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

The Life of Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson, Written by Herself

A Fragment

THE ALMIGHTY Author of all beings, in his various providences, whereby he conducts the lives of men from the cradle to the tomb, exercises no less wisdom and goodness than he manifests power and greatness, in their creation; but such is the stupidity of blind mortals, that instead of employing their studies in these admirable books of providence, wherein God daily exhibits to us glorious characters of his love, kindness, wisdom, and justice, they ungratefully regard them not, and call the most wonderful operations of the great God the common accidents of human life, especially if they be such as are usual, and exercised towards them in ages wherein they are not very capable of observation, and whereon they seldom employ any reflection; for in things great and extraordinary, some, perhaps, will take notice of God’s working, who either forget or believe not that he takes as well a care and account of their smallest concernments, even the hairs of their heads.

Finding myself in some kind guilty of this general neglect, I thought it might be a means to stir up my thankfulness for things past, and to encourage my faith for the future, if I recollected as much as I have heard or can remember of the passages of my youth, and the general and particular providences exercised to me, both in the entrance and progress of my life. Herein I meet with so many special indulgences as require a distinct consideration, they being all of them to be regarded as talents intrusted to my improvement for God’s glory. The parents by whom I received my life, the places where I began and continued it, the time when I was brought forth to be a witness of God’s wonderful workings in the earth, the rank that was given me in my generation, and the advantages I received in my person, each of them carries along with it many mercies which are above my utterance, and as they give me infinite cause of glorifying God’s goodness, so I cannot reflect on them without deep humiliation for the small improvement I have made of so rich a stock; which, that I may yet by God’s grace better employ, I shall recall and seriously ponder: and, first, as far as I have since learnt, set down the condition of things in the place of my nativity, at that time when I was sent into the world. It was on the 29th day of January, in the year of our Lord 1619–20, that in the Tower of London, the principal city of the English isle, I was about four of the clock in the morning, brought forth to behold the ensuing light. My father was Sir Allen Apsley, lieutenant of the Tower of London; my mother, his third wife, was Lucy, the youngest daughter of Sir John St. John, of Lidiard Tregooze, in Wiltshire, by his second wife. My father had then living a son and a daughter by his former wives, and by my mother three sons, I being her eldest daughter. The land was then at peace (it being towards the latter end of the reign of King James), if that quietness may be called a peace, which was rather like the calm and smooth surface of the sea, whose dark womb is already impregnated with a horrid tempest.

Whoever considers England, will find it no small favour of God to have been made one of its natives, both upon spiritual and outward accounts. The happiness of the soil and air contribute all things that are necessary to the use or delight of man’s life. The celebrated glory of this isle’s inhabitants, ever since they received a mention in history, confers some honour upon every one of her children, and with it an obligation to continue in that magnanimity and virtue, which hath famed this island, and raised her head in glory higher than the great kingdoms of the neighbouring continent. Britain hath been as a garden enclosed, wherein all things that man can wish, to make a pleasant life, are planted and grow in her own soil, and whatsoever foreign countries yield, to increase admiration and delight, are brought in by her fleets. The people, by the plenty of their country, not being forced to toil for bread, have ever addicted themselves to more generous employments, and been reckoned, almost in all ages, as valiant warriors as any part of the world sent forth: insomuch, that the greatest Roman captains thought it not unworthy of their expeditions, and took great glory in triumphs for imperfect conquests. Lucan upbraids Julius Cæsar for returning hence with a repulse, and it was two hundred years before the land could be reduced into a Roman province, which at length was done, and such of the nation, then called Picts, as scorned servitude, were driven into the barren country of Scotland, where they have ever since remained, a perpetual trouble to the successive inhabitants of this place. The Britons, that thought it better to work for their conquerors in a good land, than to have the freedom to starve in a cold or barren quarter, were by degrees fetched away, and wasted in the civil broils of these Roman lords, till the land, almost depopulated, lay open to the incursions of every borderer, and were forced to call a stout warlike people, the Saxons, out of Germany, to their assistance. These willingly came at their call, but were not so easily sent out again, nor persuaded to let their hosts inhabit with them, for they drove the Britons into the mountains of Wales, and seated themselves in those pleasant countries which from the new masters received a new name, and ever since retained it, being called England; and on which the warlike Dane made many attempts with various success, but after about two or three hundred years’ vain contest, they were for ever driven out, with shame and loss, and the Saxon Heptarchy melted into a monarchy, which continued till the superstitious prince, who was sainted for his ungodly chastity, left an empty throne to him that could seize it. He who first set up his standard in it, could not hold it, but with his life left it again for the Norman usurper, who partly by violence, partly by falsehood, laid here the foundation of his monarchy in the people’s blood, in which it hath swum about five hundred years, till the flood that bore it was ploughed into such deep furrows as had almost sunk the proud vessel. Of those Saxons that remained subjects to the Norman conqueror, my father’s family descended; of those Normans that came in with him, my mother’s was derived; both of them, as all the rest in England, contracting such affinity, by mutual marriages, that the distinction remained but short space; Normans and Saxons becoming one people, who by their valour grew terrible to all the neighbouring princes, and have not only bravely acquitted themselves in their own defence, but have showed abroad how easily they could subdue the world, if they did not prefer the quiet enjoyment of their own part above the conquest of the whole.

