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Wither composed a Private Meditation upon the occasion. Of this political Proteus many pictures have been drawn. He was the fortunate madman of Mazarine, the brave wicked man of Clarendon, the exhausted villain of Bishop Burnet; yet we ought to remember that Baxter, a shrewd and careful observer, thought he "meant honestly in the main, and was pious and conscionable" till Prosperity and success corrupted him *. No man has been the subject of more flattery or abuse; with one party the throned king of the apostacy, with the other, the creature of infamy and pollution. He is said by his admirers to have esteemed men of learning, * to have expressed an inclination to hire the pen of Meric Casaubon to write his history, and to patronize Hobbes for the Leviathan. But the invitation to Casaubon could only prove that he was desirous of perPonting his exploits in the most graceful manner. He wished to sit for his Picture and direct the artist. His intellect was bold and vigorous, full of nerve and power, and peculiarly adapted to wrestle with the stormy influences of the *ge he lived in. Fickle and uncertain in his friendships and Promises, he fostered hopes one hour, *ly to crush them in the next. Of his variableness * example has been already afforded in the case of our poet.
"On the demise of Cromwell," says Mr. T. Campbell, "Wither hailed the accession of Richard with joyful gratulation. He never but once in his life foreboded good, and in that Prophecy he was mistaken.” It is easier for **tie to be witty than correct. If Mr. Campbell had * taken the trouble to look into wither's political *orks, he would have seen the fallacy of the observation.
d Jeremy Taylor,
comwell died and
- - - Hampshire. esituation in 58, o 3rd of September, *. Ju . . . ..., ofthe Common"
* Reliquie Baxteriane, pt-i-, p. 98.
dum in the hands of several members as they entered the House. It was in these words:— Sir, Mind your faithful servant; for my need Requires compassion, and deserveth heed. Though I have many rivals at your door, Vouchsafe me justice, and I'll ask no more.
His efforts were not altogether ineffectual. On the 15th of March, 1647, an order was agreed to by the Lords and Commons, for payment of 1800l. out of Dis: coveries at Haberdashers' Hall; and on the 22nd of the same month, a further order was made for the payment of 1681.1. 15s. 8d, out of the Excise. Nothing, however, was gained by these orders, which do not seem to have been ever enforced, and the House was at length induced to appoint some “selected members" to provide him with a temporary employment until his claims could be adjusted. When he published his St Quis", in 1648, he stood recommended to a situation of considerable value, which he does not appear to have obtained.
About this time, he says, when he was living upon the charity of friends, “God providentially, beyond his hope, enabled him to purchase a considerable estate, by means of their acting against him who thereby intended their own benefit and his ruin;" and the Parliament also sold him a Manor, worth 300l. per annum, in consideration of “his debt of 1600l. and more by him paid." I suppose the property alluded to belonged to the See of Win
• Weaver, in his Life and Death of Sir John Oldcastle, says, “Set up a Si Quis, ive intelligence." A Si Quis was formerly a term for what we now oft a hand-bill.—Brit. Bib., vol. i. p. 314. I'll fix a Si Quis (or it may be mo) Upon the postern gate before I go.
Wither's Perpetual Parliament, p. 72,
chester. Wither's purchases of church-lands are detailed in Gale's History of Winchester Cathedral:—
The Manor of North Walton, in Hampshire, sold to George Wither and Thomas Allen, July 5, 1648, for 964l. 13s.6d. The Manor of Bentley and Alverstock, and Borough of Gosport, sold to George Wither and Elizabeth his wife, for 1185l. 4s. 5%d., September 25, 1648. The Manor of Itchinswell and Northampton Farm, sold to Nicholas Love and George Wither, for 17561. 9s. 1d., September 28, 1648. The Manor of Hantlen, sold to George Wither for 3796l. 18s. 11d., March 23, 1650.
Misfortunes still followed him : the “estate was lost again,” and the Manor, after he had “enjoyed it awhile," was resold by the Parliament to a member of their own,
who pretended to have a mortgage upon it, and the poet was ejected “by a Suit in Law," without any satisfaction for the loss of his purchase-money, and was even compelled to pay the expenses of the suit, with other charges, amounting to several hundred pounds. His calls for relief, however, were not entirely disregarded. In 1649, a few members of Parliament, “without his seeking,” endeavoured to provide him with some occupation in order to satisfy his “just demands,” and he acknowledged their kindness in A Thankful Retribution. The office which they sought, unsuccessfully, to procure, seems to have been that of Register in the Court of Chancery. Instead of this, Park thinks he was appointed one of the Commissioners for levying assessments in Surrey, as appears from the Usurpation Acts of 1649-50. A gentleman of the name of Lloyd possessed a certificate, attested by Wither on the 10th of December, 1651, while acting under this Commission, and entitled, “The report of Colonel John Humphreys, and Major George Wither,
touching the demands and accounts of M. René Angier
every six months; and that for the remainder of th
sum of 3958l. the Manor of Little Horksley, in Essex should be settled on Wither and his heirs. This estate which was valued by the sequestrators at a yearly ren of 240l., formed a part of the inheritance of Sir John Denham, whom the Report calls the poet's “chief plun derer.” Colonel Dove's suggestions were only partiall; adopted. The 16811. were secured, according to th recommendation of the Report, upon the Excise; bu
• Mercurius Elencticus, Monday, August 27, to September 3, 1649. M
instead of the entire estate of Little Horksley, only 150l. was settled upon the poet in “full satisfaction and discharge of all demands,” and Mr. Garland was ordered “to bring in an Act for that purpose.”
Neither Wither's private troubles, nor his labours as a Commissioner, prevented him from occasionally ob. serving the political world. Upon the rumour of an intention suddenly to dissolve the Parliament in September 1652, he immediately issued a Timely Caution, comprehended in seven double trimeters. The only classi. cal portion of the pamphlet is the title.
He also employed some of the November nights of the same year in visionary schemes for remodelling the external and internal construction of the House of Commons. In the Perpetual Parliament, published April 24, 1653, he proposed to build a new House of Assembly at Whitehall, of a fair and imposing aspect, and beautified with walks and pleasant gardens. The members were to be arrayed in a senatorial robe or toga, wearing wreaths of gold around their necks, from which was to be suspended a tablet with the British Isles enamelled upon it. Annual Parliaments were to be introduced with a monthly election of Speaker: all undue influence in the return of members was to be punished with exile, and all cases of bribery in public offices, with death. A twelfth part of the representatives of England and Wales was to be chosen monthly, and for those in residence, a
Constant table of a meal a-day `
was to be provided at a moderate charge. Every thing connected with the institution was to be pure, noble, and disinterested.
Wither's political dreams must be numbered with