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For once, O heaven, unfold thy adamantine book; And let his wondering senate see,
If not thy firm immutable decree,
At least the second page of strong contingency, Such as consists with wills, originally free.
Let them with glad amazement look On what their happiness may be;
Let them not still be obstinately blind,
To starve the royal virtues of his mind.
In orderly array, a martial, manly train.
The asserted Ocean rears his reverend head,
The fasces of the main.
An unexpected burst of woes.-P. 62.
Charles II. enjoyed excellent health, and was particularly careful to preserve it by constant exercise. His danger, therefore, fell like a thunderbolt on his people, whose hearts were gained by his easy manners and good humour, and who considered, that the worst apprehensions they had ever entertained during his reign, arose from the religion and disposition of his successor. mingled passions of affection and fear produced a wonderful sensation on the nation. The people were so passionately concerned, that North says, and appeals to all who recollected the time for the truth of his averment, that it was rare to see a person walking the street with dry eyes. Examen. p. 647.
The second causes took the swift command,
All eager to perform their part.-P. 64.
If there is safety in the multitude of counsellors, Charles did not find it in the multitude of physicians. Nine were in attendance, all men of eminence; the presence of the least of whom, Le Sage would have said, was fully adequate to account for the subsequent catastrophe. They were Sir Thomas Millington, Sir Thomas Witherby, Sir Charles Scarborough, Sir Edmund King, Doctors Berwick, Charlton, Lower, Short, and Le Fevre. They signed a declaration, that the King had died of an apoplexy.
The joyful short-lived news soon spread around.-P. 65.
An article was published in the Gazette, on the third day of the King's illness, importing, "That his physicians now conceived him to be in a state of safety, and that in a few days he would be freed from his indisposition." * North tells us, however, on the authority of his brother, the Lord Keeper, that the only hope which the physicians afforded to the council, was an assurance, (joyfully communicated,) that the King was ill of a violent fever. The council seeing little consolation in these tidings, one of the medical gentlemen explained, by saying, that they now knew what they had to do, which was to administer the cortex. This was done while life lasted, although some of the physicians seem to have deemed the prescription improper; in which case, Charles, after escaping the poniards and pistols of the Jesuits, may be said to have fallen a victim to their bark.
And he who most perform'd, and promised less,
Even Short himself, forsook the unequal strife.—P. 67.
Dr Thomas Short, an eminent physician, who came into the court practice when Dr Richard Lower, who formerly enjoyed it, embraced the political principles of the Whig party. Short, a Roman Catholic, and himself a Tory, was particularly acceptable to the Tories. To this circumstance he probably owes the compliment paid him by our author, and another from Lord Mulgrave to the same purpose. Otway reckons, among his selected friends,
Short, beyond what numbers can commend. +
Duke has also inscribed to him his translation of the eleventh Idyllium of Theocritus; beginning,
O Short! no herb nor salve was ever found,
Dr Short, as one of the king's physicians, attended the deathbed of Charles, and subscribed the attestation, that he died of an apoplexy. Yet there has been ascribed to him an expression of dubious import, which caused much disquisition at the time;
RALPH, Vol. I. p. 834.
+ Life of Lord Keeper Guilford, p. 253.
Epistle to Mr Duke.
namely, that the "the king had not fair play for his life." Burnet says plainly, that "Short suspected poison, and talked more freely of it than any Protestant durst venture to do at the time." He adds, that "Short himself was taken suddenly ill, upon taking a large draught of wormwood wine, in the house of a Popish patient near the Tower; and while on his death-bed, he told Lower, and Millington, and other physicians, that he believed he himself was poisoned, for having spoken too freely of the king's death."* Mulgrave states the same report in these words, which, coming from a professed Tory, are entitled to the greater credit: "I am obliged to observe, that the most knowing and most deserving of all his physicians did not only believe him poisoned, but thought himself so too, not long after, for having declared his opinion a little too boldly." North, in confutation of this report, has interpreted Short's expression, as meaning nothing more than that the king's malady was mistaken by his physicians, who, by their improper prescriptions, deprived nature of fair play; and he appeals to all the eminent physicians who attended Dr Short in his last illness, whether he did not fall a victim to his own bold method, in using the cortex. Upon the whole, whatever opinion this individual physician may have adopted through mistake, or affectation of singularity, and whatever credit faction, or indeed popular prejudice in general, may have given to such rumours at the time, there appears no solid reason to believe that Charles died of poison. Both Burnet and Mulgrave say, that they never heard a hint that his brother was accessary to such a crime; and it is very unlikely that any zealous Catholic should have either opportunity, or inclination, to hasten the reign of a prince of that religion, by the unsolicited service of poisoning his brother. The other physicians, several of whom, Lower, for example, were Whigs, as well as Protestants, gave no countenance to this rumour, which was circulated by a Catholic. And, as the symptoms of the king's disorder are decidedly apoplectic, the report may be added to those with which history abounds, and which are raised and believed only because an extraordinary end is thought most fit for the eminent and powerful.
Short, as we have incidentally noticed, survived his royal patient but a few months. He was succeeded in his practice by Ratcliffe, the famous Tory physician of Queen Anne's reign.
* Burnet's History of his own Times. End of Book III.
+ Character of Charles II., Sheffield Duke of Buckingham's Works, Vol. II.
One Dr Stokeham is said to have alleged, that the king's fit was epileptic, not apoplectic, and that bleeding was ex diametro wrong.
All that on earth he held most dear,
He recommended to his care,
To whom both heaven
The right had given,
And his own love bequeath'd supreme command.-P. 68.
The historical accounts of the dying requests of Charles are contradictory and obscure. It seems certain, that he earnestly recommended his favourite mistress, the Duchess of Portsmouth, to the protection of his successor. He had always, he said, loved her, and he now loved her at the last. The Bishop of Bath presented to him his natural son, the Duke of Richmond; whom he blessed, and recommended, with his other children, to his successor's protection; adding, "Do not let poor Nelly *-starve." He seems to have said nothing of the Duke of Monmouth, once so much beloved, and whom, shortly before, he entertained thoughts of recalling from banishment, and replacing in favour; perhaps he thought any recommendation to James of a rival so hated would be ineffectual. Burnet says he spoke not a word of the queen. Echard, on the contrary, affirms, that, at the exhortation of the Bishop of Bath, Charles sent for the queen, and asked and received her pardon for the injuries he had done her bed. In Fountainhall's Manuscript, the queen is said to have sent a message, requesting his pardon if she had ever offended him: " Alas, poor lady!" replied the dying monarch," she never offended me; I have too often injured her." This account seems more probable than that of Echard; for so public a circumstance, as a personal visit from the queen to her husband's death-bed, could hardly have been disputed by contemporaries.
The officious muses came along,
A gay harmonious quire, like angels ever young;
The muse, that mourns him now, his happy triumph sung.—P. 73.
In Dryden's Life, we had occasion to remark the effect of the Restoration upon literature. It was not certainly its least impor
+ Echard's History, p. 1046.
+ Dalrymple's Memoirs, 8vo. vol. i. p. 66.