Page images

And every

phising nor calculating nor recording in those ruminating periods. He had keen eyes, this untidy, peering scholar, and when others talked he listened. He examined their features curiously; he dwelt with inward delight upon their instinctive gestures—the tones of their voices, the twinkling of their brows, the twitching of their hands; he did not brood and generalise ; his taste was for the special, the particular, the individual, the characteristic. now and then, when pen and paper lay in his way, he would scribble off a rough sketch, as an artist jots down heads and limbs, towers and copses on his blotting-paper, a mental caricature of one of the strange fellows that he was for ever encountering in the world.

Written on loose sheets, sometimes lying in his desk, sometimes left on the table, sometimes dropped over a friend's shoulder, he set no store on these fragments; he did not hand them round with affected carelessness, and come down with his candlestick to search for them when all the world was upstairs. He had no idea of rushing into print, no ambition connected with the publisher. The figure with all its oddities had risen in his mind, and he had the whim to describe it. Done for the moment, he had but a momentary interest in it; and, like the Sibyl, he saw the wind whirl the leaves about, without regard to the precious characters they bore.

Once or twice the humour took him to sketch himself, to outline such lineaments of his own as he had seen reflected in the looks and welcomes of his friends ; to recall for his own amusement a humorous situation or two over which he had often made secret merriment. In words too intimate not to be autobiographical he had written of the downright scholar, whose “perplexitye of mannerliness will not let him feed, and he is sharp set at an argument when he should cut his meate." With a twinkling eye, thinking of the stable-gate at Tew and the big horse-block, he says how such an one “ascends a horse somewhat sinisterly, though not on the left side, and they both goe jogging in grief together; he tells how he “cannot speak to a Dogge in his own dialect, and understands Greeke better than the language of a Falconer."

But like the squire who excuses trespassing and yet draws the line at poaching, he had suddenly to show his hand. To have his witty distinctions quoted, to see them go to form another's stock-in-trade-that he could put up with ; it was merely another grotesque turn among the oddities of humanity that he was never tired of observing. But when, without his leave, those fly-sheets, those scrawls and sketches on which he had set so little store, suddenly appeared in print, garnered by some careful hand, then he flung himself into the

world with a kind of challenge. Like Virgil he dared them to finish what they had professed to begin, and for himself he proceeded to finish what some one else had begun for him.

He did not set his name to the book, but allowed the world to know who was the author. It was published in 1628 by Edward Blount, stationer and translator, with a preface signed by the latter, but almost certainly inspired by Earles himself, in which he professes to bring forth to the light, as it were, infants which the father would have smothered; but the preface is so void of partiality, it makes so little attempt to compliment the book, or to insist, as even the most judicial friend would have done, on the merits of the work, that it is evidently by the hand of the author and the author is no less evidently a modest man.

Authors have only been able to wake and find themselves famous since the days of improved communication ; yet John Earles found himself famous as soon as the little ripple of delight could permeate to the outskirts of society. The book was so new and bright, the humour was so penetrating and yet so kind, and it was above all so innocent in its wisdom, that the reading world seized upon it with delight.

This fame resulting from so slender and nugatory a performance was a strange surprise to Earles, and had he not been a man who was

apt all through his life to be surprised at his own successes, it might have turned his brain ; but he broke off and wrote no more, at least in that manner.

In five years the book ran through eight editions ; and with the exception of adding a score of pieces to one of the editions pieces which at his friends' earnest solicitation he gathered out of accumulated papershe wrote nothing else in that kind. Nay, he was so austere, that he had suppressed many sheets in the first edition, because there was a dash of coarseness which had somehow invaded their fibre.

He rose quickly in the world after this, and no one envied him or would have detracted from him ; he bore his greatness so quietly and salted it so well with gratitude that it never was anything but pure and fragrant.

The Earl of Pembroke was Lord Chamberlain, and took his chaplain to Court, where he conciliated so many, and showed himself of such even and gracious temper, and possessed of so genial an authority, that when Dr. Duppa was made Bishop of Sarum, John Earles stepped quickly into the post of tutor to the Prince of Wales, afterwards that most gracious monarch, Charles II.

When kings were kings, Arsenius was something of a potentate. A prince's tutor might without absurdity reflect that he held a high and

[ocr errors]

solemn charge. The education of any human being is that ; and the education of one born to rank and greatness will always be a serious undertaking, just because he is capable of being such a power in the world, and of influencing so large a number of people ; but the education of a king had something national about it, and a tutor who could really affect such a pupil's character might hope to react upon a large section of the community.

Charles II. was undeniably a clever man, and made the most of a very difficult position. He was not a high-minded man in any sense of the word, and he was hopelessly, irretrievably frivolous. If he had been ambitious or serious, terrible complications might have ensued; he would either have fretted himself into madness, or the country into civil war. Fortunately he did neither, but stood in a spectatorial attitude, watching the world through wicked, humorous eyes, living a low kind of life among lazy friends, and sauntering through difficulties which would have wrecked an earnest man. A character like this is sure to have appreciated such a tutor, but Charles was probably far too cold and careless for Earles to have deeply influenced him. Charles II. must have been a hopeless case from the beginning. A clever man in a very great position, without a touch of generosity or affection in his nature, is for the educational experi

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »