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Title: English Lands Letters and Kings: From Celt to Tudor
Author: Mitchell, Donald Grant
Language: English
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          II: From Elizabeth to Anne
         III: Queen Anne and the Georges
          IV: The Later Georges to Victoria


ENGLISH LANDS LETTERS AND KINGS

From Celt to Tudor


      *      *      *      *      *      *

ENGLISH LANDS LETTERS AND KINGS

_By Donald G. Mitchell_

  I. From Celt to Tudor
 II. From Elizabeth to Anne
III. Queen Anne and the Georges
 IV. The Later Georges to Victoria

_Each 1 vol., 12mo, cloth, gilt top, $1.50_

AMERICAN LANDS AND LETTERS

From the Mayflower to Rip Van Winkle

_1 vol., square 12mo, Illustrated, $2.50_

      *      *      *      *      *      *


ENGLISH LANDS LETTERS AND KINGS

From Celt to Tudor

by

DONALD G. MITCHELL

[Illustration]



New York
Charles Scribner’s Sons
MDCCCXCVII

Copyright, 1889, by
Charles Scribner’S Sons

Trow’S
Printing and Bookbinding Company,
New York.



_PREFACE._


This little book is made up from the opening series of a considerable
range of “talks,” with which--during the past few years--I have
undertaken to entertain, and (if it might be) instruct a bevy of friends;
and the interest of a few outsiders who have come to the hearings has
induced me to put the matter in type. I feel somewhat awkwardly in
obtruding upon the public any such panoramic view of British writers, in
these days of specialists--when students devote half a lifetime to the
analysis of the works of a single author, and to the proper study of a
single period.

I have tried, however, to avoid bad mistakes and misleading ones, and
shall reckon my commentary only so far forth good--as it may familiarize
the average reader with the salient characteristics of the writers
brought under notice, and shall put these writers into such a swathing of
historic and geographic enwrapments as shall keep them better in mind.

When I consider the large number of books recently issued on similar
topics, and the scholarly acuteness, and the great range belonging to
so many of them, I am not a little discomforted at thought of my bold
scurry over so wide reach of ground. Indeed, I have the figure before me
now--as I hint an apology--of an old-time country doctor who has ventured
with his saddle-bags and spicy nostrums into competition with a half
score of special practitioners--with their microscopy and their _granules
dosimetriques_; but I think, consolingly, that possibly the old-time
mediciner--if not able to cure, can at the least induce a pleasurable
slumber.

                                                          EDGEWOOD, 1889.



_CONTENTS._


                                                     PAGE
                       CHAPTER I.

    PRELIMINARY,                                        1

    EARLY CENTURIES,                                    5

    CELTIC LITERATURE,                                  7

    BEGINNING OF ENGLISH LEARNING,                      9

    CÆDMON,                                            13

    BEDA,                                              15

    KING ALFRED,                                       17

    CANUTE AND GODIVA,                                 22

    WILLIAM THE NORMAN,                                25

    HAROLD THE SAXON,                                  29

                      CHAPTER II.

    GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH,                              37

    KING ARTHUR LEGENDS,                               39

    EARLY NORMAN KINGS,                                46

    RICHARD CŒUR DE LION,                              50

    TIMES OF KING JOHN,                                53

    MIXED LANGUAGE,                                    56

    SIR JOHN MANDEVILLE,                               59

    EARLY BOOK-MAKING,                                 62

    RELIGIOUS HOUSES,                                  66

    LIFE OF A DAMOISELLE,                              72

                      CHAPTER III.

    ROGER BACON,                                       77

    WILLIAM LANGLANDE,                                 84

    JOHN WYCLIF,                                       90

    CHAUCER,                                           97

                      CHAPTER IV.

    OF GOWER AND FROISSART,                           127

    TWO HENRYS AND TWO POETS,                         132

    HENRY V. AND WAR TIMES,                           141

    JOAN OF ARC AND RICHARD III.,                     146

    CAXTON AND FIRST ENGLISH PRINTING,                149

    OLD PRIVATE LETTERS,                              154

    A BURST OF BALLADRY,                              158

                       CHAPTER V.

    EARLY DAYS OF HENRY VIII.,                        167

    CARDINAL WOLSEY, AND SIR THOMAS MORE,             173

    CRANMER, LATIMER, KNOX, AND OTHERS,               182

    VERSE-WRITING AND PSALMODIES,                     189

    WYATT AND SURREY,                                 193

    A BOY-KING, A QUEEN, AND SCHOOLMASTER,            197

                      CHAPTER VI.

    ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND,                              204

    PERSONALITY OF THE QUEEN,                         207

    BURLEIGH AND OTHERS,                              210

    A GROUP OF GREAT NAMES,                           214

    EDMUND SPENSER,                                   217

    THE FAERY QUEEN,                                  221

    PHILIP SIDNEY,                                    230

    CHAPTER VII.

    JOHN LYLY,                                        245

    FRANCIS BACON,                                    250

    THOMAS HOBBES,                                    261

    GEORGE CHAPMAN,                                   266

    MARLOWE,                                          269

    A TAVERN COTERIE,                                 274

                     CHAPTER VIII.

    GEORGE PEELE,                                     284

    THOMAS DEKKER,                                    287

    MICHAEL DRAYTON,                                  291

    BEN JONSON,                                       295

    SOME PROSE WRITERS,                               303

    THE QUEEN’S PROGRESSES,                           312



_ENGLISH LANDS, LETTERS, & KINGS._



CHAPTER I.


I have undertaken in this book a series of very familiar and informal
talks with my readers about English literary people, and the ways in
which they worked; and also about the times in which they lived and
the places where they grew up. We shall have, therefore, a good deal
of concern with English history; and with English geography too--or
rather topography: and I think that I have given a very fair and honest
descriptive title to the material which I shall set before my readers, in
calling it a book about ENGLISH LANDS AND LETTERS AND KINGS.

It appears to me that American young people have an advantage over
British-born students of our History and Literature--in the fact that the
localities consecrated by great names or events have more illuminating
power to us, who encounter them rarely and after voyage over sea, than to
the Englishman who lives and grows up beside them. Londoners pass Bolt
Court, Fleet Street, and Dr. Johnson’s tavern a hundred times a year with
no thought but of the chops and the Barclay’s ale to be had there. But
to the cultivated American these localities start a charming procession,
in which the doughty old Dictionary-maker, with his staff and long brown
coat and three cornered hat, is easily the leader.

For my own part, when my foot first struck the hard-worked pavement of
London Bridge, even the old nursery sing-song came over me with the force
of a poem,--

    As I was going over London Bridge
    I found a penny and bought me a kid.

So, too--once upon a time--on a bright May-day along the Tweed, I was
attracted by an old square ruin of a tower--very homely--scarcely
picturesque: I had barely curiosity enough to ask its name. A
stone-breaker on the high-road told me it was Norham Castle; and
straightway all the dash and clash of the poem of “Marmion”[1] broke
around me.

Now I do not think our cousins the Britishers, to whom the loveliest
ruins become humdrum, can be half as much alive as we, to this sort of
enjoyment.

I shall have then--as I said--a great deal to say about the topography
of England as well as about its books and writers; and shall try to tie
together your knowledge of historic facts and literary ones, with the yet
more tangible and associated geographic facts--so that on some golden
day to come (as golden days do come) the sight of a mere thread of spire
over tree-tops, or of a cliff on Yorkshire shores, or of a quaint gable
that might have covered a “Tabard Tavern,” shall set all your historic
reading on the flow again--thus extending and brightening and giving
charm to a hundred wayside experiences of Travel.

One other preliminary word:--On that great reach of ground we are to
pass over--if we make reasonable time--there must be long strides, and
skippings: we can only seize upon illustrative types--little kindling
feeders of wide-reaching flame. It may well be that I shall ignore and
pass by lines of thought or progress very lively and present to you; may
be I shall dwell on things already familiar; nay, it may well happen that
many readers--young and old--fresh from their books--shall know more of
matters touched on in our rapid survey than I know myself: never mind
that; but remember,--and let me say it once for all--that my aim is not
so much to give definite instruction as to put the reader into such ways
and starts of thought as shall make him eager to instruct himself.


_Early Centuries._

In those dreary early centuries when England was in the throes of its
beginnings, and when the Roman eagle--which had always led a half-stifled
life amongst British fogs, had gone back to its own eyrie in the
South--the old stock historians could and did find little to fasten
our regard--save the eternal welter of little wars. Indeed, those who
studied fifty years ago will remember that all early British history was
excessively meagre and stiff; some of it, I daresay, left yet in the
accredited courses of school reading; dreadfully dull--with dates piled
on dates, and battles by the page; and other pages of battle peppered
with such names as Hengist, or Ethelred and Cerdic and Cuthwulf, or
whoever could strike hardest or cut deepest.

But now, thanks to modern inquiry and to such men as Stubbs and Freeman
and Wright, and the more entertaining Green--we get new light on those
old times. We watch the ribs of that ancient land piling in distincter
shape out of the water: we see the downs and the bluffs, and the
fordable places in the rivers; we know now just where great wastes of
wood stood in the way of our piratical forefathers--the Saxons, the
Jutes, and the Angles; these latter either by greater moral weight in
them, or by the accident of numbers (which is the more probable), coming
to give a name to the new country and language which were a-making
together.

We find that those old Romans did leave, besides their long, straight,
high-roads, and Roman villas, and store of sepulchral vases, a germ
of Roman laws, and a little nucleus of Roman words, traceable in the
institutions and--to some slight degree--in the language of to-day.

We see in the later pages of Green through what forests the rivers
ran, and can go round about the great Roman-British towns (Roman first
and then adopted by Britons) of London[2] and of York; and that other
magnificent one of Cirencester (or Sisister as the English say, with a
stout defiance of their alphabet). We can understand how and why the fat
meadows of Somersetshire should be coveted by marauders and fought for
by Celts; and we behold more clearly and distinctly than ever, under the
precise topography of modern investigators, the walls of wood and hills
which stayed Saxon pursuit of those Britons who sought shelter in Wales,
Cumberland, or the Cornish peninsula.


_Celtic Literature._

Naturally, this flight of a nation to its fastnesses was not without
clamor and lament; some of which--if we may trust current Cymric
traditions--was put into such piercing sound as has come down to our own
day in the shape of Welsh war-songs. Dates are uncertain; but without
doubt somewhat of this Celtic shrill singing was of earlier utterance
than anything of equal literary quality that came from our wrangling
Saxon or West-Saxon forefathers in the fertile plains of England.

Some of these Celtic war strains have been turned into a music by
the poet Gray[3] which our English ears love; Emerson used to find
regalement in the strains of another Welsh bard; and the Mabinogion, a
pleasant budget of old Cymric fable,[4] has come to a sort of literary
resurrection in our day under the hands of the late Sidney Lanier. If
you would know more of things Celtic, I would commend to your attention
a few lectures read at Oxford in 1864-65 by Matthew Arnold in which he
has brought a curious zeal, and his wonted acumen to an investigation
of the influences upon English literature of that old Celtic current.
It was a wild, turbulent current; it had fret and roar in it; it had
passion and splendor in it; and there are those who think that whatever
ardor of imagination, or love for brilliant color or music may belong to
our English race is due to old interfusion of British blood. Certainly
the lively plaids of the Highlander and his bagpipes show love for much
color and exuberant gush of sound; and we all understand that the Celtic
Irishman has an appetite for a shindy which demonstrates a rather lively
emotional nature.


_Beginning of English Learning._

But over that ancient England covered with its alternating fens and
forests, and grimy Saxon hamlets, and Celtic companies of huts, there
streams presently a new civilizing influence. It is in the shape of
Christian monks[5] sent by Pope Gregory the Great, who land upon the
island of Thanet near the Thames mouth (whereabout are now the bustling
little watering places of Ramsgate and Margate), and march two by
two--St. Augustine among them and towering head and shoulders above
the rest--bearing silver crosses and singing litanies, up to the halls
of Ethelbert--near to the very site where now stands, in those rich
Kentish lands, the august and beautiful Cathedral of Canterbury. There,
too, sprung up in those earlier centuries that Canterbury School, where
letters were taught, and learned men congregated, and whence emerged
that famous scholar--Aldhelm,[6] of whom the great King Alfred speaks
admiringly; who not only knew his languages but could sing a song; a
sort of early Saxon Sankey who beguiled wanderers into better ways by
his homely rhythmic utterance. I think we may safely count this old
Aldhelm, who had a strain of royal blood in him, as the first of English
ballad-mongers.

From the north of England, too, there was at almost the same date,
another gleam of crosses, coming by way of Ireland and Iona, where St.
Columba,[7] commemorated in one of Wordsworth’s Sonnets, had established
a monastery. We have the good old Irish monk’s lament at leaving his home
in Ireland for the northern wilderness; there is true Irish fervor in
it:--“From the high prow I look over the sea, and great tears are in my
gray eyes when I turn to Erin--to Erin, where the songs of the birds are
so sweet, and where the clerks sing like the birds; where the young are
so gentle, and the old so wise; where the great men are so noble to look
at, and the women so fair to wed.”

Ruined remnants of the Iona monastery are still to be found on that
little Western island--within hearing almost of the waves that surge
into the caves of Staffa. And from this island stand-point, the monkish
missions were established athwart Scotland; finding foothold too all down
the coast of Northumberland. Early among these and very notable, was the
famous Abbey of Lindisfarne or the Holy Isle, not far southward from
the mouth of the Tweed. You will recall the name as bouncing musically,
up and down, through Scott’s poem of “Marmion.” A little farther to
the south, upon the Yorkshire coast, came to be established, shortly
afterward, the Whitby monastery; its ruins make now one of the shows of
Whitby town--one of the favorite watering places of the eastern coast
of England, and well known for giving its name to what is called Whitby
jet--which is only a finer sort of bituminous coal, of which there are
great beds in the neighborhood.[8] The Abbey ruin is upon heights, from
which are superb views out upon the German Sea that beats with grand
uproar upon the Whitby cliffs. To the westward is the charming country of
Eskdale, and by going a few miles southward one may come to Robinhood’s
bay; and in the intervening village of Hawsker may be seen the two stones
said to mark the flight of the arrows of Robinhood and Little John, when
they tried their skill for the amusement of the monks of Whitby.


_Cædmon._

Well, in the year of our Lord 637, this Whitby Abbey was founded by
the excellent St. Hilda, and it was under her auspices, and by virtue
of her saintly encouragements, that the first true English poet,
Cædmon, began to sing his Christian song of the creation. He was but
a cattle-tender--unkempt--untaught, full of savagery, but with a fine
phrenzy in him, which made his paraphrase of Scripture a spur, and
possibly--in a certain imperfect sense, a model for the muse of John
Milton.

Of the chaos before creation, he says:--

                  Earth’s surface was
    With grass not yet be-greened; while far and wide
    The dusky ways, with black unending night
    Did ocean cover.

Of the great Over-Lord God-Almighty, he says--

    In Him, beginning never,
    Or origin hath been; but he is aye supreme
    Over heaven’s thrones, with high majesty
    Righteous and mighty.

And again,--that you may make for yourselves comparison with the
treatment and method of Milton,--I quote this picture of Satan in hell:--

    Within him boiled his thoughts about his heart;
    Without, the wrathful fire pressed hot upon him--
    He said,--‘This narrow place is most unlike
    That other we once knew in heaven high,
    And which my Lord gave me; tho’ own it now
    We must not, but to him must cede our realm.
    Yet right he hath not done to strike us down
    To hell’s abyss--of heaven’s realm bereft--
    Which with mankind to people, he hath planned.
    Pain sorest this, that Adam, wrought of Earth
    On my strong throne shall sit, enjoying Bliss
    While we endure these pangs--hell torments dire,
    Woe! woe is me! Could I but use my hands
    And might I be from here a little time--
    One winter’s space--then, with this host would I--
    But these iron bands press hard--this coil of chains--
    …

There is but one known MS. copy of this poem. It is probably of the
tenth, certainly not later than the eleventh century, and is in
the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It is illuminated, and some scenes
represented seem to have been taken from the old miracle plays.[9] It was
printed in 1655: in this form a copy is said to have reached the hands
of Milton, through a friend of the printer: and it may well be that the
stern old Puritan poet was moved by a hearing of it,--for he was blind at
this date,--to the prosecution of that grand task which has made his name
immortal.


_Beda._

We might, however, never have known anything of Cædmon and of Saint
Hilda and all the monasteries north and south, except for another worthy
who grew up in the hearing of the waves which beat on the cliffs of
north-eastern England. This was Beda,--respected in his own day for his
industry, piety, straightforward honesty--and so followed by the respect
of succeeding generations as to get and carry the name of the _Venerable_
Beda. Though familiar with the people’s language,[10] and with Greek,
he wrote in monkish Latin--redeemed by classic touches--and passed his
life in the monastery at Jarrow, which is on the Tyne, near the coast
of Durham, a little to the westward of South Shields. An ancient church
is still standing amid the ruins of the monastic walls, and a heavy,
straight-backed chair of oak (which would satisfy the most zealous
antiquarian by its ugliness) is still guarded in the chancel, and is
called Beda’s Chair.

Six hundred pupils gathered about him there, in the old days, to be
taught in physics, grammar, rhetoric, music, and I know not what besides.
So learned and true was he, that the Pope would have called him to
Rome; but he loved better the wooded Tyne banks, and the gray moorlands,
and the labors of his own monastery. There he lived out an honest, a
plodding, an earnest, and a hopeful life. And as I read the sympathetic
story of its end, and of how the old man--his work all done--lifted up
a broken voice--on his last day--amidst his scholars, to the _Gloria
in Excelsis_--I bethink me of his last eulogist, the young historian,
who within a few months only after sketching that tender picture of his
great forerunner in the paths of British history, laid down his brilliant
pen--his work only half done, and died, away from his home, at Mentone,
on the shores of the Mediterranean.


