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tale concerning his childhood, which, as well as all these anecdotes, the living historian of the family treats as an absolute falsehood ; that being at his uncle's house at Hinchinbrook, when the royal family rested there on their way from Scotland, in 1604, he was brought to play with Prince Charles, then duke of York,* quarrelled with him, beat him, and made his noise bleed profuselywhich was remembered as a bad omen for the king when Cromwell began to distinguish himself in the civil wars.
Mr. Noble relates this only as the tradition of the place, adding that Hinchinbrook was generally one of the resting-places of the royal family on the northern road. Such anecdotes relating to such a man, even though they may be of doubtful authenticity, are not unworthy of pres. ervation. The fabulous history of every country is a part of its history, and ought not to be omitted by later and more enlightened historians ; because it has been believed at one time, and while it was believed it influenced the imagination, and thereby, in some degree, the opinions and the character of the people. Biographical fables, on the other hand, are worthy of notice, because they show in what manner the celebrity of the personage, whose honor or dishonor they have been invented, has acted upon his countrymen. Moreover, there
(* Among Prince Henry's expenses is a "payment of xxxüili. for three Hawkes bought of Sir Oliver Cromwell.”]
is in the curiosity which we feel concerning the earliest actions of remarkable men, an interest akin to that which is attached to the source of a great river. There are many springs in this country more beautiful in themselves and in their accompaniments than the fountains of the Thames, or the Danube, or the Nile, but how inferior in kind and in degree is the feeling which they excite!
Before Cromwell had quite completed his seventeenth year, he was removed from the school at Huntingdon to Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge.* Though his passion for athletic exercises still continued, so much so that he is said to have acquired the name of a royster in the university, it appears certain, that the short time which he passed there was not mispent, but that he made a respectable proficiency in his studies. He had not, however, been there more than a year when his father died, and his mother, to whose care he appears to have been left, removed him from college. It has been affirmed that he was placed at Lincoln's Inn, but that instead of attending to the law he wasted his time “ in a dissolute course of life, and good-fellowship and gaming." His descendant denies this, because his name is not to be found in the records of Lincoln's Inn; to which sufficient disproof he adds, that " it is not likely a youth of eighteen or nineteen should in those days have
[* 23d April, 1616. Noble, i. 254, ed. 1787.]
been sent to an inn of court." The unlikelihood is not apparent; there is no imaginable reason why he should have been represented as a student of law if he had never been so, and the probability is that he was entered at some other of the inns of court. Returning thence to reside upon his paternal property, he is said to have led a low and boisterous life ; and for proof of this, a letter to his cousin, Mrs. St. John, is quoted, in which he says,
“ You know what my manner of life hath been. Oh, I lived in and loved darkness, and hated the light; I was a chief, the chief of sinners. This is true; I hated godliness, yet God had mercy on me." The present Mr. Oliver Cromwell argues that no such meaning is to be inferred from the words, but that such “it is conceived would be the language of any person of the present day, who, after professing Christianity in the common loose way in which it is commonly professed, and even preserving themselves free from the commission of all gross sins and immoral acts, should become a convert to the stricter doctrines and precepts of the Scriptures, as held by those who are deemed to be the evangelical or orthodox believers of these times." Mr. Cromwell is right; the letter proves nothing, except that there is a good deal of the same canting now that there was then, cant indeed being a coin which always passes current. The language of an evangelical professor concerning his own sins and the sense of his own wickedness, is no more to be taken literally than that of an amorous sonnetteer who complains of flames and torments.
The course of Cromwell's conduct, however, at this time was such as to offend his paternal uncle, Sir Oliver, and his maternal one, Sir Thomas Steward. The offence given to the former is said to have been by a beastly frolic, for which the master of Misrule very properly condemned him to the discipline of a horsepond. The story, from its very filthiness, is incredible : Bates, however, would not have related it unless he had believed it, and Oliver's practical jests were sometimes dirty as well as coarse. The means by which he displeased Sir Thomas are less doubtful and of a blacker die :-wishing to get possession of his estate, he represented him as not able to govern it, and petitioned for a commission of lunacy against him, which was refused. Because Sir Thomas was reconciled to him afterward,
and ultimately left him the estate, the present Mr. O. Cromwell denies the fact, saying, “ This supposed attempt to deprive his uncle of his estate would have been so atrocious and unpardonable, that the reasonable conclusion must be, that this disposition in favor of Cromwell proves the falsehood of the story.” A better ground of defence would have been to maintain that the uncle was not in
his sound senses, and to allege the bequest, after such provocation, in proof of it. The story is most certainly true ; it is established by a speech of Archbishop Williams to the king concerning Cromwell, wherein he says, “ Your majesty did him but justice in refusing his petition against Sir Thomas Steward of the isle of Ely ; but he takes them all for his enemies that would not let him undo his best friend." Mr. O. Cromwell has overlooked this evidence. But he is not the only modern biographer who has thought proper to contradict the facts which are recorded of an ancestor, because it is not agreeable to believe them. The probability is, that Cromwell, who was not naturally a wicked man, thought his petition well grounded.
Whatever may have been the follies and vices of his youth, it is certain that he had strength and resolution enough to shake them off. As soon as he came of age he married* Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Bourchier, of Felsted, in Essex, a woman whose irreproachable life might have protected her from obloquy and insult, if in the heat of party-spirit anything were held sacred. She brought him some fortune, and, in the year 1625, he was returned to King Charles's first parliament for the borough of Huntingdon. There was no
[* 20th August, 1620. In the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, the church in which Milton is buried. Noble, i, 123.]