments that are usual at such times, and also being glad to let the world now see that fame was nothing too lavish in setting out her perfections,” took Venetia with him to London; where “her beauty and discretion did soon draw the eyes and thoughts of all men to admiration.”*
The royal alliance alluded to, occurred in February, 1613, when she was but little more than thirteen years of age. To Aubrey, her detractor, we are indebted for the little which is known about her; and some parts of his statement agree with Digby’s, for he says, “She was a most beautiful desirable creature, and, being _matura viro_ was left by her father to live with a tenant at Enston Abbey, in Oxfordshire; but, as private as that place was, it seems her beauty could not lie hid.”* Enston is not more than thirty miles from Gothurst, the seat of Lady Digby; and the only difference between the Memoir and Aubrey on the subject of Venetians residence is, that in the former the individual to whose care she was intrusted, is called her father’s kinsman.
* p. 21.
* Aubrey’s Letters by Eminent Persons, vol. ii. p. 330, note.
Her extraordinary beauty, we are told, attracted the regard of Ursatius, one of the noblemen of the court, whose attentions, however, proved fruitless in consequence of her previous attachment to Digby. On her return home, she related what had occurred to her Governess, who being bribed by the nobleman in question, advocated his cause with much zeal; and of course did all in her power to depreciate his rival. In the conversation between them, Digby makes her give some account of his situation, and adduces admirable reasons why his father’s attainder should not prejudice him in the opinion of the world.
A defence is also offered of Sir Everard’s conduct, upon the ground that it did not arise from ambition but mistaken zeal for his country’s liberties, and an inviolable faith to his friend who had entrusted him with a knowledge of the conspiracy. The Governess, finding her efforts unavailing, advised her noble employer to carry Venetia off by stealth; and under the idea of meeting Digby, she was decoyed into his hands, when she was conveyed to a house in the country, Ursatius, of course, met her there, but deceived by the idea that she would ultimately consent to his suit, he treated her with respect, though it would appear that he addressed her in bed: but it is not easy to reconcile this part of the narrative with probability, for it seems that on reaching this house, she retired to rest; that in the evening Ursatius arrived and entered her room, when a long conversation took place; that in the midst of it the housekeeper brought supper, no one else being allowed to attend them; and that after their meal, he led Venetia into a garden. During the whole of this scene we are not informed when she rose, or if Ursatius once quitted the room, an inconsistency which is the more remarkable, from the connected manner in which the remaining part of the Memoir is related. Venetia, having gone to her chamber, meditated her escape, which she effected by lowering herself out of the window, and thence let herself down from the garden wall. In her flight she was attacked by a wolf, but was rescued by Mardontius, a young nobleman who is subsequently a conspicuous character in the tale. His servants escorted her to the house of her relation Artesia, whose grand-daughter is intended by Lady Digby and that lady to be the wife of Kenelm. In an interview between Artesia and Venetia, the writer has introduced a description of himself and his younger brother, John. This sketch, though by no means remarkable for modesty, is exceedingly faithful, and abundantly proves that Digby was well acquainted with his own character: it is also interesting for the compliments which it contains to his tutor, Mr. Allen. Aubrey says that Digby’s marriage was violently opposed by his mother, on account of Venetia’s immorality; but, though he admits that his mother was averse to his attachment to her, he attributes it to some unkindnesses which had passed between Sir Everard Stanley and her, and to its interfering with the other alliance. The meetings between the lovers at Artesia’s house are then mentioned, with an ample proportion of tender speeches on both sides, in one of which Kenelm informed her, that he had attained Lady Digby’s permission to travel for two or three years, his chief object being to prevent his marriage with the object of his mother s choice, until he became of proper age to dispose of himself, when he would return and claim her hand. Venetia, finding herself coldly treated by her hostess in consequence of Kenelm’s attachment, returned to London, where she had another interview with her lover, when they exchanged tokens of regard. He immediately proceeded to Paris, and remained there until, he says, the plague broke out, when he retired to Angers. Notice is then taken of the state of France, until the annihilation of the Queen’s party at the battle of the Pont de Ce, on the 8th of August 1620. Digby’s account of her Majesty tends to confirm the opinion entertained of her lascivious conduct, for not only does he charge her with a criminal connexion with the Marquis of Ancre, but asserts, that having attracted her attention at a masquerade at her court, she fell deeply in love with himself. Her attempts to induce him to consent to her overtures are detailed in far too glowing and unambiguous language to admit of being printed; but his constancy to Venetia served as an impregnable bulwark to his virtue. On escaping from her apartment, he met the King’s troops forcing their way to it, and fearing the effects of her vengeance, he caused it to be reported that he was killed in the slaughter which ensued.
From Angers he went to Italy and settled at Florence, whence he wrote to Venetia to inform her of his health, but his letters miscarried, and she consequently gave credence to the news of his death. Her grief is portrayed in the quaint eloquence for which Digby is distinguished; and having shut herself up from all society excepting that of Mardontius who had saved her life when escaping from Ursatius, he became deeply enamoured of her beauty, and pressed his suit with considerable zeal. Though she refused his addresses, Fame, “that monster which was begot of some fiend in hell and feedeth itself upon the infected breath of the base multitude,” reported that an improper intercourse existed between them which Kenelm partly attributes to his speaking more lavishly of her favours than he had ground for.
The reports, however, induced her, at the earnest request of her friends, to consent to marry Mardontius, who caused splendid preparations to be made for their nuptials, and “had her portrait painted by an excellent workman, which picture he used to shew as a glorious trophy of her conquered affections.”
To return to Digby. All the letters which he had written to her were, he says, intercepted by his mother; and whilst pondering on the cause of Venetia’s silence, intelligence was brought him at Florence of her approaching marriage, with the cause of it, which “went much to the prejudice of her honour.” The philosophy upon which he prided himself was overwhelmed by the tidings, and he gave unrestrained vent to his rage and disappointment. Mardontius proved faithless to his engagement being momentarily inveigled in the country by some rustic beauty, and Venetia treated all his subsequent efforts to obtain her hand with proper contempt.
At this period of his history, Digby says, he pauses, because, “his future actions became mingled with those of great princes.” John Digby, first Earl of Bristol, his distant relation, who was then at Madrid negotiating the marriage of Prince Charles, having heard of Kenelm’s reputation, invited him to Spain, with which he complied. On his journey, he says, he met a Bramin, and we are favoured with a long argument on the influence of the stars on mankind, and similar mystical subjects; and are told that the Magician conjured up a spirit of Venetia, through whose agency he became convinced that her honour was unsullied, and that her faults were only “a little indulgency of a gentle nature which sprung from some indiscretion, or rather want of experience, that made her liable to censure.” He was received by the Earl at Madrid with great kindness, and supped with him on his arrival; but on his return to his house with Leodivius, who appears to have been a son of Lady Digby by her first husband Sir John Dive, of Bromham in Bedfordshire, Knight, they were waylaid by fifteen men instigated by an individual who was jealous of Leodivius. Digby killed two of the assassins which fulfilled a prediction of the spirit, who desired him to consider the accomplishment of that prophecy as evidence of the truth of what he had told him of Venetians virtue.
Charles and the Duke of Buckingham’s romantic expedition to Spain is then mentioned: it is said that they arrived at Madrid the day after Digby ‘s rencontre, and some curious facts are related about the dispute between the Duke and the Earl of Bristol. Kenelm was employed in these negociations, and appears, from his influence with the Archbishop of Toledo, to have facilitated the Ambassador’s plans; and at his relation’s desire, he attached himself to his Prince’s service. A remark of Lord Kensington, afterward Earl of Holland, who was then at Madrid, on his indifference to the charms of the Spanish ladies, induced Digby to devote himself to a distinguished beauty of the court, of whom that nobleman was really enamoured, with the view of convincing his Lordship of his powers of conquest, if he chose to employ them. His progress soon exceeded his hopes, and her attachment made so much noise, that news of it reached England and the ears of Venetia. He was urged by his friends to marry her, but his first attachment was so firmly rooted in his heart as to render him unable to listen to their advice; nor were the entreaties of the fair object herself attended with greater success.
At the suggestion of the Duke of Buckingham, Charles determined to return to England, notwithstanding that he sincerely admired the Spanish Princess. The Duke’s conduct is censured in severe terms, and after allowing for the partial view which the writer was naturally inclined to take of his relative’s merits, there is some justice in his charges. Kenelm was appointed to attend the Prince on his return, who was received in London, we are told, with every demonstration of attachment; but he says he did not witness the joyful acclamations, for no sooner had he landed, than he was seized with a serious illness, which confined him for several days. As no dates occur in the Memoir, it may be necessary to observe that Prince Charles disembarked at Portsmouth, according to an eye-witness, on Sunday, the 5th of October, 1623, at nine o’clock in the morning.
The Duke of Buckingham’s efforts to prejudice the King against Lord Bristol, and the political measures adopted after the Prince’s arrival, are then noticed, but the account differs in nothing from the usual histories of the period,excepting that he defends Bristol with a zeal which did him honour.
On entering London, Digby informs us he accidentally met Venetia. Her beauty, he says, seemed brighter than ever, “but she sat so pensively on one side of the coach by herself, as Apelles might have taken her counterfeit to express Venus sorrowing for her beloved Adonis.” Having sent his servant to obtain her permission, he waited upon her the next day, when she explained every thing which had occurred in SO satisfactory a manner, that he was convinced he had treated her with injustice, and their attachment was renewed with increased ardour; but he was cautious, he adds, not to pledge himself too far, in consequence of the rumour respecting Mardontius.
Either from a belief in that report, or from the overwhelming influence of those baser feelings which but ill agreed with the philosophy upon which he piqued himself, he attempted to obtain possession of Venetians person without the sanction of marriage. Her indignation is described to have been such as would become a paragon of chastity, nor was it without signs of the deepest repentance on his part, that he was again admitted to her favour. From that time their hearts were, he says, joined in a fraternal affection, which “confuted the opinion of those who consider that the laws of a high and divine friendship cannot be observed where a woman hath a part;”” but we shall presently see how long this platonic regard continued. At that moment Mr. Clerk, a gentleman of the Prince’s bed-chamber, fell deeply in love with Venetia, but perceiving that it was not returned, he entreated his friend Digby to intercede with her on his behalf. Such was the high sense which Kenelm entertained of the duties of friendship, that “though he would rather have died than seen her in any other man’s possession,” yet he became Clerk’s earnest advocate; but Venetia was deaf to his entreaties. From several folios, which it was impossible to print, it seems that Digby made another attempt upon the chastity of his immaculate Venetia, for calling upon her one morning before she had risen, he entered her bed whilst she was asleep. Her displeasure on discovering her situation, Digby does not attempt to conceal, and adduces his repulse as additional evidence of her virtue, and consequently of the falsehood of the reports against her character. She of course ordered him to quit the place he had so surreptitiously gained; to which he consented only, upon the condition that she sang to him while he dressed himself. Upon quitting her, he meditates for some time upon the “miraculous perfections” which he had seen, and concludes that she “was endowed with a most noble mind, a sweet and virtuous disposition, a generous heart, a full and large understandings admirable discretion and modesty and a true sense of honour; all which were accompanied with other virtues that serve to make a lady complete; and these were lodged in so fair a body, that if she had been in those times when men committed idolatry, the world would certainly have renounced the sun, the stars, and all other their devotions, and with one consent have adored her for their goddess.” Few persons perhaps will be disposed to consider Digby as a very competent judge of “discretion and modesty;” but in every thing relating to the object of his devotion, he seems to have laboured under a perversion of intellect. It is doubtful, however, if love had so completely affected his judgment as to have induced him to marry her, had not another feeling been called into action; but when ardent gratitude is added to affection, and the object of both is one of the most beautiful creatures that ever adorned this earthy who is there that can answer for his conduct Under such circumstances the very deviation from propriety of a man uniting himself to a woman of suspicious or even of immoral character, emanates from the best feelings of the human heart; and that which under ordinary circumstances justly excites our contempt, assumes a very different complexion. If we cannot, or rather, if from a regard to the best interests of society we dare not applaud such an action, it is at least difficult to view it with severity. He informs us that having been appointed to accompany the Duke of Buckingham in his embassy to the French Court, for the marriage between Prince Charles and Henrietta Maria, and being anxious to equip himself in a manner which might evince his respect for his royal master, his friends thought he would find much difficulty in raising money at so short a notice, adequate to the heavy expenses which were necessary. To meet his exigencies, however, Venetia, with true womanly kindness, and that spontaneous generosity which forms so noble a trait in her sex, instantly pawned her jewels and plate. “Having gathered a large sum,” for Digby shall relate it in his own words, “she sent it to him, entreating him to make use of it without cumbering his estate, which, consisting of settled rents, would soon quit a greater debt; and thus she made him at once master of all she had, or could hope for. This generous action,’” he adds, “sunk so deep into his heart, that the previous obstacle to his marriage,” which arose from the dissuasions of some of his friends, and particularly his mother, was no longer allowed to prevail. In contempt of the world’s
Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn.”
and in contempt too of his better judgment, he resolved to make her his wife. If he may be believed, his own feelings were not the only impediment to his union,but that it was opposed in a quarter where opposition was least to be expected. Venetia, he tells us, with a refinement of delicacy, refused to marry one man when another possessed her picture, given under a promise of marriage. All Digby ‘s efforts to convince her that her opinions were erroneous, were unsuccessful; and he was obliged, by challenging Mardontius, to force him to restore it. Without drawing his sword, he placed the portrait in’Digby’s hands, accompanied by a written declaration, that if ever he had uttered a word derogatory to her honour, he had falsely slandered her.
Here it becomes necessary to contrast this account with the character which has been given of Venetia Stanley by Aubrey. He says, that “she had one if not more children by the Earl of Dorset, who settled on her an annuity of 500l. per annum, which, after Sir Kenelm Digby married, was unpaid by the Earl: Sir Kenelm sued the Earl after marriage, and recovered it. Sir Edmund Wyld had her picture, and, you may imagine, was very familiar with her. After her marriage she redeemed her honour by her strict living; she and her husband were invited once a year by the Earl of Dorset, when with much desire and passion he beheld her, and only kissed her hand; Sir Kenelm being still by.”
These statements cannot be reconciled with the scrupulously delicate conduct imputed to her by Digby; and we might be inclined to doubt the justice of Aubrey’s assertions, were it not manifest from the Memoir itself, that rumours, highly injurious to her character, existed. Nor is it certain that Digby disbelieved them; for in the elaborate defence of his marriage to the Earl of Bristol, towards the end of the volume, some passages will be found in which he defends his union, notwithstanding she might, previously to it, have forfeited all claims to respect. His arguments, however little they may convince, are excessively ingenious, and display that subtlety of intellect and profound casuistry for which he was celebrated. Without actually using the coarse expression assigned to him by Aubrey, “that a handsome lusty man, that was discreet, might make a virtuous wife out of a brothel house,” we find several remarks of a similar tendency; and so far does he carry his absurd theory respecting the moral conduct of women, that, in a passage which has been necessarily suppressed, he contends that their honour does not consist only in chastity, and that cases may occur in which it is justifiable for a man to consent to his wife’s pollution! If these were Digby’s real opinions, they afford us a striking but melancholy confirmation of the remark that
“Great genius is to madness near allied.”
Upon the very critical question of that lady’s virtue it is almost impossible to form a decisive opinion. The most serious cause for suspecting it, is the manner in which her husband has defended her; for part, at least, of Aubrey’s charges will not bear even the slightest investigation. The Earl of Dorset, by whom he says she had one if not more children, was Richard Sackville, the third Earl of Dorset,who was born in March, 1589, and who in l609 married Ann the daughter and heiress of George Earl of Cumberland. He was the son of Robert the second Earl, and was consequently the grandson instead of the “eldest son and heir to the Lord Treasurer;’ and as Venetia Stanley was not born until December 1600, his connexion with her could not have commenced long before her fifteenth year, at which time he had been six years a husband. It is therefore, of course, possible that an improper attachment subsisted between them some time between 1616 and March 1624, when the Earl died; but the corroborating evidence of the fact, adduced by Aubrey, that Digby, after his marriage, sued Lord Dorset for the annuity which he had settled upon her, and the story of their dining with him once a year, when he kissed her hand, &c. could only have existed in that writer’s imagination, for the Earl actually died before Venetia’s marriage; nor is there any notice of a trial of the kind, against his heirs or executors, reported. Thus, then, as the greater part of Aubrey’s account is proved to have been false, we may at least hesitate in believing his other statements; especially as, independently of the Earl of Dorset, they consist only of inferences. Notwithstanding the equivocal nature of Sir Kenelm’s arguments in favour of his wife’s reputation, it must not be forgotten that from some parts it would seem he was fully impressed that the reports, which he admits were in circulation, were false; that her conduct towards him was marked by the greatest delicacy and propriety; and that instead of eagerly burying her dishonour under the name of his wife, it was not until he had restored to her a trifling pledge of her former affection for another individual, that she yielded to his urgent and incessant entreaties to marry him. On the other hand, we find that he himself twice attempted to seduce her, and although the repulse which he encountered on both occasions might be adduced by him as proof of her virtue, the effort speaks but little in favour of his real opinion of it; that his friends were violent in their disapprobation of his marriage; and more than all, that in his defence of his union, instead of solely resting upon her innocence, he descends to such miserable sophistry as that “she ought not to be less valued for her former affection, since looking into the reality of it, and finding it to be on worthy grounds of her side, you must consent that her innocence is not impeached,” that “a wise man should not confine himself to what may be said of the past actions of his wife;” that her beauty, wit, and splendid descent were far more essential objects; that “if indiscreet unstayed youth, or rather childhood, have at any time cast a mist over her judgment, and so caused some innocent error in any of her actions, the goodness of her nature hath converted it into this benefit, that she is fully warned and armed never to incur the like;” that “what was done having left nothing which could really be taken hold of, it should not be considered so much as the present state of the soul and mind;”
“that the clearest brooks have some mud,” by the absurd and criminal opinions which have been alluded to; and similar preposterous remarks.
They were, we are told, privately married; and as their eldest child was born in October 1625, the ceremony probably took place in the January preceding, though at Digby’s request it was kept secret from the world. Their intercourse naturally gave rise to observations, and his cousin Robert Digby, who became the first Lord Digby in Ireland, having remonstrated with him on the subject, he entered into a long discourse in defence of the passion of Love; and afterwards at his request described a personal contest which had taken place between him and an individual whom he calls Famelicus, and who, like themselves, was a gentleman of the Prince’s bed-chamber, but whose name it is impossible to discover. This he explains at some length, though it is only necessary to state that, instigated by malice, the person in question had asserted he had received the last favour from Venetia, in consequence of which Digby instantly challenged him. Finding his life at stake, he confessed the falsehood of his slander,and consequently obtained the reputation of” an indiscreet, rash, and dishonest coward f whilst those who had combined with him, but whose real names are uncertain, were considered as “malicious, unworthy, and cankered wretches.”
It is not a little extraordinary that Digby should omit to mention, that on his return from Spain he received the honour of Knighthood, which was conferred upon him on the 23d of October, 1623, at Lord Montague’s house at Hinchinbroke in the presence of Prince Charles and the Duke of Buckingham, when the King paid him some high compliments on his erudition.
It must also have been about this time that he discovered his celebrated sympathetic powder; and the omission of any notice of it in his Memoirs, is not less singular. The curious reader will find an ample account of it in Sir Kenelm’s “Discourse upon the Sympathetic Powder,” from which a copious extract has been made in the “Biographia Britannica;” but it is sufficient to observe of it here, that it consisted of applying a certain mixture to any thing which had received the blood of a wounded person, who obtained instant relief from the application, even if he were not present. Digby says, he learnt the secret from a friar in Italy, to whom he had rendered some essential kindnesses; and an instance of its efficacy on Mr. Howell is fully detailed. The circumstance attracted the attention of King James and the Court, and tended in no small degree to his reputation.
Of his marriage, Sir Kenelm gives us some curious particulars; and we learn that Lady Digby’s confinement was hastened by a fall from a horse. Her labour was attended, he says, with great danger, from her resolution to abide by his wish that it might be kept secret; and he of course seizes the opportunity of extolling her fortitude and firmness.
As soon as she could be left with safety, he returned to town, when the conversation occurred between the Earl of Bristol and himself, relative to Venetia, which has been cited. It was interrupted, we are informed, by the arrival of his Lordship’s solicitor, who came to report the judgment which had just been pronounced relative to the proceedings against him by the Court, the enmity of which had, it is well known, through the jealousy and hatred of Buckingham, been powerfully excited against him. At Sir Kenelm’s request, the Earl related the manner in which he had been treated, from which it seems that as the evidence of Sir Kenelm and Robert Digby was necessary for his defence, Buckingham caused two of his kinsmen and dependants to challenge them to meet them at some place on the continent, with the view of keeping them out of the way; that the Digbys accordingly repaired thither; but that the want of the personal testimony of Kenelm was supplied by a letter which he addressed to the Earl; and that, on his return, he boldly justified his own conduct to the King. It is unnecessary to follow Sir Kenelm through his vindication of the Earl of Bristol, for that nobleman’s conduct stands fair in the eyes of posterity.
At this period of his life, Digby says, he deemed it necessary to prove to the world that his devotion to Venetia had not lessened “the nobleness of his mind, nor abated the edge of his active and vigorous spirits;” and he therefore resolved to undertake some object which would both tend to his own honour and the King’s service. When his Majesty knew his wishes, “he gave him an extraordinary and very honourable commission to take in hand a voyage by sea.” The commission in question is dated on the 15th November, S Car. I. 1627, in which he is styled “Sir Kenelm Digby, Knt. one of the Gentlemen of our Privy Chamber.”* and on the 29th December following he sailed with a small squadron. He tells us, that so far from finding difficulty in procuring followers, his greatest trouble was to defend himself from the importunity of those persons of rank who wished to accompany him. Though from the envy of some and “the malignity of fortune,” he met with serious obstacles to his design, sanguine hopes were entertained of his success; hopes which, it will be seen, were not disappointed. The affection of Venetia was put to a severe trial by his departure, and he eloquently describes their feelings on the occasion. Besides the situation of Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Digby is said to have held those of a Commissioner of the Navy, and a Governor of the Trinity House. According to the most recent of his biographers, whom it would be injustice to the reader to quote in any other language than his own, “On the accession of Charles the First, Sir Kenelm Digby became one of the chief ornaments of Whitehall. Charles, who did not love gaiety, highly esteemed him, however, for his admirable talents; but to the Queen, who before her misfortunes had a very lively disposition, he rendered himself infinitely agreeable, and she seems to have conceived a friendship for him which lasted through life. He was a party in all the royal diversions, which indeed he frequently planned and directed; and such were the volubility of his spirits, and the careless elegance of his manners, that it should have seemed that he had been bred from his infancy in a court.”*
* FoBdera, tome xviii. p. 947.
* Lodge’s Illustrious Portraits.
Before he quitted England he acquainted his friend, the Earl of Bristol, with his marriage, who promised not only to shew Lady Digby every possible respect and attention during his absence, but to do what might be in his power to justify it to the world. On the day of his embarkation Sir Kenelm received intimation of the birth of his second son, John, which took place on the 29th December, 1627; and he, in consequence, wrote to desire that Venetia would no longer conceal their union. The favourable prospects under which Digby sailed, were of short continuance, for before he had been long at sea a violent disease broke put in his ships, which swept away a great part of his men. His officers solicited him to return, but he succeeded in convincing them that it was wiser to persevere; and a favourable wind springing up, he proceeded on his voyage. It is impossible to say what place he designates under the name of Rhodes, where he refreshed his people and refitted the fleet, but most probably Sally, or some other port on the coast of Barbary. From thence he sailed in prosecution of the object of the expedition, which, he tells us, was to interrupt the trade of the French in Spain and Portugal, in silks and other commodities which those countries produce; and by this means, the English might gain it, and make “their country the staple for the manufacture and vent of so rich a traffic.” At Scanderoon, “where was the period of his design,” he found a number of French and Venetian vessels; and the commanders of the latter, not contented with declaring their resolution to defend the French squadron, in consequence of the treaty which existed between France and Venice, insolently warned Digby to quit the port, or they would sink his ships. We are thus furnished with the cause of the engagement, to which Ben Johnson thus alludes,
“Witness thy action done at Scanderoon
Upon thy birthday, the eleventh of June.”
Having made every preparation for battle, he addressed his men in a speech, of which he has taken care to give us the heads, to excite their bravery, and then immediately placed his own ship alongside of that of the admiral of the enemy; and his example being followed by his captains, they soon gained a complete victory. The Venetians, he says, sent to beg a shameful peace, and, at the same instant, he boarded and took by force the French vessels; so that, in a few hours, his triumph was complete.
With this event. Sir Kenelm Digby’s narrative ends; but the explanation which he has given of his motive for writing it, and his wish that it might never be read by others, is, perhaps, the most interesting part of his lucubrations. He commences with expressing a hope, that if by accident the MS. should ever fall into any person’s hands but his own, “this last scrawl may beg pardon for the rest.” His object in composing the Memoir appears to have been to preserve his virtue; for, having been separated from his fleet by a storm which forced him into an island, which he calls Milo, where he remained to repair his ship, he was invited on shore by the chief persons of the place; and his host, to divert him from the retirement which he courted, obligingly offered to interest some ladies on his behalf, “who, in all ages, have been known to be no niggards of their favours,” and which might, he says, have been willingly accepted by an individual in his situation, had he not had his thoughts filled with the remembrance of so divine a creature as his Venetia. To avoid, therefore, giving offence by a refusal, he pretended to have many dispatches to write; but, as his facility in composition was always very great, he observes, he soon finished his letters, and then resolved to commit to paper such events in his life as related to the fair object of his contemplation. He then “gives warning before hand, that no man hath reason to lose any time in perusing so trivial a discourse of a young and unstayed head, which was, at the first, begun only for my own recreation, and then continued, and since preserved only for my own private content;” and concludes by requesting some friendly hand to convert “these blotted sheets into a clear flame,” should they survive him, “which funeral fire will be welcome obsequies to my departed soul; who, till then, will be in continual fear that the world may have occasion to renew the memory of my indiscretion, and condemn me then as much for want of judgment in writing, as formerly it hath done for too deep passion in my actions.” That the MS. was not destroyed, is fortunate for those who are gratified by perusing the description which genius gives of itself, as well as for Digby’s memory, as it contains many facts highly creditable to his character, and tends, in some degree, to redeem that of his wife; whilst much light is thrown by it upon the early part of his career. As a piece of autobiography it is, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary which is extant, and every line bears striking evidence of the peculiar temper and still more singular opinions of the writer.
The MS. which is called by Digby “Loose Fantasies,” is in his own hand, and contains proof of having been frequently and most carefully revised. No other liberty has been taken with it than to expunge a few pages which the delicacy of the present day would not allow of being published; but the narrative is never interrupted by these omissions, for they consist only of conversations or remarks that occurred on occasions which are sufficiently noticed either in this Introduction or in the Memoir.
From that time until 1632, little is known of Sir Kenelm Digby’s life; but upon the death of Lord Dorchester, one of the principal Secretaries of State, in February in that year, it was reported that he was to be appointed to his office:* the rumour proved, however, to be unfounded.
* Ellis’s Original Letters. — Second Series, vol. iii. p. 266.
About that period he distinguished himself by an act which never fails to secure posthumous fame, for his former tutor, Mr. Thomas Allen, having then died, his valuable library came into his possession, and which he soon afterwards presented to the Bodleian. Some writers assert that Digby purchased these books of Allen during his life, though he generously allowed him the use of them; but, according to Kippis, he obtained them under a bequest in Allen’s will. The discrepancy in these statements is, however, set at rest by the annexed letter to Sir Robert Cotton, in the Cottonian collection, which is, it is believed, for the first time printed, as we learn from it that Mr. Allen informed Digby of his intention to give them to him, and that he requested Sir Robert to see that they were conveyed to him in a legal manner.
To my Honourable Friend Sir Robert Cotton, at his home in Westminster,
Noble Sir, By your permission I send you here enclosed two letters for Oxford, one to Mr. James, the other to Mr. Allen; both which I beseech you let be sent under your cover. If you think fit, you may please to take notice to Mr. Allen, how I report myself to be much beholden to him for his friendly giving me his books and papers; and to thank him in my behalf, and to confirm his choice of me by such motives as may occur to you; and to advise him to settle them in a direct and legal manner. You may be bold to assure him, that in my hands they will not be with less honourable memory of him than in any man’s else; nor can they be with any body that will gladlier communicate them to them that can make use of them; which are the two ends he hath reason to look after in disposing of them. And besides I believe he will say I have not merited the least regard among his friends. I pray you also write to Mr. James what you shall judge may conduce by his endeavours to this my desire; whom I should be glad, if it may be done fitly, might make a catalogue of all the books, papers, and instruments; and then might also be a witness to Mr. Allen’s giving them to me. All which I refer to your wisdom and good directions,
I was yesterday at the Courts where there was honourable mention of you at my Lord of Dorset’s and in the presence of my Lord Treasurer; which occasion I failed not to take hold of to do you all the right I could. And truly I must tell you that I find very good inclinations towards you, and I attribute the not clearing of your business only to a certain slowness, that unless it be quickened now accompanieth all things; and that quickening must proceed mainly from yourself. Your friends can but dispose things fairly, your own solicitation must be the ground to move upon, and I doubt not but you will have a. fair passage.
In negotiating all which, and all things else that may be of service to you, I will employ myself with as much affection and heat as any servant you have. I pray you excuse me, I wait not on you myself now, for I am not very well and my coach is lame; within a few days I will attend you, but I think I shall first go to Court again where I will not omit to remember serving you if I can. Thus kissing your hands, I rest.
Your humble Servant,
Charterhouse Yard, this present Thursday.
* Cotton, MSS. Vespasianus, F. xiii. f. 330. ORIGINAL.
Whilst alluding to Digby’s munificent gift to the Bodleian Library, it is proper to refer to a passage in his letter to Dr. Langbaine, dated on the 7th November, 1654,* relative to the conditions upon which his present was to be enjoyed, because it reflects immortal honour upon his memory.
* Printed in Aubrey’s Letters.
It displays, in the most striking colours, not merely his own love of science, but his anxiety that every possible facility should be given for its diffusion. With the true clerical feeling of the seventeenth and which unhappily is not quite extinct even in the nineteenth century, some restrictions were proposed to be introduced, as to the manner in which permission was to be given for transcribing the MSS. which seemed to the noble mind of the donor to circumscribe the knowledge of their contents. His remark on the subject deserves to be written in letters of gold.
“The propositions you sent me a transcript of, methinketh are very good ones; only toward the end of the sixth it seemeth to me there is too great a restriction; for since all good things are the better the more they are communicated, I see no reason but that he who hath not convenience to print what he hath copied, should keep his transcript by him.”
On the 1st of May, 1633, Sir Kenelm Digby sustained an irreparable loss in the death of his lovely wife. She died very suddenly, in her thirty-third year, and such was the envy and malice by which he was pursued, that it was even insinuated that he had poisoned her from jealousy. Upon opening her head very little brain was found, which her husband is absurdly reported to have imputed to her drinking viper wine; “but spiteful women,” adds Aubrey, “would say it was a viper husband who was jealous of her.” Digby’s conduct on the occasion was as eccentric as almost every other act of his life. He retired to Gresham College, and amused himself with chemistry and the conversation of the professor: “he wore there a long mourning cloak, a high-cornered hat, his beard unshorn, looked like a hermit, as signs of sorrow for his beloved wife.” Lady Digby was buried in Christ’s church, near Newgate, “in a brick vault,” Aubrey informs us, “over which were three steps of black marble, with four inscriptions in copper gilt, affixed to it; upon this altar was her bust of copper gilt, all which, unless the vault, which was only opened a little by the fall, is utterly destroyed by the great conflagration. About 1675–6, as I was walking through Newgate-street, I saw Dame Venetians bust standing at a stall at the Golden Cross, a brazier’s shop. I presently remembered it, but the fire had got off the gilding; but taking notice of it to one that was with me, I could never see it afterward exposed to the street. They melted it down.” A miserable engraving of the monument is inserted in the “Antiquarian Repertory,” with the following inscription, which was probably only one of the four mentioned by Aubrey:
Edwardi Stanley Equitis Honoratiss. Ord.
Balnei (Filii Thomas, Edwardi comitis Derbies
Filii) Filiae ac cohaeredi, ex Lucisi Thomas
Comitis Northumbriae Filiae et Cohaerede,
Kenelmus Digby Eques Auratus
Cui quatuor Peperit Filios
Kenelmum Nat. vi. Octob. mdcxxv.
Joannem Nat. xxix. Decemb. mdcxxvii.
Everardum (in cunis Mortuum) Nat. xii. Jan. MDCXXIX.
Georgium Nat. xvii. Jan. mdcxxxii.
Nata est Decemb. xix. mdc.
Denata Maii. i. mdcxxxiii.
Quin lex eadem monet omnes
Gemitum dare sorte sub una
Cognataque funera nobis
Aliena in morte dolere.
Another of those inscriptions is thus given in Collins’ Peerage:
Insig: praeclariss. Dominae D. Venetiae Digby
Familia Stanleyorum, Com. Darbis ex parte
Pairis, et Perciorum, Com. Northumbriae
Materno jure, aliisque quamplurimis Christian.
Orbis Principibus oriundae.
The famous Ben Johnson lived on terms of great intimacy with Sir Kenelm and Lady Digby, and after her death he composed a long poem in honour of her, entitled “Eupheme,” which occurs in his works, and from which the subjoined is an extract:
“She was in one a many parts of life;
A tender mother, a discreeter wife,
A solemn mistress, and so good a friend.
So charitable to religious end
In all her petite actions so devote.
As her whole life was now become one note
Of piety and private holiness.”
Whilst speaking of that distinguished writer, a letter will be inserted relative to him, to Doctor Duppa, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, from Sir Kenelm Digby, in consequence of the Doctor’s intention of collecting for publication all the complimentary verses that had been written on Johnson’s decease, and which subsequently appeared under the title of “Johnsonius Virbius.”
To Doctor Duppa, the Dean of Christchurch,
and the Prince’s Tutor.
I UNDERSTAND, with much gladness, you have been careful to gather what has been written upon Mr. Johnson since his death. It is an office well beseeming that excellent piety that all men know you by; yet were but half performed if you should let it rest here. As your own tenderness towards that worthy man hath made you seek to bathe yourself in his friends’ tears, so your humanity towards the public, which good men rejoice to see you in the way so much to advance, ought not to be satisfied until you have given it a propriety in these collections. Besides, I believe, if care of earthly things touch souls happily departed, that these compositions delivered to the world by your handy will be more grateful obsequies to his great ghost, than any other that could have been performed at his tomb; for no Court’s decree can better establish a lawful claimer in the secure possession of his right, than this will him of his laurel, which, when he lived d. he wore so high above all men’s reach, as none could touch, much less shake from off his reverend head. I am writing, by this private incitement of you unto so just a work, to witness in a particular manner to yourself, who loved him dearly, the great value and esteem I have of this brave man; the honour of his age; and he that set a period to the perfection of our language: and will, as soon as I can do the like to the world, by making it share with me in those excellent pieces, alas that many of them are but pieces! which he hath left behind him, and that I keep religiously by me to that end. I promise myself that your goodness and friendliness to me will pardon me for that awhile diverting your thoughts, that are continually busied about what is of great consequence, knowing me to be.