_King Alfred._

A half century after the death of Beda began the Danish invasions,
under which, monasteries churches schools went down in a flood of blood
and fire. As we read of that devastation--the record covering only a
half-page of the old Saxon Chronicle (begun after Beda’s time)--it seems
an incident; yet the piratic storm, with intermittent fury, stretches
over a century and more of ruin. It was stayed effectively for a time
when the great Alfred came to full power.

I do not deal much in dates: but you should have a positive date for
this great English king: a thousand years ago (889) fairly marks the
period when he was in the prime of life--superintending, very likely,
the building of a British fleet upon the Pool, below London. He was born
at Wantage, in Berkshire, a little to the south of the Great Western
Railway; and in a glade near to the site of the old Saxon palace, is
still shown what is called Alfred’s Well. In the year 1849 his birthday
was celebrated, after the lapse of a thousand years--so keen are these
British cousins of ours to keep alive all their great memories. And
Alfred’s is a memory worth keeping. He had advantages--as we should
say--of foreign travel; as a boy he went to Rome, traversing Italy and
the Continent. If we could only get a good story of that cross-country
trip of his!

We know little more than that he came to high honor at Rome, was anointed
king there, before yet he had come to royalty at home. He makes also a
second visit in company with his father Ethelwolf: and on their return
Ethelwolf relieves the tedium of travel by marrying the twelve-year old
daughter of Charles the Bald of France. Those were times of extraordinary
daring.

The great king had throughout a most picturesque and adventurous life: he
is hard pushed by the Danes--by rivals--by his own family; one while a
wanderer on the moors--another time disguised as minstrel in the enemy’s
camp; but always high-hearted, always hopeful, always working. He is
oppressed by the pall of ignorance that overlays the lordly reach of his
kingdom: “Scarce a priest have I found,” says he, “south of the Thames
who can render Latin into English.” He is not an apt scholar himself, but
he toils at learning; his abbots help him; he revises old chronicles, and
makes people to know of Beda; he has boys taught to write in English;
gives himself with love to the rendering of Boëthius’ “Consolation of
Philosophy.” He adopts its reasoning, and plants his hope on the creed--

1st. That a wise God governs.

2d. That all suffering may be made helpful.

3d. That God is chiefest good.

4th. That only the good are happy.

5th. That the foreknowledge of God does not conflict with Free-will.

These would seem to carry even now the pith and germ of the broadest
theologic teachings.

It is a noble and a picturesque figure--that of King Alfred--which we
see, looking back over the vista of a thousand years; better it would
seem than that of King Arthur to weave tales around, and illumine with
the heat and the flame of poesy. Yet poets of those times and of all
succeeding times have strangely neglected this august and royal type of
manhood.

After him came again weary Danish wars and wild blood-letting and
ignorance surging over the land, save where a little light played
fitfully around such great religious houses as those of York and
Canterbury. It was the dreary Tenth Century, on the threshold of which
he had died--the very core and kernel of the Dark Ages, when the wisest
thought the end of things was drawing nigh, and strong men quaked with
dread at sight of an eclipse, or comet, or at sound of the rumble of an
earthquake. It was a time and a condition of gloom which made people
pardon, and even relish such a dismal poem as that of “The Grave,”
which--though bearing thirteenth century form--may well in its germ have
been a fungal outgrowth of the wide-spread hopelessness of this epoch:--

    For thee was a house built
    Ere thou wert born;
    For thee was a mold meant
    Ere thou of mother cam’st.
    But it is not made ready
    Nor its depth measured,
    Nor is it seen
    How long it shall be.
    Now I bring thee
    Where thou shalt be
    And I shall measure thee
    And the mold afterward.
    Doorless is that house
    And dark is it within;
    There thou art fast detained
    And death hath the key
    Loathsome is that earth-house
    And grim within to dwell,
    And worms shall divide thee.

From the death of Alfred (901) to the Norman Conquest (1066) there was
monkish work done in shape of Homilies, Chronicles, grammars of Latin
and English--the language settling more and more into something like a
determined form of what is now called Anglo-Saxon. But in that lapse
of years I note only three historic incidents, which by reason of the
traditions thrown about them, carry a piquant literary flavor.


_Canute and Godiva._

The _first_ is when the famous Canute, king of both England and Denmark,
and having strong taste for song and music and letters, rows by the
towers of a great East-England religious house, and as he drifts with the
tide, composes (if we may trust tradition) a snatch of verse which has
come down to us in a thirteenth century form, about the pleasant singing
of the Monks of Ely. Wordsworth has embalmed the matter in one of his
Ecclesiastic Sonnets (xxx.):

    A pleasant music floats along the mere,
    From monks in Ely chanting service high,
    While as Canute the king is rowing by;
    My oarsman, quoth the mighty king, draw near
    That we the sweet songs of the monks may hear.
    He listens (all past conquests and all schemes
    Of future vanishing like empty dreams)
    Heart-touched, and haply not without a tear,
    The royal minstrel, ere the Choir is still,
    While his free barge skims the smooth flood along
    Gives to the rapture an accordant Rhyme
    O suffering Earth! be thankful; sternest Clime
    And rudest Age are subject to the thrill
    Of heaven-descended piety and song.

I think you will never go under the wondrous arches of Ely Cathedral--and
you should go there if you ever travel into the eastern counties of
England--without thinking of King Canute and of that wondrous singing of
the monks, eight hundred years ago.

The _second_ historic incident of which I spoke, is the murder of King
Duncan by Macbeth in the year 1039, some twenty-five years before the
Norman Conquest. I don’t think you want any refreshing about Macbeth.

The _third_ incident is of humbler tone, yet it went to show great
womanly devotion, and lifted a tax from the heads of a whole
towns-people. I refer to the tradition of Earl Leofric of Mercia and the
Lady Godiva of Coventry, based in the main, without doubt, upon actual
occurrence, and the subject for centuries of annual commemoration.[11]
Tennyson tells, in his always witching way, how

    She rode forth clothéd on with chastity:
    The deep air listened round her as she rode,
                                  ----the barking cur
    Made her cheek flame; her palfry’s foot-fall shot
    Light horror thro’ her pulses:
    One low churl compact of thankless earth
    Peep’d--but his eyes, before they had their will
    Were shrivelled into darkness in his head,
    And she, that knew not, pass’d; and all at once
    With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless noon
    Was clash’d and hammered from a hundred towers,
    One after one: But even then she gained
    Her bower; whence re-issuing, robed and crowned,
    To meet her lord, she took the tax away
    And built herself an everlasting name.

Observe--that I call up these modern writers and their language, out of
their turn as may seem to you, only that I may plant more distinctly in
your thought the old incidents to which their words relate. It is as
if I were speaking to you of some long-gone line of ancestors, and on a
sudden should call up some delicate blond child and say--This one is in
the line of direct descent; she bears the same old name, she murmurs the
same old tunes; and this shimmer of gold in her hair is what shone on the
heads of the good Saxon foreparents.


_William the Norman._

We now come to a date to be remembered, and in the neighborhood of which
our first morning’s talk will come to an end. It is the date of the
Norman Conquest--1066--that being the year of the Battle of Hastings,
when the brave Harold, last of the Saxon kings went down, shot through
the eye; and the lithe, clean-faced, smirking William of Normandy “gat
him” the throne of England. These new-comers were not far-away cousins of
our Saxon and Danish forefathers; only so recently as the reign of Alfred
had they taken permanent foothold in that pleasant Norman country.

But they have not brought the Norse speech of the old home land with
them: they have taken to a Frankish language--we will call it Norman
French--which is thenceforth to blend with the Saxonism of Alfred,
until two centuries or more later, our own mother English--the English
of Chaucer and of Shakespeare--is evolved out of the union. Not only
a new tongue, do these conquerors bring with them, but madrigals and
ballads and rhyming histories; they have great contempt for the stolid,
lazy-going Latin records of the Saxon Chroniclers; they love a song
better. In the very face of the armies at Hastings, their great minstrel
_Taillefer_ had lifted up his voice to chant the glories of Roland, about
which all the histories of the time will tell you.

It was a new civilization (not altogether Christian) out-topping the
old. These Normans knew more of war--knew more of courts--knew more of
affairs. They loved money and they loved conquest. To love one in those
days, was to love the other. King William swept the monasteries clean of
those ignorant priests who had dozed there, from the time of Alfred, and
put in Norman Monks with nicely clipped hair, who could construe Latin
after latest Norman rules. He new parcelled the lands, and gave estates
to those who could hold and manage them. It was as if a new, sharp eager
man of business had on a sudden come to the handling of some old sleepily
conducted counting-room; he cuts off the useless heads; he squares the
books; he stops waste; pity or tenderness have no hearing in his shop.

I mentioned not far back an old Saxon Chronicle, which all down the
years, from shortly after Beda’s day, had been kept alive--sometimes
under the hands of one monastery, sometimes of another; here is what its
Saxon Scribe of the eleventh century says of this new-come and conquering
Norman King: It is good Saxon history, and in good Saxon style:--

    “King William was a very wise man, and very rich, more
    worshipful and strong than any of his foregangers. He was mild
    to good men who loved God; and stark beyond all bounds to those
    who withsaid his will. He had Earls in his bonds who had done
    against his will; Bishops he set off their bishoprics; Abbots
    off their abbotries, and thanes in prison. By his cunning he
    was so thoroughly acquainted with England, that there is not
    a hide of land of which he did not know, both who had it, and
    what was its worth. He planted a great preserve for deer, and
    he laid down laws therewith, that whoever should slay hart or
    hind should be blinded. He forbade the harts and also the
    boars to be killed. As greatly did he love the tall deer as if
    he were their father.… He took from his subjects many marks
    of gold, and many hundred pounds of silver; and _that_ he
    took--some by right, and some by mickle might for very little
    need. He had fallen into avarice; and greediness he loved
    withal. Among other things is not to be forgotten the good
    peace that he made in this land; so that a man who had any
    confidence in himself might go over his realm, with his bosom
    full of gold, unhurt. Nor durst any man slay another man had he
    done ever so great evil to the other.… Brytland (Wales) was in
    his power, and he therein wrought castles, and completely ruled
    over that race of men.… Certainly in his time men had great
    hardship, and very many injuries.… His rich men moaned, and
    the poor men murmured; but he was so hard that he recked not
    the hatred of them all. For it was need they should follow the
    King’s will, if they wished to live, or to have lands or goods.
    Alas, that any man should be so moody, and should so puff up
    himself, and think himself above all other men! May Almighty
    God show mercy to his soul, and grant him forgiveness of his
    sins.”

There are other contemporary Anglo-Saxon annalists, and there are the
rhyming chroniclers of Norman blood, who put a better color upon the
qualities of King William; but I think there is no one of them, who even
in moments of rhetorical exaltation, thinks of putting William’s sense of
justice, or his kindness of heart, before his greed or his self-love.


_Harold the Saxon._

The late Lord Lytton (Bulwer) gave to this period and to the closing
years of Harold one of the most elaborate of his Historic Studies. He
availed himself shrewdly of all the most picturesque aspects (and they
were very many) in the career of Harold, and found startling historic
facts enough to supply to the full his passion for exaggerated melodrama.
There are brilliant passages in his book,[12] and a great wealth of
archæologic material; he shows us the remnants of old Roman villas--the
crude homeliness of Saxon house surroundings--the assemblage of old
Palace Councils. Danish battle-axes, and long-bearded Saxon thanes, and
fiery-headed Welshmen contrast with the polished and insidious Normans.
Nor is there lacking a heavy and much over-weighted quota of love-making
and misfortune, and joy and death. Tennyson has taken the same subject,
using the same skeleton of story for his play of Harold. It would seem
that he has depended on the romance of Bulwer for his archæology; and
indeed the book is dedicated to the younger Lord Lytton (better known in
the literary world as “Owen Meredith”). As a working play, it is counted,
like all of Tennyson’s--a failure; but there are passages of exceeding
beauty.

He pictures the King Harold--the hero that he is--but with a veil of
true Saxon gloom lowering over him: he tells the story of his brother
Tostig’s jealous wrath,--always in arms against Harold: he tells of
the hasty oath, which the king in young days had sworn to William in
Normandy, never to claim England’s throne: and this oath hangs like a
cloud over the current of Harold’s story. The grief, and noble devotion
of poor Edith, the betrothed bride of the king, whom he is compelled by
a devilish diplomacy to discard--is woven like a golden thread into the
woof of the tale: and Aldwyth, the queen, whom Harold did not and can
never love, is set off against Edith--in Tennyson’s own unmatchable way
in the last scenes of the tragedy.

We are in the camp at Hastings: the battle waits; a vision of Norman
saints, on whose bones Harold had sworn that dreadful oath, comes to him
in his trance:--They say--(these wraiths of saints)--

    O hapless Harold! king but for an hour!
    Thou swarest falsely by our blessed bones,
    We give our voice against thee out of Heaven!
    And warn him against the fatal _arrow_.

And Harold--waking--says--

                              Away!
    My battle-axe against your voices!

And then--remembering that old Edward the Confessor had told him on his
deathbed that he should die by an arrow--his hope faints.

    The king’s last word--“the arrow,” I shall die:
    I die for England then, who lived for England.
    What nobler? Man must die.
    I cannot fall into a falser world--
    I have done no man wrong.…

Edith (his betrothed) comes in--

                      Edith!--Edith!
    Get thou into thy cloister, as the king
    Will’d it: … There, the great God of Truth
    Fill all thine hours with peace! A lying Devil
    Hath haunted me--mine oath--my wife--I fain
    Had made my marriage not a lie; I could not:
    Thou art my bride! and thou, in after years,
    Praying perchance for this poor soul of mine
    In cold, white cells, beneath an icy moon.
    This memory to thee!--and this to England,
    My legacy of war against the Pope,
    From child to child, from Pope to Pope, from Age to Age,
    Till the sea wash her level with her shores,
    Or till the Pope be Christ’s.

Aldwyth, the queen, glides in, and seeing Edith, says--

    Away from him! Away!

Edith says (we can imagine her sweet plaintiveness)--

    I will.… I have not spoken to the king
    One word: and one I must. Farewell!

And she offers to go.

But Harold, beckoning with a grand gesture of authority--

                          Not yet!
    Stay! The king commands thee, woman!

And he turns to Aldwyth, from whose kinsmen he had expected aid--

    Have thy two brethren sent their forces in?

    _Aldwyth_--Nay, I fear not.

And Harold blazes upon her--

          Then there’s no force in thee!
    Thou didst possess thyself of Edward’s ear
    To part me from the woman that I loved.
    …
    Thou hast been false to England and to me!
    As--in some sort--I have been false to thee.
    Leave me. No more.--Pardon on both sides.--Go!

    _Aldwyth_--Alas, my lord, I loved thee!
    O Harold! husband! Shall we meet again?

    _Harold_--After the battle--after the battle. Go.

    _Aldwyth_--I go. (_Aside._) That I could stab her standing there!
    (_Exit Aldwyth._)

    _Edith_--Alas, my lord, she loved thee.

    _Harold_--                             Never! never!

    _Edith_--I saw it in her eyes!

    _Harold_--                    I see it in thine!
    And not on thee--nor England--fall God’s doom!

    _Edith_--On _thee_? on me. And thou art England! Alfred
    Was England. Ethelred was nothing. England
    Is but her king, as thou art Harold!

    _Harold_--                          Edith,
    The sign in Heaven--the sudden blast at sea--
    My fatal oath--the dead saints--the dark dreams--
    The Pope’s Anathema--the Holy Rood
    That bow’d to me at Waltham--Edith, if
    I, the last English King of England----

    _Edith_--                               No,
    First of a line that coming from the people,
    And chosen by the people----

    _Harold_--                  And fighting for
    And dying for the people----
    Look, I will bear thy blessing into the battle
    And front the doom of God.

And he did affront it bravely; and the arrow did slay him, near to the
spot where the Saxon standard flew to the breeze on that fateful day.

The play from which I have quoted may have excess of elaboration and an
over-finesse in respect of details: but there are great bold reaches of
descriptive power, a nobility of sentiment, and everywhere tender and
winning touches, which will be very sure to give to the drama of Tennyson
permanence and historic dignity, and keep it always a literary way-mark
in the fields we have gone over. The scene of that decisive contest
is less than a two hours’ ride away from London (by the Southeastern
Railway) at a village called Battle--seven miles from the coast line at
Hastings--in the midst of a beautiful rolling country, with scattered
copses of ancient wood and a great wealth of wild flowers--(for which the
district is remarkable) sparkling over the fields.

The Conqueror built a great abbey there--Battle Abbey--whose ruins are
visited by hundreds every year. A large portion of the old religious
house, kept in excellent repair, and very charming with its growth of ivy
and its embowering shade, is held in private hands--being the occasional
residence of the Duke of Cleveland. Amid the ruins the usher will guide
one to a crypt of the ancient chapel--whose solid Norman arches date back
to the time of the Conqueror, and which is said to mark the very spot
on which Harold fell, wounded to the death, on that memorable day of
Hastings.



CHAPTER II.


I recur a moment to what was said in our opening talk--as a boy will
wisely go back a little way for a better jump forward. I spoke--the
reader will remember--of ringing, Celtic war-songs, which seemed to be
all of literature that was drifting in the atmosphere, when we began:
then there came a gleam of Christian light and of monkish learning thro’
St. Augustine in Southern England; and another gleam through Iona, and
Lindisfarne, from Irish sources; then came Cædmon’s Bible singing,--which
had echo far down in Milton’s day; next the good old Beda, telling the
story of these things; then--a thousand years ago,--the Great Alfred,
at once a book-maker and a King. Before him and after him came a dreary
welter of Danish wars; the great Canute--tradition says--chirping a song
in the middle of them; and last, the slaughter of Hastings, where the
Saxon Harold went down, and the conquering Norman came up.


_Geoffrey of Monmouth._

We start to-day with an England that has its office-holding and governing
people speaking one language--its moody land-holders and cultivators
speaking another--and its irascible Britons in Wales and Cumbria and
Cornwall speaking yet another. Conquered people are never in much mood
for song-singing or for history-making. So there is little or nothing
from English sources for a century or more. Even the old Saxon Chronicle
kept by monks (at Peterboro in this time), does not grow into a stately
record, and in the twelfth century on the year of the death of King
Stephen, dies out altogether.

