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Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681). Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson. 1906.


NONE of the memoirs which relate to the troubled history of the English civil wars have obtained a greater popularity or been more widely read than this Life of Col. Hutchinson, by his wife. Since the first publication of this book it has been many times reprinted, and it has also been translated into French. Yet these different editions have been mere reprints of the edition of 1806, nor has any attempt been made either to supplement the annotations of the original editor, or to collect the scattered letters of Col. Hutchinson. The aim of the present edition is to bring together the documents which relate to the subject of these Memoirs, in order to illustrate and explain them, and, so far as possible, to estimate their value and authority.

The Reverend Julius Hutchinson, in publishing the first edition, gave the following account of the manner in which the manuscript of the Memoirs came into his hands. ‘The Memoirs of the Life of Col. Hutchinson had been seen by many persons, as well as the editor, in the possession of the late Thomas Hutchinson, Esquire, of Owthorpe, in Nottinghamshire, and of Hatfield Woodhall, in Hertfordshire; and he had been frequently solicited to permit them to be published, particularly by the late Mrs. Catherine Macaulay, but had uniformly refused. This gentleman dying without issue, the editor, his nephew, inherited some part of his estates which were left unsold, including his mansion-house of Hatfield Woodhall. In the library he found the following books written by Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson:—1st. The Life of Col. Hutchinson. 2nd. A book without a title, but which appears to have been a kind of diary which she had kept, and afterwards made use of when she came to write the Life of Col. Hutchinson. 3rd. A fragment giving an account of the early part of her own life. This book clearly appears to have been Mrs. Hutchinson’s first essay at composition, and contains, besides the story of her life and family, several short copies of verses, some finished, some unfinished, many of which are above mediocrity. 4th. Two books treating entirely of religious subjects; in which, although the fancy may be rather too much indulged, the judgment still maintains the ascendency, and sentiments of exalted piety, liberality, and benevolence are delivered in terms apposite, dignified, and perspicuous’.

These works, continues the editor, had all been carefully read and annotated by Julius Hutchinson, father of the Thomas Hutchinson mentioned above, and remarks which Lady Catherine Hutchinson (his grandmother, the second wife of Sir Thomas Hutchinson and stepmother of Col. Hutchinson) had communicated to him had been occasionally inserted in the form of notes. From these sources he had derived material for some of his own notes.

Of the works mentioned in this list, numbers one and three were published by the Rev. Julius Hutchinson under the title of Memoirs of the Life of Col. Hutchinson; number four was also published by him in 1817, under the title of Principles of the Christian Religion; and number two is now in the possession of the British Museum (Add. MSS. 25,901), though it is unfortunately a fragment, a portion of it having been lost or destroyed. The portion preserved embraces the period extending from October 1642 to February 1645, but the dialogue relating to the attempt to seize the Nottinghamshire powder magazine, which the Rev. Julius Hutchinson gives in a footnote, is not contained in this portion, though it appears from a line or two on the first page of the manuscript to have immediately preceded it. The manuscript is thus described in a pencil note by Charles Hutchinson, youngest son of the Rev. Julius. ‘This MS. commences about page 105 of the quarto edition of the Memoirs of Col. Hutchinson, but it differs from the printed Memoirs in many particulars, generally but not always entering more at length into statements and circumstances. The MS. is probably Mrs. Hutchinson’s earlier sketch or journal of events, since the editor of the Memoirs, who had all Mrs. Hutchinson’s MSS. in his possession, has followed one differing from this’.

Captain Charles Hutchinson was right in terming this volume the first sketch of the Memoirs, but it can hardly be called a journal. It is an account of events in chronological order, but the blanks frequently left for dates seem to show that it was written some little time after the events described in it.

The narrative given in the Note-Book, as it may be termed, is frequently repeated word for word in the published Memoirs, and in most cases is substantially the same. But the Note-Book gives the names of persons and places when the Memoirs do not, and particularizes when the Memoirs generalize. I have inserted most of these particular mentions of persons and places in the notes. Occasionally the Note-Book supplies detailed accounts of occurrences only casually mentioned in the Memoirs. As some of these passages throw considerable light on the character of Col. Hutchinson, and the history of the civil war in Nottinghamshire, I have given several longer extracts in the Appendix.

