Private Men and Public Causes: Philosophy and Politics in the English Civil War

Private Men and Public Causes: Philosophy and Politics in the English Civil War

Private Men and Public Causes: Philosophy and Politics in the English Civil War

Private Men and Public Causes: Philosophy and Politics in the English Civil War

Excerpt

Many troubles may befall a man who is not sure he is supporting a good cause. They form the sombre setting for the Earl of Clarendon's marvellous portrait of Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, heartbroken by the English Civil War. Falkland who had before the war been a specially happy young man was described by Clarendon sitting in the Royalist camp, distractedly whispering the words 'Peace! Peace!' to himself like the name of a lost friend. He was a Royalist who fought for Charles I against Parliament but he was a very reluctant one. He had accepted the King's service unwillingly and with deep misgivings. In the end he virtually committed suicide by riding into the advancing Parliamentary line at the battle of Newbury in 1643. He had told his friends that morning that he hoped he would be dead by night. Perhaps he was on the wrong side or should not have taken part in the war at all.

Falkland's despair is underlined in Matthew Arnold's picture of him in his Mixed Essays. In this elegiac study Falkland's tragedy is drawn as a tragedy of temperament. He is admired and mourned as a gentle and open person, broken by a harsh, narrow age. His reluctance to commit himself to the Royalists grew out of the breadth of his sympathies. He would not willingly fight for the part because of his feeling for the whole. However, at the close of the essay Matthew Arnold quotes a profession of faith from Falkland's friend, John Hales of Eton. Hales says that he has renounced everything that makes life pleasant in order to search for the truth. Reinforcing Falkland's longing for unity but also cutting searingly across it was his commitment to private reason, Matthew Arnold . . .

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