But there is a Welsh monk--Geoffrey of Monmouth[13]--living just on
the borders of Wales, and probably not therefore brought into close
connection with this new Norman element--who writes (about one hundred
years after the Conquest) a half-earnest and mostly-fabulous British
Chronicle. He professes to have received its main points from a
Walter--somebody, who had rare old bookish secrets of history, derived
from Brittany, in his keeping. You will remember, perhaps, how another
and very much later writer--sometimes known as Geoffrey Crayon--once
wrote a History of New York, claiming that it was made up from the MSS.
of a certain Diedrich Knickerbocker: I think that perhaps the same sense
of quiet humor belonged to both these Geoffreys. Certainly Geoffrey of
Monmouth’s Chronicle bears about the same relation to British matters
of fact which the Knickerbocker story of New York bears to the colonial
annals of our great city.

The fables which were told in this old Monmouth Chronicle are more
present in men’s minds to-day than the things which were real in it:
there was, for instance, the fable about King Lear (who does not know
King Lear?): then, there were the greater fables about good King Arthur
and his avenging Caliburn (who does not know King Arthur?). These two
stories are embalmed now in Literature, and will never perish.


_King Arthur Legends._

Those Arthur legends had been floating about in ballad or song, but
they never had much mention in anything pretending to be history[14]
until Geoffrey of Monmouth’s day. There is nothing of them in the Saxon
Chronicle: nothing of them in Beda: King Alfred never mentions King
Arthur.

But was there ever a King Arthur? Probably: but at what precise date is
uncertain: probable, too, that he had his court--as many legends run--one
time at Caerleon, “upon Usk,” and again at Camelot.[15] Caerleon is
still to be found by the curious traveller, in pleasant Monmouthshire,
just upon the borders of Wales, with Tintern Abbey and the grand ruin
of Chepstow not far off; and a great amphitheatre among the hills (very
likely of Roman origin) with green turf upon it, and green hillsides
hemming it in--is still called King Arthur’s Round Table.

Camelot is not so easy to trace: the name will not be found in the
guide-books: but in Somersetshire, in a little parish, called “Queen’s
Camel,” are the remains of vast entrenchments, said to have belonged to
the tourney ground of Camelot. A little branch of the Yeo River (you will
remember this name, if you have ever read Charles Kingsley’s “Westward,
Ho”--a book you should read)--a little branch, I say, of the Yeo runs
through the parish, and for irrigating purposes is held back by dykes,
and then shot, shining, over the green meadows: hence, Tennyson may say
truly, as he does in his Idyls of the King--

    “They vanished panic-stricken, like a shoal
    Of darting fish, that on a summer’s morn
    Adown the crystal dykes at _Camelot_,
    Come slipping o’er their shadow, on the sand.”

There are some features of this ancient fable of King Arthur, which are
of much older literary date than the times we are now speaking of. Thus
“the dusky barge,” that appears on a sudden--coming to carry off the
dying King,--

    “----whose decks are dense with stately forms,
    Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream--by these
    Three queens with crowns of gold, and from them rose
    A cry that shivered to the tingling stars----”

has a very old germ;--Something not unlike this watery bier, to carry
a dead hero into the Silences, belongs to the opening of that ancient
poem of Beowulf--which all students of early English know and prize--but
which did not grow on English soil, and therefore does not belong to
our present quest.[16] The brand Excalibur, too, which is thrown into
the sea by King Arthur’s friend, and which is caught by an arm clothed
in white samite, rising from the mere, and three times brandished, has
its prototype in the “old mighty sword” which is put into the hands of
Beowulf before he can slay the great sea-dragon of the Scandinavian fable.

Now, these Arthurian stories, put into book by Geoffrey--a Latin book,
for all the monks wrote in Latin, though they may have sung songs
in English, as good father Aldhelm did--were presently caught up by
a romance-writer, named Wace, who was living at Caen, in Normandy,
and whose knightly cousins (some say father and titled baron) had
come over with William the Conqueror,--the name being long known
in Nottinghamshire. This Wace put these Arthur stories into Norman
verse--adding somewhat and giving a French air, which made his book
sought after and read in royal courts; and fragments of it were chanted
by minstrels in castle halls.

Then, this Arthur mine of legends was explored again by another priest
and Welshman, who came to have some place at Oxford, where the beginnings
of the great university were then a-brew. This writer, Walter Map[17] by
name--or Mapes, as he is sometimes called--lived just about the meeting
of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when the crusades were in full
blast, and when dreams about the Holy Sepulchre hovered round half the
house roofs of England. People saw in visions the poor famished pilgrims,
fainting with long marches toward the far-away Jerusalem, and shot down
by cruel Saracen arrows, within sight of the Holy of Holies. So Walter
Map, the priest (they say he was one while chaplain to Henry II.),
writing under light of that fierce enthusiasm, puts a religious element
into the Arthur stories; and it is from him--in all probability--comes
that Legend of the Holy Graal--the cup which caught the sacred blood, and
which saintly knights were to seek after, the pure Sir Galahad being the
winning seeker.

Nor did the Arthur legends stop here: but another priestly man,
Layamon[18]--he, too, living on the borders of Wales, in the foraging
ground of Arthur’s knights, not far from the present town of
Kidderminster (which we know carpet-wise)--set himself to turning the
Legends, with many additions, into short, clanging, alliterative Saxon
verses, with occasional rhyme--the first English (or Teutonic) wording
of the story; Map’s version being in Latin and French. He copies very
much from Wace (_Le Brut d’Angleterre_), but his book is longer by a
half. It has its importance, too--this Layamon version--in the history
of the language. Of the why and the how, and of its linguistic relations
to the Anglo-Saxon, or the modern tongue, I shall leave discussion in
the hands of those more instructed in the history of Early English. We
know this Layamon in our present writing, only as a simple-minded, good,
plodding, West-of-England priest, who asked God’s blessing on his work,
and who put that quaint alliterative jingle in it, which in years after
was spent in larger measure over the poem of Piers Plowman, and which,
still later, comes to even daintier usage when the great master--Spenser

    “----fills with flowers fair Flora’s painted lap.”

Even now we are not through with this story of the Arthurian legends:
it does not end with the priest Layamon. After printing was invented,
and an easier way of making books was in vogue than the old one of
tediously copying them upon parchment--I say in this new day of printing
a certain Sir Thomas Mallory, who lived at the same time with Caxton,
the first English printer, did, at the instance, I think, of that
printer--put all these legends we speak of into rather stiff, homely
English prose--copying, Caxton tells us, from a French original: but no
such full French original has been found; and the presumption is that
Mallory borrowed (as so many book-makers did and do) up and down, from
a world of manuscripts. And he wrought so well that his work had great
vogue, and has come to frequent issue in modern times, under the hands
of such editors as Southey, Wright, Strachey and Lanier. In the years
following Mallory, succeeding writers poached frequently upon the old
Arthur preserve--bit by bit[19]--till at last, in our day, Tennyson told
his “Idyl of the King”--

            “----and all the people cried,
    Arthur is come again: he cannot die.
    And those that stood upon the hills behind
    Repeated--Come again, and thrice as fair.”


_Early Norman Kings._

We come back now from this chase of Arthur, to the time of the Early
Norman Kings: Orderic Vitalis,[20] of Normandy, William of Malmsbury,[21]
Matthew Paris,[22] William of Newburgh,[23] (whose record has just now
been re-edited and printed in England,) and Roger of Hoveden,[24] were
chroniclers of this period; but I am afraid these names will hardly be
kept in mind. Indeed, it is not worth much struggle to do so, unless one
is going into the writing of History on his own account. Exception ought
perhaps to be made in favor of Matthew Paris, who was a monk of St.
Albans, who won his name from studying at Paris (as many live students
of that day did), who put a brave and vehement Saxonism of thought into
his Latin speech--who had art enough to illustrate his own Chronicle
with his pencil, and honesty enough to steer by God’s rule only and
not by the King’s. One should remember, too, that this was about the
period of the best Provençal balladry (in which Richard Cœur de Lion
was proficient);--that strain of mediæval music and love regaling the
Crusader knights on their marches toward Judea, and that strain of music
and love waking delightful echoes against Norman castle-walls on their
return. Again, one should keep note of the year when _Magna Charta_ was
granted by King John (1215), and remember, furthermore, that within ten
years of the same date (1205) Layamon probably put the finishing touches
to his _Brut_, and the Arthurian stories I was but now speaking of.

Throughout these times--we will say the twelfth century and early in the
thirteenth,--England was waxing every day stronger, though it grew strong
in a rough and bloody way; the great Norman castles were a-building
up and down the land--such as Conway and Rochester and Cardiff and
Kenilworth: the older cathedrals, too, such as Durham and Winchester and
Canterbury and Ely were then piling column by column and vault by vault
toward the grand proportions which amaze us to-day. It was the time
of growing trade too: ships from Genoa and Venice lay off the Thames
banks, and had brought thither cargoes of silks and glass, jewels,
Milanese armor, and spices. Cloth-makers came over from Flanders and made
settlements in England.

Perhaps you have read Scott’s story of the “Betrothed.” If so, you will
remember his description of just such a Flemish settlement in its earlier
chapters, with its Wilkin Flammock and its charming Rose. The scene is
laid in the time of Henry II., that sturdy King, who had such woful
trouble with his wild sons, Richard and John, and still larger trouble
with Thomas à Becket, (known now, as Harold is known, by Tennyson’s
tender music) who came to his death at last by the King’s connivance,
under the arches of Canterbury Cathedral; and so made that shrine sacred
for pilgrims, whether they came from the “Tabard Inn,” or otherwheres.

That story of the “Betrothed” puts in presence winningly, the threefold
elements of English population in that day--the Britons, the Saxons, and
the Normans. The Britons are pictured by a scene of revel in the great
rambling palace of a Welsh King, where the bard Cadwallon sings, and that
other bard, Caradoc--both historic characters; and it is upon a legend
in the chronicle of the latter, Southey has based his poem of “Madoc.”
The Normans are represented, in the same romance, by the men-at-arms, or
knights of the Castle of _La Garde Doloureuse_, and the Saxons by the
fierce old lady in the religious house of Baldringham, where Eveline the
heroine, had such fearful experiences with hobgoblins over night. There
may be lapses in the archæology--as where Scott puts a hewn fireplace
upon the wall of the dining-room of the Lady Ermengarde--antiquarians
being pretty well agreed that chimneys of such class were unknown up to
the fourteenth century; but still the atmosphere of twelfth-century life
in England is better given than in most of our histories.[25]


_Richard Cœur de Lion._

In the same connection and with same commendation, may be named those
other romances, “The Talisman” and “Ivanhoe,” both relating to epochs
in the life of King Richard I. I suppose that of all English people,
who have any figure in their minds of Richard Cœur de Lion, his bearing
and character, four-fifths will have derived the larger part of their
impressions from these two books of Scott. It is a painting by a friendly
hand: Scott loved kings; and he loved the trace of Saxonism that was in
Richard’s blood; he loved his bravery, as every Englishman always had
and should. Is it quite needful that the friendly painter should put in
all the bad birth-marks, or the bristling red beard? M. Taine scores him
savagely, and would have him a beast: and Thackeray, in his little story
of Rebecca and Rowena, uses a good deal of blood in the coloring.

No doubt he was cruel: but those were days of cruelty and of cruel kings.
At least he was openly cruel: he carried his big battle-axe in plain
sight, and if he met a foe thwacked him on the head with it, and there
was an end. But he did not kill men on the sly like his brother King
John, nor did he poison men by inches in low dungeons, as did so many of
the polite and courteous Louis’ of France.

As people say now--in a good Saxon way--you knew where to find him.
He was above-board, and showed those traits of boldness and frankness
which almost make one forgive his cruelties. He was a rough burr; and I
daresay wiped his beard upon the sleeve of his doublet, besides killing
a great many people he should not have killed, at Ascalon. At any rate,
we shall not set to work here to gainsay or discredit those charming
historic pictures of Scott. We shall keep on going to the pleasant
tournament-ground at Ashby-de-la-Zouche every time the fanfare of those
trumpets breaks the silence of a leisure day; and so will our children;
and so, I think, will our children’s children. We shall keep on listening
to Wamba’s jokes, and keep on loving Rebecca, and keep on--not thinking
much of the airy Rowena, and keep on throwing our caps in the air
whenever the big knight in black armor, who is Richard of England, rides
in upon the course--whatever all the Frenchmen in the world may say about
him.

This Cœur de Lion appears too in the “Talisman”--one of Scott’s tales
of the crusaders: and here we see him set off against other monarchs of
Europe; as we find England, also, set off against the other kingdoms. The
King came home, you will remember, by the way of Austria, and was caught
and caged there many months--for a time none of his people knowing where
he was: this is good romance and history too. A tradition, which probably
has a little of both, says his prison was discovered by a brother
minstrel, who wandered under castle-walls in search of him, and sang
staves of old Provençal songs that were favorites of the King’s. Finally
Richard responded from the depths of his dungeon. Howsoever this be, he
was found, ransomed, and came home--to the great grief of his brother
John; all which appears in the story of Ivanhoe, and in the chronicles of
the time--based upon the reports of the King’s chaplain, Anselm.


_Times of King John._

King John--a base fellow every way--has a date made for him by the grant
of _Magna Charta_, A.D. 1215, of which I have already spoken, and of its
near coincidence with the writing of the _Brut_ of Layamon. His name and
memory also cling to mind in connection with two other events which have
their literary associations.

First, this scoundrelly King could only keep power by making away with
his little nephew Arthur, and out of this tragedy Shakespeare has woven
his play of John--not very much read perhaps, and rarely acted; but
in the old, school reader-books of my time there used to be excerpted
a passage--a whole scene, in fact--representing the interview between
Arthur and his gaoler Hubert, who is to put out the poor boy’s eyes. I
quote a fragment:--

    _Arthur_--Must you with irons burn out both mine eyes?

    _Hubert_--Young boy, I must.

    _Arthur_--And will you?

    _Hubert_--And I will.

    _Arthur_--Have you the heart? When your head did but ache,
    I knit my handkerchief about your brows.

And again, when the ruffians come in with the irons, Hubert says--

    “Give me the irons, I say, and bind him here.”

    _Arthur_--Alas, what need you be so boisterous rough?
    I will not struggle; I will stand stone still;
    For Heaven’s sake, Hubert, let me not be bound.

I don’t know how young people are made up nowadays; but in the old times
this used to touch us and almost set us upon the “weep” and make us rank
King John with Beelzebub and--the Schoolmaster.

Second: In King John’s day Normandy was lost to England--the loss growing
largely, in fact, out of the cruelty just named, and its ensuing wars.
Losing Normandy had a vast influence upon the growing speech of England.
Hitherto the cherished mother-land had been across the channel. Sons of
the well-born had been sent over to learn French on French ground: young
ladies of fashion ordered, without doubt, their best cloaks and hats from
Rouen: the English ways of talk might do for the churls and low-born: but
it was discredited by the more cultivated--above all by those who made
pursuit of the gayeties and elegancies of life. The priest fraternity and
the universities of course kept largely by Latin; and the old British
speech only lived in the mountains and in the rattling war-songs of the
Welsh bards. But when Norman nobles and knights found themselves cut off
from their old home associations with Normandy, and brought into more
intimate relations with the best of the English population, there grew up
a new pride in the land and language of their adoption. Hence there comes
about a gradual weaning from France. London begins to count for more than
Rouen. The Norman knights and barons very likely season their talk with
what they may have called English slang; and the better taught of the
islanders--the sons of country franklins affected more knowledge of the
Norman tongue, and came to know the French romances, which minstrels sang
at their doors. So it was that slowly, and with results only observable
after long lapse of years, the nation and language became compacted into
one; and the new English began to be taught in the schools.


_Mixed Language._

Of the transition stage, as it was called, there are narrative poems of
record, which were written with a couplet in Norman French, and then a
couplet in English. There were medleys, too, of these times, in which
the friars mingled the three tongues of Latin, French, and English.[26]
Blood mingled as languages mingled; and by the middle of the fourteenth
century a man was no longer foreign because he was of Norman descent, and
no longer vulgar because he was of Saxon.

To this transition time--in Henry III.’s day (who had a long reign of
fifty-six years--chiefly memorable for its length), there appeared the
rhyming Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester;[27]--what we should call a
doggerel story of England from fabulous times down, and worthy of mention
as the first serious attempt at an English-written history--others
noticed already being either merely bald chronicles, or in scholastic
Latin, or in French metric form. I give you a little taste of his wooden
verse--

                    ----Lyncolne [has] fairest men,
    Grantebrugge, and Hontyndon most plente ò deep fen,
    Ely of fairest place, of fairest site Rochester,
    Even agen Fraunce stonde ye countre ò Chichester,
    Norwiche agen Denemark, Chestre agen Irelond,
    Duram agen Norwei, as ich understonde.

Yet he tells us some things worth knowing--about every-day matters--about
the fish and the fruits and the pastures, and the things he saw with his
own eyes. And we learn from these old chroniclers how much better a
story a man can make, and how much more worth it is--in telling of the
things he has really seen, than of the things he has not seen. Most of
these old writing people must needs begin at the beginning--drawling over
the ancient fables about the Creation and Siege of Troy, keeping by the
conventional untruths, and so--very barren and good for nothing, until
they get upon their own days, when they grow rich and meaty and juicy, in
spite of themselves, and by reason of their voluble minuteness, and their
mention of homely, every-day unimportant things. They cannot tell lies,
without fear of detection, on their own ground: and so they get that
darlingest quality of all history--the simple truth.

But if a man wanders otherwheres and makes report, he may tell lies,
and the lies may amuse and get him fame. Thus it happened with another
well-known but somewhat apocryphal writer of this Transition English
epoch; I mean Sir John Mandeville, whose book of travels into distant
countries had a very great run.


