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James The First
by [?]

Many years after this was published, I discovered a curious anecdote:–Even so late as when James I. was seated on the throne of England, once the appearance of his frowning tutor in a dream greatly agitated the king, who in vain attempted to pacify his illustrious pedagogue in this portentous vision. Such was the terror which the remembrance of this inexorable republican tutor had left on the imagination of his royal pupil.

James I. was certainly a zealous votary of literature; his wish was sincere, when at viewing the Bodleian Library at Oxford, he exclaimed, “Were I not a king I would be an university man; and if it were so that I must be a prisoner, if I might have my wish, I would have no other prison than this library, and be chained together with these good authors.”

Hume has informed us, that “his death was decent.” The following are the minute particulars: I have drawn them from an imperfect manuscript collection, made by the celebrated Sir Thomas Browne.

“The lord keeper, on March 22, received a letter from the court, that it was feared his majesty’s sickness was dangerous to death; which fear was more confirmed, for he, meeting Dr. Harvey in the road, was told by him that the king used to have a beneficial evacuation of nature, a sweating in his left arm, as helpful to him as any fontenel could be, which of late failed.

“When the lord keeper presented himself before him, he moved to cheerful discourse, but it would not do. He stayed by his bedside until midnight. Upon the consultations of the physicians in the morning he was out of comfort, and by the prince’s leave told him, kneeling by his pallet, that his days to come would be but few in this world. ‘I am satisfied,’ said the king; ‘but pray you assist me to make me ready for the next world, to go away hence for Christ, whose mercies I call for, and hope to find.’

“From that time the keeper never left him, or put off his clothes to go to bed. The king took the communion, and professed he died in the bosom of the Church of England, whose doctrine he had defended with his pen, being persuaded it was according to the mind of Christ, as he should shortly answer it before him.

“He stayed in the chamber to take notice of everything the king said, and to repulse those who crept much about the chamber door, and into the chamber; they were for the most addicted to the Church of Rome. Being rid of them, he continued in prayer, while the king lingered on, and at last shut his eyes with his own hands.”

Thus, in the full power of his faculties, a timorous prince

encountered the horrors of dissolution. Religion rendered cheerful the abrupt night of futurity; and what can philosophy do more, or rather, can philosophy do as much?

I proposed to have examined with some care the works of James I.; but that uninviting task has been now postponed till it is too late. As a writer, his works may not be valuable, and are infected with the pedantry and the superstition of the age; yet I suspect that James was not that degraded and feeble character in which he ranks by the contagious voice of criticism. He has had more critics than readers. After a great number of acute observations and witty allusions, made extempore, which we find continually recorded of him by contemporary writers, and some not friendly to him, I conclude that he possessed a great promptness of wit, and much solid judgment and acute ingenuity. It requires only a little labour to prove this.

That labour I have since zealously performed. This article, composed more than thirty years ago, displays the effects of first impressions and popular clamours. About ten years I suspected that his character was grossly injured, and lately I found how it has suffered from a variety of causes. That monarch preserved for us a peace of more than twenty years; and his talents were of a higher order than the calumnies of the party who have remorselessly degraded him have allowed a common inquirer to discover. For the rest I must refer the reader to “An Inquiry into the Literary and Political Character of James I.;” in which he may find many correctives for this article. I shall in a future work enter into further explanations of this ambiguous royal author.


[Footnote 1: Buckingham’s style was even stronger and coarser than the text leads one to suppose. “Your sowship” is the beginning of one letter, and “I kiss your dirty hands” the conclusion of another. The king had encouraged this by his own extraordinary familiarity. “My own sweet and dear child,” “Sweet hearty,” “My sweet Steenie and gossip,” are the commencements of the royal epistles to Buckingham; and in one instance, where he proposes a hunting party and invites the ladies of his family, he does it in words of perfect obscenity.]