Better laws and a happier constitution of government no nation ever enjoyed, it being a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, with sufficient fences against the pest of every one of those forms—tyranny, faction, and confusion; yet is it not possible for man to devise such just and excellent bounds, as will keep in wild ambition, when princes’ flatterers encourage that beast to break his fence, which it hath often done, with miserable consequences both to the prince and people; but could never in any age so tread down popular liberty, but that it arose again with renewed vigour, till at length it trod on those that trampled it before. And in the just bounds, wherein our kings were so well hedged in, the surrounding princes have with terror seen the reproof of their usurpations over their free brethren, whom they rule rather as slaves than subjects, and are only served for fear, but not for love; whereas this people have ever been as affectionate to good, as unpliable to bad sovereigns.

Nor is it only valour and generosity that renown this nation; in arts we have advanced equal to our neighbours, and in those that are most excellent, exceeded them. The world hath not yielded men more famous in navigation, nor ships better built or furnished. Agriculture is as ingeniously practised; the English archers were the terror of Christendom, and their clothes the ornament; but these low things bounded not their great spirits, in all ages it hath yielded men as famous in all kinds of learning, as Greece or Italy can boast of.

And to complete the crown of all their glory, reflected from the lustre of their ingenuity, valour, wit, learning, justice, wealth, and bounty, their piety and devotion to God, and his worship, hath made them one of the most truly noble nations in the Christian world, God having as it were enclosed a people here, out of the waste common of the world, to serve him with a pure and undented worship. Lucius the British king was one of the first monarchs of the earth that received the faith of Christ into his heart and kingdom; Henry the Eighth, the first prince that broke the antichristian yoke off from his own and his subjects’ necks. Here it was that the first Christian emperor received his crown; here began the early dawn of gospel light, by Wickliffe and other faithful witnesses, whom God raised up after the black and horrid midnight of antichristianism; and a more plentiful harvest of devout confessors, constant martyrs, and holy worshippers of God, hath not grown in any field of the church, throughout all ages, than those whom God hath here glorified his name and Gospel by. Yet hath not this wheat been without its tares; God in comparison with other countries hath made this as a paradise, so, to complete the parallel, the serpent hath in all times been busy to seduce, and not unsuccessful; ever stirring up opposers to the infant truths of Christ.

No sooner was the faith of Christ embraced in this nation, but the neighbouring heathens invaded the innocent Christians, and slaughtered multitudes of them; and when, by the mercy of God, the conquering Pagans were afterwards converted, and that there were none left to oppose the name of Christ with open hostility, then the subtle serpent put off his own horrid appearance, and comes out in a Christian dress, to persecute Christ in his poor prophets, that bore witness against the corruption of the times. This intestine quarrel hath been more successful to the devil, and more afflictive to the church, than all open wars; and, I fear, will never happily be decided, till the Prince of Peace come to conclude the controversy, which at the time of my birth was working up into that tempest, wherein I have shared many perils, many fears, and many sorrows; and many more mercies, consolations, and preservations, which I shall have occasion to mention in other places.

