EARL, or baron, or baronet, had not in the Church of England ever blended the duties of the temporal with the ecclesiastical noble before the time of Sir Jonathan Trelawny. Besides the weight of the three mitres which he wore successively, he had to support the dignity of one of the most ancient and remarkable families in this country. Enough work for any man's life it might be thought. And if Sir Jonathan, the Cornish chief, and Dr. Jonathan, the bishop, found his tasks in life somewhat incompatible, it may be said in his behalf that he had no precedent or chart whereby to guide his course.
The antiquity of the British line of Trelawny of Trelawne is traced clearly to the aborigines of Britain. It had looked down with contempt from its Cornish castellated palace on the Saxon invaders. Britain had been changed into England by the Angles, its language into Teutonic, and its Celtic population into serfs. However, the Trelawnys of Trelawne, with some other brave chieftains, held them at bay in the west; and under their banner of the British wolf, statant, succeeded in keeping Cornish land intact from the foot of the Saxon invader, and British speech uncorrupted on the lips of Cornish men. Nor did these bold British chiefs alone defend the temporal happiness of their country. "The Christianity of the West" was especially guarded by their swords from the worshippers of Saxon fiends, from the onslaughts of the priests of Thor the Thunderer, and Wooden the Wild, who craved for human victims.
So passed the dim dark ages, when Trelawne never lacked a Trelawny to defend the Christianity of Exeter and Cornwall. At last better times arrived, and throughout their Angle-land the dominant Saxon pagans submitted to the Cross, and the whole island became Christian; yet the Trelawnys remained the head of a people peculiarly British and exclusive during the royalty of our Anglo-Norman kings.
It was the policy of the warlike and astute Henry V. to make friends with the aborigines of the land, and employ in his French wars the Britons of the west as well as those of Wales. One of his favourite leaders was Sir John Trelawny of Trelawne. He rebuilt his gateway with his French spoils, over which might be seen the statue of Henry V. An ancient rhyme in Gothic characters beneath expressed the saying of the king, in a request for Cornish recruits:--
"He that will do aught for me,
Let him love well Sir John Trelawne."
It is somewhat singular that the Britons of the West of England at first did not live in harmony with the restored line of British kings, the royal Tudors. All Cornwall was up under the Trelawny nourishing in the time of Henry VII., when Perkin Warbeck claimed their loyalty, as Richard Duke of York, the distressed son of Edward IV. Sir John of Trelawne led his Cornish tens of thousands to the so-called skirmish (which we greatly suspect was a very stout battle) at Blackheath. Trelawny of that Ilk was captured, and consigned to durance in the Tower. All the West was in an agony of rage and excitement. Ballads were made, and are sung even now, of Cornish men knocking at London gates to inquire news of Trelawny, whose head was considered to be in danger:--
"And have they fixed the where and when,
And must Trelawny die?
Then thirty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why."
The first Tudor monarch fortunately loved the chink of angels and nobles better than the dull clang of the headsman's axe; and, moreover, he had Celtic feelings concerning pedigree and tongue in common with an ancient Briton. So Trelawny of Trelawne paid his fine, and was released from durance in London Tower.
Lord Clarendon has done good justice to the bravery and loyalty of Sir John Trelawny, the bishop's grandfather, and related how he distinguished himself in the gallant partisan warfare maintained by Sir Ralph Hopton in the West, fighting through the civil war by the side of Sir Reginald Mohun, of Boconnock, his friend and father-in-law. When all was done that man could do, he retreated to his stronghold at Trelawne, and brought up his numerous family as well as the impoverishing times of Cromwell would permit. His eldest son, Sir Jonathan Trelawny, was the husband of Mary, daughter of Sir Edward Seymour, of Bury Pomeroy, Devon.
Sir Jonathan Trelawny had a very numerous family, certainly six sons. Jonathan, the third (born at Pelynt, in Cornwall, 1650), was brought up to the Church, educated at Westminster School, entered at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1668, and became student the year afterwards, when he was nineteen. We have no precocious attainments to record of Jonathan Trelawny.
Whilst he was pursuing his scholastic career, his father was in the household of the tDuke of York, and domesticated with the duke and duchess at the old house called the Treasury, at Deptford, when the duke was sojourning there, practically superintending some of his great naval improvements and inventions at the neighbouring dockyard. Life was young and hope was high. Very merrily were the duke and Anne (Hyde) his duchess spending their evenings with their family circle, only the ladies and gentlemen of their household, in that dilapidated, half-furnished house.
