Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Historical and Political Writings > Bulstrode Whitelocke
  The Life of William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle Robert Munro  


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

IX. Historical and Political Writings.

§ 25. Bulstrode Whitelocke.

Turning from military men to statesmen, we find an important contribution to history in Bulstrode Whitelocke’s Memorials of the English Affairs from the accession of Charles I to the restoration, first published in 1682, with a somewhat pretentious preface (by the earl of Anglesea). Though in these Memorials the writer does not make any apparent attempt to disguise his opinions, he betrays no intention of colouring his statement of facts either to suit those opinions or to gratify any demand for literary display. By the Whig writers of the earlier part of the eighteenth century he was contrasted to his advantage with Clarendon;  39  but, in point of fact, there is no basis of comparison between them; for the substance of Whitelocke’s Memorials was not put together till after the restoration, and their form admitted of their being extracted at second-hand from the most ordinary sources. At the same time, they are, to make debates more easily understood, interspersed with some more or less verbatim reports of speeches delivered by the writer, as well as with detailed accounts of transactions in which he was personally engaged (such as the Oxford peace negotiations in 1644), together with other fragments of his various autobiographical productions. Thus, the spirit has not entirely gone out of the compilation, and these Memorials retain a value not only for lawyers and students of constitutional history, though their importance as an actual narrative of facts has probably, from more points of view than one, been greatly overrated. Whitelocke occasionally deviates into subjects of less severity—such as his long account of the Inns of court masque in October, 1633,  40  ending with the telling phrase: “These dreams passed and these pomps vanished.” The Memorials, of course, increase in interest as the times become more and more critical; the account of the king’s trial is full of sympathy, which may or may not have been ex post facto. Indeed, in general, Whitelocke showed throughout the civil troubles, the moderation which accorded with his training and his disposition; and this quality which, at the restoration, preserved to him the bulk of his fortune, is impressed upon the character and style of his Memorials at large.   51
  Equally well known is Whitelocke’s Journal of his Swedish Embassy in the years 1653 and 1654. Here, the narrative is Carried on throughout in the third person but is interspersed with a number of conversations with Oxenstjerna and others, given in direct dialogue form. The Journal is extremely interesting and entertaining, and offers a picture at first-hand of that most extraordinary woman, queen Christina. She received Whitelocke very politely and, according to English custom, was his valentine on 14 February, when he presented her with a very large looking-glass. Their conversation was at times varied by the offering of copies of Latin verse, which on one occasion the ambassador translated into indifferent English. In the course of his embassy, the queen’s design of giving up her crown was communicated to Whitelocke, who witnessed the ceremony of her resignation and the coronation of her successor (30 May, 1654) and departed “rejoicing” on the following day. For his experiences had not been altogether agreeable, and, at night time, there had been occasional disturbances outside his house, and shouts of “Come out, ye English dogs, ye king-killers, rogues.”   52
  Whitelocke, who had tried to anticipate Monck’s fateful march to London by inducing Lambert to attack him, did not attend the Long Parliament on its reassembling, but, after sending the great seal to the Speaker, withdrew into the country, where he survived for many years. His Notes upon the King’s Writt for choosing members of parliament (1662), which occupied him for some three or four years, and in which Scriptural arguments hold a prominent place, form a most elaborate comment on the system of English constitutional government. To an earlier date belongs his share in the conference held by him and other heads of the law with the protector and a committee of parliament (April, 1657), which ended with Cromwell’s declining the title of king. The report of this was published in 1660 under the title Monarchy Asserted to be the best, most Ancient and legall form of Government. Whitelocke left behind him manuscripts, still unprinted and preserved in the British Museum, which are autobiographical in their contents and addressed to his children.  41    53
  In the period under notice, the number was necessarily large of narratives dealing with campaigns or other episodes of military and naval life. Several of these are noted else-where;  42  but one of them may, in conclusion, find mention here, both because it typifies at once the military and the religious spirit of the age, and because the remembrance of it is evoked in one of the most famous of English books.  43    54

Note 39. See Oldmixon, Clarendon and Whitelocke compared (1729). [ back ]
Note 40. Vol. I, pp. 53–62. [ back ]
Note 41. See bibliography. [ back ]
Note 42. See ibid. [ back ]
Note 43. In Waverley, vol. II., chap. XXXVI, where the baron of Bradwardine excuses the devastation of the house of his ancestors by the reflection that “doubtless officers cannot always keep the soldier’s hand from depredation and spuilzie; and Gustavus Adolphus himself, as ye may read in Colonel Munro his Expedition with the worthy Scotch regiment called Mackay’s regiment, did often permit it.” “Tavie” (Gustavus) is, or was recently, still a familiar name in Sutherlandshire. [ back ]

  The Life of William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle Robert Munro  

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