By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Body, Parentage and Character in History - Notes on the Tudor Period
Author: Jordan, Furneaux
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Body, Parentage and Character in History - Notes on the Tudor Period" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Ready--New and Cheaper Edition, in great part Rewritten, 2/-

  with a Chapter on

A remarkable and extremely interesting book.--_Scotsman._

A delightful book, witty and wise, clever in exposition, charming in
style, readable and original.--_Medical Press._

Men and women are both treated under these heads (types of character) in
an amusing and observant manner.--_Lancet._

We cordially commend this volume.... A fearless writer.... Merits close

Mr. Jordan handles his subject in a simple, clear, and popular
manner.--_Literary World._

Full of varied interest.--_Mind._






  Birmingham: Printed by Hall and English.


In my little work on "Character as Seen in Body and Parentage" I have put
forward not a system, but a number of conclusions touching the
relationship which I believe to exist between certain features of
character on the one hand and certain peculiarities of bodily
configuration, structure, and inheritance on the other. These conclusions,
if they are true, should find confirmation in historic narrative, and
their value, if they have any, should be seen in the light they throw on
historic problems.

The incidents and characters and questions of the Tudor period are not
only of unfailing interest, but they offer singularly rich and varied
material to the student of body and character.

If the proposal to connect the human body with human nature is distasteful
to certain finely-strung souls, let me suggest to them a careful study of
the work and aims and views of Goethe, the scientific observer and
impassioned poet, whom Madame de Staël described as the most accomplished
character the world has produced; and who was, in Matthew Arnold's
opinion, the greatest poet of this age and the greatest critic of any age.
The reader of 'Wilhelm Meister' need not be reminded of the close
attention which is everywhere given to the principle of
inheritance--inheritance even of 'the minutest faculty.'

The student of men and women has, let me say in conclusion, one great
advantage over other students--he need not journey to a museum, he has no
doors to unlock, and no catalogue to consult; the museum is constantly
around him and on his shelves; the catalogue is within himself.



    Momentous changes in sixteenth century                           1
    Many characters given to noted persons                           3
    A great number given to Henry                                    3
    The character given in our time                                  6
    Attempt to give an impartial view                                8
    Need of additional light                                        14

    Bodily organisation and temperaments                            15
    Leading types in both                                           16
    Elements of character run in groups                             17
    Intervening gradations                                          20

    Henry of unimpassioned temperament                              21
    Took after unimpassioned mother                                 22
    Derived nothing from his father                                 23
    Character of Henry VII.                                         24
    Henry VIII., figure and appearance                              26

    Henry's marriages, various causes                               27
    Passion not a marked cause                                      28
    Henry had no strong passions                                    30
    Self-will and self-importance                                   31
    Conduct of impassioned men                                      31

    Characteristics common to all temperaments                      32
    Henry's cruelty                                                 33
    Henry's piety                                                   35

    Always doing or undoing something                               37
    Habitual fitfulness                                             38
    Self-importance                                                 40
    Henry and Wolsey: Which led?                                    41
    Love of admiration                                              43

    Henry's political helpers superior to theological               45
    Cranmer                                                         46
    Sir Thomas More                                                 47
    Wolsey                                                          49

    No act of constructive genius                                   51
    Parliament not abject, but in agreement                         53
    Proclamations                                                   54
    Liberty a matter of race                                        55

    Teutonic race fearless, therefore truthful                      56
    Outgrew Romish fetters                                          57
    French Revolution racial                                        58
    The essential and the accidental in great movements             60
    Wyclif                                                          61
    Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Knox                                   62
    Henry's part in the Reformation                                 64
    No thought of permanent division                                65
    The dissolution of the monasteries                              66

    Henry VIII. and Elizabeth much alike                            69
    Elizabeth less pious but more fitful                            71
    Elizabeth and marriage                                          72
    Elizabeth's part in the Reformation                             73
    Elizabeth and Mary Stuart very unlike                           74
    Lofty characters with flaws                                     76
    Mary's environment and fate                                     79
    Bodily peculiarities of the two Queens                          81



The progress of an individual, of a people, or even of a movement is never
up, and their decadence is never down, an inclined plane. Neither do we
see sudden and lofty flights in progress nor headlong falls in decadence.
Both move rather by steps--steps up or steps down. The steps are not all
alike; one is short another long; one sudden another gradual. They are all
moreover the inevitable sequences of those which went before, and they as
inevitably lead to those which follow. Our Fathers took a long step in the
Tudor epoch, but older ones led up to it and newer ones started from it.
The long step could not possibly be evaded by a Teutonic people. Rome lay
in the path, and progress must needs step over the body of Rome--not a
dead body then, though wounded from within, not a dead body yet, though
now deeply and irreparably wounded from without. Civilization must
everywhere step over the body of Rome or stand still, or turn backwards.

Two factors are especially needed for progress: brain (racial brain),
which by organisation and inheritance tends to be large, free, capable;
and secondly, circumstance, which continually calls forth capability, and
freedom, and largeness. All the schools of supernaturalism, but above all
the Romish school, compress and paralyse at least a portion of the brain:
if a portion is disabled all is enfeebled. If a bodily limb even, a mere
hand or foot, be fettered and palsied, the body itself either dies or
droops into a smaller way of life. It is so with a mental limb--a mental
hand or foot in relation to the mental life.

To the group of ever-present and subtle forces which make for progress,
there were added in the sixteenth century seemingly new and conspicuous
forces. The art of printing or writing by machinery sowed living seed
broadcast over a fertile soil; the "new learning" restored to us the
inspiring but long hidden thought of old Aryan friends and relatives, and
this again in some degree relaxed the grip of alien and enslaving Semitic
ideas which the exigencies of Roman circumstance had imposed on Europe
with the edge of the sword. New action trod on the heels of new thought.
New lands were traversed; new seas were sailed; new heavens were explored.
The good steed civilisation--long burdened and blindfolded and
curbed,--had lagged somewhat; but now the reins were loose, the spurs were
sharp, the path was clear and the leap which followed was long.

While our fathers were taking, or were on the eve of taking, this long
step, a notable young man, the son of a capable and wise father and of a
not incapable but certainly unwise mother, stepped into the chief place in
this country. A student who was in training for an Archbishop was suddenly
called upon to be a King. What this King was, what he was not; what
organisation and parentage and circumstance did for him; how he bore
himself to his time--to its drift, its movements, its incidents, its men,
and, alas, to its women--is now our object to inquire. The study of this
theological monarch and of his several attitudes is deeply instructive and
of unfailing interest.

The Autocrat of the breakfast table wittily comments on the number of
John's characters. John had three. Notable men have more characters than
"John." Henry VIII. had more characters than even the most notable of men.
A man of national repute or of high position has the characters given to
him by his friends, his enemies, and characters given also by parties,
sects, and schools. Henry had all these and two more--strictly, two groups
more--one given to him by his own time, another given to him by ours.

If we could call up from their long sleep half a dozen representative and
capable men of Henry's reign to meet half a dozen of Victoria's, the jury
would probably not agree. If the older six could obtain all the evidence
which is before us, and the newer six could recall all which was familiar
to Henry's subjects at home and his compeers abroad; if the two bodies
could weigh matters together, discuss all things together--could together
raise the dead and summon the living--nevertheless in the end two voices
would speak--a sixteenth century voice and a nineteenth.

The older would say in effect: "We took our King to be not only a striking
personality; not only an expert in all bodily exercises and mental
accomplishments; we knew him to be much more--to be industrious, pious,
sincere, courageous, and accessible. We believed him to be keen in vision,
wise in judgment, prompt and sagacious in action. We looked round on our
neighbours and their rulers, and we saw reason to esteem ourselves the
most prosperous of peoples and our King the first, by a long way the
first, of his fellow Kings. Your own records prove that long years after
Henry's death, in all time of trouble the people longed for Henry's good
sense and cried out for Henry's good laws. He was a sacrilegious
miscreant you say; if it were so the nation was a nation of sacrilegious
miscreants, for he merely obeyed the will of the people and carried out a
policy which had been called for and discussed and contrived and, in part,
carried out long before our Henry's time. Upwards of a century before, the
assembled knights of the shire had more than once proposed to take the
property of the Church (much of it gained by sinister methods) and hand it
over for military purposes. The spirit of the religious houses had for
some time jarred on the awakening spirit of a thinking people. Their very
existence cast a slur on a high and growing ideal of domestic life. Those
ancient houses detested and strove to keep down the knowledge which an
aroused people then, as never before, passionately desired to gain."

"You say he was a 'monster of lust.' Lust is not a new sin: our generation
knew it as well as yours; detected it as keenly as yours; hated it almost
as heartily. But consider: No king anywhere has been, in his own time, so
esteemed, so trusted, nay even so loved and reverenced as our king. Should
we have loved, trusted, and reverenced a 'monster of lust'? If you examine
carefully the times before ours and the times since, you will find that
monsters of lust, crowned or uncrowned, do not act as Henry acted. The
Court, it is true, was not pure, but it was the least voluptuous Court
then existing, and Henry was the least voluptuous man in it. While still
in his teens the widow of an elder brother, a woman much older than he,
and who was also old for her years, was married to him on grounds of state
policy. Not Henry only, but wise and learned men, Luther and Melancthon
among others, came to believe that the marriage was not legal. Henry
himself, indeed, came to believe that God's curse was on it--in our time
we fervently believed in God's curse. A boy with promise of life and
health was the one eager prayer of the people. But boy after boy died and
of four boys not one survived. If one of Catharine's boys had lived: nay
more, if Ann Boleyn had been other than a scheming and faithless woman; or
if, later, Jane Seymour had safely brought forth her son (and perhaps
other sons), Henry would assuredly never have married six wives. You say
he should have seen beforehand the disparity of years, the illegality, the
incest--should have seen even the yet unfallen curse: in our time boys of
eighteen did not see so clearly all these things." "Alas," the juror might
have added, "marriage and death are the two supreme incidents in man's
life: but marriage comes before experience and judgment--these are absent
when they are most needed; experience and judgment attend on death when
they are needless." "Bear in mind, moreover," resumes the older voice,
"that in our time the marriage laws were obscure, perplexing, and
unsettled. High ideals of marriage did not exist. The first nobleman in
our Court was the Earl of Suffolk who twice committed bigamy and was
divorced three times; his first wife was his aunt, and his last his
daughter-in-law. Papal relaxations and papal permissions were cheap and
common--they permitted every sort of sexual union and every sort of
separation. Canon law and the curious sexual relationships of
ecclesiastics, high and low, shed no light but rather darkness on the
matter. The Pope, it is true, hesitated to grant Henry's divorce, but not,
as the whole world knew, on moral or religious grounds: at heart he
approved the divorce and rebuked Wolsey for not settling the matter
offhand in England. All the papal envoys urged the unhappy Catharine to
retire into a religious house; but Catharine insisted that God had called
her to her position"--forgetting, we may interpose, that if He called her
to it He also in effect deposed her from it. God called her daughter Mary,
so Mary believed, to burn Protestants; God called Elizabeth, so Elizabeth
exclaimed ('it was marvellous in her eyes'), to harass Romanists.

"But the one paramount circumstance which weighed with us, and we remember
a thousand circumstances while you remember the 'six wives' only, was the
question of succession. If succession was the one question which more than
all others agitated your fathers in Anne's time, try to imagine what it
was to us. You, after generations of order, peace and security--you
utterly fail to understand our position. We had barely come out of a
lawless cruel time--a time born of the ferocity and hate of conflicting
dynasties. Fathers still lived to tell us how they ate blood, and drank
blood, and breathed blood. They and we were weary of blood, and our two
Henrys (priceless Henrys to us,) had just taken its taste out of our
mouths. No queen, be it well noted, had ruled over us either in peaceful
or in stormy times; we believed with our whole souls, rightly or wrongly,
that no queen could possibly preserve us from destruction and ruin. It was
our importunity mainly--make no mistake on this point,--which drove our
king, whenever he was wifeless, to take another wife. His three years of
widowhood after Jane Seymour's death was our gravest anxiety."

The newer voice replies: "You were a foolish and purblind generation. The
simplicity of your Henry's subjects, and the servility of his parliament
have become a bye-word. It is true your king, although less capable than
you suppose, was not without certain gifts--their misuse only adds to his
infamy. It is true also that he had been carefully educated,--his father
was to be thanked for that. It would seem, moreover, that quite early in
life he was not without some attractiveness in person and manners, but you
forget that bodily grossness and mental irritability soon made him a
repulsive object. An eminent Englishman of our century says he was a big,
burly, noisy, small-eyed, large-faced, double-chinned and swinish-looking
fellow, and that indeed so bad a character could never have been veiled
under a prepossessing appearance. Your King was vain, ostentatious, and
extravagant. With measured words we declare that his hypocrisy, cruelty,
sacrilege, selfishness and lust, were all unbounded. He was above all an
unrivalled master of mean excuses: did he wish to humble and oppress the
clergy--they had violated the statute of premunire. Did his voluptuous eye
fall on a dashing young maid of honour--he suddenly discovered that he was
living in incest, and that his marriage was under God's curse. Did the
Pope hesitate to grant him a divorce--he began to see that the proper head
of the English Church was the English king. Was his exchequer empty--he
was convinced that the inmates of the wealthy religious houses led the
lives and deserved the fate of certain cities once destroyed by fire and
brimstone. Did a defiant Pole carry his head out of Harry's reach--it was
found that Pole's mother, Lady Salisbury, was the centre of Yorkist
intrigue, and that the mother's head could be lopped off in place of the

The two voices it is clear have much to say for themselves. It is equally
clear that the two groups of jurymen will not agree on their verdict.

