Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Historical and Political Writings > The Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson
  Edmund Ludlow’s Memoirs The Life of William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

IX. Historical and Political Writings.

§ 23. The Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson.

From a literary point of view, however, no biographical work of the time equals in interest the life of yet another parliamentary officer, written, in this instance, by his wife. The Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, Governor of Nottingham Castle and Town, etc., etc. Written by his Widow Lucy, daughter of Sir Allen Apsley, Governor of the Town, etc., are inseparable from The Life of Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson, written by herself, albeit the latter is only a fragment. It extends in fact over only a few pages; but it is an excellent piece of writing, descriptive of the authoress’s birth and parentage, and giving a curious picture of an overtrained but self-controlled girl who, when about seven years of age, “had at one time eight tutors in several qualities, languages, music, dancing, writing and needlework, but her genius was quite averse from all her book.” The picture of her mother has much charm, and proves what a woman’s kindness can do in any surroundings—for the wife of the governor was “a mother to all the prisoners that came into the Tower.” The character of her husband which is subjoined, and which she drew up for her children, opens with a nobly worded reference to his dying command to her “not to grieve at the common rate of desolate women,” and purports to be “a naked, undressed narrative, speaking the simple truth of him.” But it appears that Mrs. Hutchinson was so dissatisfied with what she had written that she made another essay, which, however, her husband’s descendant Julius Hutchinson suppressed in favour of what he thought the less laboured and more characteristic effort of the two. It certainly brings out with much force colonel Hutchinson’s deep religiosity, his perfect veracity, his piety in his affections—which seemed his most distinctive qualities to his sorrowing widow, who says of herself that “all that she is now at best is his pale shadow.”   46
  The biography proper of colonel Hutchinson is a work composed with great care and elaboration. We see him at “Peter House,” where “he was constant at their chapel,” and “began to take notice of their stretching superstition to idolatry.” We follow him to Lincoln’s inn and witness his courtship, in which he gained the hand of a woman, at first sight terribly superior to himself, “after about fourteen months’ various exercise of his mind, in the pursuit of his love.” Then we have an account of the condition of the kingdom before the outbreak of the civil war—not very original, or more fair in one way than Clarendon’s is in another, but of great interest as a direct apology for the puritans. They were not, as they were believed to be, “an illiterate, morose, melancholy, discontented, crazed sort of men.” On the other hand, the moral purity of the king’s court is acknowledged. At the end of this disquisition, the writer refers her readers to May’s History, on which, indeed, it is largely based. The account of the civil conflict in Notts (one of the counties whence the godly had to emigrate, and where the castle and adjoining town alone remained in the hands of the parliament) is full of interest. Hutchinson was long in expectation of a siege, first by Newcastle and then by prince Rupert; but he held his own both against these dangers and against the perpetual worrying of the parliamentary committee, till times changed after Marston moor. Yet his worst troubles began after he had come up to London, as a member of parliament; and his wife’s story now has to accompany him through a tortuous course, which, after bringing him into relations of deep mutual distrust with Cromwell, finally exposed him, as one of the “regicides,” to the vengeance of the restoration. Although, with the skilful aid of his wife’s exertions, he escaped with his life and with most of his estate, he became suspect in connection with the so-called Yorkshire plot, and was finally brought home from prison to his grave. His “murderers,” writes his uncompromising biographer, had confined him in Sandwon castle, where “the place had killed him.”   47
  The character of Colonel Hutchinson, as drawn by his widow, need not be accepted exactly as presented by her. It was some time after the outbreak of the civil war that, as he phrases it, he found “a clear call from the Lord” to take up arms on the side of his choice; and, again, he retained his seat in the House of Commons even after proceedings to which his wife states him to have objected. According to the same authority, he was a regicide on compulsion; and this, perhaps, made it easier for her, at the restoration, to plead in his name a “signal” and not inopportune “repentance.” She may have gone rather far in asserting that “there was nothing he durst not do but sin against God”; in return, her high spirit and enthusiasm, together with her learning and ability, more than justify her husband’s dying commendation of her “above the pitch of ordinary women,” while her heroic devotion to him, during a long succession of perils and trials, entitles her to a place near that of Alcestis among the “good women” of all time. The form of her book is worthy of its spirit, and contributes to illustrate the supreme force which belonged to religious conceptions and associations as determining conduct in the age of which she was a representative. The dignity of her style does not interfere with its candour; on the other hand, the general sobriety of her narrative is not out of harmony with occasional passages of deep personal feeling and, now and then, of emotion almost passionate in its directness.   48

  Edmund Ludlow’s Memoirs The Life of William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle  

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