Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Fealty against Conscience
By Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (16091674)
From the Life
MR. HYDE was wont often to relate a passage in that melancholic time, when the standard was set up at Nottingham, with which he was much affected. Sir Edmund Varney, knight-marshal, who was mentioned before as standard-bearer, with whom he had great familarity, who was a man of great courage, and generally beloved, came one day to him, and told him, he was very glad to see him in so universal a damp, under which the spirits of most men were oppressed, retain still his natural vivacity and cheerfulness; that he knew that the condition of the king, and the power of the parliament, was not better known to any man than to him; and therefore he hoped that he was able to administer some comfort to his friends, that might raise their spirits, as well as it supported his own. He answered, that he was, in truth, beholden to his constitution, which did not incline him to despair; otherwise, that he had no pleasant prospect before him, but thought as ill of affairs as most men did; that the other was as far from being melancholic as he, and was known to be a man of great courage (as indeed he was of a very cheerful and a generous nature, and confessedly valiant), and that they could not do the king better service, than by making it their business to raise the dejected minds of men, and root out those apprehensions which disturbed them, of fear and despair, which could do no good, and did really much mischief.
He replied smiling, I will willingly join with you the best I can, but I shall act it very scurvily. My condition, he said, is much worse than yours, and different, I believe, from any other mans; and will very well justify the melancholy that, I confess to you, possesses me. You have satisfaction in your conscience that you are in the right; that the king ought not to grant what is required of him; and so you do your duty and your business together: but for my part, I do not like the quarrel, and do heartily wish that the king would yield and consent to what they desire; so that my conscience is only concerned in honour and in gratitude to follow my master. I have eaten his bread, and served him near thirty years, and will not do so base a thing as to forsake him; and choose rather to lose my life (which I am sure I shall do) to preserve and defend those things which are against my conscience to preserve and defend: for I will deal freely with you, I have no reverence for the bishops, for whom this quarrel subsists. It was not a time to dispute; and his affection to the church had never been suspected. He was as good as his word; and was killed, in the battle of Edge-hill, within two months after this discourse. And if those who had the same and greater obligations, had observed the same rules of gratitude and generosity, whatever their other affections had been, that battle had never been fought, nor any of that mischief been brought to pass that succeeded it.