It is commonly held and as a rule on good grounds, that the judgment of
immediate friends and neighbours is less just than the opinion of
foreigners and of posterity. This is so when foreigners and posterity are
agreed, and are free from the tumult, and passion, and personal bias of
time and place. It is not so in Henry's case. Curiously enough, foreign
observers, scholars, envoys, travellers, agree with--nay, outrun Henry's
subjects in their praise of Henry. Curiously too the tumult and passion
touching Henry's matrimonial affairs--touching all his affairs
indeed,--have grown rather than diminished with the progress of time.
Epochs, like men, have not the gift of seeing themselves as others see
them. Unnumbered Frenchmen ate and drank, and made merry, and bought and
sold; married their children and buried their parents, not knowing that
France was giving a shock to all mankind for all time to come. The
assassins of St. Bartholomew believed that in future a united Christendom
would bless them for performing a pious and uniting deed. We see all at
once the bare and startling fact of six wives. Henry's subjects saw and
became familiar with a slow succession of marriages, each of which had its
special cloud of vital yet confusing circumstance. So too the Reformation
has its different phases. In the sixteenth century it was looked on as a
serious quarrel, no doubt, but no one dreamed it was anything more. Then
each side thought the other side would shortly come to its senses and all
would be well; no one dreamt of two permanently hostile camps and lasting
combat. If personal hate and actual bloodshed have passed away, and at the
present moment the combat shews signs of still diminishing bitterness, it
is because a new and mysterious atmosphere is slowly creeping over
both--slowly benumbing both the armies.

An attempt must be made here to sketch Henry's character with as much
impartiality as is possible. But no impartial sketch will please either
his older friends or his newer enemies. Although Henry came to the throne
a mere boy, he was a precocious boy. In the precocious the several stages
of life succeed each other more quickly than in others, and probably they
themselves do not wear so well. When Henry was twenty-five he was little
less wise and capable than he was at thirty-five or forty-five. At forty
he was probably wiser than he was at fifty. The young king's presence was
striking; he had a fresh rosy complexion, and an auburn though scanty
beard. His very limbs, exclaims one foreign admirer, "glowed with warm
pink" through his delicately woven tennis costume. He was handsome in
feature; large and imposing in figure; open and frank in manners; strong,
active, and skilled in all bodily exercises. He was an admirer of all the
arts, and himself an expert in many of them. Henry had indeed all the
qualities, whatever their worth may be, which make a favourite with the
multitude. Those qualities, no matter what change time brought to them,
preserved his popularity to the last.

Henry was neither a genius nor a hero; but they who deny that he was a
singularly able man will probably misread his character; misread his
ideals, his conduct, and his various attitudes. Henry's education was
thorough and his learning extensive. His habit of mind tended perhaps
rather to activity and versatility and obedience to old authority than to
intensity or depth or independence. His father, who looked more favourably
on churchmen and lawyers than on noblemen, destined his second son for the
Church. At that time theology, scholastic theology--for Colet and Erasmus
and More had not then done their work--was the acutest mental discipline
known as well as the highest accomplishment. For when the "new learning"
reached this country it found theology the leading study, and therefore
it roused theology; in Italy on the other hand it found the arts the
predominant study, and there it roused the arts. Henry would doubtless
have made a successful bishop and escaped thereby much domestic turmoil;
but, on the whole, he was probably better fitted to be a King; while his
quiet, contemplative, and kindly father would at any rate have found life
pleasanter in lawn sleeves than he found it on a throne.

It would be well if men and women were to write down in two columns with
all possible honesty the good and the evil items in the characters (not
forgetting their own) which interest them. The exercise itself would
probably call forth serviceable qualities, and would frequently bring to
light unexpected results. Probably in this process good characters would
lose something and the bad would gain. From such an ordeal Henry VIII.
would come out a sad figure, though not quite so sad as is popularly

It is not proposed in this sketch of character to separate, if indeed
separation is possible, the good qualities which are held to be more or
less inborn from those which seem to be attainable by efforts of the will.
Freedom of the will must of course be left in its native darkness. Neither
can the attempt be made to estimate, even if such estimate were possible,
how much the individual makes of his own character and how much is made
for him. Some features of character, again, are neither good nor evil, or
are good or evil only when they are excessive or deficient or unsuitable
to time and place. Love of pageantry is one of these; love of pleasure
another; so, too, are the leanings to conservation or to innovation.

In thought and feeling and action Henry was undoubtedly conservative. His
conservatism was modified by his self-will and self-confidence, but it
assuredly ranked with the leading features of his character--with his
piety his egotism and his love of popularity. To shine in well-worn paths
was his chief enjoyment: not to shine in these paths, or to get out of
them, or to get in advance of them, or to lag behind, was his greatest
dread. The innovator may or may not be pious, but conservatism naturally
leans to piety, and Henry's piety, if not deep or passionate, was at any
rate copious and sincere. Henry, it has been said, was not a hero, not a
genius, neither was he a saint. But if his ideals were not high, and if
his conduct was not unstained, his religious beliefs were unquestioning
and his religious observances numerous and stringent.

The fiercer the light which beat upon his throne, the better pleased was
Henry. He had many phases of character and many gifts, and he delighted in
displaying his phases and in exercising his gifts. The use and place of
ceremony and spectacle are still matters of debate; but modern feeling
tends more and more to hand them over to children, May-day sweeps, and
Lord-mayors. In Henry's reign the newer learning and newer thought had it
is true done but little to undermine the love of gewgaws and glitter, but
Henry's devotion to them, even for his time, was so childish that it must
be written down in his darker column.

We may turn now to the less debatable items in Henry's character, and say
which shall go into the black list and which into the white. We are all
too prone perhaps to give but one column to the men we approve, and one
only to the men we condemn. It is imperative in the estimation of
character that there be "intellect enough," as a great writer expresses
it, to judge and material enough on which to pronounce judgment. If we
bring the "sufficient intellect," especially one that is fair by habit and
effort, to the selection of large facts--for facts have many sizes and
ranks, large and small, pompous and retiring--and strip from these the
smaller confusing facts, strip off too, personal witcheries and deft
subtleties--then we shall see that all men (and all movements) have two
columns. The 'monster' Henry had two. In his good column we cannot refuse
to put down unflagging industry--no Englishman worked harder--a genuine
love of knowledge, a deep sense of the value of education, and devotion to
all the arts both useful and elevating--the art of ship-building
practically began with him. His courage, his sincerity, his sense of duty,
his frequent generosity, his placability (with certain striking
exceptions) were all beyond question. His desire for the welfare of his
people, although tempered by an unduly eager desire for their good
opinion, was surely an item on the good side. The good column is but
fairly good; the black list is, alas, very black. Henry was fitful,
capricious, petulant, censorious. His fitfulness and petulance go far to
explain his acts of occasional implacability. Failing health and premature
age explain in some degree the extreme irritability and absence of control
which characterised his later years. In his best years his love of
pleasure, or rather his love of change and excitement, his ostentation,
and his extravagance exceeded all reasonable limits. Ostentation and love
of show are rarely found apart from vanity, and Henry's vanity was
colossal. Vain men are not proud, and Henry had certainly not the pride
which checks the growth of many follies. A proud man is too proud to be
vain or undignified or mean or deceitful, and Henry was all these. Pride
and dignity usually run together; while, on the other hand, vanity and
self-importance keep each other company as a rule. Henry lacked dignity
when he competed with his courtiers for the smiles of Ann Boleyn in her
early Court days; he lacked it when he searched Campeggio's unsavoury
carpet-bag. He seemed pleased rather than otherwise that his petty gossip
should be talked of under every roof in Europe. It is true that in this
direction Catharine descended to a still lower level of bed-room scandal;
but her nature, never a high one, was deteriorated by a grievous
unhappiness and by that incessant brooding which sooner or later tumbles
the loftiest nature into the dust.

Henry's two striking failings--his two insanities--were a huge
self-importance and an unquenchable thirst for notoriety and applause. I
have said 'insanities' designedly, for they were not passions--they were
diseases. The popular "modern voice" would probably not regard these as at
all grave defects when compared with others so much worse. This voice
indeed, we well know, declares him to have been the embodiment of the
worst human qualities--of gross selfishness, of gross cruelty, and of
gross lust. These charges are not groundless, but if we could believe them
with all the fulness and the vehemence with which they are made, we must
then marvel that his subjects trusted him, revered him, called (they and
their children) for his good sense and his good laws; we can but marvel
indeed that with one voice of execration they did not fell him lifeless to
the ground. He was unguarded and within reach. If the charges against
Henry come near to the truth, Nero was the better character of the two.
Nero knew not what he did; he was beyond question a lunatic and one of a
family of lunatics. Henry's enormities were the enormities of a fairly
sane and responsible man.

In order to read Henry's character more correctly, if that be possible,
than it is read by the "two voices," more light is needed. Let us see what
an examination of Henry's bodily organisation, and especially of his
parentage, will do for us. In this light--if it be light, and attainable
light--it will be well to examine afresh (at the risk of some repetition)
the grave charges which are so constantly and so confidently laid at his
door and see what of vindication or modification or damning confirmation
may follow. Before looking specially at Henry's organisation and
inheritance, I purpose devoting a short chapter to a general view of the
principles which can give such an examination any value. It will be for
the most part a brief statement of views which I have already put forward
in my little work on character as seen in body and parentage.



It is unwise to turn aside from the investigation of any body of truths
because it can only be partial in its methods or incomplete in its
results. We do this however in the study of the science of character. It
is true that past efforts have given but little result--little result
because they ignored and avowedly ignored the connection which is coming
to be more and more clearly seen to exist between character on the one
hand and bodily organisation and proclivity, and especially the
organisation and proclivity of the nervous system, on the other hand.
Those who ignore the bearings of organisation and inheritance on character
are, for the most part, those who prefer that "truth should be on their
side rather than that they should be on the side of truth."

It is contended here that much serviceable knowledge may be obtained by
the careful investigation, in given individuals, of _bodily_
characteristics, and the union of these with _mental_ and _moral_
characteristics. The relationship of these combined features of body and
mind to parentage, near and remote, and on both sides, should be traced as
far back as possible. The greater the number of individuals brought under
examination, the more exact and extensive will be the resulting knowledge.

Very partial methods of classifying character are of daily utility. We
say, for example, speaking of the muscular system only, that men are
strong or weak. But this simple truth or classification has various
notable bearings. Both the strong and the weak may be dextrous, or both
may be clumsy; both may be slow, or both may be quick; but they will be
dextrous or clumsy, slow or quick, in different ways and degrees. So,
going higher than mere bodily organisation, we may say that some men are
bold and resolute while others are timid and irresolute; some again are
parsimonious and others prodigal. Now these may possibly be all
intelligent or all stupid, all good or all bad; but, nevertheless,
boldness and timidity, parsimony and generosity, modify other phases of
character in various ways. The irresolute man, for example, cannot be very
wise, or the penurious man truly good. It must always be remembered in
every sort of classification of bodily or of mental characteristics, that
the lines of division are not sharply defined. All classes merge into each
other by imperceptible degrees.

One of the most, perhaps the most, fundamental and important
classification of men and women is that which puts them into two divisions
or two temperaments, the active, or tending to be active, on the one hand,
and the reflective, or tending to be reflective, on the other. To many
students of character this is not anew suggestion, but much more is
contended for here. It is contended that the more active temperament is
alert, practical, quick, conspicuous, and--a very notable
circumstance--less impassioned; the more reflective temperament is less
active, less practical, or perhaps even dreamy, secluded, and--also a very
notable circumstance--more impassioned. It is not so much that men of
action always desire to be seen, or that men of thought desire to be
hidden; action naturally brings men to the front; contemplation as
naturally hides them; when active men differ, the difference carries
itself to the housetops; when thinking men differ, they fight in the
closet and by quieter methods. Busy men, moreover, are given to detail,
and detail fills the eye and ear; men of reflection deal more with
principles, and these lie beyond the range of ordinary vision.

The proposition which I here put forward, based on many years of
observation and study, is fundamental, and affects, more or less, a wide
range of character in every individual. The proposition is that in the
active temperament the intellectual faculties are disproportionately
strong--the passions are feebler and lag behind; in the reflective
temperament the passions are the stronger in proportion to the mental
powers. Character is dominated more by the intellect in one case, more by
the emotions in the other. In all sane and healthful characters (and only
these are considered here) the intellectual and emotional elements are
both distinctly present. The most active men think; the most reflective
men act. But in many men and women the intellect takes an unduly large
share in the fashioning of life; these are called here the "less
impassioned," the "unimpassioned," or for the sake of brevity, "the
passionless." In many others the feelings or emotions play a stronger
part; these are the "more impassioned" or the "passionate."

Character is not made of of miscellaneous fragments, of thought and
feeling, of volition and action. Its elements are more or less homogeneous
and run in uniform groups. The less impassioned, or passionless, for
example, are apt to be changeable and uncertain; they are active, ready,
alert; they are quick to comprehend, to decide, to act; they are usually
self-confident and sometimes singularly self-important. They often seek
for applause but they are sparing in their approval and in their praise of
others. When the mental endowment is high, and the training and
environment favourable, the unimpassioned temperament furnishes some of
our finest characters. In this class are found great statesmen and great
leaders. A man's _public_ position is probably determined more by
intellectual power than by depth of feeling. Now and then, especially when
the mental gifts are slight, the less pleasing elements predominate: love
of change may become mere fitfulness; activity may become bustle; sparing
approval may turn to habitual detraction and actual censoriousness. Love
of approbation may degenerate into a mania for notoriety at any cost;
self-importance may bring about a reckless disregard of the well-being of
others. Fortunately the outward seeming of the passionless temperament is
often worse than the reality, and querulous speech is often combined with
generous action. Frequently, too, where there is ineradicable caprice
there is no neglect of duty.

The elements of character which, in various ways and degrees, cluster
together in the more impassioned or passionate temperament are very
different in their nature. In this temperament we find repose or even
gentleness, quiet reflection, tenacity of purpose. The feelings--love, or
hate, or joy, or grief, or anger, or jealousy--are more or less deep and
enduring. In this class also there are fine characters, especially (as in
the unimpassioned) when the mental gifts are high and the training
refined. In this class too are found perhaps the worst characters which
degrade the human race. In all save the rarest characters, the customary
tranquillity may be broken by sullen cloud or actual storm. In the less
capable and less elevated, devotion may become fanaticism, and tenacity
may become blind prejudice, or sheer obstinacy. In this temperament too,
in its lower grades, we meet too often--not all together perhaps,
certainly not all in equal degree--with indolence, sensuality,
inconstancy; or morbid brooding, implacability, and even cruelty.

