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

The Life of John Hutchinson: 1636–38

When he came from the university, he was about twenty years of age, and returned to his father’s house, who had now settled his habitation at Nottingham; but he there enjoyed no great delight, another brood of children springing up in the house, and the servants endeavouring with tales and flatteries to sow dissension on both sides. Therefore, having a great reverence for his father, and being not willing to disturb him with complaints, as soon as he could obtain his leave he went to London. In the meantime, the best company the town afforded him was a gentleman of as exquisite breeding and parts as England’s court ever enjoyed, one that was now married, and retired into this town; one of such admirable power of language and persuasion as was not anywhere else to be found; but after all this, discontents, or the debaucheries of the times, had so infected him, that he would not only debauch himself, but make a delight to corrupt others for his sport. Some he would commend into such a vain-glorious humour, that they became pleasantly ridiculous; some he would teach apish postures, and make them believe themselves rare men; some he would encourage to be poets, and laugh at their ridiculous rhymes; some young preachers he would make stage-players in their pulpits; and several ways sported himself with the follies of most of the young men that he conversed with. There was not any way which he left unpractised upon Mr. Hutchinson; but when, with all his art and industry he found he could not prevail, then he turned seriously to give him such excellent advice and instructions for living in the world, as were not afterwards unuseful to him. There was besides this gentleman, a young physician, who was a good scholar and had a great deal of wit, but withal a professed atheist, and so proud, insolent and scurrilous a fellow, daring to abuse all persons how much soever above him, that he was thrown out of familiarity with the great people of the country, though his excellency in his profession made him to be taken in again. There was also an old man, who had been Mr. Hutchinson’s first schoolmaster, a person once of great learning, but afterwards becoming a cynic, yet so pleasantly maintaining that kind of humour, that his conversation was sometimes a good diversion. These were Mr. Hutchinson’s companions, yet, through the grace of God, they had not power to infect him, who, like a bee, sucked a great deal of honey from these bitter flowers. At that time there was in the town a young maid, beautiful, and esteemed to be very rich, but of base parentage and penurious education, though else ingenuous enough. She was the grandchild of an old physician, and from her childhood having been acquainted with Mr. Hutchinson, who used to visit her grandmother, she had conceived a kindness for him, which though he civilly resented, his great heart could never stoop to think of marrying into so mean a stock; yet by reason of some liking he showed for her company and the melancholy he had, with some discontents at home, she was willing to flatter herself it was love for her, wherein, when she discovered her mistake, it was a great grief. However, she was, without much love on either side, married to an earl’s son, and both of them, wanting the ground of happiness in marriage, mutual love, enjoyed but little felicity, either in their great fortunes or in one another.

In the house with Mr. Hutchinson there was a young gentlewoman of such admirable tempting beauty, and such excellent good nature, as would have thawed a rock of ice, yet even she could never get an acquaintance with him. Wealth and beauty thus in vain tempted him, for it was not yet his time of love; but it was not far off. He was now sent to London, and admitted to Lincoln’s Inn, where he was soon courted into the acquaintance of some gentlemen of the house; but he found them so frothy and so vain, and could so ill centre with them in their delights, that the town began to be tedious to him, who was neither taken with wine, nor game, nor the converse of wicked or vain women; to all which he wanted not powerful tempters, had not the power of God’s grace in him been above them. He tried a little the study of the law, but finding it unpleasant and contrary to his genius, and the plague that spring beginning to drive people out of the town, he began to think of leaving it, but had no inclination to return home, finding his father’s heart so set upon his second family, that his presence was but disturbance: yet his father was wonderfully free and noble to him in allowance, at all places, as large as any of his quality had made to them; and it was very well bestowed on him, who consumed nothing in vain expense, but lived to the honour of his friends and family. For his diversion he exercised himself in those qualities he had not had such good opportunities for in the country, as