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

Mrs. Hutchinson to Her Children Concerning Their Father

‘To My Children’

THEY who dote on mortal excellencies, when by the inevitable fate of all things frail, their adored idols are taken from them, may let loose the winds of passion to bring in a flood of sorrow, whose ebbing tides carry away the dear memory of what they have lost; and when comfort is essayed to such mourners, commonly all objects are removed out of their view, which may with their remembrance renew the grief; and in time these remedies succeed, and oblivion’s curtain is by degrees drawn over the dead face, and things less lovely are liked, while they are not viewed together with that which was most excellent. But I that am under a command not to grieve at the common rate of desolate women, while I am studying which way to moderate my woe, and if it were possible to augment my love, can for the present find out none more just to your dear father nor consolatory to myself than the preservation of his memory; which I need not gild with such flattering commendations as the hired preachers do equally give to the truly and titularly honourable. A naked undressed narrative, speaking the simple truth of him, will deck him with more substantial glory, than all the panegyrics the best pens could ever consecrate to the virtues of the best men.

Indeed, that resplendent body of light, which the beginning and ending of his life made up, to discover the deformities of this wicked age, and to instruct the erring children of this generation, will, through my apprehension and expression, shine as under a very thick cloud, which will obscure much of their lustre; but there is need of this medium to this world’s weak eyes, which I fear hath but few people in it so virtuous as can believe (because they find themselves so short), that any other could make so large a progress in the race of piety, honour, and virtue; but I am almost stopped before I set forth to trace his steps; finding the number of them, by which he still outwent himself, more than my imperfect arithmetic can count, and the exact figure of them such as my unskilful pen cannot describe. I fear to injure that memory which I would honour, and to disgrace his name with a poor monument; but when I have beforehand laid this necessary caution, and ingenuously confessed that through my inability either to receive or administer much of that wealthy stock of his glory that I was intrusted with for the benefit of all, and particularly his own posterity, I must withhold a great part from them, I hope I shall be pardoned for drawing an imperfect image of him; especially when even the rudest draft that endeavours to counterfeit him, will have much delightful loveliness in it.

Let not excess of love and delight in the stream make us forget the fountain; he and all his excellencies came from God, and flowed back into their own spring: there let us seek them, thither let us hasten after him; there having found him, let us cease to bewail among the dead that which is risen, or rather was immortal. His soul conversed with God so much when he was here, that it rejoices to be now eternally freed from interruption in that blessed exercise; his virtues were recorded in heaven’s annals, and can never perish; by them he yet teaches us and all those to whose knowledge they shall arrive. It is only his fetters, his sins, his infirmities, his diseases, that are dead never to revive again, nor would we have them; they were his enemies and ours; by faith in Christ he vanquished them. Our conjunction, if we had any with him, was indissoluble; if we were knit together by one spirit into one body of Christ, we are so still; if we were mutually united in one love of God, good men, and goodness, we are so still. What is it then we wail in his remove? the distance? Faithless fools! sorrow only makes it. Let us but ascend to God in holy joy for the great grace given his poor servant, and he is there with us. He only is removed from the malice of his enemies, for which we should not express our love to him in being afflicted: we may mourn for ourselves that we come so tardily after him, that we want his guide and assistance in our way; and yet if our tears did not put out our eyes we should see him even in heaven, holding forth his flaming lamp of virtuous examples and precepts, to light us through the dark world. It is time that I let in to your knowledge that splendour which while it cheers and enlightens your heavy senses, let us remember to give all his and all our glory to God alone, who is the father and fountain of all light and excellence.

Desiring, if my treacherous memory have not lost the dearest treasure that ever I committed to its trust, to relate to you his holy, virtuous, honourable life, I would put his picture in the front of his book, but my unskilful hand will injure him. Yet to such of you as have not seen him to remember his person, I leave this—