_Sir John Mandeville._

We know little of Mandeville except what he tells us;--that he was born
at St. Albans--twenty miles from London, a place famous for its great
abbey and its Roman remains--in the year 1300:--that he studied to be
a mediciner--then set off (1322) on his travels into Egypt, Tartary,
China, and Persia--countries visited by that more famous Venetian
traveller, Marco Polo,[28] a half century earlier;--also, at other dates
by certain wandering Italian Friars[29] of less fame. From some of these
earlier travellers it is now made certain that Sir John pilfered very
largely;--so largely, in fact, and so rashly, that there is reason to
doubt, not only his stories about having been in the service of a Sultan
of Egypt or of the Khan of Kathay--as he avers--but also to doubt if he
visited at all the far-away countries which he pretends to describe.

Nay, so deflowered is he of his honors in these latter days, that recent
critics[30] are inclined to question his right to the title of Sir John,
and to deny wholly his authorship of that English version of the tales of
travel, which have been so long and pleasantly associated with his name.

This seems rather hard measure to mete out to the garrulous old voyager;
nor does the evidence against his having Englished his own _Romance_
stories, appear fully conclusive. What we may count for certain about
the matter is this:--There does exist a very considerable budget of
delightfully extravagant travellers’ tales, bearing the Mandeville name,
and written in an English which--with some mending of bygone words--is
charming now: and which may be called the first fair and square book of
the new English prose;--meaning by that--the first book of length and of
popular currency which introduced a full measure--perhaps over-running
measure--of those words of Romance or Latin origin, which afterward came
to be incorporated in the English of the fifteenth century. The book has
no English qualities--beyond its language; and might have been written
by a Tartar, who could tell of Munchausen escapes and thank God in good
current dialect of Britain.

I give a specimen from the description of his descent into the Valley
Perilous--which he found beside the Isle of Mistorak, nigh to the river
Phison:

    This Vale is all full of devils, and hath been always. And
    men say there that it is one of the entries of hell. In that
    Vale is plenty of gold and silver; wherefore many misbelieving
    men, and many Christians also, oftentimes go in, to have of
    the treasure.… And in midplace of that Vale is an head of the
    visage of a devil bodily--full horrible and dreadful to see.
    But there is no man in the world so hardy, Christian man,
    ne other, but that he would be drad [afraid] for to behold
    it. For he beholdeth every man so sharply with dreadful eyen
    that ben evermore moving and sparkling as fire, and changeth
    and steereth so often in divers manner, with so horrible
    countenance, that no man dare not nighen toward him.

The author says fourteen of his party went in, and when they came
out--only nine: “And we wisten never, whether that our fellows were lost
or elles turned again for dread. But we never saw them never after.”
He says there were plenty of jewels and precious stones thereabout, but
“I touched none, because that the Devils be so subtle to make a thing
to seem otherwise than it is, for to deceive mankind.” He tells us also
of the giants Gog and Magog, and of a wonderful bird--like the roc of
Arabian Nights’ fable--that would carry off an elephant in its talons,
and he closes all his stupendous narratives with thanks to God Almighty
for his marvellous escapes.

I have spoken of its popularity. Halliwell--who edits the London edition
of 1839--says that of no book, with the exception of Scriptures, are
there so many MSS. of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries existing;
showing that for two centuries its fables were either not exploded, or at
least lost not their relish.


_Early Book-making._

And now what do we mean by books and by popularity at the end of the
thirteenth century? The reader must keep in mind that our notion of
popularity measured by thousands of copies would then have been regarded
as strange as the most monstrous of Sir John Mandeville’s stories. There
was no printing; there was no paper, either--as we understand. The art,
indeed, of making paper out of pulp did exist at this date with the
Oriental nations--perhaps with the Moors in Spain, but not in England.
Parchment made from skins was the main material, and books were engrossed
laboredly with a pen or stylus. It was most likely a very popular book
which came to an edition of fifty or sixty copies within five years
of its first appearance: and a good manuscript was so expensive an
affair that its purchase was often made a matter to be testified to by
subscribing witnesses, as we witness the transfer of a house. A little
budget of these manuscripts made a valuable library. When St. Augustine
planted his Church in Kent--he brought nine volumes with him as his
literary treasure.

Lanfranc, who was one of the Norman abbots brought over by the Conqueror
to build up the priesthood in learning, made order in 1072 that at Lent
the librarian should deliver to the worthiest of the brotherhood each a
book; and these were to have a year to read them. At the commencement of
the fourteenth century there were only four classics in the royal library
of Paris; and at the same date the library of Oxford University consisted
of a few tracts kept in chests under St. Mary’s Church.--Green, in his
“Making of England,”[31] cites from Alcuin a bit of that old Churchman’s
Latin poem--“_De Pontificibus_”--which he says is worthy of special note,
as the first catalogue which we have of any English Library.

    “Quidquid Gregorius summus docet, et Leo Papa;
    Basilius quidquid, Fulgentius atque, coruscant,
    Cassiodorus item, Chrysostomus atque Johannes
    Quidquid et Athelmus docuit, quid Beda magister.”

Beda and Aldhelm are the only English writers represented; and the
catalogue--if we call it such--could be written on a half-page of note
paper--Metaphors and Geography and Theology and decorative epithets
included.

Thus in these times a book was a book: some of them cost large sums; the
mere transcription into plain black-letter or Old English was toilsome
and involved weeks and months of labor; and when it came to illuminated
borders, or initials and title-pages with decorative paintings, the labor
involved was enormous. There were collectors in those days as now--who
took royal freaks for gorgeous missals; and monkish lives were spent
in gratifying the whims of such collectors. In the year 1237 (Henry
III.) there is entry in the Revenue Roll of the costs of silver clasps
and studs for the King’s _great book of Romances_. Upon the continent,
in Italy, where an art atmosphere prevailed that was more enkindling
than under the fogs of this savage England, such work became thoroughly
artistic; and even now beautiful _motifs_ for decoration on the walls of
New York houses are sought from old French or Latin manuscripts of the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

And where was this work of making books done? There were no book-shops
or publishers’ houses, but in place of them abbeys or monasteries--each
having its _scriptorium_ or writing-room, where, under the vaulted Norman
arches and by the dim light of their loop-holes of windows, the work of
transcription went on month after mouth and year after year. Thus it is
recorded that in that old monastery of St. Albans (of which we just now
spoke) eighty distinct works were transcribed during the reign of Henry
VI.; it is mentioned as swift work; and as Henry reigned thirty-nine
years, it counts up about two complete MSS. a year. And the atmosphere
of St. Albans was a learned one; this locality not being overmuch given
to the roisterings that belonged to Bolton Priory--of which you will
remember the hint in a pleasant picture of Landseer’s.


_Religious Houses._

If you or I had journeyed thither in that day--coming from what land
we might--I think we should have been earnest among the first things,
to see those great monasteries that lay scattered over the surface
of England and of Southern Scotland;--not perched on hills or other
defensible positions like the Norman castles of the robber Barons--not
buried in cities like London Tower, or the great halls which belonged
to guilds of merchants--but planted in the greenest and loveliest of
valleys, where rivers full of fish rippled within hearing, and woods
full of game clothed every headland that looked upon the valley; where
the fields were the richest--where the water was purest--where the sun
smote warmest; there these religious houses grew up, stone by stone,
cloister by cloister, chapel by chapel, manor by manor, until there was
almost a township, with outlying cottages--and some great dominating
abbey church--rich in all the choicest architecture of the later Norman
days--lifting its spire from among the clustered buildings scarce less
lovely than itself.

Not only had learning and book-making been kept alive in these great
religious houses, but the art of Agriculture. Within their walled courts
were grown all manner of fruits and vegetables known to their climate;
these monks knew and followed the best rulings of Cato, and Crescenzius
(who just now has written on this subject in Northern Italy, and is heard
of by way of Padua). They make sour wine out of grapes grown against
sunny walls: they have abundant flocks too--driven out each morning from
their sheltering courts, and returned each night; and they have great
breadth of ground under carefullest tillage.

Of such character was Tintern Abbey--in the valley of the Wye--now
perhaps the most charming of all English ruins. Such another was Netley
Abbey, on Southampton water, and Bolton Priory, close by that famous
stream, the Wharfe, which you will remember in Wordsworth’s story of
the “White Doe of Rylstone.” Fountain’s Abbey, in Yorkshire, was yet
another, from whose ruin we can study better perhaps than from any other
in England, the extent and disposition of these old religious houses.
Melrose was another; and so was Dryburgh, where Scott’s body lies, and
Abingdon, close upon Oxford--where was attached that Manor of Cumnor,
which Scott assigns for a prison to the sad-fated Amy Robsart, in the
tale of “Kenilworth.” Glastonbury was another: this too (once encircled
by the arms of the river Brue), was the “Isle of Avalon” in Arthurian
romance;

    “Where falls not hail, or rain or any snow,
    Nor ever wind blows loudly.”

Here (at Glastonbury) is still in existence the abbot’s barn of
the fourteenth century, and here, too, a magnificent abbot’s
kitchen--thirty-three feet square and seventy-two feet high: Think what
the cooking and the meats must have been in a kitchen of that style!

Now, these shrewd people who lived in these great monasteries, and built
them, and enjoyed the good things kept in store there--made friends of
the vassals about them; they were generous with their pot-herbs and
fruits; they were the medicine-men of the neighborhood; they doled out
flasks of wine to the sick; they gave sanctuary and aid to the Robin
Hoods and Little Johns; and Robin Hood’s men kept them in supply of
venison; they enlivened their courts with minstrelsy. Warton says that
at the feast of the installation of Ralph, Abbot of St. Augustine’s,
Canterbury, in 1309, seventy shillings was expended for minstrels in the
gallery, and six thousand guests were present in and about the halls.
Many abbeys maintained minstrels or harpers of their own; and we may be
sure that the monks had jolly as well as religious ditties.

They made friends of all strong and influential people near them; their
revenues were enormous. They established themselves by all the arts of
conciliation. Finding among their young vassals one keener and sharper
witted than his fellows, they beguiled him into the abbey--instructed
him--perhaps made a clerk of him, for the transcription of the MSS. we
have spoken of (it was thus Cædmon was brought into notice); if very
promising, he might come to place of dignity among the monks--possibly
grow, as Thomas à Becket did, from such humble beginnings to an
archbishopric and to the mastership of the religious heart of England.

These houses were the fat corporations of that day, with their lobby-men
and spokesmen in all state assemblages. Their representatives could
wear hair shirts, or purple robes and golden mitres, as best suited the
needs of the occasion. They could boast that their institutions were
established--like our railways--for the good of the people, and in the
interests of humanity; but while rendering service, waxing into such
lustiness of strength and such habits of corruption and rapacity, that
at last, when fully bloated, they were broken open and their riches
drifted away under the whirlwind of the wrath of King Henry VIII. Great
schemes of greed are very apt to carry an avenging Henry VIII. somewhere
in their trail. But let us not forget that there was a time in the early
centuries of Christian England when these great religious houses--whose
ruins appeal to us from their lovely solitudes--were the guardians of
learning, the nurses of all new explorations into the ways of knowledge,
the expounders of all healing arts, and the promoters of all charities
and all neighborly kindliness.[32] Whatever young fellow of that day
did not plant himself under shadow of one of these religious houses for
growth, or did not study in the schools of Oxford or Cambridge, must
needs have made his way into favor and fame and society with a lance and
good horse--just as young fellows do it now with an oar or a racket.


_Life of a Damoiselle._

But what shall be said of a young person of the other sex of like age and
tastes--to whose ambitions war and knight-errantry and the university
cloisters are not open? Whither should the daughters of the great
houses go, or how fill up the current of their young lives in that old
thirteenth-century England?

It is true, there are religious houses--nunneries--priories--for these,
too, with noble and saintly prioresses, such as St. Hilda’s, St.
Agatha’s, St. Margaret’s; all these bountiful in their charities, strict
for most part in their discipline. To these cloistered schools may go
the cousins, sisters, nieces of these saintly lady superiors; here they
may learn of music, of embroidery, of letter-writing, and Christian
carols--in Latin or English or French, as the case may be. If not an
inmate of one of these quiet cloisters, our young thirteenth-century
damsel will find large advantage in its neighborhood; in the interchange
of kindly offices--in the loan of illuminated missals, of fruits, of
flowers, of haunches of venison, and in the assurance that tenderest of
nurses and consolers will be at hand in case of illness or disaster; and
always there--an unfailing sanctuary. At home, within the dingy towers
of a castle or squat Saxon homestead, with walls hung in tapestry, or
made only half bright with the fire upon the hearthstone--with slits of
windows filled with horn or translucent bits of skin--there must have
been wearisome _ennui_. Yet even here there were the deft handmaids,
cheery and companionable; the games--draughts of a surety (in rich houses
the checkers being of jasper or rock crystal); the harp, too, and the
falcons for a hunting bout in fair weather; the little garden within the
court--with its eglantine, its pinks, its lilies fair. Possibly there may
be also transcripts of old _chansons_ between ivory lids--images carven
out of olive wood--relics brought to the castle by friendly knights from
far-away Palestine. And travelling merchants find their way to such
homes--bringing glass beads from Venice, and little dainty mirrors, just
now the vogue in that great City by the Sea; and velvet and filigree
head-dresses, and jewels and bits of tapestry from Flemish cities.
Perhaps a minstrel--if the revenues of the family cannot retain one--will
stroll up to the castle-gates of an evening, giving foretaste of his
power by a merry snatch of song about Robin Hood, or Sir Guy, or the Nut
Brown Maid.

Some company of priests with a lordly abbot at their head, journeying up
from St. Albans, may stop for a day, and kindle up with cheer the great
hall, which will be fresh strown with aromatic herbs for the occasion;
and so some solitary palmer, with scollop shell, may make the evening
short with his story of travel across the desert; or--best of all--some
returning knight, long looked for--half doubted--shall talk bravely of
the splendors he has seen in the luxurious court of Charles of Anjou,
where the chariot of his Queen was covered with velvet sprinkled with
lilies of gold, and men-at-arms wore plumed helmets and jewelled collars;
he may sing, too, snatches of those tender madrigals of Provence, and
she--if Sister Nathalie has taught her thereto--may join in a roundelay,
and the minstrel and harpist come clashing in to the _refrain_.

Then there is the home embroidery--the hemming of the robes, the trimming
of the mantles, the building up of the head pieces. Pray--in what age and
under what civilization--has a young woman ever failed of showing zeal in
those branches of knowledge?

       *       *       *       *       *

So, we will leave England--to-day--upon the stroke of thirteen hundred
years. When we talk of life there again, we shall come very swiftly
upon traces of one of her great philosophers, and of one of her great
reformers, and of one of her greatest poets.



CHAPTER III.


In our last chapter I spoke of that Geoffrey of Monmouth who about the
middle of the twelfth century wrote a history--mostly apocryphal--in
which was imbedded a germ of the King Arthur fables. We traced these
fables, growing under the successive touches of Wace and Map and Layamon
into full-fledged legends, repeated over and over; and finally, with
splendid affluence of color appearing on the literary horizon of our own
day. I spoke of King Richard I. and of his song loving, and of his blood
loving, and of his royal frankness: then of John, that renegade brother
of his--of how he granted _Magna Charta_, killed poor Prince Arthur, and
stirred such a current of war as caused the loss of Normandy to England.
I spoke of the connection of this loss with the consolidation of the
language; of how Robert of Gloucester made a rhyming history that was
in a new English; of how the name of Sir John Mandeville was associated
with great lies, in the same tongue; how the religious houses made books,
and fattened on the best of the land, and grew corrupt; and last--of how
we, if we had lived in those days, would have found disport for our idle
hours and consolation for our serious ones.


_Roger Bacon._

Starting now from about the same point in time where we left off, our
opening scene will take us to the old University town of Oxford. It is
a rare city for a young American to visit; its beautiful High Street,
its quaint Colleges, its Christ Church Hall, its libraries, its Magdalen
walks and tower, its charming gardens of St. John’s and Trinity, its near
Park of Blenheim, its fragrant memories--all, make it a place where one
would wish to go and long to linger. But in the far-away time we speak of
it was a walled city, with narrow streets, and filthy lodging houses; yet
great parliaments had been held there; the royal domain of Woodstock was
near by with its Palace; the nunnery was standing, where was educated
the Fair Rosamund; a little farther away was the great religious house
of Abingdon and the village of Cumnor; but of all its present august and
venerable array of colleges only one or two then existed--Merton, and
perhaps Balliol, or the University.[33]

But the schools here had won a very great reputation in the current of
the thirteenth century, largely through the scholarship and popularity
of Grosseteste, one while Bishop of Lincoln, who held ministrations
at Oxford by reason of his connection with a Franciscan brotherhood
established here; and among those crop-haired Franciscans was a
monk--whom we have made this visit to Oxford to find--named Roger Bacon.
He had been not only student but teacher there; and a few miles south
from the King’s Arms Hotel in Broad Street, Oxford, is still standing
a church tower, in the little parish of Sunningwell, from which--as
tradition affirms--Roger Bacon studied the heavens: for he believed in
Astrology, and believed too in the transmutation of metals; and he got
the name of magician, and was cashiered and imprisoned twice or thrice
for this and other strange beliefs. But he believed most of all in the
full utterance of his beliefs, and in experimenting, and in interrogating
nature, and distrusting conventionalisms, and in search for himself into
all the mysteries, whether of nature or theology.

He had sprung from worthy and well-to-do parents in the Western County
of Somersetshire. He had spent very much money for those days on his
education; had obtained a Doctorate at Paris; his acuteness and his
capacity for study were everywhere recognized; he knew more of Greek than
most of his teachers, and more of Hebrew than most of the Rabbis, and
more of Chemistry and Physics generally than probably any other man in
England. He took a Friar’s vows, as we have said; but these did not save
him from interdiction by the Chief of his Order, by whom he was placed
under ten years of surveillance at Paris--his teachings silenced, and he
suffering almost to starvation. A liberal Pope (for those days), Clement
IV., by his intervention set free the philosopher’s pen again; and
there came of this freedom the _Opus Majus_ by which he is most worthily
known. Subsequently he was permitted to return to his old sphere of study
in Oxford, where he pursued afresh his scientific investigations, but
coupled with them such outspoken denunciations of the vices and ignorance
of his brother Friars, as to provoke new condemnation and an imprisonment
that lasted for fourteen years--paying thus, in this accredited mediæval
way, for his freedom of speech.