Your most affectionate and humble servant.*
* Harleian MSS. 4153, f. 21. The same volume contains amongst several other articles by Digby, a copy of a long letter from him to Doctor Hakewill, Archdeacon of Surrey, dated London, 13th May, 1635, acknowledging the receipt of a copy of the last edition of the Doctor’s work, and his letter of the 27th of April, in which Sir Kenelm says “he over-valued the mean present he had presumed to send to the University of Oxford.” He then criticises Hakewill’s book, which appears to have related to natural philosophy.
Early in 1636, Digby publicly reconciled himself to the Church of Rome; and Archbishop Laud’s reply to the intimation which he had given him that such was his resolution, is still extant. That admirable letter is dated Lambeth, 27th March, 1636, and the author of the article “Digby” in the “Biographia Britannica,” has copiously cited it. It is there said that he had addressed to that Prelate a long apology for his conduct; and of his abilities for polemical discussion, ample proof exists in his “Conference with a Lady about Choice of Religion,” and in his Letters to Lord George Digby, eldest son of the Earl of Bristol, on a similar subject, both of which were written in 1638, when the former was published, but the latter were not printed until 1651. If however the reliance which has been placed on the following Memoir be correct, it would appear that he had embraced the Roman Catholic faith as early as 1623 or 1624, even if he was ever in fact of any other religion, for he not only speaks of it in terms of approbation, and insinuates that King James’s chief motive for wishing the alliance between Prince Charles and a Princess of Spain was “to unite his people with the rest of the adjoining Princes in the firm knot of consciences, faith; hoping,” he adds, “thus insensibly to bring in the general opinion, and to overrun the new ones by the match, the King of Egypt [Spain] being the principal maintainer of that side;"* but in another place he says that the Earl of Bristol employed him to negociate with the Archbishop of Toledo, in consequence of his being highly esteemed by that prelate, “principally because their religion was the same.”* Still more, when pressed to attach himself to state affairs, he expresses a wish that the Earl and he may not long entertain different religious opinions; and then enters into a detailed explanation of his tenets.*
* p. 115. The whole of Digby’s statement relative to James the First’s religious opinions in that and the preceding page, is very curious.
* p. 172.
* p. 177, et seq.
For some time previous to 1641, Sir Kenelm was in France, where he is said to have been highly esteemed, and to have employed himself in composing elaborate treatises in defence of his religion; but an important event occurred to him whilst in that country, which has escaped his previous biographers.
A very rare tract is extant, entitled “Sir Kenelm Digby’s Honour maintained by a most courageous combat which he fought with the Lord Mount le Ros, who by base slanderous words reviled our King: also the true relation how he went to the King of France who kindly entreated him, and sent two hundred men to guard him as far as Flanders. And now he is returned from Banishment, and to his eternal honour lives in England. Printed at London for T. B. 1641.” To this curious article a rude woodcut is prefixed of two men engaged in combat, and the sword of the one is depicted as having pierced the body of the other. As the tract is very short, and affords information on a transaction which is not generally known, a verbatim copy of it is here given.
Fortitude is one of the eleven moral virtues, of which there be three sorts; there is fortitude or valour, which consists of rashness, which is to run wilfully upon danger, having no possibility to be a conqueror. Then there is an enforced valour, which is, when a man must either kill or be killed.
Lastly, there is a temperate valour: those men which are embued with this sort of valour, will neither give occasion to make abuse, neither will they take abuse, but are ready at all points to defend their King, Country, and their own persons, which is the only true valour; the other two sorts, though termed so, yet are not, but rather seem to proceed from the loins of cowardice; for to be truly valiant, is to be truly venturous, for, as I said before, that fortitude is a virtue, and by virtue comes goodness; wherefore consequently to be valiant, is to be good.
Then let all admire the, goodness of that most honourable Knight, Sir Kenelm Digby, which proceeded from his valour, as I shall now declare.
It is scarce unknown to any how that he was exiled from his native soil, England, which made him often-times thus to cry out, “Hei mihi, quod Domino non licet ire meo, Wpe is me, because it is unlawful for me to see my Master,” his King; he kept his residence nigh to the court of France, where he was not less respected for the report of his former valour, than for the present affability and courtesy which he shewed to all men; “Omne solum sapienti patria est,” — to a wise man every country is to him as his own native country; but as the quietest of men sometimes have occasion for strife, so did it fall out with this worthy Knight.
It was his chance to be invited by a Lord of France to dine with him, whither he went accompanied with those servants he had. Very merry they all were for a certain space; at length they fell to drinking of healths to certain Kings, as to the King of France, the King of Spain, the King of Portugal, and divers others; but in the conclusion, the Lord which invited Sir Kenelm Digby to dinner, presumptuously began a health to the arrantest coward in the world, directing the cup unto Sir Kenelm, who asked the Lord so soon as he had drank, whom that was he did so term? He bid him pledge the health and he should know, which he did; then answered the French Lord, I meant your King of England, at which the good Knight seemed very discontented, knowing in what nature his Sovereign was wronged, yet very wisely did he seem to pass it by until dinner being ended: then did he desire the same Lord the next day to come to dine with him, who promised him, upon his honour, that he would.
The next day Titan being in his greatest pomp, unto Sir Kenelm’s lodging this Lord came, who had entertainment befitting his place; neither did Sir Kenelm seem to remember the former day’s discontent, but was very frolic and merry, and in the midst of dinner-time desired them all to be bare, for he would begin a health to the bravest King in the world. The French Lord asked whom that was? Sir Kenelm made answer that when it had gone about he should know: well, about it went, and then Sir Kenelm said that it was the health of the bravest King in the world, which is the King of England, my royal Master, for although my body be banished from him, yet is my heart loyally linked. The French Lord at those words seemed to laugh, repeated the same words before mentioned. Then was Sir Kenelm thoroughly moved in the behalf of our Sovereign King Charles, whereupon he whispered the Lord in the ear, telling him how that twice he had reviled the best King in the world, in the hearing of me, who am his faithful subject, wherefore for satisfaction, I require a single combat of you, where either you shall pay your life for your sauciness, or I will sacrifice mine in the behalf of my King. The French Lord being of a resolute spirit, condescended to fight, the place was appointed; dinner being ended, they both arose from table, and privately went together. Being in a field, off they plucked their doublets, and out they drew their weapons.
Mars would have bashful been to have seen himself by noble Digby there excelled, long work with the contemptible French Lord, he would not make, for fear lest any should lie in ambush and so he might hazard his own life, wherefore in four bouts he run his rapier into the French Lord’s breast till it came out of his throat again, which so soon as he had done, away he fled to the Court of France, and made all known to the King thereof, who said the proudest Lord in France should not dare to revile his brother King.
A guard was presently chosen to conduct Sir Kenelm unto Flanders, which they did, when he took shipping for England, where he now is, where in peace and quietness may he still remain.
As for the French Lord he was paid according to his desert, and may all be so rewarded which shall dare to revile the Lord’s anointed, who suffers by other nations, for the clemency he hath shewn to his own nation. “Sed beati sunt pacifici,” but blessed is the peace maker! good King for thy patience in this world there are crowns of immortal glory laid in store for thee in the world to come; there shall not traitors dare to shew their faces, nor shall perplexity proceed from the great care of ruling of a kingdom. In the mean while may more such noble Digbys increase, to rebuke all cursing Achitophels, and reviling Rabshakeys.
Let God arise, and then shall the enemies of our gracious King be sure to be scattered.
Now I conclude, commanding fame to show,
Brave Digby’s worthy deed, that all may know
He loved his King, may all so loyal prove.
And like this Digby to their King shew love.
With that article, almost all the information which has been discovered respecting Sir Kenelm Digby, by his present biographer, unfortunately ends; and as in tracing his career to its close, no fact can be stated but what has been already published, the narrative will be concluded in as brief a manner as possible. The reader will find a minute relation of those points which are now merely alluded to in the “Biographia Britannica.” Wood’s Athenae Oxoniensis, Bayle, and some other writers may also be consulted.
On the King’s preparing to make war against the Scots he called on his subjects for their assistance, and which was obeyed with alacrity by the wealthiest of the Protestant Clergy and Laity. The Queen, anxious that the Catholics should not be remiss in following the example, induced Sir Kenelm Digby and Mr. Walter Montague to address a sort of circular letter to excite them, which was distributed throughout the kingdom and produced a considerable sum. Though there can be little doubt that this act emanated in pure loyalty, it was so displeasing to the House of Commons, that Sir Kenelm was in January, 1640 summoned to their bar and questioned on the subject. He answered with that simplicity which is the surest indication of truth; and the Queen having interfered in his behalf by a message to the House, stating the share which she had in the transaction and her motives, the Commons appeared for the time to be satisfied; but the offence was not forgotten, for in the address which they shortly afterward presented to the King, praying him to remove the Roman Catholics from about his person and the Court, Digby and Montague were particularly named.
Probably in consequence of this address, Sir Kenelm was obliged to quit England, for we learn from the publication which has just been inserted, that he was in exile about the end of 1640, but that he had made his peace and returned before the close of the following year; though whether his recall was produced by the spirited manner in which he had vindicated the honour of his sovereign, or from some other cause, does not appear.
Upon the breaking out of the civil war, Digby was imprisoned by order of the Parliament, and was confined in Winchester House until 1643, when he was released at the intercession of the Queen-mother of France, the lady whom in his Memoir he represents to have been enamoured of him about twenty years before, but whose advances he declined. Whether it was to the recollection of the passion there imputed to her, or to the high favour in which he stood with the Queen of England her daughter, or to both these causes, that he was indebted for the favour, is uncertain; but the House returned a respectful answer to her Majesty, and he was released upon the condition that he would promise, on the faith of a Christian and the word of a gentleman, “neither directly nor indirectly to negociate, promote, consent unto, or conceal any practice or design prejudicial to the honour or safety of the Parliament,” an agreement which Mr, Lodge has justly characterized as being more prudent than honest, and that he should instantly quit the realm.
The Lord Mayor of London also addressed a letter to the House, dated on the 27th of March, 1643, respecting Sir Kenelm’s commitment, and requesting that he might be released; but nothing was then done.*
* Commons’ Journals.
Before his departure he was strictly examined by a committee, as to a suspected correspondence between Archbishop Laud and the Court of Rome; especially respecting the offer of a Cardinal’s hat to the prelate. His answer was consistent not only with the truth, but with what it was little short of insanity to have doubted; for he assured his examiners that he believed the Archbishop to be a very sincere and learned Protestant. It is wholly impossible that a mind so constituted as that of Sir Kenelm Digby, to whose “quick bosom quiet” must have been indeed “a hell,” could have passed the term of his restraint without employment. Two pieces at least, the one entitled “Observations on Religio Medici,” which was printed in 1643, and the other, his “Observations on the 22nd Stanza in the 9th Canto of the second book of Spenser’s Fairy Queen, and addressed to Sir Edward Stradlinge,” published in 1644, were written at that time. In France, Digby was received with respect and affection; for his talents, disposition, and conversation were peculiarly calculated to excite those feelings in that country. He passed great part of his time at the court of the Queen Dowager, and in the most polished society of Paris, but at the same time a large portion of it was devoted to study, for within a year after his arrival, he published his greatest work, “A Treatise of the Nature of Bodies, and a Treatise declaring the operations and nature of man’s soul, out of which the immortality of reasonable souls is evinced.”
In July, 1648, he lost his eldest son, Kenelm, in the royal cause at St Neot’s; shortly before which event he returned to England, and, after some difficulties, was, we are told, allowed to compound for his estate; but he was still too obnoxious to the Parliament to be permitted to remain, and the Commons passed a reflation that he should leave the kingdom, and that if he was afterward found within it, without leave of the House, he should forfeit both his estate and his life. Nor, it will be seen, were the suspicions entertained of his designs, without some foundation. He was again kindly received in France by Henrietta Maria, Queen of England, who had appointed him her Chancellor, a situation which he held until his death; and, book afterwards, he was sent by her Majesty into Italy on a mission to Pope innocent the Tenth* The favour with which his Holiness at first treated him was, according to Aubrey, soon lost, in consequence of the improper haughtiness and freedom which he displayed towards the Pontiff. He says, “he was mightily admired, but, after some time, he grew high and hectored at his Holiness, and gave him the lie. The Pope said he was mad.” Wood adds, that the cause of the quarrel was, that Digby “having made a collection of money for the afflicted Catholics in England, he was found to. be no faithful steward in that matter.” That there were many of Digby’s actions which seem to justify Innocent’s opinion of the state of his intellects, has been before hinted; but as it has been judiciously remarked, the charge of rudeness was ill suited to the general character of his temper and breeding, though, if his Holiness expressed the opinion of his integrity which Wood imputes to him, there can be no difficulty in believing that Digby would indignantly resent such an accusation. At other courts in Italy he was, however, treated with marked consideration, as well from his own merits as from respect to the Queen his mistress; and Lloyd asserts, that “of one of the Princes, whereof it is reported, that having no children, he was very willing his wife should bring him a Prince by Sir Kenelm, whom he imagined the just measure of perfection.”*
* Loyal Sufferers, p. 581.
Soon after Cromwell had dissolved the Long Parliament and assumed the supreme power, Digby returned to England, and, to the astonishment of all parties, acquired some share of the Protector’s confidence. This extraordinary connexion has, been at length explained; and there are good grounds for believing that he had long been engaged in the attempt to unite the Roman Catholics and the enemies of monarchy, in one common cause. Lord Byron, in a letter to the Marquess of Ormond, dated at Caen on the 1st of March, 1649 says, “Sir Kenelm Digby with some other Romanists, accompanied with one Watson, an Independent, who hath brought them papers from Fairfax, is gone for England to join the interests of all the English papists with that bloody party that murdered the King in the opposition and extirpation of monarchical government; or if that government be thought fit, yet that it shall be by election, and not by succession as formerly provided; that a free exercise of the Romish religion be granted, and of all other religions whatsoever, excepting that which was established by law in the church of England.” In the February preceding, Secretary Nicholas enclosed a letter from Dr. Winsted, a Catholic physician at Rouen, of which the following is an extract.
“Tuesday last arrived here Sir Kenelm Digby from Paris, with divers young gentlemen in his company; only there was a wry-necked fellow amongst them, which Sir Kenelm recommended to my acquaintance and care, as being, he said, in a consumption; and for that cure had changed the air and came into France, but was now going into England with an intention to return within sixteen or twenty days, and then would stay here or go into Languedoc for his health. Feeling his hand and pulse, I assured him that he was in no consumption, nor never had been. Afterward I perceived that this was but a pretence, and that he was an agent for that accursed crew, his name Watson, scout-master to the rebels. I spoke freely my mind of the murder and the judgment that was made here by the French; his answer was, that the French abhorred the fact in general. I spared no sin to curse the enemies of God and my King: 1 asked Sir Kenelm Digby why he would go now into England, considering the abomination of that country? His answer was, that he had not any means to subsist longer, and if he went not now, he must starve. I answered, it was the better choice to die, if he remembered the obligations he had to the Queen Regent of France, who took him from those that would have destroyed him. He answered, that the Queen Regent knew of his going, and t?that he had the King of France’s pass, and would return again suddenly. I next pressed him to stay two or three months: he replied, that by that time all his business would be settled. I desired him not to think to have from those at London any liberation; for that, for my part, I had rather live in exile all the days of my life, and suffer at Tyburn, than that my public liberty to serve God should spring from the bloody murderers of my sovereign.”
This design was probably the cause of the hostility of the Long Parliament toward Sir Kenelm, and to some extent, it explains the attention shewn to him by the Protector; whom, it may be inferred, he hoped to persuade into his wishes. Certain it is, however, that whatever might be the hopes he received from Cromwell, Digby professed to be devoted to his service; a fact not only manifested by the manner in which the Protector treated him whilst he was in England in 1655, but by a letter from Sir Kenelm to Secretary Thurloe, dated Paris, 18th of March, 1656, in which, after defending himself against the slander of a Sir Robert Welsh, he says, “that whatsoever may be disliked by my Lord Protector and the council of state, must be detested by me;” that his obligations to his Highness were so great, that it would be a crime in him to behave himself so negligently as to give cause for any shadow of the least suspicion, or to do any thing that might require an excuse or apology; and, after similar professions of attachment, he concludes, “my excuse is, that I should think my heart was not an honest one, if the blood about it were not warmed with any the least imputation upon my respects and my duty to his Highness, to whom I owe so much.”
Upon Digby’s conduct in this affair, it is requisite to say a few words. Mr. Lodge has execrated it in the strongest terms; and though he has imputed it to the true cause, “a fervid affection to his religious faith,” it is not altogether just to say, that that motive furnishes “no extenuation.” The treason, with which he charges him, ought rather to be proved than assumed; for it must first be inquired to whom was he treacherous? To his mistress the Queen? Certainly not; for in promoting the interests of the religion to which she was a bigot, there can be no doubt that he rendered her the most acceptable service; and so far from concurring in Kippis’s remark, that “it is very strange that it did not ruin him with the Queen Dowager.” the circumstance that he never lost her good opinion, tends to establish the idea that if he was not actually obeying her commands in this instance, he was, at least, acting under her sanction. The treachery then could only be to Charles the Second; but the religious tenets of that monarch differed but little from those of his mother, the only part of his proposition which could be offensive to his Majesty, was, that the monarchy should be elective rather than hereditary. In 1649, when the design is imputed to Digby, it is barely possible for him to have had any other idea than that the elected monarch should be the individual who possessed the hereditary right to the throne; hence he would appear to be availing himself of the only possible means which, at that time, presented themselves of restoring him: perhaps wisely deeming, that when once seated it would be an easy task to establish the ancient order of the succession. It is true that Digby’s subsequent favour with Cromwell, is not to be reconciled with such views respecting Charles, but it does not necessarily follow that all the motives ascribed to him by Lord Byron in 1649, continued to actuate him in 1655
Until the restoration. Sir Kenelm occupied himself in travelling to various parts of the Continent. He passed the summer of 1656 at Toulouse, and the next year we find him at Montpelier, where he went partly on account of his health, which was much impaired by severe fits of the stone, and partly because it contained several men of learning, to whom he read his treatise on the sympathetic powder and partook of all the enjoyments which a communication between the scientific and the learned seldom fails to produce. In 1658 and 1659, he was in different provinces of Lower Germany and particularly in the Palatinate, where, according to Sidney, who hated him, he passed by the name of Count Digby; but in l660 he was again in Paris, and in the next year returned to England. All his biographers admit that he was well received at Court, notwithstanding his conduct towards Cromwell was far from being a secret, a fact which powerfully supports the opinion that his real designs were not so inimical to the monarchical interest as has been supposed.
Digby did not long survive the Restoration, nor did he receive any political favours from the King, though he still enjoyed his office of Chancellor to his mother. On the incorporation of the Royal Society in 1663, he was nominated one of the Council, and, as long as his health permitted, was constant in his attendance at its meetings, and communicated several papers. At this time he resided at his house in Covent Garden,* and passed his life in the study of philosophy and mathematics, or in the conversation of those who like himself were ardently devoted to science, and “established those literary assemblies to which he had been accustomed in France, and which he seems first to have introduced into this country.”* Early in January 1665, he meditated a journey to Paris for the relief of his old disease, the stone, upon which occasion he made his will, but the disorder advanced too rapidly to allow of bis executing his intention, and he died in a violent paroxym on his birthday, the 11th of June 1665, having just completed his sixty-second year.
* Aubrey says, “the fair houses in Holborn, between King’s Street and Southampton Street (which broke off the continuance of them) were built about 1633 by Sir Kenelm, where he lived before the civil wars. Since the restoration of Charles II. he lived in the last fair house westward in the north portico of Covent Garden where my Lord Denzill, Holies, lived since. He had a laboratory there. I think he died in this house. — scd Qu.”
The contemporaries of Sir Kenelm Digby as well as posterity have paid unqualified homage to his genius and erudition: and whether contemplated as a philosopher, a theologician, an orator, a courtier, or a soldier, his exquisite talents are alike conspicuous. Endowed by nature with an understanding of great depth and versatility, he studied almost every branch of human science, and to whatever he gave his attention, he illustrated and adorned it. His philosophical speculations have survived the bickerings by which they were assailed; his solitary essay as a military commander was crowned with signal success; his eloquence is conspicuous in every production of his pen; and to the extent of his knowledge of divinity, his works on the subject bear ample testimony. The politeness for which he was eminent was not artificial, but arose from the only true source, an amiable disposition; and in an age distinguished above all others for political as well as polemical controversy, he has the enviable merit of having conveyed his arguments in language wholly free from bigotry and personal vituperation. But in the most comprehensive meaning of the term, Sir Kenelm Digby was a Gentleman. He understood and exercised all the duties which belong to that character; nor in the exuberance of the vanity in which he abounded, in the persecutions which he endured, or in the malice by which he was assailed, are we informed of one action of his life, with the exception of the conduct imputed to him by Aubrey towards the Pope, which it is highly improbable ever occurred, is one trace to be found of his having, even for a moment, forgotten what he owed to himself or to others. Besides the usual learned attainments and those abstruse pursuits in which he delighted, he was master of six languages, and was well skilled in the accomplishments of a cavalier of his times; but his merits are best summed up in the emphatic language of one of his contemporaries, “he was the magazine of all arts.” His person, like his mind, was of gigantic proportions, and Aubrey has recorded an anecdote illustrative of his strength, but a grace, as natural as it was inimitable, gave dignity to whatever he said or did, and conduct which would have been considered affectation in the generality of mankind, “was,” says Lord Clarendon, whose words will be cited, not on account of their elegance merely, but because he was no partial delineator, “marvellously graceful in him, and seemed natural to his size and mould of his person, to the gravity of his motion, and the tune of his voice and delivery.”
From so splendid a character we turn with regret to the darker shades by which it was accompanied. Digby’s faults were part and parcel of the mind he possessed. The usual attendants of genius, eccentricity, almost approaching to madness, vanity, and unsteadiness were frequently displayed in his opinions and conduct; but of the treachery and dishonour of which he has been accused, an attempt has been made to exonerate him, because they seem wholly incompatible with the uniform tenor of his life. Religious zeal is, it is true, a powerful excitement, and if he was really seduced by it into a neglect of his temporal obligations, there can be little doubt that the same aberration of judgment which he evinces in the following pages on the subject of female chastity, misled him upon the occasions in question. There is a wide distinction between the errors into which mankind are led by calculations of self-interest, and those into which they fall from the dictates of their honest but mistaken judgments; and if Digby failed in his allegiance to his sovereign, it is only the benefit of this distinction which is claimed for him. His notions of honour were undoubtedly sometimes false, but still they were his sincere sentiments, and he accordingly supported them by extraordinary and even romantic means. Of the vices of his age, the most serious which he shared was that of duelling, for according to his own statements he was engaged in several before he attained his twenty-third year, and in 1640 he fought another with Lord Mont le Ros. But before closing this imperfect summary of his character, there is one trait which perhaps proves him to have been endowed with a mind far beyond the period in which he lived, his ardent zeal not only for the acquisition, but for the diffusion of knowledge. He printed almost all which he wrote, and as we have seen, in his present to the University of Oxford, his only anxiety was that every facility should be given for the publication of the Manuscripts.
Allusion is made in the “Biographia Britannica,” to a “noble MS. which Sir Kenelm caused to be collected at the expense of a thousand pounds, as well out of private memorials as from public histories and records in the Tower and elsewhere, relating to the Digby family in all its branches, but not knowing where it is to be found,” &c. For the benefit of future biographers of the family it will be observed, that in 1766, Sir Joseph Ayloffe exhibited that volume to the Society of Antiquaries,* and that in 1794, it was in the possession of W. Williams of Pendedw in Wales, son of Richard Williams, Esq. whose first wife, but by whom he had no issue that survived, was a descendant of Sir Kenelm.†
* Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 64. part 2. p. 791, where it is fully described. See also, p. 918.
† Ibid. vol. 65. part 2. pp. 743. 840. 1077.
Many of his inedited letters are extant, though but few of them are in the British Museum. The MS. of his letter to Sir Edward Stradlinge relative to the “Fairy Queen,” is however in that repository, which also contains two other fragments on the same subject, his addresses to the Earl of Pembroke on Religion, some prayers, and other articles well worthy of the perusal of those who may wish to be acquainted with all his productions. The little volume in which they are preserved, the Harleian MS. No. 4153, is handsomely bound, and the minute observer of human motives will discover in the ornaments strong evidence of his affection for his wife; for though many of the pieces were written long after her decease, her arms are not only impaled with his own on the cover, but the book is stamped on the back with a junction of the letters K. V. and D. a trifling, but far more impressive proof of his regard for her memory than a volume of professions. Sir Kenelm Digby made his Will on the 9th of January, 16 Car. II. 1665, in which he styles himself “Sir Kenelm Digby, of Stoake Dry in the County of Rutland, Knight, Chancellor to Henrietta Maria Queen Dowager of England,” and mentions his intention of going to Paris for the cure of a malady. If he died in England he ordered his body to be buried in Christ Church, London, in his vault of black marble and copper, where his wife Dame Venetia was interred, and desired that no inscription should be placed on the tomb. He gave all his lands in the county of Hereford, “which he had lately purchased of the Duke of Buckingham,” in Huntingdonshire, and all others in England, France, or Frankfort on the Maine in Germany, to Charles Cornwallis of High Holborn in Middlesex, Esq. to be sold for the payment of his debts, and appointed his friends Sir Richard Lloyd of Denbigh, Knight, and John Austin of London, Gent. Overseers, and the said Charles Cornwallis, Esq. Executor of his Will. By a codicil dated on the 22nd May, 1665, he bequeathed to his friend and kinsman George Earl of Bristol, a burning glass; to his uncle Mr. George Digby of Sandon in Staffordshire, a horse or mare; and to his sister a mourning gown. His library being in France, became on his death the property of the French Monarch, under the droit d’aubaine. It was sold by the person to whom His Majesty gave it for 10,000 crowns, and was purchased by the Earl of Bristol. The following lines were written on Sir Kenelm Digby, by R.Ferrar, and which at least possess the merit of being free from unmerited adulation.
Under this tomb the matchless Digby lies,
Digby the great, the valiant, and the wise;
This age’s wonder for his noble parts,
Skill’d in six tongues, and learned in all the arts.
Born on the day he died, the eleventh of June,
And that day bravely fought at Scanderoon.
It’s rare that one and the same day should be
His day of birth, of death, of victory!
The descendants of Sir Kenelm Digby are easily traced. By Venetia Stanley he had three sons and one daughter, Margery, who married Edward Dudley of Clopton in Northamptonshire, Esq. The sons were:
I. Kenelm Digby, born 6th October, 1625, killed at St. Neots, on the 7th of July, 1648. He died unmarried.
III. Everard, born 12 January, 1629, died an infant.
IV. George, born 17 January, 1632, [query 1632–3.] but who appears to have died young.
John Digby, the second son, was born on the 29th December, 1627, and was twice married; first to Katherine daughter of Henry Earl of Arundel, who died childless; and secondly, to Margaret daughter of Sir Edward Longueville of Wolverton in Buckinghamshire, Bart, by whom he had two daughters, his co-heiresses; namely, Margaret Maria, who became the wife of Sir John Conway of Bodrythen in Flintshire, and Charlotte Theophilia, who married Richard Mostyn of Penbeddw in the same county, Esq. by whom she had several children, but her issue is extinct.
Lady Conway, besides a daughter Margaret who was the wife of Sir Thomas Longueville, Bart., had a son Henry Conway, who died in his father’s lifetime, leaving a sole daughter and heiress Honora, who married Sir John Glynne, Bart, by whom she had a large family. Their descendants are, however, fully treated of in Debrett’s Baronetage; hence it is only necessary to observe that Sir Stephen Glynne, Bart, the great grandson of Sir John Glynne and Honora Conway, is the present representative of Sir Kenelm Digby, and through Lady Venetia, of one branch of the illustrious houses of Stanley and Percy.
The names thus marked * are copied from the account of the MS. in the Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts.
Arete Lady Digby, Sir Kenelm’s mother; she was the daughter and heiress of William Mulsho, Esq.
Artesia, widow of Auridonio Uncertain.
*Aristobulus John Digby, 1st Earl of Bristol.
Prince of Achaia King of Bohemia.
*Earl of Arcadia Henry Rich, Earl of Holland.
*Clericus Mr. Clerk.
Mufti of Egypt Query — the Archbishop of Toledo.
Faustina Uncertain, but Lady Venetians governess or waiting-woman.
*Hephaestion George Villiers,Duke of Buckingham.
Leodivius Apparently the son of the Countess of Bristol by her first husband, Sir John Dive of Bromham, Co. Bedford; but the pedigrees of the Dive family are silent as to the issue of that marriage.
Mauricana Uncertain, but the first lady of the bed-chamber to the Queen of Spain.
King of Morea James the First.
Nearchus Sir Edw. Stanley, K. B., Lady Venetia’s father; his wife was Lucy, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Percy, seventh Earl of Northumberland.
Oxicrane Uncertain, a relation of the Duke of Buckingham.
Rogesilius Robert Digby, afterward created Lord Digby, and ancestor of the present Earl Digby.
Scanderbret . . . Uncertain, a relation of the Duke of Buckingham.
Stelliana Lady Venetia Stanley, wife of Sir Kenelm Digby.
Theagenes Sir Kenelm Digby.
The individual spoken of in page 84, as the paramour of the Queen of France, was the Marquess D’Ancre.
*Achaia Germany (Bohemia).
*Athens Paris, but afterward used also for French, or France.
Ionian Islands Uncertain.
Peloponnesus Query Great Britain.
*Rhodes Uncertain, perhaps Sally, or Algiers.
The town mentioned in page 85, is Blois.
Nature, without other tutor, teacheth us how all agents work for some precise end, and to obtain that, do contribute all their endeavours, and make use of all the means that are within the reach of their power. But, herein, natural agents that are guided by an original necessity, have one great advantage over those that have liberty of election of the ends and means: for they are levelled by a certain and never failing rule which was given to all things when their first being was given them, and from the which they cannot depart nor swerve without the immediate and express interessing of him that was their lawgiver, who governs them with infinite justice, wisdom, and goodness. But these being composed of such differing parts, that one may well say they bear about within them a perpetual civil war; the rational part striving to preserve her dignity and the superiority due to her, as being the nobler substance; and the inferior part, wherein reign the mists and clouds of various and inconstant passions, aspiring to overshadow and dim her brightness, and to range at liberty without any curb, they are always in great and almost inevitable hazard of miscarrying, as well in the proposing to themselves the worthiest end as in the election of the sincere and true means to attain unto it. Which hath made me many times retire my looser thoughts within their own centre, and with serious meditation fix them upon this subject, through the desire I have had to direct this my journey in a right way, which is of so much importance, that the least going astray out of the true path brings a continual sickness to the world, and the greatest disorder, that may be among the senses.; the one being then always in unquietness and a tedious expectation of the future, and never contented with the present, like to sick men that being in a high fever do often change their places and; turn from one side to the other, though. with no ease or amendment; and the others grow mutinous and disobedient, seeing that she who ought to be their mistress and governess, is at war within herself, and in as much distemper as they can be in; so that the smallest errors whatsoever do turn into jarring dissonances the music within man, which consisting parts, when they keep exact time together, frameth the sweetest and most pleasing harmony that may be.
At such times then as my soul being delivered of other outward distractions, hath summoned all her faculties to attend this main business, the first consideration that hath occurred to me hath been that the peace and tranquillity of the mind ought principally to be aimed at; the obtaining of which is an infallible token that one is in the right way of attaining to perfect happiness; or rather, these two have so straight and near a relation, as that the one cannot be without the other: for this ethereal form, which by the Almighty Architect was breathed into us, can no more rest when any thing concerning it is out of the due harmony and proportion, than a sensible body can when any of the humours are distempered or unequally distributed; and as a just mixture of these causeth an entire and vigorous health of the body, which is not so well discerned by considering it positively in itself, as by comparing the present state of it with those that are sick; so the due temperature of the mind causeth the health of it and that blessed rest that we all aim at; which is best discovered by conferring it with those that are in the way of ruin, having lost the load-star that should be their guide in the troublesome and tempestuous seas of this short and transitory life.
I have, therefore, gone about to examine by myself the course and tenor of other men’s actions; but in most of them I have found such uncertainty and such unstayedness, that I soon perceived there was nothing to be gathered from them for my direction, more than to avoid treading in those paths where they walked. But at length I perceived that that Infinite Light, which illuminateth all things, is never wanting to illustrate such a mind as with due humility and diligence maketh itself fit to receive it: for it was not long before such an example occurred to me, as satisfied me that in this life a man may enjoy so much happiness, as without anxiety or desire of having any thing besides what he possesseth, he may, with a quiet and peaceable soul, rest with full measure of content and bliss, that I know not whether it be short of it in any thing but the security of continuance. It was the perfect friendship and noble love of two generous persons, that seemed to be born in this age by ordinance of heaven to teach the world anew what it hath long forgotten, the mystery of loving with honour and constancy, between a man and a woman; both of them in the vigour of their youth, and both blessed by nature with eminent endowments, as well of the mind as of the body.
There are so many and so different circumstances requisite to form a perfect example in this kind, that it is no wonder though many ages produce not one complete in all points; the main defect of which is oftentimes on the woman’s part, through the weakness of that sex; which is seldom, and almost but by miracle, capable of so divine a thing as an assured constant friendship, mingled with the fervent heat of love and affection; being that, for the most part, this latter is of the nature of violent things, which are but of short durance; and the other ought to march on with a majestic, settled, and firm pace, without any intermission, coldness, or satiety.
And, besides, because that in exact friendships the wills of the two friends ought to be so drowned in one another, like two flames which are joined, that they become but one, which cannot be unless the faculties of the understanding be equal, they guiding the actions of a regulated will, it cometh to pass, for the most part, that this halteth on the woman’s side, whose notions are not usually so. high and elevated as men’s; and so it seldom happeneth that there is that society between them in the highest and deepest speculations of the mind, which are consequently the most pleasing, as is requisite in a perfect friendship. Which reasons have moved some to place the possibility of such friendship only between man and man; but, certainly, if they had considered how thus they leave out one half of man, and indeed the first motive of affection, being that the understanding can judge only of what is represented to it by the senses, whose objects are corporeal, they would not have concluded their proposition so definitely but that they would have left this exception, to wit, unless a masculine and heroic soul can be found informing the body of a beautiful and fair woman, so to make the blessing of friendship full on every side by an entire and general communication.
