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My children were all sick of that disease,
Westrow Revived, 1653. To support his family, he had already disposed of his plate, and his wife had “ript away" the silver and the " lace of gold" from her garments, and exchanged her ornaments for daily bread. Even the dishes that held their meat were also sold; and last of all they parted with the "precious stones, the jewels, and the rings," which had been given to them as “tokens of respect" from various distinguished persons. In this melancholy condition, yet still relying upon the Divine Providence, Wither says that he walked out and met his friend Mr. Westrow, who, touched by his calamities, presented him with twenty pounds. Westrow's charity did not relax; the twenty pounds gradually grew to "twenty hundred crowns and more," which he advanced without desiring a bond, or bill, or note
To testify the lending of one groat: And when Wither sent a full acknowledgement of all he had received, Westrow returned it to him, with an injunction that he should tell no man of the transactions between them. By this seasonable help be was enabled to recover some money detained from him " in a private hand," and he carried something to his friend every year in liquidation of the debt *.
• In 1659 Wither tad not forgotten his friend. " When I was much poorer than at pressat I am, God raised me up a friend, who, knowing
Westrow died in 1653, and Wither honoured his memory with a poem, apparently inspired by unfeigned gratitude and esteem. Walker, in his History of Independency, has not left so favourable a picture of this individual ; he numbers him with those persons who had enriched themselves from poverty and a low degree, and says he was worth nothing until he became and a parliament man, when he got the Bishop of Worcester’s manor of Hartlerow, which proved he had two good and beneficial offices *." Wither indignantly repelled this accusation against his friend, and represents him as one who,
Living, walk'd upright in crooked ways,
And chose the best part in the worst of days. Lord Essex also endeavoured to alleviate the poet's distresses. On the 12th of September, 1643, he issued a warrant for immediate payment of 2871. 12s., and on the 13th of the same month another warrant for the further sum of 294l.; and on the 3rd of March in the following year, for the like payment of 1901. +
Wither lent the cause he had adopted the aid of his pen as well as his sword. About the first year after the commencement of the war, he wrote the Mercurius Rusticus, a country messenger, in imitation of the Weekly Intelligencers. The newspapers published during the civil war bave long since passed into the collections of antiquarians, and are become almost inaccessible even by what
means I was necessitated (and how unlikely I was to repay him), brought nevertheless unto me without my asking ought (without obliging by a note under my hand, and without so much as requiring a promise of repayment), 500l., by parcels at several tiines during the conLinuance of my wants.”—Epistolium-Vagum Prosa-Metricum, p. 6. • Walker's History of Independency, p. 171, ed. 1660.
Recited in the report of Colonel Dove's Committee, to which Wither's claims were referred. - Journal of the House of Commons,
January 2nd, 1650.
to the scholar. The witty Cleveland called the diurnals of that day, a history in sippets. So much brutality of insolence and crueity of invective could only have been endured in a season of universal anarchy and confusion. The severity of the Royalists was, however, in some measure, redeemed by a vein of learning and wit. Wither touches pleasantly upon some of the most popular papers of the time. “Though I am not so witty as my friend Britannicus, nor bring you narratives that so well deserve the whetstone as Monsieur Aulicus *, nor come so furnished with novelties as Master Civicus, nor 80 supplied with passages as the Weekly Intelligencer, nor am at leisure to sum up occurrences as the Accomptant, &c. &c.;" he was afterwards ashamed of his periodical scribbling, and never renewed his visit, although he at first intimated his intention of doing so.
