Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely Chapter V.
THE venerable mother of Turner departed this life August, 1692, after a long illness. This event is mentioned to his brother Thomas in a quaint but affectionate letter from Cambridge, by an intimate friend, who only signs with a monogram. He says, "I heard last week from Mr Newcome the sad news of Madame Turner's death, which had been more sad, but at such a great age and so long a sickness it was not surprising. It is lamented by every one to whom I tell it here. Sure Heaven must be a strong place, and earth a very happy one, if half the world did but understand, and do their business as well as she did hers in all those several states of life unto which God was pleased to call her."
The decease of his beloved and revered friend, the deprived Archbishop of Canterbury, is thus mentioned by Turner in a letter to his brother.
"The death of that blessed man, the good Archbishop of Canterbury, I bewail with all my heart; not for his sake, for he was full of years and ripe for Heaven (having left an admirable example to all the world), but for our own, who have need of such examples for the continuance of them among us had God been pleased. But blessed be His holy name in all things, who can supply our hard loss when He pleaseth, though we have no probability of it."
Turner amused himself in his hours of adversity by translating ' Prudentius' from the Latin. He had originally recommended this task to Matthew Prior, when a student at St. John's College. The deprived bishop's beautiful paraphrase from the Latin, on the proneness of man to sin, was justly admired by his contemporaries, and though too long for insertion as a whole in this brief biography, it is impossible to refrain from the quotation of a few lines as a specimen. After illustrating his subject with the metaphors of the course of a polished ivory ball rolling down a steep slippery descent, the progress of a naming brand among straw, the career of an unbridled colt, and the rush of a swollen stream that has broken its bank, he thus sums up:--
"Foolish man, these emblems suit
You, or your frail flesh at least;
You, that live so like a brute,"
The rolling ball, the ranging beast,
The untamed colt, the flaming straw,
The foaming flood, that knows no law,
"Describe the risks you run in sin,
Your body does your soul betray,
You've a great work to do within,
Strike into the narrow way!
'Stop your vain course,' true wisdom cries,
' Or endless death will be your prize.'
"Thou that with healing in thy wings,
Blest Sun of Righteousness! didst rise;
All sovereign balms thy advent brings,
Enough to cure the world of vice;
Souls once baptized and clear from stain,
Let not the foul fiend soil again."
The time and thoughts of the deprived bishop were unfortunately too much taken up with political subjects. His vigorous and fearless pen was the terror of the king, queen, bishops, peers, and senators of the Revolution. He gives a very lively and graphic account, in a letter to his brother, of the formidable riots in London that took place in the spring after Queen Mary's death, in consequence of the perseverance of the Dutch king in pressing seamen for his navy, and the abhorrence of the Londoners to that tyrannical imposition.
"April 11th, 1695.
"These two last nights," records Turner, "we have had terrible uproars, and an innumerable city mob pulling the pressed men out of the marshals' houses, and gutting two of their houses, and then burning them. It is reported they found several dead bodies there interred, in gardens or cellars, and divers of their prisoners in a dying condition for hunger, whom they released. This, true or false, exasperates strangely. Yesternight they burned the prison in Finsbury Fields, and set all free there. To-night they threaten to do as much at the Savoy.
"All night we heard beating of drums, and all the trainbands were up, but no restraint to the torrent. My lord of Oxford's troops came down upon them, but a vast rabble got behind these and pelted them off their horses with showers of stones, till all the troops rode away as if every one had cried, 'the devil take the hindmost.'
"A justice of peace, venturing among them in his coach, was drubbed and dragged. All the constables, with their watch, guarding those places, quitted their posts to the fury of the multitude.
"They go about the streets exclaiming, 'the nation has been abused,' and ask 'why the Dutch troops do not come down?' but they wisely kept in their quarters. They demand a general indemnity upon the queen's death. It is believed they have furnished themselves with as many cases of pistols and swords as they could buy up on the sudden. What will be done in the end of this? This is ill-timed, and may produce great disturbances, it being just upon the king's going off for Flanders."