If, then, I should be asked where such an example might be found, I must confess that, besides this which I intend to speak of, I could urge none; which it seemeth the Infinite Wisdom, that disposeth all things, deferred until this season, wherein affections are so depraved that they had need of the liveliest pattern and most efficacious means to incite them to mingle honour with their other joys: that so they may entirely possess the height of that happiness which this life can afford, and which representeth notably the infinite blessed state wherein the almighty God reigneth, by uniting two persons, two souls, two wills, in one; which by breathing together produce a divine love; and then their bodies may justly strive to perpetuate that essence by succession, whose durance in themselves is limited: and thus they become types of that trinity and unity living in eternity, which infused the spirit of life into him of whom all men derive themselves, and enjoy in security within themselves the perfection of blessedness and content.
The sweetness of my contemplations have so of a sudden plunged me into an immense ocean, that I can sail no longer in it in the weak bark of human capacity and reason; therefore all that I can do to save myself from shipwreck, will be to make haste back to the shore; where, betaking myself to an easier task, I will set down in the best manner that I can, the beginning, progress, and consummation of that excellent love which only makes me believe that our pilgrimage in this world is not indifferently laid upon all persons for a curse.
In the first place, it giveth me occasion to acknowledge and admire the high and transcendent operations of the celestial bodies, which containing, and moving about the universe, send their influence every way and to all things; and who, although they take not away the liberty of free agents, yet do so strongly, though at the first secretly and insensibly, work upon their spiritual part by means of the corporeal, that they get the mastery before they be perceived; and then it is too late to make any resistance. For from what other cause could proceed this strong knot of affection, which being tied in tender years before any mutual obligations could help to confirm it, could not be torn asunder by long absence, the austerity of parents, other pretenders, false rumours, and other the greatest difficulties and oppositions that could come to blast the budding blossoms of an infant love that hath since brought forth so fair flowers and so mature fruit? Certainly the stars were at the least the first movers; who having ordained that from the affection of these two the world might learn how to love, did link together sundry remote causes to make them all concur in this one effect: and as in sciences the first principles are abstruse and inscrutable, but they being delivered by an unquestionable authority and once received, it is easy to extend them and to build high and elevated conclusions upon them; even so; when the higher powers had by a transcendant manner of operation inclined the hearts of Theagenes and Stelliana to the liking of one another, then straight their understandings, their wills, and all the faculties of their souls applied themselves with all the vehemence that might be to frame a perfect love.
It is evident that their own election had the least part in the beginning of it, for before they had the freedom of that or of judging this fire was kindled, it grew with them, and the first word that they could speak, being yet in the nurse’s arms was, love: which, taking deep root in their tender hearts, and meeting with heroical souls, produced heroical and worthy effects, the relation of which shall be the subject of the ensuing discourse, wherein I will set down, in the liveliest manner that I can, the various fortunes that befell them before they arrived to their wished period; and that in a plain style, and without endearing any thing to the advancement of either of them beyond the reality of truth; knowing that in the first, if I should strive to do otherwise, my mean abilities would come far short of my desire; and in the second, I might seem, unto those that know how near friends they are unto me, to have looked upon them through the glass of affection, and to have delivered them with partiality.
To deduce then this narration from the very beginning, Stelliana being born of parents that in the antiquity and lustre of their houses, and in the goods of fortune, were inferior to none in all Peloponesus; it pleased Heaven, when she was not many months old, to take her mother from her, deeming, as I think the earth, and too negligent a husband, not worthy of so divine a blessing; who dying left the goodness of her soul and the beauty of her body, in both which she surpassed all others of her time, to her infant daughter.
Nearchus then, for that was the name of Stelliana’s father, being like those that through the weakness of their eyes are dazzled with too great a light, and are notable to comprehend it until the absence of it make them lament their loss; began then to be sensible how happy he might formerly have been by the unhappy state wherein he found himself, being deprived of that jewel whose loss would have made the world poor, if out of her ashes another Phoenix had not risen with greater splendour. And then sorrow and discontented thoughts beginning to take possession of his mind, the nature of which is to please themselves in nothing but such objects as may feed and increase them, he retired himself to a private and recollected life, where without the troubles that attend upon great fortunes he might give free scope to his melancholic fantasies: which to enjoy more fully in the way that he desired, he judged it expedient by removing his daughter from him to take away such cumbers as might disturb his course, since it was requisite for the education due to her high birth to have many about her, that would ill agree with his affected solitariness.
Wherefore, as soon as she had attained to such strength as that her remove might be without danger, he sent her to a kinsman of his, whose wife being a grave and virtuous lady, had given him assurance that no care or diligence should be wanting on her part to cultivate those rare natural endowments which did already shine through her tender age. Their house in the country was near to that where Arete the mother of Theagenes lived, whose father was then dead, which gave occasion of frequent interchanging visits between her and Stelliana’s guardians, and the affection of the one to her son, which would not suffer her to be long without him, and the respect of the others to their charge, which made them glad to satisfy her, though yet childish desires, in any thing they could, as in the fondness of going abroad and such like, was the cause that they seldom came together but that the two children had part in the meeting: who the very first time that ever they had sight of one another, grew so fond of each other’s company, that all that saw them said assuredly that something above their tender capacity breathed this sweet affection into their hearts. They would mingle serious kisses among their innocent sports: and whereas other children of like age did delight in fond plays and light toys, these two would spend the day in looking upon each other’s face, and in accompanying these looks with gentle sighs, which seemed to portend that much sorrow was laid up for their more understanding years; and if at any time they happened to use such recreations as were sortable to their age, they demeaned themselves therein so prettily and so affectionately, that one would have said, love was grown a child again and took delight to play with them. And when the time of parting came, they would take their leaves with such abundance of tears and sighs as made it evident that so deep a sorrow could not be borne and nursed in children’s breasts without a nobler cause than the usual fondness in others.
But I should do wrong unto their riper love, to insist too long upon these crude beginnings, therefore, with as much haste as I can I will run these over, to come unto the other that calls upon me to keep myself in breath and to summon together my quickest spirits, that I may be able to represent it in as stately and majestic manner as it deserves. Therefore what I have already said shall suffice for their first innocent years, whiles fortune seemed to conspire with love to unite their hearts: but they were scarcely arrived to the maturity of judging why they loved, and not to love still only because they loved, when she turned about her inconstant wheel in such sort that, if their fates had not been written above in eternal characters, even then their affections had been by a long winter of absence nipped and destroyed in their budding spring. For what is not that able to do in so young hearts, that immediately after have the overtures and pursuits of new and advantageous loves? Yet these kept their first fire alive; and although it may seem in the process of this story that sometime it burned but faintly, yet it was only that those coals wanting fuel, wrought upon themselves, and by their own violence covered themselves over in a bed of ashes, which the first sight raked away, and added plentiful matter to cause a brighter flame than at any time before.
To continue then where I left, Stelliana being of such age that with her tender hand she could scarcely reach to gather the lowest fruit of the loaden boughs; her father, that yielded daily more and more to his discontents, and fainting under the burden of them which age made to seem heavier, sent for her back to his own house, hoping that by the presence of such a daughter, whom fame delivered to excel in all things belonging to a lady of her quality, and that inherited the perfections of her deceased mother, whose loss he lamented still as tenderly as at the first day of her death, he might pass the rest of his drooping days with some more content, and to have in her a lively image of his virtuous wife, that being deeply engraved in his heart, did with the continual exercise of his solitary thoughts upon that one subject, almost wear it out and corrode it through.
He then perceived that his expectations and desires were not frustrated; for Stelliana’s sweet and gentle disposition, that was like a rich soil to sow the best grain in, striving to exceed in capacity the good precepts that were delivered her by those tutors which her guardian’s loving care with singular choice had placed about her, had made her to exceed all others of her age so far, as caused men to doubt that the heavens meaned not to lend her long unto the earth, since she had already arrived to that maturity and perfection that most come short of when they have past a long and tedious life: so that she was ready to change this wearisome pilgrimage for a happier crown before she knew almost what it was to live.
He had not long enjoyed the fruits of this blessed harvest, when the marriage of the King of Morea’s daughter with one of the greatest princes of Achaya, invited all men of eminency to the court, to contribute their particular joys to the great and public solemnities. Wherefore Nearchus being desirous to give his daughter the content of seeing the magnificent entertainments that are usual at such times, and also being glad to let the world now see that fame was nothing too lavish in setting out her perfections, took this occasion to bring her to Corinth the metropolitan city, where her beauty and discretion did soon draw the eyes and thoughts of all men to admiration: so that in this the example of her was singular, that whereas the beauty of other fair ladies used to grace and adorn public feasts and assemblies, hers did so far exceed all others as well in action as in excellence, that it drew to her not only the affections, but also the thoughts of all persons, so that all things else that were provided with greatest splendour and curiosity, passed by unregarded and neglected.
But here one may see how undeservedly that is styled happiness, which subsisteth only in the opinion of others; and how little they are sensible of outward applause, that have their heart fixed upon other objects; for in the midst of these joys where Stelliana was the jewel that crowned them all, she could taste nothing that savoured of content; but as if happiness had been confined to where Theagenes was, in his absence she did languish and think those hours tedious that obliged her by civil respect whiles she was in company to suspend and interrupt her thoughts, whose true centre he was and about which they only desired to move. So that one day Ursatius, a principal nobleman of the court, whose heart was set on fire with the radiant beams that sparkled from her eyes, took the confidence to speak unto her as he sat next to her at a masque, in this manner: “Fair lady,” quoth he, “I shall begin to endear myself to your knowledge by taxing you with that which I am confident you cannot excuse yourself of; for if by the exterior lineaments of the face, and by the habitude of the body, we may conjecture the frame and temper of the mind, certainly yours must be endowed with such perfections, that it is the greatest injustice and ingratitude that may be, for you to imprison your thoughts in silence, and to deny the happiness of your conversation to those whose very souls depend upon every motion that you make: and so you rob Him of the honour due to Him who is the Author of all good; and who in retribution expecteth that they unto whom he hath been most liberal of his favours, should by due communication of them most glorify him.”
Stelliana, who was surprised by this unexpected discourse of one that she knew no otherwise but by name, and being disturbed from her pleasing thoughts, was some time before she could recollect herself: but after she had sate awhile as one amazed, civility called upon her to return some answer to him, that she knew was the person of most respect and note about the king; wherefore at length with a modest blush she thus replied to him: “Sir, if nature had bestowed any exterior recommendations upon me, as I cannot flatter myself that she has, it would be most discretion in me to rely upon the favour that I might gain thereby; since I am so conscious of my other weaknesses, that whensoever I should go about but to excuse them, I should belie any good opinion that others might have entertained of me: but in that you are pleased to express more respect to me than any ways I can deserve, I hold myself obliged to reduce you out of error, though to my own disadvantage, by speaking to you; whereby through my rudeness I am sure you will gather more arguments to make you ashamed of what you say you have conceived of me, than to confirm you in it.”
“I shall never contradict you,” replied he then, “in any thing but in this; since I should acknowledge too great a dulness and stupidity in myself, if I were not in some measure capable of discerning those rare perfections that shine in you, and seeing them, if I did not love and admire them; therefore I make an humble suit unto you, not that you will be pleased to bestow any favour upon me, for I cannot be so presumptuous as to beg any until I have by some means shewn at least an affectionate desire to deserve them, but that you will give me leave to love and adore you, and not be displeased that one of so small merit as I am, should be so ambitious as to style himself your humble servant.”
He had scarcely made an end of saying thus much, when one of the Maskers, they having now ended their set dance, came to take Stelliana by the hand, beseeching her to follow him in a corrente; which delivered her of the trouble of returning any answer to Ursatius, otherwise than with a disdainful look; for going along with him that had taken her out, the other’s greedy ears that expected the sweet sound of her charming voice, were forced of a sudden to resign all their spirits into his eyes, to contemplate her motions, that were so composed of awful majesty and graceful agility, that all the beholders being ravished with delight, said, surely one of the Graces was descended from heaven to honour these nuptials. Which was the cause that when they had seen how skilfully she kept time with her feet to the music’s sound, she was suffered no more to return unto her former seat: for it adding much to the grace of good dancers to have their lady observe due distances, and to move themselves, as it were, by consent in just proportion, every one in their turn beseeched the like favour of her that she had done to their companion, before he could lead her back unto her first place: yet in this they deceived themselves; for her excellency that would brook no partner, engrossed to herself all the commendations, while they had scarce any notice taken of them. But she was wearied with her much exercise, before the beholders could be satisfied with delight; which made time glide away so swiftly and unperceivably, that they heard from abroad the watchful cock warn men to rise up to their daily labours, before they could persuade themselves it was time to go to rest. But then the king adjourning the assembly and the continuance of these recreations to the next night, every one retired; and Stelliana being returned to her lodging, as she was making her unready, related to the gentlewoman that waited upon her in nature of governess, what had passed at court, and what language Ursatius had held to her.
Faustina, for that was the ancient gentlewoman’s name, who only did sit up that night to help her lady to bed, was glad of this occasion to begin to perform that office for Ursatius, that she had promised him; who from the first sight growing every day more and more taken with Stelliana’s beauty, and deeming the honourable way of procuring love by deserts to be too long and tedious, had, with great gifts and greater promises, won Faustina to assure him of her assistance in his pursuit; wherein he had been so unhappy, that until this night he could never get a fit opportunity to express himself a lover to whom he most desired should know it. So that she then interrupting her lady, said thus; “In troth, madam, I wonder that you gave so cold an entertainment to the respects of so noble and deserving a gentleman as Ursatius, who hath the fame of all those that are about the court, to be the discreetest, the most courteous, and the most generous among all the noblemen in this kingdom; and that excelleth them as much in completeness of good parts and the graces of nature, as he doth in the gifts of fortune, and greatness of estate.”
“Dost thou then, Faustina,” answered her lady, “think that any of these considerations can make me false to that affection, that in respect of me had no beginning, for my memory reacheth not to that time, and which I am resolved shall die with me?”
“In all things else,” replied Faustina, “I have found you so discreet, that you may be called the mirror and shame of all the ladies of your age. But in this, madam, pardon me if I speak too boldly, methinks you have no reason at all: for what unthrift would cast away love upon one that is not sensible of it, and regardeth it not!”
“Why do you say so?” answered Stelliana.
“If you could see as far,” quoth Faustina, “into what concerneth you most, as they that are but lookers on, you should not need to ask this question, and you would not sigh all day for Theagenes as you do; for if you had no other cause, methinks the passing of four entire years without so much as hearing from him should make you forget him as much as he doth your love.”
“Alas!” replied Stelliana, “be not so unjust as to tax him with what thou knowest he cannot remedy: it is true, four years have passed, ah! my sorrow keeps too good account, since I have seen him, or have heard from him, but call not that his fault, which is caused only by the rigour of our cruel parents; you know it is so long since the time of their unhappy falling out, who ever since have had so watchful eyes over us, distrusting our affections, that it hath been impossible for so young lovers, that are not yet acquainted with love’s grossest sleights, to find out any means to communicate their passions; and, therefore, I see it is ordained by heaven that I must harbour no other flame within my breast, since this long absence and so many other oppositions have not been able to smother this.”
“Nay, but,” said Faustina, interrupting her, “let not passion blind you altogether; but consider what an advantageous change you may make in embracing Ursatius, who in splendour of nobility, abundance of riches, and favour with his prince, is eminent above all others; for Theagenes, who hath hardly escaped, by his mother’s extreme industry, with the scant relics of a shipwrecked estate, and from his father hath inherited nothing but a foul stain in his blood for attempting to make a fatal revolution in this state.”
“Methinks, Faustina,” replied Stelliana, “you speak in his prejudice with more passion than you can accuse me of in loving him; for I have good reason for this, but you have none to upbraid him with another man’s offence; for although it be the custom of these times to lay a punishment beyond death upon those that conspire against their prince or their government, that so by making it extend to their posterity, it may, perad venture, deter some, who would not be contained by their own single danger, from attempting upon their sacred persons, and from making innovations in the laws; yet it seemeth to be with this condition, that if the son in himself deserve the contrary, he shall be esteemed and cherished according to his own merit, in which the father’s offence is then drowned; so that it rather becomes an incitation to him to do virtuous and worthy actions, than any stain or blemish. Besides this, to speak a little in his father’s behalf, all men know that it was no malicious intent or ambitious desires that brought him into that conspiracy; but his too inviolable faith to his friend, that had trusted him with so dangerous a secret, and his zeal to his country’s ancient liberty; which, being misled by those upon whose advice he relied, was the cause of overthrowing the most generous, discreet, worthy, and hopeful gentleman that ever this country brought forth: to which may be added, that the successful or ruinous events of undertakings of that nature, do for the most part guide the judgments that vulgar men make of the honesty of their intentions. And for his estate, although it were much less than it is, yet it would be plentiful enough for one that loveth him for his better part, which is his mind; besides that I am so much beholden to fortune, that I am myself mistress of so much as may satisfy a heart that can content itself with conveniency, more than which is excess and superfluity; which is too abject and mean a thing to enter into the lowest thoughts of one that is acquainted with the divine light of a noble and heroical love, as mine is. Therefore I am resolved, I will no longer be a patient martyr; but will speedily use some means that he may hear from me, and I have news of him.”
Faustina perceiving her lady to grow more passionate by contradiction, and the guiltiness of her conscience making her doubt that Stelliana saw too far into her heart, thought it most expedient for the present to give way to her lady’s vehemence; which she did, promising her best and faithful service to procure her content, now that she perceived clearly which way it was resolutely bent. Which when she had said, and Stelliana being laid down in her bed, and the curtains drawn, wishing her good rest and joyful dreams, with a low curtsey she took her leave and went into her own chamber; into which, sleep had but an ill welcome that night; for her troubled and divided thoughts kept her awake, until after many doubts and consultations with herself, at length she resolved upon a tragedy, which, with the first conveniency, she intended to put in action. For covetousness, that usually accompanieth aged women, who, from low and mean beginnings, come to have too weighty charges committed to them, and whose minds, for the most part, are then mercenary, as in their youth their bodies were, had so inveigled Faustina with Ursatius’s large promises, that after long debate within herself, at length she swallowed that golden bait; and shutting her eyes to her own infamy, and the betraying of her lady, she resolved now not only to solicit her to her dishonour by persuasions, as at first she had proposed to herself, but, conceiving that would be but time lost, her affection being already so firmly grounded, she lay contriving what artifice she might use to deliver her up into her unworthy lover’s power. So that the next day, when her lady’s being in company gave her the liberty of going abroad, she went privately to Ursatius’s house; unto whom she had early in the morning sent a messenger to desire him to stay at home, for that she had business of importance to speak to him of. He stayed, expecting her coming with much impatience and many unquiet thoughts; yet his hopes outweighed his fears, because he conceived she would not make such haste to bring him ill news, and that she came herself to gain the reward of a joyful message; in which he was the more confirmed by calling to mind what passed between Stelliana and him the last night, when he took it as an argument of much favour from her, that she returned him no harsh answer, nor rude check, for his bold insinuation: so apt men are to flatter themselves with any shadows or imaginations that may nourish in them the hopes of what they vehemently desire. But when Faustina was come and began to speak to him, another passion banished away the former; so that before she had half ended what she had to say, he burst out in this manner: “Ah! then I see Heaven envieth I should be happy; in nothing else it had power to disturb my joys; which now I perceive how low and wretched they are, that one denial of a scornful beauty is enough to make me miserable; I am resolved to take myself out of fortune’s power, and will go to the other world to preach to damned souls that their pains are but imaginary ones in respect of theirs that live in the hell of love.”
“Why,” interrupted Faustina, “do you fall into such despair? I come to teach you how you may be master of what you say you love so much, if you would hear me.”
“Oh, Faustina!” replied Ursatius, “pardon my sorrows that make all things intolerable to me that do but cross my hopes of enjoying the fairest Stelliana; I say I love her; I will proclaim I love her; and that so much, that without her my life will be but a curse and a vexation; therefore make haste and deliver, in short, the sentence of my life or death.”
“Then hear,” quoth Faustina, “it is true I have gained nothing out of her mouth that I may build much hope upon of her consent to your suit.”
“But,” interrupted Ursatius, “without her consent how can I ever be happy?”
“You will not hear me speak,” continued Faustina; “who knows that her heart and her tongue beat the same measure? The art of dissimulation is born with women, who, being by nature ordained to serve men, grow, to be tyrants when they see them humble: therefore remember your own strength, and, by faint wooing, do not bar yourself of what you may be master of.”
“And how should I be master of her,” replied Ursatius, “that would think it happiness enough to do her any acceptable service?”
“Nay,” quoth Faustina, “as long as your ambitions are so low, I hold it fittest for me to be silent, rather than to acquaint you with what I had contrived for your content, which requireth resolution and active spirits for the achieving it.”
“You would do my love wrong.” answered Ursatius, “if you should think fear could detain me from any hazardous enterprise, wherein assurance of obtaining Stelliana were the period of it.”
“Follow then but my directions,” said Faustina, “and I will, before many days pass over my head, put her into your hands by a sleight that I have invented.”
“But if it be a plot of yours without consent on her part,” replied Ursatius, “well may you make me master of her body, but her mind will then be farther from me than before; for now the worst is that she does not love me, and then she will have just reason to hate me as much as I can love her.”
These, and many other speeches to like effect, Faustina used to Ursatius, to wean him from his respective love; who, although he were infinitely perplexed in the very thought of offending whom he so much desired to please, yet, on the other side, seeing nothing but despair in his behalf, or, at least, such difficulties that his impatience would not let him seek to overcome them in an honourable manner, he resolved at length to embrace the offer that Faustina made him to deliver Stelliana into his hands without any resistance or noise. Which, to effect according as she had contrived, she took one day occasion of speaking unto her lady, as she sate in her wonted manner, the sun of her beauty shining through the clouds of sadness; when, seeming to bear a part with her in her sorrows, towards whom she professed to have a natural tenderness, as having been under her charge and care from her infancy, she promised her faith and secrecy in whatsoever might conduce to her content.
Wherewith Stelliana, being much joyed, gave her many thanks, and, after long debate what was fittest to be done, they concluded that Faustina should inquire after Theagenes, and when she had fully informed herself concerning him, that she should send a discreet messenger to him, with a letter from Stelliana.
As soon as this resolution was taken between them, Faustina went abroad, and returned not till night; when, coming to her lady with a cheerful countenance, the messenger of good news, she told her how gracious heaven was to her desires; for, having learned how Theagenes was come the night before to the city, she had sent a messenger to him, who took so fit an opportunity of accosting him, that he had large and private discourse with him; wherein he had concluded that the same servant should come the next day about sunset, to be his guide to the park, that is three miles out of the city, if Stelliana could have conveniency to come then to meet him there.
“How,” replied Stelliana, “should he put that in doubt? I hope he measureth not my flames by his own, when he maketh such a question; for no sea between, nor hell itself, should hinder me from running into those wished arms.”
The excess of her joy suffered her not to make much expression of it in words; for she was so full, that in striving to break out, it locked itself faster in; and as a weak body faints under the strong physic that is prescribed to bring it health, even so her soul, that of a sudden was surprised with so strong a passion, was not able to resist; but, striving to succour itself that had most need, it retired all her faculties to one centre, and left the fairest body that ever was, destitute of due aid; who, taking it unkindly to be so forsaken, expressed in her face a deadly heaviness, mingled with the heavenly sweetness of a tranced angel that is ravished with the contemplation of his Creator’s perfections, and his own joys: and when she was come to herself again, who could have seen her thoughts, would have said that the sufferance which one undergoeth before they attain unto it, exceedeth far the good which, even in wishes and hope, a lover can promise to himself. After she had passed this night and part of the next day with much unquietness, the declining sun, that was ready to plunge himself into his lover’s bosom, summoned her to begin her journey to hers: so that, taking Faustina with her, she went to the back door of the garden, where a coach with four horses stayed, waiting for her; Faustina having advised, for less notice sake, not to make use of her own, but to hire one: so that, under this pretence, the coachman of Ursatius in a disguised livery, with his horses, but a hired coach, was there to begin the first act of the ensuing tragedy.
She was scarce gone half way to the appointed place, when five or six horsemen, well mounted, overtook the coach; who, speaking to the coachman, that was instructed what to do, he stayed his horses, and, two of them alighting, came into the coach to her, and drawing their poignards, threatened her with death if she cried out or made any noise; assuring her withal, that from them she should receive no violence, if she would sit quietly: and therewithal drew the curtains, that none might see who was in the coach as they passed by.
In this agony of distracted thoughts, that represented to her from what hopes of bliss she was fallen into an abyss of sorrow; and, fearing the worst that might happen to an undefended maid that was fallen into rude hands, she travelled till near morning; when the coach staying, she was taken out, and led into a fair lodge that stood in the middle of a pleasant lawn environed with rich groves: and there an ancient woman entertaining her with comfortable speeches, and the assurance of all service intended to her, which she should quickly perceive to be true, brought her into a richly adorned chamber, advising her to repose herself after so tedious and troublesome a night as, of necessity, she must have passed.
After she had helped her to bed, it was some time before sleep could take possession of her fair lids, but, at lengthy it being the nature of extreme grief to oppress the spirits, whereas a tolerable one doth but exasperate them, her heart yielded to the weight of so heavy a burden; and death himself, grown tender in seeing her affliction, sent his brother sleep to charm her wearied eyes that else would have been turned into a flood of tears, and to give some truce to her abundant sorrow. Peradventure he might at length have come himself to seize upon so sweet a mansion, had not Ursatius, impatient of so long delay, towards the evening, come in unto her, who, stumbling at the opening of the door, which he might have taken as an infallible presage of his ensuing repulse, with the much noise wakened her, and frighted away the other’s drowsy harbinger. She, hearing one come into the chamber, rose up half way in her bed, and then, by the glimmering of the light that stole in between the chinks of the drawn curtains, she perceived, as he came near her, that it was Ursatius; who, kneeling down by her bed’s side, after some pause, began in this manner: “Before I came into your presence, fairest Stelliana, I had proposed to myself many things that I would say to you, to excuse my deceiving you in getting you hither; but that divinity that is about you doth so astonish me, that I forget all studied eloquence, and am forced to betake myself to the naked and simple expression of a faultering tongue, that speaketh but the overboilings of a passionate heart. What error I have committed is caused by love; he was my guide, and hath brought me to that pass that, without it be requited by yours, I cannot live.”
“Alas!” replied Stelliana, after a deep sigh, “how ill your deeds and words sort together! you mention love, but perform the effects of extreme hatred! you sue to me for life, and in a treacherous manner have brought mine into your power; but, howsoever, at least I have this content remaining, that I shall find out sundry ways to death, if you attempt any thing upon my honour; the loss of which I am resolved never to outlive: and then my injured ghost shall be a perpetual terror to your guilty soul, which I will so pursue, that I will make you fly to hell to save you from my more tormenting vengeance.”
Ursatius was so amazed, that he was a long time before he replied any thing to her resolute answer; but, at length, like one new coming out of a trance, he called his spirits together, and strived what he could to lessen the error he had committed, laying much of the fault upon Faustina’s instigations, and telling her how she had been the plotter of all; and that, for his part, his intent was never to have used violence; but that he gave way to this action, seeing how negligent her father was of her, that left her so young and in the tuition of so false a servant, to live by herself in a dissolute age, among such as would daily make assaults upon her honour; and besought her to consider herself mistress of all that he had, for, in effect, she should find it so; and assured her that all the means he would use to obtain his desires, should be love and service.
She then, that doubted this was but a cunning invention of his, to try, first, if he could win her consent by fair means, thought it her best course not to overthrow his hopes altogether, but so to suspend them that she might gain time, wherein only consisted the possibility of her safety, and delay as long as she could his proceeding to any ruder attempt. Wherefore she answered him, that in the state she was in, and considering how he had injured her, she could not believe that he intended really what he said; but when, by experience, she should find him to love her as worthily as he professed, that might be an inducement to her to think better of him than yet she did. While they were in their discourse, the woman that Stelliana met when she came into the lodge, brought in supper; after which, none else being; suffered to come in to attend them, Ursatius taking Stelliana by the hand, led her down the stairs into a garden that her chamber window looked into, all the several parts of which she narrowly observed. At length, the sun setting and a gammy dew beginning to fail, Ursatius asked her if she was not tired with walking, which intimation of retiring she taking hold of, they returned again to her chamber, that, by this time, was dressed up, and the bed made to receive her; when Ursatius, perceiving that she had a desire to betake herself to rest, pretending that she laboured yet of her late toil, be took his leave and wished her a quiet and happy night, commanding the old woman to attend diligently upon her; who, having helped her to bed, retired herself into an inner chamber.
When Stelliana was alone, she gave liberty to her sighs and tears, to lament her cruel fate; but, soon recollecting herself, as conceiving those weak expressions unworthy of her generous soul, as long as there was any spark of hope left, she began to cast with herself by what means she might escape out of that tyrant’s hands, whose lustful fury, she was confident, could not be long delayed, when he should perceive that his respect won nothing but words from hen She had observed how, in one corner of the garden, there was an arbour seated upon a mount which overlooked the wall; and, by that place she deemed that she might, most fitly, take her flight. Wherefore, when by her loud snoring, she perceived that her guardian was fast asleep, she rose with as little noise as she could, and, tying her sheets together, made one end of them fast to a bar in the window, and by that let herself down so gently, that she came to touch ground without any hurt; and then going straight to the arbour, she got down the wall by making use of her garters, as before she had done of her sheets; and then, finding herself at liberty in the park, she directed her course one certain way until she came to the pales, which, with some difficulty, she climbed over; and then she wandered about large fields and horrid woods, without meeting with any highway or sign of habitation. After she had wearied herself with going long in much desolation, towards morning, thinking herself now far enough from Ursatius’s lodge, to be safe from his pursuit, she sate her down to take some rest, when a hungry wolf came rushing out of a wood that was close by, and, perceiving her by the increasing twilight, ran at her with open mouth; whom, as soon as she saw, fear made her run away; but to little purpose; for he had soon overtaken her, and, having got her down, would have made that his prey, that was worthy to sway the empire of the world. But, Oh how unsearchable is the Providence of heaven! for Mardontius, a young nobleman that lived not far from thence, having been abroad all night to harbour a stag in that wood, in which exercise he delighted much, hearing the shrieks and doleful cries that Stelliana made, ran speedily thither; when, seeing that tragical spectacle, he made haste to rescue the distressed lady; and, while with one hand he drew his cutlass, with the other he put his horn to his mouth; at the sound of which, several of his servants came to him, accompanied with strong and swift dogs. So that, among them, they quickly made an end of the unhappy beast, that yet was happy in this, that he died in so high an attempt.
Then they took the lady from the ground, that was almost dead with fear, and from the wolfs merciless teeth had received some wounds in several places about her; the pain of which, and loss of blood, and her wearisome journey, made her almost faint: so that, resting her upon a green bank, she told Mardontius who she was, and part of the adventures that had befallen her: and he having requited her with informing her of his name and quality, stood as one amazed, sucking into his veins the fire of love, which was kindled at that beauty, that yet shined with admirable majesty through her bleeding wounds. But he had not been so long, when she drew his thoughts another way, by asking him what palace that was which they saw close by them, and could discern the rising sun gilding the tops of the highest turrets and pinnacles about it? He answered her, that an old lady, famous for her virtue and zeal in religion, dwelt there, whose name was Artesia.
“What!” replied Stelliana, “Artesia, the widow of Auridonio? whose house is . . . . [Here a line and a half is obliterated in the MS.] . . . .
“It is the same,” answered Mardontius, “that you mean.”
“Then,” said Stelliana, “I see that, amidst my miseries, Heaven hath not abandoned all care of me; for this is the place that, of all others, I should have wished to be in; Artesia being my kinswoman, and one that, I am sure, will compassionate my late disasters. Therefore, sir, I shall not be ashamed, since fortune hath made me owe my life unto you, to beg the favour of you to conduct me thither.”
Whereunto, Mardontius answered, “Fairest lady, I must lament my evil fortune that will not permit me to attend you thither; for there is some private cause that makes it very unfit for me to come to that house, but my servants shall wait upon you, and see you safe there; and I hope, in some other place, I shall have the happiness to express the much respect I bear unto you; and, in the mean time, from this hour forwards, I vow myself unto you in the strictest ties of an humble and affectionate servant.”
To which Stelliana replied, “I do not wonder. Sir, that you use this language to me, when I consider it is the custom of generous souls to oblige themselves more by conferring benefits, than by receiving them; but, howsoever, it belongeth to me to acknowledge upon all occasions that I am more your debtor than is in my power to requite.”
Mardontius, that saw in how evil plight she was, deemed it uncivility to detain her any longer; therefore commanding two of his servants to wait upon her to Artesia’s house; with the rest he stayed there expecting their return.
I omit to describe the passages between Artesia and Stelliana at their first salutes, as I do many other particularities that are not essential to this discourse: but time, and Artesia’s care, and her own good order, having made Stelliana well of her wounds, of which remained some light scars, one evening as they two were walking in the garden, she purposely administered occasion to speak of Arete, knowing that between Artesia and her, there was a straight friendship, and of long date, to the end that she might learn some news of Theagenes: who, gladly falling upon that subject, it being the nature of most persons to let the tongue go willingly where the heart draweth it, spoke much in commendation of that lady; extolling with what an admirable wit and understanding she was endued, and how, being left a widow in the flower of her youth, accompanied with a flourishing beauty and a plentiful estate, yet she was so much wedded to her dear husband’s love, that she neglected all the advantageous offers of earnest and great suitors, that she might with the more liberty perform the part of a careful mother to the dear pledges of their virgin affections.
“For by him,” said Artesia, “she had two children, who now, by her industry in bringing them up in all qualities and virtuous exercises, correspondent to their birth, do give assured hopes that they will not degenerate from their father’s worth, nor give their mother cause to think that her great care in their education was ill bestowed. Yet they seem to differ much in their natures, for the eldest, Theagenes, although the great strength and well framing of his body, make him apt for any corporal exercises, yet he pleaseth himself most in the entertainments of the mind, so that having applied himself to the study of philosophy, and other deepest sciences, wherein he hath a preceptor in the house with him, famous beyond all men now living, for solidness and generality of learning, he is already grown so eminent, that I have heard them say, who have insight that way, that if a lazy desire of ease or ambition of public employments, or some other disturbance, do not interrupt him in this course, he is like to attain to great perfection: at least I can discern thus much, that he hath such a temper of complexion and wit, that his friends have reason to pray God that he may take a right way, for it cannot keep itself in mediocrity, but will infallibly fall to some extreme. But the youngest is composed of mildness and sweetness of disposition, answerable to the excellent form of a comely and active body, yet so mingled with courage and strength of mind, that one may expect he will as much exceed most men in being an ornament of the court, and in martial affairs, as he will come short of any, in speculative notions: for withal, he is not an enemy to study, though he be not naturally much addicted to it. Their mother was ever dear to me,” continued she, “and if I can effect what I have affectionately endeavoured and solicited, we shall be able to leave to our posterity the inheritance of our affections as well as of our estates; for I have laboured long, and Arete hath not been wanting on her part, to join in marriage her eldest son, and my grandchild that you see here; who, if partiality deceive me not, besides that she shall inherit a great estate of her father’s, is so much beholding to nature, that she may shew her face among the fairest, when you are away I mean; and with that she smiled.