It is not improbable that we owe to him and to his optical studies--in
some humble degree--the eye-glasses that make reading possible to old
eyes: and his books, first of any books from English sources, described
how sulphur and charcoal and saltpetre properly combined will make
thunder and lightning (_sic facies tonitrum et coruscationem_). We call
the mixture gunpowder. In his _Opus Majus_ (he wrote only in Latin, and
vastly more than has appeared in printed form) scholars find some of
the seeds of the riper knowledges which came into the _Novum Organum_
of another and later Bacon--with whom we must not confound this sharp,
eager, determined, inquiring Franciscan friar. He is worthy to be kept
in mind as the Englishman who above all others living in that turbid
thirteenth century, saw through the husks of things to their very core.

He died at the close of the century--probably in the year 1294; and
I have gone back to that far-away time--somewhat out of our forward
track--and have given you a glimpse of this Franciscan innovator and
wrestler with authorities, in order that I might mate him with two other
radical thinkers whose period of activity belonged to the latter half of
the succeeding century: I mean Langlande and Wyclif. And before we go on
to speak of these two, we will set up a few way-marks, so that we may not
lose our historic bearings in the drift of the intervening years.

Bacon died, as we have said, in 1294. William Wallace fought his great
battle of Cambuskenneth in 1297. Those who have read that old favorite
of school-boys, Miss Porter’s “Scottish Chiefs,” will not need to have
their memories refreshed about William Wallace. Indeed, that hero will be
apt to loom too giant-like in their thought, and with a halo about him
which I suspect sober history would hardly justify. Wallace was executed
at Smithfield (Miss Porter says he died of grief before the axe fell)
in 1305; and that stout, flax-haired King Edward I., who had humbled
Scotland at Falkirk--who was personally a match for the doughtiest of
his knights--who was pious (as the times went), and had set up beautiful
memorial crosses to his good Queen Eleanor--who had revived King Arthur’s
Round Table at Kenilworth, died only two years after he had cruelly
planted the head of Wallace on London Bridge. Then came the weak Edward
II., and the victories of Bruce of Bannockburn, and that weary Piers
Gaveston story, and the shocking death of the King in Berkeley Castle.
The visitor to Berkeley (it is in Gloucestershire, and only two miles
away from station on the Midland Railway) can still see the room where
the murder was done: and this Castle of Berkeley--strangely enough--has
been kept in repair, and inhabited continuously from the twelfth century
until now; its moat, its keep, and its warders walks are all intact.

After this Edward II. came the great Edward III.--known to us through
Froissart and the Black Prince[34] and Crécy and Poitiers, and by
Windsor Castle--which he built--and by Chaucer and Wyclif and Langlande
and Gower, who grew up while he was king; known to us also in a worse
way, for outliving all his good qualities, and becoming in his last days
a peevish and tempestuous voluptuary.

Some few foreign way-marks I also give, that the reader may have more
distinctly in mind this great historic epoch. Dante died in exile at
Ravenna, six years before Edward III. came to power. Boccaccio was then a
boy of fourteen, and Petrarch nine years his elder. And on the year that
Crécy was fought and won--through the prowess of the Black Prince, and
when the Last of the Tribunes, as you see him in Bulwer Lytton’s novel,
was feeling his way to lordship in Rome,--there was living somewhere in
Shropshire, a country-born, boy poet--not yet ripened into utterance,
but looking out with keen eyes and soreness of heart upon the sufferings
of poor country folk, and upon the wantonness of the monks, and the
extravagance of the rich, and the hatefulness of the proud--all which was
set forth at a later day in the Vision of Piers Plowman.


_William Langlande._

This was William Langlande[35] (or Langley, as others call him), reputed
author of the poem I have named. It makes a little book--earliest, I
think, of all books written in English--which you will be apt to find
in a well-appointed private library of our day. I won’t say that it is
bought to read, so much as to stand upon the shelves (so many books are)
as a good and sufficient type of old respectabilities. Yet, for all
this, it is reasonably readable; with crabbed alliterative rhythm;--some
Latin intermixed, as if the writer had been a priest (as some allege);
and such knowledge of life and of current shortcomings among all sorts
of people as showed him to be a wide-awake and fearless observer. It is
in the form of an Allegory, Christian in its motive; so that you might
almost say that the author was an immature and crude and yet sharper
kind of John Bunyan who would turn _Great-Heart_ into a _Plowman_. The
nomenclature also brings to mind the tinker of the Pilgrim’s Progress;
there is a Sir _Do-Well_ and his daughter _Do-Better_: then there is _Sir
In-wit_ with his sons _See-well_ and _Say-well_ and _Hear-well_, and the
doughtiest of them all--_Sir Work-well_. We may, I think, as reasonably
believe that Bunyan hovered over this book, as that Milton took hints
from the picture of Pandemonium attributed to Cædmon.

Langlande is a little mixed and raw oftentimes; but he is full of
shrewdness and of touches of a rough and unwashed humor. There is little
tenderness of poetic feeling in his verse; and scarcely ever does it rise
to anything approaching stateliness; but it keeps a good dog-trot jog,
as of one who knew what he was doing, and meant to do it. What he meant
was--to whip the vices of the priests and to scourge the covetousness of
the rich and of the men in power. It is English all over; English[36] in
the homeliness of its language; he makes even Norman words sound homely;
English in spirit too; full of good, hearty, grumbling humor--a sort of
predated and poetic kind of Protestantism. Plums might be picked out of
it for the decoration of a good radical or agrarian speech of to-day.

Of his larger religious and political drift no extracts will give one a
proper idea; only a reading from beginning to end will do this. One or
two snatches of his verse I give, to show his manner:

    And thanne cam coveitise,
    Kan I hym naght discryve,
    So hungrily and holwe
    Sire Hervy hym loked.
    He was bitel-browed,
    And baber-lipped also
    With two blered eighen
    As a blynd hagge;
    And as a letheren purs
    Lolled his chekes,
    Well sidder [wider] than his chyn
    Thei chyveled [shrivelled] for elde;
    And as a bonde-man of his bacon
    His berd was bi-draveled,
    With an hood on his heed.
    A lousy hat above
    And in a tawny tabard
    Of twelf wynter age.

    --2847 _Pass. V._

And again, from the same _Passus_ (he dividing thus his poem into _steps_
or _paces_) I cite this self-drawn picture of Envy:

    Betwene manye and manye
    I make debate ofte,
    That bothe lif and lyme
    Is lost thorugh my speche.
    And when I mete hym in market
    That I moost hate,
    I hailse hym hendely [politely]
    As I his frend were;
    For he is doughtier than I,
    I dar do noon oother:
    Ac, hadde I maistrie and myght.
    God woot my wille!
    And whanne I come to the kirk
    And sholde kneel to the roode,
    And preye for the peple …
    Awey fro the auter thanne
    Turne I myne eighen
    And bi-holde Eleyne
    Hath a newe cote;
    I wisshe thanne it were myn,
    And al the web after.
    For who so hath moore than I
    That angreth me soore,
    And thus I lyve love-lees,
    Like a luther [mad] dogge;
    That al my body bolneth [swelleth]
    For bitter of my galle.

    --_vers._ 2667.

It is a savage picture; and as savagely true as was ever drawn of Envy.
Those who cultivated the elegancies of letters, and delighted in the
pretty rhyming-balance of Romance verse, would hardly have relished
him; but the average thinker and worker would and did. It is specially
noteworthy that the existing MSS. of this poem, of which there are very
many, are without expensive ornamentation by illuminated initial letters,
or otherwise, indicating that its circulation was among those who did
not buy a book for its luxuries of “make-up,” but for its pith. A new
popularity came to the book after printing was begun, and made it known
to those who sympathized with its protesting spirit;--most of all when
the monasteries went down and readers saw how this old grumbler had
prophesied truly--in saying “the Abbot of Abingdon and all his people
should get a knock from a king”--as they did; and a hard one it was.

Langlande was born in the West, and had wandered over the beautiful
Malvern hills of Worcestershire in his day but he went afterward to live
in London, which he knew from top to bottom; had a wife there, “Kytte,”
and a daughter, “Calote;”[37] shaved his head like a priest; was tall--so
tall he came to be called “Long Will.” He showed little respect for fine
dresses, though he saw them all; he was in London when Chaucer was there
and when the greater poet was writing, and had higher-placed friends
than himself; but he never met him,--from anything that appears; never
met Wyclif either, with whom he must have had very much thinking in
common, and who also must have been in London many a time when tall Will
Langlande sidled along Fenchurch Street, or Cornhill. Yet he is worthy to
be named with him as representing a popular seam in that great drift of
independent and critical thought, which was to ripen into the Reformation.


_John Wyclif._

In the year when gunpowder was first burned in battle, and when Rienzi
was trying to poise himself with a good balance on the rocking shoulders
of the Roman people, John Wyclif, the great English reformer and the
first translator of the Bible, was just turned of twenty and poring over
his books, not improbably in that Balliol College, Oxford--of which in
the ripeness of his age he was to become Master.

We know little of his early personal history, save that he came from
a beautiful Yorkshire valley in the North of England, where the Tees,
forming the border line of the County of Durham, sweeps past the little
parish of Wyclif, and where a manor-house of the same name--traditionally
the birthplace of the Reformer--stands upon a lift of the river hank.
Its grounds stretch away to those “Rokeby” woods, whose murmurs and
shadows relieve the dullest of the poems of Scott.

But there is no record of him thereabout: if indeed he were born upon
that lift of the Tees bank, the proprietors thereof--who through many
generations were stanch Romanists--would have shown no honor to the
arch-heretic; and it is noteworthy that within a chapel attached to the
Wyclif manor-house, mass was said and the Pope reverenced, down to a very
recent time. John Wyclif, in the great crowd of his writings, whether
English or Latin, told no story of himself or of his young days. We have
only clear sight of him when he has reached full manhood--when he has
come to the mastership of Balliol Hall, and to eloquent advocacy of the
rights and dignities of England, as against the Papal demand for tribute.
On this service he goes up to London, and is heard there--maybe in
Parliament; certainly is heard with such approval that he is, only a few
years thereafter--sent with a commission, to treat with ambassadors from
the Pope, at the old city of Bruges.

This was a rich city--called the Venice of the North--and princes and
nobles from all Europe were to be met there; its great town-house even
then lifted high into the air that Belfry of Bruges which has become in
our day the nestling-place of song. But Wyclif was not overawed by any
splendors of scene or association. He insisted doggedly upon the rights
of Englishmen as against Papal pretensions. John of Gaunt, a son of the
king, stood by Wyclif; not only befriending him there, but afterward when
Papish bulls were thundered against him, and when he was summoned up to
London--as befell in due time--to answer for his misdeeds; and when the
populace, who had caught a liking for the stalwart independence of the
man, crowded through the streets (tall Will Langlande very probably among
them), to stand between the Reformer and the judges of the Church. He did
not believe in Ecclesiastic hierarchies; and it is quite certain that he
was as little liked by the abbots and the bishops and the fat vicars, as
by the Pope.

I have said he was befriended by John of Gaunt: and this is a name which
it is worth while for students of English history to remember; not only
because he was a brother of the famous Black Prince (and a better man
than he, though he did not fight so many battles), but because he was
also a good friend of the poet Chaucer--as we shall find. It will perhaps
help one to keep him in mind, if I refer to that glimpse we get of him in
the early scenes of Shakespeare’s tragedy of Richard II., where he makes
a play upon his name:

    O, how that name befits my composition!
    Old Gaunt, indeed! and gaunt in being old.
    Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast
    And who abstains from meat, that is not gaunt?

A good effigy of this John, in his robes, is on the glass of a window in
All-Souls’ College, Oxford.

But such great friends, and Wyclif numbered the widow of the Black Prince
among them, could not shield him entirely from Romish wrath, when he
began to call the Pope a “cut-purse;” and his arguments were as scathing
as his epithets, and had more reason in them. He was compelled to forego
his teachings at Oxford, and came to new trials,[38] at which--as
traditions run--he wore an air of great dignity; and old portraits show
us a thin, tall figure--a little bent with over-study; his features
sharp-cut, with lips full of firmness, a flowing white beard and piercing
eyes--glowing with the faith that was in him. This was he who blocked out
the path along which England stumbled through Lollardry quagmires, and
where Huss, the Bohemian, walked in after days with a clumsy, forward
tread, and which Luther in his later time put all alight with his torch
of flame.

The King--and it was one of the last good deeds of Edward III.--gave
to the old man who was railed at by Popes and bishops, a church living
at Lutterworth, a pleasant village in Leicestershire, upon a branch of
that Avon, which flows by Stratford Church; and here the white-haired old
man--some five hundred years ago (1384) finished his life; and here the
sexton of the church will show one to-day the gown in which he preached,
and the pulpit in which he stood.

Even now I have not spoken of those facts about this early Reformer,
which are best kept in memory, and which make his name memorable in
connection with the literature of England. In the quiet of Lutterworth
he translated the Latin Bible (probably not knowing well either Greek or
Hebrew, as very few did in that day); not doing all this work himself,
but specially looking after the Gospels, and perhaps all of the New
Testament.

The reader will, I think, be interested in a little fragment of this work
of his (from Matthew viii.).

    “Sothely [verily] Jhesus seeynge many cumpanyes about hym,
    bad _his disciplis_ go ouer the watir. And oo [one] scribe or
    _a man of lawe_, commynge to, saide to hym--Maistre, I shall
    sue [follow] thee whidir euer thou shalt go. And Jhesus said
    to hym, Foxis han dichis _or borrowis_ [holes] and briddes of
    the eir han nestis; but mannes sone hath nat wher he reste his
    heued. Sotheli an other of his disciplis saide to hym--Lord,
    suffre me go first and birye my fadir. Forsothe Jhesus saide to
    hym, Sue thou me, and late dede men birye her dead men.”

It is surely not very hard reading;--still less so in the form as revised
by Purvey,[39] an old assistant of his in the Parish of Lutterworth;
and it made the groundwork of an English sacred dialect, which with its
_Thees_ and _Thous_ and _Speaketh_ and _Heareth_ and _Prayeth_ has given
its flavor to all succeeding translations, and to all utterances of
praise and thanksgiving in every English pulpit.

Not only this, but Wyclif by his translation opened an easy English
pathway into the arcana of sacred mysteries, which in all previous
time--save for exceptional parts, such as the paraphrase of Cædmon, or
the Ormulum, or the Psalter of Aldhelm and other fragmentary Anglo-Saxon
versions of Scripture--had been veiled from the common people in
the dimness of an unknown tongue. But from the date of Wyclif’s
translation--forward, forever--whatever man, rich or poor, could read an
English ordinance of the King, or a bye-law of a British parish, could
also--though he might be driven to stealthy reading--spell his way back,
through the old aisles of Sacred History, where Moses and the prophets
held their place, and into the valleys of Palestine, where Bethlehem lay,
and where Christ was hung upon the tree.


_Chaucer._

Now we come to a Poet of these times; not a poet by courtesy, not a
small poet, but a real and a great one. His name is Chaucer. You may
not read him; you may find his speech too old-fashioned to please you;
you may not easily get through its meaning; but if you do, and come to
study him with any warmth, the more you study him the more you will
like him. And this--not because there are curious and wonderful tales
in his verse to interest you; not because your passion will be kindled
by any extraordinary show of dramatic power; but because his humor, and
gentleness, and grace of touch, and exquisite harmonies of language will
win upon you page by page, and story by story.

He was born--probably in London--some time during the second quarter of
the fourteenth century;[40] and there is reason to believe that an early
home of his was in or near Thames Street, which runs parallel with the
river,--a region now built up and overshadowed with close lines of tall
and grimy warehouses. But the boy Chaucer, living there five hundred and
more years ago, might have caught between the timber houses glimpses
of cultivated fields lying on the Southwark shores; and if he had
wandered along Wallbrook to Cheapside, and thence westerly by Newgate to
Smithfield Common--where he may have watched tournaments that Froissart
watched, and Philippa, queen of Edward III., had watched--he would
have found open country; and on quiet days would have heard the birds
singing there, and have seen green meadows lying on either side the river
Fleet--which river is now lost in sewers, and is planted over with houses.

On Ludgate Hill, in that far-off time, rose the tall and graceful spire
of old St. Paul’s, and underneath its roof was a vista of Gothic arches
seven hundred feet in length. The great monastery of the Templars--and
of the Knights of St. John--where we go now to see that remnant of it,
called the Temple Church,--had, only shortly before, passed into the
keeping of the Lawyers; the Strand was like a country road, with great
country-houses and gardens looking upon the water; Charing Cross was a
hamlet midway between the Temple and a parish called Westminster, where a
huge Abbey Church stood by the river bank.

Some biographers have labored to show that Chaucer was of high
family--with titles in it. But I think we care very little about
this; one story, now fully accredited, makes his father a vintner,
or wine-dealer, with a coat-of-arms, showing upon one half a red bar
upon white, and upon the other white on red; as if--hints old Thomas
Fuller--’twas dashed with red wine and white. This escutcheon with its
parti-colored bars may be seen in the upper left corner of the portrait
of Chaucer, which hangs now in the picture-gallery at Oxford. And--for
that matter--it was not a bad thing to be a vintner in that day; for we
have record of one of them who, in the year after the battle of Poitiers,
entertained at his house in the Vintry, Edward King of England, John King
of France, David King of Scotland, and the King of Cyprus. And he not
only dined them, but won their money at play; and afterward, in a very
unking-like fashion--paid back the money he had won.