The next production of his soldier-pen was the Campo-Muse, or Field Musings, written while he was "in
• Monsieur Aulicus was Sir John Birkenhead, the prose Butler of the day. He was first brought into notice by Archbishop Laud, whose favour he obtained by some beau:iful transcriptions. Birkenhead was at this time a Servitor of Oriel College, but Laud recommended him to a Fellowship at All Souls. When Charles the First held his Court at Oxford, Birkenhead was selected to write the Mercurius dulicus, which he writ wittily enough, says Aubrey, until the surrender of the town in 1646. But this is not strictly true. During a considerable period the paper was written by Dr. Peter lleylin, though not with equal humour or spint. Wither was the frequent object of Birkenhead's ridicule. In a highly-amusing pamphlet, entitled Two Centuries of Paul's Church yard, in which the Libri Theologici, Politici, Historici, &c. are divided into classes, we hr.d in the third class, among other interesting announcements, the following: Aristotle's Works in English Metre, by George Wither, Wither was never attacked with impunity; and in the Great Assises holden in Parnassus, published in 1643, and ascribed to his pea, Sir John Birkenhead is severely handled.
The reader will find a full and interesting notice of the newspapers printed during the civil war, in the British Bibliographer, vol. i., p. 613; Appendix to Chalmera's Life of Ruddiman, and the Introduction to Cromwelliana.
Aubrey, after describing Birkenhead "of middling stature and great goggie eyes," adds, rather needlessly, that he was not of a “sweet aspect."
arms for the King and Parliament." The king and the parliament was a phrase constantly in the mouth of the republicans, even while they were using every means to overthrow the monarchy. Through the field Musings are scattered several interesting anecdotes of the writer's military life. His colonel, he tells us, was Middleton, a valiant Scot, on whose left flank he led his own troop to the charge*. His fare and lodging were of the true martial kind; he had the open fields for his quarters, and was very happy to make a comfortable bed in a “well-made barley-cock," with the starry sky for his canopy and curtains. Yet even here, amid the din and tumult of arms, he prophesied the fall of nations, and prepared for publication his own views of the Bible, and the mysteries of the Apocalypse.
But Wither's tergiversation did not pass unnoticed: an opponent rose up in the person of the Water-poet. Honest John Taylor was now at Oxford, whither he had fled from the persecutions of his enemies in London ; and he tells us, in that strange but amusing medley, Mnd verse, Sad verse, Glad verse, and Bad verse, that upon his arrival at Oxford, he found the king and a large party of nobility in " Christ Church garden," and that the monarch, on perceiving him, immediately came towards him, and “put forth his royal hand strait," which, says Taylor, with no small exultation,
On my knees I humbly kneeld and kist. This mark of the king's favour lent a fresh vigour to his feelings, and he applied the lash with an unsparing
• A description of the poet's flag is given by Prestwich in his Rese Publica, p. 35. Captain George Withen, the pret-gules; in saltier a sword bladed proper, hilted or; over which a golden pen; over both in fess, a scroll, and thereon Pro Rege, Lege, Grege, -fringed argent and rules, Smaalen * 01
hand to the political dereliction of his former friend. He entitled his reply to the Campo-Muse, Aqua Muse, or Cacofago, Cacodæmon, Captain George Wither wrung in the Withers *. The contents of the poem are not more euphonious than the title. In the preface he declares, that he had loved and respected Wither thirty-five years, because he thought him “simply honest," and takes leave of him in a strain of no common malevolence and scorn. The Skuller, as Ben Jonson called him, possessed a vocabulary rich in epithets of abuse.
If Wither's narrative be true, and of his veracity no doubt can be fairly entertained, he was at this period esteemed a person of considerable political influence. la the Cordial Confection he tells the following singular anecdote:—That during the King's residence at Oxford, he received two letters from Lord Butler, which, at the time of writing the Confection, in 1659, were still preserved among his papers, offering to settle half of his estate upon the poet, only as a small earnest of greater rewards from Charles himself, if he would embrace the royal cause t. This offer was rejected. Of Lord Butler I know nothing.. Butler was the family name of the Marquis of Ormond, whose devotion to his royal master has been commemorated by Clarendon and Burnet. But he could not have been at Oxford, and his son Thomas, Earl of Ossory, was only a boy.
Printed at Oxford, in 1644. The author of the Aqua-Musa was not altogether free from the charge of fickleness. Or Wither's Motto, which we have before seen him praising as a "better book," he now said,
And in his Motto did with brags declare,
Tha: in himself all virtues perfect were.
Wither, that dainty darling of the dolis.