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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Character of Lord Falkland
By Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (1609–1674)
 
From the ‘History of the Rebellion’

IF celebrating the memory of eminent and extraordinary persons, and transmitting their great virtues for the imitation of posterity, be one of the principal ends and duties of history, it will not be thought impertinent in this place to remember a loss which no time will suffer to be forgotten, and no success or good fortune could repair. In this unhappy battle was slain the Lord Viscount Falkland; a person of such prodigious parts of learning and knowledge, of that inimitable sweetness and delight in conversation, of so flowing and obliging a humanity and goodness to mankind, and of that primitive simplicity and integrity of life, that if there were no other brand upon this odious and accursed civil war than that single loss, it must be most infamous and execrable to all posterity.  1
  Before this Parliament, his condition of life was so happy that it was hardly capable of improvement. Before he came to twenty years of age he was master of a noble fortune, which descended to him by the gift of a grandfather without passing through his father or mother, who were then both alive, and not well enough contented to find themselves passed by in the descent. His education for some years had been in Ireland, where his father was Lord Deputy; so that when he returned into England to the possession of his fortune, he was unentangled with any acquaintance or friends, which usually grow up by the custom of conversation; and therefore was to make a pure election of his company, which he chose by other rules than were prescribed to the young nobility of that time. And it cannot be denied, though he admitted some few to his friendship for the agreeableness of their natures and their undoubted affection to him, that his familiarity and friendship, for the most part, was with men of the most eminent and sublime parts, and of untouched reputation in the point of integrity; and such men had a title to his bosom.  2
  He was a great cherisher of wit and fancy and good parts in any man; and if he found them clouded with poverty or want, a most liberal and bountiful patron towards them, even above his fortune; of which, in those administrations, he was such a dispenser as if he had been trusted with it to such uses; and if there had been the least of vice in his expense he might have been thought too prodigal. He was constant and pertinacious in whatsoever he resolved to do, and not to be wearied by any pains that were necessary to that end. And therefore having once resolved not to see London, which he loved above all places, till he had perfectly learned the Greek tongue, he went to his own house in the country and pursued it with that indefatigable industry that it will not be believed in how short a time he was master of it, and accurately read all the Greek historians.  3
  In this time, his house being within ten miles of Oxford, he contracted familiarity and friendship with the most polite and accurate men of that university; who found such an immenseness of wit and such a solidity of judgment in him, so infinite a fancy bound in by a most logical ratiocination, such a vast knowledge that he was not ignorant in anything, yet such an excessive humility as if he had known nothing, that they frequently resorted and dwelt with him, as in a college situated in a purer air; so that his house was a university bound in a less volume, whither they came not so much for repose as study, and to examine and refine those grosser propositions which laziness and consent made current in vulgar conversation….  4
  The great opinion he had of the uprightness and integrity of those persons who appeared most active, especially of Mr. Hampden, kept him longer from suspecting any design against the peace of the kingdom; and though he differed commonly from them in conclusions, he believed long their purposes were honest. When he grew better informed what was law, and discerned (in them) a desire to control that law by a vote of one or both Houses, no man more opposed those attempts, and gave the adverse party more trouble by reason and argumentation; insomuch as he was, by degrees, looked upon as an advocate for the court, to which he contributed so little that he declined those addresses and even those invitations which he was obliged almost by civility to entertain. And he was so jealous of the least imagination that he should incline to preferment, that he affected even a morosity to the court and to the courtiers, and left nothing undone which might prevent and divert the King’s or Queen’s favor towards him, but the deserving it. For when the King sent for him once or twice to speak with him, and to give him thanks for his excellent comportment in those councils which his Majesty graciously termed doing him service, his answers were more negligent and less satisfactory than might have been expected; as if he cared only that his actions should be just, not that they should be acceptable, and that his Majesty should think that they proceeded only from the impulsion of conscience, without any sympathy in his affections; which from a stoical and sullen nature might not have been misinterpreted; yet from a person of so perfect a habit of generous and obsequious compliance with all good men, might very well have been interpreted by the King as more than an ordinary averseness to his service: so that he took more pains and more forced his nature to actions unagreeable and unpleasant to it, that he might not be thought to incline to the court, than any man hath done to procure an office there….  5