Chaucer was a student in his young days; but never--as old stories
ran--at either Cambridge or Oxford; indeed, there is no need that we
place him at one or the other. There were schools in London in those
times--at St. Paul’s and at Westminster--in either of which he could
have come by all the scholarly epithets or allusions that appear in his
earlier poems; and for the culture that declares itself in his riper
days, we know that he was more or less a student all his life--loving
books, and proud of his fondness for them, and showing all up and down
his poems traces of his careful reading and of an observation as close
and as quick.

It is the poet’s very self, who, borne away in the eagle’s clutch amongst
the stars, gets this comment from approving Jove[41]:

    Thou hearest neither that nor this,
    For when thy labor all done is,
    And hast made all thy reckiningës
    In stead of rest and of new thingës,
    Thou goest homë to thine house anon
    And all so dombe as any stone,
    Thou sittest at another bokë
    Till fully dazed is thy lokë.

But though we speak of Chaucer as bookish and scholarly, it must not be
supposed that he aimed at, or possessed the nice critical discernment,
with respect to the literary work of others, which we now associate
with highest scholarly attainments; it may well happen that his bookish
allusions are not always “by the letter,” or that he may misquote, or
strain a point in interpretation. He lived before the days of exegetical
niceties. He is attracted by large effects; he searches for what may
kindle his enthusiasms, and put him upon his own trail of song. Books
were nothing to him if they did not bring illumination; where he could
snatch that, he burrowed--but always rather toward the light than toward
the depths. He makes honey out of coarse flowers; not so sure always--nor
much caring to be sure--of the name and habitudes of the plants he
rifles. He stole not for the theft’s sake, but for the honey’s sake; and
he read not for cumulation of special knowledges, but to fertilize and
quicken his own spontaneities.

Nor was this poet ever so shapen to close study, but the woods or the
birds or the flowers of a summery day would take the bend from his back,
and straighten him for a march into the fields:

                  ----There is gamë none,
    That from my bookës maketh me to gone,
    Save certainly whan that the month of Maie
    Is comen, and that I heare the foulës sing,
    And that the flowris ginnen for to spring--
    Farewell my booke, and my devocion!

And swift upon this in that musical “Legende of Good Women,” comes his
rhythmical crowning of the Daisy--never again, in virtue of his verse, to
be discrowned--

            ----above all the flowris in the mede
    Thanne love I moste these flowris white and rede;
    Soche that men callin Daisies in our toun
    To ’hem I have so grete affectionn
    As I said erst, whan comin is the Maie,
    That in my bedde there dawith me no daie
    That I n’ am up, and walking in the mede
    To sene this floure ayenst the sunnë sprede,
    As she that is of all flowris the floure,
    Fulfilled of all vertue and honoure
    And evir alikë faire and freshe, of hewe,
    And evir I love it and ever alikë newe.

These lines of his have given an everlasting perfume to that odorless
flower.

How it befell that this son of a vintner came first to have close
association with members of the royal household--household of the great
Edward III.--we cannot tell; but it is certain that he did come at an
early day to have position in the establishment of the King’s son, Prince
Lionel, Duke of Clarence; he was sometime valet, too, of Edward III., and
in other years a familiar _protégé_ of John of Gaunt--putting his poet’s
gloss upon courtly griefs and love-makings.

It is certain, moreover, that in the immediate service of either Prince
or King, he went to the wars--as every young man of high spirit in
England yearned to do, when war was so great a part of the business of
life, and when the Black Prince was galloping in armor and in victory
over the fields of Guienne. But it was a bad excursion the poet hit
upon; he went when disaster attended the English forces; he was taken
prisoner, and though ransomed shortly thereafter--as the record shows--it
is uncertain when he returned; uncertain if he did not linger for years
among the vineyards of France; maybe writing there his translation of the
famous _Roman de la Rose_[42]--certainly loving this and other such, and
growing by study of these Southern melodies into graces of his own, to
overlap and adorn his Saxon sturdiness of speech.

There are recent continental critics[43] indeed, who claim him as French,
and as finding not only his felicities of verse, but his impulse and
his motives among the lilies of France. He does love these lilies of a
surety; but I think he loves the English daisies better, and that it
is with a thoroughly English spirit that he “powders” the meadows with
their red and white, and sets among them the green blades of those island
grasses, which flash upon his “morwenyngs of Maie.” To these times may
possibly belong--if indeed Chaucer wrote it--“The Court of Love.” Into
the discussion of its authenticity we do not enter; we run to cover under
an ignorance which is more blissful than the wisdom that wearies itself
with comparison of dates, with laws of prosody, with journeyman-like
estimate of the tinklings of this or that spurt of rhyming habit. If
Chaucer did not write it, we lift our hat to the unknown melodist--who
can put the birds in choir--and pass on.

When our poet does reappear in London, it is not to tell any story of the
war--of its hazards, or of its triumphs. Indeed, it is remarkable that
this lissome poet, whose words like bangles shook out all tunes to his
step, and who lived in the very heart of the days of Poitiers--when the
doughty young Black Prince kindled a martial furor that was like the old
crusade craze to follow _Cœur de Lion_ to battle--remarkable, I say, that
Chaucer, living on the high tide of war--living, too, in a court where
he must have met Froissart, that pet of the Queen, who gloried in giving
tongue to his enthusiasm about the deeds of knighthood--wonderful, I say,
that Chaucer should not have brought into any of his tales or rhymes the
din and the alarums and the seething passions of war. There are indeed
glimpses of fluttering pennons and of spear thrusts; maybe, also, purple
gouts of blood welling out from his page; but these all have the unreal
look of the tourney, to which they mostly attach; he never scores martial
scenes with a dagger. For all that Crécy or its smoking artillery had
to do with his song, he might have sung a century earlier, or he might
have sung a century later. Indeed, he does not seem to us a man of
action, notwithstanding his court connection and his somewhile official
place;--not even a man of loudly declared public policy, but always the
absorbed, introspective, painstaking, quiet observer, to whom Nature in
the gross, with its humanities now kindled by wanton appetites, and now
lifted by reverence and love (with the everlasting broidery of flowers
and trees and sunshine), was always alluring him from things accidental
and of the time--though it were time of royal Philip’s ruin, or of a
conquest of Aquitaine.

Yet withal, this Chaucer is in some sense a man of the world and
courtier. The “Boke of the Duchesse” tells us this. And he can weave
chaplets for those who have gone through the smoke of battles--though his
own inclination may not lead him thither. To a date not very remote from
that which belongs to the “Duchesse” must in all probability be assigned
that other well-known minor poem of Chaucer’s, called the “Parlament of
Foules.”[44] There are stories of his love-lornness in his young days,
and of marriage delayed and of marriage made good--coming mostly from
those who paint large pictures with few pigments--and which are exceeding
hazy and indeterminate of outline: his “Troilus and Cresseide” make
us know that he could go through the whole gamut of love, and fawning
and teasing and conquest and forgetting, in lively earnest as well as
fancy--if need were.

We have better data and surer ground to go upon when we come to score his
official relations. We know that when not very far advanced in age (about
1370) he went to the continent on the King’s service; accomplishing it
so well--presumably--that he is sent again, very shortly after, with a
commission--his journey calling him to Genoa and Florence; Italy and the
Mediterranean, then, probably for the first time, with all their glamour
of old story, coming to his view. Some biographers make out, from chance
lines in his after-poems, that he went over to Padua and saw Petrarch
there, and learned of him some stories, which he afterward wrought into
his garland of the Canterbury Tales. Possibly;[45] but it was not an
easy journey over the mountains to Padua in those days, even if Petrarch
had been domiciled there,--which is very doubtful; for the Italian poet,
old and feeble, passed most of the latter years of his life at Arqua
among the Euganean hills; and if Chaucer had met him, Petrarch would have
been more apt to ask the man from far-away, murky England, about his
country and King and the Prince Lionel (dead in those days), who only a
few years before had married, at Milan, a daughter of the Visconti--than
to bore him with a story at second hand (from Boccaccio) about the
patient Griselda.

However this may be, it is agreed by nearly all commentators, that by
reason of his southward journeyings and his after-familiarity with
Italian literature (if indeed this familiarity were not of earlier date),
that his own poetic outlook became greatly widened, and he fell away, in
large degree, from his old imitative allegiance to the jingling measures
of France, and that pretty

                      “Maze of to and fro,
    Where light-heeled numbers laugh and go.”

Through all this time he is in receipt of favors from the
Government--sometimes in the shape of direct pension--sometimes of an
annual gift of wine--sometimes in moneys for payment of his costs of
travel;--sometime, too, he has a money-getting place in the Customs.

John of Gaunt continues his stalwart friend. Indeed this Prince, late in
life, and when he had come to the title of Duke of Lancaster, married,
in third espousals, a certain Kate Swynford (_née_ Roet), who, if much
current tradition may be trusted, was a sister of Chaucer’s wife; it was,
to be sure, looked upon by court people (for various reasons) as a match
beneath the Duke; and Froissart tells us with a chirrupy air[46] of easy
confidence (but there is no mention of the poet) that the peeresses of
the court vowed they would have nothing to do with the new Duchess of
Lancaster--by which it may be seen that fine ladies had then the same
methods of punishing social audacities which they have now. The tradition
has been given a new lease of life by the memorial window which under
rule of Dean Stanley was set in Westminster Abbey;[47] and, however
the truth may be, Chaucer’s life-long familiarity in the household of
Lancaster is undoubted; and it is every way likely that about the knee of
the poet may have frisked and played the little Hal. (b. 1367), who came
afterward to be King Henry IV. It is to this monarch, newly come to the
throne, that Chaucer addresses--in his latter days, and with excellent
effect--that little piquant snatch of verse[48] about the lowness of his
purse:

    I am so sorrie now that ye be light,
    For certes, but ye make me heavy cheere,
    Me were as lief be laid upon my bere
    For which unto your mercie thus I crie
    Be heavie againe, or ellës mote I die.

Yet he seems never to lose his good humor or his sweet complacency;
there is no carping; there is no swearing that is in earnest. His
whole character we seem to see in that picture of him which his friend
Occleve painted; a miniature, to be sure, and upon the cover of a MS. of
Occleve’s poems; but it is the best portrait of him we have. Looking at
it--though ’tis only half length--you would say he was what we call a
dapper man; well-fed, for he loved always the good things of life--“not
drinkless altogether, as I guess;” nor yet is it a bluff English face; no
beefiness; regular features--almost feminine in fineness of contour--with
light beard upon upper lip and chin; smooth cheeks; lips full (rosy red,
they say, in the painting); eye that is keen,[49] and with a sparkle
of humor in it; hands decorously kept; one holding a rosary, the other
pointing--and pointing as men point who see what they point at, and make
others see it too; his hood, which seems a part of his woollen dress,
is picturesquely drawn about his head, revealing only a streak of hair
over his temple; you see it is one who studies picturesqueness even in
costume, and to the trimming of his beard into a forked shape;--no lint
on his robe--you may be sure of that;--no carelessness anywhere: dainty,
delicate, studious of effects, but with mirth and good nature shimmering
over his face. Yet no vagueness or shakiness of purpose show their weak
lines; and in his jaw there is a certain staying power that kept him firm
and active and made him pile book upon book in the new, sweet English
tongue, which out of the dialects of Essex and of the East of England he
had compounded, ordered, and perfected, and made the pride of every man
born to the inheritance of that Island speech.

And it is with such looks and such forces and such a constitutional
cheeriness, that this blithe poet comes to the task of enchaining
together his Canterbury Tales, with their shrewd trappings of
Prologue--his best work, getting its last best touches after he is fairly
turned of middle age, if indeed he were not already among the sixties. Is
it not wonderful--the distinctness with which we see, after five hundred
years have passed, those nine and twenty pilgrims setting out on the
sweet April day, to travel down through the country highways and meadows
of Kent!

The fields are all green, “y-powdered with daisies;” the birds are
singing; the white blossoms are beginning to show upon the hedge-rows.
And the Pilgrims, one and all, are so touched and colored by his
shrewdness and aptness of epithet that we see them as plainly as if they
had been cut out, figure by figure, from the very middle of that far-away
century.

There goes the Knight--

                And that a worthy man,
    That from the timë that he first began
    To ryden out, he lovéd chyvalrie
    Trouth and honoúr, freedom and courtesie.

And after him his son, the Squire, the bright bachelor, who

            Was as fresh as is the month of May;
    Schort was his goune, with sleevës long and wide,
    Well coude he sit on hors, and fairë ride.
    He coudë songës make and wel endite,
    Joust and eke dance, and wel portray and write.

Then there comes the charming Prioress--

              Ycleped Madame Eglantine.
    Ful well she sang the servicë divine,
    Entunëd in hir nose ful semëly:
    And Frensch she spak ful fair and fetisly,
    After the scole of Stratford attë Bowe,
    For Frensch of Paris was to hir unknowe.
    …
    Full fetys was her cloke, as I was waar
    Of smal coral aboute hir arme she baar
    A paire of bedës gauded all with grene,
    And thereon heng a broch of gold ful schene
    On which was first y-writ a crownéd A,
    And after--_Amor Vincit Omnia_!

Then comes the Monk, who has a shiny pate, who is stout, well fed,
pretentious; his very trappings make a portrait--

    And when he rood, men might his bridel heere
    Gingling in a whistlyng wynd as cleere
    And eek as loude as doth the chapel belle.

Again, there was a Friar--a wanton and a merry one--rollicksome, and
loving rich houses only,

        ----who lispéd for his wantonnesse,
    To make his Englissch swete upon his tunge;
    His eyen twinkled in his hed aright
    As do the starrës in the frosty night.

And among them all goes, with mincing step, the middle-aged, vulgar,
well-preserved, coquettish, shrewish Wife of Bath:

    Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
    Ful streyte y-tied, and schoos ful moiste and newe,
    Bold was her face, and faire and reed of hewe.

And so--on, and yet on--for the twenty or more; all touched with those
little, life-like strokes which only genius can command, and which keep
the breath in those old Pilgrims to Canterbury, as if they travelled
there, between the blooming hedge rows, on every sunshiny day of every
succeeding spring.

I know that praise of these and of the way Chaucer marshals them at the
Tabard, and starts them on their way, and makes them tell their stories,
is like praise of June or of sunshine. All poets and all readers have
spoken it ever since the morning they set out upon their journeyings; and
many an American voyager of our day has found best illumination for that
pleasant jaunt through County Kent toward the old towers of Canterbury
in his recollections of Chaucer’s Pilgrims. It is true that the poet’s
wayside marks are not close or strong; no more does a meteor leave other
track than the memory of its brightness. We cannot fix of a surety upon
the “ale-stake” where the Pardoner did “byten on a cake,” and there may
be some doubt about the “litel” town

    which that y-cleped is, Bob-up-and-Down.

But there is no doubt at all about the old Watling Road and Deptford, and
the sight of Greenwich Heights, which must have shown a lifted forest
away to their left; nor about Boughton Hill (by Boughton-under-Blean),
with its far-off view of sea-water and of sails, and its nearer view of
the great cathedral dominating Canterbury town. Up to the year 1874 the
traveller might have found a Tabard[50] tavern in Southwark, which at
about 1600 had replaced the old inn that Chaucer knew; but it repeated
the old quaintness, and with its lumbering balconies and littered court
and droll signs, and its saggings and slants and smells, carried one
back delightfully to fourteenth-century times. And in Canterbury, at the
end of the two or three days’[51] pilgrim journey, one can set foot in
very earnest upon the pavement these people from the Tabard trod, under
the cathedral arches--looking after the tomb of the great Black Prince,
and the scene of the slaughter of Thomas à Becket. In that quaint old
town, too, are gables under which some of these story-tellers of the
Pilgrimage may have lodged; and (mingling old tales with new) there are
latticed casements out of which Agnes Wickfield may have looked, and
sidewalks where David Copperfield may have accommodated his boy-step
to the lounging pace of the always imminent Micawber. Yet it is in
the country outside and in scenes the poet loved best, that the aroma
of the Canterbury Tales will be caught most surely; and it is among
those picturesque undulations of land which lie a little westward of
Harbledown--upon the Rochester road, which winds among patches of wood,
and green stretches of grass and billowy hop-gardens, that the lover of
Chaucer will have most distinctly in his ear the jingle of the “bridel”
of the Monk, and in his eye the scarlet hosen and the wimple of the Wife
of Bath.

Yet these Canterbury Tales convey something in them and about them
beside delicacies; the host, who is master of ceremonies, throws mud
at a grievous rate, and with a vigorous and a dirty hand. Boccaccio’s
indecencies lose nothing of their quality in the smirched rhyme of the
Reeve’s tale;[52] the Miller is not presentable in any decent company,
and the Wife of Bath is vulgar and unseemly. There are others, to be
sure, and enough, who have only gracious and grateful speech put into
their mouths; and it is these we cherish. The stories, indeed, which
these pilgrims tell, are not much in themselves; stolen, too, the most
of them; stolen, just as Homer stole the current stories about Ajax and
Ulysses; just as Boccaccio stole from the _Gesta Romanorum_; just as
Shakespeare stole from the Cymric fables about King Lear and Cymbeline.
He stole; but so did everyone who could get hold of a good manuscript.
Imagine--if all books were in such form now, and MSS. as few and sparse
as then, what a range for enterprising authors! But Chaucer stole nothing
that he did not improve and make his own by the beauties he added.

Take that old slight legend (everywhere current in the north of England)
of the little Christian boy, who was murdered by Jews, because he sang
songs in honor of the Virgin; and who--after death--still sang, and so
discovered his murderers. It is a bare rag of story, with only streaks of
blood-red in it; yet how tenderly touched, and how pathetically told, in
Chaucer’s tale of the Prioress!

It is a widow’s son--“sevene yeres of age”--and wheresoe’er he saw the
image

    Of Christe’s moder, had he in usage,
    As him was taught, to knele adown and say
    His _Ave Marie!_ as he goth by the way.
    Thus hath this widowe hire litel son y-taught
    To worship aye, and he forgat it naughte.