The deprived bishop removed himself and his daughter, in the year 1699, into a small house in the country. All his furniture from the episcopal palace at Ely had remained ever since his expulsion under the care of his brother, the Principal of Corpus Christi, at Oxford. He playfully reproves his brother for having paid for a black bed which was missing. "Had I understood it," he says, "I should have refused your money for such a frippery. There is nothing in your custody we shall need in a wainscoted little house, where you shall always find a lodging. For your inquiry after the mystery of the peace (of Kyswick), if there be any in it, and if secret articles be imagined touching our old master, King James,--on my conscience there are none, nor himself, nor any of his race or party in the least considered."
On another occasion the bishop says, in reference to the peace of Eyswick, "I have lately seen a very sensible letter from one of the family at St. Germains. It relates how much they are mortified that their master and mistress bear it decently and sedately; that the king, upon too loud complaints of his servants against the peacemaker, was fain to declare openly, that whoever railed (that was the word) against the French king should neither continue in his favour, nor at St. Germains; that the little prince, when he read in the 'Gazette' how the most Christian king owned King William, beat his brows and tore the 'Gazette ' in pieces; that the generality of the French nation were amazed and ashamed of the peace, insomuch that their king too, publicly, as he was at dinner, perceived that his subjects were displeased with the peace."
Turner was very anxious about his daughter's health in the year 1698. She was very ill with small-pox, but the skill of his uncle, Dr. Windebanke, restored her. The bishop removed her for change of air to Bagshot, and as she was forbidden, on account of her eyes, to read or write, he watched over her, acted as her secretary, and read to her.
The following letter, undated, to his brother, appears to have been written at the crisis of her malady by the anxious father:--
"MOST DEAR SIR,
"If I could forget the promise I made this morning, that I would not fail you by this night's post, you have a little remembrancer who forgets her pains to put me in mind of it, so extreme kindly does she take your godfather! y care of her. I bless God our comforts increase by seeing this day well over; and now she feels her sorrow grow upon her, as was to be expected, yet her patience does not lessen. She presents a great deal of duty, and thanks for your company too. In these acknowledgments I very heartily join, and hope this will find you safe at Oxford, whither I pray God I may send you no worse account by Saturday night's post. Meantime and ever, I am yours.
"About nine, on Thursday night."
The deprived bishop was spared the anguish of weeping over the loss of his last and dearest earthly treasure. Margaret slowly recovered, but it was to experience the pang of learning the unworthiness of her affianced lover, the eldest son of the bishop's maternal uncle, Colonel Windebanke, to whom, with the consent of all their friends, she had been for some time engaged.
The father and daughter were living at Leighton-stone, when a confidential letter from Colonel Windebanke to the bishop, deploring the misconduct of his son, and expressing the bitterest indignation at the reckless course the unprincipled profligate was pursuing, interrupted the peaceful tenor of their lives.
Deeply shocked at the communication of the unworthiness of his nephew, and the probable perils to which his Margaret might have been exposed by matrimonial union to one so unmeet to be her husband, the bishop tenderly broke the matter to her, and explained the painful circumstances that rendered it expedient to put an end to the engagement.
Poignantly as poor Margaret felt the pang of severing the tie, she meekly and unhesitatingly acquiesced in her father's decision, and even assumed an appearance of cheerfulness to conceal her pain.
"She bears this disappointment with all the even temper of her mother," observes the bishop, in relating this domestic sorrow to his faithful brother.