I have not thought it necessary to reprint the narrative of Col. Hutchinson’s arrest and imprisonment, which he wrote whilst in the Tower, and succeeded in getting printed before he was removed to Sandown Castle. It was reprinted in the third volume of the Harleian Miscellany, and is therefore easily accessible. Moreover it was evidently before the eyes of Mrs. Hutchinson when she wrote the Memoirs, and is copied by her in them with merely verbal changes. The narrative itself, tested by the documents relating to the subject amongst the Domestic State Papers, is perfectly accurate.

The Appendix contains also a collection of letters by Col. Hutchinson, and some of the other persons mentioned in the book, gathered from the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library, and from newspapers and pamphlets of the time. To these are added his petitions to the two Houses of Parliament at the Restoration, the one to the House of Commons from the State Paper Office, that to the Lords from the papers of the House of Lords.

By means of this Note-Book, and by the aid of the documents in the Appendix, it is possible to estimate more exactly the degree of credit due to the Memoirs, and to the account of events given in them by Mrs. Hutchinson. It is not possible to ascertain the exact date at which the Memoirs were composed, but it can be fixed approximately. Mrs. Hutchinson relates that at the time of the colonel’s arrest Captain Wright and Lieutenant Franck were also arrested and brought to Newark, ‘where they are yet prisoners, and to this day know not why’ (Memoirs, p. 345). Mr. Bailey, in his Annals of Nottinghamshire, points out that as Captain Wright was arraigned before Judge Hale at the King’s Bench on July the 7th, 1671, and then discharged for lack of evidence, the Memoirs must obviously have been written between that date and the date of Col. Hutchinson’s death. Mrs. Hutchinson commenced writing the Memoirs almost immediately after the death of her husband, for the purpose of describing his life and character for the information and example of his children. ‘While I am studying which way to moderate my woe, and if it were possible to augment my love, I can for the present find out none more just to your dear father, nor consolatory to myself than the preservation of his memory’. She goes on to represent herself as ‘desiring, if my treacherous memory have not lost the dearest treasure ever I committed to its trust, to relate to you his holy, virtuous, honourable life’.

To this great object all other aims were subordinate. She neither desired to reveal the secret springs of events, nor to give a picture of the times, but when it appeared necessary to explain her husband’s position or the progress of events in Nottinghamshire, she did not shrink from narrating public affairs. On these occasions Mrs. Hutchinson generally explains the object of her digression from the proper subject of her story. ‘Here’, she writes, when she begins her description of the state of England in 1642, ‘here I must make a short digression from our particular actions, to sum up the state of the kingdom at that time, which though I cannot do exactly, I can truly relate what I was then able to take notice of; but I shall only mention what is necessary to be related for the better carrying on of my purpose’ (p. 57).

And again, ‘It being necessary to carry on the main story for the better understanding the motion of those lesser wheels that moved within the great orb, I shall but name in what posture things were abroad in the kingdom while these affairs I relate were transacted at Nottingham’ (p. 117). These digressions on public affairs appear to have been later additions to the original sketch of her husband’s life drawn up by Mrs. Hutchinson; at least in the fragmentary Note-Book before referred to, which extends from 1642 to 1644, they are absent. For the substance of her accounts of public affairs, Mrs. Hutchinson mainly relies on the authority of May, making use both of his History of the Parliament, and his Breviary of the History of the Parliament of England. She pronounces Mr. May’s history to be ‘impartially true, so far as he hath carried it on, saving some little mistakes in his own judgment, and misinformations which some vain people gave of the State, and more indulgence to the king’s guilt than can justly be allowed’ (p. 78). Accordingly she follows May’s account of the campaigns of 1642 and 1643, sometimes echoing his phrases, and even copying his error in making the queen land at Sunderland. She takes much the same view of the policy of James I and the earlier part of the reign of Charles I, and quotes with approval a remark of May’s about the Duke of Buckingham. On some questions, however, she was better informed than May. For instance, in her account of the Short Parliament she gives the true cause of its dissolution, when May does not. ‘The king’, she states, ‘suffered it to sit but 21 days, and broke it up again, apprehending that if he had suffered them to sit a day longer they would have voted against the war with Scotland, which he was violently bent to prosecute’ (p. 74).