Old Sir Jonathan was of so irascible a temper, that during the stormy debates in the House of Commons on the Test Act and the Bill for disabling Papists from sitting in parliament, high words arose between him and Mr. Ashe, when the fiery Cornish cavalier dealt his opponent a thundering box on the ear, who returned the blow. Sir Jonathan flashed out his sword; Ashe likewise drew. The belligerents were dragged apart by the gentlemen in their vicinity. Ashe, as the least in fault, was only consigned to the Black Rod, and very severely reprimanded by the Speaker; but Sir Jonathan was sent to the Tower.
The Duke of York appointed little Anne Trelawny as the attendant of his daughter, the Lady Mary of York, to be brought up with her as her friend and first maid of honour. The young princess loved this companion of her infancy most entirely. Anne Trelawny was her first and only female friend. When the Lady Mary of York married her cousin, the Prince of Orange, the young lady of Trelawne left England with her princess, and lived in Holland with her as her favourite maid of honour.
While the Prince of Orange was trying the spirit-breaking process with his wife, to crush down her affection to her father and family, he was told all his endeavours were useless while she had her friend Anne Trelawny near her. After the remarkable palace occurrence, when the hero of Orange, by his own account of affairs, picked Dr. Covell's desk, and read his quaint letter, describing his own behaviour to the princess, he finished by sending the young lady of Trelawne home very abruptly, although she had not the least concern in the offence given. Miss Anne Trelawny was escorted home by Mrs. Langford, the nurse of the princess, and by quaint old Dr. Covell, the princess's Church of England chaplain. Mary never supplied the place of Anne Trelawny, but lived and died without any other female friend.
When James II. ascended the throne of Great Britain, his old friend and domestic, Sir Jonathan Trelawny, had sunk under his numerous tribulations. Among others, in 1680, he had lost his two eldest sons. They died childless. The old cavalier was succeeded in the baronetcy and extensive domain of Trelawne by his third son, the Rev. Jonathan Trelawny, then Rector of St. Ives and Southill, Cornwall.
The rev. baronet complained bitterly of poverty, and a few years afterwards, on being appointed by James II. to the bishopric of Bristol, he addressed the following most original letter to the Earl of Rochester, then Lord Chancellor:--
"Sir J. Trelawny to the Earl of Rochester.
"July 10th, 1685.
"Give me leave to throw myself at your lordship's feet, humbly imploring your patronage, if not for the bishopric of Peterborough, at least for Chichester, if the Bishop of Exeter cannot be obliged to accept of that now vacant see, which he seemed to incline to when his removal to Peterborough was proposed; and I am assured from those about him, that if the king should be pleased to tell him he is resolved on his translation to Chichester, he will readily close with it; and let me beseech your lordship to fix him there, and to advance your creature to Exeter, where I can serve the king and your lordship.
"I hear his Majesty designed me for Bristol, which I should not decline was I not already under such pressure by my father's debts, as must necessarily break my estate to pieces if I find no better prop than the income of Bristol, not greater than 300l. per annum; and the expense in consecration, first fruits, and settlement, will require 2000l.
"If Peterborough and Chichester shall be both refused me, I shall not deny Bristol, though my ruin goes with it, if it be the king's pleasure, or any way for his Majesty's service that I should accept it.
"But I hope the king (James II.) will have more tender compassions on his slave, and that your lordship will vouchsafe a better lot to, my lord,
"Most humble and devoted servant,
Notwithstanding the pathos of this appeal, poor Sir Jonathan Trelawny was forced to abide by despised Bristol, instead of getting it exchanged for either of the richer sees he coveted,
His dissatisfaction and complaints greatly displeased Sancroft, insomuch that he Was in some danger of losing even this paltry benefice, and worse than that, the spiritual peerage it would confer on its possessor. After nearly two months' consideration, the Rev. Sir Jonathan, who had retired to his family estate in Cornwall, addressed the following letter to Dr. Francis Turner, lately Bishop of Rochester, who had been preferred to Ely, entreating his intercession with the offended primate, and signifying his intention to accept Bristol, and betraying fears of losing it.
"I humbly desire your lordship to become my patron to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in averting his grace's displeasure from me for not being more forward to go into that great honour his Majesty hath been pleased to design me to, his grace to allow of, and to which I hope God himself hath called me.
"My lord, had this delay proceeded from any slight to the meanness of the revenue, and regret that my lot had not fallen into a better soil, I should have been so far from presuming to address your lordship for your application to his grace in my behalf, and from imploring his grace's pardon, that I should have forbad myself the hopes of it, and not have dared to have asked it of his grace or your lordship; but since it is owing wholly to necessity, I have the confidence to believe I may be suffered to make at least that advantage of it, to gain a full pardon for the supposed crime, and compassion of those circumstances which forced it.