Colonel Windebauke was so greatly incensed at the misconduct of his son, that he threatened to disinherit him, from which the bishop kindly dissuaded him, and interceded for his forgiveness, though firmly determined to separate him from Margaret. "He is coming ere long to London," writes the bishop, "but I have forbidden his visits, and his own father allows that I have just reason for it. Poor young man! his ruin is, I doubt, inevitable, but I'll take care somebody else shall not be ruined with him." The bishop hints that "he understands his worthless nephew has some very bad connections in France; and that his friends feared he had entangled himself with some other woman in a promise of marriage, which he was now desirous of recalling. You may be sure," continues the bishop, "it is more than a promise, for a thousand such engagements or oaths signify nothing in his mouth."
Turner gives his daughter great credit for the virtuous and discreet manner in which she had conducted herself during her engagement to her unworthy cousin, and fervently adds, "God send her good deliverance. I am sure I shall account it a very good one to get rid of this lewd young man and all his pretences."
Colonel Windebanke and his lady were unremitting in their efforts to induce the bishop and his daughter to overlook the misconduct of the young man, and renew their engagement. The bishop steadily refused to accept his libertine nephew for a son-in-law and Margaret to become his wife.
Margaret Turner had just attained her twenty-first year when this trial occurred. The tender sympathy of her father did much to console her. She was gifted with a very sweet voice, and possessed great taste and skill in music, which is thus noticed by a friend, who had been staying with them, in a letter to Dr. Thomas Turner:--
"To your young, fair, hopeful niece, the Lady Philomela, which name I bestowed upon her for the many innocent songs and anthems with which she pleased me, you must give my most hearty respects, with my blessing in God on her."
After the termination of her engagement with her cousin, the bishop, in order to divert her mind from so painful a subject, engaged the famous musician Nichole to give her lessons. Nichole was charmed with her voice, "and," writes the bishop to his brother, "did make this bargain at entrance, that she should not break off from her learning till he had taught her his manner (as the word is) for at least some months; on that condition making her this compliment, 'that if she did not, in process of time, sing the best of her sex in England, it should be his fault, not hers;' so much pleased he appeared to be with her voice. But I hope she can distinguish, at these years, between courtliness and the strictness of truth."
It is impossible to refrain from quoting some passages from the amusing letters of Richard Allyn, from Holland, whither he had been sent by Dr. Thomas Turner, the brother of the deprived bishop, to purchase books cheaper than they could be procured in Oxford.
He speaks with infinite contempt of the Dutch. "The chief subject of their discourse," he says, "is the unkindness and ingratitude of sending home their troops; and I find it would be as difficult a matter to convince a Dutchman of the reasonableness of our doing it as it would be to persuade him to be religious or not to love money.
"It is not yet known," continues Allyn, "whether his Majesty (William III.) has any farther design in coming over hither than to hunt about Loo, and to endeavour to divert himself from that uneasiness and disturbance which the last sessions of parliament gave him. He passed through this city (Amsterdam) about a fortnight ago, but in much greater haste than some few years since he went through Oxford, for he would not so much as suffer the burgomasters to wait upon him with their compliments, but drove through as fast and with as little ceremony as any ordinary traveller would have done.
"Whether this proceeded from an aversion in his temper towards appearing in public, or an unwillingness to put the town to trouble or expense, or a dislike to the place, is variously discoursed; but most people impute it to the latter, knowing that he cannot have forgot the attempts which this place hath heretofore used to suppress his authority in these provinces. He lives, they say, very splendidly at Loo; but he never appears so much like a king as when at the Hague, where his Court doth as much exceed what he usually keeps in England, as his English Court is greater than what he kept when he was only stadtholder. His palace there is, I am told, very magnificent, and is richly furnished with the spoils of Hampton Court and Kensington, some of which are to be found in his other houses in this country, of which he hath a great many."