Mrs. Hutchinson mentions also amongst her authorities the printed papers of the Parliament, which she had no doubt studied with her husband. She tells us that he ‘applied himself to understand the things then in dispute, and read all the public papers that came forth between the king and Parliament, besides many other private treatises, both concerning the present and foregoing times’ (p. 78).

It was from these authorities she gathered her general conception of the questions at issue when the civil wars broke out, and the materials for her general survey of England in 1640. But she made no attempt to imitate May’s impartiality; indeed, as we have seen, she even blames him for it. Nor does she hesitate to echo the most odious of the charges which contemporary libellers brought against James I and the Duke of Buckingham. Still on the whole, so far as her knowledge extends, she is truthful and accurate. Her account of the civil war in Nottinghamshire especially is confirmed in almost every point by the evidence of newspapers, letters, and State papers. Mr. Bailey in his Annals of Nottinghamshire attempted to disprove Mrs. Hutchinson’s account of the attempt to seize the powder of the county, and expressed his disbelief in the story of the offers made by the Marquis of Newcastle to induce Col. Hutchinson to surrender Nottingham (Annals of Nottinghamshire, vol. ii, pp. 650, 971). I have tried to show that the first of these doubts is based on a misunderstanding of the text, and the second is sufficiently refuted by the correspondence of the chief actors (vide Appendix V and Appendix XIV). A writer in Notes and Queries (July 19, 1884) has pointed out what seems to be an extraordinary mistake in Mrs. Hutchinson’s account of her mother, in the earlier part of the Memoirs. On the other hand, a full confirmation of the remarkable story told about Sir Thomas Hutchinson and Sir Germaine Poole, is to be found in a letter from Chamberlain to Carleton (Court and Times of James I, vol. i, p. 231.) The sketches given in the Memoirs of the characters of Col. Hutchinson’s opponents in the Nottingham Committee are naturally extremely prejudiced, but many of the statements made in them are borne out by independent evidence. Several of the charges brought against Sir John Gell and Colonel Chadwick are thus confirmed. The accusation of atheism brought against Dr. Plumptre, which Mr. Bailey asserts to be a groundless slander, was generally accepted as true. Gervase Holles, writing in 1658, describing the last illness of the Earl of Clare in 1637, says that Plumptre was accounted the best physician in Nottingham, ‘otherwise a professed atheist’. Many of the other statements made concerning these personages are also incidentally confirmed; and it should be remembered that Lord Fairfax, the Derby House Committee, and the House of Commons, all substantially agreed in deciding for the governor against the committee of Nottingham. Still it must be admitted that Mrs. Hutchinson frequently exaggerates the part played by her husband in public events, and even in less important transactions. The share she assigns to him in the resistance to the Scotch invasion in 1651 is an instance of the former, and her accounts of the capture of Sir Marmaduke Langdale, and the saving of Sir John Owen, illustrate the latter. In the Memoirs she omits certain facts she had recorded in her Note-Book, which appeared to her on further consideration unfavourable to her husband’s character,—such as the story of his insulting message to Sir Roger Cooper, and his torturing of the spies from Newark. When she comes to speak of her husband’s escape at the Restoration, Mrs. Hutchinson conceals much of the truth, and misrepresents many of the facts. Col. Hutchinson owed his escape at the Restoration to what the Journals of the House of Commons term his ‘signal repentance’, and to the exertions of his friends on his behalf. They were able to plead with truth his recent exertions against Lambert’s party, to which they added a number of good-natured fictions about earlier actions in favour of the Royalist cause during the Protectorate. Ludlow, however, who states that Col. Hutchinson ‘having joined in Monk’s treacherous design, had obtained a pardon from the king whilst he was beyond sea’, makes far too much of the slight services Hutchinson could have rendered Monk, and his statement about the pardon is certainly erroneous. Mrs. Hutchinson puts into her husband’s mouth an extremely guarded expression of regret for the king’s death, and even speaks of his ‘not answering the Court expectations in public recantations and dissembled repentance’. But no more abject expression of penitence, no more humble and dishonouring petition for life could be uttered than Col. Hutchinson’s letter to the Speaker, which was publicly read in the House of Commons. Mrs. Hutchinson states that she contrived and wrote this letter, signed with her husband’s name, and ventured to send it to the Speaker, ‘being used sometimes to write the letters he dictated, and her character not much differing from his’. This is confirmed by the fact that the letter in question found its way into the State Paper Office through being sent by Sir Allen Apsley to Secretary Bennet as a specimen of Mrs. Hutchinson’s handwriting.