And the “litel” fellow, with his quick ear, hears at school some day the
_Alma Redemptoris_ sung; and he asks what the beautiful song may mean? He
says he will learn it before Christmas, that he may say it to his “moder
dere.” His fellows help him word by word--line by line--till he gets it
on his tongue:

    From word to word, acording with the note,
    Twiës a day, it passed thro’ his throte.

At last he has it trippingly; so--schoolward and homeward,

              as he cam to and fro
    Full merrily than would he sing and crie,
    O _Alma Redemptoris_ ever mó,
    The sweetnesse hath his hertë perced so.

Through the Jews’ quarter he goes one day, singing this sweet song that
bubbles from him as he walks; and they--set on by Satan, who “hath in
Jewe’s herte his waspës nest”--conspire and plot, and lay hold on him,
and cut his throat, and cast him into a pit.

But--a wonder--a miracle!--still from the bleeding throat, even when life
is gone, comes the tender song, “_O Alma Redemptoris!_” And the wretched
mother, wandering and wailing, is led by the sweet, plaintive echoes,
whose tones she knows, to where her poor boy lies dead; and even as she
comes, he, with throte y-carven, his

    _Alma Redemptoris_ gan to sing
    So loude that al the placë gan to ring.

Then the Christian people take him up, and bear him away to the Abbey.
His mother lies swooning by the bier. They hang those wicked Jews--and
prepare the little body for burial and sprinkle it with holy water; but
still from the poor bleeding throat comes “evermo’” the song:

    _O Alma Redemptoris mater!_

And the good Abbot entreats him to say, why his soul lingers, with his
throat thus all agape?

    “My throte is cut unto my nekkë bone,”
    Saidë this child, “and as by way of kynde,
    I should have dyed, ye longë time agone,
    But Jesu Christ, as ye in bookës finde,
    Wol that his glory laste, and be in minde,
    And for the worship of his moder dere,
    Yet may I sing, ‘_O Alma!_’ loud and clere.”

But he says that as he received his death-blow, the Virgin came, and

    “Methoughte she leyde a greyn upon my tongue,
    Wherefore I singe and singe; I mote certeyn
    Til from my tonge off-taken is the greyn;
    And after that, thus saidë she to me,
    ‘My litel child, then wol I fecchen thee!’”
    [Where at] This holy monk--this Abbot--him mene I,
    His tonge out-caughte, and tok away the greyn,
    And he gaf up the goost full softëly.
    …
    And when the Abbot had this wonder sein
    His saltë teres trillëd adown as raine,
    And graf he fell, all platt upon the grounde,
    And stille he lay as he had been y-bounde.

After this they take away the boy-martyr from off his bier--

    And in a tombe of marble stonës clere
    Enclosen they his litel body swete;
    Ther he is now: God leve us for to mete!

How tenderly the words all match to the delicate meaning! This delightful
poet knows every finest resource of language: he subdues and trails after
him all its harmonies. No grimalkin stretching out silken paws touches so
lightly what he wants only to touch; no cat with sharpest claws clings
so tenaciously to what he would grip with his earnester words. He is a
painter whose technique is never at fault--whose art is an instinct.

Yet--it must be said--there is no grand horizon at the back of his
pictures: pleasant May-mornings and green meadows a plenty; pathetic
episodes, most beguiling tracery of incidents and of character, but never
strong, passionate outbursts showing profound capacity for measurement
of deepest emotion. We cannot think of him as telling with any adequate
force the story of King Lear, in his delirium of wrath: Macbeth’s stride
and hushed madness and bated breath could not come into the charming,
mellifluous rhythm of Chaucer’s most tragic story without making a
dissonance that would be screaming.

But his descriptions of all country things are garden-sweet. He touches
the daisies and the roses with tints that keep them always in freshest,
virgin, dewy bloom; and he fetches the forest to our eye with words that
are brim-full of the odors of the woods and of the waving of green boughs.

       *       *       *       *       *

In our next talk we shall speak of some who sang beside him, and of some
who followed; but of these not one had so rare a language, and not one
had so true an eye.



CHAPTER IV.


In our last chapter we went back to the latter edge of the thirteenth
century and to the City of Oxford, that we might find in that time and
place a Franciscan Friar--known as Roger Bacon, who had an independence
of spirit which brought him into difficulties, and a searchingness of
mind which made people count him a magician. I spoke of Langlande and
Wyclif: and of how the reforming spirit of the first expressed itself in
the alliterative rhythm of the Piers Plowman allegory; and how the latter
declared against Papal tyranny and the accepted dogmas of the Church:
he too, set on foot those companies of “pore priests,” who in long
russet gowns reaching to their heels, and with staff in hand, traversed
the highways and byways of England, preaching humility and charity; he
gave to us moreover that Scriptural quaintness of language, which from
Wyclif’s time, down to ours, has left its trail in every English pulpit,
and colored every English prayer.

Then we came to that great poet Chaucer, who wrote so much and so well,
as--first and most of all contemporary or preceding writers--to make
one proud of the new English tongue. He died in 1400, and was buried at
Westminster--not a stone’s throw away from the site of his last London
home. His tomb, under its Gothic screen, may be found in the Poet’s
Corner of the Abbey, a little to the right, on entering from the Old
Palace Yard; and over it, in a window that looks toward the Houses of
Parliament, has been set--in these latter years, in unfading array--the
gay company of Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims.

In the same year in which the poet died, died also that handsome and
unfortunate Richard the Second[53] (son of the Black Prince) who promised
bravely; who seemed almost an heroic figure when in his young days,
he confronted Wat Tyler so coolly; but he made promises he could not
or would not keep--slipped into the enthralment of royalties against
which Lollard and democratic malcontents bayed in vain: there were court
cabals that overset him; Shakespeare has told his story, and in that
tragedy--lighted with brilliant passages--John of Gaunt, brother to the
Black Prince, appears, old, and gray and near his grave; and his son--the
crafty but resolute Henry Bolingbroke--comes on the stage as Henry IV. to
take the “brittle glory” of the crown.


_Of Gower and Froissart._

But I must not leave Chaucer’s immediate times, without speaking of
other men who belonged there: the first is John Gower--a poet whom I
name from a sense of duty rather than from any special liking for what
he wrote. He was a man of learning for those days--having a good estate
too, and living in an orderly Kentish home, to which he went back and
forth in an eight-oared barge upon the Thames. He wrote a long Latin poem
_Vox Clamantis_, in which like Langlande he declaimed against the vices
and pretensions of the clergy; and he also treated in the high-toned
conservative way of a well-to-do country gentleman, the social troubles
of the time, which had broken out into Wat Tyler and Jack Straw
rebellions;--people should be wise and discreet and religious; then, such
troubles would not come.

A better known poem of Gower--because written in English--was the
_Confessio Amantis_: Old Classic, and Romance tales come into it, and
are fearfully stretched out; and there are pedagogic Latin rubrics at
the margin, and wearisome repetitions, with now and then faint scent of
prettinesses stolen from French _fabliaux_: but unless your patience
is heroic, you will grow tired of him; and the monotonous, measured,
metallic jingle of his best verse is provokingly like the “Caw-caw” of
the prim, black raven. He had art, he had learning, he had good-will;
but he could not weave words into the thrush-like melodies of Chaucer.
Even the clear and beautiful type of the Bell & Daldy edition[54] does
not make him entertaining. You will tire before you are half through the
Prologue, which is as long, and stiff as many a sermon. And if you skip
to the stories, they will not win you to liveliness: Pauline’s grace, and
mishaps are dull; and the sharp, tragic twang about Gurmunde’s skull, and
the vengeance of Rosemunde (from the old legend which Paul the Deacon
tells) does not wake one’s blood.

In his later years he was religiously inclined; was a patron and, for a
time, resident of the Priory which was attached to the church, now known
as St. Saviour’s, and standing opposite to the London Bridge Station in
Southwark. In that church may now be found the tomb of Gower and his
effigy in stone, with his head resting on “the likeness of three books
which he compiled.”

Perhaps I have no right to speak of Froissart, because he was a Fleming,
and did not write in English; but Lord Berners’ spirited translation
of his Chronicle (1523) has made it an English classic:[55] moreover,
Froissart was very much in London; he was a great pet of the Queen of
Edward III.; he had free range of the palace; he described great fêtes
that were given at Windsor, and tournaments on what is now Cheapside;
a reporter of our day could not have described these things better: he
went into Scotland too--the Queen Philippa giving him his outfit--and
stayed with the brave Douglas “much time,” and tells us of Stirling and
of Melrose Abbey. Indeed, he was a great traveller. He was at Milan when
Prince Clarence of England married one of the great Visconti (Chaucer
possibly there also, and Petrarch of a certainty); he was at Rome, at
Florence, at Bordeaux with the Black Prince, when his son Richard II.
was born; was long in the household of Gaston de Foix: we are inclined
to forget, as we read him, that he was a priest, and had his parochial
charge somewhere along the low banks of the Scheldt: in fact, we suspect
that he forgot it himself.

He not only wrote Chronicles, but poems; and he tells us, that on his
last visit to England, he presented a copy of these latter--beautifully
illuminated, engrossed by his own hand, bound in crimson velvet, and
embellished with silver clasps, bosses, and golden roses--to King
Richard II.; and the King asked him what it was all about; and he
said--“About Love;” whereat, he says, the King seemed much pleased, and
dipped into it, here and there--for “he could read French as well as
speak it.”

Altogether, this rambling, and popular Froissart was, in many points,
what we should call an exquisite fellow; knowing, and liking to know,
only knights and nobles, and flattering them to the full; receiving
kindly invitations wherever he went; overcome with the pressure of his
engagements; going about in the latest fashion of doublet; somewhiles
leading a fine greyhound in leash, and presenting five or six of the same
to his friend the Comte de Foix (who had a great love for dogs); never
going near enough to the front in battle to get any very hard raps; ready
with a song or a story always; pulling a long bow with infinite grace.
Well--the pretty poems he thought so much of, nobody knows--nobody cares
for: they have never, I think, been published in their entirety:[56] But,
his Journal--his notes of what he saw and heard, clapped down night by
night, in hostelries or in tent--perhaps on horseback--are cherished
of all men, and must be reckoned the liveliest, if not the best of all
chronicles of his time. He died in the first decade of that fifteenth
century on which we open our British march to-day; and, at the outset,
I call attention to a little nest of dates, which from their lying so
close together, can be easily kept in mind. Richard II. son of the Black
Prince, died--a disgraced prisoner--in 1400. John of Gaunt, his uncle,
friend of Chaucer, died the previous year: while Chaucer, Froissart and
John Gower all died in less than ten years thereafter; thus, the century
opens with a group of great deaths.


_Two Henrys and Two Poets._

That Henry IV. who appears now upon the throne, and who was not a very
noticeable man, save for his kingship, you will remember as the little
son of John of Gaunt, who played about Chaucer’s knee; you will remember
him further as giving title to a pair of Shakespeare’s plays, in which
appears for the first time that semi-historic character--that enormous
wallet of flesh, that egregious villain, that man of a prodigious humor,
all in one--Jack Falstaff. And this famous, fat Knight of Literature
shall introduce us to Prince Hal who, according to traditions (much
doubted nowadays), was a wild boy in his youth, and boon companion of
such as Falstaff; but, afterward, became the brave and cruel, but steady
and magnificent Henry V. Yet we shall never forget those early days of
his, when at Gad’s Hill, he plots with Falstaff and his fellows, to
waylay travellers bound to London, with plump purses. Before the plot
is carried out, the Prince agrees privately with Poins (one of the
rogues) to put a trick upon Falstaff: Poins and the Prince will slip
away in the dusk--let Falstaff and his companions do the robbing; then,
suddenly--disguised in buckram suits--pounce on them and seize the booty.
This, the Prince and Poins do: and at the first onset of these latter,
the fat Knight runs off, as fast as his great hulk will let him, and goes
spluttering and puffing to a near tavern, where--after consuming “an
intolerable deal of sack”--he is confronted by the Prince, who demands
his share of the spoils. But the big Knight blurts out--“A plague on
all cowards!” He has been beset, while the Prince had sneaked away; the
spoils are gone:

    “I am a rogue, if I was not at half a sword with a dozen of
    them two hours together; I have scaped by a miracle; I am eight
    times thrust thro’ the doublet--four thro’ the hose. My sword
    is hacked like a hand-saw. If I fought not with fifty of them,
    then am I a bunch of radish. If there were not two or three and
    fifty on poor old Jack, then am I no two-legged creature.”

    “Pray God, [says the Prince, keeping down his laughter] you
    have not murdered some of them!”

    _Falstaff._ Nay, that’s past praying for; for I peppered two
    of them--two rogues in buckram. Here I lay, and thus I bore my
    sword. Four rogues in buckram let drive at me.

    _Prince._ What, four?; thou said’st two.

    _Falstaff._ Four, Hal; I told thee four.

And Poins comes to his aid, with--“Ay, he said four.” Whereat the fat
Knight takes courage; the men in buckram growing, in whimsical stretch
to seven, and nine; he, paltering and swearing, and never losing his
delicious insolent swagger, till at last the Prince declares the truth,
and makes show of the booty. You think this coward Falstaff may lose
heart at this; not a whit of it; his eye, rolling in fat, does not blink
even, while the Prince unravels the story; but at the end the stout
Knight hitches up his waistband, smacks his lips:--

    “D’ye think I did not know ye, my masters? Should I turn upon
    the true Prince? Why thou knowest I am as valiant as Hercules;
    but beware instinct: I was a coward on instinct.”

So runs the Shakespearean scene, of which I give this glimpse only as a
remembrancer of Henry IV., and his possibly wayward son.

If we keep by the strict letter of history, there is little of literary
interest in that short reign of his--only fourteen years. Occleve, a poet
of whom I spoke as having painted a portrait of Chaucer (which I tried to
describe to you) is worth mentioning--were it only for this. Lydgate,[57]
of about the same date, was a more fertile poet; wrote so easily indeed,
that he was tempted to write too much. But he had the art of choosing
taking subjects, and so, was vastly popular. He had excellent training,
both English and Continental; he was a priest, though sometimes a naughty
one; and he opened a school at his monastery of St. Edmunds. A few
fragments of that monastery are still to be seen in the ancient town of
Bury St. Edmunds:--a town you may remember in a profane way, as the scene
of certain nocturnal adventures that befel, in our time, Mr. Pickwick and
Sam Weller.

Notable amongst the minor poems of this old Bury monk, is a jingling
ballad called _London Lickpenny_, in which a poor suitor pushing his way
into London courts, is hustled about, has his hood stolen, wanders hither
and yon, with stout cries of “ripe strawberries” and “hot sheepes feete”
shrilling in his ears; is beset by taverners and thievish thread-sellers,
and is glad to get himself away again into Kent, and there digest the
broad, and ever good moral that a man’s pennies get “licked” out of him
fast in London. Remembering that this was at the very epoch when Nym and
Bardolph frequented the Boar’s Head, Eastcheap, and cracked jokes and
oaths with Dame Quickly and Doll Tearsheet, and we are more grateful for
the old rhyming priest’s realistic bit of London sights, than for all his
classics,[58] or all his stories of the saints.

But at the very time this Lydgate was writing, a tenderer and sweeter
voice was warbling music out of a prison window at Windsor; and the music
has come down to us:[59]

    “Beauty enough to make a world to doat,
    And when she walkèd had a little thraw
    Under the sweet grene bowis bent,
    Her fair freshe face, as white as any snaw
    She turnèd has, and forth her way is went;
    But then begun my achès and torment
    To see her part, and follow I na might;
    Methought the day was turnèd into night.”

There is a royal touch in that, and it comes from a royal hand--that of
Prince James of Scotland, who, taken prisoner by Henry IV., was held fast
for sixteen years in the keep of Windsor Castle. Mr. Irving has made
him the subject of a very pleasant paper in the Sketch-book. Though a
prince, he was a poet by nature, and from the window of his prison did
see the fair lady whose graces were garnered in the verse I have cited;
and oddly enough, he did come to marry the subject of this very poem (who
was related to the royal house of England, being grand-daughter of John
of Gaunt) and thereafter did come to be King of Scotland and--what was a
commoner fate--to be assassinated. That queen of his, of whom the wooing
had been so romantic and left its record in the _King’s Quair_--made
a tender and devoted wife--threw herself at last between him and the
assassins--receiving grievous wounds thereby, but all vainly--and the
poor poet-king was murdered in her presence at Perth, in the year 1437.

These three poets I have named all plumed their wings to make that great
flight by which Chaucer had swept into the Empyrean of Song: but not one
of them was equal to it: nor, thenceforward all down through the century,
did any man sing as Chaucer had sung. There were poetasters; there were
rhyming chroniclers; and toward the end of the century there appeared a
poet of more pretension, but with few of the graces we find in the author
of the Canterbury Tales.

John Skelton[60] was his name: he too a priest living in Norfolk. His
rhymes, as he tells us himself, were “ragged and jagged:” but worse
than this, they were often ribald and rabid--attacking with fierceness
Cardinal Wolsey--attacking his fellow-priests too--so that he was
compelled to leave his living: but he somehow won a place afterward
in the royal household as tutor; and even the great Erasmus (who had
come over from the Low Countries, and was one while teaching Greek at
Cambridge) congratulates some prince of the royal family upon the great
advantage they have in the services of such a “special light and ornament
of British literature.” He is capricious, homely, never weak, often
coarse, always quaint. From out his curious trick-track of verse, I pluck
this little musical canzonet:--

    “Merry Margaret
    As midsummer flower;
    Gentle as falcon
    Or hawk of the tower:
    With solace and gladness
    Much mirth and no madness,
    All good and no badness,
    So joyously,
    So maidenly,
    So womanly
    Her demeaning
    In everything
    Far, far passing
    That I can indite
    Or suffice to write
    Of merry Margaret
    As midsummer flower
    Gentle as falcon
    Or hawk of the tower:
    Stedfast of thought
    Well-made well-wrought;
    Far may be sought
    Ere you can find
    So courteous--so kind
    As merry Margaret
    This midsummer flower.”