I contend then that certain features of character, it may be in very
varying degrees of intensity, belong to the more active and passionless
temperament, and certain other features attend on the more reflective and
impassioned temperament. If it can be shown that there are two marked
groups of elements in character--the more impassioned group and the less
impassioned group--and that each group may be inferred to exist if but one
or two of its characteristic elements are clearly seen, why even then much
would be gained in the interpretation of history and of daily life. But I
contend for much more than this; the two temperaments have each their
characteristic bodily signs; the more marked the temperament, the more
striking and the more easily read are the bodily signs. In the
intermediate temperament--a frequent and perhaps the happiest
temperament--the bodily signs are also intermediate. The bodily
characteristics run in groups also, as well as the mental. The nervous
system of each temperament is enclosed in its own special organisation and
framework. In my work on "character as seen in body and parentage," I
treat this topic with some fulness, and what is stated there need not be
repeated now. It may be noted, however, that in the two temperaments there
are peculiarities of the skin--clearness or pigmentation; of the
hair--feebleness or sparseness, or closeness and vigour of growth; of the
configuration of the skeleton and consequent pose of the figure.

If the conclusions here put forward are true, they give a key which opens
up much character to us. They touch, as I have already said, a great range
of character in every individual, but they make no pretension to be a
system. They have only an indirect bearing on many phases of character;
for in both the active and reflective temperaments there may be found, for
example, either wisdom or folly, courage or cowardice, refinement or

It must always be remembered, too, that besides the more marked types of
character, whether bodily or mental, there are numberless intervening
gradations. When the temperaments, moreover, are distinctly marked, the
ordinary concurrent elements may exist in very unequal degrees and be
combined in very various ways. One or two qualities may perhaps absorb the
sum-total of nerve force. In the passionless man or woman extreme activity
may repress the tendency to disapprove; immense self-importance may impede
action. In the impassioned individual, inordinate love or hate may
enfeeble thought; deep and persistent thought may dwarf the affections.

As I have said elsewhere: 'For the ordinary purposes of life, especially
of domestic and social life, the intervening types of character (combining
thought and action more equally, though probably each in somewhat less
degree) produce perhaps the most useful and the happiest results. But the
progress of the world at large is mainly due to the combined efforts of
the more extreme types--the supremely reflective and impassioned and the
supremely active and unimpassioned. Both are needed. If we had men of
action only, we should march straight into chaos; if we had men of thought
only, we should drift into night and sleep!'



If there is any truth in the views put forward in the foregoing chapter,
and if history has at all faithfully portrayed a character concerning
which it has had, at any rate, much to say, it is clear that Henry must be
placed in the less impassioned class of human beings. When I first called
attention to the three sorts of character--and the three groups of
characteristics--the active, practical, and more or less passionless on
the one hand; the less active, reflective, and impassioned on the other;
and, thirdly, the intermediate class, neither Henry nor his period was in
my mind. But when, at a later time (and for purposes other than the
special study of character), I came to review the Reformation with its
ideas, its men, its incidents, I saw at once, to my surprise, that Henry's
life was a busy, active, conspicuous, passionless life. He might have sat
for the portrait I had previously drawn. Markedly unimpassioned men tend
to be fitful, petulant, censorious, self-important, self-willed, and eager
for popularity--so tended Henry. The unimpassioned are frequently sincere,
conscientious, pious, and conservative--Henry was all these. They often
have, especially when capable and favourably encompassed, a high sense of
duty and a strong desire to promote the well-being of those around
them--these qualities were conspicuous in Henry's character.

How much of inherited organisation, how much of circumstance, how much of
self-effort go to the making of character is a problem the solution of
which is yet seemingly far off. Mirabeau, with fine perception, declared
that a boy's education should begin, twenty years before he is born, with
his mother. Unquestionably before a man is born the plan of his character
is drawn, its foundations are laid, and its building is foreshadowed. Can
he, later, close a door here or open a window there? Can he enlarge this
chamber or contract that? He believes he can, and is the happier in the
belief; but in actual life we do not find that it is given to one man to
say, I will be active, I will be on the spot, I will direct here and
rebuke there; nor to another man to say, I will give myself up to thought,
to dreams, to seclusion. Henry never said, with unconscious impulse or
with conscious words, "I will be this, or I will not be that."

Henry VIII. took altogether after his mother's side, and she, again, took
after her father. Henry was, in fact, his grandfather Edward IV. over
again. He had, however, a larger capacity than his mother's father, and he
lived in a better epoch. Edward, it was said in his time, was the
handsomest and most accomplished man in Europe. Henry was spoken of in
similar words by his compeers both at home and abroad. Both were large in
frame, striking in contour, rose-pink in complexion--then, as now, the
popular ideal of manly perfection--and both became exceedingly corpulent
in their later years. Both were active, courteous, affable, accessible;
both busy, conspicuous, vain, fond of pleasure, and given to display. Both
were unquestionably brave; but they were also (both of them) fickle,
capricious, suspicious, and more or less cruel. Both put self in the
foremost place; but Edward's selfishness drifted rather to
self-indulgence, while Henry's took the form of self-importance. Extreme
self-importance is usually based on high capacity, and Edward's capacity
did not lift him out of the region of pomposity and frequent indiscretion.

Edward IV. was nevertheless an able man although less able than Henry.
Like Henry he belonged to the unimpassioned class; he was without either
deeply good or deeply evil passion, but probably he had somewhat stronger
emotions than his grandson. In other words Henry had more of intellect and
less of passion than his grandfather. Edward's early and secret marriage
was no proof of passion. Early marriages are not the monopoly of any
temperament; sometimes they are the product of the mere caprice, or the
self-will and the feeble restraint of the passionless, and sometimes the
product of the raw and immature judgment of the passionate. Edward
deserves our pity, for he had everything against him; he had no models, no
ideals, no education, no training. The occupation of princes at that time
brought good neither to themselves nor anyone else. They went up and down
the country to slay and be slain; to take down from high places the
severed heads of one worthless dynasty and put up the heads of another
dynasty equally worthless.

The eighth Henry derived nothing from his father--the seventh,--nothing of
good, nothing of evil. One of the most curious errors of a purely literary
judgment on men and families is seen in the use of the epithet "Tudor." We
hear for example of the "Tudor" blood shewing itself in one, of the
"Tudor" spirit flashing out in another. Whether Henry VII. was a Tudor or
not we may not now stop to inquire. Henry VIII. we have seen took wholly
after his Yorkist mother. Of Henry's children, Mary was a repetition of
her dark dwarfish Spanish mother; the poor lad Edward, whether a Seymour
or a Yorkist, was certainly not a Tudor. The big comely pink Elizabeth was
her father in petticoats--her father in body, her father in mind. Henry
VIII. in fact while Tudor in name was Lancastrian in dynasty, and Yorkist
in blood. No two kings, no two men indeed could well have been more
unlike, bodily, mentally, and morally, than the two Henrys--father and
son. The eighth was communicative, confiding, open, frank; the seventh was
silent, reserved, mysterious. The son was active, busy, practical,
conspicuous; the father, although not indolent, and not unpractical, was
nevertheless quiet, dreamy, reflective, self-restrained, and unobtrusive.
One was prodigal, martial, popular; the other was prudent, peaceful,
steadfast, and unpopular. He is said indeed to have been parsimonious, but
the least sympathetic of his historians confess that he was generous in
his rewards for service, that his charities were numerous, and that his
state ceremonies were marked by fitting splendour. Henry VIII. changed (or
destroyed) his ministers, his bishops, his wives, and his measures also,
many times. Henry VII. kept his wife--perverse and mischievous as she
was,--till she died; kept his ministers and bishops till they died; kept
his policy and his peace till he died himself.

Henry VII. is noteworthy mainly for being but little noticed. The scribe
of whatever time sees around him only that which is conspicuous and
exceptional and often for the most part foolish, and therefore the
documents of this Henry's reign are but few in number. The occupants of
high places who are careful and prudent are rarely popular. His
unpopularity was moreover helped on in various ways. Dynastic policy
thrust upon him a wife of the busy unimpassioned temperament--a woman in
whom deficient emotion and sympathy and affection were not compensated by
any high qualities; a woman who was restless, mischievous, vain,
intriguing, and fond of influence. Elizabeth of York had all the bad
qualities of her father and her son and had very few of their good ones. A
King Henry in feminine disguise without his virtues was not likely to love
or be loved. Domestic sourness is probably a not infrequent cause of
taciturnity and mystery and seclusion in the characters of both men and
women. It was well that Henry was neither angry nor morose. It says much
for him moreover that while he was the object of ceaseless intrigue and
hostility and rancour he yet never gave way to cynicism or revenge or

With a tolerably happy marriage, an assenting and a helpful nobility, and
an unassailed throne, it is difficult to put a limit to the good which
Henry VII. might have done and which it lay in him to do. As it was he
smoothed the way for enterprise and discovery, for the printing press and
the new learning. He was the first of English monarchs who befriended
education--using the word in its modern sense. It is curious that the
acutest changes in our history--the death of a decrepit mediævalism, the
birth of the young giant modernism--happened in our so-called sleepiest
reign. Surely the "quiet" father had a smaller share of popular applause
than he deserved, and as surely the "dashing" son a much larger share. But
in all periods, old and new, popularity should give us pause: yesterday,
for example, inquisitors were knelt to, hailed with acclamation and pelted
with flowers, and heretics were spat upon, hissed at, and burnt, but
to-day's flowers are for the heretics and the execrations are for the

Thus then in all characteristics--intellectual, moral and bodily--Henry
VIII. must be placed in the unimpassioned class. It may be noted too in
passing that all the portraits of Henry show us a feeble growth of hair on
the face and signs of a convex back--convex vertically and convex
transversely. We do not see the back it is true, but we see both the head
and the shoulders carried forwards and the chin held down towards the
chest--held indeed so far downward that the neck seems greatly shortened.
It is interesting to observe the pose of the head and neck and shoulders
in the portraits of noted personages. The forward head and shoulders, the
downward chin (the products of a certain spinal configuration) are seen in
undoubtedly different characters but characters which nevertheless have
much in common: they are seen in all the portraits of Napoleon I. and,
although not quite so markedly, in those of our own General Gordon.
Napoleon and Gordon were unlike in many ways, and the gigantic
self-importance and self-seeking of Napoleon were absent in the simpler
and finer character. In other ways they were much alike. Both were brave
active busy men; but both were fitful, petulant, censorius, difficult to
please, and--which is very characteristic--both although changeable were
nevertheless self-willed and self-confident. Both were devoid of the
deeper passions.



It is affirmed that no one save a monster of lust would marry six wives--a
monster of lust being of course a man of over-mastering passion. It might
be asked, in passing, seeing that six wives is the sign of a perfect
"monster" if three wives make a semi-monster? Pompey had five wives, was
he five-sixths of a monster. To be serious however in this wife question,
it will probably never be possible to say with exactness how much in
Henry's conduct was due to religious scruples; how much to the urgent
importunity (state-born importunity) of advisers and subjects; how much to
the then existing confusion of the marriage laws; how much to misfortune
and coincidence; how much to folly and caprice; how much to colossal
self-importance, and how much to "unbounded license."

History broadly hints that great delusions, like great revolutions, may
overcome--especially if the overcoming be not too sudden--both peoples and
persons without their special wonder. In such delusions and such
revolutions the actors and the victims are alike often unconscious actors
and unconscious victims. Neither Henry nor his people dreamt that the
great marriage question of the sixteenth century would excite the ridicule
of all succeeding centuries. Luther did not imagine that his efforts would
help to divide religious Europe into two permanently hostile camps.
Robespierre did not suspect that his name would live as an enduring
synonym for blood. But to marry six wives, solely on licentious grounds,
is a proceeding so striking and so uncomplicated that no delusion could
possibly come over the performer and certainly not over a watchful people.
Yet something akin to delusion there certainly was; its causes however
were several and complex, and lust was the least potent of them. The
statement may seem strange, but there was little of desire in Henry's
composition. A monster he possibly was of some sort of folly; but strange
as it may seem he was a monster of folly precisely because he was the
opposite of a monster of passion. Unhappily unbounded lust is now and then
a feature of the impassioned temperament. It is never seen however in the
less impassioned, and Henry was one of the less impassioned. The want of
dignity is itself a striking feature in the character of passionless and
active men, and want of dignity was the one conspicuous defect in Henry's
conduct in his marriage affairs. Perhaps too, dignity--personal or
national--is, like quietness and like kindliness, among the later growths
of civilisation.

No incident or series of incidents illustrative of character in any of its
phases, no matter how striking the incidents, or how strong the character
or phase of character, have ever happened once only. If libertinism, for
example, had ever shown itself in the selection and destruction of
numerous wives, history would assuredly give information pertinent
thereto: it gives none. Nothing happens once only. Even the French
Revolution, so frequently regarded as a unique event, was only one of
several examples of the inherent and peculiar cruelty of the French
celt.[1] The massacre of Bartholomew was more revolting in its numbers
and in its character. The massacre of the commune, French military
massacres and various massacres in French history deprive the "great"
Revolution of its exceptional character. But to return. There were
licentious kings and princes before Henry, granting he was licentious, and
there have been notably licentious kings and princes since: their methods
are well known and they were wholly unlike his.

    [1] From historic comparison we may feel sure that no such cruelty was
    found in the Gothic and Frankish and Norman blood of France.

Certain incidents concerning Henry's marriages are of great physiological
interest: a fat, bustling, restless, fitful, wilful man approaching
mid-life--a man brim full of activity but deficient in feeling, waited
twenty years before the idea of divorce was seriously entertained; and
several more years of Papal shiftiness were endured, not without petulance
enough, but seemingly without storm or whirlwind. When Jane Seymour died,
three years of single life followed. It is true the three years were not
without marriage projects, but they were entirely state projects, and were
in no way voluptuous overtures. The marriage with Anne of Cleves was a
purely state marriage, and remained, so historians tell us, a merely
nominal and ceremonial marriage during the time the King and the German
princess occupied the same bed--a circumstance not at all indicative of
"monstrous" passion. The very unfaithfulness of Anne Boleyn and Catherine
Howard is not without its significance, for the proceedings of our Divorce
Court show that as a rule (a rule it is true not without exceptions) we do
not find the wives of lustful men to be unfaithful. In the case of a Burns
or a Byron or a King David it is not the wife who is led astray; it is the
wives of the Henrys and the Arthurs, strikingly dissimilar as they were in
so many respects, who are led into temptation.

