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At the foot of each page the original lines of Virgil are given. This is an excellent device and adds greatly to the point of the seventeenth satire. As far as I can gather from the British Museum catalogue, the last edition of this work was published in 1807.
The real Poetry, "The Poems on several occasions," are many of them so personal that an appreciation of them will be rendered much easier by bearing in mind the outline of the Poet's life, the poetry and the life illustrating one another.
Charles Cotton was born on April 28th, 1630, at Beresford Hall, on the borders of Staffordshire and Derbyshire. His father, also Charles Cotton, was a "fine gentleman" of the day in the best sense of the term.3 His mother was the daughter of Sir John Stanhope of Elvaston, Knt. by his first wife, Olivia Beresford, to whom
2 In Pepys' Diary under date March 2nd, 1663–64, I find there is the following entry containing a very appreciative reference to the "Virgil Travestie":"Up, my eye mightily out of order with the rheum that is fallen down into it, however, I by coach endeavoured to have waited on my Lord Sandwich, but meeting him in Chancery Lane going towards the City, I stopped and so fairly walked home again, calling at St. Paul's Churchyarde, and there looked upon a pretty burlesque poem, called 'Scarronides or Virgil's Travesty,' extraordinary good."
3 The Cottons were a Hampshire family and descended from Sir Richard Cotton, Comptroller of the Household and Privy Councillor to Edward VI, who held estates both at Warblington and Bedhampton in Hampshire. The Poet's grandfather was Sir George Cotton (son of George Cotton, Esq., who was heir to the aforesaid Richard, which George (Senior) married Mary Shelley, of Michelgrove, Sussex, an ancestral kinswoman of the Poet Shelley), who being convicted of recusancy, and refusal to take the Oath of Allegiance, in 1613, was imprisoned and died shortly afterwards. It appears that Sir George confessed, during his trial for recusancy, that he had resided for about twenty-five years in the Parish of St. Martin's in the Fields without having once been within the Parish Church. (See "Notes and Queries," 10th S., iv, pp. 56-7, pp. 114-15, also 10th S., xi, pp. 382-83, and 12th S., x, Jan. 14, 1922, for much interesting information on the Cottons of Warblington; the identity of Sir George Cotton puzzled Sir Harris Nicolas, but the mystery is now solved.) Among Lord Salisbury's MSS. at Hatfield (H.M.Č., Vol. 12, p. 65) is a delightful letter from Cassandra Cotton (the Poet's grandmother) to Sir Robert Cecil: 1601-02, Feb.: "I desire humbly to present you with a part of my first-born son, which if you vouchsafe, I shall think it a presage of good fortune to him: if you
he was married in Fenny Bentley Church "uponn ye feast day of St. Michael ye Archangell," 1608. Olivia was the daughter of Edward Beresford, of Beresford, Esquire by his wife (and cousin) Dorothy, daughter of Aden Beresford of Fenny Bentley, Esquire, and it was through her that considerable estates in Staffordshire and Derbyshire passed eventually to her grandson, the Poet.
Charles Cotton, the elder, was a distinguished figure and knew most of the people worth knowing, John Fletcher, Ben Jonson, Sir Henry Wotton, Izaak Walton, Dr. Donne, Herrick, Lovelace, Davenant and Lord Clarendon. It is of him, whom he numbered among his "Chief Acquaintance," that Lord Clarendon in his autobiography has left an imperishable portrait :
"Charles Cotton was a gentleman born to a competent fortune, and so
refuse to lay such an honour on his poor parents, yet will we presume to have him a Cecil." This Cecil must have died in infancy (unless they called him Charles, after all), as the pedigree given by Sir Harris Nicolas and based on the Staffordshire Visitation of 1664, and other sources, shows only two children, Charles, the Poet's father, and Cassandra, who died unmarried and in whose memory Lovelace wrote an elegy. In the same collection of Manuscripts there is a letter from the Bishop of Winchester to Sir Robert Cecil as follows: 1602–03, March 16,“ "I received your letters requiring me to commit to safe custody George Cotton Esquire (the Poet's great-grandfather) and Gilbert Wells, Gentleman of Hampshire. As for George Cotton, he is living, but hath long kept his chamber, pretending sickness. There are other recusants of some note in the country." Perhaps Sir Robert Cecil declined to have a recusant godson, and so the infant before referred to never was called Cecil. The Poet's ancestors (he and his father were Anglicans) were one of the Catholic families to suffer most severely by fines and imprisonment for devotion to their faith (vide Bede Camm's "Forgotten Shrines," etc. (1910)).
