« PreviousContinue »
upon me at that time; to the end affairs might not have any interval or interruption.' or interruption.' And now when you are met, it will ask some time for the settling of your affairs and your way. And, on the other hand,' a day cannot be lost, or left vacant,' but they must be in continual Council till you take farther order. So that the whole matter of their consideration also which regards them, is at your disposal, as you shall see cause. And therefore I thought it my duty to acquaint you with thus much, to prevent distractions in your way: That things have been thus ordered; that your affairs will not stop, but' go on, 'in the meanwhile,'-till you see cause to alter this Council; they having no authority or continuance of sitting, except simply until you take farther order.*
The reader has now struggled through this First Speech of my Lord General's; not without astonishment to find that he has some understanding of it. The Editor has had his difficulties: but the Editor too is astonished to consider how such a Speech should have lain so long before the English Nation, asking, "Is there no meaning whatever in me, then?"—with negatory response from almost all persons. Incompetent Reporters ;-still more the obscene droppings of an extensive Owl-population, the accumulated guano of Human Stupor in the course of ages, do render Speeches unintelligible! It ought to be added, that my Lord General always spoke extempore; ready to speak, if his mind were full of meaning; very careless about the words he put it into. And never, except in one instance, which we shall by and by come upon, does he seem to have taken any charge as to what Report might be published of it. One of his Parliaments
Milton State-Papers, pp. 106-114: and Parliamentary History, xx. 153175; which latter is identical with. Harleian Miscellany (London, 1810), vi. 331-344. Our Report, in some cramp passages, which could not always be indicated without confusion, is a tertium quid between these two. Generally throughout we adhere to Milton's, which is the more concise, intelligible and every way better Report.
once asks him for a correct Report of a certain Speech, spoken some days before he declares, "He cannot remember four lines of it." It appears also that his meaning, much as Dryasdust may wonder, was generally very well understood by his audience : —it was not till next generation, when the owl-droppings already lay thick, and Human Stupor had decidedly set in, that the cry of Unintelligibility was much heard of. Tones and looks do much;—yes, and the having a meaning in you is also a great help! Indeed, I fancy he must have been an opaque man to whom these utterances of such a man, all in a blaze with such a conviction of heart, had remained altogether dark.
The printed state of this Speech, and still more of some others, will impose hard duties on an Editor; which kind readers must take their share of. In the present case, it is surprising how little change has been needed, beyond thé mere punctuation, and correct division into sentences. Not the slightest change of meaning has, of course, anywhere seemed, or shall anywhere seem, permissible; nor indeed the twentieth part of that kind of liberty which a skilful Newspaper Reporter takes with every speech he commits to print in our day.
A certain Critic, whom I sometimes cite from, but seldom without some reluctance, winds up his multifarious Commentaries on the present Speech in the following extraordinary way:
'Intelligent readers,' says he, have found intelligibility in 'this Speech of Oliver's: but to one who has had to read it as a painful Editor, reading every fibre of it with magnifying-glasses, has to do, it becomes all glowing with intelligibility, with credibility; with the splendour of genuine Veracity and heroic 'Depth and Manfulness ;—and seems in fact, as Oliver's Speeches 'generally do, to an altogether singular degree, the express image ' of the soul it came from!-Is not this the end of all speaking, and wagging of the tongue in every conceivable sort, except the 'false and accursed sorts? Shall we call Oliver a bad Speaker, 'then; shall we not, in a very fundamental sense, call him a good 'Speaker?
Art of Speech? Art of Speech? The Art of Speech, I take it, will first of all be the art of having something genuine
Burton's Diary. Postea, Speech XVII.
'to speak! Into what strange regions has it carried us, that same sublime "Art," taken up otherwise! One of the saddest bewilderments, when I look at all the bearings of it, nay pro'perly the fountain of all the sad bewilderments, under which 'poor mortals painfully somnambulate in these generations. "I 'have made an excellent Speech about it, written an excellent 'Book about it,”—and there an end. How much better, hadst 'thou done a moderately good deed about it, and not had any'thing to speak at all! He who is about doing some mute veracity has a right to be heard speaking, and consulting of the doing of it; and properly no other has. The light of a man 'shining all as a paltry phosphorescence on the surface of him, 'leaving the interior dark, chaotic, sordid, dead-alive,—was once ' regarded as a most mournful phenomenon!
