The Earl of Clarendon, 1608-1674: Edward Hyde, afterward the Earl of Clarendon, played a conspicuous part in the history of England during his life, and also wrote a history of that period, which, although in the interests of the king’s party, is an invaluable key to a knowledge of English life during the rebellion and just after the Restoration. A member of parliament in 1640, he rose rapidly in favor with the king, and was knighted in 1643. He left England in charge of the Prince of Wales in 1646, and at once began his History of the Great Rebellion, which was to occupy him for many years before its completion. After the death of Charles I., he was the companion of his son’s exile, and often without means for himself and his royal master, he was chancellor of the exchequer. At the Restoration in 1660, Sir Edward Hyde was created Earl of Clarendon, and entered upon the real duties of his office. He retained his place for seven years, but became disagreeable to Charles as a troublesome monitor, and at the same time incurred the hatred of the people. In 1667 he was accused of high treason, and made his escape to France. Neglected by his master, ignored by the French monarch, he wandered about in France, from time to time petitioning his king to permit him to return and die in England, but without success. Seven years of exile, which he reminded the king “was a time prescribed and limited by God himself for the expiation of some of his greatest judgments,” passed by, and the ex-chancellor died at Rouen. He had begun his history in exile as the faithful servant of a dethroned prince; he ended it in exile, as the cast-off servant of an ungrateful monarch. As a writer of contemporary history, Clarendon has given us the form and color of the time. The book is in title and handling a Royalist history. Its faults are manifest: first those of partisanship; and secondly, those which spring from his absence, so that much of the work was written without an observant knowledge. His delineation of character is wonderful: the men of the times are more pictorially displayed than in the portraits of Van Dyk. The style is somewhat too pompous, being more that of the orator than of the historian, and containing long and parenthetic periods. Sir Walter Scott says: “His characters may match those of the ancient historians, and one thinks he would know the very men if he were to meet them in society.” Macaulay concedes to him a strong sense of moral and religious obligation, a sincere reverence for the laws of his country, and a conscientious regard for the honor and interests of the crown; but adds that “his temper was sour, arrogant, and impatient of opposition.” No one can rightly understand the great rebellion without reading Clarendon’s history of it.
DRYDEN, AND THE RESTORED STUARTS.
The Court of Charles II. Dryden’s
Early Life. The Death of Cromwell.
The Restoration. Dryden’s Tribute. Annus Mirabilis. Absalom and
Achitophel. The Death of Charles. Dryden’s Conversion. Dryden’s Fall.