"Your lordship must needs know the income of Bristol is too mean to give a man credit for so large a sum as is required before I can be seated there, and the condition of my .estate will not easily help me to it. However, I have so managed my affairs as to be able shortly after Michaelmas to master the expenses at and previous to the consecration; so that now the sharpest pain I am under is the sense I have of his grace's resentments, which, if your lordship can moderate, you will do a very charitable office, in giving me peace at home, by assuring it to me from his grace.
"My lord, give me leave to say that it shall be, in great measure, his grace's and your lordship's fault if I do not come up to that expectation which will follow from my being clothed with that sacred and weighty order of a bishop; for I am resolved, by prayers and earnest application, to use my best endeavours to come up to the fulness of his grace's and your lordship's commands, strictly to observe and execute all orders and directions which shall be vouchsafed, either as a rule to my own behaviour or that of those committed to my care and observance. I most earnestly beseech your lordship's prayers, as well to bless my endeavours as your counsel to direct them. And let me add this, that whatever imperfections and failures human nature may subject me to, it shall not make me fail in any part of the obedience enjoined me by his grace or your lordship. I desire your lordship to render my duty acceptable to his grace, and to believe me to be, with all truth, my lord,
"Most devoted humble servant,
"Trelawne, September 22nd."
Up to this period the Rev. Sir Jonathan Trelawny had attained no higher degree than M.A.; but on his acceptance of the see of Bristol, King James, by royal diploma, required the University of Oxford to confer the dignity of Doctor of Divinity upon him, which was done October the 26th. He was consecrated Bishop of Bristol, November 9th, at Lambeth Chapel, by Archbishop Sancroft, and had the honour of being introduced into the House of Peers by Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells.
Trelawny had behaved so unclerically in his exertions to put down the Monmouth rebellion, that he had flattered himself with anticipations of a very rich reward for his active zeal from King James. Consequently he never forgave him the leanness of the see of Bristol, but assumed an ultra-Protestant tone in all his sayings and doings.
After taking possession of his see, and diligently noting all the shortcomings of his predecessors, he withdrew for a season from his episcopal labours to refresh himself at Trelawne, his paternal inheritance, whence he wrote a long account to Sancroft of his observations during his late visitation.
"The chiefest neglects," he says, "which I found were the backwardness of people to be confirmed, occasioned by the neglect of constantly instructing the children in the words and meaning of the Church catechism; the ill custom of private christenings, through the minister's compliance with the richer sort of their parish; the disuse of visiting the sick at their houses, proceeding chiefly from the custom, which is very frequent, of reading most part of the form of the visitation of the sick when they are prayed for in the church; the confused and irregular way of reading the prayers, in some ministers, either through their own dissatisfaction at them, or fear of others dissatisfied with them; and the ill condition which most of the churches were in, by reason the parishes are not put in mind, or else unwilling to assess themselves for their reparation. The ministers, of whose faults in their disordered reading and praying I could make myself acquainted from good hands, I have taken care to punish, and I hope to their amendment.
"And now, having done with the affairs of my own diocese, I beg leave to tell your grace (who, I am sure, must own yourself the defender of the Church and all the bishops) what I observed at Salisbury.
"By reason of the dean's supporting the choir against the bishop, there is a scandalous neglect in their performance of the service. The day I rested in the town, the singing men refused to sing an anthem which was then desired by the bishop's nephew and Canon Hill, and in the afternoon the organist (which they say happens often) was absent, and the prayers performed without the organ. I cannot suppose this as done to me, being a stranger to them, but wholly intended to the bishop, to whom I made my visit as being his friend.
"I find in Dorsetshire that the Dean of Sarum has many peculiars, but whether through his indisposition or temper I know not; they were never visited by him, and are the most factious, not to say worst, places in the country. I need not instance in any other than Lime and Bemister, though others are very ill, to the occasioning, if not of example, yet, at least, of excuse, which. I met with from some of my clergy, who would have extenuated their own faults by the practice of their neighbours in these peculiars.
"Having laid these things before your grace, I will only further beg the continuance of your directions and advice, with your constant prayers for
"Most dutiful and obedient servant,
"Trelawne, June 1st, 1686."