He was of a middle stature, of a slender and exactly well-proportioned shape in all parts, his complexion fair, his hair of light brown, very thick set in his youth, softer than the finest silk, and curling into loose great rings at the ends; his eyes of a lively grey, well shaped and full of life and vigour, graced with many becoming motions; his visage thin, his mouth well-made, and his lips very ruddy and graceful, although the nether chap shut over the upper; yet it was in such a manner as was not unbecoming; his teeth were even and white as the purest ivory; his chin was something long, and the mould of his face; his forehead was not very high; his nose was raised and sharp; but withal he had a most amiable countenance, which carried in it something of magnanimity and majesty mixed with sweetness, that at the same time bespoke love and awe in all that saw him; his skin was smooth and white, his legs and feet excellently well-made; he was quick in his pace and turns, nimble and active and graceful in all his motions; he was apt for any bodily exercise, and any that he did became him; he could dance admirably well, but neither in youth nor riper years made any practice of it; he had skill in fencing, such as became a gentleman; he had a great love of music, and often diverted himself with a viol, on which he played masterly; and he had an exact ear and judgment in other music; he shot excellently in bows and guns, and much used them for his exercise; he had great judgment in paintings, graving, sculpture, and all liberal arts, and had many curiosities of value in all kinds; he took great delight in perspective glasses, and for his other rarities was not so much affected with the antiquity as the merit of the work; he took much pleasure in improvement of grounds, in planting groves, and walks, and fruit-trees, in opening springs and making fish-ponds; of country recreations he loved none but hawking, and in that was very eager and much delighted for the time he used it, but soon left it off; he was wonderfully neat, cleanly, and genteel in his habits, and had a very good fancy in it, but he left off very early the wearing of anything that was costly, yet in his plainest negligent habit appeared very much a gentleman; he had more address than force of body, yet the courage of his soul so supplied his members that he never wanted strength when he found occasion to employ it; his conversation was very pleasant, for he was naturally cheerful, had a ready wit and apprehension; he was eager in everything he did, earnest in dispute, but withal very rational, so that he was seldom overcome; everything that it was necessary for him to do he did with delight, free and unconstrained; he hated ceremonious compliment, but yet had a natural civility and complaisance to all people; he was of a tender constitution, but through the vivacity of his spirit could undergo labours, watchings, and journeys, as well as any of stronger compositions; he was rheumatic, and had a long sickness and distemper occasioned thereby, two or three years after the war ended, but else, for the latter half of his life, was healthy though tender; in his youth and childhood he was sickly, much troubled with weakness and toothaches, but then his spirits carried him through them; he was very patient under sickness or pain, or any common accidents, but yet, upon occasions, though never without just ones, he would be very angry, and had even in that such a grace as made him to be feared, yet he was never outrageous in passion; he had a very good faculty in persuading, and would speak very well, pertinently, and effectually without premeditation upon the greatest occasions that could be offered, for indeed, his judgment was so nice, that he could never frame any speech beforehand to please himself; but his invention was so ready, and wisdom so habitual in all his speeches, that he never had reason to repent himself of speaking at any time without ranking the words beforehand; he was not talkative, yet free of discourse; of a very spare diet, not given to sleep, and an early riser when in health; he never was at any time idle, and hated to see any one else so; in all his natural and ordinary inclinations and composure, there was something extraordinary and tending to virtue, beyond what I can describe, or can be gathered from a bare dead description; there was a life of spirit and power in him that is not to be found in any copy drawn from him. To sum up, therefore, all that can be said of his outward frame and disposition, we must truly conclude, that it was a very handsome and well-furnished lodging prepared for the reception of that prince, who in the administration of all excellent virtues reigned there a while, till he was called back to the palace of the universal emperor.

To number his virtues is to give the epitome of his life, which was nothing else but a progress from one degree of virtue to another, till in a short time he arrived to that height which many longer lives could never reach; and had I but the power of rightly disposing and relating them his single example would be more instructive than all the rules of the best moralists, for his practice was of a more divine extraction drawn from the word of God, and wrought up by the assistance of his Spirit; therefore in the head of all his virtues I shall set that which was the head and spring of them all, his Christianity—for this alone is the true royal blood that runs through the whole body of virtue, and every pretender to that glorious family, who hath no tincture of it, is an impostor and a spurious brat. This is that sacred fountain which baptizeth all the gentle virtues that so immortalize the names of Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, and all the old philosophers; herein they are regenerated, and take a new name and nature. Dug up in the wilderness of nature, and dipped in this living spring, they are planted and flourish in the paradise of God.