  Two reasons prevailed with him to receive the seals, and but for those he had resolutely avoided them. The first, consideration that it [his refusal] might bring some blemish upon the King’s affairs, and that men would have believed that he had refused so great an honor and trust because he must have been with it obliged to do somewhat else not justifiable. And this he made matter of conscience, since he knew the King made choice of him before other men especially because he thought him more honest than other men. The other was, lest he might be thought to avoid it out of fear to do an ungracious thing to the House of Commons, who were sorely troubled at the displacing of Harry Vane, whom they looked upon as removed for having done them those offices they stood in need of; and the disdain of so popular an incumbrance wrought upon him next to the other. For as he had a full appetite of fame by just and generous actions, so he had an equal contempt of it by any servile expedients; and he had so much the more consented to and approved the justice upon Sir Harry Vane in his own private judgment, by how much he surpassed most men in the religious observation of a trust, the violation whereof he would not admit of any excuse for.  6
  For these reasons he submitted to the King’s command and became his secretary, with as humble and devout an acknowledgment of the greatness of the obligation as could be expressed, and as true a sense of it in his own heart. Yet two things he could never bring himself to whilst he continued in that office, that was to his death; for which he was contented to be reproached, as for omissions in a most necessary part of his office. The one, employing of spies, or giving any countenance or entertainment to them. I do not mean such emissaries as with danger would venture to view the enemy’s camp and bring intelligence of their number and quartering, or such generals as such an observation can comprehend; but those who by communication of guilt or dissimulation of manners wound themselves into such trusts and secrets as enabled them to make discoveries for the benefit of the State. The other, the liberty of opening letters upon a suspicion that they might contain matter of dangerous consequence. For the first he would say, such instruments must be void of all ingenuity and common honesty, before they could be of use; and afterwards they could never be fit to be credited: and that no single preservation could be worth so general a wound and corruption of human society as the cherishing such persons would carry with it. The last, he thought such a violation of the law of nature that no qualification by office could justify a single person in the trespass; and though he was convinced by the necessity and iniquity of the time that those advantages of information were not to be declined and were necessarily to be practiced, he found means to shift it from himself; when he confessed he needed excuse and pardon for the omission: so unwilling he was to resign anything in his nature to an obligation in his office.  7
  In all other particulars he filled his place plentifully, being sufficiently versed in languages to understand any that [are] used in business, and to make himself again understood. To speak of his integrity, and his high disdain of any bait that might seem to look towards corruption, in tanto viro, injuria virtutum fuerit [in the case of so great a man, would be an insult to his merits]….  8
  He had a courage of the most clear and keen temper, and so far from fear that he was not without appetite of danger; and therefore, upon any occasion of action, he always engaged his person in those troops which he thought by the forwardness of the commanders to be most like to be farthest engaged; and in all such encounters he had about him a strange cheerfulness and companionableness, without at all affecting the execution that was then principally to be attended, in which he took no delight, but took pains to prevent it, where it was not by resistance necessary; insomuch that at Edgehill, when the enemy was routed, he was like to have incurred great peril by interposing to save those who had thrown away their arms, and against whom, it may be, others were more fierce for their having thrown them away: insomuch as a man might think he came into the field only out of curiosity to see the face of danger, and charity to prevent the shedding of blood. Yet in his natural inclination he acknowledged that he was addicted to the profession of a soldier; and shortly after he came to his fortune, and before he came to age, he went into the Low Countries with a resolution of procuring command, and to give himself up to it, from which he was converted by the complete inactivity of that summer: and so he returned into England and shortly after entered upon that vehement course of study we mentioned before, till the first alarm from the North; and then again he made ready for the field, and though he received some repulse in the command of a troop of horse of which he had a promise, he went volunteer with the Earl of Essex.  9