From the place of my birth I shall only desire to remember the goodness of the Lord, who hath caused my lot to fall in a good ground; who hath fed me in a pleasant pasture, where the well-springs of life flow to all that desire to drink of them. And this is no small favour, if I consider how many poor people perish among the heathen, where they never hear the name of Christ; how many poor Christians spring up in countries enslaved by Turkish and antichristian tyrants, whose souls and bodies languish under miserable slavery. None knows what mercy it is to live under a good and wholesome law, that have not considered the sad condition of being subject to the will of an unlimited man; and surely it is too universal a sin in this nation, that the common mercies of God to the whole land are so slightly regarded, and so inconsiderately passed over; certainly these are circumstances which much magnify God’s loving-kindness and his special favour to all that are of English birth, and call for a greater return of duty from us than from all other people of the world.

Nor is the place only, but the time of my coming into the world, a considerable mercy to me. It was not in the midnight of popery, nor in the dawn of the gospel’s restored day, when light and shades were blended and almost undistinguished, but when the Sun of truth was exalted in his progress, and hastening towards a meridian glory. It was indeed, early in the morning, God being pleased to allow the privilege of beholding the admirable growth of gospel light in my days: and oh! that my soul may never forget to bless and praise his name for the wonders of power and goodness, wisdom and truth, which have been manifested in this my time.

The next blessing I have to consider in my nativity is my parents, both of them pious and virtuous in their own conversation, and careful instructors of my youth, not only by precept but example; which, if I had leisure and ability, I should have transmitted to my posterity, both to give them the honour due from me in such a grateful memorial, and to increase my children’s improvement of the patterns they set them; but since I shall detract from those I would celebrate, by my imperfect commemorations, I shall content myself to sum up some few things for my own use, and let the rest alone, which I either knew not, or have forgotten, or cannot worthily express.