By Christianity I intend that universal habit of grace which is wrought in a soul by the regenerating Spirit of God, whereby the whole creature is resigned up into the divine will and love, and all its actions designed to the obedience and glory of its Maker. As soon as he had improved his natural understanding with the acquisition of learning, the first studies he exercised himself in, were the principles of religion, and the first knowledge he laboured for was a knowledge of God, which by a diligent examination of the Scripture, and the several doctrines of great men pretending that ground, he at length obtained. Afterwards, when he had laid a sure and orthodox foundation in the doctrine of the free grace of God given us by Jesus Christ, he began to survey the superstructures, and to discover much of the hay and stubble of men’s inventions in God’s worship, which his spirit burned up in the day of their trial. His faith being established in the truth, he was full of love to God and all his saints. He hated persecution for religion, and was always a champion for all religious people against all their great oppressors. He detested all scoffs at any practice of worship, though such a one as he was not persuaded of it. Whatever he practised in religion was neither for faction nor advantage, but contrary to it, and purely for conscience’ sake. As he hated outsides in religion, so could he worse endure those apostacies and those denials of the Lord and base compliances of his adversaries, which timorous men practise under the name of prudent and just condescensions to avoid persecution. Christianity being in him as the fountain of all his virtues, and diffusing itself in every stream, that of his prudence falls into the next mention. He from a child was wise, and sought to by many that might have been his fathers for counsel, which he could excellently give to himself and others; and whatever cross event in any of his affairs may give occasion to fools to overlook the wisdom of the design, yet he had as great a foresight, as strong a judgment, as clear an apprehension of men and things as no man more. He had rather a firm impression than a great memory, yet he was forgetful of nothing but injuries. His own integrity made I him credulous of other men’s, till reason and experience convinced him, and as unapt to believe cautions which could not be received without entertaining ill opinions of men; yet he had wisdom enough never to commit himself to a traitor, though he was once wickedly betrayed by friends whom necessity and not mistake forced him to trust. He was as ready to hear as to give counsel, and never pertinacious in his will when his reason was convinced. There was no opinion which he was most settled in, either concerning divine or human things, but he would patiently and impartially hear it debated. In matters of faith his reason always submitted to the Word of God, and what he could not comprehend, he would believe because it was written; but in all other things, the greatest names in the world could never lead him without reason: he would deliberate when there was time, but never lost an opportunity of anything that was to be done by tedious dispute. He would hear as well as speak, and yet never spoke impertinently or unseasonably. He very well understood himself his own advantages, natural parts, gifts, and acquirements, yet so as neither to glory of them to others, nor overvalue himself for them; for he had an excellent virtuous modesty, which shut out all vanity of mind, and yet admitted that true understanding of himself which was requisite for the best improvement of all his talents. He no less understood and was more heedful to remark his defects, imperfections, and disadvantages, but that too only to excite his circumspection concerning them, not to damp his spirit in any noble enterprise. He had a noble spirit of government, both in civil, military, and œcumenical administrations, which forced even from unwilling subjects a love and reverence of him, and endeared him to the souls of those rejoiced to be governed by him. He had a native majesty that struck an awe of him into the hearts of men, and a sweet greatness that commanded love. He had a clear discerning of men’s spirits, and knew how to give every one their just weight. He contemned none that were not wicked, in whatever low degree of nature or fortune they were otherwise: wherever he saw wisdom, learning, or other virtues in men, he honoured them highly, and admired them to their full rate, but never gave himself blindly up to the conduct of the greatest master. Love itself, which was as powerful in his as in any soul, rather quickened than blinded the eyes of his judgment in discerning the imperfections of those that were most dear to him. His soul ever reigned as king in the internal throne, and never was captive to his sense; religion and reason, its two favoured counsellors, took order that all the passions kept within their own just bounds, there did him good service, and furthered the public weal. He found such felicity in that proportion of wisdom that he enjoyed, as he was a great lover of that which advanced it—learning and the arts; which he not only honoured in others, but had by his industry arrived to be himself a far greater scholar than is absolutely requisite for a gentleman. He had many excellent attainments, but he no less evidenced his wisdom in knowing how to rank and use them, than in gaining them. He had wit enough to have been subtle and cunning, but he so abhorred dissimulation that I cannot say he was either. Greatness of courage would not suffer him to put on a vizard, to secure him from any; to retire into the shadow of privacy and silence was all his prudence could effect in him. It will be as hard to say which was the predominant virtue in him, as which is so in its own nature. He was as excellent in justice as in wisdom; the greatest advantage, nor the greatest danger, nor the dearest interest or friend in the world, could not prevail on him to pervert justice even to an enemy. He never professed the thing he intended not, nor promised what he believed out of his own power, nor failed the performance of anything that was in his power to fulfil. Never fearing anything he could suffer for the truth, he never at any time would refrain a true or give a false witness; he loved truth so much that he hated even sportive lies and gulleries. He was so just to his own honour that he many times forbore things lawful and delightful to him, rather than he would give any one occasion of scandal. Of all lies he most hated hypocrisy in religion; either to comply with changing governments or persons, without a real persuasion of conscience, or to practise holy things, to get the applause of men or any advantage. As in religion so in friendship, he never professed love when he had it not, nor disguised hate or aversion, which indeed he never had to any party or person but to their sins: and he loved even his bitterest enemies so well, that I am witness how his soul mourned for them, and how heartily he desired their conversion. If he were defective in any part of justice, it was when it was in his power to punish those who had injured him; whom I have so often known him to recompense with favours instead of revenge, that his friends used to tell him, if they had any occasion to make him favourably partial to them, they would provoke him by an injury. He was as faithful and constant to his friends as merciful to his enemies: nothing grieved him more than to be obliged where he could not hope to return it. He that was a rock to all assaults of might and violence, was the gentlest, easiest soul to kindness, of which the least warm spark melted him into anything that was not sinful. There never was a man more exactly just in the performance of duties to all relations and all persons. Honour, obedience, and love to his father, were so natural and so lasting in him, that it is impossible to imagine a better son than he was; and whoever would pray for a blessing in children to any one, could but wish them such a son as he. He never repined at his father’s will in anything, how much soever it were to his prejudice, nor would endure to hear any one say his father was not so kind to him as he might have been; but to his dying day preserved his father’s memory with such tender affection and reverence as was admirable, and had that high regard for his mother-in-law and the children she brought his father, as he could not have been more dearly concerned in all their interest if she had been his own mother—which, all things considered, although they were deserving persons, was an example of piety and goodness that will not easily be matched. For conjugal affection to his wife, it was such in him, as whosoever would draw out a rule of honour, kindness, and religion, to be practised in that estate, need no more, but exactly draw out his example; never man had a greater passion for a woman, nor a more honourable esteem of a wife; yet he was not uxorious, nor remitted not that just rule which it was her honour to obey, but managed the reins of government with such prudence and affection that she who would not delight in such an honourable and advantageable subjection, must have wanted a reasonable soul. He governed by persuasion, which he never employed but to things honourable and profitable for herself; he loved her soul and her honour more than her outside, and yet he had even for her person a constant indulgence, exceeding the common temporary passions of the most uxorious fools. It he esteemed her at a higher rate than she in herself could have deserved, he was the author of that virtue he doated on, while she only reflected his own glories upon him; all that she was, was him, while he was here, and all that she is now at best but his pale shade. So liberal was he to her, and of so generous a temper, that he hated the mention of several purses; his estate being so much at her disposal, that he never would receive an account of anything she expended; so constant was he in his love, that when she ceased to be young and lovely, he began to show most fondness; he loved her at such a kind and generous rate as words cannot express; yet even this, which was the highest love he or any man could have, was yet bounded by a superior, he loved her in the Lord as his fellow-creature, not his idol, but in such a manner as showed that an affection, bounded in the just rules of duty, far exceeds every way all the irregular passions in the world. He loved God above her, and all the other dear pledges of his heart, and at his command and for his glory cheerfully resigned them. He was as kind a father, as dear a brother, as good a master, and as faithful a friend as the world had, yet in all these relations, the greatest indulgence he could have in the world never prevailed on him to indulge vice in any the dearest person; but the more dear any were to him, the more was he offended at anything that might take off the lustre of their glory. As he had great severity against errors and follies pertinaciously pursued, so had he the most merciful, gentle, and compassionate frame of spirit that can be imagined to those who became sensible of their error and frailties, although had they been never so injurious to himself.