4 The Estate of Beresford had been in the possession of the Beresford family certainly since the first half of the thirteenth century and traditionally since the Conquest. From the time of Henry III onwards the name appears constantly in the contemporary historical records of Staffordshire, and later of Derbyshire. Sir John Stanhope, of Elvaston, in Derbyshire, Cotton's grandfather, who married the Beresford heiress as his first wife, became through his second wife ancestor of the Earls of Harrington, while his step-brother Philip was made Earl of Chesterfield in 1628. ("Reliquary," Vol. ix, p. 177; Glover's "History of Derbyshire," Vol. ii, pp. 48–9; Sir Harris Nicolas's "Pedigree of Cotton"; The Ancestor, No. 12.)
qualified in his person and education, that for many years he continued the greatest ornament of the town, in the esteem of those who had been best bred. His natural parts were very great, his wit flowing in all the parts of conversation; the superstructure of learning not raised to a considerable height, but having passed some years in Cambridge and then in France, and conversing always with learned men, his expressions were ever proper and significant, and gave great lustre to his discourse upon any argument; so that he was thought by those who were not intimate with him to have been much better acquainted with books than he was. He had all those qualities which in youth raise men to the reputation of being fine gentlemen; such a pleasantness and gaiety of humour, such a sweetness and gentleness of nature and such a civility and delightfulness in conversation, that no man, in the court or out of it appeared a more accomplished person; all these extraordinary qualifications being supported by as extraordinary a clearness of courage and fearlessness of spirit, of which he gave too often manifestation. Some unhappy suits in law, and waste of his fortune in those suits, made some impression on his mind; which, being improved. by domestic afflictions, and those indulgences to himself which naturally attend those afflictions, rendered his age less reverenced than his youth had been, and gave his best friends cause to have wished that he had not lived so long."
It is now conclusively proved that Charles Cotton the elder and Olive Stanhope eloped in the most romantic manner conceivable, and that the marriage was much against the wish of Sir John Stanhope. Evidence of this is to be found not only in the account of certain curious legal proceedings (the case appears to have come before the Star Chamber) recorded in some documents in the Record Office (S.P. Dom. Jas. I, Vol. 204, No. 17), but much more vividly in a long statement 5 written by Charles Cotton the Elder himself. The statement is as follows:
"The Several Answer of Charles Cotton, Esquire, to the Bill of Complaint
of Sir John Stanhope, Knight, Complainant.
"This defendant is desirous with an humble submission to pacify the Complainant's displeasure, and to stir up his fatherly affection by all possible
5 Vide" Notes and Queries," 4th Series, Vol. i, p. 71, and also "A History of the Manor of Beresford," by the Rev. W. Beresford and S. B. Beresford. The document was discovered among some old family papers.