No _sane_ man is the embodiment of a single passion. Save in the wards of
a lunatic asylum a simple monster of voluptuousness, or monster of anger,
or monster of hate has no existence; and within those wards such monsters
are undoubted examples of nerve ailment. It is true one (very rarely one
only) passion may unduly predominate--one or more may be fostered and
others may be dwarfed; but as a very general rule the deeper passions run
together. One passion, if unequivocally present, denotes the existence of
other passions, palpable or latent--denotes the existence, in fact, of the
impassioned temperament. Henry VIII., startling as the statement may seem,
had no single, deep, unequivocal passion--no deep love, no profound pity,
no overwhelming grief, no implacable hate, no furious anger. The noisy
petulance of a busy, censorious, irritable man and the fretfulness of an
invalid are frequently misunderstood. On no single occasion did Henry
exhibit overmastering anger. Historians note with evident surprise that he
received the conclusion of the most insulting farce in history--the
Campeggio farce--with composure. When the Bishop of Rochester thrust
himself, unbidden, into the Campeggio Court in order to denounce the king
and the divorce, Henry's only answer was a long and learned essay on the
degrees of incestuous marriage which the Pope might or might not permit.
When his own chaplains scolded him, in coarse terms, in his own chapel, he
listened, not always without peevishness, but always without anger.
Turning to other emotions, no hint is given of Henry's grief at the loss
of son after son in his earlier married years. If a husband of even
ordinary affection _could_ ever have felt grief, it would surely show
itself when a young wife and a young mother died in giving birth to a
long-wished-for son and heir. Not a syllable is said of Henry's grief at
Jane Seymour's death; and three weeks after he was intriguing for a
Continental, state, and purely diplomatic marriage. It is true that he
paraded a sort of fussy affection for the young prince Edward--carried him
indeed through the state apartments in his own royal arms; but the less
impassioned temperament is often more openly demonstrative than the
impassioned, especially when the public ear listens and the public eye
watches. Those who caress in public attach as a rule but little meaning to
caresses. If Henry's affections were small we have seen that his
self-importance was colossal; and the very defections--terrible to some
natures--of Anne Boleyn and of Catherine Howard wounded his importance
much more deeply than they wounded his affections.

If we limit our attention for a moment to the question of deep feeling, we
cannot but see how unlike Henry was to the impassioned men of history.
Passionate king David, for example, would not have waited seven years
while a commission decided upon his proposed relationship to Bathsheba;
and the cold Henry could not have flung his soul into a fiery psalm. The
impassioned Burns could not have said a last farewell to the mother of his
helpless babe without moistening the dust with his tears, while Henry
could never have understood why many strong men cannot read the second
verse of "John Anderson my Jo" with an unbroken voice.



It is well now, after considering the question of Henry's parentage and
organisation, to look again and a little more closely, at certain
significant features in his character--his caprice, his captiousness, his
love of applause, his self-will, self-confidence, and self-importance.
These elements of character frequently run together in equal or unequal
degrees, and they are extremely characteristic of the more markedly
passionless temperament. But before doing this it is well to look, in a
brief note, at some features of Henry's character which are found in the
less impassioned and the more impassioned temperaments alike. Both
temperaments, for example, may be cruel or kindly; both may tend to
conservatism or to innovation; pious persons or worldly may be found in
both. But the cruelty or kindliness, the conservatism or innovation, the
piety or worldliness differ in the different temperaments--they differ in
their motives, in their methods, in their aims.

The cruelty of the unimpassioned man is, for the most part, a reckless
disregard for the happiness or well-being or (in mediæval times
especially) for the lives of those who stand in his way or thwart his
plans or lessen his self-importance. Such cruelty is more wayward
resentful and transitory than deliberative or implacable or persistent.
The cruelty of the impassioned man is perhaps the darkest of human
passions. It is the cruelty born of hate--cruelty contrived with
deliberation and watched with glee. Happily it is a kind which lessens
with the growth of civilisation. Often it attends on the strong
convictions of strong natures obeying strong commands--commands which are
always strongest when they are believed to have a supernatural origin; for
belief in supernaturalism is the natural enemy of mercy; it demands
obedience and forbids compassion. Cruelty was at its worst when
supernatural beliefs were strongest; for happily natural reason has grown,
and supernatural belief has dwindled. The unimpassioned and the
impassioned temperaments may alike scale the highest or descend to the
lowest levels of character, although probably the most hateful level of
human degredation is reached by the more impassioned nature. It cannot be
denied that, even for his time, Henry had a certain unmistakable dash of
cruelty in his composition. A grandson of Edward IV., who closely
resembled his grandfather, could not well be free from it. But the cruelty
of Henry, like that of Edward, was cruelty of the passionless type. He
swept aside--swept too often out of existence--those who defied his will
or lessened his importance.

How much of Henry's cruelty was due to the resolve to put down opposition,
how much was due to passing resentment and caprice, and how much, if any,
to the delight of inflicting pain, not even Henry's compeers could easily
have said. His cruelty in keeping the solitary Mary apart from her
solitary mother was singularly persistent in so fickle a man; but even
here weak fear and a weak policy were stronger than cruel feeling. It was
Henry's way of meeting persistent obstinacy. It is needless to discuss
the cruelty of the executions on religious grounds during Henry's reign;
they were the order of the day and were sanctioned by the merciful and the
unmerciful alike. But Henry's treatment of high personages was a much
deeper stain--deeper than the stain of his matrimonial affairs. People and
parliament earnestly prayed for a royal son and heir, but no serious or
popular prayer was ever offered up for the heads of Fisher or More or Lady
Salisbury. Henry's cruelty had always practical ends in view. Great
officials who had failed, or who were done with, were officials in the
way, and _their_ heads might be left to the care of those who were at once
their rivals and their enemies. The execution of Lady Salisbury will never
fail to rouse indignation as long as history is history and men are men.
Henry might have learned a noble lesson from his father. Henry VII. put
his own intriguing mother-in-law into a religious house, and the proper
destination of a female Yorkist intriguer--no matter how high or
powerful--was a convent, not a scaffold. In the execution of Elizabeth
Barton meanness was added to cruelty, for the wretched woman confessed her
impostures and exposed the priests who contrived them for her. The cruelty
which shocked Europe most, and has shocked it ever since, was the
execution of Sir Thomas More. More's approval would have greatly consoled
the King, but More's approval fell far short of the King's demands. The
silence of great men does _not_ give consent, and More was silent. More
was, next to Erasmus, the loftiest intellect then living on this planet.
Throughout Europe men were asking what More thought of "the King's
matter." More's head was the only answer. But however indignant we may be,
let us not be unjust; Henry, cruel as he was, was less cruel than any of
his compeers--royal, imperial, or papal, or other. The cruelty of our
Tudor ruler has always been put under a fierce light; the greater cruelty
of distant rulers we are too prone to disregard. We are too prone also to
forget that the one thing new under the sun in _our_ time is greater
kindliness--kindliness to life, to opinion, to pocket. If fate had put a
crown on Luther's head, or Calvin's, or later, on Knox's, their methods
would have been more stringent than Henry's. Henry and his Parliament, it
is true, proposed an Act of Parliament "to abolish diversity of opinion in
matters of religion." But Luther and Calvin and Knox, nay even More
(Erasmus alone stood on a higher level), were each and all confident of
their possession of the _one_ truth and of their infallibility as
interpreters thereof; each and all were ready, had the power been theirs,
to abolish "diversity of religious opinion."

There are two kinds of religion, or at any rate two varieties of religious
character--both are sincere--the religion of the active and passionless
and that of the reflective and impassioned. One is a religion of
inheritance, of training, of habit, of early and vivid perception; with
certain surroundings it is inevitable; if shaken off it returns. George
Eliot acutely remarks of one of her notably passionless characters, "His
first opinions remained unchanged, as they always do with those in whom
perception is stronger than thought and emotion." The other is a religion
(two extremes are spoken of here, but every intermediate gradation exists)
a religion of thought and emotion, of investigation and introspection. It
is marked by deep love of an ideal or real good, and deep hate of what may
also often be called an ideal or real evil. Henry's religion was of the
first sort. It would be deeply interesting to know the sort of religion
of the great names of Henry's time. We lack however the needful light on
their organisation, parentage, and circumstance. But in all the provinces
of life the men who have imprinted their names on history have been for
the most part active, practical, and unimpassioned men. They, in their
turn, have owed much to the impassioned, thinking, and often unpractical
men whose names history has not troubled itself to preserve.

And now, in the light shed by organisation and inheritance, we may gain
further information on the more characteristic features of Henry's
character--his caprice, his captiousness, his uncertainty, and his
peevishness, his resolve never to be hidden or unfelt or forgotten.



Henry was always doing something or undoing something. Whether he was
addressing Parliament, admonishing and instructing subordinates, or
exhorting heretics; whether he was restoring order in Northern England, or
(with much wisdom) introducing order into Wales, or (with much folly)
disorder into Scotland; whether he was writing letters to Irish chieftains
or Scottish councillors, or Northern pilgrims; whether he was defending
the Faith or destroying religious houses; whether he was putting together
six articles to the delight of Catholics, or dropping them in a few weeks
to the exultation of Protestants; whether burning those who denied the
miracle of the Real Presence, or hanging those who denied his headship of
the Church; whether he was changing a Minister, a Bishop, or a wife, his
hands were always full. And in Henry's case at least--probably in most
cases--Satan found much mischief for busy hands to do.

The man who is never at rest is usually a fitful man. Constant change,
whether of ministers or of views or of plans, is in itself fitfulness. But
fitfulness is something more than activity: it implies an uncertainty of
thought or conduct which forbids calculation or prediction, and therefore
forbids confidence; it is an inborn proclivity. Happily vigorous reasoning
power often accompanies it and keeps it in check. In poorly endowed
intellects, whether in men or women, fitfulness and its almost constant
associate petulance harass many circles and many hearths.

It is recorded that when the disgraced Wolsey took his departure from
Court, the King sent after him a hurried messenger with a valuable ring
and comforting words. The incident has excited much perplexity and comment
among historians. What was its meaning? what its object? Probably the
incident had no precise meaning; probably it was merely the involuntary
deed of an irresistible constitutional tendency; possibly, too, there
lurked in the motive which led to it some idea of future change and
exigency. The active, practical, serviceable man sows many seeds and keeps
on sowing them. Time and circumstance mainly decide which seeds shall grow
and which shall not. Caprice is not unfrequently associated with high
faculties. Sometimes it would seem to be due to the gift--not a common
one--of seeing many sides of a question, and of seeing these so vividly
that action is thereby enfeebled or frequently changed. Sometimes it is a
conservative instinct which sees that a given step is too bold and must be
retraced. It certainly is not selfishness: a long-pondered policy is often
dashed to the ground in an instant, or a long-sought friendship is ended
by a moment's insult. At root caprice is an inborn constitutional bias.
Henry was the first powerful personage who declared that the Papal
authority was Divine--declaring this, indeed, with so much fervour that
the good Catholic More expostulated with him. But Henry was also the first
high personage who threw Papal authority to the winds. It is on record
that Henry would have taken Wolsey into favour again had Wolsey lived. Not
Wolsey only but all Henry's Ministers would have been employed and
dismissed time after time could they but have contrived to keep their
heads on their shoulders. Henry might even have re-married his wives had
they lived long enough. One circumstance only would have lessened their
chances--attractive women were more numerous than experts in statecraft:
for one Wolsey there were a thousand fair women.

Habitual fitfulness, it has already been noted, is not often found apart
from habitual petulance, and both these qualities were conspicuous in
Henry's character. There was something almost impish in the spirit which
led him to don gorgeous attire--men had not then got out of barbaric
finery, and women are still in its bondage--on the day of Anne Boleyn's
bloodshed. Nay more, there was undoubtedly a dash of cruelty in it, as
there was in the acerbity which led him to exclaim that the Pope might
send a Cardinal's hat to Fisher, but he would take care that Fisher had no
head to put it on. Now and then his whims were simply puerile; it was so
when he signalised some triumph over a Continental potentate by a dolls'
battle on the Thames. Two galleys, one carrying the Romish and the other
the English decorations, met each other. After due conflict, the royalists
boarded the papal galley and threw figures of the pope and sundry
cardinals into the water--king and court loudly applauding. But again, let
us not forget that those days were more deeply stained than ours with
puerility and cruelty and spite. More, it is true, rose above the
puerility of his time; Erasmus rose above both its cruelty and its
puerility; Henry rose above neither.