dancing, fencing, and music, wherein he had great aptness and address; and entertaining the best tutors, was at some expense that way, and loth to leave them off before he had perfected himself. However, many things putting him into the thoughts of quitting the town, while he was in deliberation how to dispose of himself, and had some reflections upon travel, a cousin-german of his, a French merchant, came to visit him one morning, and told him he was immediately going into France, and understanding Mr. Hutchinson had some such inclination, had almost persuaded him to go along with him. The only obstacle in the way, was that his father could not be acquainted with it time enough to receive his answer before they went. While he was in this deliberation, his music-master came in, to whom he communicated his thoughts; and the man told him it was better to go into France at the latter end than the beginning of summer, and that if he pleased, in the mean time, to go to Richmond, where the Prince’s court was, he had a house there, where he might be accommodated; and there was very good company and recreations, the king’s hawks being kept near the place, and several other conveniences. Mr. Hutchinson considering this, resolved to accept his offer; and that day telling a gentleman of the house whither he was going, the gentleman bid him take heed of the place, for it was so fatal for love, that never any young disengaged person went thither, who returned again free. Mr. Hutchinson laughed at him, but he to confirm it told him a very true story of a gentleman who not long before had come for some time to lodge there, and found all the people he came in company with, bewailing the death of a gentlewoman that had lived there. Hearing her so much deplored, he made inquiry after her, and grew so in love with the description that no other discourse could at first please him, nor could he at last endure any other; he grew desperately melancholy, and would go to a mount where the print of her foot was cut, and lie there pining and kissing of it all the day long, till at length death, in some months’ space, concluded his languishment. This story was very true; but Mr. Hutchinson was neither easy to believe it, nor frighted at the example, thinking himself not likely to make another. He therefore went to Richmond, where he found a great deal of good young company, and many ingenuous persons that, by reason of the court, where the young princes were bred, entertained themselves in that place, and had frequent resort to the house where Mr. Hutchinson tabled. The man being a skilful composer in music, the rest of the king’s musicians often met at his house to practise new airs and prepare them for the king; and divers of the gentlemen and ladies that were affected with music, came thither to hear; others that were not, took that pretence to entertain themselves with the company. Mr. Hutchinson was soon courted into their acquaintance, and invited to their houses, where he was nobly treated, with all the attractive arts that young women and their parents use to procure them lovers; but though some of them were very handsome, others wealthy, witty, and well qualified, and all of them set out with all the gaiety and bravery that vain women put on to set themselves off, yet Mr. Hutchinson could not be entangled in any of their fine snares, but without any taint of incivility, in such a way of handsome raillery reproved their pride and vanity, as made them ashamed of their glory, and vexed that he alone, of all the young gentlemen that belonged to the court or neighbourhood, should be insensible of their charms. In the same house with him there was a younger daughter of Sir Allen Apsley, late lieutenant of the Tower, tabled for the practice of her lute, till the return of her mother, who was gone into Wiltshire for the accomplishment of a treaty that had been made some progress in, about the marriage of her elder daughter with a gentleman of that country, out of which my lady herself came, and where her brothers, Sir John St. John and Sir Edward Hungerford, living in great honour and reputation, had invited her to a visit of them. This gentlewoman, that was left in the house with Mr. Hutchinson, was a very child, her elder sister being at that time scarcely past it; but a child of such pleasantness and vivacity of spirit, and ingenuity in the quality she practised, that Mr. Hutchinson took pleasure in hearing her practise, and would fall in discourse with her. She having the keys of her mother’s house, some half a mile distant, would sometimes ask Mr. Hutchinson, when she went over, to walk along with her. One day when he was there, looking upon an odd by-shelf in her sister’s closet, he found a few Latin books; asking whose they were, he was told they were her elder sister’s; whereupon, inquiring more after her, he began first to be sorry she was gone, before he had seen her, and gone upon such an account that he