To do Sir Jonathan justice, he agreed far better both with the dean and chapter and the corporation of Bristol than either of his episcopal predecessors had done. But whenever he found that stormy city waxing warmer than was agreeable, he rushed down to his pleasant family residence at Trelawne till all was calm again. Sometimes he considered it necessary to frame a plausible reason to the primate for his frequent retreats to the more congenial atmosphere of Cornwall.
On one occasion he seems to consider the probability of a general election rendered it his imperative duty to fix himself at Trelawne, to withstand the influence of the lord-lieutenant of the county, and encourage the gentry to act with proper independence in returning good churchmen for members.
The following letter, though undated, is well worthy of attention:--
"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
"Having this opportunity of my cousin Trelawny (the bearer) going to London, I held myself obliged to present you with my duty, and the reason of my coming into my country. We have had frequent alarms that a parliament is speedily intended, to which Cornwall sends forty-four [members]; and knowing myself to have a good interest in the gentry, I was resolved to see what inclinations they had, and what courage to support them in case of an attack from the lord-lieutenant; and I was glad to find the gentry unanimous for the preserving the Test and our laws; and what pleased me much, resolved to appear in their several corporations, and not suffer so many foreigners to be put upon them, as were returned hence by the wheedle of the Earl of Bath, the lord-lieutenant, whom now they will attend in a body upon his coming into the country, and, with the decency of a compliment, desire that they themselves may be permitted to serve the king in parliament; which, if his lordship will not yield to, but answer that he has the king's command for the return of such as his Majesty named to him, the gentry, at least a great part of them, will attest their particular intentions in such boroughs as have dependences upon them, and try whether the Earl of Bath will, with a high hand, turn out such mayors and magistrates as will not comply with his nominations, disoblige the gentry, and endanger the kingdom. I have one thing more to acquaint your grace; that being with several of our gentry when the news came that the several lord-lieutenants should call together their respective deputies and the justices of their counties, and know of them whether they would or would not take off the Test; my opinion was that they should' not give a plain answer whether they would or would not, but only in general, that if they were chosen they would be governed by conscience and reason; for should they say downright they would not take off the laws and the Test, there would be a positive command that all such as had declared themselves of that opinion should not be chosen. I am,
"Most dutiful servant,
The expected parliament was not called, so the Right Rev. Sir Jonathan Trelawny, after a long pause returned to Bristol, to attend to the affairs of his see, instead of the more racy occupation of electioneering. He was visited by Bishop Ken in March, by whom he wrote the following letter to Sancroft, giving some account of his differences with that notorious busy-body, Sir John Knight:--
"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
"My very good friend, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, giving me the favour of his company here, and withal of letting me know he is going hence for London, I should have been very uneasy had I parted with him before I had put into his hands this address of my duty to your grace, and the assurance that I am not wanting in my prayers for the preservation of our threatened Church, and in my best exhortations for the keeping this city very firm to its establishments; and I thank God hitherto all the designs of addresses and other prejudices have fallen like water upon oil-cloth, smoothly received, and going off without making any impression.
"Having given your grace this faithful assurance of my own and this city's steadfastness, I shall take the confidence of laying before you the enclosed opinions, to satisfy you of the mistaken complaint Sir John Knight troubled your grace with this last summer, against Mr. Rainsthorpe, a prebendary of this cathedral, for holding two livings in this city, and to justify myself for suffering him to hold them; and because I would be sure of his capacity by the laws, I took the opinions of Dr. Jones, my chancellor, in the civil, and of Mr. Pollexfen in the common-law; and though both could not quiet the unreasonable scruples of Sir John Knight, they shall me, if your grace acquiesceth in them. Could I eject Mr. Rainsthorpe, it must be of the living to which this city is patron, and Mr. Wade, the town-clerk, would not slip the opportunity for the having Father Petre's recommendation of a priest to gain Popery an interest here, which wants a maintenance to encourage the footing, as well as a number to give any countenance to the abode of a priest among them. And I think this is not a time to make gaps for a busy enemy, who is too forward to force breaches where he has no invitation. I'll do all I can to keep the priests hence: no courage shall be wanting; and if I err in prudence and conduct it must be your grace's and my order's fault in not helping me with directions, having resolutions entirely fixed not to do anything which may reflect on the interest or honour of our Church, in which as I had the blessing of initiation by the baptism of water, I am ready to go out of it with the other of blood. I desire your grace's prayers, and to believe me, as I am,
"Very dutiful servant,
"March 20th, 1686."
