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against Mr. Hampden: judgment in Exchequer ran to this effect, Consideratum est per eosdem Barones quod prædictus Johannes Hampden de üsdem viginti solidis oneretur, He must pay the Twenty shillings, et inde satisfaciat.** No hope No hope in Law-Courts, then; Petition of Right and Tallagio non concedendo have become an old song. If there be not hope in Jenny Geddes's stool and 'De'il colic the wame of thee,' we are in a bad way!—
During which great public Transactions, there had been in Cromwell's own Fen-country a work of immense local celebrity going on the actual Drainage of the Fens, so long talked about; the construction, namely, of the great Bedford Level, to carry the Ouse River direct into the sea; holding it forcibly aloft in strong embankments, for twenty straight miles or so; not leaving it to meander and stagnate, and in the wet season drown the country, as heretofore. This grand work began, Dryasdust in his bewildered manner knows not when; but it went on rapidly,' and had ended in 1637.† Or rather had appeared, and strongly endeavored, to end in 1637; but was not yet by any means settled and ended; the whole Fen-region clamoring that it could not and should not end so. In which wide clamor, against injustice done in high places, Oliver Cromwell, as is well known, though otherwise a most private quiet man, saw good to interfere; to give the universal inarticulate clamor a voice, and gain a remedy for it. He approved himself, as Sir Philip Warwick will testify, " a man that would set well at the mark,' that took sure aim, and had a stroke of some weight in him. We cannot here afford room to disentangle that affair from the dark rubbish-abysses, old and new, in which it lies deep buried: suffice it to assure the reader that Oliver did by no means 'oppose' the Draining of the Fens, but was and had been, as his Father before him, highly favorable to it; that he opposed the King in Council wishing to do a public injustice in regard to the Draining of the Fens; and by a 'great meeting at Huntingdon,' and other good measures, contrived to put a stop to the same. At a time when, as Old
* Rushworth, iii., Appendix, 159–216; ib. ii., 480.
† Dugdale's Hist. of Embankments; Colson's, Wells's, &c. &c. History of the Fens.
Warwick's Memoirs (London, 1701), p. 250.
Palaceyard might testify, that operation of going in the teeth. of the royal will was somewhat more perilous than it would be now! This was in 1638, according to the good testimony of Warwick. Cromwell acquired by it a great popularity in the Fen-country, acquired the name or nickname 'Lord of the Fens ;' and what was much more valuable, had done the duty of a good citizen whatever he might acquire by it. The disastrous public Events which soon followed put a stop to all farther operations in the Fens for a good many years.
These clamors of local grievance near at hand, these rumors of universal grievance from the distance,—they were part of the Day's noises, they were sounding in Cromwell's mind, along with many others now silent, while the following Letter went off towards Sir William Masham's House called Otes in Essex,' in the year 1638. Of Otes and the Mashams in Essex, there must likewise, in spite of our strait limits, be a word said. The Mashams were distant Cousins of Oliver's; this Sir William Masham, or Massam as he is often written, proved a conspicuous busy man in the Politics of his time; on the Puritan side;-rose into Oliver's Council of State at last. The Mashams became Lords Masham in the next generation, and so continued for a while; one Lady Masham was a daughter of Philosopher Cudworth, and is still remembered as the friend of John Locke, whom she tended in his old days, who lies buried in the Church of Otes, his monument still shown there. Otes Church, near which stood Otes Mansion, is in the neighborhood of High Lavers, Essex, not far from Harton Station on the Northeastern Railway. The Mashams are all extinct, and their Mansion is swept away as if it had not been. Some forty years ago,' says my kind informant, a wealthy Maltster of Bishop's Stortford became the proprietor by purchase; and pulled the Manorhouse down; leaving the outhouses as cottages to some poor people.' The name Otes, the tomb of Locke, and this undestroyed and now indestructible fraction of Ragpaper alone preserve the memory of Mashamdon in this world. We modernise the spelling; let the reader, for it
* Warwick, ubi supra; poor Noble blunders, as he is apt to do.
may be worth his while, endeavor to modernise the sentiment and subject matter.
There is only this farther to be premised, That St. John, the celebrated Shipmoney Barrister, has married for his second wife a Cousin of Oliver Cromwell's, a Daughter of Uncle Henry's, whom we knew at Upwood long ago;* which Cousin, and perhaps her learned husband reposing from his arduous law-duties along with her, is now on a Summer or Autumn visit at Otes, and has lately seen Oliver there.
To my beloved Cousin Mrs. St. John, at Sir William Masham
Ely, 13th October, 1638.
I thankfully acknowledge your love in your kind remembrance of me upon this opportunity. Alas, you do too highly prize my lines, and my company. I may be ashamed to own your expressions, considering how unprofitable I am, and the mean improvement of my talent.