No charge is brought against Henry with more unanimity and vehemence than
that of selfishness. And the charge is not altogether a baseless one; but
the selfishness which stained Henry's character is not the selfishness he
is accused of. When Henry is said to have been a monster of selfishness it
is implied that he was a monster of self-indulgence. He was not that--he
was the opposite of that. He was in reality a monster of self-importance,
and extreme personal importance is incompatible with gross personal
indulgence. Self-indulgence is the failing of the impassioned, especially
when the mental gifts are poor; while self-importance is the failing of
the passionless, especially when the mental gifts are rich. Let there be
given three factors, an unimpassioned temperament, a vigorous intellect,
and circumstance favourable to public life--committee life, municipal,
platform, Parliamentary, or pulpit life--and self-importance is rarely
wanting. This price we must sometimes pay for often quite invaluable

When Henry spoke--it is not infrequently so when the passionless and
highly gifted individual speaks--the one unpardonable sin on the part of
the listener was not to be convinced. A sin of a little less magnitude was
to make a proposal to Henry. It implied that he was unable to cope with
the problems which beset him and beset his time. He could not approve of
what he himself did not originate; at any rate he put the alien proposal
aside for the time--in a little time he _might_ approve of it and it might
then seem to be his own. The temperament which censured a matter yesterday
will often applaud it to-day and put it in action to-morrow. The
unimpassioned are prone to imitation, but they first condemn what they
afterwards imitate. When Cromwell made the grave proposal touching the
headship of the Church, Henry hesitated--nay, was probably shocked--at
first. Yet, for Henry's purposes at least, it was Cromwell (and not
Cranmer with his University scheme) who had "caught the right sow by the

Henry had a boundless belief in the importance of the King; but this did
not hinder, nay it helped him to believe in the importance of the people
also--it helped him indeed to seek the more diligently their welfare,
seeing that the more prosperous a people is, the more important is its
King. True he always put himself first and the people second. How few
leaders of men or movements do otherwise. Possibly William III. would have
stepped down from his throne if it had been shown that another in his
place could better curb the ambition of France abroad, or better secure
the mutual toleration of religious parties at home. Possibly, nay
probably, George Washington would have retired could he have seen that the
attainment of American independence was more assured in other hands. Lloyd
Garrison would have gladly retired into private life if another more
quickly than he could have given freedom to the slave. John Bright would
have willingly held his tongue if thereby another tongue could have spoken
more powerfully for the good of his fellow-men. Such men can be counted on
the fingers and Henry is not one of them. Henry would have denied (as
would all his compeers in temperament) that he put himself first. He would
have said; "I desire the people's good first and above all things;" but he
would have significantly added; "Their good is safest in my hands."

It is a moot point in history whether Henry was led by his high officials
or was followed by them. Did he, for example, direct Wolsey or did Wolsey
(as is the common view) in reality lead his King while appearing to follow
him. To me the balance of evidence, as well as the natural proclivities
of Henry's character, favour the view that he thought and willed and acted
for himself. Do we not indeed know too well the fate of those whose
thought and will ran counter to his? No man's opinion and conduct are
independent of his surroundings and his time; for every man, especially
every monarch, must see much through other eyes and hear much through
other ears. But if other eyes and other ears are numerous enough they will
also be conflicting enough, and will strengthen rather than diminish the
self-confidence and self-importance of the self-confident and
self-important ruler.

Self-importance, as a rule, is built on a foundation of solid
self-confidence, and Henry's confidence in himself was broad enough and
deep enough to sustain any conceivable edifice. The Romish church was
then, and had been for a thousand years, the strongest influence in
Europe. It touched every event in men's bodily lives and decided also the
fate of their immortal souls. Henry nevertheless had no misgiving as to
his fitness to be the spiritual head of the Church in this country, or the
spiritual head of the great globe itself, if the great globe had had one
Church only.

When I come to speak of the Reformation I shall have to remark that, had
the great European religious movement reached our island in any other
reign than Henry's, religion would not have been exactly what it now is.
Of all our rulers Henry was the only one who was at the same time willing
enough, educated enough (he had been trained to be an Archbishop), able
enough, and pious enough to be at any rate the _first_ head of a great

Henry was so sagacious that he never forgot the superiority of sagacity
over force. He delighted in reasoning, teaching, exhorting; and he
believed that while any ruler could command, few could argue and very few
could convince. It is true, alas, that when individuals or bodies were not
convinced if he spoke, he became unreasonably petulant. When Scotland did
not accept a long string of unwise proposals he laid Leith in ashes. When
Ireland did not yield to his wishes, he knocked a castle to atoms with
cannon, and thereby so astonished Ireland, be it noted, that it remained
peaceful and prosperous during the remainder of his reign.

Perhaps the happiest moments in Henry's life were those when he presided
over courts of theological inquiry. To confute heresy was his chief
delight; and his vanity was indulged to its utmost when the heretical
Lambert was tried. Clothed in white silk, seated on a throne, surrounded
by peers and bishops and learned doctors, he directed the momentous
matters of this world and the next; he elucidated, expounded, and laid
down the laws of both heaven and earth. It was a high day; one thing only
marred its splendour--he, the first living defender of orthodoxy, had
spoken and heterodoxy remained unconvinced. Heterodoxy must clearly be
left to its just punishment, for bishops, peers, and learned doctors were
astonished at the display of so much eloquence, learning, and piety.

The physiological student of human nature who is much interested in the
question of martyrdom finds, indeed, that the martyr-burner and the martyr
(of whatever temperament) have much in common. Both believe themselves to
possess assured and indisputable truth; both are infallible; both
self-confident; both are prepared, in the interests of truth, to throw
their neighbours into the fire if circumstance is favourable; both are
willing to be themselves thrown into the fire if circumstance is adverse.
One day they burn, the next day they are burnt.

The feature in Henry's character which as we have seen amounted to mania
was his love of popularity; it was a mania which saved him from many
evils. Even unbridled self-will does little harm if it be an unbridled
self-will to stand well with a progressive people. It has been a matter of
surprise to those who contend that Henry, seeing that he possessed--it is
said usurped--a lion's power, did not use it with lion-like licence. His
ingrained love of applause is the physiological explanation. Let it be
noted, too, that not everyone who thirsts for popularity succeeds in
obtaining it, for success demands several factors: behind popular applause
there must be action, behind action must be self-confidence, behind
self-confidence must be large capability. Henry had all these. In such a
chain love of applause is the link least likely to be missing. For,
indeed, what is the use of being active, capable, confident and important
in a closet? The crow sings as sweetly as the nightingale if no one is
listening, and importance is no better than insignificance if there is no
one "there to see."

We shall gain further and not uninteresting knowledge of Henry's character
if we look at certain side lights which history throws upon it. We turn
therefore, in another note, to look for a few moments at the men, the
movements, the drift, the institutions of his time, and observe how he
bore himself towards them.



In Henry's time, and in every time, the art of judging women has been a
very imperfect one. It is an imperfect art still and, as long as it takes
for granted that women are radically unlike men, so long it will remain
imperfect. But Henry was a good judge of one sex at any rate, for he was
helped by the most capable men then living, and in reality he tolerated no
stupidity--except in his wives. In an era of theological change it was
perhaps an unfortunate circumstance that he was better helped in his
politics than in his theology. Wolsey, although a Cardinal and even a
candidate for the Papal chair, was to all intents and purposes a practical
statesman. Had he succeeded in becoming a Pope he would nevertheless have
remained a mere politician. Wolsey, then, and Cromwell and More were all
distinctly abler men than Cranmer or Latimer or Gardiner.

But Henry himself, looking at him in all that he was and in all that he
did, was not unworthy of his helpers. There were then living in Europe
some of the most enduring names in history. More, it is true, was made of
finer clay than the king; Erasmus was not only the loftiest figure of his
time--he is one of the loftiest of any time; but Henry was also a great
personality and easily held his own in the front rank of European
personalities. As a ruler no potentate of his time--royal, imperial or
papal--could for a moment compare with him. Of all known Englishmen he
was the fittest to be King of England. Had it been Henry's fortune to have
had one or two or even three wives only, our school histories would have
contained a chapter entitled "How 'Henry the Good' steered his country
safely through its greatest storm." He played many parts with striking
ability. He was probably as great a statesman as Wolsey or More or
Cromwell. He would certainly have made a better archbishop than Cranmer; a
better bishop than Latimer or Gardiner; he was a better soldier than
Norfolk. What then might he have been had he been a statesman only, or a
diplomatist or an ecclesiastic or a soldier only?

In all the parts he played, save the part of husband, his unimpassioned
temperament stood him in good stead. A man's attitudes to his fellow-men
and to the movements of his time are, on the whole, determined more by his
intellect than by his feeling. The emotions indeed are very disturbing
elements. They have, it is true, made or helped to make a few careers; but
they have destroyed many more. Very curiously, Henry's compeers were, most
of them, like himself--unimpassioned men. Latimer, who was perhaps an
exception, preached sermons at Paul's Cross brimful of a passion which
Henry admired but did not understand. Cranmer too was a man of undoubted
feeling and strong affection. It is said there is sometimes a magnetic
charm between the unlike in temperament; strong friendships certainly
exist between them; and it is to Henry's credit that to the last he kept
near to him a man so unlike himself. Cranmer was a kindly, sympathetic,
helpful, good soul, but not a saint. He was not one of those to whom
Gracian refers as becoming bad out of pure goodness. Cranmer was a
capable and a strong man, but he was not supremely capable or supremely
strong. He was free from the worst of human evils--'cocksureness.' The
acute Spaniard just named says that "every blockhead is thoroughly
persuaded that he is in the right;" Cranmer was less of a blockhead than
most of his compeers. Left to his own instincts, he preferred to live and
let others live. Cranmer had not the loftiness (nor the hardness and
inflexibility) of a More; not the genius and grace and scholarship of an
Erasmus; not the definite purpose and iron will of a Cromwell; not the
fire of a Latimer; not the clear sight and grasp of a Gardiner; not the
sagacity and varied gifts of a Henry; but for my part I would have chosen
him before all his fellows (certainly his English fellows) to advise with
and to confide in. Of all the tables and the roofs of that time I should
have preferred to sit at his table and sleep under his roof. The great
luminaries who guide in revolutions are rare, and the smaller lights of
smaller circumstance are not rare; but--the question is not easy to
answer--which could we best spare, if we were compelled to choose, the
towering lighthouse of exceptional storm or the cheery lamp of daily life?

One figure of Henry's times which never fails to interest us is that of
Sir Thomas More. More was clearly one of the unimpassioned class; but his
commanding intellect, his quick response to high influences, his
capability of forming noble friendships, and his lofty ideals seemed to
dispense with the need of deep emotions. More and Henry, indeed, were much
alike in many ways. Both were precocious in early life; both were quick,
alert, practical; both were able; both, to the outside world at least,
were genial, affable, attractive; both also, alas, were fitful,
censorious, difficult to please; both were self-confident--one confident
enough to kill, the other confident enough to be killed. Had they changed
places in the greatest crisis of their lives Henry would have rejected
More's headship of the Church and More would have sent Henry to the block.

In order to understand More's character correctly we must recognise the
changing waves of circumstance through which he passed. There were in fact
two Mores, the earlier and the later. The earlier More was an unembittered
and independent thinker; the seeming spirit of independence however was,
in a great degree, merely the spirit of contradiction. He was a friend of
education and the new learning. He advocated reform in religion; but
reform, be it noted, before the Reformation, reform gently and from
within; reform when kings and scholars and popes themselves all asked for
it. History, unhappily, tells of much reform on the lips which doggedly
refused to translate itself into practice. The earlier More was all for
reform in principle, but he invariably disapproved of it in detail. The
later and in some degree embittered More was thrown by temperament, by the
natural bias of increasing years and by the exigencies of combat, into the
ecclesiastical and reactionary camp, and in that camp his conduct was
stained by cruel inquisitorial methods.

The deteriorating effects of conflict (which happily grow less in each
successive century) on individuals as well as on parties and peoples is
seen in another notable though very different character of More's century.
Savonarola, before his bitter fight with Florentine and Roman powers, was
a large, clear-sighted, sane reformer; after the fight he became blind,
fanatical, and insane. Why may we not combine all thankfulness for the
early More and the early Savonarola, and all compassion for the later More
and later Savonarola? Mary Stuart, Francis Bacon, Robert Burns, Napoleon
Buonapart, and Lord Byron were notable personalities; they--some of them
at least--did the world service which others did not and could not do. Yet
how many of us are there who, if admitting to the full their greatness, do
not belittle their follies? or, if freely admitting their follies, do not
belittle their greatness?

Wolsey, holding aloof from religious strife, remained simply the scholar
and the politician--a politician moreover _before_ politics became in
their turn also a matter of hostile camps. Being a politician only, he
continued to be merciful while More drifted from politics and mercy into
ecclesiasticism and cruelty. More's change was in itself evidence of a
fitful and passionless temperament, of such evidence indeed there is no
lack. His first public action was one of petulance and self-importance. He
had been treated with continued and exceptional kindness by Cardinal
Morton and Henry VII.; but when Morton, on behalf of his king, asked
parliament for a subsidy, the newly-elected More, conscious of his powers,
and thinking too, may we not say, much more of a people's applause than of
a people's burdens, successfully urged its reduction to one half.

More was by nature censorious, and never heartily approved of anything.
When Wolsey, on submitting a proposal to him with the usual result, told
him--told him it would seem in the unvarnished language of the time--that
he stood alone in his disapproval, and that he was a fool, More, with
ready wit and affected humility, rejoined that he thanked God that he was
the only fool on the King's Council. More, we may be quite sure, was not
conscious of a spirit of contradiction; he probably felt that his first
duty was to suggest to everybody some improvement in everything. This
spirit of antagonism nevertheless played a leading part in his changeful
life. In his early years he found orthodoxy rampant and defiant,
consequently he inclined to heresy; at a later period heresy became
rampant and defiant, and as inevitably he returned to the older faith and
views. A modern scholar and piquant censor, and--I gather from his own
writings, the only knowledge I have of him--an extreme specimen of the
unimpassioned temperament, Mark Pattison, says that he never saw anything
without suggesting how it might have been better; and that every time he
entered a railway carriage he worked out a better time table than the one
in use. If More had lived in his own Utopia he would have found fault with
it, and drawn in imagination another and a better land. The later More
was, as all unimpassioned and censorious temperaments are, a prophet of
evil; and as much evil did happen--was sure to happen--his wisdom has come
down to us somewhat greater in appearance than it was in reality.

The cruelty of the Tudor epoch has already been spoken of. Catholics and
protestants, kings, popes, cardinals, ministers, Luthers, Calvins, Knoxes
were all stained by it. Henry and More, we know, were no exceptions. But
More's cruelty differed from Henry's in one important respect--there was
nothing appertaining to self in it, except self-confidence. Henry's
cruelty was in the interest of himself--his person, his family, and his
throne; More's cruelty, although less limited perhaps, and more dangerous,
was nevertheless in the interest of religion.