Trelawny found it as difficult a matter to deal with Sir John Knight as ever Lake had done; for Sir John would interfere in ecclesiastical arrangements over which he had no other control than his incorrigible love of meddling. He treated the legal opinions of Dr. Jones and Mr. Pollexfen with contemptuous disregard, defied the bishop, and bent all his energies to the object on which he had set his mind--of expelling Rainsthorpe from one if not both of his livings. He pestered Sancroft with letters on the subject, and misrepresented the replies so as to persuade the citizens of Bristol that the primate regarded Rainsthorpe as an intruder who had no claim to receive the wages of the Church. At the end of the year we find the Right Reverend Sir Jonathan still battling the point with Sir John Knight, without any chance of settling the dispute.
In a letter to Sancroft, complaining of the conduct of Sir John Knight in this affair, the bishop recommends his chaplain for preferment, and makes piteous complaints of his own want of means to reward his faithful services.
"Let me beseech your grace's favour," he says, "to Mr. Jeames, my chaplain, if anything falls within your disposal not worth the acceptance of such to whom relation or service may render it due. He hath been with me ever since I came to this see, and I have nothing in my power wherewith to acknowledge his services. He hath really been very useful to me in keeping this city in the order and uprightness in which hitherto I have held it, maugre very industrious endeavours, and a charge to a purpose I hope will never be accomplished. I do not regret the expense of my residence, though it hath exceeded 1500l. more than my income, the city and the conflux being great. But it does grieve me that I cannot make any suitable return to his services, so much as by the prospect of a reversion. I do therefore the more presume to implore your grace's kindness in case of the refusal of those who may have a title to it, and you will not be so much his patron as mine."
Many of Trelawny's letters are lively, energetic, and powerfully written, especially that in which he describes the state of Bristol, and alludes to the attempts that had been made on his life by an inimical brother.
"The fanatics here," he says, "are very numerous, and their meetings great and frequent, but chiefly of women and of the meaaer sort of people; those of the better rank, even among the Presbyterians, as yet refusing to contribute any money to the building of their meeting-houses, and their company to the filling them. And some of them have been very angry with their teacher, "Weekes, for putting their hands to the address without their knowledge or leave to do so. The magistracy of this city are wholly averse to the fanatical mode of addressing, and one of them assures me,' if offered from above it will be rejected.' My clergy, God be thanked, bravely refused it, only two in Dorsetshire giving their hands to it. The one is Pelham, the son of a Cromwellian major, and he did so out of a natural hatred of the Church, and to show, though he lived by her, he was not so truly hers as his father's son. The other subscriber was a curate to a person who I hope will prevent my dismission of him. "I have given God thanks for this opportunity the begging address hath given me of declaring to the public that I am firmly of the Church of England, and not to be forced from her interest by the terrors of displeasure or death itself, which some are endeavouring should befal me from the hand of an unnatural brother, whose liberty is now laboured from that imprisonment to which he was confined for his often attempts on my life. But the same God who hath wonderfully delivered me from him I trust will still deliver me, especially if my safety shall be recommended to the Almighty by the prevalence of your prayers, which are earnestly desired by
"Most obedient servant, "July 1st, 1687."
Notwithstanding the chivalric loyalty of his noble-minded father, and the affronts the young lady of Trelawne had endured from the Orange hero, and her insulting expulsion from the Hague, the Right Reverend Sir Jonathan Trelawny had become an adherent and secret correspondent of the Orange faction.
During the momentous interview with the sovereign, when the petition was presented, Sir Jonathan did not comport himself with the dignity of his episcopal brethren; for when King James termed the petition a standard of rebellion, he fell down on his knees, exclaiming--
"Rebellion, sire! I beseech your Majesty do not say so hard a thing of us, for God's sake! Do not believe we are or can be guilty of rebellion! It is impossible for me or any of my family to be guilty of rebellion! Your Majesty cannot but remember that you sent me to quell the Monmouth rebellion, and I am as ready to do what I can to quell another."
To a cousin of Burnet, one of the Johnstone family, he is reported to have said, while the matter was pending, "If King James sends me to the Tower, I know the Prince of Orange will come and take me out."
After the acquittal and enfranchisement of the seven bishops, Mr. Henry Sidney, the English favourite of the Prince of Orange, came from Holland, ostensibly with "a compliment" of congratulation from his master and mistress on the birth of the unfortunate Prince of Wales. In reality, Henry Sidney came to try who were disposed to raise the standard of revolution. Among others, he found Lord and Lady Churchill, and their intimate friend, Colonel Henry Trelawny, ready and willing to betray the king and to forswear his infant heir. Colonel Trelawny answered for his brother, Sir Jonathan, the Bishop of Bristol. The Tower lodgment and trial had of course plunged Sir Jonathan still deeper than ever in pecuniary embarrassments. The process of pulling down the king who had not had "tender compassions on his slave "was by no means unpleasing, as the poor slave had had to accept Bristol, with only 300l. per annum, instead of Chichester, Peterborough, or even Exeter, for which he had vainly sighed and vainly implored.