But Stelliana was far from answering her with the like cheerful countenance, for it seemed to her that death had from Artesia’s lips shot her heart through: but impatience of delay to know the worst of what she feared called up her fainting spirits; and made her ask, “What it was that hindered the effecting it, since you two,” said she, “that are the guiders of it are equally affected with the desire thereof.”
“It is,” answered Artesia, “the backwardness of Theagenes; of which his mother one day complaining to me, told me what an answer he had made to her a little before, as she had solicited him to condescend to her just desire, it being so much for his advantage. “Madam,” quoth he, “the greatest obligation that I have to you, and wherein you express your love most to me, is the liberty that you have left to me in this main business of marriage, upon the good or evil success of which dependeth one’s future happiness or misery: and since you are pleased to enter into discourse of it with me, as advising me what will be most for my good, I beseech you, give me leave to represent unto you how it is a condition that hath nothing but the entrance free; therefore in wisdom it ought to be deferred till one be in the fulness and vigour of judgment to discern best in making a fitting choice; which cannot well be performed by attorney. Besides, to have it complete in all respects, the first motives of it should not be sordid wealth or other conveniencies, but a divine affection, which may make their souls one as the other bond doth their bodies; and I must confess that, although I know this gentlewoman do every way deserve better fortune than I can bring her, I feel not yet this flame in me towards her, which is indeed only a gift of Heaven. And if I should consent to make her my wife, I must resolve to sit still from any action, as being arrived to the period of my ambition: for the relations that follow marriage are such a clog to an active mind, that it is impossible for one that hath not before laid a foundation for his preferment, to raise himself above the pitch that he then is in; whereas as long as he remaineth single and free, the world seemeth to be at his command in choosing what course is like to succeed best to him, and in the process of which he is like then to have least difficulties. Therefore as long as the weakness of our estate obligeth you not yet to sell me to repair that, I beseech you give me leave to look a little while about me, and to please myself awhile with flying abroad before I be put into the mewe. So that,” continued Artesia, “by this speech of his, and knowing his mother’s indulgence to give way to his desire, I doubt much whether what I have so much longed for will ever come to pass. Yet, because I leave nothing unattempted, Arete and myself, when I last saw her, resolved that she should bring him hither, to try if my grandchild’s silent beauty can persuade him to what yet he hath ever been averse; for they say that the blind god shooting from fair eyes, doth sometimes prevail with stubborn hearts more than any reason or discourse can: so that taking the offered occasion of my son’s coming hither, who will be here tomorrow, to communicate with my nearest friends, my content of seeing so dear a son that hath been long absent from me,’ I have invited her to my house, who I expect will be here within these two or three days, together with Theagenes.”
If the first part of Artesia’s speech brought doubts and fears to Stelliana’s soul, the conclusion of it was to her like a gentle gale of wind, that in a burning day creepeth over sweet and flowery meads, and breathes upon the languishing face of the faint traveller that is almost dead with heat. It was well that she had thus much time before-hand to prepare herself to expect his coming; for if she had been surprised with so joyful a sight, it had been impossible for her to disguise her affections, which mainly imported them both, and principally there, to be concealed: for Arete, that had long before perceived much affection in her son to Stelliana, and being now much averse to it, as well because of some unkindnesses passed between Nearchus and her, as that it might be a disturbance to the other that she came about, and infinitely desired; did with watchful eyes, armed with longing, hatred, and jealousy, continually observe all passages between her son and Stelliana; so as the two first days that they were together, they could have no conveniency of free discourse: whilst their fire increasing by presence and each other’s sight, the keeping of it in too narrow a room without any vent, almost smothered their hearts. But what dull wit will not love refine, and subtilize with acutest inventions? Much more so docile a one as Theagenes’s, whose breast was now become love’s school, out of which he might have read a learned lecture to novice affections. And he, now burning with impatience, and fearing lest, like the loadstone, he should always point to his bright north star without ever coming to touch it, he advised himself of a means to instruct Stelliana how they might have, once before they parted, the liberty of breathing their souls’ affections into one another; which was thus.
One day as she had by accident let her glove fall, he took it up, and having a letter ready in his hand, which he had written a day before, and awaited an opportunity of delivering it, did thrust it into the glove, and kissing it, gave her, who putting her hand into it to pull it on, felt a paper there, which, conceiving how it came in, she kept safe till night, that she was retired into her chamber; and then after she was in bed, and had dismissed her servants, she read it by the help of the watch-light, which stood burning by her: and being thereby instructed how she should govern herself when the occasion was presented to procure a fit and secure meeting, sleep stole upon her as she was entertaining her pleased thoughts with the hope of that blessed hour; which happened to be the next day: for Artesia and her son, and all the company that was at her house, were invited to hunt a stag in the forest that was near adjoining; when being in the midst of the chase, and every one attentive to the sport, Stelliana, staying to be among the hindmost, turned her horse down a riding that led another way than where the hounds had gone, which she did in such a manner, as those that were near her might conceive she would have taken him up, as being weary with a long chase, and not desirous to follow it farther, but that he being hot and impatient of the bit, did perforce carry her that way when he was diverted from the other; [Here eight lines are obliterated.] till being so far got from the rest of the company who in such a wild place could not find them out, they alighted and led their horses into a thicket, where lying down whilst they grazed by them, Stelliana, opening her coral lips which shewed, like the opening of heaven when the Lord of it sendeth abroad some blessed angel to do a message of joy, began in this manner. “The confidence that I have of your respect, my dearest Theagenes, in thus exposing my honour into your hands, is, without any other, a sufficient testimony of the love I bear you; yet because the remembrance of past sorrows is the mother of present Ir joy, and that the relation of what I have suffered for your sake, for being constant to you, may make me in some measure seem worthy of the return of your affection, I will, as briefly as I can, run over the sad story of the widow hours that with leaden feet have crept over me, since I had the blessing of seeing you.”
“You would do too great a wrong, fairest Stelliana,” answered Theagenes, “to my clear fame, if at least any injustice can proceed from so divine a hand, in thinking that there were need of any other motive for me to love you but yourself: for angels and souls love where they discover greatest perfections, and I were too blind if I did not discern yours. So that in me, where knowledge and understanding is the ground of a noble and spiritual love, other obligations are scarcely considerable; for that knowledge and love have converted me unto a part of you, and your goodness having united you to me, I can no more give you thanks for any merit towards me, than another man may thank himself for doing himself a good turn: so that, in fine, no action of yours can avail to gain more upon that affection which is already entirely yours.”
“I must yield,” replied Stelliana, “in the planner of expression, to you that have the advantages of wit and learning to clothe your conceptions in the gracefullest attire; but in reality of love I will never yield to you; for I take Heaven to witness, I have tasted of no joy in this long night of absence, but what the thoughts of you have brought me; and have ever resolved no longer to live than I have had hope to enjoy your love.”
“Oh, think not,” answered Theagenes, “that when the heart speaks upon so serious and high a theme, wit or study can have any share in the contexture of what one saith; lovers can speak as effectually in silence, as by the help of weak words, which are but the overflowings of a passionate heart; for intellectual substances communicate themselves by their wills; and mine is so entirely drowned in yours, that it moveth not but as you guide it. Yet dare I not to contend with you who loveth most; for I know that as you surpass me in all excellent faculties of a worthy soul, so you do in the perfection of love; yet in this I think I have much the advantage of you, that I love you as well as I can, and stretch all the powers of my soul to bring my love to the highest pitch that I may, since it hath a worthier object than it can raise itself unto; whereas, on the other side, you not finding in me worth enough to take up as much as you could bestow, roust go with reservation; and thus I, by soaring up to perfections above me, do daily refine myself, whilst you are fain to let yourself down, unless it be when your contemplations, rolling like the heavens about their own centre, do make yourself their object.”
“Fie, fie,” said Stelliana, “stop that mouth, which were it any other but whose it is, I would call it a sacrilegious mouth, that thus blasphemeth against the saint that I adore.” And then went on with the story of her passed troubles for Theagenes; who, when she had ended, requited her with his; the conclusion of which being the earnest and daily solicitation that his mother used to him to match himself with Artesia’s grandchild, he told her how hitherto he had with delays, never using any direct refusal, which might exasperate her, prevented her rigorous pressing him to it; and that he had also contrived to secure himself for the future, in this manner.
By himself and others, upon whose opinions Arete much relied, he had obtained her leave to travel into foreign parts for two or three years, that course being usually followed in the education of the youth of quality and eminency in Morea, that by so conversing with several nations, and observing the natures and manners of men, they might enable themselves with good precepts, drawn from experience, and by variety of observations upon sundry and new emergent occasions, learn to banish admiration, which for the most part accompanieth home-bred minds, and is the daughter of ignorance: “Of which fair pretences,” said Theagenes, “I will make my benefit to get myself free out of these dangers, and then I will stay so long abroad until riper years may in me challenge the disposal of myself: then shall I come home free from those fears that now hold my soul in continual anguish; and enjoying your favour, shall in one short hour recompense all the torments that I have already suffered, and till then shall suffer, for your sake; which happiness, if my constancy be by heaven duly rewarded, must outlast an age. But oh.” continued he with a deep sigh, “something within me whispers to my soul and biddeth me take heed how I build the hopes of my future joy and bliss upon the continuance of a woman’s affection during a long absence.”
“It is,” replied Stelliana, “some wicked fiend sent from the envious enemy of mankind, that would kindle the tormenting fire of jealousy within your heart, if any such fear as you speak of do breathe there; therefore confidently pluck him out from thence, for that sun that is now declining to the west shall alter his course, and rise where soon he will set, and his beams, which are now the authors of life and vegetation, shall dart cold poison and destruction upon the world, before I suffer my clear flame to burn dim, or the heat that is in my breast to grow faint; but who, alas! can ascertain me that the delights which you are going unto, and the variety of great actions which will daily take up your thoughts, and the rare beauty of accomplished and ingenious ladies which you shall see, may not in time make you forget your love, your faith, to a poor maid that hath nothing to plead for her but her infinite love to you:” with the last of which words, her declining lids did let fall some drops of crystal upon her modest crimson cheeks, which shewed like the morning dew upon a bed of roses that seem to weep because the sun maketh no more haste to display their beauty; which Theagenes drying with his lips, was some time before he could frame this answer. “Dearest lady and mistress, from the knowledge of yourself you may have entire certainty of my love and faith; for since the world hath nothing of greater perfection than you are, you need not doubt that the sight of a fairer object can ever dispossess you of your right: besides, the consideration of the nature of love may quiet those thoughts, for it uniteth and transformeth the lover into the object beloved; it is a free gift of the will of the lover to the person beloved, making her the mistress, and giving her absolute power of it; and the will having command and sovereignty over all other faculties and parts of a man, it carrieth them along with it; so that his will being drowned and converting itself into hers, the like doth all the rest, and thus they become one, by the transmutation of the lover into the person beloved; which action not being through natural constraint, nor violent and painful, but free and voluntary, and delightful, it is neither subject to the vicissitudes and changes of natural things, nor to be interrupted or destroyed by any other means, but by the same will that first freely gave it, which in me being now yours as long as you will foster it and keep the knot fast on your side, nothing can untie it or wear it out: therefore continue but what you are in respect of your love to me, and neither time, nor distance, nor other beauties, nor all the conspiracies of hell can make me other than what I am: which is, and in that title I most glory myself, your devoted slave.”
With these and other pleasing discourses of like nature, the two happy lovers passed that afternoon, till the setting sun going down in a cloudy seemed, as being careful in their behalfs, to be angry at their so long stay there; which, by leaving the rest of their company all that while, might give new grounds of jealousies to them that might think absence had worn out all the print of their young and immature love: as indeed it did; for although they had framed a fair excuse to colour their being away as the . . . . [Four lines are here obliterated.] . . . . she was so far gone, and Theagenes, in humanity to help her, beyond their knowledge in the wild forest that they wandered up and down as in a labyrinth, till by chance they met a keeper that put them in a right path; yet Arete would not be persuaded but that it might be some sparks of former love were yet alive in her son’s breast, which by keeping him near the original flame might soon cause a fire too great for her to put out. Therefore, if before she was slow, she now used all the diligence she could to hasten her son’s intended journey to Athens, whither he was first to go, to spend some time in study in that university; and discovering her jealousy to Artesia, who of her own nature was apt enough to receive them, was a means that she demeaned herself with such coldness from thenceforward towards Stelliana, that she, conjecturing the cause of it, did shortly take a fair occasion of leaving her, having first made her a noble present of a jewel that would manifoldly countervail her expenses in entertaining her; and from thence went to Corinth where she might hope best to receive news of her Theagenes, and to have means to convey hers unto him.
Their stars were so favourable to them as to permit them to have there one interview before the departure of Theagenes; when they both renewed the protestations of their affections and vows of constancy; and Theagenes presented her with a diamond ring which he used to wear, entreating her, whensoever she did cast her eyes upon it, to conceive that it told her in his behalf, that his heart would prove as hard as that stone in the admittance of any new affection; and that his to her should be as void of end as that circular figure was; and she desired him to wear for her sake a lock of her hair which she gave him; the splendour of which can be expressed by no earthly thing, but it seemed as though a stream of the sun’s beams had been gathered together and converted into a solid substance. With this precious relic about his arm, whose least hair was sufficient to tie in bonds of love the greatest heart that ever was informed with life, Theagenes took his journey into Attica, and spent some time in Athens, till the heat of the year coming on, and the plague raging in that populous city, so that all those that had any possibility of subsistence in another place, left it, he retired himself to a little city called Marathon, inferior to none in all that country for wholesomeness of air, beauty of buildings, pleasure of situation, abundance of provisions, and courtesy of persons of quality that inhabit there. He had not been long here, enjoying the greatest content that any place could afford him where Stelliana was not present, but the warlike sound of horrid arms, of neighing horses, and of loud trumpets, proclaiming civil dissensions, were heard there to fright away the sweet tranquillity which reigned in this till then happy place: the occasion whereof will not be displeasing to relate from the first beginnings.
The King of Attica being a prince of active spirits, and from his cradle trained in wars, in which he was so fortunate that he had thereby confirmed himself in his kingdom, which had first long wrestled with him, being weary of a long and dull peace, had raised a formidable army, which being every way complete in all other preparations belonging thereunto, and of most terror, because of himself that commanded it; so great was his reputation. Greece and the neighbour world trembled with the expectation where that cloud would disburden itself, for he had made none acquainted with his intentions: when, in the midst of his great thoughts, which certainly balanced empires, and attended by his principal nobility, a poor mean vassal of his, whose name had never been charactered in ink but for this fact, so inglorious he was, delivered the world of many fears, by thrusting a dagger into the King’s heart, as he was going in glory to take a view of his army, and to crown his wife queen with wonted ceremony; intending to leave her regent in his absence. Thus ail these vast preparations vanished, and served for nothing but to express in lively colours the frailty of human designs. His son was immediately proclaimed and crowned king, but being under age, the power and management of affairs remained with his mother, who, being a woman of great judgment and strong parts, carried business with a high hand; which she did the rather, because some of the princes of Attica, being of turbulent spirits, seem to disdain her sex and the rule of a stranger, she being daughter to the prince of Ephesus. And having none there that she might repose confidence in, she cast the beams of her favour upon a gentleman of her country; whom, from a younger brother of an obscure family, she soon raised to the highest degrees of honour that a subject can attain unto. But he, like one whose eyes were dazzled and brain failed by being set in too high a place, forgot his first beginnings, and grew so insolent that the peers of Attica could not brook his greatness; and envy being an inseparable companion to the fortune of a favourite, it was more than whispered abroad that he intended to possess himself of that kingdom, and that the queen entertained him in her favour chiefly to satisfy her loose and unchaste desires; to which the great and untimely familiarity that she used with him, and the comely composure of his body seemed to give credit. Whereupon some of the principal of the nobility possessed the King with fears of his own safety, and a deep apprehension of his mother’s dishonour, which reflected upon him; while the Queen and her favourite nothing doubted the immaturity of his years and the slowness of his nature to be any interruption to their designs. But overmuch security was their overthrow; for by that means he got the marquis into his power, and then by performing an action of much resolution, he gave testimony how slow natures, when they are once thoroughly warmed, retain that heat with much constancy; for he caused the marquis to be slain without any form of process, and confined his mother to a little town two or three days’ journey from the court, with a strong guard upon her. But what cannot fury do in a woman’s breast? for she, being impatient at her imprisonment, at the loss of her friend, at the stain of her honour, and at her sequestration from the government, found soon a means to gain her liberty, by the assistance of one of the princes of that country, that had been very faithful to her husband, and was of great power and in high reputation for a soldier. Being at liberty, after many treaties of accommodation, which in the end proved of little effect, she retired herself to Marathon, where she was confident of a strong party, intending there to raise forces, which she gave out were to remove some evil counsellors that were about the King her son: for pretences of justice and holiness are never wanting to any undertaking, be it never so undue, wicked, and unjust. Her hopes here failed not; for in a small time, she had got together such an army, as was deemed not only sufficient to resist any violence the King could use, but of force enough, without the other succours which were daily expected, to set upon him and work her own conditions: yet the advice of the ancient soldiers prevailed, which was, to expect the coming of the other troops, that they might jointly go with an united and solid strength to prosecute their designs: while in the mean time the King, on his part, used all the diligence that might be to levy forces. But the Queen and her party conceived his difficulties to be so great in that, and themselves so secure in that place, which was compassed in with rivers, and inaccessible when the bridges were broken down, and the passages guarded, that they expected nothing less than the arrival of the King: so that while she was to stay here in expectance of her other troops, she entertained herself with masques, feasts, musics, and such other recreations as might make time slide more pleasingly by her [Here a portion of the Manuscript is obliterated.] Theagenes, coming one masque-night to the court with the company that importuned him to go along with them, was by one of the ladies, that had known him at Athens, taken out to dance; in which he behaved himself in such sort, that whether it were the gracefulness of his gesture, wherein the commendations of art was the least thing he aimed at, or that the heavens had ordained he should be the punisher of the Queen’s affections, she felt at the first sight of him a secret love, which soon grew so violent that it made her forget her own greatness, and compelled Theagenes, in order to preserve his constancy for Stelliana, to quit the court; and he caused it to be reported that he was murdered in the tumult which arose in consequence of the Queen having disbanded her forces, upon her reconciliation with the King her son, after the battle of Marathon. Soon after, he transported himself over the sea into Ionia, intending to spend some time in that pleasant climate, where the sun seemed to cast more propitious beams than upon any other place; for in fruitfulness of the soil it may well be termed the garden of the world; and the cities of it, which are many, being every one under a several lord, the territories of them are so small, and the means of extending themselves, by doing great actions abroad, so little, that those who have noble minds must apply themselves to contemplative and academic studies, wherein their spirits working upon themselves, they are so refined, that for matters of wit, civility, and gentleness, these parts may be the level for the rest of the world to aim at.
Here Theagenes resolved to detain himself some time, as well to give himself the content of noble and learned conversation, as also to practise such exercises as befit a gentleman to have learned, and are the worthiest ornaments of a mind well fraught with interior notions, to attain to perfection, in which here is complete conveniency. Among all these towns, he chose Ephesus for his settled abode; from whence, at his first arrival, he wrote letters to Stelliana to advertise her of his health, and to prevent the rumour of his death, which, happily, might come to her ears. But long and dear experience teacheth us that, in this transitory life, the bad doth manifoldly exceed the good; as, in this particular, it did: for those letters miscarried, and the false news of his death was borne upon the wings of fame with such speed, that, in a very few days after the loss of the battle at Marathon, it was known at Corinth, where it found Stelliana labouring with an impatient desire of hearing of him who was the only object of her loving thoughts. It is too high a task for my rude pen to draw any counterfeit of the deep sorrow which then took possession of her heart; which was of such a heavy nature, that, at the first, it locked up all her senses as in a dull lethargy; so that, with too deep a sense, she became insensible of grief; but after a while, when she seemed to waken out of a dream by the heart’s dispersing abroad of the spirits to be the sad messengers of this doleful news to the other faculties of the soul, that they might bear their part in due mourning, then did her tongue frame such lamentable complaints, as, to have heard them, would have converted the most savage heart into a flood of tears; and yet sorrow sate so sweetly enthroned within her mournful eyes, as would have made the lightest heart in love with those blessed tears, that seemed like the morning dews sprinkled upon Aurora’s face. “Alas!” would she say, “wherein have I offended Death that he thus cruelly should rob me of my dearest jewel? yet, since thy stroke is never to be recalled, I will pardon thee, and, henceforward call thee courteous, if thou wilt level at me thy leaden dart, that so I may be exempted from all the miseries of this life which remain to me, and follow my joys that are gone before me into the other world: but, oh! it seemeth my love was weak, that cannot call sorrow enough to break that heart which ought to have lived only in my Theagenes. However, if love and sorrow cannot do it, nor death will come at a wretch’s call, fury and despair shall bring my cursed life to a wished end; and this hand only, so often made happy with his burning kisses, deserveth to be the instrument of such a glorious act, as will bring me to the enjoyment of my soul’s delight, where it will be out of the power of fortune to cross or disturb my joys. There shall our happy spirits wander in the Elysian fields, and be united together with the holy fire of divine love in that immense and glorious flaming light, which comprehendeth all things. But, ah! me, whither do my wandering fancies carry me into a night of error? I know, alas! I know too well, that the gates which lead souls into the region of bliss, are shut against them that lay violent hands upon themselves; and good reason it is that they should be tormented in eternal darkness, who, through self-love, give up without order or leave the custody of that fort, which God and nature put them in to maintain: and looking with the light of truth and not of passion, what is it but self-love that maketh me thus wish to die? He that I lament, is doubtless enthroned in happiness among the blessed angels that in this life he resembled, and is labouring to get me to him. Shall I then, with immature haste, overthrow those joys which I have reason to hope for? No, no; wretched heart, live on till he call thee to a better state, and in the mean time my life shall be a continual martyrdom, which, I hope, may purge and refine such defects as are natural in me, and make me worthy of that seat, which, I am sure, he will provide for me.”
With such incessant lamentations, proceeding from a deeply wounded soul, she spent many days without any diminution of sorrow; and, pretending indisposition of health,, admitted the visits of none but Mardontius, who, as you have heard, saved her from certain death, when she lay at the mercy of the merciless wolf; who then, at the first sight of her, drank into his bowels the secret flames of a deep affection, which, from that very instant, increased upon him and grew so violent, that he could not rest for thinking of her; and, love making men industrious, he had immediate notice when she went from Artesia’s house to Corinth, whither, with alt speed, he followed her, and applied himself to her service with all the affectionate demonstrations of extreme love, that a young heart, deeply wounded, could express; and had given her some knowledge of the much that, for her sake, he endured, and would have proceeded farther in the begging of her favour, but that, in the very beginning of his passionate discourse, she interrupted him, and told him that, if he did ever again use that language to her, she should estrange herself from his sight and friendship, to the which, if he gave not occasion of the contrary, she held herself in gratitude obliged, as owing her life unto him: and, therefore, ever since that time, she had allotted him so much of her esteem and good-will as a sister may bear to a brother; but that, for matter of affection, he should never hope for any, she not being ashamed to confess ingenuously that it was wholly and only vowed to Theagenes. Wherefore Mardontius, that had been long enough trained to the world to know that women’s passions are not perpetual, but that by how much more violent they are, so much less durance they use to have, gave over those solicitations which he yet saw unseasonable, and would not venture the loss of all by striving to make too sudden a gain of all; but, for the present, contented himself with that part which he had in her good esteem, hoping that time, and the absence of Theagenes, and many other accidents, might one day convert it into affection; while he remained vigilant to make use of all such opportunities of endearing himself to her as fortune, or the revolution of woman’s constancy, might give him overtures of. And thus, by pretending a respective and not affectionate love ever after his check from her, he had insinuated himself so far into her good liking, that, afterward, when she received the news of Theagenes’s death, and that the stormy violence of the first impression of grief was a little over, she admitted him sometimes into her company, when all other was troublesome and hateful to her. He then, like one cunning in the nature and qualities of passions, would not bluntly oppose her sorrow, knowing that such contrasting doth rather farther engage and heat one in it, than any ways diminish it; nor yet go about unseasonably to carry her thoughts, by persuasion or mentioning them, to contrary objects, as of content and pleasure: but as a faithful physician that is not able to purge away some bad humour that, in an infirm body, oppressed some particular part, doth use such medicines as may mingle themselves with it, and so carry it gently to serve some other member, even so did he first seem to bear a part with her in her grief, till he had got so much credit with her, and insensibly won such an inclination in her to like of what he said and did, that, at length, she left her solitary lamenting by herself, and took some contentment in condoling with him her misfortune; and then, by following diligently his begun practice of consolation by diversion, he wrought her so much from the sharpness of her grief, that she took delight in his company; and thus he took the advantage of her sorrow, which had made her heart tender and apt to receive a deeper impression of liking and good-will towards him than before; which she denied not to him, assuring him that, of all men then living, she did, and had most reason to respect him most; with which she. desired him to content himself, and to seek no farther from her, for that, ever since Theagenes’s death, her heart was also dead to all passionate affections.
But, in the mean time, that monster which was begot of some fiend in hell, and feedeth itself upon the infected breaths of the base multitude, Fame! made a false construction of her actions, and did spread abroad a scandalous rumour of the familiarity of Mardontius with her; which, peradventure, be also increased by speaking more lavishly of her favours than he had a real ground for; thinking to do himself honour, by making the world believe him to be dear to her that had engrossed to herself the whole heavenly beauty, and was, accordingly, adored by all those that had any spark of gentleness or nobleness in their hearts; which rumour being once on foot, it was too late for her, that was so young, so beautiful, and at liberty in the world, to suppress it, consisting of a fantastic aerial body that admitteth no hold to be taken of it, nor can be traced to the ground or author thereof; but, having once gotten upon its wings, subsisteth by its own lightness in weak understandings, as the vulgar of men have, who are not able to give any reason for what they believe. This fury then, that will not spare innocence itself, made Stelliana her prey, whose soul was as white and free from spot as virtue is; so that the greatest enemy she had, speaking most sharply to her disadvantage, and truly, could but have said, that if her sorrow for Theagenes were grown more temperate than at the first, it was only because that it exceeded the bounds of what less noble hearts could think, and still remained far greater than was fit for a rational and well tempered mind, that ought to have her will and desires resigned to the will and ordinance of the superior power; and had, in the bitterness of it, made her so much forget her wonted discretion, as through too much indulgency to admit Mardontius, who seemed to applaud her in it, to a nearer familiarity than, in terms or rigour, was fit for her, or than her affection did really call him unto. But she was so deeply engaged in this inconvenience before she was aware, that Mardontius then with much eagerness pressed to draw her from her former resolution of solitariness, not doubting now or fearing the effects of her wonted frowns and rigour, when he intimated any such desire of his; and withal, the nearest of her friends that had a quick sense of her good, importuned her therein as much as he could do; both because it was in secular respects such a fortune to her, as she had no reason to refuse; bat most of all they represented to her, that she had inconsiderately brought herself so much upon the stage, and submitted herself to the world’s censure for Mardontius’s sake, that she could not now retire from him without much dishonour: which last consideration weighed so much with her above all others, that what neither love nor his merits, nor no other motive could, the sense of her honour, which she deemed much dearer than her life, won her unto: 80 that after a year’s, and more, lamenting of her lost Theagenes, she gave a cold and half constrained consent to condescend to Mardontius’s suit; who then immediately took care to provide, with much splendour and magnificence, all things necessary to give an honourable solemnity to their nuptials; having in the mean time begged and obtained from her, leave to have her picture drawn by an excellent workman; which, afterward, he used to shew as a glorious trophy of her conquered affections.
All this while Theagenes, who had written several letters to the goddess of his devotions, the first of which miscarried, and the rest were industriously intercepted and suppressed by his mother, who was jealous of his affection, wondered that he had no return of any of them; so that his doubtful fears, and yet he knew not what to doubt or fear, plunged him into a deep melancholy, from which he daily, upon sundry occasions, interpreted to himself many sad presages of near ensuing disasters. When, at length, the heart-breaking news of Stelliana’s approaching marriage with Mardontius, was brought to him by a gentleman that was lately come from Corinth to Ephesus, intending to spend some time there upon the same occasion that Theagenes did; who, taking it up but upon public fame, delivered it with such circumstances, as went much to the prejudice of her honour. Theagenes then quite forgot the noble temper of his mind, which being by nature composed of an excellent mixture, and, besides, richly cultivated with continual study and philosophical precepts, did formerly stand in defiance of fortune; but now he was so overborne with passion, that he might serve for a clear example to all who may promise most of themselves, that none can be so completely perfect in this life, nor armed against the assaults of passions, but that some one way or other there is an entrance unto him left unguarded, whereby he may be humbled and put in mind, at his own cost, of the frailty of human nature. For his soul was so overburdened with grief, that his reason, and all that he knew and could advise to others upon like occasions, availed him nothing in his own behalf; but, sinking under that insupportable weight, he became equal with the lowest and meanest natures; but he differed from them much in the manner of expressing it, for, whereas they for the most part yield to tenderness, and bemoan themselves, taking their disasters unkindly at fortune’s hands; he, as soon as his shrunk heart began to dilate itself, broke out into a torrent of fury, cursing all womankind for Stelliana’s sake; and was so possessed with anger and disdain, that, if nature had been in his power, he would have turned the world again into a dark chaos. “Oh! miserable condition,” did he say, “of men that must, through the unjust laws of nature, take half their being from this unworthy sex! for how can I style it other, when she, for whose sake alone I was in charity with the rest, proveth false to her own honour, and to me that loved her better than my own soul? Injurious stars! why gave you so fair and beautiful an outside to so foul and deformed a mind? And what secret sin have I committed so great, that I must be made the idolater of such a dire portent? Is it that as death and misery came upon the generality of mankind by the seducement of one woman, so new ruins must, by another, fall upon me, because I strive to raise myself out of this original and fatal hard condition? What do all my pious resolutions now avail me, all my studies to draw me out of the mist of ignorance wherein I was born, and to arm me against the frailty of human nature, since at once a woman’s inconstancy hath overthrown, and, like a ravenous fire, consumed all those seeds of good that began to grow within me? Oh weak aims and fond ambition of men, that so wretched a blast can convert into smoke! But whither doth my passion carry my words cross to my understanding? for I know this can and hath, with me, performed more than all the precepts of divinity and philosophy could; this hath framed a settled mind in me, of an excellent temper, that neither desireth nor feareth any thing, which they but coldly aim at. Now all things and all fortunes are alike to me, for I wish not for good nor fear bad, since she, for whose sake I should do either, deserveth now nothing but dire execrations from my afflicted and restless soul; which yet my melting heart, whensoever I think on her, will not permit me to utter, but smothereth my just curses: yet, thus much I will swear, and call heaven to witness, that, for the future, I will have irreconcilable wars with that perfidious sex; and so blaze through the world their un worthiness and falsehood, that I hope their turn will come to sue to men for their love, and, being denied, despair and die. And thou, once dear pledge of my lady’s virgin affections, but now the magical filtre of her enchanting and siren-like beauty, thou canst witness how I have, day and night, ever since I wore thee, sighed her name; be now her forerunner into the fire, that will one day torment her traitorous soul; and as thou consumest there like a sacrifice to the infernal furies, of whom only vengeance is begged, and that thy grosser element turneth into ashes, may thy lighter and airy parts mingle itself with the wind, and tell her, from me, that when rage and despair have severed my injured soul from my cold limbs, my ghostly shadow shall be every where present to her, and so affright her guilty conscience, that she shall gladly run to death to shelter her from my greater plaguing her.” And, as he spoke these last words, he tore from his arm the bracelet of her hair, which she had given him, and threw it into the fire that was in his chamber; when that glorious relic burning, shewed, by the blue and wan colour of the flame, that it had sense, and took his words unkindly in her behalf. But sorrow and anger had so consumed his spirits, that he could no longer frame his voice into an articulate sound, but, casting himself upon his bed, sighed out. the deep anguishes of his tormented soul all that day and night, and the next. Oh! what would have become of Stelliana’s tenderer heart, if she should have then known in what plight he remained, and to what extremities he was brought for her sake? Certainly death would have taken up the room both of love to him, and of shame for her unfortunate error. But the just heaven, whose judgments are inscrutable, had ordained a happier end to these noble lovers; and as it useth oftentimes to effect the greatest actions by the most unlikely means, so it made her consent to marry Mardontius to be the first cause of dissolving it. For he being a young man of an unstayed spirit, though his much wit could disguise that and many other of his imperfections, and entertaining love no farther than into his eyes, the eagerness of his suit to her proceeded much from the supposed difficulty of the task to gain her consent,, and win her from her former affections; which, when he had done, he soon grew cold in prosecuting it to the utmost and ceremonious performance; and being then some time absent at own house in the country, to prepare it, as he pretended, to receive her according to her worth, his eyes were, during that absence, inveigled with a new rural beauty, his heart delighting most in change, whose favour he solicited with as much fervour as ever he had done his late mistress’s. Which, when Stelliana heard of, a generous disdain enflamed her heart, which made her despise Mardontius, and resolve to sequester herself from the conversation of men; since him, whom only she loved with affection, was taken away from her by the cruel fates, and he, whom she had forced herself to like for other respects, had taken himself from her by his own unworthiness: from which resolution of hers, no persuasion of her friends, nor humble and self-accusing repentance of Mardontius, could draw her. For he then, being wakened out of his fond dream of a second love by her just scorn, did apply himself in the most affectionate manner that he could to regain her favour, not omitting any industry that might conduce thereunto: wherein he gave a full testimony, that in sensual minds love is armed, and, as it were, spurred on by difficulties; and groweth flat and languisheth when it walketh in an easy path. But all his endeavour proved vain in this second suit; so that Stelliana not only withdrew her good liking from him as a person unworthy of it, but armed herself with hatred against him, and answered all his visits and courtesies with harsh affronts; and when he saw no other hope or remedy, he was glad to intermit them, and leave to time and his better fortune hereafter, to mollify her heart, that was now so inflexibly hard towards him.