It is in his attitude to his people and his parliament that we see Henry
at his best. His sagacity did not show itself in any deliberate or deeply
reasoned policy, certainly not, we may allow with Dr. Stubbs, in any great
act of "constructive genius;" it showed itself in seeing clearly the
difficulties of the hour and the day, and in the hourly and daily success
with which they were met. Henry and his father presided over the
introduction of a new order of things, which new order, however, was a
step only, not a cataclysm. They themselves scarcely knew the significance
of the step or how worthily they presided over it. The world, indeed,
knows little--history says little--of great and sudden acts of
constructive genius. These gradually emerge from the growth of peoples;
they do not spring from the brains of individuals royal or otherwise. If
the vision of a ruler is clear and his aims good, he, more than others,
may help on organic and beneficent growth. Full-blown schemes and
policies, even if marked by genius, are rarely helpful and not
infrequently they end in hindrance or even in explosion. The Stuarts had a
large "scheme" touching church and king. It was a scheme of "all in all or
not at all;" for them and their dynasty it ended in "not at all." French
history is brimful of "great acts of constructive genius" and has none of
the products of development. For Celtic history is indeed a sad succession
of fits, and not a process of quiet growth. How a succession of fits will
end, and how growth will end, it is not difficult to foretel.

The government of peoples is for the most part and in the long run that
which they deserve, that which they are best fitted for, and not at all
that which, it may be, they wish for and cry out for. A people
ready--fairly and throughout all strata ready--for that which they demand
will not long demand in vain. Our fathers, under the Tudor Henrys and the
Tudor Elizabeth, had the rule which was best fitted for them, which they
asked for, which they deserved--a significant morsel, by the bye, of
racial circumstance. It by no means follows, let it be noted, that what
people and king together approved of was the ideal or the wisest. It is
with policies as with all things else, the fittest, not the best, continue
to hold the field.

Henry and Elizabeth had not only clearness of sight, but flexibility of
mind also, and would doubtless have ruled over Puritan England with
success; it lay in them to rule well over our modern England also. Charles
I., by organisation and proclivity, would have fared badly at the hands of
a Tudor parliament, and, again as a result of organisation and proclivity,
Henry VIII. and the Long Parliament would have been excellent friends.
Hand to mouth government, if it is also capable, is probably the best
government for a revolutionary time. Conflicting parties are often kept
quiet by mere suspense--by mingled hopes and fears. It has been well said
of Henry of Navarre that he kept France, the home of political whirlwinds,
tranquil for a time because the Protestants believed him to be a
Protestant and the Catholics believed he was about to become a Catholic.

The majority of historians and all the compilers of history tell us that
Henry's parliaments were abject and servile. The statement is politically
misleading and is also improbable on the grounds of organisation and race.
It is one of many illustrations of the vice of purely literary judgments
on men and movements; a vice which takes no account of physiology, of
race, of organisation and proclivity. For we may be well assured that the
grandsons of brave men and the grandfathers of brave men are never
themselves cowards. One and the same people--especially a slow, steadfast,
and growing people--does not put its neck under the foot of one king
to-day and cut off the head of another king to-morrow. It is not difficult
to see how the misconception arose: in a time of great trial the king and
the people were agreed both in politics and in religion. The people held
the king's views; they admired his sagacity; they trusted in his honour.
If a brother is attached to his brother and does not quarrel with him, is
he therefore poor-spirited? If by rare chance a servant sees, possibly on
good grounds, a hero in his master, is he therefore a poltroon? If a
parliament and a king see eye to eye, is it just to label the parliament
throughout history as an abject parliament?

Henry's epoch, moreover, was not one of marked political excitement, and
therefore the hasty observer jumps to the conclusion that it was not one
of political independence. In each individual, in each community, in each
people there is a sum-total of nerve force. In a given amount of brain
substance--one brain or many--in a given amount of brain nutriment of
brain vitality, there is a given quantity of nerve power. This totality of
power will show itself it may be in one way strongly or in several ways
less strongly; it cannot be increased, it cannot be lessened. On purely
physiological grounds it may be affirmed that Bacon could not have thought
and written all his own work and at the same time have also thought and
written the life-work of Shakspere. Shakspere could not have added Bacon's
investigations to his own 'intuitions.' In our own time Carlyle could not
have written "The French Revolution" and "The Descent of Man;" he could
not have gone through the two trainings, gained the two knowledges, and
lived the two lives which led to the two works. So it is with
universities: when scholarship is robust, theology limps; and during the
Tractarian excitement, so a great scholar affirms, learning in Oxford sank
to a lower level. So with peoples: in a literary age religious feeling is
less earnest; in a time of political excitement both religion and
literature suffer. Henry's era was one of abounding theological activity:
Luthers, Calvins, and (later) Knoxes came to the front, and the front
could not, never can, hold many dominant and also differing spirits. In
Elizabeth's time Marlowes and Shaksperes and Spensers were master spirits,
and master spirits are never numerous. No doubt as civilisation goes on
great men and great movements learn to move, never equally perhaps but
more easily, side by side: more leaders come to the front--but is the
front as brilliant? Choice spirits are more numerous--but are the spirits
quite as choice? Another and a less partial generation must decide.

"But," say the few observers and the crowd of compilers, "only a servile
parliament would have given the king permission to issue proclamations
having the authority of law." But the people, it cannot be too
emphatically repeated, were neither creatures crawling in the mire nor
red-tapists terrified at every innovation; they trusted the king, and he
did not violate their trust. The proclamations, so it was stipulated, were
not to tamper with existing laws; they were to meet exigencies in an
epoch of exigencies, and they met them with a wisdom and a promptness
which parliament could not come near. It is physiological
proclivities--not red tape, not parchment clauses, not Magna
Chartas--which keep a people free. It is rather red tape, and not the
occasional snapping of red tape which enfeebles liberty. If the
non-conformists, who by the bye detested Romanism more than they loved
religion, had not rejected the declaration of indulgence of Charles II.--a
declaration which gave to Romanists leave of worship as well as to
non-conformists--does any sane person believe that English freedom would
have been less than it now is? In our time a body of men who hate England
more than they love Ireland have, of set purpose, tumbled parliament into
the dust: now, if a capable and firm authority were entrusted for twelve
months with exceptional yet absolute control over parliamentary procedure,
does any sane person suppose that the English passion for free parliaments
would be lulled to sleep? Rule has often to be cruel in order to be kind.
Alas, the multitude is made up not of Cromwells, is indeed afraid of
Cromwells. In total ignorance of racial proclivities, it foolishly
believes that a Cromwellian speaker for twelve months would mean a
Cromwellian speaker for ever.



It is a singular misreading of history to say that Henry did much directly
or indirectly to help on the Reformation of the Church in this country,
although the part he played was not a small one. Neither was the
Reformation itself, grave and critical as it was, so sudden and volcanic
an upheaval as is generally believed.

Luther himself did not put forward a single new idea. No man is thinker
and fighter at once; at any rate, no man thinks and fights at the same
moment. Luther struck his blows for already accomplished thought. Curious
ideas of unknown dates--for history reveals mergings only, not beginnings,
not endings, and the student of men and movements might well exclaim
"nothing begins and nothing ends,"--ideas of unknown dates and unknown
birth-places had slowly come into existence. In Teutonic Europe at least,
the older ideas were becoming trivial and inadequate. It was the northern
Europe, which from the earliest times had been dogged in its courage both
bodily and mental; the Europe strong in that reverence for truth which
rests on courage, which is inseparable from courage, which never exists
apart from courage; the Europe strong in its respect for women; strong in
its fearlessness of death, of darkness, of storm, of the sea-lion, the
land monster, the unearthly ghost, and which was strong therefore in its
fearlessness of hell-fire and priestly threats. Celtic Europe, especially
Celtic Ireland, slept then and sleeps now the unbroken slumber of
credulity. Credulity and fear are allied. Celtic Ireland was palsied then,
and is palsied still, by the fear of what we may now call Father Furniss's
hell. It is surely not difficult to recall and therefore not difficult to
foretell the history of so widely differing races. Everywhere throughout
Teutonic Europe, in castle and monastery, in mansion and cottage, the
old-new ideas were talked over, drunk over, quarrelled over, shaken hands
over, slept over. Everywhere the poets--the peoples' voices then, for the
printed sheet, the coffee house, the club, were yet far off,--the poets,
Lindsay, Barbour and others in Scotland; Langland, Skelton and others in
England had, long before, pelted preachers and preaching with their
bitterest gibes. Those poets little knew how narrowly they escaped with
their lives; they escaped because they shouted their fierce diatribes just
before not just after the strife of battle. They had flashed out the
signals of undying warfare, but before the signals could be interpreted
the signallers had died in their beds. Thought, inquiry, discussion,
printing, poetry, the new learning, the older Lollardry had moved on with
quiet steps. A less quiet step was at hand, but this also, if less quiet,
was as natural and as inevitable as the stealthiest of preceding steps.
Europe had gradually become covered with a network of universities, and
students of every nationality were constantly passing from one to another.
One common language, Latin, bound university to university and thinking
men to thinking men. He who spoke to one spoke to all. The time was a sort
of hot-house, and the growth of man was "forced." Reaction attends on
action, but in the main, studious men made the universities--not
universities the studious men; in like-manner good men have made
religions, not religions so much good men. Ideas and opinions quickly
became common property; sooner or later they filtered down from the Latin
phrase to home-spun talk; filtered down also from the university to the
town, village, and busy highway.

The Papacy itself had made Papal rule impossible to vigorous peoples. With
curiously narrow ambition Popes have always preferred even limited
temporal importance to unlimited spiritual sway. Two Popes, nay at one
time three, had struggled not for the supremacy of religion but for merely
personal pre-eminence. Popes had fought Popes, councils had fought
councils, and each had called in the friendly infidel to fight the
catholic enemy. The catholic sack of catholic Rome had been accompanied by
greater lust and more copious bloodshed than the sack of Rome in olden
time by northern Infidels. The teachings, claims, and crimes native to
Rome, nay, even the imported refinements of the arts and letters and
elegancies of Paganism did what legions of full-blown Luthers could not
have done.

The Reformation, with its complex causes, its complex methods, its complex
products, is, more than other great movements, brimful of matter for
observation, thought, and inference.

The French Revolution was but one of a series of fierce uprisings of a
race which rises and slaughters whenever it has a chance. French history
teems with slaughters both in time of peace and time of war. Mediæval
French Kings dared not arm their peasants with bows and arrows, for
otherwise not a nobleman or a gentleman would have been left alive. At the
close of the eighteenth century in France the oppression was heavy, the
opportunity was large, and the uprising was ferocious. No other people
have ever shown such a spectacle, and it is therefore idle to compare
other great national movements with it. French history stands alone: no
oppressor can oppress like the French oppressor; no retaliator can
retaliate like the French retaliator. It is a question much less of
politics than of organisation and race. But to return.

Mr. Carlyle, in his own rousing way and on a subject which deeply
interests him--Luther and the Reformation--mingles fine literary vigour
with an indifference to physiological teaching which is by no means
habitual with him. The heaven-born hero tells us what has become false and
unreal, and shows us--it is his special business--how we may _go back_ to
truth and reality. The humbler student believes that we are constantly
journeying _towards_ truth and reality--these lie not behind but in front
of us. The school of prophets tells us that the hero alights in front of
us and stands apart. The student declares that we all move together; that
we partly make our heroes, and partly they make us; that we have grades of
heroes; that they are not at all supernatural--we touch them, see them,
know them, send them to the front, keep them and dismiss them at our will,
or what seems our will. Carlyle affirms that modern civilisation took its
rise from the great scene at Worms. The truths of organisation, of body,
of brain, of race, of parentage would rather say that civilisation itself
was not born of but in reality gave rise to Luther and the scene at Worms.
The Reformation did not give private judgment; private judgment gave the

In all revolutions there is a mixture of the essential and the accidental.
During the long succession of the ordinary efforts of growing peoples
there are also from time to time unusual efforts to bring to an end
whatever of accident is most at variance with essential truth and reason
and sanity and honour. In the reformations of a growing people, whatever
the age in which they happen, whatever the religion or policy or conduct
of the age, leading spirits rebel against what is most oppressive and
resent what is most arrogant in that age; they reject what is most false
and laugh out of court what is most ridiculous. In the sixteenth century
men felt no special or inherent resentment to arrogance because it lifted
its head in Rome; they looked on the so-called miracle of
transubstantiation with no special or peculiar incredulity; their sense of
humour was not necessarily tickled by the idea that a soul leaped out of
purgatory when a coin clinked in Tetzel's box. Those were matters of
accident and circumstance; they were simply the most intolerable or
incredible or preposterous items of the century. Given other preceding
accidents--another Deity, or one appearing in another century or arising
in another people; another emperor than Constantine; other soldiers than
Constantine's--and the sixteenth-century items of oppression and falsehood
would have been there, it is true, but they would have been other than
they were.