He was one among the very few bishops who assisted at William and Mary's coronation; then everybody saw that he and his colleague, Dr. Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, swam with the revolutionary current. They had to endure the witty taunt of the Royalists, "That King James had sent seven of his bishops to the Tower to be tested, that five had been proved pure gold, but that Sir Jonathan of Bristol and Dr. Lloyd of St. Asaph had turned out only prince's metal."
The Right Rev. Sir Jonathan was fiercely attacked in one of the libellous political squibs of the period, entitled 'The Tribe of Levi,' an evil ephemera of that era of unscrupulous abuse, written in bitter energetic verses by some clever but uncompromising partisan of the dethroned sovereign James II. against the seven bishops. It is rather curious that Sancroft and Trelawny are the only two with whose antecedents the author appears in the slightest degree acquainted. For the sake of charity it is to be hoped he has exaggerated the vengeful doings of Trelawny at the Monmouth rebellion, for which King James made so poor a return as the lean bishopric of Bristol.
"Unhappy James, preposterous was the fate
That brought on thee the clergy's frown and hate. *****
I'll mention but one more, and then have done,
'Tis fighting Joshua, the son of Nun!
Though he to men of sense is a buffoon,
He serves to make a spiritual dragoon;
What, though he cannot preach, or pray, or write,
He 'gainst his country and his king can fight.
What wonders in the field were lately done
By fighting Joshua, the son of Nun;
He bravely Monmouth and his force withstood,
And made the Western land a sea of blood;
There Joshua did his reeking heat assuage,
On every sign-post gibbet up his rage;
Glutted with blood, a really Christian Turk,
Scarcely outdone by Jeffreys or by Kirke.
Yet now this priest is grown a rebel too,
And what Monmouthians did is doing now;
Since he, like them, is equally to blame,
Their fate was to be hanged, be his the same!"
It is a stern comment on contemporary history, that neither the cruelty of Churchill, the activity of Jonathan Trelawny, nor the intrepid humanity of Ken, are even hinted at in the pamphlets published of the western rebellion, under the name 'Bloody Assizes,' or in the books of the paid partisan, Oldmixon, or his authority, the local writer, Atcherley. If Sir Jonathan himself had not boasted of his doings, who in the present day would have known aught about them?
Sir Jonathan hastened to gather in the reward of his painstaking in revolutionary affairs. He had the pleasure of realising his ardent aspirations for the see of Exeter. Only three days after the coronation of William and Mary, April 13th, 1689, it was allotted to him, and his nomination by the new king was confirmed. Sir Jonathan of Bristol became Sir Jonathan of Exeter by favour of his old master's supplanters, and he set out in June, 1689, to take possession of the good things he had earned from them. In his progress to the great see of the west, he made a visitation to Exeter College, at Oxford, and very stormy was the reception he met with there. Exeter College was not only malcontent but mutinous, and his approach raised something like an insurrection, as the fellows were nearly divided for and against him. The rector of the college, Dr. Arthur Bury, with a strong party of the fellows hostilely encountered the Bishop in the open quadrangle, and there protested vehemently against his nearer approach. As for "Sir Kingston," apparently the college chaplain, it must be said, par parenthese, he behaved too contumaciously to have his conduct entered into by the decorous pen of the pamphleteer who had the defence of the bishop printed at the press of the schools, Oxford.
Feuds ran awfully high, when the new bishop and his fellows, and the rector with all his refractory fellows got all together into the hall. Everybody's orthodoxy or moral character was impugned, and everybody had the advantage of having his sins confessed in sonorous Latin very audibly by his neighbour. Much good 'Latin was likewise expended in tracts and handbills, which had been prepared for the arrival of the new bishop; and vigorously all the fellows of Exeter scolded each other in that learned language. "'Twasn't decent," and "Tisn't decent," the favourite phrases of the historian Burnet, were the only attempts made at uttering our poor humble English. Whig or Jacobite was in every individual's heart, party rage loured on every brow, while sins against orthodoxy, and lower scandals even, were shouted by every tongue.
