« PreviousContinue »
little remember the good he had done them, so as to make it an argument against their next request. This principle, of making the love of ease exercise an entire sovereignty in his thoughts, would have been less censured in a private man, than migiit be in a prince. The consequence of it to the publick, changeth the nature of that quality; or else a philosopher, in his private capacity, might say a great deal to justify it. The truth is, a king is to be such a distinct creature from a man, that their thoughts are to be put in quite a differing shape; and it is such a disquieting task to reconcile them, that princes might rather expect to be lamented than to be envied, for being in a station that exposeth them, if they do not do more to answer men's expectations than human nature will allow.The love of 'ease is an opiate: it is pleasing for the time, quieteth the spirits; but it hath its effects, that seldom fail to be most fatal. The immoderate love of ease, maketh a man's mind pay a passive obedience to any thing that happeneth: it reduceth the thoughts, from having desire, to be contenta.” Some of these reflexions are extremely just; and I doubt not of the reader's being pleased with them, especially as they tend to illustrate the character of the monarch under consideration.—-It would be injustice to Charles to omit Dr. Sprat's account of his encouragement of the Royal Society; as it confirms what Burnet has related in the passage above cited. “When the society," says the writer, “first addressed themselves to his majesty, he was pleased to express much satisfaction, that this enterprize was begun in his reign. He then represented to them the gravity and difficulty of their work; and assured them of all the kind influence of
a Character of K. Charles II. p. 45-49.
his power and prerogative. Since that, he has fre. quently committed many things to their search: he has referr'd many foreign rarities to their inspection : he has recommended many domestick improvements to their care: he has demanded the result of their tryals, in many appearances of nature: he has been present, and assisted with his own hands, at the performing of many of their experiments, in his gardens, his parks, and on the river. And, besides, I will not conceal, that he has sometimes reproved them for the slowness of their proceedings: at which reproofs they have not so much cause to be afflicted that they are the reprehensions of a king, as to be comforted that they are the reprehensions of his love and affection to their progress. For a testimony of which royal benignity, and to free them from all hindrances and occasions of delay, he has given them the establishment of his letters patenta.??
One would think, by this passage, that the Royal Society had its beginning in this reign: but, setting aside the name and the charter, it had its existence long before. For it was under the parliament, when the authority and the name of king was little reverenced, but merit, and arts of all kinds, encouraged. It was in this memorable period, so favourable to liberty and the sciences, that this noble society, though without a name, was set on foot.
“About the year 1645,” says Dr. Wallis, a very eminent member, “ while I lived in London, at a time when, by our civil wars, academical studies were much interrupted in both our universities, besides the conversation of divers eminent divines, as to matters theological; I had the opportunity of being acquainted with
* History of the Royal Society, p. 133. 4to. Lond. 1667.
divers worthy persons, inquisitive into natural philosophy, and other parts of human learning: and particularly of what hath been called the New Philosophy, or Experimental Philosophy. We did, by agreement, divers of us meet weekly in London, on a certain day, to treat and discourse of such affairs. Of such number were, Dr. John Wilkins, afterwards Bishop of Chester; Dr. Jonathan Goddard, Dr. George Ent, Dr. Glisson, Dr. Merret, doctors in physick; Mr. Samuel Foster, then Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College; Mr. Theodore Haak, a German of the Palatinate, and then resident in London (who, I think, gave the first occasion, and first suggested these meet ings); and many others. These meetings we held sometimes at Dr. Goddard's lodgings, in Wood-street, or some convenient place near, on occasion of his keeping an operator for grinding glasses for telescopes and microscopes; and sometimes at a convenient place in Cheapside; sometimes at Gresham College, or some place near adjoining. Our business was, precluding inatters of theology and state affairs, to discourse and consider of philosophical enquiries, and such as related thereunto, as physick, anatomy, geometry, astronomy, navigation, staticks, magneticks, chemicks, mechanicks, and natural experiments; with the state of these studies, as then cultivated, at home and abroad. --About the year 1648, 1649, some of us being removed to Oxford, first Dr. Wilkins, then I, and, soon after, Dr. Goddard, our company divided. Those in London continued to meet there, as before; and we with them, when we had occasion to be there. And those of us at Oxford, with Dr. Ward, since Bishop of Salisbury; Dr. Ralph Bathurst, now President of Trinity College, in Oxford; Dr. Petty, since Sir William Petty ; Dr. Willis, then an eminent physician in Oxford; and
credulity'. Besides this,--with a seeming
divers others; continued such meetings in Oxford, and brought those studies into fashion there: meeting first at Dr. Pettie's lodgings, in an apothecarie's house, because of the convenience of inspecting drugs, and the like, as there was occasion : and, after his remove to Ireland, thọ’ not so constantly, at the lodgings of Dr. Wilkins, then Warden of Wadham College; and after his removal to Trinity College in Cambridge, at the lodgings of the honourable Mr. Robert Boyle, then resident for divers years in Oxford. Those meetings in London continued : and after the king's return, in 1660, were increased with the accession of divers worthy and honourable persons; and were afterwards incorporated by the name of the Royal Society, &c. and so continues to this day a— The reader will pardon a digression intended to restore the honour of so excellent an institution to its right authors; and to rescue the time of its formation from the foul slanders of barbarism, ignorance, and darkness, so frequently cast on it b. :: ? He was subject to much weakness and credulity.] Wisdom and folly; understanding and credulity;
a Wallis's Account of some passages in his life, quoted in the notes of the Life of A. Sidney, p. 44. 4to. Lond. 1763. And Ward's Preface to the Lives of the Professors of Gresham College, p. 10. fol. Lond. 1740. See also Sprat's History, p. 53.
o Wood, speaking of Henry Stubbe, says, while he continued undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxon, it was usual with him to discourse in the public schools very fluently in the Greek tongue; as it was, at the same time, with one John Pettie, of Baliol, afterwards of Queen's College, and others, whose names are forgotten. But since the king's restoration, we have had no such matters; which shews, in some part, that education and discipline were more severe then (as indeed they were) than after, when scholars were given more to liberty and frivolous studies. Athenæ Oxon. vol. II. c. 561.
openness and frankness of heart, which
though opposites and contraries, very frequently reside in one and the same man: and nothing is more common, than to see those of superior capacities fall into weaknesses and follies, which men of plain sense hold in contempt and very deservedly ridicule.--Witches, the stars, charms, oracles, ghosts, and every phantom which weakness or wickedness, in various ages and different countries have imagined or feigned, have, some or other of them, been embraced, as truths, by men most respectable on account of their knowledge, virtue and integrity. I need not quote proofs for this : such as are desirous of them may read Plutarch, among the ancients; and recollect, that the names of Sir Thomas Brown, Sir Matthew Hale, Mr. Boyle, and many others, among the moderns; are in the number of the believers of the intercourse of the devil with the most wretched and despicable of the daughters of Eve. To which may be added that the profession of a conjurer was so very common amongst the catholics, that a question is put by the Jesuit Sanchez, “ whether a conjurer is obliged to return the gain which he makes by conjuration? Which he thus resolves : “If the conjurer has not taken the care and pains to know, by the devil's means, what could not be known otherwise; he is obliged to restitution : but if he has taken all due care, he is not obligeda.” No wonder, therefore, is it to find a prince of Charles's character, who was unused to enquiry, and accustomed to assent to those about him, liable to weakness, and exposed to credulity. Burnet tells us, “ the king had ordered Mountague, his ambassador at Paris, in the year 1678, to find out
a Paschal's Letters, vol. I. p. 183. 8vo. Lond. 1744.