We are often told that great movements come quickly, and are the peculiar
work of heroes. We are told, indeed, that from time to time mankind
degenerates into a mass of dry fuel, and that at the fitting moment a hero
descends, as a torch, and sets the mass on fire. Nay, moreover, if we
doubt this teaching we are dead to poetic feeling and have lost our
spiritual ideals. Happily, however, if phantasy dies, poetry still lives.
Leaders and led, teachers and taught, are all changing and always
changing; but no change brings a lessened poetic susceptibility or a
lessened poetic impulse. If, in future, historians and critics come to see
that the organisation and bodily proclivity and parentage of men have
really much to do with men, let us nevertheless be comforted--the ether
men breathe will be no less ample, the air no less divine. Every age is
transitional--not this or that--and the ages are bound together by
unbroken sequence. As with the movements so is it with the leaders: they
are in touch with each other as well as in touch with their followers. All
ages have some men who are bolder than others, or more reflective than
others, or more courageous, or more active. At certain epochs in history
there have been men who combined many high qualities, and who in several
ways stood in front of their time. Wyclif was not separated from his
fellows by any deep gulf, neither was he, as regards time, the first in
his movement, but no leader ever sprang so far in front of the led.
General leaders appear first, and afterwards, when the lines of cleavage
are clearer, special leaders arise. Wyclif was a general leader, and
therefore had many things to do. He did them all well. He was a scholar, a
theologian, a writer, a preacher. It is his attitude to his age and to all
ages, and to national growth, which interests us--not his particular
writing, or his preaching, or his detailed views. He propounded, he
defined, he lighted up, he animated, he fought. In one capacity or in two
Wyclif might have soared to a loftier height and have shone a grander
figure. But he did what was most needed to be done then and there. The
time was not ripe, and it did not lie in Wyclif to make it ripe, for the
Reformation, but he showed the way to the Reformation; he introduced its
introducers and led its leaders. The special leaders appeared in due time,
and they also were the product of their time. An Erasmus shed more light
than others on burning problems; a Calvin formulated more incisively than
his fellows; a Luther fought more defiantly; and, a little later, a Knox
roused the laggards with fiercer speech. It is interesting to note that
the fighters and the speakers in all movements and at all times come most
quickly to the front; it is for them that the multitude shouts its loudest
huzzas and the historian writes his brightest pages. But let us not forget
this one lesson from history and physiology: it is not given--or but
rarely given--to any one man to do all these things, to innovate, to
illuminate, to formulate, to fight, to rouse; it is certainly not given to
any one man to do all with equal power, and certainly not all at once. For
there is a sum-total of brain-force, not in the individual only, but in
the community and in the epoch. In one stream it is powerful; if it be
divided in several streams each stream is weaker. It was a theological
torrent at the beginning of the sixteenth century, a literary torrent at
the century's close. We have (perhaps it is for our good) several streams,
we have however, we all hope, a good total to divide. Curiously, too, the
most clear-sighted of leaders never see the end, never indeed see far into
the future of their movement. The matters and forces which go to form a
revolution are many and complex, reformers when striving to improve a
world often end in forming a party. If the leaders are clear-sighted, the
party will be continuous, large, long-lived; dim-sighted enthusiasts, even
when for the moment successful, lead a discontinuous, short-lived,
spasmodic crowd. Sometimes a leader steps forth clear and capable, but
the multitude continues to sleep. Wyclif, for example, called on his
generation to follow him in a new and better path. He seemed to call in
vain. In the sixteenth century men were awake, stirring, resolved; but no
leaders were ready. Fortunately the people marched well although they had
no captains to speak of. The age was heroic although it had no conspicuous

Although in its forms, its beliefs, its opinions, its policy, its conduct,
there was much that was accidental, it was nevertheless inevitable and
essential that the Reformation should come. It mattered not whether this
thing had been done or that; whether this particular leader led or that;
whether this or that concession had been made at Rome. If Erasmus could
not fight Luther could. If Rome could concede nothing, much could be torn
from her. There is, indeed, much fighting and tearing in history:
complacent persons, loftily indifferent to organisation, and race, and
long antecedent, are astonished that men should fight, or should fight
with their bodies, or that, when fighting they should actually kill each
other. In all times, alas, the fittest, not the wisest, has prevailed--and
the fittest, alas, has been cruel. In the seventeenth century Parliament
and Charles Stuart fought each other by roughest bodily methods, and
Parliament, proving victorious, killed Charles. Had Charles conquered, and
could Parliament have been reduced to one neck or a dozen, we may be quite
sure that the one neck or the dozen would have been severed on the block.

When the thousand fermenting elements came together in the sixteenth
century cauldron, no number of men, certainly no one man, certainly not
Henry, could do much to hinder or to help on the seething process. This of
course was not Henry's view. He believed himself to be--gave himself out
to be--the fountain of truth. We know that he and an _admiring_ (not an
_abject_) Parliament proposed an Act to abolish diversity of opinion on
religious matters. We know too, that while he graciously permitted his
subjects to read the Word of God, he commanded them to adopt the opinions
of the king. It was indeed cheap compulsion, for he and the vast mass of
his subjects held similar opinions. Nevertheless, it is true that Henry,
with characteristic sagacity, turned to the right spot and at the right
moment when the cauldron threatened to boil over, or possibly to explode.
At a critical epoch he helped to avert bloodshed; for in this island there
was no war of peasants, or princes, or theologians.

Those who say that the great divorce question brought about or even
accelerated the Reformation, are those who see or wish to see the bubbles
only, and cannot, or will not see the stream--its depth and strength,--on
which the bubbles float. For the six-wives matter was in reality a bubble,
large it is true, prismatic, many-coloured, interesting, visible
throughout Europe, minutely gossiped over on every hearth. If King Henry,
however, had had no wife at all, the Reformation would have come no more
slowly than it did; if he had had, like King Solomon, seven hundred wives,
it would have come no more quickly. Henry was not himself a reformer, and
but little likely to lead reformers. Under a fitful and petulant exterior
the king was a cold, calculating, self-remembering man. The reformers were
a self-forgetting, passionate, often a frenzied party, and as a rule,
firebrands do not follow icebergs. If imperious circumstance loosened
Henry's moorings to Rome, he had no more notion of drifting towards
Augsburg or Geneva, than, a little later, his daughter Elizabeth had of
drifting to Edinburgh and Knox. Henry had no deep attachment, but he clung
to the old religion, chiefly perhaps because it was old, as much as he
could cling to anything; he had no deep hatreds, but, as heartily as his
nature permitted, he detested the new. He would have disliked it all the
more, had that been possible, could he have looked with interpretative
glance backward to the seed-time of Wyclif's era, or forward to the ripe
harvest of the seventeenth century. Could it have been made plain to Henry
that he was helping to put a sword into a Puritan's hand and bring a
King's head to the block, he would have had himself whipped at the tomb of
Catharine of Aragon, and would have thrown his crown at the Pope's feet.

He assumed the headship of the English Church, it is true; but even good
Catholics throughout Europe did not then so completely as now accept the
supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, and central ideas had not then so
completely swallowed up the territorial. If Henry had not taken the
headship of the English Church when he did, the Church would probably have
had no head at all, and religious teaching in this country would have
fared much as it fared in Switzerland and Scotland and North Germany. As
it was, Henry simply believed himself to be another Pope, and London to be
another Rome. He, the English Pope, and the Pope at Rome would, for the
most part, work together like brothers--work for the diffusion of the
_one_ truth (which all sorts and conditions of Popes believe they
possess), and work therefore for the good of all people.

Had the great European religious movement reached our island in any other
reign than Henry's it would not have run quite the same course it did. Of
all the Kings who have ruled over us Henry VIII. was the only King who was
at the same time willing enough, able enough, educated enough (he had
been trained to be an Archbishop), and pious enough to be, at any rate,
the first head of a great Church.

But it is said: "Look at the destruction of the religious houses; surely
that was the work of heresy and greed." Henry had no heresy in his nature,
but he was not without greed, and as he was certainly extravagant, he had
therefore the stronger incentives to exaction. But in our history the
foible of a King avails but little when it clashes with the conscience,
the ideal, the will of a people. Henry's greed, moreover, whatever its
strength, was less strong than his conservatism, less strong than his
piety. Stronger, too, than all these combined was his boundless love of
popularity--a love which alone would have preserved the monasteries could
the monasteries have been preserved by any single man. But new ideas and
new religious ideals had come in, and the new religious ideals and the old
religious houses could not flourish together. The existence of those
houses had long been threatened. One hundred years before, Parliament had
more than once seriously discussed the appropriation of ecclesiastical
funds to military purposes. Cardinal Morton, after impartial inquiry,
contemplated sweeping changes. Wolsey, a good Catholic, had suppressed
numerous houses. It is interesting to know that at one period of his life
Sir Thomas More thought of retiring into a religious house, but after
carefully studying monastic life he gave up the project. It is not
necessary to sift and resift the evidence touching the morality of the
monasteries. Probably those institutions were not so black as their
enemies, new or old, have painted them, nor so white as they appear in the
eyes of their modern friends. But whether they were fragments of Hades
thrust up from below, or fragments of the celestial regions let down from
above, or whatever else they were, their end was come. Many causes were at
work. They were coming into collision with the rapidly growing modern
social life--a life more complex than at any time before, more complex in
its roots, its growths, its products, and its needs. The newer social life
had developed a passionate love of knowledge; it had formed a loftier
ideal of domestic life. It pondered too over our economic problems, and
disliked the ceaseless accumulation of land and wealth in ecclesiastical
hands. Does any one imagine that a close network of institutions, which
were at any rate not models of virtue; institutions which hated knowledge
and thrust it out of doors; which directly or indirectly cast a slur on
the growing domestic ideal; which told the awakening descendants of
Scandinavian and Norseman and Saxon, that their women were unclean--that
their mothers and daughters were "snares;" does anyone imagine that such a
network could be permitted to entangle and strangle modern life? It has
already been said that the newer social ideas were destined to arise, and
that therefore the older religious houses were doomed to fall. It mattered
little the particular year in which they fell; it mattered little who
seemed to deal the final blow. Many centuries before, human nature being
what it was, and social conditions what they were, quiet retreats had met
a want--they were fittest to live and they lived. But a succession of
centuries brought change--a little in human nature, much in social
conditions, very much in thought and opinion, and the retreats, the inner
life and opinions of which had not kept pace with life outside, were no
longer needed, no longer fittest, and they fell. Henry did not destroy
them. Catholicism, which neither made them pure nor made them impure, was
unable to preserve them. Could the long buried bones of their founders
have come to life again and have put on the newer flesh, thought, with
newer brain, the newer thought, they would have found quite other outlets
for their energy, leisure and wealth. It is so with all founders and all
institutions. It is so at this moment with the institutions which were
born of the Reformation itself. Naturalists tell us that the jelly-like
mass, the amæba, embraces everything, both the useful and the useless,
that comes in its way, but that in time it relaxes its embrace on the
useless. So the civilisation of a growing people is like a huge amæba,
which slowly enfolds men and ideas, and incidents, and systems, and then
sooner or later it disenfolds the unsuitable and the worn-out.



Few rulers, few persons indeed, have ever been so much alike as our two
rulers Henry VIII. and his daughter Elizabeth. No man was ever so like
Henry as was the woman Elizabeth; no woman ever resembled Elizabeth so
closely as did the man Henry. Both father and daughter were extreme
examples of the intellectual and unimpassioned temperament. High capacity,
acute perception, clear insight, correct inference were present in both.
Both, too, were capricious, fault-finding, querulous and vain. Both,
moreover, had their preferences and their dislikes. Both, too, felt and
showed resentment when their vanity was wounded. But in neither of them,
it may be truly affirmed, was there any consuming passion--any fervent
love, or invincible hatred, or fierce jealousy, or overwhelming anger.

Those who preach the doctrine of an essential difference between the sexes
and who, with the injustice which so frequently accompanies the abounding
self-importance of masculinity, would deprive women not only of "equality
of sphere" but "equality of opportunity," may study the character of Henry
and Elizabeth with great advantage. Human beings are first of all divided
(I have elsewhere contended) into certain types of character and only
afterwards into men and women. Many men are by nature devoted lovers and
parents and friends; many women are not. Elizabeth was one of a number--a
large number--of women who have, it may be, many of the qualities which
tell in practical and public life, and but little of the emotion which
wells up in true wifehood and motherhood and friendship.

Henry and Elizabeth stand far above the average level of rulers. In
sagacity, in tact and in statesmanship only two of their successors can
compare with them. But the methods of Oliver Cromwell and William III.
were very different from the Tudor methods. Cromwell and William strove to
be guided by what they sincerely held to be lofty principles. Henry and
Elizabeth were guided merely, though wisely guided, by the fineness of
their instincts. Fine instincts were perhaps better fitted for the earlier
time, and lofty principles for the later. It is easier, alas, to bungle in
formulating and in applying principles than in trusting to adroitness and

All the elements of character which Henry possessed were found also in
Elizabeth, and many of these elements, though not all, they possessed in
equal degree. They were alike in capacity, courage, sincerity,
versatility, industry; alike in their conservative proclivities and also
in their love of pageantry--for Elizabeth, like Henry, revelled in public
business and in public pleasures; she delighted in progresses, shows,
masks and plays. They were alike, too, in their sense of duty, in their
desire for the welfare of the people, and also in their thirst for the
people's good opinion. But Elizabeth, although she had immense
self-importance (she heartily approved of the queen and, heartily indeed,
of nothing else), was perhaps less self-confident than her father. She was
not quite comfortable in her headship of the Church--but then she had not
been educated for the Church as her father had been, and she did not
possess her father's devotional nature. Her conduct was however more
decorous than her father's, notwithstanding that she was distinctly less
religious than he--less religious in principle, in inward conviction and
in outward worship. If she was less devout than Henry she had however a
larger share of fitfulness than even he. The historian who more vividly
than any other has placed the Tudor time before us speaks of Elizabeth's
"ingrained insincerity;" the words "ingrained fitfulness" would perhaps be
more correct, for she was in truth as sincere as her fitfulness permitted
her to be. Although it is true she was not without--no one at that time
was quite without--insincerity and intrigue and duplicity and falsehood in
her diplomatic methods, she was fairly sincere in her views and aims and
conduct. But unfortunately her views and aims and conduct were constantly
changing. She was sincere too easily and too frequently. She had a dozen
fits of sincerity in a dozen hours. Whenever she sent a message, no matter
how carefully the message had been considered, a second was sent to recall
or change it, and very shortly a third messenger would be despatched in
pursuit of the second. Urgent and critical circumstance alone, and
frequently not even this, forced upon her any conclusive action. I am
compelled to agree with those who believe that the most distressing
incident of her life was the final decision touching Mary Stuart's death:
it was distressing on several grounds--she was not naturally cruel, or,
like her father, cruel to those only who stood in her path; she did not
like to kill a queen; and, above all, she hated to do anything which (like
marriage, to wit) could not be undone. Elizabeth was compelled by
temperament to be always doing something, but by temperament also she was
always reluctant to get anything done. In her two bushels of occupation
there were not two grains of performance.