My grandfather by the father’s side was a gentleman of a competent estate, about £700 or £800 a year in Sussex. He being descended of a younger house, had his residence at a place called Pulborough; the family out of which he came was an Apsley of Apsley, a town where they had been seated before the Conquest, and ever since continued, till of late the last heir male of that eldest house, being the son of Sir Edward Apsley, died without issue, and his estate went with his sister’s daughter into other families. Particularities concerning my father’s kindred or country I never knew much of, by reason of my youth at the time of his death, and my education in far distant places; only in general I have heard, that my grandfather was a man well reputed and beloved in his country, and that it had been such a continued custom for my ancestors to take wives at home, that there was scarce a family of any note in Sussex to which they were not by intermarriages nearly related; but I was myself a stranger to them all, except my Lord Goring, who living at court, I have seen with my father, and heard of him, because he was appointed one of my father’s executors, though he declined the trouble. My grandfather had seven sons, of which my father was the youngest; to the eldest he gave his whole estate, and to the rest, according to the custom of those times, slight annuities. The eldest brother married to a gentlewoman of a good family, and by her had only one son, whose mother dying, my uncle married himself again to one of his own maids, and by her had three more sons, whom, with their mother, my cousin William Apsley, the son of the first wife, held in such contempt, that a great while after, dying without children, he gave his estate of inheritance to my father, and two of my brothers, except about £100 a year to the eldest of his half brothers, and annuities of £30 a piece to the three for their lives. He died before I was born, but I have heard very honourable mention of him in our family. The rest of my father’s brothers went into the wars in Ireland and the Low Countries, and there remained none of them, nor their issues, when I was born, but only three daughters who bestowed themselves meanly, and their generations are worn out, except two or three unregarded children. My father, at the death of my grandfather, being but a youth at school, had not patience to stay the perfecting of his studies, but put himself into present action, sold his annuity, bought himself good clothes, put some money in his purse, and came to London; and by means of a relation at court, got a place in the household of Queen Elizabeth, where he behaved himself so that he won the love of many of the court; but being young, took an affection to gaming and spent most of the money he had in his purse. About that time, the Earl of Essex was setting forth for Cales voyage, and my father, that had a mind to quit his idle court life, procured an employment from the victualler of the navy, to go along with that fleet. In which voyage he demeaned himself with so much courage and prudence, that after his return he was honoured with a very noble and profitable employment in Ireland. There a rich widow, that had many children, cast her affections upon him, and he married her; but she not living many years with him, and having no children by him, after her death he distributed all her estate among her children, for whom he ever preserved a fatherly kindness, and some of her grandchildren were brought up in his house after I was born. He, by God’s blessing, and his fidelity and industry, growing in estate and honour received a knighthood from King James soon after his coming to the crown, for some eminent service done to him in Ireland, which, having only heard in my childhood, I cannot perfectly set down. After that, growing into a familiarity with Sir George Carew, made now by the king Earl of Totness, a niece of this earl’s, the daughter of Sir Peter Carew, who lived a young widow in her uncle’s house, fell in love with him, which her uncle perceiving, procured a marriage between them. She had divers children by my father, but only two of them, a son and daughter, survived her, who died whilst my father was absent from her in Ireland. He led, all the time of his widowhood, a very disconsolate life, careful for nothing in the world but to educate and advance the son and daughter, the dear pledges she had left him, for whose sake he quitted himself of his employments abroad, and procured himself the office of Victualler of the Navy, a place then both of credit and great revenue. His friends, considering his solitude, had procured him a match of a very rich widow, who was a lady of as much discretion as wealth; but while he was upon this design he chanced to see my mother, at the house of Sir William St. John, who had married her eldest sister; and though he went on his journey, yet something in her person and behaviour he carried along with him, which would not let him accomplish it, but brought him back to my mother. She was of a noble family, being the youngest daughter of Sir John St. John, of Lidiard Tregooze in the county of Wilts; her father and mother died when she was not above five years of age, and yet at her nurse’s, from whence she was carried to be brought up in the house of the Lord Grandison, her father’s youngest brother; an honourable and excellent person, but married to a lady so jealous of him, and so ill-natured in her jealous fits, to anything that was related to him, that her cruelties to my mother exceeded the stories of stepmothers. The rest of my aunts, my mother’s sisters, were dispersed to several places, where they grew up till my uncle, Sir John St. John, being married to the daughter of Sir Thomas Laten, they were all again brought home to their brother’s house. There were not in those days so many beautiful women found in any family as these, but my mother was by the most judgments preferred before all her elder sisters, who, something envious at it, used her unkindly. Yet all the suitors that come to them still turned their addresses to her, which she in her youthful innocency neglected, till one of greater name, estate, and reputation than the rest, happened to fall deeply in love with her, and to manage it so discreetly, that my mother could but entertain him. My uncle’s wife, who had a mother’s kindness for her, persuaded her to remove herself from her sisters’ envy, by going along with her to the Isle of Jersey, where her father was governor; which she did, and there went into the town, and boarded in a French minister’s house, to learn the language, that minister having been, by the persecution in France, driven to seek his shelter there. Contracting a dear friendship with this holy man and his wife, she was instructed in their Geneva discipline, which she liked so much better than our more superstitious service, that she could have been contented to have lived there, had not a powerful passion in her heart drawn her back. But at her return she met with many afflictions; the gentleman who had professed so much love to her, in her absence had been, by most vile practices and treacheries, drawn out of his senses, and into the marriage of a person, whom, when he recovered his reason, he hated. But that served only to augment his misfortune, and the circumstances of that story not being necessary to be here inserted, I shall only add that my mother lived in my uncle’s house, secretly discontented at this accident, but was comforted by the kindness of my uncle’s wife, who had contracted such an intimate friendship with her, that they seemed to have but one soul. And in this kindness she had some time a great solace, till some malicious persons had wrought some jealousies, which were very groundless, in my uncle concerning his wife; but his nature being inclinable to that passion, which was fomented in him by subtle wicked persons, and my mother endeavouring to vindicate injured innocence, she was herself not well treated by my uncle, whereupon she left his house, with a resolution to withdraw herself into the island, where the good minister was, and there to wear out her life in the service of God. While she was deliberating, and had fixed upon it in her own thoughts, resolving to impart it to none, she was with Sir William St. John, who had married my aunt, when my father accidentally came in there, and fell so heartily in love with her, that he persuaded her to marry him, which she did, and her melancholy made her conform cheerfully to that gravity of habit and conversation, which was becoming the wife of such a person, who was then forty-eight years of age, and she not above sixteen. The first year of their marriage was crowned with a son, called after my father’s name, and born at East Smithfield, in that house of the king’s which belonged to my father’s employment in the navy. The next year they removed to the Tower of London, whereof my father was made lieutenant, and there had two sons more before me, and four daughters, and two sons after; of all which only three sons and two daughters survived him at the time of his death, which was in the sixty-third year of his age, after he had three years before languished of a consumption, that succeeded a fever which he got in the unfortunate voyage to the Isle of Rhé.

