Waller, Sir William

, an eminent parliamentary general, was born in 1597. He was descended, as well as the preceding poet, from the ancient family of the Wallers of Spendhurst, in the county of Kent; and received at Magdalen-ball and Hart-hall, Oxford, his first education, which he afterwards completed at Paris. He began his military career in the service of the confederate princes against the emperor, in which he acquired the reputation of a good soldier, and upon his return home, was distinguished with the honour of knighthood. He was three times married; first to Jane, daughter and heiress of sir Richard Reynell, of Ford in Devonshire, by whom he had one daughter, Margaret, married to sir Wiliiana Courtenay of Powderham castie, ancestor of the present lord viscount Courtenay; secondly, to the lady Anne Finch, daughter of the first earl of Winchelsea, by whom he had one son, William, who was afterwards an active magistrate for the county of Middlesex, and a strenuous opposer of all the measures of king Charles the Second’s government; and | one daughter, Anne, married to sir Philip Harcourt, from whom is descended the present earl of that name. Of the family of Sir William’s third wife, we are not informed.

Sir Wilfem Waller was elected a member of the long parliament for Andover; and having suffered under the severity of the star-chamber, on the occasion of a private quarrel with one of his wife’s relations, as well as imbibed in the course of his foreign service early and warm prejudices in favour of the presbyterian discipline, he became a determined opponent of the court. While employed at the head of the parliamentary forces, under the earl of Essex, he was deputed to the command of the expedition against Portsmouth, when colonel Goring, returning to his duty, declared a resolution of holding that garrison for his majesty. In this enterprise, sir William conducted himself with such vigour and ability, that he reduced the garrison in a shorter time and upon better terms than could have been expected; and afterwards obtained the direction of several other expeditions, in which he likewise proved remarkably successful. After many signal advantages, however, he sustained some defeats by the king’s, forces, particularly at Roumlway Down near the Devizes, and at Cropready-bridge in Oxfordshire. On each or those occasions, the blame was thrown by him on the jealousy of other officers; and neither the spirit nor the judgment of his own operations were ever questioned. The independents, who weie becoming the strongest party, both in the army and the parliament, had wished him to become their general, on terms which, either from conscience or military honour, he could not comply with. By the famous self-denying ordinance he was removed from his command, but still maintained so great an influence and reputation in the army, as rendered him not a little formidable to the rising party; and he was thenceforth considered as a leader of the presbyterians against the designs of the independents. He was one of the eleven members impeached of high treason by the army. This forced him to withdraw for some time; but he afterwards resumed his seat in parliament, until, in 1648, with fifty others, he was expelled by the army, and all of them committed to ifferent prisons, on suspicion of attachment to the royal cause. He was afterwards committed to custody on suspicion of being engaged in sir George Booth’s insurrection, m Aug. 1658, but in November was released upon bail. | In Feb. 1659 he was nominated one of the council of state, and was elected one of the representatives of Middlesex, in the parliament which began April 25, 1660. He died at Osterley-park in Middlesex, Sept. 19, 1668, and was buried in the chapel in Tothill-street, Westminster. Mr. Seward very erroneously says he was buried in the Abbey-chnrch at Bath. It is his first wife who was buried there, but there is a monumental statue of sir William, as well as of the lady, which perhaps occasioned the mistake. There is a tradition that when James II, visited the Abbey, he defaced the nose of sir William upon this monument, which Mr. Warner in his “History of Bath” allows to be defaced, but Mr Seward asserts that “there appear at present no traces of any disfigurement.” Of a circumstance so easily ascertained, it is singular there should be two opinions. Anthony Wood gives, as the literary performances of sir William Waller, some of his letters and dispatches respecting his victories, but the on,ly article which seems to belong to that class is his “Divine meditations upon several occasions; with a daily directory,” Lond. 1680, 8vo. These were written during his retirement, and give a very faithful picture of his honest sentiments, and of his frailties and failings. Wood also mentions his “Vindication for taking up arms against the king,” left behind in manuscript, in which state it remained until 17y3, when it was published under the title of “Vindication of the Character and Conduct of sir William Waller, knight; commander in chief of the parliament forces in the West: explanatory of his conduct in taking up arms against king Charles I. Written by himself And now first published from the original manuscript. With an introduction by the editor,” 8vo. The ms. came from one of the noble families descended from him. It appears to be written with great sincerity, as well as precision, and contains many interesting particulars, relative to the democratical parties which struggled for superiority after the king had fallen into their power. The style seems to bear a stronger resemblance to that of the age of James the First, or his immediate predecessor, than to the mode of composition generally practised in England about the middle of the last century. If any thing can confirm the declaration that sir William was actuated solely by disinterested motives, it is the veneration which he professes to entertain for the constitution of his country. He avows himself a sincere friend | to the British form of government, consisting of king, lords, and commons; and it appears, that, from the beginning, his imputed apostacy from the cause of public freedom, or rather of democratical tyranny,- ought justly to he ascribed to the cabals of the republican leaders, and not to any actual change which had ever taken place in his own sentiments. The volume, indeed, is not only valuable as an ingenuous and explicit vindication, but as a composition abounding with shrewd observation’s, and rendered interesting by the singular manner, as well as the information of the author, who seems to have been no less a man of vivacity and good sense, than of virtue and learning. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. II. Vindication of Srtr W. Waller. Critical Review, 1793,