Having spun thus much of this history, it is time for me now to take a little breath; and the rather, because I am now come to that part of it that requireth freshest spirits and best attention to set it down; for from henceforward the fortunes of Theagenes mingled themselves with, and had a part in the actions of great princes, and, but that they were guided by a secret working of Divine Providence, did run in such a way, as none could have expected that they would have had such a period of happiness as, at length, they attained unto: which, by the following discourse, you will understand.
The King of Morea being now stricken in years, and having but one only son, was daily moved by the nobles of the state to dispose of him in marriage in some fitting place; that if heaven blessed him with issue in his father’s life-time, the kingdom’s quiet, which had lately passed dangerous revolutions, might hang by more than one thread: to which advice the old king had formerly been adverse, and by some that knew his nature it was imputed to . . . . [Two lines obliterated.] . . . . should by . . . . gain himself so much strength as might curb him. But now the long experience that he had of the sweetness of his son’s nature, made him void of suspicions or apprehensions on that side; and the great propagation of a sect of religion in his state, that affected popularity and community, and were enemies to all government and magistrates, made him doubt that, in time, it might grow dangerous and hard to suppress; therefore he, that was ever an enemy to proceedings of rigour and open violence, and was an excellent master in all sorts of subtilty, thought it the best way to balance it by introducing another religion directly opposite unto that, which was indeed nothing but a stretching to the utmost extremity, by turbulent brains that affected singularity, those moderate tenets which the whole state professed, when they severed themselves from the general society of belief which was formerly uniform through all Greece, and a great part of Asia and of Africa; and did afford to captious persons cause of cavil rather at the professors than the doctrine; which separation was embraced only by the provinces subject to the crown of Morea, and by the Ionian Islands, and some others in the Archipelago; and that rather for temporal respects, than any great zeal in religion, although that fair pretence did colour the innovations in their long received faith. But now those respects which weighed importantly in this king’s predecessor ceased with him; so that, either through love of truth, which he, being very learned, could not but apprehend rightly, or fear of. the dangerous tenets of the increasing sect, or a desire not to be barred from the society and communion of other princes, without which, he saw it was impossible for him or his successors to perform great and glorious actions, as his ancestors had done, his heart was vehemently beat to unite his people with the rest of the adjoining princes in the firm knot of conscience, faith. Which yet he saw was not expedient for him to do by any direct means, therefore he deemed it his best to oblige the King of Egypt to him, by the marriage of his son to that king’s daughter: hoping thus insensibly to bring in the general opinion, and to overrun the new ones by that match; the King of Egypt being the principal and most powerful maintainer of that side. To which negociation he chose Aristobulus, a near kinsman of Theagenes, who, in the reputation of solid wisdom and rigid honesty, advanced all the other noblemen that were of council to him; and from a younger brother, that had but a small estate left him, though he were of a noble house, had, by his own industry, raised himself and his fortunes to as high a pitch as a subject may aim unto in a monarchy: and that not by a servile manner, or by multitude of offices, or by the direct favour of his prince; but having, at the first, which was his greatest difficulty, found means to make known his intellectual abilities of serving his master, he ever after, in a generous manner, raised himself by degrees, and made his way with his own virtue, so that all men concurred in saying, that his preferments were but condign rewards in justice due to his transcendant merits. He then, having public and secret instructions from the King of Morea, had been in Egypt, and in effect concluded the match between the two kings’ children, when the unexpected death of the Egyptian king disordered all the former treaties, so that some time was lost in renewing of them; and he sent again to Alexandria to the young king, the lady’s brother, to have him confirm what his father consented unto: upon which employment he was, when the fame of Theagenes’s hopefulness was spread from Ionia to Egypt, between which two countries there was continual and settled intercourse, so that Aristobulus, who had, with many others of his friends, lamented his death, much rejoiced in that news; and wisely considering that as the training up of youth in virtuous exercises of the mind and body is at the first mainly necessary, so to continue too long in such a school is a frustrating of the intent of it, and loss of that time which should be employed in the practice of such acquired knowledge and cunning; he therefore sent on purpose into Ionia to invite him to come to him to Alexandria, where he had plentiful means to put him in a way of benefiting himself. and making himself known in great actions; and withal would not be a little glad to have near him, one upon whose love and faith and resolution he might so firmly rely; for by his marching in a path of honour in a way by himself, which lie did, as it were, by main force hew out of the rock of virtue, and, being contrary to the current of those depraved times, he had acquired himself many and powerful enemies. Theagenes receiving this friendly invitation, and all places being now indifferent unto him, for he received joy in nothing, since she, in whom he had placed it, was become the cause of hi9 sharpest grief, he did soon condescend to comply with Aristobulus’s kind request; and, although he had banished from him all wishes and desires of good to himself since he was frustrated of it where he only desired it, yet his generous heart represented to him, that it would be meanness in him not to employ, for others’ profit, those talents which God and better nature had bestowed upon him. Wherefore with this mind, but overclouded with sorrow and deep melancholy, he began his journey for Alexandria, going the first part of it by land, and the rest by sea. In the continuance of which, it was his fortune to fall into the company of a Brachman of India, who shaped his course the same way that he did; which man, as his name giveth him out to be, was one of those that the Indians held in great veneration for their professed sanctity and deep knowledge of the most hidden mysteries of theology and of nature; in which this priest of theirs exceeded most of his time, and yet was possessed with such an ardent desire of bettering his knowledge, that when he conceived he had attained to the complete understanding of such learning as wad in practice among them, he left his own native country and friends, and travelled into the western parts of the world to partake of what sciences flourished there. With this man then, Theagenes, whose mind yet was not altogether out of love with intellectual notions, entered into much familiarity, whereby he had daily more cause not only to admire his wisdom, but withal his grave conversation was mingled with so much grace and with such attractive sweetness, that he grew very affectionate to him, wherein it seemed that the good old man was no whit behindhand with Theagenes; so that one day, as they rid together behind the rest of the company, being grown confident that what he spoke with reverence would be well taken, he said thus to him: “I have found, worthy Theagenes, so much nobleness and generousness in you, accompanied with such friendliness to me that I have reason to thank my stars when first they made me fall into your company; but withal I have upon occasions observed so much sadness and deep conceived grief to sit upon your brow, that my dear affection to you, which I hope will excuse my presumption, hath often-times called upon me, and now at length forceth me, to beseech you, if you may, to communicate the cause of it unto me; that knowing it, if my advice or endeavours may avail to do you service, I may employ them; or at the least, if I cannot help you, I may condole with you your misfortunes.”
“Reverend Sir,” answered then Theagenes with a deep sigh, “any thing concerning me is not worthy your thoughts, which are always employed in divine and high speculations; but since you descend so low as to take notice of the outward apparel of my afflicted mind, I will give you thus much satisfaction herein, as to tell you that my misfortunes are such as it is not in the power of any man to remedy them; and then it is not reason that so desertless a consideration should draw an unprofitable compassion from you to disturb that quiet joy that your mind resteth happy in.”
“But,” replied the priest, “if you will not acquaint me with the particular, give me leave to tell you in general, that no accident can be so bad in this life, but that the celestial bodies have power to turn it to good; and when men bear their adversities with temperate and constant minds, it doth in a manner challenge of justice that they reward his patience with that blessing.”
“Ah,” then cried out Theagenes, “if those superior lights had the rule of men’s actions and fortunes, then should not I that have deserved the best of goods, I speak it without ostentation and only for truth’s sake, be now rewarded with the worst of evils; but it is blind chance that governeth the worlds which mingleth and shuffleth men’s good and bad actions, and their condign retributions, in fatal darkness, and then distributeth them with promiscuous error.”
“You cannot be a competent judge,” answered the Brachman, “in your own cause; therefore, if you will let me know what it is that thus afllicteth you, I doubt not but to make you evidently see the error of what you now said, and confess that not chance, but the heavens and stars govern this world, which are the only books of fate; whose secret characters and influence, but few, divinely inspired, can read in the true sense that their Creator gave them.”
“I am glad,” replied Theagenes, “of any diversion to draw my thoughts from the corrosive object that night and day they feed upon; but now particularly, that your discourse hath offered a means not only of doing that, but also to inform my ignorance: therefore I beseech you mention no more that which I were happy if I could forget; but for my instruction give me leave to oppose you in that you say the stars are the books of fate; which seemeth to imply such a necessity in human actions as well as in other’ natural ones, that it overthroweth quite the liberty of the will, which certainly is the only preeminence that man can glory in, and that we are taught to believe, and see evidently to be true.”
“This objection of yours,’” answered the Brachman, “is the subject of a large dispute, which is too long now to be handled; but for your satisfaction, I will briefly run over some of the principal heads of it; from which you may of yourself draw many other conclusions. Know then that the infinite wisdom of Him who created all things, and disposed them with admirable sweetness, did frame this world and all that is in it in such an artificial order, that contrariety and disagreeing qualities is the only knot of this perfect concord; in the elements it is apparent, and in the virtual qualities of simples, where fire and water, poisons and antidotes, heat and cold, dryness and moisture, are always equally found; as also in all things whatsoever of this sublunary world, which, consisting of several creatures of differing degrees of perfection, do serve us as so many steps to ascend to the knowledge of what is above us. A more admirable order and fuller of divine wisdom cannot be conceived, therefore God hath also used it in the superior creatures, the noblest of which are human souls; in which one may consider an entire liberty together with a constrained necessity, which no way impeach or hinder one another; for to these he gave a capacity of the greatest perfection that any creature may possess, to wit, the power of uniting themselves by blessed vision to His eternal and infinite essence; the means of attaining to the which, is like only to free actions; which liberty, as it hath relation to us and to our actions, is entire in the highest degree, and without any constraint at all: but if we have relation to the prescience of God, who from all eternity knoweth all earthly things, and to whom nothing is past or to come, but all present, then I say that our actions are included within a necessity of being conformable to God’s knowledge, which cannot err. This knowledge, then, of God, is a law or prescript for the coming to pass of all things, be they either the actions of free agents, or future contingents, or the changes and vicissitudes of natural agents; but He that framed nature doth but seldom, and that for deep and mysterious cause, interpose Himself immediately in any thing, but leaveth the course of all things to that rule which in the beginning of things he prescribed; that is, that inferiors should be subaltern unto and guided by their superiors; the heaven, then, and stars being so in respect of us, not only in place but in dignity, in duration, in quantity, in quality, and in purity of substance, it is agreeable to reason that they by their influence do govern this inferior world.”
“Certainly,” replied Theagenes, “your discourse is full of much learning and subtlety; but the prescience of God being such a vast abyss and immense ocean, that whosoever saileth in it by the compass of reason, cannot choose but suffer shipwreck, I think it will be our best to row along the shore, where without danger we may examine that part of this question that concerneth only ourselves. Therefore, if there be any natural and philosophical reason to confirm the doctrine of the stars being the cause and foreshewers of men’s fortunes and future contingents, I shall be glad to understand it from you; for in sundry of them there concur so many several and different accidents to bring forth some one effect, that it cannot sink into me how a general cause, as I conceive the heaven to be at the most, can extend itself to so many particulars.”
“It is the generality and vast comprehension,” replied the Indian priest, “of the cause that enfoldeth the great number of particular effects; but since you have confined me to that part which only concerneth us, and will not have me touch upon the prescience of God, that is the rule of free agents, who are subordinate to it, I must also, in the following discourse, set aside those actions that depend immediately upon the liberty of the will; and for the influence of the heavens into the elements and elementated substances which causeth alterations in the humours of man’s body and several seasons of the years, and plenty, and dearths, and pestilence, it is so evident to sense, that I shall not need to speak of it; therefore, to prove the future contingencies depend upon them, which only remaineth for me to treat of, I will say this; that as every cause hath of necessity some effect subsequent, so every effect, with like necessity, implieth a precedent cause, they being relatives; and since no man can deny that accidents and future contingents are the effects of something, let us examine what may be their cause. Such as depend immediately upon free-will enter not into this consideration, for at the beginning we excepted them. The operations of elementated agents are necessary and constrained, and extendeth no farther than to natural alterations when agents and patients meet, so that men’s fortunes and contingent actions are out of their sphere; what then can govern them? Is it blind chance, as you seemed even now in some passion to intimate, that without reason, or knowledge, or attention, shaketh so many various accidents out of her lap? Truly this objection deserveth no reply, since it is evident with what exact order God hath disposed all things else, and therefore certainly would not leave man alone in so miserable a condition, to be guided by such a blind and monstrous guide; nor is it consentaneous unto reason, to think that angels and devils do interpose themselves in our ordinary and familiar actions, since the first are expressly sent by God, and that only when they may be the means of some great and spiritual good unto us; and the other do maliciously intrude themselves only when they have hope to work our misery and ruin: it remaineth then only that the heavens and stars must of necessity be allowed by us to be the causes of all contingent accidents, and the authors of our fortunes and actions, whereby the liberty of the will doth not immediately and expressly repugn and wrestle against the disposition of the heavens; which I am sure you, that will admit no farther of this doctrine than this latter and undeniable part, will grant to be so few, that it may be a question whether there be really any such or no, or that this be only an abstracted speculation of the understanding. And why should any man make difficulty to acknowledge this virtue in the stars, since somewhere it must be granted, seeing the notorious effects and excellencies that they have in other things, as I have already touched? Surely those glorious and vast bodies were not made and endued with a constant motion only for vain men to gaze upon? Then let me conclude with this, that since to meaner lights, as to comets, and other meteors drawn from low and putrified places of the earth, of whose infectious and pestilent vapours they consist, and are then set on fire in the air, we by daily experience, attribute the ominous presages of the death of kings, of revolutions of empires, wars, pestilence, famine, dearths, and such other dire effects; let us without difficulty acknowledge a nobler operation in these glorious bodies that are the efficient causes of the other; and having admitted them for causes, you will grant that who hath the knowledge of their nature, may, by calculating their motions for time to come, prognosticate their effects.”
“I would to God,” said then Theagenes, “that you were as well pleased in instructing me, as I am delighted in learning of you; then would I desire the clearing of a matter which you touched upon in this discourse, since I must confess I remain much satisfied in this concerning the operations of the stars; and I conceive it will not be abruptly moved by me now, considering that the practice which dependeth upon the theorical knowledge of what I desire to be informed of, hath a near affinity to the science of the stars; and, if we may credit rumour, is often joined to it by the professors of the other, when that proveth defective.”
“Let no other motive,” replied the Brachman, “but your being weary of my ignorant discourses detain you from proposing any doubt you have unto me, and I shall strive the best that I can to deliver the knowledge of truth unto you; wherein, although I must acknowledge myself to have been but a weak proficient, yet the desire I have to answer your expectation of me, I find doth exalt my soul to higher notions than otherwise it would have; so that if I speak any thing to the purpose, you are the cause of it, and I must thank you for it.”
“I perceive,” replied Theagenes, “that courteous language is not confined to princes’ palaces, since you, who have ever studied things and not words, are so complete a master therein; but in you I am sure it proceedeth from a nobler cause than either affectation or custom; it is your inherent modesty, which is an inseparable companion to virtue, that in your own opinion lesseneth yourself as much as others admire and esteem you, of which number I will presume to place myself in the foremost rank. But to express, in short, what it is that I desire you to instruct me in, you may remember how even now you intimated that upon some occasions angels and devils do interpose themselves in our actions: which is a doctrine so contrary, in my opinion, to the rule of reason, that I must confess I cannot make myself capable of it. I will let pass the operations of angels, which, you seemed to say, were sent to us as messengers and effecters of God’s will, because I will not treat of the immediate and extraordinary Divine Power, to which all things are easy: but my arguments shall be against the power of action of the infernal spirits upon any material substance; who, you say, are induced by their own malicious will to disturb our quiet, or to do us hurt. But before I go any farther, I desire to know your opinion whether it be in their natural power to do the least action that may be imagined upon any corporeal object, or so much as to appear to our eyesight, either by deluding our sense or assuming a fantastic body of air?”
“Surely,” answered the Brachman, “if I should entertain the least doubt of it, I should repugn too grossly against the authority of innumerable classical writers and believed histories and against daily experience; and if you do, I will undertake to reduce you with ease and suddenly out of this error: but first, I shall be glad to understand your reasons, that may make you of a different belief.”
“That which you urge of many confident stories of this nature recorded by grave authors,” replied Theagenes, “would weigh much with me, if I had not express and evident demonstration against what they deliver; but as for daily experience, I attribute nothing at all to that, since I will yield to none in industry and curiosity to satisfy myself herein, but yet never could; and have been so conversant with deceits in this kind, wherein many men strive by a strong but depraved and false imagination to deceive themselves, that I dare credit nothing that I see not myself. I will not deny but that spirits may work upon a man’s mind, by reason that souls and they are comprehended under the same degree and kind of substance; but bodies and spirits are of so contrary a nature, that there can be no communion between them; for in all actions there must be a proportionate means of operation between the agent and the patient, which in spiritual substances among themselves I conceive to be the understanding and will; and of material ones, in living creatures the senses, and in other bodies the primary qualities of the material forms; but between bodies and spirits I cannot conceive what tie or means of conjunction there can be: so that I think I may safely conclude, that they can neither appear to us, nor assume bodies, nor cause tempests or impressions in the air, nor speak or cause any sound, nor transport any thing, the least material atom in the world, from place to place, nor do any hurt at all to the most wretched reprobate that is.”
“I must confess,” answered the Brachman, after some pause, “that the argument you use is very subtle, and seemeth to proceed from strength of reason; but much and different things and unprofitable dispute; since we cannot affirm any thing definitely; or otherwise than by guess, of things above us, and that it is in my power, as I said to you before, to shew you by lively and undeniable experience that what you impugn is true; which I the more freely offer unto you, because methought you said you had long in vain sought to satisfy yourself herein, bat yet never could: therefore I will boldly do for you, whom I have reason to affect so much, what to another I would not acknowledge to be in my power; so that do but tell me what you desire to be informed of, be it never so remote, or in what form you would have a spirit appear unto you, and your wish shall be undoubtedly accomplished.”
“Your authority and credit,” answered Theagenes, “weigheth as much with me to beget belief in me, as my senses can; therefore I will now no longer question the possibility of these things; with which credence I think it will be best for us both that I rest satisfied, since I conceive that such an experiment as you speak of, will require long time to perfect it, and many troublesome preparations, and be dangerous in the effecting it, through the rebellious contumacy of the infernal spirits, which only I conceive to be at men’s command, if any be.”
“If no other respect detain you,” replied the Brachman, “these excuses shall not make me waive the satisfying your curiosity, for they weigh not at all with me. It is true that all those things which you mentioned, do happen when there is no ground laid beforehand for such an experiment; but he is a weak man that will destroy that masterpiece which with much labour he hath brought to pass, when for the present he hath no more use of it, and so upon every occasion must begin that work wholly anew; when after much patience made Theagenes remain some time in suspense; but in the end, the seeing of the means so near him to satisfy his anxious mind in the particulars of what he yet but obscurely and generally understood, did so stir up and inflame his restless thoughts, beyond the learned curiosity of being informed of the truth herein, which the other did in a manner drown, it did so far exceed it, that he now forgot all other respects, and addressed his speech in this manner to the Indian magician:
“This last obligation, reverend Sir, in communicating with me the most recluse mysteries of your profound sciences, exceedeth my possibility of thanks; but you may judge what a deep sense I have of it, since that alone shall draw from me the confession of what formerly your much urging me could not, and which nothing but my solitary pillow, continually wet with my abundant tears, or some sequestered desert place have heard me tell: I mean the sad cause of my eternal sorrow, which, though I strived to disguise yet you straight observed. Lend then your ears to the short story of long and remediless grief: which thus beginneth. My malevolent stars, whom now by you instructed, I believe do rule men’s fortunes and actions by their influence, engaged my affections to the fairest lady that ever displayed her golden tresses to the less beautiful sun. In her I lived, and she awhile in me, if with the magic of her enchanting looks she had not also sucked in the art of deep dissimulation and deceit. To her I vowed my virgin affections, and she hers to me; which vows were renewed between us when I last left her, and with her the best part of my soul and all my joys; but since, ah! cursed change, I hear that she hath forgot her serious and religious protestations, and hath entertained into her false breast a new affection, with dishonourable and impure flames. It is but a wild and imperfect relation that hath yet come to me, but such as did at the instant almost strike me dead, and hath made me ever since hate my life. Now my desire is, since you do not confine it within any bounds, that I may be particularly informed of all passages concerning her since I last saw her; so that I may either from the truth, which yet may be disguised or overshadowed to me, draw some ground of comfort, at least of less sorrow, or else have a perfect knowledge of her unworthiness and my misery, since suspended and uncertain thoughts is the greatest anguish that can happen to the mind. This, then, is the cause of my sorrow, and the sum of what I desire.”
He had scarce drawn his sorrowful relation to an end, which was interrupted with such deep sighs, as though his heart would have followed his words, when the Magician drew out of his bosom a little book enclosed in a leaden cover, and the leaves of it made of the thin and membraneous skins of unborn lambs, which were inscribed with various figures and pentacles and sigils of sundry colours; which opening, he said, “Now I will confirm what I have spoken, and give you complete satisfaction in what you request, whereunto all circumstances are propitious; the day being clear and serene, the sun having got the victory of all the obscure clouds that this morning would have darkened his beams, and the place where we chance now to be in so opportune, that we cannot wish a better.”
With that, they alighted from their horses, and went some distance out of the path, among the trees that grew thick there, while all the way the Brachman kept his eyes fixed upon the magical characters of his, as he called it, sacred book, and murmured to himself words of a strange sound. But they had not gone far when Theagenes of a sudden stopped, and held the Priest that was going forwards, and pointed to him with his hand to that object that stayed his steps. It was a lady sitting upon a broken trunk of a dead and rotten tree, in a pensive posture, so that but part of her face was discovered to them, but the general composure of her limbs was so admirable, that Theagenes doubted whether it were a goddess or a human creature. Her radiant hair hung dishevelled upon her white shoulders, and together with them, was covered with a thin veil that from the crown of her head reached to the ground, through which they shined as the sun doth through a pale cloud, and sometimes without that eclipsing shade did send out direct and unbroken beams, and so doubled the day of beauty; which was caused by a gentle air, that, as being jealous of that senseless veil, did blow it ever and anon away, and played with those bright hairs, adding new curled waves to those that nature made there. In her fair face one might discern lilies and roses admirably mixed; but in her lips the rose alone did sit enthroned in sweet majesty; her eyes, as being niggardly of casting away their heart-piercing beams, were hid by her modest lids, which so veiled love’s treasure and theirs; her swelling breast did expose to view of greedy eyes his naked and miraculous snow, where love, though he were frozen, would recover heat again; part of her swelling bosom appeared, but the greater part an envious vest did cover; her cheek reposed upon her alabaster hand, and her courteous sleeve discovered most part of her fair arm, which rested upon her knee, while she with her sighs seemed to talk with her own thoughts. Whether she then wept or no he could not well discern, but might perceive her cheeks moist with a precious dew, and the hairs of her eyelids bedecked with orient pearls, which seemed like the pleasing drops of a gentle summer shower while the sun shineth. He remained awhile as in a trance through astonishment at this unexpected and fair sight, till the Magician coming nearer to the melancholy lady, she, as though she had been diverted from the train of her meditations by the noise that he made in coming towards her, turning her head that way, rose suddenly up, and then Theagenes knew the face of his once beloved Stelliana, which seemed to be overclouded with grief, but so that sorrow there looked more lovely than joy could do in any other place. He then felt a strange conflict within himself between love and disdain, each of which by turns set their ensigns in his face as they had the better in his heart; sometimes fire would sparkle in his eyes, and his enflamed looks give evident sign of the anger that boiled within him; but then straight a congealed paleness would witness his repentance for his former rash thoughts. But in the end the most humane passion got the victory, for certainly a true love can never turn to hate; and how could it be otherwise, but that his heart must yield when the powerful object was in his presence, which could not banish love, though it were eclipsed with sorrow, in so long an absence, and having so seeming a just cause? Not being able then any longer to contain himself, he ran towards her, and kneeling down, offered to take her snowy hand, and was beginning to speak, when a greater wonder drew him to silent admiration; for when he thought he had taken her by the hand, he found that he grasped nothing but air, which discourteously fled from his embraces; as also three several times that he strived to take hold of the hem of her garment, so many times he found himself deceived. But then the Brachman coming to him and raising him up, told him how this was nothing but a vision procured by his art, and that that spirit should answer him to whatsoever he demanded; and that he chose this form to make him appear in, to the end that he might judge by the true resemblance of her countenance and posture, the quality and temper of her mind; which he said to have been really such ever since the news of his death, and that the greatness of her sorrow was the origin and cause of her misfortune and his affliction. Theagenes then cried out, “I now believe that infernal spirits can transform themselves into the appearance of angels of light; and since you would take upon you the shape of such a one, you have done discreetly to choose hers that is the perfectest work that God hath created.”
Then he began to question the spirit concerning her whom he represented, and had a large relation of what you have already heard; all which he as greedily listened unto, as the poor prisoner at the bar doth to an unexpected sentence of absolution that the judge favourably pronounceth in his cause; for he evidently saw that she could not be accused of an unworthy mind, or of a depraved will, or of inconstant affection; but that it was the unjustness of fortune, or, at the worst, a little indulgency of a gentle nature which sprung from some indiscretion, or rather want of experience, that made her liable to censure. After he had satisfied himself in every particular, and that he could bethink himself no more to ask, he felt his heart swell with a tender passion which even melted it, and made him as one drunk with joy, understanding that her soul was pure and her mind the same that he ever believed it to be. But strong affection being always accompanied with doubts and fears, the edge of his joy was taken off, when he considered who it was that gave him this relation; but as he remained wavering in himself, irresolute which way his belief should sway, the spirit spoke thus again to him: “Although it be denied both to blessed angels and to us, to know the secrets of hearts and the simple meditations of the soul within itself; yet when the thoughts go beyond those bounds, and make any of the interior senses the seat of their agitation, then they are plain and manifest to us; so that I now read in thy fantasy and know thy doubts and fears as well as thyself; and the little credit thou dost give to my words. It might satisfy thee to know that those powerful exorcisms that have bound me where I am, do also bind me to obedience and truth; but thou shalt have a more material testimony to witness for me that I know and speak truth, and that within a few days; therefore, when thou shalt find thyself in the midst of a troop of armed men, and having no other weapon but thy sword, shall wound most of them, and save thy own life by killing two, the principal of them: then remember that I have foretold thee of it, and believe what I have said of Stelliana’s integrity, and that in despite of all oppositions and both your strongest resolutions, you two must be joined in one sacred knot; for none can change, though awhile they may struggle with fate.” And with that he suddenly vanished out of their sight, the Brachman having formally licensed him, and shut his book, when he perceived by the silence of Theagenes that he had no more to ask.
It was not long before the accomplishment of what this spirit prophesied, purchased in him a greater confidence in the rest that he had said: for after Theagenes had embarked himself to follow on his intended journey, a favourable wind in a short time brought him to Alexandria; whither he sent a servant one day before him to provide him a convenient house near the Ambassador’s, and other necessaries; and the next day came thither himself, and the first thing he did was to go kiss the hand of his kinsman Aristobulus, who received him with all the demonstration of joy and honour that might be, and caused him to stay supper with him; after which he sent his son Leodivius with many of his servants and torches, to accompany him to his lodging, which was not far off. But the night had slided so insensibly away while they were in their pleasing conversation, it being the nature of long absence of dear friends to cause at their first encounter much greediness of enjoying each other, that when they came out of the house they found the streets quiet and no living creature stirring in them; and the moon, which was then near the full, shining out a clear light upon them, so that the coolness and solitude was the greatest sign that it was not noon-day. Wherefore they caused the lights and other servants to stay there, who then could serve but for vain magnificence, and Theagenes sent his servants to his lodging before, while he, and Leodivius, and another gentleman, that Leodivius took with him to accompany him, that he might not return all alone to his father’s house, came softly after, sucking in the fresh air, and pleasing themselves in the coolness of the night which succeeded a hot day, it being then in the beginning of the summer: but as they were entertaining themselves in some gentle discourse, a rare voice, accompanied with a sweet instrument, called their ears to silent attention, while with their eyes they sought to inform themselves where the person was that sung, when they saw a gentlewoman in a loose and night habit, that stood in an open window supported like a gallery with bars of iron, with a lute in her hand, which with excellent skill she used to keep time with her divine voice, and that issued out of as fair a body, by what they could judge at that light, only there seemed to sit so much sadness upon her beautiful face, that one might judge she herself took little pleasure in her own soul-ravishing harmony. The three spectators remained attentive to this fair sight and sweet music, Leodivius only knowing who she was, who coming a little nearer towards the window, fifteen men all armed, as the moon shining upon their bucklers and coats of mail did make evident, rushed out upon him with much violence, and with their drawn swords made so many furious blows and thrusts at him, that if his better genius had not defended him it had been impossible that he could have outlived that minute; but he, nothing at all dismayed, drew his sword, and struck the foremost of them such a blow upon the head, that if it had not been armed with a good cap of steel, certainly he should have received no more cumber from that man; yet the weight of it was such that it made the Egyptian run reeling backwards two or three steps, and the blade, not able to sustain such a force, broke in many pieces, so that nothing but the hilts remained in Leodivius’s hand; who seeing himself thus disarmed, suddenly recollected his spirits, and using short discourse within himself, resolved, as being his best, to run to bis father’s house to call for assistance to bring off in safety his kinsman and his other friend, whose false sword served him in the same manner as Leodivius’s had done, as though they had conspired to betray their masters in their greatest need. Here one might see differing effects from like causes, for a like resolute valour without astonishment that caused Leodivius to run discreetly away for succour, caused him to stand still in the place where his sword broke, defending his enemies’ blows with the piece that remained in his hand, as being ashamed to leave Theagenes in the midst of so many that strived to take his life from him: but he was soon out of danger by all their pressing beyond him, whom they saw disarmed, to come to Theagenes, who had interposed himself between Leodivius and them that followed him, of which the master of all these bravos was one, so that the rest seeing him engaged in a fierce battle, they all came to assist him. Theagenes then found himself in great perplexity, for having retired to a narrow place of the street, that he might keep his assailants all in front before him, the overhanging pentises took away the light of the moon, and his enemies having at the top of their bucklers artificial lanterns whose light was cast only forwards by their being made with an iron plate on that side towards the holders, so that their bodies remained in darkness, had not only the advantage of seeing him when he could not see them, but also dazzled and offended his eyes with the many near lights, which made him mistake those objects that dimly he discerned. The number of his enemies, and the disparity of the weapons, might have given him just cause to seek the saving of his life rather by the swiftness of his legs than by an obstinate defence; but he, that did not value it at so high a rate as to think that it could warrant such an action, resolved rather to die in the midst of his enemies, than to do any thing that might be interpreted to proceed from fear: with, which resolution he made good the place he stood in, and whensoever any of them were too bold in coming near him, he entertained them with such rude welcomes, that they had little encouragement to make a second return.
After Theagenes had remained some time thus beating down their swords and wounding many of them, and shewing wonderful effects of a settled and not transported valour, and that their beginning to slack their fury in pressing upon him gave a little freedom to his thoughts, all his spirits being before united in his heart and hands, he considered how it must certainly be some mistake that made him to be thus treated by men that he knew not, and to whom he was sure he in his particular could have given no offence, being but that day arrived at Alexandria from very remote parts; wherefore he spoke to them in the best manner he could, to make himself understood in a tongue that he was not well master of, and asked what moved them to use him so discourteously that was a stranger there, and was not guilty of having injured any of them; to which words of his, one that seemed to be of the best quality among them, by a cassock embroidered with gold which he wore over his jack of mail, answered him with much fury in this manner. “Villain, thou liest, thou hast done me wrong which cannot be satisfied with less than thy life; and by thy example let the rest of thy lascivious countrymen learn to shun those gentle-women where other men have interest, as they would do houses infected with the plague, or the thunder that executeth God’s vengeance.” These words put all patience out of Theagenes’s breast, so that now he dispensed his blows rather with fury than art; but his hand was so exercised in the perfectest rules of true art, that without his endeavours or taking notice, it never failed of making exactly regulated motions, which had such force imparted to them by a just anger, that few of them were made in vain. But at length his enemies, that had bought with much of their blood the knowledge of his power and strength, attempted to do that behind him, which they durst not to his face; for some of them running down a little lane that was near the place where they fought, made a circuit and came to assault Theagenes behind, which he perceived by a blow upon his shoulders: but it seemed that the fearful giver of it was so apprehensive lest Theagenes should turn about, that his quaking hand laid it on so softly that it did him no hurt, but served to warn him of the danger he was in. He then perceiving himself thus beset on every side, summoned all his spirits to serve him at this his so great necessity, and choosing to cut his way through the thickest of them, that so it might appear that he wrought his own liberty in despite of their strongest oppositions, did make a quick thrust at him that was nearest before him, which entering within his weapons before he was aware that he had occasion to ward it, Theagenes accompanied it with the whole weight of his body, running on so violently, as the other’s jack not giving way, and his sword not yielding, he bore him down, and running over him made him serve for a bridge to cross the kennel. He being thus acquit of their besieging him, began to retire himself with a settled pace towards the Ambassador’s house, but in such a manner, that though his feet carried him one way his face looked another, and his hands sent forwards many bloody messages of his angry spirit; but one of them pressed so eagerly and unwarily upon him, that as he lifted up his sword to make a blow at Theagenes, he avoided it with a gentle motion of his body, and gave him such a strong reverse upon the head, that finding it disarmed, for he had lost his iron cap with much stirring in the scuffle, it divided it in two parts, and his brains flew into his neighbour’s face; upon whom Theagenes turned, having thus rid himself of his fiercest enemy, and stepping in with his left leg, made himself master of his sword, and with his own did run him into the belly under his jack, so that he fell down, witnessing with a deep groan that his life was at her last minute. The other Egyptians by that knew him to be their master, for whose quarrel only they all fought, so that they left Theagenes, and all of them attended to succour their wounded lord; but all too late, for without ever speaking, he gave up his ghost in their arms: while by this means Theagenes, who received but little hurt, had time to walk leisurely to the Ambassador’s house, from whence, upon the alarm that Leodivius gave, many were coming to his rescue with such arms as, hastily, they could recover; the cause of whose coming so late, for he met them half way, was, that it was long before Leodivius, though he knocked and called aloud, could get the gates open; for all in the house were gone to take their rest.
The next day the cause of this quarrel was known; which was, that a nobleman of that country, having interest in a gentlewoman that lived not far from Aristobulus’s house, was jealous of Leodivius, who had carried his affections too publicly; so that this night he had forced her to sing in the window where Leodivius saw her, hoping by that means to entice him to come near to her, while he lay in ambush, as you have heard, to take his life from him.