He died in the month of May, 1630, sadly bewailed by not only all his dependants and relations, but by all that were acquainted with him; for he never conversed with any to whom he was not at some time or in some way beneficial; and his nature was so delighted in doing good, that it won him the love of all men, even his enemies, whose envy and malice it was his custom to overcome with obligations. He had great natural parts, but was too active in his youth to stay the heightening of them by study of dead writings; but in the living books of men’s conversations he soon became so skilful that he was never mistaken, but where his own good would not let him give credit to the evil he discerned in others. He was a most indulgent husband, and no less kind to his children; a most noble master, who thought it not enough to maintain his servants honourably while they were with him, but, for all that deserved it, provided offices or settlements, as for children. He was a father to all his prisoners, sweetening with such compassionate kindness their restraint, that the affliction of a prison was not felt in his days. He had a singular kindness for all persons that were eminent either in learning or arms, and when, through the ingratitude and vice of that age, many of the wives and children of Queen Elizabeth’s glorious captains were reduced to poverty, his purse was their common treasury, and they knew not the inconvenience of decayed fortunes till he was dead: many of those valiant seamen he maintained in prison, many he redeemed out of prison, and cherished with an extraordinary bounty. If among his excellencies one outshined the rest, it was the generous liberality of his mind, wherein goodness and greatness were so equally distributed that they mutually embellished each other. Pride and covetousness had not the least place in his breast. As he was in love with true honour, so he contemned vain titles; and though in his youth he accepted an addition to his birth, in his riper years he refused a barondry, which the king offered him. He was severe in the regulating of his family, especially would not endure the least immodest behaviour or dress in any woman under his roof. There was nothing he hated more than an insignificant gallant, that could only make his legs and prune himself, and court a lady, but had not brains to employ himself in things more suitable to man’s nobler sex. Fidelity in his trust, love and loyalty to his prince, were not the least of his virtues, but those wherein he was not excelled by any of his own or succeeding times. The large estate he reaped by his happy industry, he did many times over as freely resign again to the king’s service, till he left the greatest part of it at his death in the king’s hands. All his virtues wanted not the crown of all virtue, piety and true devotion to God. As his life was a continued exercise of faith and charity, it concluded with prayers and blessings, which were the only consolations his desolate family could receive in his death. Never did any two better agree in magnanimity and bounty than he and my mother, who seemed to be actuated by the same soul, so little did she grudge any of his liberalities to strangers, or he contradict any of her kindness to all her relations; her house being a common home to all of them, and a nursery to their children. He gave her a noble allowance of £300 a year for her own private expense, and had given her all her own portion to dispose of how she pleased, as soon as she was married; which she suffered to increase in her friends’ hands; and what my father allowed her she spent not in vanities, although she had what was rich and requisite upon occasions, but she laid most of it out in pious and charitable uses. Sir Walter Raleigh and Mr. Ruthven being prisoners in the Tower, and addicting themselves to chemistry, she suffered them to make their rare experiments at her cost, partly to comfort and divert the poor prisoners, and partly to gain the knowledge of their experiments, and the medicines to help such poor people as were not able to seek physicians. By these means she acquired a great deal of skill, which was very profitable to many all her life. She was not only to these, but to all the other prisoners that came into the Tower, as a mother. All the time she dwelt in the Tower, if any were sick she made them broths and restoratives with her own hands, visited and took care of them, and provided them all necessaries; if any were afflicted she comforted them, so that they felt not the inconvenience of a prison who were in that place. She was not less bountiful to many poor widows and orphans, whom officers of higher and lower rank had left behind them as objects of charity. Her own house was filled with distressed families of her relations, whom she supplied and maintained in a noble way. The care of the worship and service of God, both in her soul, and her house, and the education of her children, was her principal care. She was a constant frequenter of week-day lectures, and a great lover and encourager of good ministers, and most diligent in her private reading and devotions.