Yet to honor my God by declaring what He hath done for my soul, in this I am confident, and I will be so. Truly then, this I find: That He giveth springs in a dry barren wilderness where no water is. I live, you know where,―in Meshec, which they say signifies Prolonging; in Kedar, which signifies Blackness: yet the Lord forsaketh me not. Though He do prolong, yet He will I trust bring me to His Tabernacle, to His resting-place. My soul is with the Congregation of the Firstborn, my body rests in hope: and if here I may honor my God either by doing or suffering, I shall be most glad.
Truly no poor creature hath more cause to put himself forth in the cause of his God than I. I have had plentiful wages beforehand; and I am sure I shall never earn the least mite. The Lord accept me in His Son, and give me to walk in the light,—and give us to walk in the light, as He is the light! He it is that enlighteneth our blackness, our darkness. I dare not say, He hideth His face from me. He giveth me to see light in His light. One beam in a dark place hath exceeding much refreshment in it :-blessed be His Name for shining upon so dark a heart as mine! You know what my manner of life hath been. Oh, I lived in and loved darkness, and hated light; I was a chief, the chief of sinners. This is true: I hated godliness, yet God had mercy
* Ante, p. 25.
on me. O the riches of His mercy! Praise Him for me;-pray for me, that He who hath begun a good work would perfect it in the day of Christ.
Salute all my friends in that Family whereof you are yet a member. I am much bound unto them for their love. I bless the Lord for them; and that my Son, by their procurement, is so well. Let him have your prayers, your counsel; let me have them.
Salute your Husband and Sister from me :-He is not a man of his word! He promised to write about Mr. Wrath of Epping; but as yet I receive no letters :-put him in mind to do what with conveniency may be done for the poor Cousin I did solicit him about.
Once more farewell. The Lord be with you: so prayeth
Your truly loving cousin,
There are two or perhaps three sons of Cromwell's at Felsted School by this time: a likely enough guess is that he might have been taking Dick over to Felsted on that occasion when he came round by Otes, and gave such comfort by his speech to the pious Mashams, and to the young Cousin, now on a summer visit at Otes. What glimpses of long-gone summers; of long-gone human beings in fringed trowser-breeches, in starched ruff, in hood and fardingale ;-alive, they, within their antiquarian costumes, living men and women; instructive, very interesting to one another! Mrs. St. John came down to breakfast every morning in that summer visit of the year 1638, and Sir William said grave grace, and they spake polite devout things to one another; and they are vanished, they and their things and speeches—all silent, like the echoes of the old nightingales that sang that season, like the blossoms of the old roses. O Death, O Time!
For the soul's furniture of these brave people is grown not less unintelligible, antiquarian, than their Spanish boots and lappet caps. Reverend Mark Noble, my reverend imbecile friend, discovers in this Letter clear evidence that Oliver was once a very dissolute man; that Carrion Heath spake truth in that Flagellum Balderdash of his. O my reverend imbecile friend, hadst thou thyself never any moral life, but only a sensitive and digestive ? Thy soul never longed towards the serene heights, all hidden from
Thurloe's State Papers (London 1742), i., 1.
thee; and thirsted as the hart in dry places wherein no waters be? It was never a sorrow for thee that the eternal pole-star had gone out, veiled itself in dark clouds ;-a sorrow only that this or the other noble Patron forgot thee when a living fell vacant? I have known Christians, Moslems, Methodists,—and, alas, also reverend irreverent Apes by the Dead Sea !
O modern reader, dark as this Letter may seem, I will advise thee to make an attempt towards understanding it. There is in it a 'tradition of humanity' worth all the rest. Indisputable certificate that man once had a soul; that man once walked with God,—his little Life a sacred island girdled with Eternities and Godhoods. Was it not a time for heroes? Heroes were then possible. I say, thou shalt understand that Letter; thou also, looking out into a too brutish world, wilt then exclaim with Oliver Cromwell, with Hebrew David, as old Mr. Rouse of Truro, and the Presbyterian populations, still sing him in the Northern Kirks:
Wo's me that I in Meshec am
Or that I in the tents do dwell
Yes, there is a tone in the soul of this Oliver that holds of the Perennial. With a noble sorrow, with a noble patience, he longs towards the mark of the prize of the high calling. He, I think, has chosen the better part. The world and its wild tumults,—if they will but let him alone! Yet he too will venture, will do and suffer for God's cause, if the call come. What man with better reason? He hath had plentiful wages beforehand; snatched out of darkness into marvellous light: he will never earn the least mite. Annihilation of self; Selbsttödtung, as Novalis calls it; casting yourself at the footstool of God's throne, “To live or to die for ever; as Thou wilt, not as I will." Brother, hadst thou never, in any form, such moments in thy history? Thou knowest them not, even by credible rumor? Well, thy earthly path was peaceabler, I suppose. But the Highest was never in thee, the Highest will never come out of thee. Thou shalt at best abide