was not likely to see her. Then he grew to love to hear mention of her, and the other gentlewomen who had been her companions used to talk much to him of her, telling him how reserved and studious she was, and other things which they esteemed no advantage. But it so much inflamed Mr. Hutchinson’s desire of seeing her, that he began to wonder at himself, that his heart, which had ever had so much indifferency for the most excellent of womankind, should have such strong impulses towards a stranger he never saw; and certainly it was of the Lord (though he perceived it not), who had ordained him, through so many various providences, to be yoked with her in whom he found so much satisfaction. There scarcely passed any day but some accident or some discourse still kept alive his desire of seeing this gentlewoman; although the mention of her, for the most part, was inquiries whether she had yet accomplished the marriage that was in treaty. One day there was a great deal of company at Mr. Coleman’s, the gentleman’s house where he tabled, to hear the music; and a certain song was sung, which had been lately set, and gave occasion to some of the company to mention an answer to it, which was in the house, and upon some of their desires, read. A gentleman saying it was believed that a woman in the neighbourhood had made it, it was presently inquired who; whereupon a gentleman, then present, who had made the first song, said, there were but two women that could be guilty of it, whereof one was a lady then among them, the other Mrs. Apsley. Mr. Hutchinson, fancying something of rationality in the sonnet beyond the customary reach of a she-wit, although, to speak truth, it signified very little, addressed himself to the gentleman, and told him he could scarcely believe it was a woman’s; whereupon this gentleman, who was a man of good understanding and expression, and inspired with some passion for her himself, which made him regard all her perfections through a multiplying-glass, told Mr. Hutchinson, that though, for civility to the rest, he entitled another lady to the song, yet he was confident it was Mrs. Apsley’s only, for she had sense above all the rest; and fell into such high praises of her, as might well have begotten those vehement desires of her acquaintance, which a strange sympathy in nature had before produced. Another gentleman, that sat by, seconded this commendation with such additions of praise as he would not have given if he had known her. Mr. Hutchinson hearing all this, said to the first gentleman, ‘I cannot be at rest till this lady’s return, that I may be acquainted with her’. The gentleman replied, ‘Sir, you must not expect that, for she is of a humour she will not be acquainted with any of mankind; and however this song is stolen forth, she is the nicest creature in the world of suffering her perfections to be known; she shuns the converse of men as the plague; she only lives in the enjoyment of herself, and has not the humanity to communicate that happiness to any of our sex’. ‘Well’, said Mr. Hutchinson, ‘but I will be acquainted with her’: and indeed the information of this reserved humour pleased him more than all else he had heard, and filled him now with thoughts how he should attain the sight and knowledge of her. While he was exercised in this, many days passed not, but a footboy of my lady her mother’s came to young Mrs. Apsley as they were at dinner, bringing news that her mother and sister would in a few days return; and when they inquired of him, whether Mrs. Apsley was married; having before been instructed to make them believe it, he smiled, and pulled out some bride laces, which were given at a wedding, in the house where she was, and gave them to the young gentlewoman and the gentleman’s daughter of the house, and told them Mrs. Apsley bade him tell no news, but give them those tokens, and carried the matter so, that all the company believed she had been married. Mr. Hutchinson immediately turned pale as ashes, and felt a fainting to seize his spirits in that extraordinary manner, that, finding himself ready to sink at table, he was fain to pretend something had offended his stomach, and to retire from the table into the garden; where the gentleman of the house going with him, it was not necessary for him to feign sickness, for the distemper of his mind had infected his body with a cold sweat, and such a dispersion of spirit, that all the courage he could at present recollect, was little enough to keep him alive. His host was very troublesome to him, and to be quit of him he went to his chamber, saying he would lie down. Little did any of the company suspect the true cause of his sudden qualm, and they were all so troubled at it, that the boy then passed without further examination. When Mr. Hutchinson was alone he began to recollect his wisdom and his reason, and to wonder at himself, why he should be so concerned in an unknown person; he then remembered the story was