To do Bishop Sir Jonathan Trelawny justice, he conducted himself in the midst of the uproar in the most gentlemanly manner. The only interruption he gave to Dr. Arthur Bury, who had some very vituperant Latin protest to read against his authority, was to request him to sit down instead of standing while he read it in the hall. But sturdy Arthur Bury refused the courtesy with the following rather neat repartee--"No, I will stand by what I say." Yet, soon after, placing the protestation in the hands of one of the fellows of his party to read, he flung contemptuously out of the hall. So mighty a confusion of tongues then ensued, that very little could be heard of what the reading "fellow "had to utter. Such is a slight specimen of the squabbles which were of every day occurrence among a divided people. There was no outward protest against the royalty of the sovereigns who placed Sir Jonathan Trelawny in episcopal authority, but shrewd signs were given of deep and bitter discontent.
The great family influence he had in the west insured Sir Jonathan better welcoming in his city of Exeter; but, after all, his much-coveted see comprised no little personal danger. For in the succeeding summer the victorious French fleet rode unopposed down the Channel, and, according to Narcissus Lut-trell's dull diary, French ships threatened the western coast from the Start Point between Dartmouth and Plymouth. The country people had to watch night and day lest they should make descents. General Trelawny, one of the bishop's brothers, guarded Bristol with three regiments. His right reverend brother had to take care of Exeter as well as he could. Such employment was more in unison with his natural vocation than things spiritual, and no enemy made any inbreak on the temporalities under his guardianship.
The disgraceful quarrels between Mary and Anne, the daughters, and "William and George, the sons-in-law of the exiled king, broke out into open enmity in the winter of 1691-2. The house of Trelawny sided with the Princess Anne; her favourite's husband, Lord Churchill, who had been rewarded with court places and the earldom of Marlborough, was unexpectedly deprived of his post as lord-in-waiting, and his follower, Harry Trelawny, shared his disgrace.
Of Sir Jonathan Trelawny's ecclesiastical acts as Bishop of Exeter, one only has survived him, his notation of his re-consecration of his own old chapel at Trelawne, which had been the place of devotion for his ancestors since the time when it was rebuilt in Henry VI.'s reign. Surely to re-consecrate a place, consecrated by so many ages of family prayer, was a work of supererogation. He did it, however, according to the inscription therein, with much solemnity, on Sunday, November 23rd, 1701.
The accession of Queen Anne, and the triumphant career of his friends, the Marlboroughs, with their faction, brought new hopes and honours to .Sir Jonathan. The mighty see of Winchester became vacant by the death of Bishop Mew, and this favourite of fortune was blessed with the luckiest translation he had yet experienced.
Sir Jonathan Trelawny was declared Bishop of Winchester, June 3rd, 1707, and was consecrated and took the oaths as such, June 14th, at Bow Church, Cheapside, "which," says Burnet, "gave great disgust to many, he being considerable for nothing but his birth and his election interest in Cornwall. The lord-treasurer had engaged himself to him, and was sensible that he was much reflected upon for it; but he, to soften the censure that was brought on him, had promised that for the future preferments should be bestowed on men well principled to the present constitution and on men of merit."
Prelate of the Order of the Garter is a dignity attached to the great see of Winchester, and the insignia of that splendid order is always worn with the episcopal robes, giving unwonted richness to the sober vestments of our Church. We think the broad ribbon of blue is much nearer to the original azure of the Plantagenet Order than is seen on the knights since the Hanoverian dynasty altered the colour to a darker hue. From this ribbon depends an effigy in gold of St. George on horseback killing the dragon, richly enamelled in their colours "proper."
Trelawny, as Bishop of Winchester, preached a thanksgiving sermon at St. Paul's, November 12th, before Queen Anne and both Houses of Parliament, for the successes that had been granted her Majesty's forces, both by land and sea, under the command of the Earl of Marlborough, her general in the Low Countries, and Sir George Rooke, her admiral at Vigo. Also for the recovery of his Royal Highness Prince George of Denmark from a dangerous illness. The sermon, from Joshua xxii., was published by her Majesty's especial command.
This prelate had an inveterate habit of swearing, for which he was one day reproved by a less fortunate member of the Church, who told him "it was very unbecoming in a bishop to swear." "I do not swear as bishop," rejoined the right reverend violator of the third commandment, with shameless facetious-ness; "when I swear it is as Sir Jonathan Trelawny, a country gentleman and a baronet." The year alter Sir Jonathan's great preferment, he made an alteration, doubtful as to its wisdom, in the customs of the famous school at Winchester. Surely, a boy might make, his own bed, and yet not be "servile," sweep away a little dust, and yet not be "foul." The bishop had better have charged their warden to see that they performed their purifications effectually. Here are his ideas on the subject:--
"Letter of Trelawny, Lord Bishop of Winchester, to the Warden of Wykeham School.
