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married.' This, of necessity, involved the Duke in business sufficient to have overset a smaller vessel; being the next commander, under the crown, of ports and ships. But he was noted willingly to embrace those overtures of public employment: for, in the parliament assembled at Oxford, his youth and want of experience in maritime service had been somewhat deeply aspersed, even before the sluices and flood-gates of popular liberty were yet set open: so that, to wipe out this objection, he now anxiously attended his charge. The magazines of ammunition were inspected; the officers of remains called to account; frequent councils of war summoned, and many private conferences held with expert seamen; a fleet prepared for some attempt upon Spain; and the Duke himself personally despatched to the States-General with the Earl of Holland, a nobleman of singularly solid and useful public talents, to negotiate both with the States themselves, and with the ministers of other confederate princes, a common diversion for the recovery of the Palatinate.
Here, it would be unjust to omit a noble act of Buckingham's during this employment. There was a collection of certain rare manuscripts, exquisitely written in Arabic, and brought together from the most remote parts by the diligence of Erpenius, a celebrated Oriental scholar. These, having been bequeathed to his widow, were now upon sale to the Jesuits at Antwerp, liquorish chapmen of such ware;' of which the Duke being apprised by his worthy and learned secretary, Dr. Mason, he immediately offered for them 500%., a sum above their weight in silver, by a mixed act of magnificence and charity, the more laudable as being out of his natural element. These
after his death were presented, as nobly as they had been bought, to the University of Cambridge by the Duchess Dowager, in conformity to her husband's intention,* as intimated to her by Dr. Mason.
The aforesaid negotiation, though urged with vehemence, detained the Duke a month at the Hague ; and, upon his return he met no good news of the Cadiz attempt. In the preparation of it, he had ex officio spent much solicitude; yet it principally failed, as was thought, by late setting-out, and by some contrariety of weather at sea, which gave time for the particular design to transpire.
Not long afterward the King, alarmed at the posture of his foreign affairs, summoned a parliament at Westminster. In that assembly there appeared a sudden and marvellous conversion, in the Duke's case; as if his condition had been capable of no mediocrities. This troubled him the more, because it occurred so immediately upon his return from the Low-Countries, where he had been engaged (as he fondly conceived) in the discharge of a meritorious public duty.
To the thirteen articles of his impeachment, his answers were very diligently and civilly couched; and, though his heart was big, they all savoured of an humble spirit. This tempest indeed did only shake, not rend, his sails: for his Majesty, considering that almost all the alleged offences were without the compass of his own reign, and moreover that nothing alleged against him had been or could be proved by oath according to the constitution of the House of
* He had likewise purposed to raise in the same University, of which he was Chancellor, a fair case for those monuments, and to furnish it with other choice collections from all parts at his own charge.
Commons (which the Duke himself did not forget to state, in the preface of his answers) and lastly having had such experience of his fidelity abroad, where he was chief in trust and in the participation of all hazards, found himself engaged in honour to support him at home from any farther inquietude.
The summer following this parliament, after an embargo on our trading ships in the river of Bourdeaux, and other points of sovereign affront, the action of Rhé took place; in which the Duke was personally employed upon both elements, both as Admiral and General, hoping in that service to recover the public good-will, which he saw by his own example might quickly be won and lost.
His carriage, at this time, was surely noble throughout. To the gentlemen, of fair respect; bountiful to the soldiery, whenever he observed special value in any; tender and careful of those that were hurt; of unquestionable courage in himself, and rather fearful of fame than danger. In his countenance, the part which all eyes interpret, no open alteration was visible, even after his expected succours had failed him. But the less he showed without, the more, according to the nature of suppressed passions, it wrought within: for to Dr. Mason, who slept on a pallet by his side, he frequently, in the absence of other ears and eyes, broke out into bitter and passionate exclamations; protesting, that neither his despatches to divers princes, nor the concerns of a fleet, an army, a siege, or a negotiation, singly or collectively so much affected his repose, as the apprehension that some at home under his Majesty, of whom he had well deserved, were now content to forget him.'
Of their two forts, he could not take the one, nor would he take the other. But of the general town he maintained a seizure and possession upward of three months: and on the first disembarkation, disdaining to be immured within a wooden vessel, he countenanced the landing in his long-boat; where succeeded such a defeat of nearly two hundred horse (and these not apparently mounted in haste, but for the most part gentlemen of good family and great resolution) seconded by two thousand foot, as may well endure comparison with the bravest actions of antiquity.
Upon his return to Plymouth, a strange accident befel him; not indeed worthy perhaps of being recorded for itself, but as it seems to have furnished a kind of prelude to his final period. Lord Goring, a gentleman of true honour and of vigilant affection for his friend, sent him an express messenger, anxiously requesting him to avoid the ordinary road to London; as he had credible intelligence of a plot against his life, to be put in execution against him on his journey to court. The Duke, meeting the messenger on his way, read the letter, but nevertheless without the least imaginable apprehension rode forward; although his company were not more than seven or eight in number, and those no otherwise provided for their defence than with ordinary swords. He had not advanced three miles before he met an old woman, who demanded, whether the Duke were in the company?' and on receiving a reply in the affirmative informed him that, in the very next town upon his road, she had heard some desperate men vow his death;' at the same time, directing him about by a surer way. This casual warning, joined with the deliberate advertisement of his noble friend,
moved him to communicate all the circumstances to his party, who jointly agreed that the woman had advised him well. Notwithstanding their importunity, however, he resolved not to change his route; convinced, as he said, that if he should but once by such a procedure make his enemies believe he was afraid of danger, he should never live without.'
Upon this his young nephew, Viscount Fielding, out of a noble spirit besought him, that he would at least honour him with his coat and blue ribbon through the town;' urging that upon his uncle's life lay the property and prosperity of his whole family, and undertaking so to muffle up himself in his hood, as the Duke's manner was to ride in cold weather, that none should discern the difference. At this affectionate proposition, the Duke caught him in his arms, and kissed him; declining, however, to accept such a generous offer from a nephew, whose life he tendered as dearly as his own. At the same time, he liberally rewarded the old woman for her good will; and after some short directions to his company, how they should conduct themselves, rode forward without any apparent perturbation. He had no sooner entered the town, than a soldier caught hold of his bridle, which he thought was in a begging, or (perchance somewhat worse) in a drunken fashion ; but a gentleman of his train who followed at some distance, conceiving that this might be the beginning of the intended assault, spurred on his horse, and with a violent rush severed him from the Duke, who with the rest passed quickly through the town: neither was there any farther inquiry into the matter, his Grace perhaps thinking it wisdom not too deeply to resent discontentments.