told him when he came down, and began to believe there was some magic in the place, which enchanted men out of their right senses; but it booted him not to be angry at himself, nor to set wisdom in her reproving chair, nor reason in her throne of council, the sick heart could not be chid nor advised into health. This anxiety of mind affected him so, that it sent him to his bed that afternoon, which indeed he took to entertain his thoughts alone that night, and having fortified himself with resolution, he gat up the next day; but yet could not quit himself of an extravagant perplexity of soul concerning this unknown gentlewoman, which had not been admirable in another light person, but in him, who was from his childhood so serious and so rational in all his considerations, it was the effect of a miraculous power of Providence, leading him to her that was destined to make his future joy. While she so ran in his thoughts, meeting the boy again, he found out, upon a little stricter examination of him, that she was not married, and pleased himself in the hopes of her speedy return; when one day, having been invited by one of the ladies of that neighbourhood to a noble treatment at Sion Garden, which a courtier, that was her servant, had made for her and whom she would bring, Mr. Hutchinson, Mrs. Apsley, and Mr. Coleman’s daughter were of the party, and having spent the day in several pleasant divertisements, at evening when they were at supper, a messenger came to tell Mrs. Apsley her mother was come. She would immediately have gone, but Mr. Hutchinson, pretending civility to conduct her home, made her stay till the supper was ended, of which he ate no more, now only longing for that sight which he had with such perplexity expected. This at length he obtained; but his heart, being prepossessed with his own fancy, was not free to discern how little there was in her to answer so great an expectation. She was not ugly in a careless riding-habit, she had a melancholy negligence both of herself and others, as if she neither affected to please others, nor took notice of anything before her; yet, in spite of all her indifferency, she was surprised with some unusual liking in her soul when she saw this gentleman, who had hair, eyes, shape, and countenance enough to beget love in any one at the first, and these set off with a graceful and generous mien, which promised an extraordinary person. He was at that time, and indeed always very neatly habited, for he wore good and rich clothes, and had a variety of them, and had them well suited and every way answerable; in that little thing, showing both good judgment and great generosity, he equally becoming them and they him, which he wore with such unaffectedness and such neatness as do not often meet in one. Although he had but an evening sight of her he had so long desired, and that at disadvantage enough for her; yet the prevailing sympathy of his soul made him think all his pains well paid, and this first did whet his desire to a second sight, which he had by accident the next day, and to his joy found that she was wholly disengaged from that treaty, which he so much feared had been accomplished; he found withal, that though she was modest, she was accostable, and willing to entertain his acquaintance. This soon passed into a mutual friendship between them, and though she innocently thought nothing of love, yet was she glad to have acquired such a friend, who had wisdom and virtue enough to be trusted with her councils, for she was then much perplexed in mind. Her mother and friends had a great desire she should marry, and were displeased that she refused many offers which they thought advantageous enough; she was obedient, loth to displease them, but more herself, in marrying such as she could find no inclination to. The troublesome pretensions of some of the courtiers, had made her willing to try whether she could bring her heart to her mother’s desire; but being, by a secret working which she then understood not, averted, she was troubled to return, lest some might believe it was a secret liking for them which had caused her dislike of others; and being a little disturbed with these things and melancholy, Mr. Hutchinson, appearing, as he was, a person of virtue and honour, who might be safely and advantageously conversed with, she thought God had sent her a happy relief. Mr. Hutchinson, on the other side, having been told, and seeing how she shunned all other men, and how civilly she entertained him, believed that a secret power had wrought a mutual inclination between them, and daily frequented her mother’s house, and had the opportunity of conversing with her in those pleasant walks, which, at that sweet season of the spring, invited all the neighbouring inhabitants to seek their joys; where, though they were never alone, yet they had every day opportunity for converse with each other, which the rest shared not in, while every one minded their own delights.