This action made the name of Theagenes known not only in Egypt, but in Morea; whither it was daily carried and related by sundry mouths, who were filled with many other high commendations added to the fame of his valour; so that it was not long before Stelliana had news that Theagenes was not dead; who, if before she lamented the loss of him, had now as much reason to renew the lamentations of her own misfortunes, which, she feared, would make her eternally to lose him, though his other friends had found him again; and thus, in the midst of all their joy, she alone remained in clouds of sorrow.
But before I engage my pen in continuing the sad story of her griefs, it will not be amiss that I set down how it came to pass that there was then such frequent intercourse between Morea and Egypt, that all things done in Alexandria came to be so suddenly known at Corinth.
Aristobulus having, through his wise and prudent negociation, concluded the marriage between the King of Morea’s son, and the King of Egypt’s sister, had wrought into the treaty thereof conditions of so much advantage for his side, that Hephaestion, who was the old King’s favourite, doubted that if he alone had the honour of it, he should gain thereby so much strength that he might in time be able to contest in greatness with him, who had ever a jealous eye of his rising, and did himself subsist only by his master’s favour; wherefore, perceiving now that any delay would make it too late to prevent these fears, he resolved to make use of the King’s affection towards him, and taking that business out of the hands of Aristobulus, that he had so much laboured in with happy success, to attribute to himself the honour of effecting, it: whereupon he procured for himself an extraordinary commission of embassage, with full power to do what he thought fit in this treaty, which, to colour his actions, he pretended to be full of difficulties; and to strengthen his proceedings, and to have a favourable witness of what he should do, he carried the Prince with him into Egypt, who he loved him much, if not more than, his father, where, after a laborious and dangerous journey, they arrived safe the day after Theagenes’s fight: which possessing all men with wonder, and he finding many friends that came to attend the Prince, they did both write the relation of it, and many that were daily sent with advertisements from his son to the old King, did carry the news of it to Corinth, where Stelliana, sequestering herself from all company, did spend her sad days and widow nights in continual weeping; for when she looked upon her own actions, she had just cause to fear that Theagenes’s affection was withdrawn from her; and when she considered his, from whom in so long time as she had been absent, she had never received any letter, she fully believed it: so that the continuance of sorrow brought her, at length, to this pass, that she seemed to be neither desirous nor capable of comfort; and all things were indifferent to her almost broken heart, only Mardontius she did hate with as much bitterness as so sweet a soul could entertain, as being the cause of all her misfortunes; who, being inflamed by her disdains, did now again renew his suit to her with more violence than ever he had done before, and cursed himself for throwing away, like a prodigal wretch, the jewel which he would now sell himself to buy; giving clear testimony how love in a weak soul, like a river that wanteth banks to keep it in, languisheth when it meeteth with no impediments.
In the mean time the Prince being at Alexandria, the Egyptian counsellors, for to them only the ungentle using of the Prince was to be attributed, the King being very young, were so little sensible of the great obligation that his Highness did put upon them by trusting his person with great confidence to them, that they sought to make advantage of his being there, and to draw him to new and harder conditions, especially in matters of religion, than before were agreed upon. Whereupon Hephaestion taxed Aristobulus for having given undue advertisements in his letters home, making the matter better than, in effect, he found it to be: but Aristobulus shewed to the Prince and him the original writings signed by the King and his council before their coming; so that he attributed these new difficulties only to Hephaestion’s precipitate journey and his rash bringing the Prince along with him; which difference of theirs, finding their affections much alienated before, did, at length, break out into an open enmity, which was the cause of overthrowing so great a business, that, by effecting it, would have brought notable blessings to both the crowns, and by the miscarrying hath since caused great miseries to them both. For Hephaestion, relying upon his two masters favours, and making use of the strength of his commission, excluded Aristobulus totally from any part in his negociations, and whensoever he offered, though with never so much humility, any counsel unto the Prince, he would oppose it, and do contrary to it, only for the giver’s sake. Yet Aristobulus was so affectionate to his Lord’s service, that these and many other unworthy affronts moved him to no passion; but since his advice delivered in public did hurt rather than good, he desisted from that, and laboured, by secret ways, to advance his master’s ends, although he was sure that no honour or thanks could redound from thence unto himself, knowing that good actions reward themselves in the very doing, and that virtue ought to be loved only for herself, and not for any other respect. In particular, he laboured much with the Mufti of the Egyptians, who is the chief man in ecclesiastical affairs, to facilitate the new difficulties, to whom he employed Theagenes for the most part, having learned by long experience that an acceptable messenger doth much advance any business; for he understood that he was very welcome to the Mufti both for the strait friendship that he had with some of his nearest kinsmen in Ionia, of whence he was, and received letters from them by Theagenes, but, principally, because their religion was the same, which was but rare, and therefore by him the more esteemed, among the Moreans. One time, among the rest, when Theagenes came from thence, and related how he had behaved himself in what he went about, Aristobulus applauding much the well carriage of it, and rejoicing in the happy success, addressed these words unto him. “It is a very great comfort to me, my much loved cousin, to see that I have a kinsman, to whom I am tied with so many bonds of affection and respect as I am to you, that God and nature have been so liberal unto us to confer upon him such excellent abilities of the mind as they have upon you; so that I do not know wherein any man may justly say that you are short. I will only accuse fortune that hath given you your education in a religion that is contrary to what now reigneth in Peloponnesus; which little region, to us that are born there, and have our acquaintance, friends, and estates there, is of larger extent and of more weight than all the world besides. I have ever been an enemy to use persuasions in matters of faith, or to seek by argument to bring any one to the belief of mine; since that in this matter where reason falleth so far short, it is easier to raise scruples than to quiet them, like those unskilful conjurors that cannot lay the rebellious spirits that they have called: but if my prayers to God may take effect, I hope we shall not be long in different opinions; knowing how much to your advantage it would be for you to conform yourself to these times, in which I do not think that any man is likely to go beyond you in having honourable and great employments from your Prince, whereby you may win yourself much honour, and illustrate our whole family, if that only consideration do not prove an impediment.” Whereunto Theagenes replied in this manner: “My own imperfections, much honoured Lord, are so apparent to me who am daily conversant with them, that although I dare not admit the least thought of taxing your judgment, yet I find that you look upon me through the glass of affection, which maketh all things in me that are of the colour of goodness to appear much greater and fairer than, in reality, they are; but my aim shall be to raise up myself to that image and idea you have conceived of me, and so make myself the worthier of that good will which you are pleased to bear me, and hath, on my side, yet no other tie but a deep and affectionate reverence to your goodness and worth. But, in particular, whereas you intimate that I should be framed in such a mould as that I may be fit for the service of my King and affairs of state, I must confess ingenuously, that I find in myself no inclination at all that way; and, indeed, my education hath been very contrary thereunto, for hitherto I have conversed the most part of my time with the gentler Muses, or, at the least, grounded my chief delight in them, who are enemies to the troubles and disquiets that accompany an active life: yet withal, I will never be so ungrateful to God that gave me a soul, and to the world in which I live, as though I were born only to myself, that I will refuse any offered means of doing service to God, the King, or my Country; but, certainly, I will never lose the happy rest that I may enjoy by anxious seeking those occasions, which, when I have met withal, I may peradventure be unfit for. I conceive the surest way is to leave the disposing of one’s course of life to the Divine Providence, and for the rest, to bear an even mind and a quiet soul, which will, and only can make one happy in any fortune or vocation. But for what you speak concerning religion, I shall say as you did, that I wish we may not be long in different opinions; but I mean, by your embracing of mine, not I of yours; and to the end that you may judge whether I do it with reason or no, I will deliver to you in general the qualities of mine; and I am confident that neither you nor any rational man will then condemn them. The first and principal consideration, and of the most importance, I conceive to be, that all honour and glory be given to that general and omnipotent Cause of causes whom all nations adore; wherein we are not likely to err if we look but into our own hearts, which are the temples he delighteth most in, and then worship that Author of nature according as we find written there; and whosoever doth thus, though they fall short in the knowledge of all other mysteries, I cannot but judge charitably that God’s mercies will supply for their other defects of ignorance. In the next place, I conceive it an indispensable obligation that all they who are born in this part of the world, do receive the first spiritual press-money that he hath ordained, under whose standard we are to fight: and then, that they believe the general and continually received tenets that, without dispute, all men do agree upon, and were impiety to doubt of. Then, besides spiritual ones, many temporal reasons tell me, that it is necessary the government of the church should be monarchical, and the authority of it undeniable, although I will not stretch this with such rigour, but that they, who have ability to judge, may by themselves examine things without peril of damnation; but, withal, I think it fit that it should contain itself within its own limits, and not put forth a proud hand to grasp temporal government, or to control and depose kings, whose persons are sacred by being God’s anointed, and are only liable to his immediate correction, unless peradventure it be in such commonwealths where the people have an interest, and receive their Prince conditionally; and, therefore, certainly no power on earth can absolve subjects from their due and natural obedience to them. Lastly, for other lesser points, I conceive the safest way is to put off all passion, and reining one’s will with all humility to the Creator of all things, and begging the light of grace and of true faith from him, to believe that which one is educated in, and not to think the worse of another that is of different opinions, for no man would be so malicious against himself, as in so important a business to do against what his understanding and conscience do dictate to him; and, for my part, I am so free from partiality that I will confess plainly, I doubt many errors have crept in among us principally by two causes; the one in that when many barbarous nations did overrun the parts where the true faith was professed, and that they plucked up learning, as it were, by the roots; in the next age, in the infancy of the recovery of it, some men, with an ignorant and unlearned zeal, taught some such erroneous doctrine, as since the best wits and greatest scholars do strive to defend, out of reverence to antiquity: and the other, in that now of late since the separation of the churches, there hath been so much way given to the bitterness of passion, and the spirit of contradiction hath prevailed so much, that some of the most learned men have stretched some tenets beyond what, I think, themselves believed. And I doubt not but this ingenuous confession of mine, will draw from you a like acknowledgment of many errors on your side, sprung from like causes. Then to conclude my speech with an answer to the last part of yours, I shall think I have done very well if I can bring myself upon even terms with the world, considering the misfortunes that have accompanied me from my very cradle; and with the rest of our family shall and do rejoice, that you, by your virtuous and heroic actions, have added unto it much honour and splendour.”
Thus Aristobulus and Theagenes spent some time in discourses of this nature, the conclusion of which was, that Aristobulus persuaded his kinsman to apply himself industriously to the service of the Prince, of whom he gave this character. “That he loved and practised justice in the highest degree; was free from passions, and moderate and temperate in all his desires; of a quick apprehension and solid judgment accompanied with much modesty; very pious and devout, and capable of counsel in all occasions that occurred to him; and very constant in his resolutions when, after mature deliberation, he had proposed to himself what course to take; and, in fine, was of such an excellent mixture, that it was not to be doubted but he would be a glorious Prince, if the goodness of his nature did not incline him to be won upon, through affection, by bad counsellors.” Which testimony given of him by one that knew him from his infancy, and the daily seeing him do all princely exercises with singular grace, and his affableness and benignity to all men, made Theagenes in a short time not only dedicate his ordinary attendance to him, but also his heart and all the faculties of his soul: so that he did set himself forward in the noblest manner that he could, and was inferior to none in magnificent expenses, whereby he might make the Prince alike notice how desirous he was to do him honour there, and to gain his favour; and for his diligence about his person he soon got the style of a careful servant. But all the glories of the court, and the beauty of the ladies there, which shined continually like so many stars, could not make him forget, or sweeten his quarrel to womankind in general, for Stelliana’s sake: which gave occasion to the Earl of Arcadia, who was Captain of the King of Morea’s guard, and a complete courtier, and noted for applying himself very affectionately to the service of ladies, to speak thus one day to him, their familiarity warranting any thing that either of them said to the other.
“When I look upon you, Theagenes, methinks I see enough that telleth me your abilities might win you the affection of any lady; but when I consider how you daily pass by the fairest faces without seeming to have any sense of the divine beams of beauty that shine there, I begin to doubt that the fault proceedeth from your mind, which, I understand, hath been trained up continually in scholastical speculations, and hath always conversed with books at such times as you have not exercised your body in the use of arms and managing of horses, and such other disciplines as become a gentleman and a soldier; so that I see there may be excess in the best and most commendable things, for these, that in a moderation may be esteemed chief ornaments, do beget either a dull stupidity or a rude barbarousness in those that adore them too affectionately; and I doubt much that from one of these two causes doth proceed your having no mistress here, where so much beauty reigneth: but I shall fail much of my aim, if, before we go from hence, I do not wean you from your learned modesty, or civilize your martial wildness; one of which certainly it is that maketh your heart so rebellious against the power of fair eyes.” Which when he had said, accompanying his words with smiles, Theagenes answered him in this manner: “You should not censure me before you are certain that I have no mistress, and feel not in my breast the heat of love’s flames; which you cannot collect from my concealing them, since you may have a familiar example in the deepest waters, whose streams slide away with least noise; but, if it were so, I should confess that I owe this blessing to the sacred Muses, which proceedeth then neither from dulness nor want of confidence, as you seem to intimate, but rather it is the soul-ravishing delight which they feed them withal that retire themselves into their sanctuary, that maketh them despise other pleasures as being much below them. But because you shall not think that I make use of this for an excuse, I will do as the famous Syracusan mathematician did, who was long before he could be drawn to let down his knowledge, which soared high in spiritual speculations abstracted from gross matter, and in subtle demonstrations, so low as to employ it in making mechanical instruments, but when he did make use of his knowledge in geometry that way, he effected with the greatest ease that might be, and as it were playing, such admirable things as seemed miracles to the ignorant vulgar, who judge by their senses without going any farther; and yet he despised all those conclusions so much, that he would not leave one word of mention of them to posterity. In like manner, to reduce you out of your error, I will, for a while, make truce with higher contemplations, and let down my judgment to make love to a mistress; in which I dare, beforehand, promise myself such success, that, for the future, you shall have no cause to pity any servant of the Muses for learned modesty; and, because I will leave you no colour for new exceptions, I will apply myself to the service of that great and fair lady for whom you continually sigh, because you receive from her so small encouragement to continue that hitherto unlucky affection of yours; and am so confident of the favour that my learned patronesses may procure me, it being their custom to insinuate themselves with secret sweetness into the most rebellious minds, and to tame the hardest hearts, as I am nothing at all deterred with the consideration that she is the greatest lady of Egypt, and the richest, and of the noblest family, and in highest favour with the Queen; and, hitherto, an enemy to all intimations of love. But, because my conquest may be the more glorious by having a worthy rival, I will engage you to continue your suit, lest when you see me to have got the start of you, you may give over your course, pretending the change of your affection, when, indeed, it is the barrenness of your hopes: therefore name what wager you will venture upon the success of our loves, which the most fortunate man therein shall win, and the Prince shall be our judge.” This overture, made by Theagenes with some earnestness, pleased the Earl very well, who ordered the quality of the wager should be at the loser’s discretion; he being confident to have the advantage in his suit, since his passion was real, and the other’s but feigned; besides that, in every respect for the mysteries of the court and of winning ladies’ affections, wherein he had long experience with happy success, he preferred himself much before Theagenes, who was yet scarce entered into his apprentissage there. But what cannot continual industry bring to pass? and especially with women, whose hearts, for the most part, to those that can take the true height of them, are made of gentle and yielding substance? Certainly it supplieth for all defects, even the want of love, as was evident in Theagenes’s suit; whose personated affection won such a real one from Mauricana, that she lived only in him: and this she expressed in such a public manner, that the Earl, who had never seen towards himself from her other than the effects of a disdainful mistress, could not choose but acknowledge it, and giving over his fruitless labour, yielded the loss of his wager to Theagenes; who, till then, never omitted any occasion of endearing himself into the affection of his princely lady. For whensoever she went abroad, he was the next to attend her chair; if she went to any place of devotion, he went too, but behaved himself so there as if she were the only saint that he came in pilgrimage unto; if she were a spectator to any public entertainment, as of tilting or the like, he would there make himself known for her servant by wearing the livery of her colours, and clothing his servants correspondently; and at any comedy or masque at the court where she was present, he would teach his eyes in their dumb language to beg her favours so effectually, that many times in public conferring them upon him, she did exceed that reservedness which is practised among the ladies of those parts; so that she was not a little censured by many that knew no more of her but by the outward face of her actions. And the fame of Theagenes’s dearness with this so great lady, the first of the bedchamber to the Queen, and of a vast wealth, was soon dispersed through all Morea; where, with his friends, it wrought different effects: for it added to Stelliana’s deep sorrow, who, though she neither hoped nor desired anything for herself, so broken was her heart, yet she felt a kind of repining that another should enjoy that place which was once, hers, and that her misfortunes had made her lose; and others of his friends, whose affection was accompanied with fondness, were grieved in the midst of their joy for his good hap, doubting that the advantages which she would bring him, if he married her, would cause him to settle himself with her in that country, whereby they should lose him. But the discreetest of those that loved him, not only rejoiced at his fortune, but advised him and daily solicited him to delay no time in effecting what they understood she much desired, which was to marry her; but if they had known how opposite the motions of his heart were to his exterior demonstrations, and what was the ground of them, they would never have lost time about this fruitless counsel.
In the mean season great differences arose between the Egyptian King and the Prince of Morea, and their ministers; of all which the vices of Hephaestion were the originary causes; for he having excluded Aristobulus from the managing of affairs, would have them carried and concluded only between the Egyptian favourite and himself: but it soon appeared how unequally they were matched, for the one having been always trained up in a constant way of state businesses, and Hephaestion having never attended to other than courtly exercises, and to give himself delight, and to so much of business as concerned the satisfying; of his will or avarice, was soon overreached by the Egyptian, and reduced into such disadvantageous straits, that he could not recover himself out of them but by falling out with him; and this, added to some other vices of his, by the immodest and insatiable love of women, wherein he strived to satisfy himself without respect to fame, that it imported him to conceal his affections from, made him grow to be much hated and scorned in that court; which he perceiving, and having received some bitter affront in matter of his mistresses, he grew into a rancorous detestation of the causers of them, and resolved to set up his rest upon the overthrowing those treaties, and breaking the peace between those crowns; foreseeing that otherwise he could not avoid his own ruin.
Whereupon he wrought so much with the Prince, that he gave his consent to return hastily into Morea, wherein he shewed that his affection to his friend prevailed above his own judgment, and above his love to his mistress, for he sticked not to express to some that were about him that he saw no other reason for his sudden departure, more than Hephaestion’s earnest solicitation; and that he discerned so much sweetness, and so many perfections, accompanied with excellent beauty, in the King’s sister, that he conceived no lady in the world so worthy of his affections as she was. But the other respect prevailed above all these; so noble a testimony he gave of a Prince’s constancy in his friendship; for many conceived that he loved Hephaestion only because he had once chosen to love him, and not because he still judged that he deserved it. Among the rest that provided to attend the Prince in his return, Theagenes was one; which was no sooner known by Mauricana but she sent for him, and there used all the powerful means to divert this his intention that an entreating beauty is mistress of; sometimes endearing her own extreme affection to him, which she would raise in value by recounting the scornful disdains wherewith she had paid great Princes’ loves; then by taxing him with falsehood and treachery, in inveigling away her heart to make it serve only for a trophy of his inhuman cruelty; then by representing the advantages which his match with her would bring him; but most of all she relied upon the force of her fair eyes and charming looks: but when she saw that nothing would prevail for the obtaining of the main of her desire, she sought at least to win time for the present, hoping that when the Prince was gone, she might the more easily work his heart to her desires, and therefore only sued to him to stay while the stormy season made it unsafe to pass the seas; that in that while she might, by little and little, teach her soul how to bear her future misery, and not be plunged into it unkindly all at once. But Theagenes, whose very bowels were then even torn in pieces between a sad constancy and tender pity, strived all he could to sweeten her passions, and to excuse the expression of his affections, which he said that he perceived she mistook, for that he never made approaches otherwise than in a courtly manner, as desiring to be called her knight, which title he would still maintain by all the real service that it might challenge from him, and should attend mindful with singular delight of the great favour she had done him; but that his affections had once been, though unfortunately, engaged elsewhere with too great force, to place them upon any other object; and that, for the present, he was obliged to attend the Prince his master, into whose service, in an honourable place, he was now received. But all that he could say availed no more to the cure of her mind, than the speeches of ignorant standers-by do, to bring health to one that lieth burning in a violent fever; so that, when he left her, she remained wedded to sorrow and despair; and not long after, seeing she could not have him whom only she thought worthy of her, she left the world, that afforded to her but a constant succession of continual torments, and consecrated the rest of her days to a worthier spouse, among other vestal virgins of noble quality.
The winds and seas seemed to rejoice in the Prince’s return, and to delight in the glorious navy that was committed to them; for they all conspired to make him have a fair passage; who, disembarking in the first port that he could fetch, took post horses, that with the greater speed he might give his father the content of seeing him; who was at Corinth, longing to hear good news of him, which he himself was the first messenger of. Upon his arrival there, that city made all the affectionate demonstrations of a hearty and unfeigned joy that could be imagined, for the safe return of their much loved and most hopeful lord, whom they feared was in a place of much danger, and with a king in whose faith the people had little confidence, and the like did the country throughout; so that it was apparent that no Prince could be dearer to his subjects than he was, and therefore had all his enemies, if his goodness could admit of any, much reason to fear when they saw so firm a knot and union between the commander and the obeyers. But Theagenes could not be a witness of the joyful acclamations that accompanied his master to the court; for he had no sooner set bis feet upon the shore, but that a great indisposition took him, which hindered his journey thither, and the attendance on his lord for some days. In the mean time Hephaestion knowings that the vulgar sort of the kingdom were disaffected to the alliance with Egypt, and that there could be no better way to break that treaty than to make them judges of it, who would be as partial hearers as he could be a relater, he prevailed so much with the King, that he made a general convocation of the three estates of the kingdom, consisting of the clergy, the nobility, and some chosen persons to represent the body of the commons, to give their advice in this weighty affair; which he opened to them, making a narration from the beginning to that present, how all matters stood between the King of Egypt and his master, wherein he mingled many falsities with truths, and wrested the appearances of many things to a false sense; so that the assembly was so inflamed with fury against that king, and possessed with belief that there was no faith in his proceedings, that they unanimously besought the King of Morea to break off all treaties with that perfidious nation, as they termed it, and denounce them war; promising their real assistance as well in serving all of them in person, if need were, as in making larger contributions than could be paralleled by any example of subjects to their King; whereof they immediately made a liberal beginning, in hope that their entreaties would prove effectual. The old King then, whose declining age made him now desire to live in quiet, resigned over all business to his son, and to the conduct of Hephaestion, who presently set it in such a way as might win him applause at home, though at the cost of his master’s honour abroad; and caused Aristobulus to be sent for out of Egypt, whom in his public relation he had laden with many false accusations, as well to satisfy the bitterness of his malice against him, as to provide for his own safety, since it was necessary for him to make the appearance of the fault and betraying the state, which he pretended, to light upon somebody; and the whole negotiation had been carried between Aristobulus and himself. Through desire then to do good offices for his kinsman, that he had so much reason to respect and to clear, as much as in him lay, his honour, that was much traduced in most men’s opinions, Theagenes made more haste to Corinth than his indisposition would well give way unto: and the day that he arrived there, the sun, that was then taking his leave of the northern signs to go his progress to his farthest southward declination, shined out more comfortable and glorious beams than it had done of many days before; which was the reason that many persons of quality came out in their coaches into the fields to refresh their spirits, with sucking in the free and warmed air. Among whom Stelliana was one, whose sight surprised and astonished Theagenes, like one come suddenly from a dark prison to too great a light, who met her directing of her course abroad, even as he was entering in at the gates of the city. After so long absence her beauty seemed brighter to him than when he left her: but she sate so pensively in one side of the coach by herself, as Apelles might have taken her counterfeit to express Venus sorrowing for her beloved Adonis: yet howsoever by her habits and her sadness, her brighter beams might seem to be in part eclipsed, they did nevertheless disperse themselves so forcibly abroad, that the sun seemed to grow pale at her appearance, as being dazzled with a greater light than his own, and wept so bitter a shower to see that an earthly face had the victory of his, which now for shame he hid behind a cloud, that she was constrained to return back, while her coach, that was honoured with carrying her, might be esteemed much nobler than that studded with carbuncles, and hyacinths, which Aurora sitteth in, when from her beautiful tresses she shaketh upon the earth the delightful morning dews that she hath gathered in the moist ocean.
Theagenes was no sooner alighted at the lodging, but that he sent a servant to find out Stelliana’s, and to receive her leave that he might come the next day to visit her, whither he went at the appointed time, with resolution only to please himself in so fair a sight, deeming her unworthy of his more serious affection, whom he conceived had so soon forgot her vows made to him at his going out of Morea. But surely, he did unjustly in censuring her before he heard her defence from her own mouth; and in her presence he had cause to fear that by so great a light it might succeed to him as to the indiscreet fly, that through his own fondness, burneth his wings by playing with the flame.
It is too great for me to describe the motions of their hearts and souls at their first meeting; nor can it be conceived by any but such as have loved in a divine manner, and have had their affections suspended by misfortunes and mistakes: therefore I will only mention the subject of their discourse, which was the challenging each other of much unkindness; she him, for not giving her timely advertisement of his health, which would have prevented the inconveniences grown by his rumoured death; and he her, for giving too sudden credit to it, and so soon bestowing her affections upon another; whereunto both of them used their best endeavours to discharge themselves and fasten the blame upon the other; but in conclusion they both saw that there was more of misfortune in it, than of fault on either side: which was the cause that Theagenes made often visits to her, and she willingly received them: yet he, resolving not to engage his affections too far, the first knot being by her broken, because of the doubtful rumour that Mardontius had once had much interest in her affections. But withal her excessive beauty and gracefulness did so win upon his senses, that after some time, when he thought he had reestablished himself in a good place of her well-liking, he attempted her to consent to his passion, and prosecuted his suit with all the vehemence and subtlety that an earnest and well experienced lover could use, without mention of any provision to her honour; which she no sooner perceived, but that her heart swelling with a noble anger and disdain, she banished him from her presence, and it was a long time before he could take off that hard sentence, though he daily offered up to her indignation much sorrow and unfeigned signs of deep repentance, which, in the end, so much prevailed with her generous soul, which yet was full of affection and did but resent his disrespect as her honour claimed of her, that she admitted him again into her favour, and made as much demonstration of it as before: so that now their hearts were joined in a fraternal affection, and their manner of living, each towards other, confuted the opinion of those who hold that the laws of a high and divine friendship cannot be observed where a woman hath a part.
In the mean time, Clericius, that was of the Prince’s bedchamber, and esteemed to be in his favour more than any there, became an earnest suitor to her to receive him to her husband; but by her refusal was justly punished for his disdain of other women: for he was so hard to please in the choice of a wife, that of many advantageous overtures which had been made unto him, he would accept of none; but declared himself that until he did meet with such a woman as both for mind and body, he could wish nothing to be mended in her, he would live a single life. Certainly, his resolution being such, if Stelliana had not been born in this age, he would never have known what love had been: but when he had grown into her acquaintance, then he said that he believed nature had been oversparing of her blessings to all other women, on purpose to heap all imaginable perfections upon one, so that her power might be the more admired. When he saw that by himself he could not prevail in obtaining what he so much desired, he discovered the violence of his passions to Theagenes, there being much entireness between them, begotten by their daily conversation in their both serving the same master, and knowing that he sued not to her for himself, but that withal he had an interest in her in an honourable way, he beseeched him, with the greatest adjurations that might be, to endeavour himself in his behalf. Here one may perceive what a divine thing the obligation of friendship is in a generous and gentle heart; for Theagenes, that would rather have consented to the loss of his life than to see her in another man’s possession, his flames daily increasing, became himself a mediator for his friend, to gain him that content that would cause himself eternal sorrow: which he did not in a cold manner, as only to acquit himself of his promise, but used and urged all the arguments that he could to win Stelliana to this match, so much to her advantage in temporal respects. But all the answer that he could get from her, was a flat denial, alleging that she would never tie herself to any man in other knot than of love and affection; and that her misfortunes had broken and deadened her heart that way. The latter part of which, Theagenes heard with much impatience, because it concerned him so nearly, and did put her in mind how once it was much otherwise, when they lived so happily and joyed only in each other; which caused Stelliana in like manner to tax his change that was now become a suitor for another man; and yet she professed more goodwill to him by infinite degrees than to any one else, if at least a created heart be capable of such extreme distances; with which he rested much contented, and in the best manner that he could, excused himself of his unwilling importunity for his friend, whom he informed how little he could prevail in his suit.
In the mean time Hephaestion, having by sinister means broken the peace and alliance with Egypt, sought to provide likewise so for the future that he might be secure they would not piece again, whereunto he knew the old king to be much inclined; and therefore he endeavoured to engage the Prince in some other place, that so there might be an impossibility of his returning to treat of the former match; and considering that there is a perpetual jealousy between the crowns of Athens and of Egypt, lest either should increase in power, he deemed it the most expedient to solicit the King of Athens for his sister; hoping also by this means to draw that Prince with more affection into the league that was making against the King of Egypt. Whereupon, desiring the negotiation should be speedy and effectual, he resolved to go in person upon this embassage, and therefore made the noblest preparations that might be for his journey, correspondent to such an employment, and befitting the favourite of so great a King as he served; who, to do him the more grace, appointed several of his own servants and of his sons, of the most eminent quality, to accompany him; among which, Theagenes was one, who upon other like public occasions had given evident demonstrations, that he would be behind none in doing his master and nation honour, and in this he was nothing short of what he formerly had done; but the time of making provision to defray such great and extraordinary expenses was so short, that many of his friends thought he would be much troubled before he could raise so great a sum of money, as he was upon the sudden to lay out; which coming to Stelliana’s notice, she greatly rejoiced that she had so apt an occasion to make expression of the much that she would do for Theagenes, were it in her power, and presently took up money upon the best jewels and plate that she had, and engaged such lands as were hers, either in present or in reversion, and having gathered together a large sum, she sent it to Theagenes, entreating him to make use of it without cumbering his estate, which consisting of settled rents, would soon quit a greater debt; and thus she made him at once master of all she had or could hope for. This generous action of hers sunk so deep into his heart, that it was like the throwing in of a great weight into a scale that was before so equally balanced as one could not guess which way it would incline, and so bringeth that side suddenly down; for before he suffered a continual conflict in himself between the consideration of her worth and perfections, and the dissuasions of some of his friends, particularly of his mother, who, as you understood at the beginning of this discourse, was ever averse to his match with Stelliana. But now that besides the contemplation of those excellencies in general, he had such a clear demonstration of the applying them by her affection to his particular, for greater could not be than to have trusted him with all her estate and fortune, his heart yielded, and he resolved to get her for his wife; and those difficulties which before opposed this action being now overcome, did quicken his resolution, like water that being thrown upon a fire that it cannot extinguish, maketh it burn with greater violence. But when he had declared his intention and desire to Stelliana, he received from her an answer much contrary to what he expected; the effect of which was a flat refusal, pronounced with much settledness and a constant gravity, grounded by her upon supposed reason and a strange construction of love to him; which yet she could not deliver without many tears, bewailing her misfortune that brought her to these terms, that to be constant to her honour, though therein she had no witness but herself, and to be the surer of her dearest friend’s affection, she must deny the just suit of him that she loved above her own life, and refuse that offer that in respect of the world would be most honourable to her, and whereto her wishes were more strongly bent than his; for she acknowledged ingenuously how she had once given her consent to marry Mardontius, and, upon the assurance of that, passed upon both sides, had given him leave to have her picture, which he still kept, and therefore she would never suffer that one man should possess her, and another such a gage of a former, though half-constrained, affection; and that hereafter, in colder thoughts, Theagenes, if the heat and edge of his passion should be somewhat abated, might give another interpretation to her past actions than now he did, and peradventure deem her not so worthy of his affection and respect.
Hereupon Theagenes used the best arguments he could to certify her, as he termed it, wrong judgment, representing to her how his reason was the same that at any time it would be, and his knowledge of her actions being already complete, his judging of them could not alter; and that he did not admit of the level that the vulgar is guided by, who is wholly ruled by opinion, but examined all things according to their reality; and therefore his affection, whose root was in her virtues, and did not spring from any blind passion, was not liable to any intervals of heat or cold. And that for Mardontius, she was free of that promise, he first breaking it, and as for the picture that he had, she could not punish him more than in letting him retain it by him, that so he might continually be put in mind of those joys that his folly bereaved him of, and live, like the damned souls, whose greatest misery this is, in perpetual despair and curse himself. But when Theagenes perceived that all he said could not move her fixed mind, but rather increased her sorrow, he ceased to solicit her any more for that time, hoping that afterward he might find a more propitious hour for his suit; which to fascinate by all the means that he could, he sent to Mardontius, by a gentleman, to challenge him to fight with him in mortal duel till one of them were deprived of their life, for that the earth could not bear them both at once; unto whom, when they were in the field together, he declared at large the cause of his enmity with him, taking upon him to be the revenger of the wrong he had done to Stelliana, and by sending him out of the world, to make a way to himself of gaining her. But Mardontius told him, that he would not fight in this quarrel, for that if he had done her any wrong she had herself too rigorously punished him for it, and by rejecting him after his repentance, made him the only sufferer for it; and that his life could be no object for Theagenes’s enjoying her, since he could pretend no interest in her, which if he could have done he would not have lost her when he loved her equal with his own soul, and strived to regain her as much as he could for heaven; and for the picture, if she would not give him leave to keep it, he would restore it to her by Theagenes’s conveyance, together with a declaration under his own hand, of what he had already said, and that his tongue spoke false if ever it uttered any thing to her dishonour, and a disclaiming of ever having had any interest in her, beyond what the laws of modesty and honour would permit her. With the performance of which, and the restitution of the picture, Theagenes rested satisfied, seeing that he could not prevail with him to draw his sword, and that, indeed, the cause of this desire to fight was taken away by this proceeding and writing of Mardontius; which made him deem him too unworthy to be his enemy.
