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THE “TURNING-POINT” IN THE FORTUNES OF
« THE HOUSE OF CARLISLE."
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
THERE is a magnificence in the geologic idea of one vast tidal wave cireling the world, and leaving no creek or inlet unvisited, but passing with inevitable certainty in its ebb from one, to its tide of flood in the next. True it is, that in contravention to this theory and our motto alike, poets, when they would symbolize an uneventful life, call up the image of a “tideless sea,” as though such a thing were “in rerum nature," and hydrographers come with their tables of observation to assure us of a “no tide in the Mediterranean!” Now, both these last fallacies I must meet with what is called, in parliamentary phrase, a " direct negative." I believe there never lived or vegetated son of clay, though “dull as the fat weed which rots itself on Lethe's wharf,” who had not his crisis or turning point in life, from which his after destinies took shape and direction; and as to the Mediterranean phenomenon, and the hydrographic conclusion — "anche io sono pittore.” I am an hydrographer in a small way myself, and produce my counter-observations and data to confute them. I once made out a ten-day sojourn in Venice, and a wonderful feat I consider it to have accomplished, in a doomed city, on which Emilia's curse on her graceless Iago, when she wished him to “ rot half a grain a day," may be said to have descended in a proportioned ratio--for Venice seems to be rolling “grainwise," many grains daily—yet even there, in that “mildewed city," in its dull lagoon and slow canal, I could recognise the power of the general law. I saw tidal indications, slight, indeed, I must own-a mere “ qualche cosa" as it were—but still sufficient to sustain the Shaksperian aphorism, that there “is a tide in the affairs of men.”
My apparatus for tidal observations was perfectly " improviso" and very simple ; but what of that? Newton educed his theory of universal gravitation from a pippin falling on his nose in an orchard, and I corroborate the tidal wave hypothesis by "an old straw hat!"--" from the sublime to the ridiculous” Pshaw! every one knows that proverb.
I was domiciled in the Palazzo Grassi, selected as commanding a perfect Canalletti reach of the Grand Canal. A domestic affliction confined me to the house for a few days; and it may serve to show the uneventful monotony of Venetian existence when I state, that during that period, with the watery highway of Venice life under my eyes, in the paucity of incidents and objects which presented themselves, the cast-away straw hat aforesaid became an object of interest, and its migrations ultimately became the means of disproving the un-tidal theory in respect to the waters on which it swayed backwa and forwards. The bat was an undoubted "waif and stray”-it had been floating close to the Palazzo steps as we arrived—it floated near them as we left-it may be floating there still, if, under the Venetian curse, it has not “ rotted piecemeal.” Î know
in my day there was no getting rid of it. Sometimes our gondola, in starting, would send it a boat's-length away, but it ever waylaid us on our return as pertinaciously as if held in a beggar's hand for an “aumous,” and it ever floated a certain length down the canal to seaward during the day or night, but we were sure to see it again hugging the palace-steps as fondly as ever, again to float away, and
again to return in its diurnal progress. At first this tenacity of adhesion to a certain range seemed something preternatural; in the end, however, I began to connect it with its natural cause—a slight tide in these sleepy waters. Having thus learned from this “shocking bad hat" how to observe, I began to watch more closely, until I became aware of a rise and fall of some inches in the course of the day, so slight, indeed, that, for
all nautical purposes, such as making sail from or for port, the lagoon and roadway might be held as a “tideless harbour ;” but in scientific exactness of speech, this forms no exception to the action of the general law of a tidal-wave circling the world, however interrupted in its progress.-Q. E. D.
As for that “tide in the affairs of men," asserted in my motto, I should like to see the brainless sceptic who would question its reality. The stupid or unobservant may not recognise it as their "to-morrows creep on their petty pace from day to day;" but it is no less true that every man has his turning-point of fortune, whence his whole afterlife is coloured, his pursuits fixed, his destiny determined for good or evil. Many may pass this point quite unaware at the time of its momentous importance to them-many live out their life without ever having recognised the trivial circumstance which inclined them to the course of their whole after fortunes—but thoughtful men will ever love to recur to such critical periods in the fortunes of themselves or others, and to send out imagination in speculation on their results, as they may have influenced individual fortunes—the destinies of families, of kingdoms nay, why not of the world itself; for assuredly there is a sounder philosophy than superficial people dream of, in connecting the fact of Alexander the Great having bathed in the river Cydnus with “The Thirty Years' War,” “The Peace of Utrecht,” “The Reform Bill,” or any other great event of our modern history.
Macaulay, at a time when he might make such excuse as Benedick’s* for indulging in republican platitudes-namely, that when he wrote so, he never thought he would live to be "Baron Macaulay of that ilk," has, in one of his finest essays, in what seems a wistful spirit, speculated that if The Cromwell had not left a “foolish Ishbosheth” to fill his chair,
we might now be living under the government of His Highness Oliver the Fourth, or Richard the Fifth, Protector by the grace of God of the Commonwealth of England,” &c., &c. In this slighting remark Macaulay but echoes the voice of all history. Royalists in their ridicule, Republicans in their angry contempt, Puritans in their disappointed fanaticism, all unite in despising the pusillanimous son of that iron-souled and “iron-sided" sire, who could constrain men not loving his principles,
* « When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not Think I should ever live to be married.”
Much Ado about Nothing.
to respect himself, and caused those who hated his revolutionary rule to submit to his sternly-enforced authority.
