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THE LIFE

OF

CHARLES II.

KING OF GREAT BRITAIN.

CHARLES, though blessed with a genius capable of

great things, applied himself but little to the affairs of government', the only

* Charles, though blessed with a genius_applied himself but little to the affairs of government.] Burnet assures us," he had a very good understanding. He knew well,” adds he, “the state of affairs both at home and abroad. —He had a great compass of knowledge; though he was never capable of much application or study. He understood the mechanics, and physick; and was a good chemist, and much set' on several preparations of mercury, chiefly the fixing it. He understood navigation well: but above all, he knew the architecture of ships so perfectly, that, in that respect, he was exact rather more than became a prince. His apprehension was quick; and his memory good. He hated business, and could not be easily brought to mind any: but when it was necessary, and he was set to it, he would stay as long as his mi

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proper employment of a prince: and, with

nisters had work for him a"- This character is confirmed by those who best knew him. Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, observes, “ that his understanding was quick and lively in little things; and sometimes would soar high enough in great ones, but unable to keep it up with any long attention or application. Witty in all sorts of conversation; and telling á story so well, that, not out of flattery, but for the pleasure of hearing it, we used to seem ignorant of what he had repeated to us ten times before, as a good comedy will bear the being seen often. Of a wonderful mixture; losing alì his time, and, till of late, setting his whole heart on the fair sex. In the midst of all his remissness, so industrious and indefatigable on some particular occasions, that no man would either toil longer, or be able to manage it better b. Sir William Temple, after relating a conversation he had with him, remarks, “ that he never saw him in better humour, nor ever knew a more agreeable conversation when he was so : and where," continues he, “ he was pleased to be familiar, great quickness of conception, great pleasantness of wit, with great variety of knowledge, more observation and truer judgment of men, than one would have imagined by so careless and easy a manner as was natural to him in all he said or did. From his own temper, he desired nothing but to be easy himself, and that every body else should be so ; and would have been glad to see the least of his subjects pleased, and to refuse no man what he asked. But this softness of temper made him apt to fall into the persuasions of whoever had his kindness and confidence for the time,

a Burnet, vol. I p. 93. • Buckingham's Works, vol. II. p. 58.. 12mo Lond. 1753.

wit and understanding, in no common de

how different soever from the opinions he was of before; and he was very easy to change hands, when those he employed seemed to have engaged him in any difficulties : so as nothing looked steady in the conduct of his affairs, nor aimed at any certain enda.” Lord Halifax [Saville), who was no stranger to him, says, " that he had a mechanical head, which appeared in his inclination to shipping and fortification, &c. This would make one conclude, thạt his thoughts would naturally have been more fixed to business, if his pleasures had not drawn them away from it. He had a very good memory, though he would not always make equal good use of it. So that if he had accustomed himself to direct his faculties to his business, I see no. reason why he might not have been a good deal master of it. His chain of memory was longer than his chain of thought: the first could bear any burden, the other was tired by being carried on too long: it was fit to ride a heat, but it had not wind enough for a long course b.” Lord Clarendon owns, and attempts to account for, the indolence of his master, by “the unhappy temper and constitution of the royal party- and other perplexities (soon after the Restoration], which did so break his mind, and had that operation on his spirits, that, finding he could not propose any such method to himself, by which he might extricate himself out of the many difficulties and labyrinths in which he was involved, he grew more disposed to leave all things to their natural course, and God's providence; and, by degrees, unbent his mind from the

Character of King

* Buckingham's Works, p. 408. 8vo edition. Charles II. 8vo. p. 40. Lond. 1750.

gree,

he

was subject to much weakness and

knotty and ungrateful part of his business, grew more remiss in his application to it, and indulged to his youth and appetite, that license and satisfaction that it desired, and for which he had opportunity enough, and could not be without ministers abundant for any such negociations; the time itself, and the young people thereof, of either sex, having been educated in all the liberty of vice, without reprehension or restraint a.” I suppose the reader, by these authorities, will be fully satisfied of the genius and indolence, of Charles ; an indolence, contracted whilst abroad, and confirmed by indulgence from his Restoration to his death: which damped his understanding, and made it in a manner useless to those over whom he bare rule. For " when once the 'aversion to bear uneasiness taketh place in a mans mind, it doth so check all the passions, that they are dampt into a kind of indifference; they grow faint and languishing, and come to be subordinate to that fundamental maxim, of not purchasing any thing at the price of a difficulty. This made that he had as little eagerness to oblige as he had to hurt men; the motive of his giving bounties, was, rather to make men less uneasy to him, than more easy to themselves; and yet no ill-nature all this while. He would slide from an asking face, and could guess very well. It was throwing a man off from his shoulders, that leaned upon them with his whole weight; so that the party was not gladder to receive, than he was to give. It was a kind of implied bargain; though men seldom kept it, being so apt to forget the advantage they had received, that they would presume the king would as

a Clarendon's Continuation, vol. II. p. 38.

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