False Speech is probably capable of being the falsest and 'most accursed of all things. False Speech; so false that it has ' not even the veracity to know that it is false,- -as the poor com'monplace liar still does! I have heard Speakers who gave rise to thoughts in me they were little dreaming of suggesting! Is man then no longer an "Incarnate Word," as Novalis calls ' him,―sent into this world to utter out of him, and by all means to make audible and visible what of God's-Message he has; sent hither and made alive even for that, and for no other ⚫ definable object? Is there no sacredness, then, any longer, in 'the miraculous tongue of man? Is his head become a wretched 'cracked pitcher, on which you jingle to frighten crows, and make 'bees hive? He fills me with terror, this two-legged Rhetorical Phantasm! I could long for an Oliver without Rhetoric at all. I could long for a Mahomet, whose persuasive-eloquence, with wild-flashing heart and scimitar, is: "Wretched mortal, 'give up that; or by the Eternal, thy Maker and mine, I will 'kill thee! Thou blasphemous scandalous Misbirth of Nature, is 'not even that the kindest thing I can do for thee, if thou repent 'not and alter in the name of Allah ?" '
CONCERNING this Puritan Convention of the Notables, which in English History is called the Little Parliament, and derisively Barebones's Parliament, we have not much more to say. They are, if by no means the remarkablest Assembly, yet the Assembly for the remarkablest purpose who have ever met in the Modern World. The business is, No less than introducing of the Christian Religion into real practice in the Social Affairs of this Nation. Christian Religion, Scriptures of the Old and New Testament: such, for many hundred years, has been the universal solemnly recognised Theory of all men's Affairs; Theory sent down out of Heaven itself: but the question is now that of reducing it to Practice in said Affairs ;—a most noble, surely, and most necessary attempt; which should not have been put off so long in this Nation! We have conquered the Enemies of Christ; let us now, in real practical earnest, set about doing the Commandments of Christ, now that there is free room for us! Such was the purpose of this Puritan Assembly of the Notables, which History calls the Little Parliament, or derisively Barebones's Parliament.
It is well known they failed: to us, alas, it is too evident they could not but fail. Fearful impediments lay against that effort of theirs: the sluggishness, the slavish half-and-halfness, the greediness, the cowardice, and general opacity and falsity of some ten million men against it;-alas, the whole world, and what we call the Devil and all his angels, against it! Considerable angels, human and other: most extensive arrangements, investments, to be sold off at a tremendous sacrifice ;-in general the entire set of luggage-traps and very extensive stock of merchant-goods and real and floating property, amassed by that assiduous Entity above-mentioned, for a thousand years or more! For these, and also for other obstructions, it could not take effect
at that time;-and the Little Parliament became a Barebones's Parliament, and had to go its ways again.
Read these three Letters, two of them of small or no significance as to it or its affairs; and then let us hasten to the catatrophe.
THE Little Parliament has now sat some seven weeks: the dim old world of England, then in huge travail-throes, and somewhat of the Lord-General's sad and great reflections thereon, may be dimly read here.
"For the Right Honourable Lieutenant-General Fleetwood, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland: These.'
Cockpit, 22d August, 1653. Although I do not so often as is desired by me acquaint you how it is with me, yet I doubt not of your prayers in my behalf, That, in all things, I may walk as becometh the Gospel.
Truly I never more needed all helps from my Christian Friends than now! Fain would I have my service accepted of the Saints, if the Lord will;-but it is not so. Being of different judgments, and those' of each sort seeking most to propagate their own, that spirit of kindness that is1 to them all, is hardly accepted of any. I hope I can say it, My life has been a willing sacrifice,- and I hope,-for them all. Yet it much falls out as when the Two Hebrews were rebuked: you know upon whom they turned their displeasure !2
1'in me' modestly suppressed.
2 And he,' the wrongdoer of the Two, said unto Moses, "Who made 'thee a Prince and a Judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me, as thou 'killedst the Egyptian!" (Exodus, ii. 14.)