Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Design of the Third Book, Entituled Cleronomaporia
By Sir Thomas Urquhart (16111660)
AS in the book immediately foregoing, the Author very plainly hath pointed at the main block which lieth in the way as a hindrance to the progress of his brain-itineraries; so in this, the third of his Introduction, doth he, with great perspicacity, educe most peremptory reasons out of the clearest springs of both modern and ancient, divine and human law, why it should be removed. In the meanwhile, the better to prepare the reader towards a matter of so prime concernment, he begins the purpose with a peculiar and domestic narrative of the manner how these impediments were cast in, to the end that the more unjustly he was dealt with by the persons who did inject them, the greater justice may appear in his relief from their oppressions. To have mentioned such particulars, and unfolded them to the view of the public, did very much damp the genius of the author, who, could he have otherways done, would undoubtedly have manifested a most cordial dislike of any motion tending to approve the offering unto Pan the sacrifice of the household gods, or disclosing to all the mysteries of penatal rites; but the thread of the discourse hanging thereupon, without a gap in its contexture, it could not be avoided. Especially that generous and worthy knight, the authors father, having been unparalleledly wronged by false, wicked, and covetous men, himself being of all men living the justest, equallest, and most honest in his dealings, his humour was, rather than to break his word, to lose all he had, and stand to his most undeliberate promises, what ever they might cost; which too strict adherence to the austerest principles of veracity, proved oftentimes damageable to him in his negotiations with many cunning sharks, who knew with what profitable odds they could screw themselves in upon the windings of so good a nature. He, in all the (near upon) sixty years that he lived, never injured any man voluntarily, though by protecting and seconding of some unthankful men he did much prejudge himself; he never refused to be surety for any, so cordial he was towards his acquaintance, yet, contrary to all expectations, his kindness therein was attended by so much good luck, that he never paid above two hundred pounds English for all his vadimonial favours. By the unfaithfulness, on the one side, of some of his menial servants, in filching from him much of his personal estate, and falsehood of several chamberlains and bailiffs to whom he had intrusted the managing of his rents, in the unconscionable discharge of their receipts, by giving up one account thrice, and of such accounts many; and, on the other part, by the frequency of disadvantageous bargains, which the slyness of the subtle merchant did involve him in, his loss came unawares upon him, and irresistibly, like an armed man; too great trust to the one, and facility in behalf of the other, occasioning so grievous a misfortune, which nevertheless did not proceed from want of knowledge or ability in natural parts, for in the business of other men he would have given a very sound advice, and was surpassing dexterous in arbitrements upon any reference submitted to him, but that he thought it did derogate from the nobility of his house and reputation of his person, to look to petty things in matter of his own affairs. Whereupon, after forty years custom, being habituated thereunto, he found himself at last, to his great regret, insensibly plunged into inextricable difficulties; in the large field whereof, the insatiable creditor, to make his harvest by the ruin of that family, struck in with his sickle, and by masking himself with a vizard composed of the rags of the Scottish law, in its severest sense, claims the same right to the whole inheritance that Robin Hood did to Frankindals money, for being master of the purse wherein it was. Those wretched and unequitable courses, indefatigably prosecuted by merciless men to the utter undoing of the author and exterminion1 of his name, have induced him, out of his respect to antiquity, his piety to succession, and that intim2 regard of himself which by divine injunction ought to be the rule and measure of his love towards his neighbour, to set down in this parcel of his Introduction, the cruel usage wherewith he hath been served these many years past by that inexorable race, the lamentable preparatives which, by granting their desires, would ensue to the extirpation of worthy pedigrees, and the unexemplifiable injustice thereby redounding to him who never was in any thing obliged to them. The premisses he enlargeth with divers quaint and pertinent similes, and after a neat apparelling of usury in its holiday garments, he deduceth, from the laws and customs of all nations, the tender care that ought to be had in the preservation of ancient families; the particulars whereof, in matter of ordonance he evidenceth by the acts of Solon, the decrees of the decemvirs, and statutes of the Twelve Tables; and for its executional part, in the persons of Q. Fabius, Tiberius the Emperor, and the Israelitish observers of the sacred institution of Jubilees. By which enarration nothing is more clearly inferred, than that, seeing both Jews and Gentiles, Painims and Christians, in their both monarchical and polyarchical governments, have been so zealous in their obsequiousness to so pious a mandate, that the present age being no less concerned in the happy fruits thereof than the good days of old, the splendid authority of this Isle should be pleased not to eclipse their commendation by innovating any thing in the authors case. Who, deciphering the implacability of flagitators, by showing how they throw in obstacles retarding their own payment, thereby tacitly to hasten his destruction, and hinting at the unnatural breach of some of his fiduciaries, he particularizeth the candour of his own endeavours, and nixuriencie3 to give all men contentment; the discourse whereof, in all its periods, very well deserveth the serious animadversion of the ingenious reader.