  From the entrance into this unnatural war his natural cheerfulness and vivacity grew clouded, and a kind of sadness and dejection of spirit stole upon him which he had never been used to; yet being one of those who believed that one battle would end all differences, and that there would be so great a victory on the one side that the other would be compelled to submit to any conditions from the victor (which supposition and conclusion generally sunk into the minds of most men, and prevented the looking after many advantages which might then have been laid hold of), he resisted those indispositions, et in luctu, bellum inter remedia erat [and in his grief, strife was one of his curatives]. But after the King’s return from Brentford, and the furious resolution of the two Houses not to admit any treaty for peace, those indispositions which had before touched him grew into a perfect habit of uncheerfulness; and he who had been so exactly unreserved and affable to all men that his face and countenance was always present and vacant to his company, and held any cloudiness and less pleasantness of the visage a kind of rudeness or incivility, became, on a sudden, less communicable; and thence, very sad, pale, and exceedingly affected with the spleen. In his clothes and habit, which he had intended before always with more neatness and industry and expense than is usual in so great a mind, he was now not only incurious, but too negligent; and in his reception of suitors, and the necessary or casual addresses to his place, so quick and sharp and severe that there wanted not some men (who were strangers to his nature and disposition) who believed him proud and imperious,—from which no mortal man was ever more free.  10
  The truth is, that as he was of a most incomparable gentleness, application, and even a demissness and submission to good and worthy and entire men, so he was naturally (which could not but be more evident in his place, which objected him to another conversation and intermixture than his own election had done) adversus malos injucundus [toward evil-doers ungracious] and was so ill a dissembler of his dislike and disinclination to ill men that it was not possible for such not to discern it. There was once in the House of Commons such a declared acceptation of the good service an eminent member had done to them, and as they said, to the whole kingdom, that it was moved, he being present, that the Speaker might in the name of the whole House give him thanks; and then, that every member might as a testimony of his particular acknowledgment stir or move his hat towards him; the which (though not ordered) when very many did, the Lord Falkland (who believed the service itself not to be of that moment, and that an honorable and generous person could not have stooped to it for any recompense), instead of moving his hat, stretched both his arms out and clasped his hands together upon the crown of his hat, and held it close down to his head; that all men might see how odious that flattery was to him, and the very approbation of the person, though at that time most popular.  11
  When there was any overture or hope of peace, he would be more erect and vigorous, and exceedingly solicitous to press anything which he thought might promote it; and sitting amongst his friends, often, after a deep silence and frequent sighs, would with a shrill and sad accent ingeminate the word Peace, Peace; and would passionately profess that the very agony of the war and the view of the calamities and desolation the kingdom did and must endure, took his sleep from him, and would shortly break his heart. This made some think or pretend to think that he was so much enamored on peace, that he would have been glad the King should have bought it at any price; which was a most unreasonable calumny. As if a man that was himself the most punctual and precise in every circumstance that might reflect upon conscience or honor, could have wished the King to have committed a trespass against either….  12
  In the morning before the battle, as always upon action, he was very cheerful, and put himself into the first rank of the Lord Byron’s regiment, who was then advancing upon the enemy, who had lined the hedges on both sides with musketeers, from whence he was shot with a musket in the lower part of the belly, and in the instant falling from his horse, his body was not found till the next morning; till when, there was some hope he might have been a prisoner; though his nearest friends, who knew his temper, received small comfort from that imagination. Thus fell that incomparable young man, in the four-and-thirtieth year of his age, having so much dispatched the business of life that the oldest rarely attain to that immense knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more innocence: and whosoever leads such a life needs not care upon how short warning it be taken from him.  13
 
 
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