Do I presume to blame or disdain Richard Cromwell's choice of quiet before empire, or a struggle for empire ? Far from it. I doubt not that, knowing as a man alone can know, “the spirit that was in him," he chose wisely and well, and after a sort, greatly ; it was wise, knowing his own inaptitude for the seat and duties of a ruler, to descend from them ; in his place a fool would, Phaeton-like, havegrasped the reins of empire, and after perplexing nations in his erratic career, have fallen headlong. He chose well, when, with Bunyan's pilgrim, he went quietly down into the Valley of Humiliation, there to gather, instead of I the nettle danger," the sweet-scented heart's-ease, which, flourishing in the shelter, dies in more exposed altitudes. And to my mind there was as much true greatness of soul in descending from an eminence on which he felt he could not stand, as there would have been vulgarity in persevering in the attempt, until he had been pushed or pulled from his pedestal by some of the mounting spirits of the age.”
Even the uneventful life of this ambitionless being had “its tide,” its moment of full flood, at which all his future—the future of England and in it the future of that Noble House of which we have undertaken to chronicle an incident, all - all bung together on the pivot of a human will and word. A little more firmness in the tension of Richard Cromwell's nervous system - - a little more infusion of the “vis vivida vitæ" into his composition a few grains more of whatever gives “dash” and “daring to the human character—and England might have had a future fully as strange as that imagined by Macaulay ! in which, among other minor and fantastic results, may be specified, that Alexander Pope would never have established the phrase of “all the blood of all the Howards” into an “household word” among usneither should we have a CARLISLE "pere" preserved in satyric acid, nor his son, "young gallant HOWARD,” embalmed in amber, in the poetry of Byron.* And last and most fantastic result of all, our present cheery, good
Byron's ferocious attack on his near relative, Frederick the fifth Earlthe present Earl of Carlisle's grandfather--may be read in his “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers." But as the noble bard confessed, in 1816, that “the provocation (more probably fancied than real) did not justify the petulant acerbity,” we pass it over here to quote his lines of reparation.
When speaking of those who fell in full career of victory at Waterloo, he says:
“ Their praise is hymn'd by loftier harps than minem
Yet one I could select from that proud throng,
And partly that I did his sire some wrong,
And his was of the bravest; and when shower'd
Even where the thickest of war's tempest lower'd ;
-Childe Harold, 3rd canto. These lines were addressed to the memory of the Honourable Frederick Howard, Lord Carlisle's youngest son, uncle to the present peer.
natured Chief Governor, who tours through his Viceroyalty,* with a kind word and genial manner for all, with general good wishes, even from those who like the man, while opposed to the political opinions of the Queen’s Lieutenant-instead of all this, "George William Frederick, Baron Dacres of Gilsland, Viscount Morpeth, and
Earl of Carlisle," who takes rank in the Red Book with a whole alphabet of personal honours appended to his name, might at this moment have been denominated as plain “Obadiah," or " Spintext,” or “Win-the-Fight” Howard, carrying his open countenance under shade of a steeple-hat, his neck be-ruffed, a ton of iron at his sword belt, and on Sundays listening with all the outward and visible signs of an inward rigid puritanism, not to sermons preached by courtly chaplains-in-waiting, but to “ exercises" performed by Geneva-cap't ministers, "guiltless of the abomination of the surplice." All this we say might have been, had the tide of Richard Cromwell's fortune been “ taken at the flood.”
It drew towards the end of 1659, “ OLIVER Protector” had been dead a year; and the nation he had ruled with iron but effective sway was fast breaking loose into anarchy. One of this great man's weaknesses had been to drive “six-in-hand” in Hyde Park; and he who had gained but peril and ridicule by that mad prank, had been able to rule three kingdoms, and rein in the fiercest spirits of a wild and troublous time, “as easily as a cadger's pony.” But now, the national team which he had driven under the state-coach so long, began to feel that the reins had passed into other and feebler hands. They were all pulling different ways—all going at different paces - so that everything threatened an overturn of the machine of Government; and after that Chaos ! Fleetwood, with his “Wallingford House Council,” aimed at a Prætorian military rule— Lambert at a military despotism of a “single person"-stupid Desborough vacillated between both, and bullied his feeble-minded nephew all the while. The fifth monarchymen dreamed their dreams of “King Jesus” to come among them, and tabernacle in “Venner's Meeting House;" while far off on the northern horizon hovered Monk, holding his army in hand, and biding his time to make the memorable descent on the capital, and more memorable declaration that—“The King should have his own again.”
* Since this was written the Viceroyalty of “ George William Frederick, Earl of CARLISLE " has come to an abrupt and unexpected end; and by the time it is printed, Dublin Castle will retain of him but his effigy, in situ, among the long row of chief governors since the Union. To the mere Castle frequenters the splendid hospitalities of an Eglinton may soon efface remembrance of the less-pretending approachableness of a Carlisle ; and other councils-different (yet perhaps not so different as sanguine minds may expect)will direct his successor in using “the sword committed to his hands.” But all must miss the cheerful, kind condescension of Lord Carlisle's presence, whose wel. come was more that of a kind host, than of a grave ruler ; and whose personal good qualities, as contrasted with what many call the faults of his administration, leave to thoughtful men the most living exemplification we have known of Paley's distinction between a “public and private conscience.” Even those who differ from him politically may parody one of the lines of Goldsmith's “ Retaliation," and say
"His faults were his Party's—his virtues his own.”