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the golden knight for his wealth and for his liberality, which was of a splendid kind; for, dividing his time between Hinchinbrook and Ramsey, whenever he returned to the latter place he used to throw large sums of money to the poor towns
The death of his second wife was one of the alleged crimes for which the witches of Warboys were accused and executed ; the property of these poor wretches, amounting to 401., was forfeited to Sir Henry as lord of the manor, and he gave it to the corporation of Huntingdon on condition that they should procure from Queen's College, Cambridge, every year on lady-day, a doctor or bachelor of divinity to preach in that town against the sin of witchcraft. That condition was regularly fulfilled about fifty years ago : in what manner it is performed at present we know not. Robert,, the second son of Sir Henry, was the father of Oliver, so named after his uncle, the head of the family. That uncle, Sir Oliver, was magnificent personage, for whose expenses even the enormous property which he inherited proved inadequate.
Sir Henry left his younger sons estates of about 3001., a year each : those to which Robert Cromwell succeeded lay in and near the town of Huntingdon, having chiefly or wholly belonged to the Augustinian Monastery of St. Mary. The house in which he resided was either part of the hospital
of St. John, or built
the site and with materials from its ruins. He married Elizabeth, daughter of William Steward, of the city of Ely, a family which, it is not doubted, was allied to the royal house of Scotland. She was the widow of a Mr. Lynne, and is supposed to have brought him little other fortune than her jointure. They had ten children ; Oliver was the second, and the only one of the three boys who lived to grow up. Mr. Cromwell was member for his own borough of Huntingdon in the parliament held in the 35th of Elizabeth (1592-3), and he was in the commission of the peace. This satisfied all his ambition : but, to provide for so large a family, he entered into a large brewing business ; it was carried on by servants, and Mrs. Cromwell inspected their accounts, which rendered her better able to conduct the business for herself * after her husband's death in 1617. Oliver was born April 25, 1599. A nonjuror, who afterward purchased and inhabited the house, used, when he showed the room in which the protector was born, to observe that the devil was behind the door, alluding to a figure of Satan in the hangings. It is said, on the authority of the same person, who was curious in collecting what traditions remained concerning so eminent a man, that Oliver, when an infant, was in as much danger from a great monkey as Gulliver was at Brobdignag. At his grandfather's house one of these mischievous creatures took him out of the cradle, carried him upon the leads of the house, to the dreadful alarm of the family (who made beds and blankets ready, in the forlorn hope of catching him), and at last brought him safely down. He was saved from drowning in his youth by Mr. Johnson, the curate of Cunnington.
* Mr. O. Cromwell says, “ All this has been said by Crom. well's enemies, for the purpose of degrading him ; but no evidence to be relied on is produced in support of these assertions. The truth is, nothing certain is likely to be known of his early life, or the pecuniary circumstances of his parents." “ And," he adds, “that, as Croinwell, in a speech to his Parliament, said he was a gentleman, neither living in any considerable height, nor yet in obscurity, such an account of himself is a sufficieut confutation of his and his family's nar. row circumstances, and their engagements in trade in consequence.” This gentlemen very justly observes that the state. ment, “if true, could not be deemed discreditable to the family, the youngest brothers of the best families in this country engaging in trade and thereby raising themselves to * The frontispiece to the Theatre of God's Judgments is said to be a portrait of this severe schoolmaster. It represents
Oliver was educated at the free grammar-school of his native town, by Dr. Beard, * whose severity fortune and independency." With this feeling there is an in. consistency in resenting the statement as a wrong. Of such facts no other proof is possible than contemporary assertions, uncontradicted at the time; these are so numerous that it is almost absurd to question them; and what renders the fact highly probable is, that Mrs. Cromwell" lived in a very handsome, frugal manner, and gave each of her daughters fortune sufficient to marry them to persons of genteel families ;' which she could never have done from her dowry alone, being only 601. a year.
toward him is said to have been more than what was usual even in that age of barbarous schooldisciple. He was a resolute, active boy, fond of engaging in hazardous exploits, and more capable of hard study than inclined to it. His ambition was of a different kind, and that peculiar kind discovered itself even in his youth. He is said to have displayed a more than common emotion in playing the part of Tactus who finds a royal robe and a crown, in the old comedy of Lingua. 'The comedy was certainly performed at the freeschool of 'Huntingdon in his time, and if Oliver played the part, the scene in question is one which he must have remembered with singular feeling, whatever he may have felt in enacting it.
" Was ever man so fortunate as 1,
To break his shins at such a stumbling-block !
him with two scholars standing behind, a rod in his hand, and As in præsentr proceeding from his mouth.
And make you tremble when the lion roars,
Poets will write whole volumes of this change."* He himself is said often, in the height of his fortune, to have mentioned a gigantic figure which, when he was a boy, opened the curtains of his bed, and told him he should be the greatest person in the kingdom. Such a dream he may very probably have had ; and nothing can be more likely than that he should seek to persuade himself it was a prophetic vision, when events seemed to place the fulfilment within his reach. But that his Uncle Steward told him it was traitorous to relate it, and that he was flogged for his relation by Dr. Beard, at his father's particular desire, are addi. tions to the story which are disproved by their absurdity; however loyal his parents, and however addicted to the use of the rod his master, they would no more have punished him at that time for such a fancy, than for dreaming that he was to become Grand Turk or Prester John. There is another
[* Dodsley's old plays, ed. 1825, vol. v., p. 114. The first edition of “ Lingua,” a play attributed to Anthony Brewer, is dated 1607.. That Cromwell had acted a part in this play, we are told by Simon Miller, a stationer, in a list of publications appended to Heath's New Book of Royal Martyrs. This Heath wrote the earliest printed Life of Oliver Cromwell, en. titled “ Flagellum, or the Life and Death and Birth and Burial of Oliver Cromwell the late Usurper.” (1663). Miller was the publisher of an edition of "Lingua” in 1657, and may have had his information from Heath.]