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JOHN EVELYN, Esq.
HIS PARENTAGE, EDUCATION, TRAVELS, AND MARRIAGE.
"A father's and a mother's prayer
It is delightful to observe the man of taste, the philosopher, and the acquaintance of princes, bowing at the foot of the cross, desiring to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, and confessing that the gospel of Christ is his comfort, his pleasure, and his glory; to see him ever recognising the Almighty as the Author of all good, grateful for the spiritual and temporal mercies bestowed upon him, and anxious above all things to secure the treasure in the heavens thatfaileth not. Such were the disposition and character of the excellent subject of the following memoir.
The stock from which Mr. Evelyn sprang was ancient, and highly respectable. "We have not," he says, "been at Wotton (purchased of one Owen, a great rich man,) above one hundred and sixty years; my great grandfather came from Long Ditton, (the seat now of sir Edward Evelyn,) where we had been long before; and to Long Ditton from Harrow on the Hill, and many years before that from Evelyn, near Tower Castle, in Shropshire; at what time there transmigrated also (as I have been told) the Onslows, and Hattons, from seats and places of those names yet there. There are of our name, both in France and Italy, written Ivelyn, Avelyn. In old deeds I find Avelyn alias Evelyn. One of our name was taken prisoner' at the battle of Agincourt. When the duchess of Orleans came to Dover to see the King, one of our name (whose family derives itself from Lusignenus, King of Cyprus,) claimed a relation of us. We have in our family a tradition of a great sum of money that had been given for the ransom of a French lord, with which a great estate was purchased; but these things are all mystical."
Mr. Evelyn's grandfather became eminent during the reign of Queen Elizabeth for the manufacture of gunpowder, which art he carried to higher perfection than it had hitherto reached in England. Being thus considerably enriched, he made large additions to the property which he inherited, and bequeathed extensive estates to each of his three surviving sons, to the youngest of whom, named Richard, he left Wotton, at which place he had passed the latter days of his life. Mr. Richard Evelyn was the father of John, the subject of this memoir, who describes him as one whose "wisdom was great, his judgment acute; of solid discourse, affable, humble, and in nothing affected; of a thriving, neat, silent, and methodical genius; discreetly severe, yet liberal on all just occasions to his children, strangers, and servants; a lover of hospitality; of a singular and christian moderation in all his actions; a justice of the peace, and of the quorum. He served his country as high sheriff for Surrey and Sussex together. He was a studious decliner of honours and titles, being already in that esteem with his country that they could have added little to him besides their burthen. He was a person of that rare conversation, that upon frequent recollection and calling to mind passages of his life and discourse, I could never charge him with the least passion or inadvertence." He was " so exact and temperate that I have heard he never had been surprised by excess, being ascetic and sparing." Moreover, his complexion was clear and fresh, "his eyes quick and piercing ;" he had an ample forehead and manly aspect, " was low of stature, but very strong." His hair, which was light, turned grey before he was thirty, with a " beard, which he wore a little picked, as the mode was, of a brownish colour. His estate was esteemed about 4000/. per annum, well wooded, and full of timber."*
Such is the character which Mr. Evelyn has given of his father, in his Diary. His description of his mother is not less quaint and pleasing. "My mother's name was Elianor, sole daughter and heiress of John Standsfield, Esq. of an ancient and honourable family (though now extinct) in Shropshire, by his wife Elianor Comber, of a good and well-known house in Sussex. She was of proper personage; of a brown complexion; her eyes and hair of a lovely black; of constitution inclined to a religious melancholy, or pious sadness; of a rare memory and most exemplary life; for economy and prudence esteemed one of the most conspicuous in her country."
"So much touching my parents," he says; "nor was it reasonable I should speak less of them, to whom I owe so much." Of these parents, John was the fourth child, and second son. He was born at Wotton on the 31st of October 1620, and at four years of age was
* The quotations from Mr. Evelyn's Diary have been made in modern spelling in this memoir; and a few obsolete expressions have been altered.
taught to read by the village schoolmaster, in the porch of the parish church.
The five earliest years of his life were passed in his native place, on the paternal estates; and, since the tastes of mature age are frequently to be attributed to very early impressions, it is sufficiently probable that his love of rural pursuits was implanted amidst the beautiful scenery of Wotton, in which he commenced his days. "The house," he says, " is large and ancient, and so sweetly environed with those delicious streams and venerable woods, as in the judgment of strangers as well as Englishmen, it may be compared to one of the most pleasant seats in the nation, and most tempting for a great person and a wanton purse to render it conspicuous. It has rising grounds, meadows, woods, and water in abundance." He elsewhere speaks with delight of the "store . of woods and timber of prodigious size. The distance from London little more than twenty miles, [really twenty-six,] and yet so securely placed as if it were a hundred; three miles from Dorking, which serves it abundantly with provisions, as well of land as sea; six from Guildford, twelve from Kingston. I will say nothing of the air, because the preeminence is universally given to Surrey, the soil being dry and sandy. But I should speak much of the gardens, fountains, and groves that adorn it, were they not as generally known to be amongst the most natural, and (till this later and universal luxury of the whole nation, since abounding in such expenses,) the most magnificent that England afforded, and which indeed gave one of the first examples to that elegancy, since so much in vogue and followed, in managing of their waters, and other ornaments of that nature. Let me add, the contiguity of five or six manors, the patronage of the livings about it, and, what is none of the least advantages, a good neighbourhood."