Her extreme fitfulness had at least one fortunate result--it saved many
lives. Henry's frequent change of view and of policy was unquestionable,
but the change was slow enough to give to the ever-watchful enemies of a
fallen minister time enough to tear the fallen minister to pieces. But if
a minister of Elizabeth's fell, his head was in little danger: if he fell
from favour to-day, he was restored to-morrow. He might trip twenty times,
and as many times his rivals would be on the alert; but twenty pardons
would be granted all in good time.

Touching the question of marriage the queen was far wiser than her father.
Neither father nor daughter had the needful qualities which go to make
marriage happy, and both had certain other qualities which in many cases
make it an intolerable burden. Henry, unlike Elizabeth, did not discover
this, for his perceptive powers generally were less acute than hers. She
probably knew that in her inmost heart (her brain was sufficiently acute
to gain a glimpse of what was in her heart and what was not) she was a
stranger to the deep and sustained affections without which marriage is so
often a cruel deception. She had admirers and favourites it is true; and,
after the fashion of the time, was unseemly enough in her fits of romping
and her fits of pettishness. But there has not yet been anywhere, or at
any time, under the sun a healthful temperament which has objected to
admiration and entertainment, and probably there never will be.

Elizabeth's attitude to the religious condition of her people marks a
decided movement, if not an onward movement: for we must never forget that
a multitude of high-minded and capable souls believe that the several
steps of the Reformation were downward steps. But what were the steps, and
what especially was Elizabeth's step? The popes (and their times) had
said, _in effect_, you need not read and you must not think or inquire;
your duty is to obey and believe. Henry (and his time) said, you may think
and you may read, especially if your reading enables you to understand the
King, but you must believe what the King believes and worship as the King
worships. Elizabeth (and her times), still more at the mercy of rising
Teutonic waves, exclaimed, you may think and read and inquire and believe
as you like--especially as you insist upon doing so--but you really must,
all of you, go to church with me on Sunday mornings. Elizabeth's
church-going act, by the bye, is still unrepealed. Long after, William
III. (and his time, though William was before his time) said, you may
think, read, believe, and publicly worship as you will, but you must
believe something and you must worship somewhere. John Milton, before
William in time and long before him in largeness of view, was the one
colossal figure who fought bravely and single-handed for freedom in every
domain of thought and speech and conduct.

The Tudor time, more than any other in our history, lends itself to the
study of character; a study which, although difficult, is the less
difficult in that whatever of change may take place, old elements of
character do not altogether disappear and entirely new elements do not
make their appearance. These elements lie everywhere around us. A great
writer and an acute observer of men declares indeed that we all contain
the elements of a Luther and a Borgia (his ideal of the best and worst
elements), and that if a man cannot see these near at hand he will not
find them though he travel from Dan to Beersheba. The Tudor and the Stuart
periods alike present remarkable persons and remarkable incidents; but in
the earlier period the men and women were more striking than the events,
while events attract our attention more than individuals in the later.
With the Tudors men and women seemed to lead, for men and women were
proportionately the stronger; circumstance seemed to be the stronger in
the Stuart times.

No century contains three royal figures so striking in themselves and so
clearly revealed to us as are the figures of Henry and Elizabeth and Mary
in the sixteenth. Their capability, their vitality and their attainments
would have made them striking persons in any position of life. Each,
indeed, possessed the three qualities which make a really interesting
personality--and such personalities are but a small proportion of the
neutral-tinted multitude who are good and kind and industrious--and
nothing more. They, the three personalities, could all see facts for
themselves; they could all see the relative value of facts (the rarest of
the three qualities); and they could all draw sound inferences from the
larger facts.

The three individuals presented however but two types of character. Henry
and Elizabeth were examples of one type and Mary of another. The Tudor
father and daughter were, as we have already seen, not examples merely but
_extreme_ examples of the unimpassioned, ever active, ever visible class.
Mary was as extreme an example of the impassioned, meditative, persistent
and tenacious class. It was a remarkable coincidence that pitted two such
mental and bodily extremes against each other. All sane human beings have
much more of that which is common to the character of the race than they
have of that which is peculiar to the individual. There was not only this
common basis of human nature in Elizabeth and Mary, there was something
more: both were singularly capable, brilliant, witty and brave (Mary being
the braver and her bravery being the more tried). The two queens had
certain unusual advantages in common, for both were educated to the
highest ideal of female education--very curiously a higher ideal then than
at any other time before, or even since, until our own generation; both,
too, had much experience of life--the larger and the less elevating share
falling to Mary's lot. But here the resemblance ceases. What in Elizabeth
Tudor were slight though shrill rivulets of love and hate and anger and
scorn and jealousy, or of pity or gratitude, were mighty and rushing
torrents in Mary Stuart. We have seen what Elizabeth was: in many ways
Mary was the exact opposite, for she was not at all given to bustle or
change or acrimony or captiousness or suspicion. She was not, it is true,
without vanity; she had ample grounds for having it and she was deeply
human, but (it was not so with Elizabeth) her pride was even greater than
her vanity.

The elements which met together in Mary were all of a finer quality than
those which were found in Elizabeth; but in Mary some troublous elements
were added to the choicer ones. In her high land there were ominous
volcanic peaks, while in the decorous plain of Elizabeth's character there
was a monotonous blending of vegetation and sand. In some of our greatest
characters (the truism is well-worn) there have been grave defects. Burns'
life never comes to any generous mind save with the deepest regret as well
as the keenest admiration. Bacon's was a great mind with a great fault.
Shakspere and Goethe--the two foremost spirits which time has yet given to
us--are not held to have led altogether stainless lives. Now the Queen of
Scots was not by any means one of the immortals, but she was nevertheless
and in truth a great woman. Yet in the splendid block out of which the
ever-pathetic figure of Mary was chiselled there came to light an
ineradicable flaw. The good and evil of all these characters were mainly,
though not wholly (for circumstance must not be forgotten), due to
organisation and inheritance. A little difference in their organisation,
and they would have been other individuals than they were, and would most
likely have remained unknown to us; but having the parentage they had, and
being what they were, a little difference in circumstance would probably
have mattered little. What there was in each of organisation, what of
circumstance, and what of volition, is a problem the solution of which is
still far off. In all of them volition, whatever that may be, did its
best; organisation, let us say, did its worst; circumstance looked on,
helping here and hindering there,--the compromise is history.

As the six-wives business clings to Henry's name, so does the Darnley
matter, though curiously with less odium, cling to that of Mary. Henry has
had no friends save those who lived in or near his time. In our time an
inquirer, here or there, strives perhaps to gain for him something of
impartial judgment. Mary has never been without warm friends, and her
friends seem to grow in number and in warmth. The controversy still rages
touching Mary's part in the tragic event which inflicted so deep a wound
into her life. But although the controversy goes on at even fever heat,
the public judgment remains cool and is probably just. It is kept cool
and just by the weight of a few colossal truths which the deftest
manipulation of a cloud of smaller truths cannot hide. At critical moments
the physiological historian, who looks steadily at a few large incidents
in the light of human nature, discovers clues which escape the vision of
the purely literary historian, who is for ever diving--and usefully
diving--into the wells of parchment detail. In reality it matters little
whether this diver or that has dived most deeply; matters little whether
certain documents are spurious or genuine. Mary Stuart accepted--she
certainly did not reject--the passion of a certain man; that man was a
leader among a number of men who murdered her husband; after the murder
Mary Stuart married that particular man, and thereby most assuredly held a
candle to murder. This was Mary. Now if everything that has been said in
her favour could be proved, she would be but little better than this; if
everything that has been said against her could be proved, she would be
but little worse.

The student of historic characters never forgets the time the country and
the circumstance in which his characters lived. We are now looking at a
time when not only noble and ignoble characters existed side by side, but
when noble and less noble elements existed together in one and the same
character. For indeed the good elements of a better time come in slowly,
and the evil elements of a bad past die a lingering death. The active
Scotland (there was, we know, a good quiet Scotland in the background),
the active Scotland of Tudor times was given over to factions, fanatics,
self-seekers and assassins. Life was taken and given with scant ceremony.
The highest personages of that time contrived murder, or sanctioned it,
or forgave it--the popes did, continental sovereigns did, Henry did,
Elizabeth did. The murders thus contrived or sanctioned or condoned were,
it is true, mainly on behalf of thrones or dominions or religions, while
the murder which Mary assuredly forgave, if she did not sanction, was on
behalf of her passions. The moral difference between murder for a crown
and murder for a love we may not now discuss.

It was to this Scotland, the active and factious Scotland just described,
that the young queen of nineteen years was brought--brought from a
different atmosphere and with an unpropitious training. The more favoured
Elizabeth meanwhile was ruling over a quieter, a more united people, and
was helped at her council-table by high-minded and unselfish men. It is
useless now perhaps to ask if we may be allowed to admire the gifts, to
deplore the faults, and to pity the fate of the more unfortunate queen. We
can indeed, individually, do what we please, but the queen's posterity
with no uncertain voice has declared that we may. Emerson says that the
great soul of the world is just, and the great soul has kept Mary within
the territory of its favour. It would seem that the affection and devotion
which were given to Mary were not based on any single great or on any
group of great actions; they were based (it is to her credit) on daily
acts of kindliness and patience and unruffled grace. The sum of Mary's
qualities, whatever they were, endowed her with the rare gift of making
the world her friend; and the world does not, as a rule, make lasting
friendships on insufficient grounds. Mary indeed, with all her faults,
deserved a better country than Scotland; and England, it may be added,
deserved a more gracious queen than Elizabeth. But whatever she deserved
or whatever she was fitted for, Mary's fate was destined to be one of the
saddest of recorded time. Inward force and outer circumstance are so
commingled that mortal reason fails to disentangle them. To-day men _seem_
to put a curb on circumstance, and to-morrow circumstance _seems_ to run
away with men. An ocean of complex and imperious circumstance surged
around two queens, one it lifted up and kept afloat and carried into a
secure haven, the other it tossed mercilessly to and fro and finally drew
her underneath its waves.

A number of leading Scottish nobles gave out and probably believed that
the wretched Darnley's life was incompatible with the general good.
Bothwell was but one of this number. Yet how clear it has ever been to all
eyes, save to those of the blindly passionate actors themselves, that the
Scottish queen's fatal error, even if there were no grave error before,
was in marrying any one of the misguided band. But misguidance was in the
ascendant. Could she by some magic web have concealed the husbands from
each other and have married them all, she would at any rate have fared no
worse than she did. But, to be serious, if a queen marries one of half a
dozen ambitious assassins, the other five will assuredly make her life
intolerable and her rule impossible.

In no aspect of character did the two queens differ more than in their
attitude to religion. Elizabeth's piety, like her father's, though less
deep than his, was of a similar passionless, perceptive, unreflective
order. Mary's religion, like Elizabeth's, like that of all individuals in
all parts of the world, was no doubt at first the product of her early
surroundings; but with the Scottish queen it was much more than this--it
was a profoundly passionate conviction and a deeply revered ideal. A
living writer, who is perhaps unrivalled in the historic art and who
rarely errs in his historic judgments, is less happy than is his wont in
his verdict on the catholic queen. He avers that she had no share "in the
deeper and nobler emotions;" yet almost in the same breath he states that
she had "a purpose fixed as the stars to trample down the Reformation." To
have a purpose "fixed as the stars" to trample down _one_ religion was, in
that age of the world, surely to have a purpose "fixed as the stars" to
strengthen and protect _another_; to yearn to put down the Reformation was
surely to yearn to bring in catholicism--catholic teaching and catholic
rites and catholic rule. We may not be catholics, but we are not entitled
to say that from an impassioned catholic woman's point of view this was
not a high ideal; it had been the ideal of the judicial mind, Sir Thomas
More, as well as the ideal of the enthusiast, Ignatius Loyola; it had been
for a thousand years the ideal of a multitude of noble natures both men
and women. Elizabeth, opportunely enough, had no ideals of any kind;
ideals indeed are often inconvenient in a ruler; but she had, despite her
acrimonious speech, plenty of sincerely good wishes and good intentions
for all the world. If the Queen of England had no ideals she had many
devices, and one was to check the flow of all sorts of zeal, especially
Protestant zeal. In the two lives religion told in different ways--the
difference was in the two natures, be it noted, not in the two religions.
Elizabeth, with a skin-deep religion only, was evenly and enduringly
virtuous. Mary had ardent and deep convictions, but her career was not one
of unbroken virtue. Elizabeth was certainly unfortunate in her religious
attitudes. She did not like the Protestants for she was not a good
Protestant; the Catholics did not like her for she was not a good
Catholic. In religion, indeed as in all things, she was greatly influenced
by her inborn spirit of "contrariness." If the Catholics had intrigued
less persistently against her throne and her life, and if (the idea is
sufficiently ludicrous) the Queen of Scotland had chanced to run in
harness with the hated John Knox (hated of both queens), she would gladly
have given the rein to her Catholic impulses.

The two queens differed as much in body as in mind. I have elsewhere
sought to show not only that certain leading features of character tend to
run together (in itself a distinct contribution to our knowledge), but
also that these allied features are associated with a group of bodily
peculiarities, a contribution, if it really is a contribution, of greatly
additional interest. Elizabeth, large and pink-skinned like her father,
was by no means without impressiveness and even stateliness. She carried
her head a little forward and her chin a little downward, both these
positions being due to a slightly curved upper spine. Her hair was scanty
and her eyebrows were practically absent. All these bodily items, as well
as her mental items, she inherited from her father. Mary had a wholly
different figure and a different presence; her head was upright, her spine
straight; in her back there was no convexity either vertically or
transversely. Her eyebrows were abundant and her head of hair was long and
massive. All these peculiarities, too, we may be quite sure, she derived
from her parentage (not necessarily the nearest parents) on one side or
the other. In my little work on body and parentage in character I urge--it
is well to say here--that the bodily signs of certain classes of character
(two more marked and one intervening) are now and then subject to the
modifying influences of ailment and accident, and especially when these
happen in early life. In Elizabeth and Mary, however, no such influences
disturbed the development of two strongly-marked examples, both in body
and in character, of two large classes of women and, with but little
alteration, of two large classes of men also.


HALL & ENGLISH, Printers, No. 71, High Street, Birmingham.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Body, Parentage and Character in History - Notes on the Tudor Period" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.