Charles I and Cromwell : an essay, by G. M. Young. (Rupert Hart Davis. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by C. G. MORTIMER IF anyone thinks that enough has been written about Charles I ia the last three hundred years, he has still to reckon with Mr. G. M. Young.
This essay, written fifteen years ago, reappears today with a new introduction and back we go again with renewed zest to the greatest detective story in all our history: Was Charles I murdered?
Up to Christmas Day. 1648, the fate of Charles hung in the balance. On the next day something happened in Cramwell's soul that is beyond our human powers of
analysis. He determined that the King must die—" the Providence of God bath cast this upon us." And Gardiner himself admits that the reference to Providence was, with Cromwell, " an infallible indication of a political change of front."
Such then was Cromwell, a man of mutable opinions hut after all of constant character. He was a man of action; he was face to face at last with the impossible: so he decided to cut the Gordian knot that the nation's government might be carried on. This seemed to him to be the inspiration of God; under that he sheltered himself till at last upon his death-bed. grave doubt assailed him. . .
In all this strange and awful story, we have. as it seems to roe, the working-out of what was chosen for England at the Reformation.
In the 17th century religion was still the passionate preoccupation of the English. But it was a religion broken into many sects, a religion that often went hand-in-hand with a political theory. The death of Charles, says Mr. Young, was the passionate solution of a problem that had become logically impossible. " The Presbyterians brought the King to the block and the Inde pendents cut off his head." The same formula — a revolutionary assault, upon a certain Government —governed also the American, the French and the Russian revolution. And thus, says our author, it became in time a universal experience.
And yet we feel that there was something un-English about our treatment of Charles I. He rose to heroic stature on the scaffold. He took off his cloak, and gave his George to the Bishop. Juxon, with the word : "Remember."
And it still seems somehow that WC cannot forget.