They had not six weeks enjoyed this peace, but the young men and women, who saw them allow each other that kindness which they did not afford commonly to others, first began to grow jealous and envious at it, and after to use all the malicious practices they could invent to break the friendship. Among the rest, that gentleman who at the first had so highly commended her to Mr. Hutchinson, now began to caution him against her, and to disparage her, with such subtle insinuations, as would have ruined any love less constant and honourable than his. The women, with witty spite, represented all her faults to him, which chiefly terminated in the negligence of her dress and habit, and all womanish ornaments, giving herself wholly up to study and writing. Mr. Hutchinson, who had a very sharp and pleasant wit, retorted all their malice with such just reproofs of their idleness and vanity, as made them hate her, who, without affecting it, had so engaged such a person in her protection, as they with all their arts could not catch. He, in the meanwhile, prosecuted his love with so much discretion, duty, and honour, that at the length, through many difficulties, he accomplished his design. I shall pass by all the little amorous relations, which, if I would take the pains to relate, would make a true history of a more handsome management of love than the best romances describe; but these are to be forgotten as the vanities of youth, not worthy of mention among the greater transactions of his life. There is this only to be recorded, that never was there a passion more ardent and less idolatrous; he loved her better than his life, with inexpressible tenderness and kindness, had a most high obliging esteem of her, yet still considered honour, religion, and duty above her, nor ever suffered the intrusion of such a dotage as should blind him from marking her imperfections; these he looked upon with such an indulgent eye as did not abate his love and esteem of her, while it augmented his care to blot out all those spots which might make her appear less worthy of that respect he paid her; and thus indeed he soon made her more equal to him than he found her; for she was a very faithful mirror, reflecting truly, though but dimly, his own glories upon him, so long as he was present; but she, that was nothing before his inspection gave her a fair figure, when he was removed, was only filled with a dark mist, and never could again take in any delightful object, nor return any shining representation. The greatest excellency she had was the power of apprehending and the virtue of loving his; so as his shadow she waited on him everywhere, till he was taken into that region of light which admits of none, and then she vanished into nothing. It was not her face he loved, her honour and her virtue were his mistresses; and these (like Pygmalion’s) images of his own making, for he polished and gave form to what he found with all the roughness of the quarry about it; but meeting with a compliant subject for his own wise government, he found as much satisfaction as he gave, and never had occasion to number his marriage among his infelicities. That day that the friends on both sides met to conclude the marriage, she fell sick of the small-pox, which was many ways a great trial upon him. First, her life was almost in desperate hazard, and then the disease, for the present, made her the most deformed person that could be seen, for a great while after she recovered; yet he was nothing troubled at it, but married her as soon as she was able to quit the chamber, when the priest and all that saw her were affrighted to look on her; but God recompensed his justice and constancy by restoring her, though she was longer than ordinary before she recovered, as well as before. One thing is very observable, and worthy imitation in him: although he had as strong and violent affections for her, as ever any man had, yet he declared it not to her till he had acquainted first his father; and afterwards he never would make any engagement but what his love and honour bound him in; wherein he was more firm and just than all the promissory oaths and ties in the world could have made him, notwithstanding many powerful temptations of wealth and beauty, and other interests, that were laid before him. For his father had concluded another treaty, before he knew his son’s inclinations were this way fixed, with a party in many things much more advantageous for his family, and more worthy of his liking; but his father was no less honourably indulgent to his son’s affection, than the son was strict in the observance of his duty; and at length, to the full content of all, the thing was accomplished, and on the third day of July, in the year 1638, he was married to Mrs. Lucy Apsley, the second daughter of Sir Allen Apsley, late lieutenant of the Tower of London, at St. Andrew’s church in Holborn. He lived some time in this neighbourhood with her mother, but four months were scarce past after their marriage before he was in great danger to have lost her, when she lost two children she had conceived by him. Soon after conceiving again she grew so sickly, that her indulgent mother and husband, for the advantage of her health, removed their dwelling out of the city, to a house they took in Enfield Chase, called the Blue House, where, upon the third of September, 1639, she was brought to bed of two sons, whereof the elder he named after his own father, Thomas, the younger was called Edward, who both survived him. September, 1641, she brought him another son, called by his own name, John, who lived scarce six years, and was a very hopeful child, full of his father’s vigour and spirit, but death soon nipped that blossom.