Richard Allyn's estimate of the Dutch character did not improve by a longer residence at Amsterdam, for on September 1st he writes:--
"These men of this country are so far influenced by the prince of it as to deny their toleration to that worship which alone is worthy of the glorious title of religion. The service of the Church of England is too heathenish, too superstitious to be suffered, though frequent and earnest petitions have been made by some honest English that reside here for the use of it in their assemblies. Yet, at the same time, heresies of all sorts, and all the nameless croaking spawn of fanaticism, all manner of rascally vermin, such as tend to the scandal and reproach of religion, meet with public allowance. Nay, I doubt if this very people would stick at selling the best church they have to the Mogul, for an idol temple to worship the devil in, if they could but thereby establish a greater trade in his Indies; and I have too much reason to think so of them, having myself seen a stately reverend old church in Utrecht let out to hire bythis worshipful government during three weeks, to have a fair kept in it, without making any distinction in days, for as soon as their minister had concluded his evening sermon, the boxes and shops were opened, and their vile wares were exposed to sale."
These racy, yet matter-of-fact letters of honest Richard Allyn, were doubtless highly appreciated by the nonjuring Bishop of Ely and all the Oxford Jacobites, as fully justifying their objection to a Dutch head of the Church of England.
Meantime, the fair Margaret Turner, having overcome her ill-placed -affection for her cousin Winde-banke, consented to become the wife of Richard Groulstone, Esq., a gentleman of family and fortune, of Widdyall, in Hertfordshire, with whose parents she and her father had long been on terms of intimate friendship. Her marriage with -this gentleman took place early in 1700; with the consent and full approbation of the bishop, who writes to his brother, May 21:--" Our young people are full of duty and acknowledgment of all favours, and no one is more sensible of all your good nature than I am."
But Francis Turner's days were drawing to a close. This summer, 1700, he complains of a severe cough, and fears it will be aggravated by the air of smoky London, "Our young people," he says, "have returned to Widdyall. They live very happily with me; but all are thinking of taking a new house."
His cough became worse as the year waned, notwithstanding the great increase to his happiness the marriage of his daughter had caused.
A most agreeable engagement, for the invalid father and his daughter and son-in-law to spend some time with Dr. Thomas Turner, was prevented by the severe and painful illness of the poor bishop on June 29, 1700, and he writes the following piteous letter to explain the impossibility of coming:--
"I wish you could see my heart, how much it troubles me that I am still necessitated to defer the visit I designed you. But the plain truth is always the best excuse, though good King Charles II. would commonly say 'that all excuses were lies.' But it is too true.
"Yesterday I had a desire to try my strength how I could endure Mr. Goulstone's coach as far as Putney, but it cost me no little anguish. To-morrow a new operator promises to bring me an implement, if not more effectual, yet less uneasy and more safe. I pray God, if it be His blessed will, to make it successful, that I may spend the little residue of my life in some tolerable ease, and not die often as they do who linger out a long life and a painful.
"My uncle, Dr. Windebanke, is extreme obliging on this untoward occasion. I trust Mr. "Wagstaff too; and can't help fearing to confess what I ail except to well-known physicians or friends. This makes me loth to go farther off from them in this condition; besides, intending this purely as a visit of friendship to you and pleasure to myself, I would not bring a sick man to you, though I have no reason to despair of recovering apace. Will Collins was bespoken to drive .us down, and tie came this morning to know our day. I have obtained a week's respite to see how it will please God to deal with me. Meantime and ever I am yours most affectionately.
"Mr. Goulstone and his spouse are your servants."
He writes, with much satisfaction, October 14, of having met the young people in London, but adds, by way of postscript, after that date:---
"The birthday of my unfortuate royal master, who now writes 68."
When he wrote this Turner was unconscious that King James had already departed this life. His own summons was near approaching, for he did not survive the date of this letter three weeks. He expired the 2nd of November, 1700. He was interred in the parochial church of Tberfield. In compliance with his oft-expressed desire, his remains were deposited by the side of his lamented wife, without any other memorial for himself than his name and the word Expergistur, "I shall awake."
His son-in-law, Mr. Goulstone, writes, November 23, 1700, "I and my wife are removed to Lincoln. She is in good health considering her situation. I am settling all accounts, to show my respect to that incomparable man who is gone to Heaven before us."