respects of obedience, and not to justify or excuse his actions, in hope that the complainant would be pleased to accept of his submission and to remit what is past upon trial to be made of this defendant's dutiful and respectful demeanour towards him in time to come which the Defendant both by himself and his Wife (the Complainant's child) in acknowledging his error and declaring that he is heartily penitent for the same, and also by the entreaty of many Honourable Friends this Defendant hath endeavoured to attain, and in obedience to the process of this most Honourable Court (saving to himself all advantage of exception to the insufficiency of the said Bill) for answer to the same sayeth that he hopeth to make it appear to this Honourable Court and to the Complainant that he is not of so poor means and estate as the Complainant hath been informed. For this Defendant sayeth that he is the son and heir of Sir George Cotton, late of Bedhampton, in the County of Southampton, Knight, and of Cassandra, his wife, who was one of the daughters and coheirs of Henry Mack-Williams of Stanburn Hall, in the County of Essex, Esquire, sometime one of the honourable band of pensioners to the late Queen of famous memory, Queen Elizabeth. So that this Defendant hopeth that neither this honourable Court nor the Complainant will conceive that any disparagement can redound to the Complainant or his Daughter by marriage with this Defendant. And further sayeth that he had an estate in Lands of Inheritance and Rents left unto him of the yearly value of £600 per annum, or thereabouts, which he yet hath, besides a personal estate of the value of one thousand marks or thereabouts. And if the same be not equivalent or proportionable to the Complainant's Daughter's estate this Defendant doubteth not but to supply any wants thereof by his affectionate love to his wife and respectful observation of such a father. And this Defendant further sayeth that he did not know that the said Olive was under the age of sixteen years, but was credibly informed she was of the age of sixteen years, nor knew what inheritance was descendable upon the Complainant's Daughter (now this Defendant's Wife) at the time that he sought to obtain her for his wife; his affections being more fixed upon her person and the alliance of so noble a family than upon her estate; neither did he know that she was to have the lands in the bill mentioned, or what other lands she was to have either by descent or conveyance. But this Defendant sayeth that it is true that understanding of the virtuous disposition of the Complainant's Daughter, and receiving satisfaction of the good report he had heard by the sight of her person, he did by all possible means address himself to intimate unto her his desires, and having the opportunity to meet with her at the house of one of her
Aunts, he, this Defendant did in short time discover her affection towards this Defendant and thereupon he was emboldened to proceed to move her in the way of marriage. And there were some Messages interchanged between them, whereby she signified her readiness to answer this Defendant's desires therein, and the difficulty to obtain her but by carrying of her away. And did herself appoint to come to this Defendant if he could come for her; whereupon he prepared a coach and in the evening of the day in the Bill mentioned, he came in a coach near unto Salisbury Court, where the Complainant dwelleth. And this Defendant's now wife came of her own accord to this Defendant and the same night he confesseth that they were married together and ever since cohabited together as Husband and Wife, in doing whereof if this Defendant's passion and fervency of affection have transported him beyond the bounds of wisdom, duty and good discretion, this Defendant doth most humbly crave the pardon and favourable construction of this most honourable Court and of the Complainant concerning the same. But as concerning any Riot or Riotous assembly this Defendant sayeth that he attended his Wife coming unto him being accompanied only with his ordinary attendance other than one gent. that then was in his company, and the minister who married them (being the Defendant's Kinsman) neither were they armed with any pistols, or otherwise than at other times they usually walked. And concerning the obtaining and suing out of the Licence in the bill mentioned or procuring Nicholas Butler and Richard Edmonds in the bill named or either of them or any other to make the oath in the bill mentioned, this Defendant sayeth that he never knew that any oath was made but by Report and that long after the same was done, nor ever saw the faces of the said Butler nor Edmonds to his knowledge, nor knoweth what they were or who produced them, nor ever made any use of the said Licence. And to all and every one the subornations of perjury, unlawful practices, or Conspiracies, Riots, or riotous Assemblies, or any other offence in and by the said Bill of complaint laid to the charge of this Defendant (except only the marrying of the said Complainant's daughter) in such sorte as formerly is expressed-Hereby this Defendant sayeth that he is not of them or any of them guilty in such as in and by the said Bill is declared. And humbly prayeth by the favour of this Honourable Court to be dismissed from any further attendance thereabouts."
The marriage was not upset, and this delightful elopement was followed by the birth of our poet, the younger Charles. But as the years went by the married relations of his parents became most