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fair” might be in great measure derived. It has been remarked, that in all the plays of Ben Jonson only three respectable female characters are found, and of these, Celia, in the Fox, is the only one to which the slightest degree of interest is attached. Beaumont and Fletcher and Massinger are more bountiful to the sex of virtues and of graces; they have sometimes even attempted to pourtray a heroine : but female delicacy was a quality of which these writers could never attain to the most remote conception; and those who have endured the disgust of studying their characters of women, can alone appreciate the obligations of the sex and of society to him whose soul was capable of conceiving, and his hand of delineating, such models of purity and loveliness as Imogen and Cordelia and Desdemona ;such an enchantress as Rosalind. In conclusion, the trespasses against decorum, and in some respects against morals, which defile and degrade too many scenes of our great dramatist, must not, cannot, be disguised or palliated ; but there never was a writer of whom it might with more truth be said, that his vices were those of his age, his preponderating virtues and inimitable excellencies peculiar and his

own.

CHAPTER cery;

CHAPTER XV.

1616.

Disgrace of Coke.---Various causes of it assigned.Enmity

of Coke and Bacon.-Bacon's letter of expostulation to Coke. His letters to the king reflecting on Coke.-Case of Peacham, --of Oliver St. John.-Dispute between the king's-bench and chancery.--Affair of commendams.--The judges summoned before the privy-council.-Coke's spirited conduct, and dismissal.-Charles created prince of Wales.Plan for his marriage to a French princess.-Lord Hay's embassy,—his pomp and prodigality.-James congratulates Louis XIII. on the murder of marshal d'Ancre.

Cautionary towns given up to the Dutch. THE disgrace of lord-chief-justice Coke, almost immediately after the termination of his labors in the prosecution of Overbury's murderers, was an event which excited general attention, and the causes of which have been stated with considerable diversity by contemporary writers. Some have affirmed, that in his examinations of the papers of the earl of Somerset, he made certain discoveries deeply affecting the character of the king himself. It has been added, that on the trials he threw out hints concerning the supposed manner of prince Henry's death which James could never forgive. Others have ascribed his loss of the royal favor to his vigorous defence of the common law against what he regarded as the encroachments of the court of chan

cery; to the resistance which he opposed to the claims of prerogative in the affair of commendams; and, generally, to his inflexible attachment to the constitution of his country. His backwardness on one occasion in complying with the rapacious demands of sir George Villiers, the rising favorite, is the sole cause of his fall assigned by sir Roger Coke, his grandson, in his Detection. It appears deducible from the whole evidence which has come down to us, and especially from the letters of sir Francis Bacon, that James was in fact dissatisfied with his chief-justice on various political grounds, and Villiers on private ones; but the diligence exerted by Bacon himself in fostering these disgusts, seems to have had a great share, perhaps indeed the greatest of all, in deciding his expulsion from office.

The hostility between these two memorable men was of long standing, and founded on opposition of characters no less than competition of interests. Coke was confessedly the most profound lawyer of his time; but Bacon was at once the finest scholar and the most eloquent speaker that England had produced; and his rival, condemned to be a constant witness of the effects produced by his oratory, must have envied in secret the genius of him whom he in public affected to hold cheap for his deficiency in professional learning:

A seniority of about twelve years, with much experience in the courts, added to powerful interest with the ministers, had enabled Coke, from the commencement of Bacon's career at the bar, not

only

only to assume towards him an irritating and insulting air of superiority, but to impede considerably his advancement to office. It must have been shortly before the promotion of Coke, in 1606, from the post of attorney-general to that of chief-justice of the common pleas, that his illustrious rival found cause to address to him the following remarkable letter of expostulation, which well explains the relative situation of the parties :

“ Mr. Attorney,--I thought it best, once for all, to let you know in plainness what I find of

you,

and what you shall find of me, to take to yourself a liberty to disgrace and disable my law, my experience, my discretion: what it pleaseth you I pray think of me; I am one that knows both my own wants and other men's, and it may be perchance that mine mend, others stand at a stay. And surely I may not endure in public place to be wronged, without repelling the same to my best advantage to right myself. You are great, and therefore have the more enviers, which would be glad to have you paid at another's cost. Since the time I missed the solicitor's place (the rather I think by your means), I cannot expect that you and I shall ever serve as attorney and solicitor together; but either to serve with another upon your remove, or to step into some other course: so as I am more free than ever I was from any occa-. sion of unworthy conforming myself to you, more than general good manners, or your particular good usage, shall provoke; and if you had not been shortsighted in your own fortune, as I think, you might

have had more use of me. But that side is passed. I write not this to show my friends what a brave letter I have written to Mr. Attorney; I have none of those humors, but that I have written is to a good end; that is, to the more decent carriage of my master's service, and to our particular better understanding of one another. This letter, if it shall be answered by you in deed and not in word, I

suppose it will not be worse for us both; else it is but a few lines lost; which for a much smaller matter I would have adventured. So this being to yourself, I for my part rest,” &c.

Considering the natural timidity of Bacon's temper, it may be taken for granted that he must have felt himself strong in royal favor when he ventured to write such a letter as this to sir Edward Coke, supposing that it was actually sent when written. The next year he obtained the solicitor's place, long the object of his ambition; and seven years afterwards, by a well-combined intrigue, he elevated himself to the post of attorney-general. It was by means of an immediate advantage to his rival,-his promotion to the chief-justiceship of the king's bench from that of the common pleas,--that Bacon gained this step of his advancement; but its remoter consequences were fatal to the power of Coke. The age and infirmities of lord Ellesmere rendered a speedy vacancy inevitable in the office of lord-chancellor ;-Bacon, now attorney-general, admitted to the privy-council and possessed of the ear of the king, openly aspired to this high dignity; but he

saw,

VOL. II.

D

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