Nor was his soul less shining in honour than in love. Piety being still the bond of all his other virtues, there was nothing he durst not do or suffer, but sin against God; and therefore, as he never regarded his life in any noble and just enterprise, as he never staked it in any rash or unwarrantable hazard. He was never surprised, amazed, nor confounded with great difficulties or dangers, which rather served to animate than distract his spirits; he had made up his accounts with life and death, and fixed his purpose to entertain both honourably, so that no accident ever dismayed him, but he rather rejoiced in such troublesome conflicts as might signalise his generosity. A truer or more lively valour there never was in any man, but in all his actions it ever marched in the same file with wisdom. He understood well, and as well performed when he undertook it, the military art in all parts of it; he naturally loved the employment, as it suited with his active temper more than any, conceiving a mutual delight in leading those men that loved his conduct; and when he commanded soldiers, never was man more loved and reverenced by all that were under him; for he would never condescend to them in anything they mutinously sought, nor suffer them to seek what it was fit for him to provide, but prevented them by his loving care; and while he exercised his authority no way but in keeping them to their just duty, they joyed as much in his commands as he in their obedience. He was very liberal to them, but ever chose just times and occasions to exercise it. I cannot say whether he were more truly magnanimous or less proud; he never disdained the meanest person, nor flattered the greatest; he had a loving and sweet courtesy to the poorest, and would often employ many spare hours with the commonest soldiers and poorest labourers, but still so ordering his familiarity as it never raised them to a contempt, but entertained still at the same time a reverence with love of him; he ever preserved himself in his own rank, neither being proud of it so to despise any inferior, nor letting fall that just decorum which his honour obliged him to keep up. He was as far from envy of superiors as from contemning them that were under him; he was above the ambition of vain titles, and so well contented with the even ground of a gentleman, that no invitation could have prevailed upon him to advance one step that way; he loved substantial not airy honour. As he was above seeking or delighting in empty titles for himself, so he neither denied nor envied any man’s due precedency, but pitied those that took a glory in that which had no foundation of virtue. As little did he seek after popular applause, or pride himself in it, if at any time it cried up his just deserts; he more delighted to do well than to be praised, and never set vulgar commendations at such a rate, as to act contrary to his own conscience or reason for the obtaining them; nor would he forbear a good action which he was bound to, though all the world disliked it, for he ever looked on things as they were in themselves not through the dim spectacles of vulgar estimation. As he was far from a vain affectation of popularity, so he never neglected that just care that an honest man ought to have of his reputation, and was as careful to avoid the appearances of evil as evil itself; but if he were evil spoken of for truth or righteousness’ sake, he rejoiced in taking up the reproach; which all good men that dare bear their testimony against an evil generation must suffer. Though his zeal for truth and virtue caused the wicked, with the sharp edges of their malicious tongues, to attempt to shave off the glories from his head, yet his honour springing from the fast root of virtue, did but grow the thicker and more beautiful for all their endeavours to cut it off. He was as free from avarice as from ambition and pride. Never had any man a more contented and thankful heart for the estate that God had given, but it was a very narrow compass for the exercise of his great heart. He loved hospitality as much as he hated riot; he could contentedly be without things beyond his reach, though he took very much pleasure in all those noble delights that exceeded not his faculties. In those things that were of mere pleasure, he loved not to aim at that he could not attain; he would rather wear clothes absolutely plain, than pretend to gallantry; and would rather choose to have none than mean jewels or pictures, and such other things as were not of absolute necessity. He would rather give nothing than a base reward or present, and upon that score he lived very much retired, though his nature was very sociable, and delighted in going into and receiving company; because his fortune would not allow him to do it in such a noble manner as suited with his mind. He was so truly magnanimous that prosperity could never lift him up in the least, nor give him any tincture of pride or vain-glory, nor diminish a general affability, courtesy, and civility, that he had always to all persons. When he was most exalted, he was most merciful and compassionate to those that were humbled. At the same time that he vanquished any enemy, he cast away all his ill-will to him, and entertained thoughts of love and kindness as soon as he ceased to be in a posture of opposition. He was as far from meanness as from pride, as truly generous as humble, and showed his noble spirit more in adversity than in his prosperous condition; he vanquished all the spite of his enemies by his manly suffering, and all the contempts they could cast upon him were their shame, not his.