"Sept. 16th, 1708.
"When I was last at Winchester I thought it would be much for the health and cleanliness of the children of the college that there should be bedmakers appointed by the warden for them, and the children be relieved from the servile and foul office of making their own beds and keeping their chamber clean. And also that during the winter half year, between Michaelmas and Lady-day, they should not be obliged to rise before six o'clock in the morning."
The rebuilding of the episcopal palace at Winchester, which was commenced by Bishop Morley, was finished by Sir Jonathan Trelawny with great magnificence during his episcopate. He likewise erected in the cathedral a vast throne of Grecian architecture for his own especial use, and a pulpit to correspond. Both of them were ostentatious blots, taking up more room than their share in Winchester Cathedral. Unfortunately, the Grecian style of architecture is still less in harmony with that of Gothic in dark wood than in stone. Most of these anomalies have, by the better taste of the present day, been expelled. The throne and pulpit of Sir Jonathan were removed from Winchester Cathedral, and have been replaced by those in present use, which, though modest in size and appearance, are exquisite in carving and design, and withal beautifully harmonious with all around. The said throne and pulpit of the Right Reverend Sir Jonathan Trelawny were carefully stowed away in the depositorium for the lumber ecclesiastical of the last two centuries, within the sacred precincts of Winchester.
Dr. Atterbury dedicated his sermons to Bishop Trelawny, and the fact bears peculiar significance. Atterbury speaks thus of his former co-collegian:--
"He was educated at Christ Church, Oxford, where he had those principles instilled into his mind which, whosoever has once imbibed, seldom forsakes; and whosoever forsakes not, must inevitably adhere to the interests of the Church and monarchy."
The bishop spent much of his time, particularly in the decline of his life, at his own hereditary family seat in Cornwall. Its natural advantages and many centuries of cultivation have made it truly delicious, although most of the venerable antiquities, as the gate-house of Henry V., the terraces and castellated turrets, have disappeared, according to the hateful taste of the last century.
Sir Jonathan Trelawny married Rebecca, co-heiress of Thomas Hele, of Bascombe, Devon, by whom he had a large family. Four sons and three daughters were married; they were brought up in wealth and ease. His sons were amply gifted by fortune and by nature, and had rich sinecures both in Church and state; yet in two descents every male heir of the right reverend baronet failed.
Sir Jonathan died at Trelawne, July 19th, 1721, at the age of 71. The bishop-baronet was buried at Trelawne. His coffin, of very great size, is in the vaults there. The plate is inscribed with the words--
SIR JONATHAN TRELAWNY,
RIGHT REVEREND FATHER IN GOD,
LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER.
If he had any other funeral memorial, we have not yet discovered it. There is no monument to him at Winchester or Farnham. Granger gives him the following eulogium:--"He was friendly and open, generous and charitable, a good man and a good companion." The latter part of the panegyric in Granger's time too often signified that, like Archbishop Seeker, he was a "boon companion."
The traditions of Trelawne affirm that his two daughters lived with him. One of them was deformed, so much so, that when she died her corpse was placed in a square box instead of a coffin. But however unkindly dealt with by nature, she was an angel of kindness and charity, for the memory of her goodness yet liveth. Letitia, her sister, the beauty of the West, still lives in her exquisite portrait--bright dark eyes, ebon hair, ivory complexion, and slender form, agree with her appellation of "the beauty of the West." Many of her letters are extant. She signs herself "Myrtilla," an affected sentimentality among young ladies of that era.
Trelawne is situated in one of the most beautiful districts in England for scenery, about three miles from the Leuve river. The view down the valley of Trelawne Mill is exquisite. In the drawing-room are to be seen many fine portraits, at a time when portrait-painting was at its height. A portrait of the bishop, by Kneller, is there, and without the disguising wig, afterwards universal. Sir Jonathan resided, when required to be near London, at the episcopal palace at Chelsea, now in the dust. We saw the last of it in 1841.
An incident which has lately occurred revived for a short time the long-forgotten memory of the lord bishop Sir Jonathan Trelawny. The present Sir John Trelawny, well known for his parliamentary agitation concerning church rates, politely requested that the throne erected by the Right Reverend Sir Jonathan Trelawny, Bishop of Winchester, might be consigned to him. His desire was courteously complied with by the dean and chapter, and Sir John Trelawny is in actual possession of the throne of his maternal ancestor, the last survivor of the seven bishops of the Tower.