At first Mrs. Hutchinson tells us her husband was desirous of being made a public sacrifice, but she prevailed with him to retire, wrought with him not to deliver himself up, and finally devised this expedient to save him against his will. ‘She who thought she had never deserved so well of him as in the endeavours and labours she exercised to bring him off, never displeased him more in her life, and had much ado to persuade him to be contented with this deliverance’. Unfortunately the existence of a second petition, that to the House of Lords, dated six weeks later, seems to prove that Col. Hutchinson’s share in this matter was not confined to the passive and silent acceptance of his wife’s expedient. It was probably the knowledge of these recantations which caused the suspicion with which Col. Hutchinson’s old fellow-soldiers regarded him, and led in 1663 to the rumour that he had betrayed them. This explains also, the expressions used by Algernon Sidney regarding him. ‘If I could write and talk like Col. Hutchinson or Sir Gilbert Pickering’, he says in a letter dated Aug. 30, 1660, ‘I believe I might be quiet. Contempt might procure my safety, but I had rather be a vagabond all my life than buy my being in my own country at so dear a rate’. Col. Hutchinson soon repented of his conduct. ‘When the colonel saw how the other gentlemen were trepanned that were brought in by proclamation … he looked upon himself as judged in their judgment and executed in their execution; and although he was most thankful to God, yet he was not well satisfied in himself for accepting the deliverance’. He must have shared also the feelings of the unhappy prisoners described by Mrs. Hutchinson, ‘a thousand times more miserable than those that died, who were thereby prevented from the eternal infamy and remorse, which hope of life and estate made these poor men bring upon themselves, by base and false recantations of their own judgment, against their consciences’ (p. 328).

Thus, ‘whilst he saw others suffer he suffered in his mind’. In the depression which the ruin of the cause, and the apostacy of so many of his old associates, had produced in him, he had doubted the justice of the cause. Now, ‘he again reflected seriously upon all that was past’, and ‘examined the cause from the first’, and ‘set himself to a more diligent study of the Scriptures’, and was confirmed in his old principles. Finally, he came to believe that he had been preserved for some Divine purpose, ‘that he was yet kept for some eminent service or suffering in this cause’ (pp. 331–2). In this temper he lived, ‘in silence and retiredness’, longing for the time to come when he should be free from the obligations which the clemency of the government had imposed upon him. So when he was again arrested, ‘it was the happiest release in the world to him’. For before, ‘although he had made no express engagement, yet, in regard his life and estate had been freely left him, he thought himself obliged to sit still all the while this king reigned, whatever opportunity he might have; but now he thought this usage had utterly disobliged him from all ties either of honour or conscience, and that he was free to act as prudence should hereafter lead him, and thought not his liberty out of prison worth the purchase of any future engagement, which would again fetter him in obligations to such persons as every day more and more manifested themselves enemies to all just and godly interests. He therefore charged his wife that she should not make applications to any person whatsoever, and made it his earnest request to Sir Allen Apsley to let him stand and fall to his own innocency, and to undertake nothing for him, which, if he did, he told him he would disown. Mrs. Hutchinson, remembering how much she had displeased him in saving him before, submitted now to suffer with him according to his own will’ (p. 360).

Thus Col. Hutchinson sought to redeem his former weakness, and, by patiently suffering for the cause he had denied and disowned, to regain the right to defend it. The story of his recantation is incomplete without the story of his expiation. To some it may appear that the cowardice of his conduct in 1660 no subsequent repentance, endurance, or courage could outweigh. Others will rather sympathize with his struggles, and admire his final victory. ‘I count not each man valiant that dares die’, says a Puritan poet:

  • Give me that heart which in itself doth war
  • With many frailties (who like traitors are
  • In some besieged fort), and hath to do
  • With outward foes and inward terrors too;
  • Yet of himself and them a conquest makes,
  • And still proceeds in what he undertakes.
  • How long Mrs. Hutchinson survived her husband is uncertain. It is possible to gather from her other writings some little information to add to the fragment of autobiography prefixed to the Memoirs. We see her in 1670 struggling bravely with the pecuniary difficulties which the civil wars had brought upon the Hutchinson family. We can gather also from her own words to her daughter that she had to contend with family troubles of another kind. ‘My infirmities and outward imperfections’, she complains, ‘joined with my outward ill-successes, have much weakened my authority, and made it of no force with all persons’. The preface to her translation of Lucretius, given in the Appendix, and the two religious treatises, printed in 1817, supply a few interesting glimpses of her life and her opinions. The translation of Lucretius was written in her ‘vainly curious youth’, in the time when she ‘was not convinced of the vanity of conversation which was not scandalously wicked’, and had not opened her eyes to ‘the sin of amusing herself with such vain philosophy’. She had heard the doctrines of Epicurus and the atomic theory talked of, and out of curiosity and the desire to instruct herself read and translated the six books of the De Rerum Natura. ‘I turned it into English in a room where my children practised the several qualities they were taught with their tutors, and I numbered the syllables of my translation by the threads of the canvas I wrought in, and set them down with a pen and ink that stood by me’. In 1675 Mrs. Hutchinson presented this translation, at his own request, to Arthur Annesley, Earl of Anglesea. But by this time she had grown more rigid in her views, and repented ever occupying herself in such studies. In the dedication to the work she entreats the Earl ‘to conceal it as a shame’, hopes it may never become known, and expresses her hatred and contempt for all the heathen philosophers. All their writings show the vanity of earthly wisdom, and the powerlessness of human reason to attain to the knowledge of things divine. Lucretius himself she terms an atheist and a lunatic and refers to him as ‘this dog’. There is much in her general judgment of the Greek and Roman philosophers that reminds one of the opinions expressed by Milton in the fourth book of Paradise Regained. She herself expresses the same views more at length in her two theological treatises when she comes to discuss the question of natural and revealed religion. In these two works, probably her last, she displays a very wide range of reading, and quotes not only theological writers, but classical authors also. Besides Pocockianus and Rabbi David Kimchi, Juvenal and Horace, Sallust and Cicero, Epictetus and Euripides are all laid under contribution, nor is Chaucer forgotten. Her object, however, was merely to instruct her daughter. ‘I write’, she says, ‘not for the press, but to imprint on your heart the characters I have received of God’. These principles of the Christian religion she commands her daughter to instil into her family. ‘Exercise your own knowledge therein by instructing your children and servants, for I assure you I have by that means learnt more than by all my hearing and study, having found the Lord to open my own understanding, and to warm my heart, while I conscientiously laboured to communicate the light He gave me’.

    She goes on to explain, in words which ought to vindicate her from the charge of want of modesty which Guizot brings against her, that it is particularly necessary for women to be well grounded in the faith. ‘The Apostle reproaches the weakness of our sex more than the other, when, speaking of the prevalency of seducers, he says they lead about silly women, who are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; therefore every wise and holy woman ought to watch strictly over herself that she become not one of these; but as our sex, through ignorance and weakness of judgment, which in the most knowing women is inferior to the masculine understanding of men, are apt to entertain fancies, and be pertinacious in them, so we ought to watch over ourselves in such a day as this, and embrace nothing rashly; but, as our own imbecility is made known to us, to take heed of presumtion in ourselves, and to lean by faith upon the strength of the Lord, and to beg His protection, that we may not be led into error’.

    Thus, in the investigation of religious and theological questions, Mrs. Hutchinson occupied herself during the last years of her life; we see her, ‘in a drolling and degenerate age, that hath hissed out all sober and serious studies’, ever anxious to learn and to teach, but falling more and more under the influence of a narrowing creed, a type of Puritanism alike in her strength and her weakness.

    In this edition the spelling of the original has been modernized, and some alterations have been made in the punctuation. In other respects the text is unchanged. As Mrs. Hutchinson occasionally spells the name of the same person in two or three different ways, the method of spelling used by the persons themselves has been, when possible, adopted. The notes added to the text by the Rev. Julius Hutchinson are distinguished by the letters J. H.; for the rest of the notes and for the index the present editor is responsible.