Theagenes having had this success, and a main part of the difficulties on Stelliana’s side being thus taken away, without any loss or hazard of blood, through the meanness of Mardontius’s spirit, he returned to her with much joy through the confidence he had that now he should find no more obstacles in what he so much longed for: but her heart was so settled by being long fixed upon her melancholy resolutions of living for the future a solitary life, that although now the principal causes of them ceased, yet, like water that being made to boil, will not grow suddenly cool though the fire be taken from it, she could not so soon relent or slacken her rigour, that he might from thence draw to himself any ground of hopes. Whereupon, after much solicitation and not prevailing, through despair he read upon himself a doom of much affliction, as the unfortunate and wretched souls shall do in the last day; the heaviest part of which shall be their perpetual banishment from the blessed sight of God; and in like manner he made a vow, that after he had taken bis leave now of her, he would never see her more, nor Morea for her sake, but would wander like a lost man through the rest of the world, seeing that hereabouts he could meet with nothing but sad objects that would continually put him in mind of the happiness that he had missed; and the sight of her would be but like the punishment of Tantalus, to increase in him the desire of what he must never enjoy. To which expression of sorrow made by him, although it were by reflection stronger in her, yet thinking it might be but the violence of a passion which might in time be calmed, or at the least diverted, if it met not with a serious opposition, she answered in this manner, clearing her face with gentle smiles, a habit far differing from what her mind was clothed with. “Certainly, Theagenes, if you love me as much as you would have me believe, your stars are no less cross in teaching you how to express it, than you say mine are in making me take the resolution of ending my days in a single and retired life, for the which, you cannot deny but that I had reason; and if now that may be pretended to cease, yet it hath so sunk into my heart, like a thick dye in which it hath been long bathed, that it can take no other colour or impression; but I think you cannot give me the example of any man, that through the abundance of their love to any lady who loved them as you know that I do you, which I take God to witness is as much as ever sister did a brother, did take a resolution and confirm it with a vow of never seeing her more. Is absence, then, the most expedient means to increase or confirm affections? or peradventure is it, that you are so well acquainted with foreign parts, that all places are alike to you to afford you content, and those best liked of you, where you shall not be in danger to have my true zeal to check your loose delights, and tax you of inconstancy and ingratitude V Then after some pause, and changing her forced countenance into the livery of her mind, not being able longer to continue her dissimulation, she proceeded thus: “If so, and that you were grown weary of loving me, you would have been more gentle to have deceived me a little, and by degrees have instructed me to wind in again my affection and loosen it from you, which now is stretched to the utmost scope that my heart can extend unto; but indeed, it is unkindly done, to make my love the cause of your inconstancy, and to cast off into an ocean of sorrow the near-sinking vessel of my fortune and content, which held but by one anchor, and now must needs suffer shipwreck for your sake.” The last of which words she sighed out with such a flood of tears, true witnesses of her bleeding heart, that was so deeply wounded with what Theagenes had said, although at the first she strived to disguise it, that he, who thought no sorrow could have exceeded his, was now fain to lay the thought of that aside, to attend to mitigate hers; but his bowels were so shut up and as it were congealed with grief, that it was a long time before he could frame to himself any distinct conceptions, and then before he could apparel those in fit words; during which profound silence on both sides, interrupted only with some sighs and tears, their hearts did melt with tenderness, like a heap of snow opposed to the sunbeams, and then, being endued with love’s magnetical virtue, each of them resolved to themselves to admit of no motions but such as were conformable to the other’s desires; which could not be long concealed between them, for nothing is hid to the divine light of lovers’ flames, by which they see and talk with each other’s thoughts, so that of a sudden a most bright and glorious day of joy rose out of the lap of their late dusky and clouded night of sorrow; and as the sunbeams illuminate the whole hemisphere at one instant, so this mutual consent of their wills banished immediately all dark and uncouth shadows of discontent, and made all things, even their own tears, smile upon them.
And then to crown their joys with that ceremony which might make them permanent and holy, the minister of those rites joined their hands in that sacred knot which had long before knit their affections, and was now equally welcome on both sides. But Theagenes, being thereunto moved by sundry weighty respects, desired Stelliana, and the rest that were then present, to conceal it for some time; which she for his sake, and for the importance of the reasons, readily consented unto, although till it were discovered it might reflect upon her honour for admitting him to a greater familiarity than belonged to any but a husband.
But their affection could not be carried with such caution, Theagenes neither desiring more than that the certainty of the main should not be precisely known, but that many mouths were filled with various discourses of their familiarity, and some commended, others censured them for it, according to the rule that every one had framed to themselves for their own actions. Among whom Rogesilius, who was Aristobulus’s nephew, and between whom and Theagenes was contracted a very strait friendship, mainly condemning his will not use many circumstances to bring me to that place, where I am sure you already expect me, since upon strict examination of yourself you can find yourself to lie open but upon one side, that is, to the assaults of a woman’s beauty, that have found in you a tenderer heart in resisting them than I should have promised to myself of you when I consider the constancy and stayedness of your other actions. Neither will I use many words to dissuade you from that affection wherein you have, as it were, lain, some time asleep, since I know the quickness and excellency of your wit to be such, that will furnish you with much better reasons than any I can use to wean you from it, if you will but once enter into the impartial consideration of it; only give me leave to put you in mind of your honour, entreating you not to let it suffer shipwreck in the ruinous ocean of sense and pleasure, which at the best is ever accompanied with satiety and repentance. Consider — how love is the weakest of all passions, and whereas some good resulteth out of all others, the least evils of this, is to abastardise the mind, to make it effeminate, unfit for any worthy action, and so wholly and anxiously employed in low desires, that it can think of nothing else as long as it is possessed with this fever. Then rise up out of this dream, and receive wonted vigour into your heroic spirits, which I know you will confess at least to have been slackened of late in their operations: and if humanity be so forcible in you that you must pay some dues to that sex which you receive half your being from, let it be at large, and the main scope thereof your own pleasure; which certainly groweth flat by being confined to one object, and is by variety raised to his greatest height.”
Rogesilius having thus ended his discourse, which contained precisely the precepts that his own life was guided by, Theagenes, after some meditation upon what his friend had spoken, made him this answer: “I have reason, worthy Rogesilius, to esteem myself happy in two respects; the, one in that having so judicious a friend as you are, he can look upon my weaknesses with so much partiality in my behalf as not thereby to lessen his affection to me; the other, that the herd of ignorant men, which never spared any one, were he never so perfect, can find nothing in me to fasten upon with disgraceful censures but that which, being duly examined, may peradventure deserve praise, at least pardon. I will deliver to you what I conceive is fit to be said in defence of such affection as you so much exclaim against, and will make you the judge, whether I am in error or no, when you have heard my reasons, which I confess will be out of the path and reach of the vulgar, as all wise men’s actions are or ought to be. But first let us consider it a little by their ordinary and familiar scale, which, I thinks will afford me some excuse. It is then received among them for an undoubted principle, that all men, the perfectest that ever were, are subject to errors and have their vices, _quisque suos patimur manes,_ and they are the best that are the least ill: for in this life all things ought to be judged comparatively; and as that body which hath been afflicted with evil humours, may be said to be in health when they grow all from their several places to one head, and discharge themselves by one way of little danger; so that man that, having lived in the stormy sea of various passions, as all men do or have done, can at length overcome the multitude of them, and purge them away by one that is not of a virulent nature, though it may cause some remission and some kind of relaxation of the mind, truly deserveth commendations, and none but unjust judges will too sharply censure that person for not overcoming the last, because he was able to get the mastery of the others; like the unworthy multitude that condemneth a Captain of treason, for failing in one only attempt, because he hath gotten so much reputation in other successful ones, that all things appear not only possible, but easy to him, if he apply himself industriously to effect them. If then this love that you so much inveigh against, be the only fault that is found with me, certainly it deserveth excuse, since it may be understood to be the vent for other worse passions. But examine it in itself, and all the ill that you can say of it, is, that it is not active in doing good, and benumbeth those spirits that might be employed in heroic actions. What a weak accusation is this! or rather is it not a commendation? for we see that in this world the bad doth so exceed the good, both in number and weight, and our nature is so prone to the worst, that they deserve praise who refrain from doing badly, though they contain themselves from doing good; and indeed, he is said to do well that doth not ill, virtue being principally the abstaining from vice. And where you say that I have sometimes lain asleep in this affection, therein you say, in effect, that I have been some time happy, and behaved myself discreetly, since the peace and tranquillity of the mind is that which the wisest men aim at, and in this life that is so full of troubles, nothing is so pleasing to us, as a quiet and gentle sleep: therefore, that any man inveigheth with bitterness against me for this so slender fault, if it be any, is because they find no greater; and then it happeneth to them as to those whose eyes grow soon weary and ache by looking too steadfastly upon little and scarce sensible objects. But shall I content myself with pardon for that which is a merit to God, and to nature? No, I will not purchase my peace so unworthily, and betray so noble a cause, by owing that to others’ favourable censures, which reason will give me after a short conflict against opinion, the mother of error. Hear then, my defence of Love, and then let slander grow dumb, and swell till it burst with its own venom; and may that God that I adore, and who hath given being, form, and order to all things, inspire me to speak high things in his behalf, as much out of the common path and above the pitch of vulgar conceptions, as the saint to whom my devotions are addressed in his heaven outshineth all other beauties. “Thus then I begin: In the infinite and eternal Essence that hath created us to his likeness, and made our souls his lively images, we may consider two supreme powers, the understanding and the will; by the first of which he exerciseth himself in the knowledge and contemplation of his own perfections; and by the second produceth such an excellent love of what he understandeth, that it becometh another person of the same substance and essence with himself: this is the blessed state of the divinity, to have eternally the understanding replenished with notions of infinite perfection, and to have the will continually taken up entirely in loving and being beloved; which causeth a perfect joy in this happy and eternal society. This, then, being laid as a foundation to what I intend to prove, and it being undoubtedly received, that rational creatures ought, near as they can, to conform themselves, in all their actions, to this divine light, of which our souls are living sparkles; let us examine what is the highest operation and most resembling his Creator’s, that man can busy himself in? Certainly it is to employ our understanding about the objects of greatest perfection that it is capable of, and the will in loving such; this last action, or rather gift, can only and truly be termed our own, since nothing is entirely ours, and removed out of the power of fortune, but the liberty of the will, and the first original gift of that, is love; and that faculty which bestoweth it being spiritual, it is never weary with continuing this action, but of necessity is always giving, and so always loving. Our main care ought to be then, since this free gift of the will must ever be given, that it be well and orderly bestowed; and here the ’ other faculty of the rational soul, which is the understanding, cometh to help her sister in making a fit choice: it is a flame that always striveth to ascend, and to embrace objects of greatest perfection, but to employ itself directly about God, it wanteth capacity, there being an infinite distance between the Creator and a creature, the one being limited in her actions, and the other like a most resplendent sun that dazzleth all eyes that look upon him besides his own. The next real object, then, that claimeth love, is men’s souls that conform themselves to the rules of virtue; among which the perfectest do, of due, require the greatest proportion, and herein we pay, as near as we can, our debt to our Creator, by loving him in his image, since we cannot understand and love him in his own bright nature and essence so fully as we ought to do. In the first consideration, which is of souls simply in themselves, all are alike, but that some may be endued with more virtue and greater perfections than others; but of the second, which is of souls as they are in bodies, nature steppeth in and telleth us, that since all those spiritual substances are of the same nature in themselves, and have the same powers and faculties, it is convenient for the eternizing of the species, that men should make choice of those that are lodged in female habitations; and from her rules without weighty cause, none ought to swerve. In the choice then of this, as the outward form giveth a taste of the interior nature, so long conversation and observing those actions that issue from the mind, do afford a sure ground for one to make a complete judgment thereof; in both which considerations, I am sure that I have reason to say, that I have made a happy election.
Let us then go on in this speculation: I have already shewed how understanding and love are the natural operations of a reasonable creature; and this first, which is a gift that of his own nature must always be bestowed, being the only thing that is really in our power to bestow, it is the worthiest and the noblest that can be given, and deserveth the greatest retribution that can be made; which can be condignly done only with paying it with coin of the same nature. Our principal care then must be to confer this present only upon that which deserveth it, and may repay it. Withal, consider how much a man derogateth from himself and abaseth himself in placing this gift elsewhere, and somewhere it must be placed, as upon honour, power, wealth, sensual delights, or the like, since it is evident, that nothing is so noble, as that which beareth the true image of God: for the nature of love is to convert and transform the lover into the object beloved; and according to the worth and excellency of that, or to the imperfeo tions or defects of it, a man bettereth or impaireth himself. This is proved in that love is an entire free gift, as being the action of a free and unconfirmed will; and although it must of necessity be given somewhere, yet it is so truly one’s own, and bestowed with such a full liberality, that it maketh him to whom it is given the absolute master of it, and is wholly under his domination and power; and being that love carrieth the will with it, and that the will hath all power, command, and jurisdiction in man, it folio weth that to whom one giveth love, one giveth also their will and their whole self; and thus by love one is united to what one loveth, and converted and transferred into the nature and dominion thereof.
To draw then this discourse to a conclusion: the love of a virtuous soul dwelling in a fair and perfect body, is the noblest and worthiest action that a man is master of: it exerciseth in due manner that superior talent that God and nature hath given him; and by choosing a perfecter object than himself to love, it exalteth and refineth those seeds of goodness that are in him, and although he should not find any completely perfect, yet this heroic effect of it would not be frustrated, since it is the nature of love to make the lover believe all possible perfections in the person beloved, and to that idea that he hath framed to himself, he raiseth himself up. And when this divine gift, which obligeth the person beloved in the deepest debt that may be, is repaid in such manner as it ought to be, which can be only by returning the like love, then the lover reapeth the fruit of this action, which is perfect joy; and that is the greatest blessing that our nature is capable of, as sorrow is the greatest misery, which at the last must necessarily follow those that miss of this joy by erring in the bestowing of this gift, although it may be long before they take notice of it, like the unfortunate and wretched souls, whose greatest torment is to be deprived of the divine joy, that is the inheritance of them who place their love upon a right object. And this joy and content of lovers, besides that it is the highest and noblest that we can possess, is also the securest, and placed, as it were, in sanctuary, out of the hands of fortune and change; for the ground of it is in ourselves, and we need the help of no exterior thing to make it complete, it dependeth upon our wills which we govern as we please: therefore, this is the true happiness that a wise man ought to aim at, since that himself is master of it and he can give it to himself when he list. T hope then that you will pow no longer call that the weakest of all passions, which produceth so noble effects; nor believe that it doth effeminate the mind, or relent it from the prosecution of heroic and virtuous actions, since the nature of it is to raise it up to the perfectest notions, and inciteth any generous heart to do worthy things, were it but to recommend him unto the esteem of her that he adoreth. And for satiety and repentance, they are qualities not incident to spiritual actions, as I understand the fruition and joy begotten by this noble love to be for the most part; ‘ but accompanieth inseparably that gross and material enjoying which you recommend to me to extinguish or to mitigate my divine flame. Therefore, after this discourse, which may seem tedious to you, but is a theme that I should never be weary to enlarge myself upon, I am confident you will now harbour a more favourable opinion of my affection than you did before; I having proved how noble a thing love is, and how necessary to make a man completely happy, and that in the object of mine there is so much perfection, as I am sure you will say, who are yet an indifferent and unpassionate judge, that she deserveth it beyond all women that you or I have ever known.”
Whether Rogesilius were satisfied or no with this discourse, he did not at all express by any words; but after a long and profound silence on both sides, he not thinking it good manners to oppose farther what he saw had taken so deep a root in his friend’s heart; and being desirous to divert Theagenes from the train of his deep and serious meditations, that still continued rolling about the heads of what he had spoken, Stelliana being continually the centre of all the motions of his heart, began a new conference, and desired Theagenes to relate to him the passages of a falling out between Famelicus, one that served the king in the same place that he did, and him, whereof he had yet but an imperfect knowledge delivered him by uncertain rumour: whereupon Theagenes to satisfy his curiosity, began in this manner.
“To give you a full understanding of the injury that was done me, and why it was done me, I mast take the beginning of this discourse a little higher than the abrupt relation of what passed between Famelicus and me, since he was but the indiscreet instrument of others’ malice. You may then be pleased to understand, that between Nugentius, whom you know to be so powerful and of so much esteem in his own country, and myself, there hath been heretofore great friendship and familiarity; and in the time of our most dearness we never had other differences, not so much as in opinions, more than, while I sighed out my affectionate flames, he would strive either by counsel to win me from my devotions, or at least, by bitter invectives and taunts, seek to make me ashamed of the condition of a loving martyr which I lived in. But the little God, which the common people thinketh to be blind, was not long before he revenged this blasphemy of his, and made him see how weak the eyes of vulgar and cold reason are to look upon a sun of beauty; for he kindled such a fire in his breast that he soon felt all the tormenting passions that most lovers do but weakly feign, and was so coldly requited by her whom he adored, that from all her actions he might gather to himself rather matter of despair, than of any comfort or content. And the judgment that was inflicted upon him, was every way so proportionable to his sin, that he sucked in this furious heat, and drunk this bitter poison, in the presence of him whom he had so often taxed of folly for loving; for one summer evening as he and I were entertaining ourselves, for our pleasure, upon the river, we met a boat wherein Stelliana and Babilinda were both sitting together, listening to a song accompanied with excellent music that they had brought out with them, having allotted this pleasant and calm evening to their recreation in this kind. I that had my eyes armed with love, discerned afar off who was in the boat, which scarce being able to bear that heaven of perfection, did sink under her burden, and yet the water seemed to run pleasantly about her, and smile that it was so honoured, while at every stroke the oars made, one would think it dissolved into tears for her soon gliding away. But Nugentius of a sudden, grew like one amazed, or that had unheedly looked upon the stone-transforming head, and it was a long time before he could frame any word, and only gave evidence of his passions by his deep sighs: he found it true that love is begotten at the first sight, and that some light or disdainful action of a conquering beauty is able to subdue and tame the sternest and wildest heart that is; for, as he afterward confessed to me, a certain scornful and disorderly putting off of her veil, which of a sudden displayed the lightnings of Babilinda’s eyes, dazzled his, and wounded him to the very soul. But when after a long suit he found that he could not warm the cold and frozen heart of her that he so much loved, a foul passion crept into his bosom, that usually accompanieth none but weak minds that are conscious to themselves of their own little worth, and made him jealous that the cause why Babilinda Was so little favourable to him, proceeded from her much respect to me; which, indeed, had no other ground but the devoting of my services to Stelliana, to whom she saw they were pleasing, and there being much friendship between them two, and a continual familiarity, she endeavoured what she could to do her offices on both sides. which is the property of all gentle natures; and by this means I came to be much beholden to her, she seeing that the obliging me in this manner was also the obliging of her friend in many things that her bashfulness would not let her do, although she desired them, unless she were half constrained thereto. But indeed Babilinda’s want of affection to Nugentius proceeded from other causes, whereof the one was her young and yet wild heart, unacquainted with the very colour of passionate affection, which yet could take pleasure to see the effects of her fair eyes upon others’ yielding ones; and the other, a certain fretting disposition of Nugentius, which made him unapt to purchase and win love; for he was of such an impatient nature, that when he found any obstacles in his desires, be would always murmur against fortune, accuse the malice of the times, and increasing his torment, would consume himself in vain complaints; so that his spirit seemed always to delight in travail and affliction, by which means his suit and company became tedious and troublesome to Babilinda, which otherwise her discretion would have caused her to esteem much of, considering the reputation and dignity of the person that applied himself to her service. But he, mistaking the cause of his little success, bent all his wit to estrange me from Babilinda’s company, which he saw could not be effected as long as the affection continued between Stelliana and me, they two being continually together, and therefore his first plot was to set us two at variance: whereto fortune presented him a fit occasion, by working upon the bitterness of Familicus’s passion; who loving Stelliana violently, and making once some indiscreet expression of it, had received from her a public and weighty affront, which made him convert all his affection into rage and desire of revenge. Herein Hydaspes concurred with Nugentius, who you know was once very dear to me, for he hated her mortally, because that she had discovered to me a very treacherous action of his against me, to whom he professed and owed much friendship; for he, thinking to settle himself in her favour by displacing me, whom he conceived to be the only hinderer of his desires, sought to disgrace me to her in private, and so to insinuate himself by my ruin into her grace. These two then, with all the subtlety that they could use, wrought upon Famelicus to say, that* he had received from Stelliana such friendship and kindnesses as none but her, at least intended, husband ought to be partaker of: assuring him that they would govern the business so that he should never be questioned for what he said, and that they knew me to be of such a hot spirit and so violent in things that concerned my honour, that upon this rumour, which they would cunningly insinuate to me, without farther examination I should leave her familiarity, and cast off her friendship; which Famelicus desired as much as they, knowing that above all other things this would most afflict Stelliana, against whom he was now grown rancorously spiteful, that he would have been content to wound her even through his own body. But I, discerning their malice afar off, disguised as well as I could the sense that I had of Nugentius and Hydaspes’s relation to me, and behaved myself in such sort that they doubted not but that it took such impression in me as they desired it should; lest if I had done otherwise it might have made them spin a farther web to embroil me more. But as soon as I had quitted myself of their troublesome company, without giving time to Famelicus to avail himself of any new subtleties by delays, I challenged him to make good upon him with my sword and hazard of my life, that all what he had said concerning Stelliana was false; which I knew very well to be so, and that in his particular she ever despised him; but I judged this way of proceeding was requisite both to right her and myself, because that knowledge would not be sufficient to lead other men’s beliefs, unless with his own mouth I made him give himself the lie. But he did more than that, for when he saw his life at stake, and that nothing less than that or an ingenuous and full confession would satisfy my just anger, he acknowledged how he had no ground of truth, or for suspicion, in all that he had said; but that his own hatred to her had first suggested to him to injure her in the deepest manner that he could, and then the malice of Nugentius and Hydaspes blowed the coals in his breast, till it broke out into this unworthy and false slander; which, he averred, and said he would maintain with his life, was wholly their plot: and then related all the particularities which I have told you, whereby himself hath got the repute of an indiscreet, rash, and dishonest coward; and the other two, the esteem of malicious, unworthy, and cankered wretches.” After these and some other discourses, Theagenes, taking leave of Rogesilius, went to his own lodging, where he met with news that much afflicted him, and yet delivering such a rich and heroic example of fortitude and constancy in a woman’s breast, that I doubt whether it can be paralleled with any in this age; and, withal, of so much affection in his Stelliana to him, that would not only endure with magnanimity intolerable torments for his sake, but even give up her life without disputing it, only to satisfy a desire of his without any interest on her side; that he joyed as much in the midst of his soul-breaking anguish, as a heart can do that is in suspense and doubt of the safety of the person that it loveth most. For by a messenger that was sent to him with exceeding haste from Stelliana, who was, and had been some time, at her father’s house in the country, he understood how, by a fall from a horse as she was riding abroad the night before to take the air, she had received some bruises, and being brought speechless home into her chamber, as soon as she came to herself again, she fell suddenly into labour of childbirth, she wanting then some few days of her expected time; which unhappy accident disordered all the long and discreet preparations that were maturely made and contrived by both of them for her fit delivery: for the next day she in tended, by coach, which she had with her, to come to Corinth, where a private and fit place, and due attendance, was provided for her lying-in; and she had remained at her father’s all the time that her swelling burden might betray her to strangers’ curious eyes, and was now come to the last period that it was safe for her to continue there. But hereby one may take to themselves a lesson, how weak all the wisest propositions of men are, and that God reserveth to himself the right of disposing all things; and then, when to human understandings a business seemeth to be upon worst terms, he raiseth from the weakest and least regarded subjects, means to rectify all again. For what, in all appearance, could be weaker than the tenderness of a delicate lady that never knew what hardness meant, to encounter with dangers, torments, nay, even death itself, and to outface suspicion? for thus it happened with Stelliana, who, choosing rather to suffer death and any other extremity, than to fail in the least point to what Theagenes desired of her, and what she had promised to him, resolved never to acquaint any one in what state she was while she had life, more than one servant she had, who was privy to what was between Theagenes and her. And thus, with the help of that one fearful and unexperienced maid, she was delivered of a fair son after a long and dangerous labour, in which she had like to have perished for want of due help; and yet she bore it with such a strange and high resolution, that, being troubled by times with the visits of her careful father and others that lived in the house, she never betrayed any part of her pain by weak crying, or so much as any languishing sighs. But before Theagenes could come to her, who, upon the first news of her danger, made all possible haste thither, she had been so long in the hands of torment, that her spirits began then to faint and to yield themselves to a misty night, when, of a sudden, his sight brought new strength and vigour to her dismayed senses; so that she, of her side, by undaunted suffering, and he, on his, by providing discreetly for the due carriage of all things, wherein he had no easy task, they both behaved themselves in such sort, that she soon recovered her perfect health and strength, and the cause of her sickness was not so much as suspected. And, if before any one might have jealousies what state she was in, and might doubt the notice of her first pretending to be indisposed, all this was now cleared, since what was done would seem impossible, and not to be believed by any that did not know it was done.
* This passage has been substituted for “he had reason to believe that Stelliana was not so modest as she seemed, and that her modesty.”
Theagenes having remained there till she was perfectly reestablished in her health, returned to Corinth; and then Aristobulus, taking occasion of this his late and so long and public having been with her, to represent to him the wrong that he did himself in this affection, and how much it did prejudice his esteem, did, in a grave and friendly manner, persuade him to cast it from him, and to banish so weak a passion out of his breast; using words to this effect. “I have, of late, my worthy cousin, observed in you a great difference from yourself, for I know the natural temper of your mind, and the solidness of your judgment to be such, that when you do any thing otherwise than reason would dictate to you, you suffer force from some violent passion, which, if you give too much scope unto in the way you are, will lessen much, if not altogether lose, the reputation of discretion and prudence which you have gotten among all that know you. I need seek no farther for arguments to prove what I say, than to entreat you to look a Ht tie into yourself, and then you cannot choose but acknowledge, how you now scarcely cast an eye upon the studies which, heretofore, you applied yourself unto with much eagerness and no less benefit: that your endeavours to increase upon your master’s favour and grace are mainly slackened, which if you had made right use of, in all probability your rank and fortunes might, by this time, have been ranked with the foremost; and that you do not put yourself forward into great and honourable actions with that zeal and vigour that you have done. All which effects of a weakened and decayed mind, I can attribute to no other cause but your having entertained into your breast a servile affection, which, wheresoever it entereth, is a clog to generous spirits, and freezeth all heroic thoughts in their very births, and overthroweth the worthiest resolutions; and will cause any man to sink in the value of the world; begetting, if not contempt, at least a mean esteem, especially when it is conferred upon one that hath been known in hers to have been formerly engaged to another, and hath lived altogether at liberty under her own conduct in the world. It belongeth to you not to sit still in idleness, but to aim at worthy fortunes to strive to raise your house, and to gain some advantageous match: whereas, in all probability, these will not only not increase, but lessen your estate; since in your mother’s disposal is a great part of what shall be yours if you displease her not, and you know that she is mainly averse to this. I appeal to yourself that you see the truth of what I say so evident, as, whatsoever you may answer me, your wit can but find arguments to evade my pressing you, and not to satisfy yourself.
Then at length yield to reason, and let not the world say, that all your understanding, your knowledge, your learning, the vigour of your mind, and the well training of it up in virtuous actions, cannot defend you from the snares of beauty.”
These words, with others of like nature, spoken by Aristobulus with much authority and seriousness, through which yet shined much affection, did pierce Theagenes to the very soul; who was distracted and torn asunder between his love and obligations to her that he loved better than himself, and his reverence to him that he loved and respected as a father, and that had, above all men else, given him solid demonstrations of a worthy friendship. But, at length, his spirits unfolding themselves out of the net of deep and amazed sorrow, he replied to him in this manner.
“Although my chiefest study, since I have had the ability of discerning and judging, my honoured lord, hath been to free my mind from that servitude in which most men’s are fettered, which is, to relish things by other men’s opinions; and that I have strived to attain to so perfect a liberty herein, as not to value whatsoever others may censure me of, as long as I am conscious to myself that I do accordmg to the prescripts of nature and reason: yet the affectionate reverence that I bear unto you, doth so waken my sense and wound it so deeply when you pass the condemning sentence of dislike upon my actions that, considering it is not in my power to alter the tenor of them, since we owe our being and the form of it to Heaven, I do wish myself out of the world, to the end that I might take away the occasion of your censure, and yet not be false to that affection, which, next to my faith to God, is above all things else, deepest rooted in my soul. But since I know how vain such wishes are, and how deaf unto wretches’ calls he is, that is the last and only physician of all our evils, I will contain myself from sighing out such weak expressions of a, Minting mind; and will, in the best manner that I can, give you account of my opinions in such sort, as I may defend my actions depending thereon; which, I confess, will not be a regular answer to what you have spoken, nor, as it ought to be, in form; but, I hope, will be an effectual though disjointed one: and, for my excuse herein, I must beseech you to consider that the business I shall speak of, is that whereon the whole tenor of my life and happiness dependeth, and that I plead it before such a judge, that I account all lost if I give not him satisfaction; which causeth such an eagerness in me, and such a desire to omit nothing that may serve for my defence, that many and very different considerations do present themselves unto me at the same time, so that, in this confusion, I know beforehand it will be impossible for me to speak things in order; and I fear that ray several and numerous conceptions will so clog the issue, that, in striving each to get out first, they will stifle and suffocate one another, and thus, before they can grow to any strength and vigour, receive their death in the very place of their sudden and immature birth; or, at best, that those who shall have better fates, will come out so maimed, as they will express too much to the prejudice of my cause, that I suffer great unquietness within. To begin then in answering that which you first urge as a sign of my impaired train of life, and so to proceed successively to the rest, I must acknowledge that I have studied so much as to be very well informed that no knowledge is comparable to the knowledge of one’s self, and that all other learning is vain which teacheth not to better the mind, and that the deepest speculations are but difficult trifles, if they be not employed to guide men’s actions in the path of virtue, and directed to gain peace and tranquillity to the soul; and that their labour is very ridiculous, who strive to make their memory the storehouse of many infructuous notions. And for being cold in thrusting myself into great actions, such as usually entice away the affections of young men, whose spirits are unstayed through the intemperate heat of their boiling blood, I hope I shall be pardoned at the least by those that know how happy a thing it is to live to one’s self; for, certainly, no exterior thing in this world is worthy the exchanging one’s leisure for it; and when we dq;mrt from the inward contentments that we may always enjoy at our own pleasure, we are then tormented with the desire of future things, and are glutted with the present, so that our life becometh tedious, and we taste nothing but vexations. I conceive that all men naturally desire to live happily, as being the greatest blessing this life can afford us; but in the chase of this state most men steer different courses, and the greatest part lose it in seeking it: for my part, I esteem that life blessed, which is led according to nature; which cannot be, unless the mind be vigorous and sound, out of the reach of fortune’s power, free from admiration or being confined to other men’s opinions, and whom nothing can extol or depress, and knoweth no greater good than what he can give himself: and the contrary of this to be, when we let rumours take so deep impression in us, as to cause us to alter our resolutions and curb our desires, whereby we come to live not by reason, but according to example and to the opinion that will be entertained of us; which of all servitudes is the greatest, men obliging themselves to believe the most voices, and enthralling their understandings and judgments to other errors. And when the world shall know how little I value their censures, I believe they will soon grow weary of persecuting me with them; which I do not through obstinacy or stupidity of nature, but for the vanity that I observe in all their proceedings; and because I know that he is not happy or unhappy that is thought so, but he only that feeleth and thinketh himself so. But I wonder much that you, who have so elevated a soul, should judge according to their rule, and so heavily condemn the affection in me which you take notice of, and is not possible for me to disguise. I feel this in it, that, besides the settling of a young man’s straying and wandering courses, it polisheth the mind and refineth it by causing it to work upon itself, and to neglect all things that conduce not to the bettering or to the quiet and peace of it; which far exceedeth all the favours that fortune can heap upon me, for they are always in her inconstant hand to take away again, but nothing can touch or disturb this, if one betray not one’s self. This diverteth the mind from weaker and meaner passions, and filleth it with excess of joy; only one ought to be cautious in choosing upon whom to place it, and then it is the true office of a wise and honest man; which will be more clear to you if you will call to mind what your nephew the other day related to you, how I proved to him that love is the noblest action that human nature can extend itself unto. I am sure this hath corrected many infirmities and natural imperfections which had deep seeds in me; and the like will do in any one that desireth to appear worthy to her that he so highly affecteth, and, therefore, calleth often his passions to a strict account before the tribunal of reason. But, setting aside all other arguments, I will confess ingenuously that I love Stelliana, and cannot but love her; her perfections merit it: but for the present let those pass, and be not displeased with me that I say I love her because she is she, and I am I. The stars that are above us, and our reason, have a great stroke in our affections, how free soever our wills may be: but, withal, add her extreme affection to me, and then suppose I could master my own, and withdraw it, yet how ungenerous should I be, and with what heart could I endure to break her heart that loveth me better than herself, and that hath obliged me to do the like towards her? for noble minds are more touched with the joy and sorrow that happeneth to their dear friends, than with their own; especially when they are the procurers of it. But why should you or the world so much inveigh against my choosing her?