His whole life was the rule of temperance in meat, drink, apparel, pleasure, and all those things that may be lawfully enjoyed; and herein his temperance was more excellent than in others, in whom it is not so much a virtue, but proceeds from want of appetite or gust of pleasure; in him it was a true, wise, and religious government of the desire and delight he took in the things he enjoyed. He had a certain activity of spirit which could never endure idleness either in himself or others, and that made him eager, for the time he indulged it, as well in pleasure as in business; indeed, though in youth he exercised innocent sports a little while, yet afterwards his business was his pleasure. But how intent soever he were in anything, how much soever it delighted him, he could freely and easily cast it away when God called him to something else. He had as much modesty as could consist with a true virtuous assurance, and hated an impudent person. Neither in youth nor riper age could the most fair or enticing women ever draw him so much as into unnecessary familiarity or vain converse or dalliance with them, yet he despised nothing of the female sex but their follies and vanities; wise and virtuous women he loved, and delighted in all pure, holy, and unblameable conversation with them, but so as never to excite scandal or temptation. Scurrilous discourse even among men he abhorred; and though he sometimes took pleasure in wit and mirth, yet that which was mixed with impurity he never would endure. The heat of his youth a little inclined him to the passion of anger, and the goodness of his nature to those of love and grief, but reason was never dethroned by them, but continued governess and moderator in his soul.