Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/482

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

A HISTORY OF SURREY would have become the commander of a Plevna or a Ladysmith rather than the governor of a post of not half the importance of a score of castles and houses held by either side in these wars. Yet Wither was really zealous and active. The castle was not a strong fortress, the townspeople were Royalists, and in the four hundreds of Surrey adjacent to Farnham there were not, he declared, six gentlemen well affected to Parliament. As he included so stout a Parliamentarian as Onslow in his suspicions of disaffection, we may doubt this sweeping judgment. He had two squadrons recently raised and only half armed, a few irresolute volunteers whom he did not trust, and only sixty muskets. 1 He set to work to collect stores, to strengthen his works and to dig a well. But he plied Onslow with demands for men, cannon and supplies which did not exist, or if they did were wanted elsewhere. For the want of them he wrote Onslow down a traitor. 2 On October 23 Edgehill had been fought. The king had occu- pied Oxford, and early in November began his march down the Thames towards London, while Rupert's horse swept the country far and wide. An attack upon Farnham seemed very likely. In his vindication, called & Defendendo, published very soon after this time, Wither says that he was ordered to come to London with a troop of horse, leaving another officer in charge at Farnham. Some years later injurious reports were spread about him to the effect that he had run away from Farnham. Then in 1 646 he, still quarrelling with Onslow, published the Justiciarius Justificatus, in which he says that Sir Richard Onslow advised him to leave Farnham on the ground that his charge of the garrison was only temporary, and that he would enjoy a better position and do better service at the head of cavalry in the field. Considering the nature of the charges against him, it is improbable that he would have failed in 1646 to produce an order telling him to abandon Farnham if such an order was given. He probably came up to London without orders, but it is likely enough that Sir Richard, tired of his unreasonable requests for aid, may have told him to go and ask for it himself at headquarters if he wanted it. What is clear is that he left his garrison and came up to London, and actually got an order for culverins from the Tower to be taken to Farnham. On the next day, November 9, came the news of Rupert being in north Surrey, and the culverins were counterordered for fear of capture. Wither begged to be allowed to take light guns, 1 See Wither's pamphlet, Se Defendendo, for his position at Farnham. 8 Onslow was no doubt falsely accused of an understanding with the king. He was not a Republican nor a fanatic, but an honest supporter of a constitutional government. The Onslow family tradition of Wither as a ' low fellow, well known in those times for his fanatic poetry and ribald writings ' (Arthur Onslow, in Onslow Papers, Hut. MSS. Comm. Reports, 14, 9, p. 477), is almost as wide of the truth. Wither was a gentleman and a poet. Onslow later on was apparently, by his own confession, really playing a double part when he delayed to come up with some Surrey militia in time to fight at Worcester (see the Report referred to above, p. 478). Whitelocke says that Onslow with the Surrey regiment and Walter St. John with a troop of horse marched hard to be in time. I am indebted to Mr. Firth for the suggestion that Whitelocke probably wrote the truth, but that after the Restoration Onslow had good reasons for letting it be supposed that he had not been eager to fight Charles II. He was a more honest man than revolutions often produce, but his credit must suffer on one horn of the dilemma or the other. Either he was not true to his military duty, or he said what was not true. 408