Their judgments are accompanied vanity, let not yours be so; but examine her actions thoroughly, before you condemn her. For you can give no solid reason why she should be less valued for her former affection, since, looking into the reality of it, and finding it to be on worthy grounds of her side, you must consent that her innocence is not impeached. But let us consider how, in this so important business of marriage, one ought not to confine himself to the temporal respects of estate. It is a bargain in posterity hath the greatest interest; and riches are of an inferior consideration to several others. We see what care is used even in beasts for the breeding of a good race; much more then in the breeding of men it is to be cared for that the parents be well chosen, for the children take after them. A man ought to choose such a wife as may be observant and virtuous while he hath her, which none can promise to himself of one that he knoweth not perfectly through long conversation, and whose will is not wholly in his power by love: indeed this one thing outweigheth all the rest, and is the highest obligation that may be, and challenge th the greatest retribution that is in one’s power. A main part of which is, to undergo any censure for the beloved’s sake; which, in my particular, I do most joyfully, and am highly glad of the means to express my affection, in imitation of Him to whom we all owe our salvation, who was not contented with only suffering pain, or dying to effect that great work, of whom one only tear was of power to have washed away the sins of infinite worlds, but to shew his burning love and charity to us, would be the object of the highest and most reproachful infamies that were ever done to any man. A wise man should not confine himself to what may be said of the past actions of his wife, and we see it is little regarded by the greatest part and the most solid nations of the world: but in choosing her, he ought to see that she be nobly descended, beautiful to please him, well formed to bear children, of a good wit, sweet disposition, endowed with good parts, and love him; then it will be his fault if he make her not a good wife. These qualities would warrant me in choosing Stelliana; for you know that by both her parents she descendeth from the noblest houses of Greece; and of her ancestors there have been that have exalted and pulled down Kings in Morea, and some of them might, and their successors still have right to wear a regal crown upon their princely temples. This match, into so noble and great families, doth not only add strength and many friends for the present, but the commodities of it is inherited by one’s children; and those women that are of most honourable blood, are most sensible of dishonourable things, and so become most tractable and obedient to their husbands where it is requisite. For her beauty I need not say much, since my weak expression of it that is so much above the power of words to describe, would but sully the idea that, I am sure, you conceive of it. In her being well formed to bear children there can be no doubt, since she is in all things so exactly composed by the perfect rules of wise nature, as no man can intimate so much as an unessential scape. The excellency of her wit I cannot describe better than in saying, it is a masculine and vigorous one, and every way correspondent to her fair outside; and can be impeached in nothing but her much loving me that cannot deserve it. And the sweetness of her disposition is such, that through the virulent malice of this age, it hath been the only cause of all her misfortunes. And, in conclusion, her good parts are such as may be expected to be harboured in a worthy lady that is born with all the advantages of nature, and hath been brought up with all due industry and care. Consider then what a happiness it is to have such a wife as in her, together with all the other commodities of marriage, one may enjoy the sweetness of a full friendship, have the means to disburden one’s self of all cares, in most important affairs receive faithful counsel, be blessed with the content of a pleasing conversation, and whose very countenance will comfort one, and, without fears or scruples, leave the conduct of one’s family to her known discretion, doubting her conscience less than one’s own. And, on the other side, look with impartial eyes upon the weaknesses and imperfections of most women, and tell me whether it be not a misery, for any respect whatsoever, to be tied in perpetual chains to one of the vulgar stamp? in them one shall see nothing but a continual inconstancy and succession of fond and vain humours; And certainly, in our conversation with such, our loss of time can never be redeemed to our profit Whosoever marrieth her that, being past her years of innocent ignorance, is beaten to the world and entered in the school of experience and bringeth a good estate with her, shall find her proud, subtle, crafty, importune, and fastidious, and may doubt her loyalty with sufficient cause; and before that age, their simplicity is so thick, that, besides their husbands being answerable for all their follies, I doubt whether the forming of them to one’s desire, be worth the pains that one must take in it. Whereas Stelliana is both in the vigour of her age, to bear strong and healthful children, and to support the pains and travails that accompany that condition, and hath a mind so moulded to my hand, as I know not in what part of it to desire any amendment: and if indiscreet unstayed youth, or rather childhood, have at any time cast a mist over her judgment, and so caused some innocent error in any of her actions, the goodness of her nature hath converted it into this benefit, that she is fully warned and armed never to incur the like: and then since time flieth away and leaveth nothing of itself behind it that we can really take hold of, what is done in that should not be considered in judging the nature of free and voluntary agents, so much as the present state of the soul and of the mind. It is true that in this life we cannot enter into the judgment of such substances by other means than by their effects, and as they express themselves in their exterior actions; but withal, to keep us from erring, we ought to look into the main stock of them, the constantest, the latest, and those that are done upon judgment; since, in some particular one, several things may concur to make it seem of a different piece from the whole contexture of one’s life; and but weak conjectures can be made of what one doth before the intellectual part is grown to his full strength; for they were once brittle mould that are now saints; and how full are all stories of men and women, whose natures, when they have attained to mature age, have differed much from what their younger years did promise. And let it be remembered that the clearest brooks that are, have some mud, but which will not at all defile the pureness of the stream if it be not indiscreetly stirred, and then too it hath so shallow a bottom, that it quickly slideth away. What I have said upon this subject, methinks, maketh it very evident that there is great difference in this election between what nature teacheth us and what the laws of opinion prescribe. I believe all wise men will esteem me the better, if I make mine according to the first; and then whatsoever the vulgar may think of me, I shall certainly be much happier than they that censure me. The wisest man that ever was, setting aside those that are mentioned in sacred writ, and that first reduced philosophy to morality, and whose life was conformable to his doctrine, delivereth it for a maxim, that to the end a man may be happy, he ought to permit himself sometimes to be esteemed a fool. The actions of the highest and noblest rank of men, move like the superior heavenly bodies, many times in a motion of retrogradation; and as long as I can march at ease by myself, I will never suffer to be carried away from myself by the throng. I know the worst that can be objected against her whom I have made choice of, and more than any man else doth; and if I err, my judgment will be in fault as much as my affection, so that I shall neither be lauded at for being deceived nor pitied for mistaking. Actions of this quality are to be I condemned in them that do them through; infirmity and weakness, bat not in those that do them out of a superiority and strength of mind; and I have so great confidence of myself as to think, that my doing a thing of this nature should, to the vulgar sort, warrant the goodness, of it. The best way to judge of any action is, to inform one’s self, first, of him that did it; for that may be a virtue in one man, which in another may be a vice. Cato and Bazias won immortal fame of virtuous fortitude for killing themselves; but many others that have done the like through despair, or some other unworthy passion, have drowned their names in perpetual infamy. And who will censure that virtuous Cato for his indulgence to himself, in drinking wine oftentimes in so large a proportion, that in a less worthy man it would be esteemed a great vice? He did it not through imbecility, but the rules that his judgment prescribed to himself allowed it, and then be valued not what others would censure of him for it. This I speak in respect of the opinion of other men, who should judge actions, good or bad, according to the grounds of them; but, in respect of my own, the certain knowledge that I have of her worth whom I so much affect, doth sufficiently warrant my affection; so that I will never do her so much wrong as, in the defence of this action of mine, to insist upon the quality of my judgment of it, wherein I may set down rules for myself much differing from the vulgarly received ones, and not to rely upon the excellency of her virtue, which maketh the action virtuous in itself. And her having lived at liberty and by her own guidance in the world, for which you tax her, methinks is a commendation, and she ought to be the more esteemed for it; since that keeping herself upon fair terms amidst so many — dangers and in that state, it is evident that her virtues are her own, and not constrained nor dissembled, nor will ever alter their current.
“But from whence do you gather that my endeavours to increase upon my master’s grace and favour are slackened? I am not guilty to myself of any heats or colds this way, nor would I that there should be in me. In the service of one’s Prince, to proceed with constancy and temper is certainly the best and most permanent; but so as rather to engage one’s self in the offices of public duty than by any other respect: for thus one shall both be a faithful and affectionate servant, and yet preserve one’s own liberty, which I prefer much before any good fortune that can arrive to me; and indeed, I value fortune, and measure it, not according to the height, but according to the facility of it, and this perad venture is the reason why in substance or titles I have not bettered mine. But if nobody else will trouble themselves upon this consideration more than I do myself, whom in reason it should import most, not one single anxious thought shall be cast away upon it. For I judge more nobly of those that neglect honours, than of those that seek them; this elevateth them a degree above what the others aim at; and I have set down my rest, where piety forbiddeth not, to live according to nature, then it is in my own power to make myself happy and to give good to myself. I am above fortune, which others have need of; I can reduce my occasions to what is in my power; _mores cuique suifingunt fortunam_, and thus I shall neither fear nor desire any thing: which two passions are the greatest torments in this life, and bring the mind into greatest servitude. But with all this, I am not such an enemy to an active life, or to honours if they were offered me, but that I would then accept of them, and avoid no employment for the dangers or troubles that may accompany them, if by my being so employed and advanced I may become fitter to do service to my Prince, my country, and friends; which being so, my other affection will be no impediment to my undertaking any public and great action when I shall see a fit season, and that good is likely to result of it, although I must confess that retiredness would afford me much more solid content, especially in these depraved times; and it cannot keep me back from them by lessening me in the esteem of my master, since he cannot choose but think well of that man who sheweth such an effect of his loyalty and good nature, that no respects whatsoever can make him false to her he loveth. And as concerning my mother, I wish that I may perish in that hour that I make light account of the filial duty that I owe her; but parents would do very well, if they have discreet children, that in things mainly importing them will not abandon themselves, to examine thoroughly how far their jurisdiction reacheth before they stretch it to extremities. Our retribution ought to be proportionable to our debt, but our souls and intellectual parts we owe immediately to God, and therefore what dependeth thereon is subaltern to no human jurisdiction; so that when one is arrived to the full years of mature discretion, it were a kind of tyranny in a parent, to use more than counsel or reason in inclining or diverting the child in disposing of himself. And howsoever she may dispose of her estate, T shall not be moved therewith, nor shall let it, though it were much more, enter into consideration with the content of my mind; although this I may say, that I think she and all parents would do most wisely not to innovate nor alter any thing that the general laws of the country ordain and intend; which certainly, in providing for inconveniencies, reach farther and see deeper than any single judgment can; besides that, when all is said, there is a reciprocal duty of parents to children, which is enough for an obsequious child to have but intimated; especially to a wise man.
“Then for an advantageous match which you recommend to roe to seek, can any be comparable to this, which if you consider the estate that she doth and may bring with her, is no mean one. O the flat contents that are in marriages made for temporal conveniences I certainly one must affectionately desire what one would take much pleasure to enjoy. In my choice our mutual desires will make each other happy, and our fervent loves will reflect strongly upon those that shall come of us, adding that increase to natural affection, and consequently to our joys in them; who also, in all reason, will be replenished with the goodness and beauty of her that bore them. There is no man certainly that seeth so far as I do into these contentments and blessings, but will desire them as vehemently as I do; but there may be this difference between us, that they may want courage and resolution to possess and defend them; and I deem it a greater weakness to disguise one’s passions than to entertain them. Other men’s opinions shall never drive me from maintaining the rules that I have prescribed to myself; then since this so mainly importeth my happiness, I will not fail to justify myself to the world for giving way to my affections; and then, although I may not gain the opinion of wisdom suitable to these times, yet I hope I shall have the ancients my friends, in that I seek to get a habitude that breedeth full pleasure and interior delight, and banish far from my consideration those things that are without me, to the end that not being afraid of the censures of the world, I may not drown my life in perpetual disquiet. But if what I have said to that effect, do not relish to other men’s fantasies; and that it be like too solid meat for weak stomachs and tender teeth, as the vulgar’s are, I will proceed with them in a more gentle, or rather submissive way; if they will not absolve me, let them pardon me; let my friends be so indulgent to me as to pass by this one action, and I will not fail their hopes and desires in any thing else. Although I cannot persuade myself that I am in an error in this, yet since others believe it, it will make me strive to behave myself so in all things else, that I may rectify myself in their good opinion, and, to that effect, strain myself in virtuous actions beyond what otherwise I should have done. If it be a fault in me, yet it would be a greater injustice in them to condemn all that may be good besides, for so small a mixture of the contrary; what discreet man ever threw away a fair and rich garment for having a small spot in some one corner of it? It importeth no man but himself; then it is reason that no man but myself should trouble himself about it; yet if they will still search into me, let them remember, that in the choice of friends those are to be esteemed good that are the least ill, since none are positively good; and if all men have something of evil, let them examine the nature and weight of what evil is inherent to every one, and make their choice accordingly. And if herein I strive not to better myself, let them conceive the cause proceedeth as much out of my design as out of my weakness, for I have learned, and from an author of unquestionable authority, that even the mending of a state is not worth the disordering and troubling it. And if I yield more to the tempest that carrieth me away, than some may like of, let them consider that 9 ship tossed in a violent storm maketh fairest weather before the wind; wherefore I judge it folly for any man to force and strain his nature, to raise a civil war within himself. Besides, I care not for mending myself by halves: with me if any thing be awry, let all that. hangeth upon that string be so too. If my affection be a fault, I must confess I cannot help it, for herein we are under the conduct of the stars, and then I will never go about to prescribe it limits; and sure it is better to have some evil increased than all one’s good troubled. But withal I will say this in ray own behalf, that I think who hath given testimony of wisdom in other things, shall never be accounted a fool for his affections when he can give himself a good account of them; and they that live in the memory of after ages, shall not be judged by their loves, but by their other actions. Let them in me look upon those, and cover this, as they did in ancient times that sold a good horse; they covered those parts of him that were not essential to be observed in judging of his goodness, lest they might carry away the buyer’s eye from marking the principal limbs, by the which they might make a judgment of the rest. Howsoever, since this may be liable to dispute, whether I have done well or ill. Jet men suspend their sentences till the event give the verdict one way; let them follow that wise man’s advice that would have none judge of another’s happiness till after his death; and in this, censure me by the tenor of my future life, wherein I dare boldly promise to myself that, whensoever I shall avow her for such, she will prove an exact pattern of a virtuous wife, and I of a happy man; and this not through any prophetic revelation or credulous fantasy, but upon infallible grounds and the certain knowledge of her nature, which is such that it will be my fault if she prove not as I would have her; and I am confident that her life will belie any rumour that may have been spread abroad to her disadvantage by malicious persons, and believed by others that take up their opinions upon trust.
To end then this long, and I fear tedious, discourse of mine, let me put you in mind, how some ancient and much esteemed philosophers were of opinion, that a man of vigorous spirits and of a clear understanding might not only love, but without blame use the liberty of his own election and inclinations, and ought to oppose the original rules of nature against vulgar laws and customs; and that limited and artificial ordinances are only for weak minds, who are not able to judge of things truly as they are by the dim light of their own feeble nature. And while it remaineth in controversy what is best for a man to do, let him in the mean time at least do what pleaseth him most: and for my part, I can never deem those humours very vain that are very pleasing, since content is the true seasoning of all other blessings, and that without it they are all nothing, nor guide my actions by other men’s censures, which hurt not at all when they are neglected or patiently endured, nor be afflicted when they condemn me; and thus I shall be free from the servitude that most men live in, who are more troubled by the opinions of evils than by their real essence; and then the world shall see that my happiness and content is not proportioned to the estimation that they make of it, which will soon be forgotten and vanish away; but to what I truly enjoy and feel in myself, which will remain with me for: ever. And to express fully the exact character of my mind in this particular, give me leave to make use of the sententious poet’s words, though, applied to my purpose somewhat differing from his sense, where he saith:
Praetulerim delirus inersque videri
Dura mea delectent mala me, vel denique fallant,
Quam sapere et ringi. HORAT.
And then I will entreat them to think of me as I do of others; which is, that no man of a competent understanding and judgment is. to be lamented of pitied for finding any means, whatsoever it be, to please and satisfy himself.”
Aristobulus perceiving that Theagenes had made an end of what he intended to say by his silence, which was accompanied with a modest blush that seemed to speak for him, that he could not teach his sense such a stern confidence as in his discourse he attributed to himself, he was beginning to frame a reply thereunto, and to display many fallacies, as he termed them, in his speech, which could not defend him to a sharp and severe judgment, and would only serve him to deceive himself the more plausibly, when their conference was interrupted by the coming in unto them of Aristobulus’s solicitor of his causes, who being even then alighted out of his coach, made haste to acquaint his Lord with what had passed that day before the great judges of the kingdom, who were all purposely assembled by the king’s commandment, to deliver their opinions in some weighty point concerning his business, and the suit that was still depending between his Majesty and him; of whom, when Aristobulus had received the full information of as much as he could tell him, he turned to Theagenes, and to him expressed, with much bitterness of sense, the high Injuries and oppressions that were done him, which for the present took away his memory of the former theme to the which he had eagerly bent his thoughts; and Theagenes being glad of any occasion of diversion, and of keeping him from returning unto it, did, as well out of that respect as also out of a desire to inform his knowledge perfectly of his best friend’s important affairs, desire him to give him leave to understand from him the true state that his business was in at present; of which be had bat rude and imperfect notions, by reason of his late absence out of the kingdom, and since his return his having been till now in the country; which being a subject that Aristobulus was never weary to discourse of, he willingly condescended to his desire, and began in this manner. “If I should perish by the hand of justice, though never so unjustly carried, it would be some consolation to me; since by that means, at the least, I should have a fit occasion to make my innocence, or rather meritoriousness, known to the world; but to be consumed away insensibly under heavy oppression, and not to be able to procure that my reasons and defence may be once heard, is, certainly the greatest affliction that can happen to a man of spirit; and I have learned by dear experience that passive valour is a rarer endowment than active, and it is less troublesome to a generous nature to expose himself into hazards than to endure injuries; which made me take the first occasion that was offered, to produce mine into public view, and lose all respect since none was maintained to me; and that was in the time of the last general convocation of the three estates, the wrongs of subjects being at such a time willingly heard and redressed; the cause of which assembly, as it is truly known to few, so I think it will not be displeasing to you to understand from me, which yet I dare not affirm to be certain, but I had the knowledge of it from a good hand, and my own distance from the court and the business of that maketh me that I . . .
[Here nearly two pages are obliterated.]
. . . kings, that were as shamefully performed, he was fain to call an assembly of the general estates to relieve the King’s wants in raising new forces. But the people being generally discontented with manifold oppressions, he found it not so easy a task as he expected, to win them to what he desired: and during his and their altercations, I took hold of this opportunity to accuse him of transcendent crimes to that supreme court of justice, having been formerly kept with much industry from all other tribunals, and from the King himself. You were a main witness to prove much of what I had to say, especially of later matters since my coming from Egypt, you having been the only negotiant in a long treaty,’ both between Hephaestion and me, and the old King and me; with which good Prince you had no sooner brought my business upon good terms, but all my great and fair hopes were blasted by his untimely death; of which Hephaestion being very apprehensive, he wrought so that Scanderbret and Oxicrane, kinsmen and dependents of his, did take an occasion to challenge my nephew Bagesilius and you to fight in duel, by this means to cause your absence at such a time as I might need your assistance. I must confess I was much troubled when I heard you were gone to Lepanto, the place appointed for your combat, and could have wished that your wit and subtleties had failed you when you deceived the watchful officers of the port, and those, warned too, to get passage over the seas; but that part of my care, which had relation to myself and my business, was soon quieted when I received the letter that you sent me, wherein you shewed the heedful affection that you bad to my good, and did much avail me in my defence; which was so strong, and did so much reflect upon some things of high consequence, which I could not avoid mentioning, my life and honour lying at the stake, that soon after the producing of your letter, when I delivered in my accusations against Hephaestion in form, the assembly was abruptly dissolved, as you found it at your return; when if you had not had much constancy and resolution, and been well thought of by the King your master, to whom you boldly went at your first landing without any mediator, you had certainly been ruined, and accordingly was lamented by all your friends. For my part, I found no other effect of the strong defence of my innocence, but that it exasperated his Majesty against me, who, I think, was not, before that time of this to me unfortunate and unavoidable contestation, evilly affected in his judgment concerning my cause; and since, Hephaestion hath sought my destruction by all the means he could, by bringing me upon unequal terms into other courts of justice, and sifting all my actions from the first day that I entered into my old masterly service. But my innocence, or rather meritoriousness, being thus urged, I may speak it without ostentation, is such and so apparent, that at length they are forced to let the cause fall; and this I now understand to be the opinion of the judges that met today about my business, although for the accusers’ honour they dare not publish it.”
This relation was the text of many discourses between Aristobulus and Theagenes; but it growing late they took leave of each other, while Theagenes, all the way that he was going homewards, reflected with anxious thoughts upon what Aristobulus had so freely, and with the spirit of a friend, spoken to him in his own behalf; and being retired into his chamber, after many discourses in his understanding, he concluded that it was necessary for him to employ himself in some generous action that might give testimony to the world how his affections had nothing impaired the nobleness of his mind, nor abated the edge of his active and vigorous spirits, nor that any private engagements should in him be a warrant to idleness. Whereupon he resolved to undertake speedily something that might tend to the King’s service, and gain himself honour and experience; which when he made known to the King, his Majesty gave him an extraordinary and very honourable commission to take in hand a voyage by sea; for the which he made very effectual and diligent preparations, in such sort that all that saw them did from thence prognosticate good success of what he went about; which was the cause that he had so many, and persons of quality, that endeared themselves to be admitted into his company, that his greatest trouble was to defend himself from their importunity; whereas others, upon like occasion, are fain to employ all their endeavours, and they many times fall short, to win men into their company. But his main difficulty was to persuade Stelliana to take his departure patiently, whose extreme affection made her very averse unto it, so that she would ever and anon accompany her abundant tears with such words as these. “Is it possible that the day can come wherein my sight doth offend your eyes, or that you should find such amiableness in dangers and tempests, as for the gaining of them to hate my presence? What sin have I committed to alienate me from your affection, or rather, what have I not done to win and preserve it? O my unhappy condition, and beyond all others most miserable, that dependeth upon the inconstancy and mutability of others’ minds, which, as it changeth, I am still engaged in new causes of deep sorrow! If not for my sake, yet let this innocent part of you persuade you not to leave him a distressed orphan, and me a desolate widow, to lament your long, or peradventure perpetual absence. Consider that although heretofore it was in your single power to dispose of yourself, yet now I have an interest in you, which I will never be so cruel to myself as to relinquish; and without my consent, you infringe the eternal laws of justice to undertake such an action, and therefore have reason to expect from above rather heavy judgments than blessings to accompany it.” Much to this effect she spoke, issuing from a heart deeply wounded with affection and grief; while Theagenes felt in himself the enchanting effects of a beautiful and beloved woman’s tears, and had his soul almost fettered in the golden chain that came from her fair lips, which he no sooner was aware of, but the sense of his honour came to his thoughts, and banished all weak tenderness out of his heart, so that he remained un moveable in his resolutions, although he could not choose but grieve extremely at her sorrow, whom he loved above all temporal respects, and make use of all the arguments that he could bethink himself, to induce her to endure his short absence with patience, and that might serve for her consolation; acquainting her with the motives that induced him to undertake this voyage, and making her see that although for the present it might be troublesome to her to endure, yet that hereafter it would be the cause of both their complete happiness, since that he was resolved to retire himself to a private life, where, removed from the cumbersome distractions of the court or city, he might without any interruption enjoy the quiet blessings of her sweet conversation, and would then attend to nothing but to love, to ease, and to tranquillity: but that if he should do it abruptly and of a sudden, it could not be without the impeachment of his honour and worldly dignity; and that therefore he chose this way to make a leisurely, secure, and honourable retreat, and as it were with displayed ensigns, which after such an action that would give testimony of his courage and resolution, all men would say to be made through judgment and highness of a mind despising what the vulgar holdeth most dear and in greatest admiration, and not through a weak, shameful, lazy, or uxorious humour; and therefore he desired her that she would not with her sorrow give him the sad presage of some great ensuing disaster. Upon which discourse of his, although Stelliana could not so suddenly wean her heart from the sense of passionate grief, yet her discretion taught her to contain the expression of it, and by affording her consent to what he had resolved upon, shewed how her will depended wholly upon his, howsoever her desires and affections might be repugnant to it when she considered any danger he might incur.
Theagenes then having with incredible diligence got all things in readiness for his voyage, and with equal constancy and magnanimity overcome the many difficulties and oppositions that occurred to him, some of them wrought by a powerful envious hand, as well as by the malignity of fortune, which most men thought would have disordered and overthrown his designs; and having taken leave of all his friends, the last whom he visited, as he was going aboard his ship, was Aristobulus, who then desired him to inform him truly and free from suspense, whether be were married or no: because that, he said, his great familiarity with Stelliana, and her entertaining of it, did make most men believe he was, and yet his not public avowing it did make him doubt it. Whereupon Theagenes acknowledged ingenuously that he was, but that if he had not asked him he would not have told it him, since it was against his disposition to be the deliverer of news to his friends that would be displeasing to them, and he apparently saw that he did not approve of this match; and that the reason why he did not at the first publicly avow it to the world were many, as the interests of estate, both in respect of her friends and his own, wherein it imported him much to have some things settled before it should be certainly known; and that his familiarity with her which held mens’ opinions in suspense and doubt
[Here two pages are obliterated.]
All which being understood by Aristobulus, he told him that the same friendly affection which had formerly moved him to dissuade him from this match, did now call upon him to cooperate with his ends and to do him service as much as he could; therefore he bade him rest confident that in the time of his absence he would pay to his wife the same respect that he had ever done to him, and would employ his best talents to justify his action and to make others approve it. For the which Theagenes rendered him condign thanks, and at his parting from him, entreated him to believe that he would behave himself in such sort in this voyage, that howsoever fortune might deal with him, he would be sure to win himself honour, without a good share of which he would never return: and that although she should do her worst to him, he would triumph over it all with a glorious death. After which being spoken, be went into his coach, to go to the port where his ships stayed in readiness for him, and wanted only his presence and a fair wind to set sail; which he brought with him, that gave liberty to many other vessels that had been a long time wind-bound there: and the same day that he embarked himself, he had news by a post sent on purpose to him, of his wife’s delivery of a second and hopeful son, whereupon he gave order to her to conceal their marriage no longer. So that from these auspicious beginnings he might have taken to himself the presage of successful proceedings; but the envious arbiter of men’s actions, who will suffer one in this life to taste nothing pure, did all of a sudden so overwhelm this prosperous entrance with a sea of bitterness, that from the strange difference of estate which twenty days caused in Theagenes’s fleet, one might see too evidently how unconstantly she moveth her wheel; for he had been but a while at sea, when with a settled contrary wind, there came among his men such a violent pestilential disease, and raged with such fury, that in a few days he was reduced to such extremity that there were scarce men enough upon any important occasion to trim the sails.
For the nature of it being such, that from those who were infected with it, it took hold of others that were in perfect health, like fire when it is joined to combustible matter, if they did but come within distance of each other’s breath, or touch any part of their garments, it came to pass that in a very short time almost all were possessed with it, by reason of the great number of men enclosed in a small room; and although every one strived to avoid those that were sick, whereby they died in much desolation without any help, yet the infection was so rooted in the ship that they could not fly from it: and if natural affection to his friend or charity moved any one to be so tender as to do another the offices belonging to a sick man, many times with a sudden death had prevented the other’s languishing one; and by this means it happened often that dead bodies lay many days in their cabins and hamacas, nobody daring to go overlook them, and much less to throw the noisome carcases overboard, until their intolerable stink discovered them: but sometimes there were of mean fellows that would come to steal what they found about the bodies of those that were of better quality, and then by their own sudden death in the same place, they would bewray their theft. But that which of all others seemed to cause most compassion, was the furious madness of most of those who were near their end, the sickness then taking their brain; and those were in so great abundance that there were scarce men enough to keep them from running over-board, or from creeping out of the ports, the extreme heat of their disease being such that they desired all refreshings, and their depraved fantasy made them believe the sea to be a spacious and pleasant green meadow. This extremity of evil taught the meanest rank of people what the noblest of philosophy can scarcely do to the most elevated minds, that is, a most resupine patience in their sufferance; the familiarity and inevitableness of which made them in the end not to apprehend or fear it. But then all the principal officers of the fleet, that were more sensible of the loss of the whole than of their own danger, came with one consent to Theagenes, to represent to him how it was impossible for him to keep the sea and subsist many hours longer, since the mortality was now grown very great, and that there were scarce whole men enough to sail his ship, and the quality of the sickness was so malignant, that they whom in the morning one would have judged most healthful were many times dispatched into the other world before night; therefore they advised and besought him to bear up the helm and return home, deeming it much better rather to bring the ships back, although the voyage were overthrown, than through an indiscreet obstinacy to let them, and all in them, perish in the sea. But Theagenes, that had a much deeper sense of his honour than of his life and safety, and yet was so highly compassionate of their great evils that he prayed continually, that all the punishments for his or their sins due unto the divine justice, might fall upon his single head, represented to them how in probability the worst counsel they could take would be to return home, since that was now the farthest place of distance that they could go unto, and the long hanging of the winds contrary, was an evident sign that they would shortly veer about to their advantage, that way also being their natural and constant course. Wherefore he told them absolutely, that he would expect with patience the happy hour of a fair gale, and desired them no longer to persuade him to do what he had set his rest upon that he would not; but to concur with him in prayer to the superior powers to favour their designs as they were honourable and just. And within a few hours, God having sufficiently tried their patience and constancy, the unconstant element filled his sails with prosperous breath, and he did put into Rhodes to relieve his men and take in supplies of many things that were wanting. Where during his stay he temporised so discreetly with the headiness of that barbarous people, and wrought himself so much into their good opinion and affection, that be not only procured for himself all that he stood in need of, but settled a very good correspondence between the state of Morea and them, which before was upon exceeding bad terms, and yet imported the Moreans much, and redeemed many Morean captives that had lived there a long time in miserable servitude. After which he did put to sea again, in prosecution of his former design, which was of a high consequence to the King his master’s service, it being to interrupt the great trade of the Athenians in Syria and Egypt for silks and other commodities which those countries yield, that by this means the Moreans might gain it, and make their country the staple for the manufacture and vent of so rich a traffic. And by the way as he sailed on, he met with sundry vessels upon the sea, whom he stayed and examined, and with them all shewed singular examples of justice; and particularly with those that were enemies, of humanity and clemency. But when he came to Alexandretta, where was the period of his design, he found there a great strength of Athenian vessels, and some Cyprian ones, that did not content themselves with saying that they would defend their companions and friends, there being a straight league Athens, and Cyprus, but also warned him to go immediately out of the port, or otherwise they would sink his ships; so presumptuously confident they were of their formidable vessels, which were made with such admirable force and art, that until this hour no ships durst ever attempt to resist them. But Theagenes, that thought valiant deeds would be the best answer to their vain words, and that, doubting such entertainment, had made exact preparations for a fight, as one that, deemed caution with valour to be the first step to victory; calling his chief men together, made an oration to them, such a one as the shortness of the time permitted, calling to their minds their past victories that they had gloriously obtained together, and how they had been absolute lords of the sea in all places where yet they came; and representing to them how their enemies had nothing but a loud airy name, not won by any proper merit, but given to the force of their vessels, which would be of no effect if not well managed, and would only serve to add glory to his victory; whereas they had all won honour by their heroic actions, and every one of them deserved to command a navy; and the vast multitude of his enemies would but beget confusion, whereas he knew the names and worth of every one of his, and they were all trained up to his discipline and to the sudden and true understanding of his commands; and therefore bade them go on to a certain conquest, praying God that if himself were here to end his life, yet his fleet might return safe home, and he be brought back not in a funeral but in a triumphal pomp. Which being spoken with notable vigour and alacrity of courage, that was enough to assure the faintest heart, he begun the charge with his own admiral ship against that of the enemy’s, and in like manner every one of his fleet took to task an adversary, who did not long hold out, but after the loss of many men, and their vessels being upon terms of sinking, if the fight had continued any longer to keep them from mending their leaks, wherein it appeared what discreet fury could do against men that had more confidence in their floating castles and in their multitude than in their own virtue. The Cyprians sent an humble message to beg a shameful peace; and at the same instant he boarded and took by force the Athenian vessels, so that in a few hours he got a glorious victory, and gave testimony to the world, that a discreet and stayed valour is not to be resisted in what it undertaketh, although at the first sight it may seem to attempt things with much disadvantage.
If these loose papers should have the fortune to fall into any man’s hands, to the which they were never designed, I desire that this last scrawl may beg pardon for the rest; all which I am so far from justifying, that I know the only way to preserve me from censure, is the not owning of them. But since the remembrance of the original cause that hath drawn these lines from me, is so sweet, that I cannot choose but nourish whatsoever relresheth it in me, which appeared in that I had not the power to sacrifice these trifles in the fire, whereunto my judgment had condemned them; and that if ever they come to be seen by any, their author and scope cannot choose but be known, my follies being therein so lively expressed, that no hand but ray own could have traced them so exactly, I will ingenuously confess how I came to spend any time upon so vain a subject, hoping that I may in some measure be excused when it shall be known that in the weaving of this loose web, which was done without any art or care, I employed only the few empty spaces of tedious hours, which would have been in danger to have been worse filled if I had not taken hold of this occasion of diversion, which my continual thoughts administered me. You that read, then, may take notice that after a long and violent storm, which took me between Rhodes and Candie, and separated from me all the vessels of my fleet, it was my misfortune to fall in with the island of Milo; where, while I stayed to mend the defects of a leaky ship, and to expect the relics of the tempest’s fury, I was courteously invited ashore by a person of quality of that place; whereunto, when I had settled my important business in a good train, I willingly condescended, being very confident of the friendliness of that people, but more in the strength that I had there, which was such, that they had more reason to beware doing me any displeasure, than I to fear any attempt of theirs; and hoping, that through the pleasantness of that place and the conveniences of the shore, I might somewhat refresh myself, who was then much distempered in body and suffered great affliction in my mind. But more time passing before my other ships came thither to me than in reason I could expect, and my books, which use to be my faithful and never failing companions, being all left aboard through the negligence, or rather mistake of my servant, who thought I would not have stayed longer than one night ashore, I passed my time there with much solitude, and my best entertainment was with my own thoughts; which being contrary to the manner of most men, unless it be when melancholy hath seized their minds, who deem no state delightful that is not quickened by exterior pleasures, I soon perceived that my courteous host was much troubled at my retirement, and omitted nothing that might avail to divert me from it; and among other things, made me a liberal offer to interest me in the good graces of several of the most noted beauties of that place, who in all ages have been known to be no niggards of their favours, which might perad venture have been welcomely accepted by another that had like me had youth, strength, and a long time of being at sea to excuse him if he had yielded to such a temptation. But I, that had fresh in my soul, the idea of so divine and virtuous a beauty, that others’, in balance with her’s, did but serve to shew the weakness and misery of their sex, thought it no mastery to overcome it: but yet was in some perplexity how to refuse my friend’s courtesy, without seeming uncivil. In the end, after some debate with myself, I concluded that the best way for me would be to pretend some serious business, which of necessity did call upon me to write many dispatches, and into several places; and thus, without his offence or suspicion, I might enjoy solitude and liberty. Indeed, my pretence was not altogether a feigned one, many extraordinary accidents having involved me in several intricacies, but my facility of setting down on paper my low conceptions having been ever very great, I soon made an end of what concerned business, and then continuing my former method of contemplation, which I did with the more devotion, having overcome the late assault, I soon found that one’s thoughts and mind may outwork themselves by being too eagerly and too long fixed upon one object, and withal, many times the memory of some passages which afforded me great delight, stole unexpectedly upon me, I having of long time before forgotten them, and being then fearful of doing the like again: which was the cause that having pen, ink, and paper by me, I deemed it both a good diversion for the present, and pains that would hereafter administer me much content, to set down in writing my wandering fantasies as they presented themselves to me; which I did suddenly in loose sheets of borrowed paper, and that in not so full a manner as might be intelligible to any other; but so that to me, who was thoroughly acquainted with all the dependencies of them, it might serve for an index to reduce the rest into my remembrance. Wherefore I give warning beforehand, that no man bath reason to lose any time in perusing so trivial a discourse of a young and unstayed head as this is; which was at the first begun only for my own recreation, and then continued and since preserved only for my own private content. If my endeavours of keeping it from all men’s view will not prevail, as I doubt not but they will, then this advertisement of mine is vain, and will perish in as much darkness as I desire the papers may they it accompanieth. But since no man is so sure of any thing that is out of himself, but that for the future some accident may alter or cross what he hath disposed, though never so probably contrived, T thought fit, since that I intend to keep them awhile by me, to please myself in looking back upon my past and sweet errors, to say thus much in my own excuse, to the end that I may not be thought to have grown unto such a height of immodesty, as to desire that my follies may after me remain upon record. Therefore, whosoever it is that may meet with this, after some fatal shot may have taken me out of the world, I entreat him to do me this last friendly office, to be the executioner of my first intentions herein, and convert these blotted sheets into a clear flame; which funeral fire will be welcome obsequies to my departed soul, who till then will be in continual fear that the world may have occasion to renew the memory of my indiscretion, and condemn me then as much for want of judgment in writing, as formerly it hath done for too deep passion in my actions. For the present I will say no more; but will continue my prayers to God for a fair wind, to bring me once again to see that person whose memory begot this discourse.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005