When my father was sick she was not satisfied with the attendance of all that were about him, but made herself his nurse, and cook, and physician, and, through the blessing of God, and her indefatigable labours and watching, preserved him a great while longer than the physicians thought it possible for his nature to hold out. At length, when the Lord took him to rest, she showed as much humility and patience, under that great change, as moderation and bounty in her more plentiful and prosperous condition, and died in my house at Owthorpe, in the county of Nottingham, in the year 1659. The privilege of being born of, and educated by, such excellent parents, I have often revolved with great thankfulness for the mercy, and humiliation that I did no more improve it. After my mother had had three sons, she was very desirous of a daughter, and when the women at my birth told her I was one, she received me with a great deal of joy; and the nurses fancying, because I had more complexion and favour than is usual in so young children, that I should not live, my mother became fonder of me, and more endeavoured to nurse me. As soon as I was weaned a French woman was taken to be my dry-nurse, and I was taught to speak French and English together. My mother, while she was with child of me, dreamed that she was walking in the garden with my father, and that a star came down into her hand, with other circumstances, which, though I have often heard, I minded not enough to remember perfectly; only my father told her, her dream signified she should have a daughter of some extraordinary eminency; which thing, like such vain prophecies, wrought as far as it could its own accomplishment: for my father and mother fancying me then beautiful, and more than ordinarily apprehensive, applied all their cares, and spared no cost to improve me in my education, which procured me the admiration of those that flattered my parents. By the time I was four years old I read English perfectly, and having a great memory, I was carried to sermons; and while I was very young could remember and repeat them exactly, and being caressed, the love of praise tickled me, and made me attend more heedfully. When I was about seven years of age, I remember I had at one time eight tutors in several qualities, languages, music, dancing, writing, and needlework; but my genius was quite averse from all but my book, and that I was so eager of, that my mother thinking it prejudiced my health, would moderate me in it; yet this rather animated me than kept me back, and every moment I could steal from my play I would employ in any book I could find, when my own were locked up from me. After dinner and supper I still had an hour allowed me to play, and then I would steal into some hole or other to read. My father would have me learn Latin, and I was so apt that I outstripped my brothers who were at school, although my father’s chaplain, that was my tutor, was a pitiful dull fellow. My brothers, who had a great deal of wit, had some emulation at the progress I made in my learning, which very well pleased my father; though my mother would have been contented I had not so wholly addicted myself to that as to neglect my other qualities. As for music and dancing, I profited very little in them, and would never practise my lute or harpsichord but when my masters were with me; and for my needle I absolutely hated it. Play among other children I despised, and when I was forced to entertain such as came to visit me, I tired them with more grave instructions than their mothers, and plucked all their babies to pieces, and kept the children in such awe, that they were glad when I entertained myself with elder company; to whom I was very acceptable, and living in the house with many persons that had a great deal of wit, and very profitable serious discourses being frequent at my father’s table and in my mother’s drawing-room, I was very attentive to all, and gathered up things that I would utter again, to great admiration of many that took my memory and imitation for wit. It pleased God that, through the good instructions of my mother, and the sermons she carried me to, I was convinced that the knowledge of God was the most excellent study, and accordingly applied myself to it, and to practise as I was taught. I used to exhort my mother’s maids much, and to turn their idle discourses to good subjects; but I thought, when I had done this on the Lord’s day, and every day performed my due tasks of reading and praying, that then I was free to any thing that was not sin; for I was not at that time convinced of the vanity of conversation which was not scandalously wicked. I thought it no sin to learn or hear witty songs and amorous sonnets or poems, and twenty things of that kind, wherein I was so apt that I became the confidante in all the loves that were managed among my mother’s young women; and there was none of them but had many lovers, and some particular friends beloved above the rest. Among these I have … Five years after me my mother had a daughter that she nursed at her own breast, and was infinitely fond of above all the rest; and I being of too serious a temper was not so pleasing to my