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James The First
by [?]

This ridiculous joke did not accord with the feelings of James at that moment; he was not “i’ the vein.” Yet we may observe, that had not such artful politicians as Buckingham and his mother been strongly persuaded of the success of this puerile fancy, they would not have ventured on such “blasphemies.” They certainly had witnessed amusements heretofore not less trivial which had gratified his majesty. The account which Sir Anthony Weldon gives, in his Court of King James, exhibits a curious scene of James’s amusements. “After the king supped, he would come forth to see pastimes and fooleries; in which Sir Ed. Zouch, Sir George Goring, and Sir John Finit, were the chiefe and master fools, and surely this fooling got them more than any others wisdome; Zouch’s part was to sing bawdy songs, and tell bawdy tales; Finit’s to compose these songs: there was a set of fiddlers brought to court on purpose for this fooling, and Goring was master of the game for fooleries, sometimes presenting David Droman and Archee Armstrong, the kings foole, on the back of the other fools, to tilt one at another, till they fell together by the eares; sometimes they performed antick dances. But Sir John Millicent (who was never known before) was commended for notable fooling; and was indeed the best extemporary foole of them all.” Weldon’s “Court of James” is a scandalous chronicle of the times.

His dispositions were, however, generally grave and studious. He seems to have possessed a real love of letters, but attended with that mediocrity of talent which in a private person had never raised him into notice. “While there was a chance,” writes the author of the Catalogue of Noble Authors, “that the dyer’s son, Vorstius, might be divinity-professor at Leyden, instead of being burnt, as his majesty hinted to the Christian prudence of the Dutch that he deserved to be, our ambassadors could not receive instructions, and consequently could not treat on any other business. The king, who did not resent the massacre at Amboyna, was on the point of breaking with the States for supporting a man who professed the heresies of Enjedius, Ostodorus, etc., points of extreme consequence to Great Britain! Sir Dudley Carleton was forced to threaten the Dutch, not only with the hatred of King James, but also with his pen.”

This royal pedant is forcibly characterised by the following observations of the same writer:–

“Among his majesty’s works is a small collection of poetry. Like several of his subjects, our royal author has condescended to apologise for its imperfections, as having been written in his youth, and his maturer age being otherwise occupied. So that (to employ his own language) ‘when his ingyne and age could, his affaires and fascherie would not permit him to correct them, scarslie but at stolen moments, he having the leisure to blenk upon any paper.’ When James sent a present of his harangues, turned into Latin, to the Protestant princes in Europe, it is not unentertaining to observe in their answers of compliments and thanks, how each endeavoured to insinuate that he had read them, without positively asserting it! Buchanan, when asked how he came to make a pedant of his royal pupil, answered that it was the best he could make of him. Sir George Mackenzie relates a story of his tutelage, which shows Buchanan’s humour, and the veneration of others for royalty. The young king being one day at play with his fellow-pupil, the master of Erskine, Buchanan was reading, and desired them to make less noise. As they disregarded his admonition, he told his majesty, if he did not hold his tongue, he would certainly whip his breech. The king replied, he would be glad to see who would bell the cat, alluding to the fable. Buchanan lost his temper, and throwing his book from him, gave his majesty a sound flogging. The old countess of Mar rushed into the room, and taking the king in her arms, asked how he dared to lay his hands on the Lord’s anointed? Madam, replied the elegant and immortal historian, I have whipped his a—-, you may kiss it if you please!”