There is a pretty poetic perfume in this--a merry musical jingle; but it
gives no echo even of the tendernesses which wrapped all round and round
the story of the Sad Griselda.


_Henry V. and War Times._

This fifteenth century--in no chink of which, as would seem, could any
brave or sweet English poem find root-hold, was not a bald one in British
annals. There were great men of war in it: Henry V. and Bedford[61] and
Warwick and Talbot and Richard III. all wrote bloody legends with their
swords across French plains, or across English meadows.

Normandy, which had slipped out of British hands--as you remember--under
King John, was won again by the masterly blows Henry V. struck at
Agincourt and otherwheres. Shakespeare has given an historic picture of
this campaign, which will be apt to outlive any contemporary chronicle.
Falstaff disappears from sight, and his old crony the dissolute Prince
Hal comes upon the scene as the conquering and steady-going King.

Through all the drama--from the “proud hoofs” of the war-horses,
prancing in the prologue, to the last chorus, the lurid blaze of battle
is threatening or shining. Never were the pomp and circumstance of war
so contained within the pages of a play. For ever so little space--in
gaps of the reading--between the vulgar wit of Nym, and the Welsh jargon
of Fluellen, you hear the crack of artillery, and see shivered spears
and tossing plumes. In the mid scenes, vast ranks of men sweep under
your vision, and crash against opposing ranks, and break, and dissolve
away in the hot swirl of battle. And by way of artistic contrast to
all this, comes at last, in the closing pages, that piquant, homely,
strange coquettish love-scene, which--historically true in its main
details--joined the fortunes of England and of France in the persons
of King Henry and Katharine of Valois. You will not be sorry to have a
glimpse of this Shakespearean and historic love-making: The decisive
battle has been fought: the French King is prisoner: Henry has the
game in his own hands. It is a condition of peace that he and the fair
Katharine--daughter of France--shall join hands in marriage; and Henry in
his blunt war way sets about his wooing:--

    “O fair Katharine, if you will love me soundly with your French
    heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your
    English tongue. Do you like me, Kate?”

    _Kate._ _Pardonnez moi_; I cannot tell vat is--_like me_.

    _King._ [Explosively and deliciously.] An angel is like you,
    Kate; and you are like an angel: faith, I’m glad thou can’st
    speak no better English: for if thou could’st thou would’st
    find me such a plain King, that thou would’st think I had
    sold my farm to buy my crown. If you would put me to verses,
    or to dance for your sake, Kate, why you undid me. I speak
    plain soldier. If thou can’st love me for this--take me: if
    not--to say to thee that I shall die, is true: but--for thy
    love--by the Lord, no. Yet I love thee too. And whil’st thou
    livest, Kate, take a fellow of a plain uncoined constancy: a
    straight-back will stoop; but a good heart, Kate, is the sun
    and the moon; or rather the sun and not the moon, for it shines
    bright and never changes. If thou would’st have such a one,
    take me!

    _Kate._ Is it possible dat I should love de enemy of France?

    _King._ No, it’s not possible, Kate: but in loving me you would
    love the friend of France, for I love France so well, that I
    will not part with a village of it: I will have it all mine:
    and, Kate, when France is mine, and I am yours, then yours is
    France and you are mine. But, Kate, dost thou understand thus
    much English--Can’st thou love me?

    _Kate._ I cannot tell.

    _King._ Can any of your neighbors tell, Kate?

    _Kate._ I do not know dat.

    _King._ By mine honor, in true English, I love thee, Kate: by
    which honor, I dare not swear thou lovest me: yet my blood
    begins to flatter me, that thou dost. Wilt thou have me Kate?

    _Kate._ That is as it shall please _le roy mon Père_.

    _King._ Nay it will please him well, Kate. It _shall_ please
    him, Kate, and upon that, I kiss your hand and call you “my
    Queen.”

    _Kate._ Dat is not de fashion _pour les ladies_ of France--to
    kiss before marriage.

    _King._ O Kate, [loftily] _nice customs courtesy to great
    Kings_:--here comes your father.

And these two _did_ marry; the Queen being--as Shakespeare represents--in
a large sense, the spoil of war. Out of this union sprung the next King,
Henry VI., crowned when an infant. But this does not close the story
of Katharine: three years after the King’s death, she married a Welsh
knight--named Sir Owen Tudor. (He, poor man, lost his head, some years
after, for his temerity in marrying a King’s widow.) But from the second
marriage of Katharine, was born a son who became the father of that
Henry VII., who sixty years later conquered Richard III. on Bosworth
field--brought to an end the wars of York and Lancaster, and gave his own
surname of Tudor to his son Henry VIII., to the great Elizabeth and to
bloody Mary.

Seeing thus how the name of Tudor came into the royal family, through
that Katharine of Valois, whose courtship is written in the play of Henry
V., I will try on the same page to fasten in mind the cause of the great
civil wars of York and Lancaster, or of the white and red roses, which
desolated England in the heart of the fifteenth century.[62]

You will recall my having spoken of Chaucer as a favorite in the
household of John of Gaunt, and as an inmate also in the household of
John’s older brother, Lionel. You will remember, too, that Henry IV.,
son of John of Gaunt, succeeded the hapless and handsome Richard II.
on the throne; but his right was disputed, and with a great deal of
reason, by the heirs of the older brother, Lionel (who had title of
Duke of Clarence). There was not however power and courage enough to
contest the claim, until the kingship of young Henry VI.--crowned when
an infant--offered opportunity. Thereafter and thereby came the broils,
the apprehensions, the doubts, the conspiracies, the battles, which made
England one of the worst of places to live in: all this bitterness
between York and Lancaster growing out of the rival claims of the heirs
of our old acquaintances Lionel and John of Gaunt, whom we met in the
days of Chaucer.


_Joan of Arc and Richard III._

If we look for any literary illumination of this period, we shall scarce
find it, except we go again to the historic plays of Shakespeare: The
career of Henry VI. supplies to him the groundwork for three dramas: the
first, dealing with the English armies in France, which, after Henry V.’s
death are beaten back and forth by French forces, waked to new bravery
under the strange enthusiasm and heroic leadership of Joan of Arc. Of
course she comes in for her picture in Shakespeare’s story: but he gives
us an ignoble one (though not so bad as Voltaire’s in the ribald poem of
_La Pucelle_).

No Englishman of that day, or of Shakespeare’s day, could do justice to
the fiery, Gallic courage, the self-devotion, the religious ennoblement
of that earnest, gallant soul who was called the Maid of Orleans. A far
better notion of her presence and power than Shakespeare gave is brought
to mind by that recent French painting of Bastien-Lepage--so well known
by engraving--which aims to set forth the vision and the voices that
came to her amid the forest silence and shadows. Amid those shadows she
stands--startled: a strong, sweet figure of a peasant maiden; stoutly
clad and simply; capable of harvest-work with the strongest of her
sisterhood; yet not coarse; redeemed through every fibre of body and
soul by a light that shines in her eye, looking dreamily upward; seeing
things others see not; hoping things others hope not, and with clenched
hand putting emphasis to the purpose--which the hope and the vision
kindle; pitying her poor France, and nerved to help her--as she did--all
the weary and the troublesome days through, till the shameful sacrifice
at English hands, on the market-place of Rouen, closed her life and her
story.

The two closing portions of the Henry VI. dramas relate to home concerns.
There is much blood in them and tedium too (if one dare say this), and
flashes of wit--a crazy tangle of white and red roses in that English
garden--cleared up at last in Shakespeare’s own way, when Richard
III.[63] comes, in drama of his own, and crookedness, and Satanry of his
own, and laughs his mocking laugh over the corpses he makes of kings
and queens and princes; and at last in Bosworth field, upon the borders
of Warwickshire and near to the old Roman Watling Street, the wicked
hunchback, fighting like a demon, goes down under the sword-thrust of
that Henry (VII.) of Richmond, who, as I have said, was grandson to
Katharine of Valois, of the coquettish courtship.

No chronicler of them all, commonplace or painstaking as he might be,
has so planted the image of the crooked Richard III. in men’s minds as
Shakespeare: though it is to be feared that he used somewhat too much
blood in the coloring; and doubtful if the hump-backed king was quite the
monster which Garrick, Booth, and Macready have made of him.


_Caxton and First English Printing._

In the midst of those draggling, dreary, dismal war-times, when no poet
lifted his voice in song, when no chronicler who has a worthy name wrote
any story of the years, there came into vogue in Europe and in England,
a trade--which in its issues had more to do with the life and spread of
good literature, than any poet, or any ten poets could accomplish. You
will guess at once what the trade was; it was the trade of Printing.

Bosworth field dates in 1485: in the middle of the century (or 1444)
John Gutenberg began the printing of a Bible; and a little after, Faust
began to dispose of wonderful copies of books, which the royal buyers
thought to be manuscripts: and Faust did not perhaps undeceive them: yet
copies were so wonderfully alike--one to the other--that book lovers were
puzzled, and pushed inquiry, and so the truth of the method came out.

In 1477 William Caxton set up the first English printing press--in an old
building, close upon Westminster Abbey--a building, which, if tradition
is to be trusted, was standing down to near the middle of the present
century; and on its demolition in 1846 its timbers were converted into
snuff-boxes and the like, as mementos of the first printer. It was in
1477 that William Caxton issued the first book, printed with a date, in
England.[64]

This Caxton was a man worth knowing about on many counts: he was a
typical Englishman, born in Kent; was apprenticed to a well-to-do
mercer in the Old Jewry, London, at a time when, he says, many poor
were a-hungered for bread made of fern roots;--he went over (while yet
apprentice) to the low countries of Flanders, perhaps to represent his
master’s interests; abode there; throve there; came to be Governor of the
Company of English merchant adventurers, in the ancient town of Bruges:
knew the great, rich Flemings[65] who were patrons of letters;--became
friend and protégé of that English Princess Margaret who married Charles
Duke of Burgundy; did work in translating old books for that great lady;
studied the new printing art, which had crept into Bruges, and finally,
after thirty odd years of life in the busy Flemish city sailed away
for London, and set up a press which he had brought with him, under
the shadow of Westminster towers. Fifteen years and more he wrought on
there, at his printer’s craft--counting up a hundred issues of books;
making much of his own copy, both translation and original, and dying
over seventy in 1492. A good tag to tie to this date is--the Discovery of
America; Columbus being over seas on that early voyage of his, while the
first English printer lay dying.

And what were the books, pray, which Master Caxton--who, for a wonder, was
a shrewd business man, as well as inclined to literary ways--thought it
worth his while to set before the world? Among them we find _A Sequell
of the Historie of Troie_--_The Dictes and Sayings of Philosophers_--a
history of Jason, the _Game and Plays of Chesse_, Mallory’s King
Arthur (to which I have previously alluded), a _Book of Courtesie_,
translations from Ovid, Virgil and Cicero--also the Canterbury Tales of
Chaucer (of whom he was great admirer)--coupling with these latter, poems
by Lydgate and Gower; many people in those days seeming to rank these
men on a level with Chaucer--just as we yoke writers together now in
newspaper mention, who will most certainly be unyoked in the days that
are to come.

The editions of the first English books ranged at about two hundred
copies: the type was what we call black letter, of which four varieties
were used on the Caxton press, and the punctuation--if any--was of the
crudest. An occasional sample of his work appears from time to time on
the market even now; but not at prices which are inviting to the most
of us. Thus in 1862, there was sold in England, a little Latin tractate
printed by Caxton--of only ten leaves quarto, with twenty-four lines to
the page, for £200; and I observe upon the catalogue of a recent date of
Mr. Quaritch (the London bibliopole) a copy of _Godefroi de Bouloyne_, of
the Caxton imprint, offered at the modest price of £1,000.

Very shortly after the planting of this first press at Westminster,
others were established at Oxford and also at the great monastery of
St. Albans. Among the early books printed at this latter place--say
within ten years after Caxton’s first--was a booklet written by a certain
Dame Juliana Barnes;[66] it is the first work we have encountered
written by a woman; and what do you think may have been its subject?
Religion--poesy--love--embroidery? Not one of these; but some twenty
odd pages of crude verse “upon the maner of huntyng for all maner of
bestys” (men--not being included); and she writes with the gusto and
particularity of a man proud of his falcons and his dogs. Warton says
blandly: “The barbarism of the times strongly appears in the indelicate
expressions which she often uses; and which are equally incompatible with
her sex and profession.” The allusion to her “profession” has reference
to her supposed position as prioress of a convent; this, however, is
matter of grave doubt.


_Old Private Letters._

But this is not the only utterance of a female voice which we hear
from out those years of barrenness and moil. In 1787 there appeared in
England a book made up of what were called Paston Letters[67]--published
and vouched for by an antiquarian of Norfolk, who had the originals in
his possession--and which were in fact familiar letters that had passed
between the members and friends of a well-to-do Norfolk family in the
very years of the War of the Roses, of Caxton, of King Richard, and of
Wynkyn de Worde.

Among the parties to these old letters, there is a John Paston senior
and a Sir John Paston, and a John Paston the younger and a good Margery
Paston; there is a Sir John Fastolf too--as luck would have it. Was this
the prototype[68] of Shakespeare’s man of humors? Probably not: nor can
we say of a certainty that he was the runaway warrior who was of so bad
repute for a time in the army of the Duke of Bedford: but we do know from
these musty papers that he had a “Jacket of red velvet, bound round the
bottom with red leather,” and “Another jacket of russet velvet lyned with
blanket clothe;” also “Two jackets of deer’s leather, with a collar of
black velvet,” and so on.

We do not however care so much about this Fastolf inventory, as for what
good Margaret Paston may have to say: and as we read her letters we seem
to go back on her quaint language and her good wifely fondness to the
very days when they were written--in the great country-house of Norfolk,
near upon the city of Norwich, with the gentle east wind from the German
Ocean, blowing over the Norfolk fens, and over the forests, and over the
orchards, and over the barns, and into the hall-windows, and lifting the
very sheets of paper on which the good dame Margery is writing. And what
does she say?

“Ryte worshipful husband, I recommend me unto you”--she begins; and
thereafter goes on to speak of a son who has been doing unwise things,
and been punished therefor as would seem:--

    “As for his demeaning, syn you departed, in good faith, it
    hath been ryt good, I hope he will be well demeaned to please
    you hereafterward; and I beseche you hartily that you would
    vouchsafe to be hys good fader, for I hope he is chastyzèd, and
    will be worthier. As for all oder tyngges at home, I hope that
    I, and oder shall do our part therein, as wel as we may; but as
    for mony it cometh in slowly, and God hav you in his keeping,
    and sen you good speed in all yr matters.”

Again, in another note, she addresses her husband,--

    “Myn oune sweethert [a good many years after marriage too!] in
    my most humble wyse I recommend me to you; desiring hertly to
    her of your welfare, the which I beseche Almighty God preserve
    and kepe.”

And a son writes to this same worthy Margaret:--

    “Ryght worshipful and my moste kynde and tender moder, I
    recommend me to you, thanking you of the great coste, and of
    the grete chere that ye dyd me, and myn, at my last being with
    you. _Item_: As for the books that weer Sir James [would] it
    like you that I may have them? I am not able to buy them; but
    somewhat wolde I give, and the remnant with a good devout
    hert, by my truthe, I will pray for his soule.

    “Also, moder, I herd while in London ther was a goodly young
    woman to marry whyche was daughter to one Seff, a mercer, and
    she will have 200 pounds in money to her marriage, and 20 £ by
    year after the dysesse of a stepmoder of hers, whiche is upon
    50 yeeres of age: and fore I departed out o’ Lunnon, I spak
    with some of the mayd’s friends, and hav gotten their good
    wille to hav her married to my broder Edmond. Master Pykenham
    too is another that must be consulted--so he says: Wherefore,
    Moder, we must beseeche you to helpe us forward with a lettyr
    to Master Pykenham, for to remember him for to handyl this
    matter, now, this Lent.”

A younger son writes:--

    “I beseeche you humbly of your blessing: also, modyr, I
    beseeche you that ther may be purveyed some meane that I myth
    have sent me home by the same messenger that shall bring my
    Aunt Poynings answer--two paire hose--1 payr blak and another
    russet, whyche be redy for me at the hosers with the crooked
    back next to the Blk Friars gate, within Ludgate. John Pampyng
    knoweth him well eno’. And if the blk hose be paid for, he
    will send me the russet ones unpaid for. I beseeche you that
    this geer be not forgot, for I have not an whole hose to do
    on. I pray you visit the Rood of St. Pauls, and St. Savior at
    Barmonsey whyls ye abide in London, and let my sister Margery
    go with you to pray to them that she may have a good husband
    ere she come home again. Written at Norwich on holyrood day, by
    yr

                         “Son and lowly Servant

                                         “JNO: PASTON THE YOUNGEST.”

This sounds as home-like as if it were written yesterday, and about one
of us--even to the sending of two pair of hose if one was paid for. And
yet this familiar, boy-like letter was written in the year 1465: six
years before Caxton had set up his press in Westminster--twenty-seven
before Columbus had landed on San Salvador, and at a time when Louis XI.
and barber Oliver (whose characters are set forth in Scott’s story of
Quentin Durward) were hanging men who angered them on the branches of the
trees which grew around the dismal palace of Plessis-les-Tours, in France.


_A Burst of Balladry._

I have brought my readers through a waste literary country to-day; but we
cannot reach the oases of bloom without going across the desert spaces.
In looking back upon this moil and turmoil--this fret and wear and
barrenness of the fifteenth century, in which we have welcomed talk about
Caxton’s sorry translations, and the wheezing of his press; and have
given an ear to the hunting discourse of Dame Juliana, for want of better
things; and have dwelt with a certain gleesomeness on the homely Paston
Letters, let us not forget that there has been all the while, and running
through all the years of stagnation, a bright thread of balladry, with
glitter and with gayety of color. This ballad music--whose first burst we
can no more pin to a date than we can the first singing of the birds--had
lightened, in that early century, the walk of the wayfarer on all the
paths of England; it had spun its tales by bivouac fires in France; it
had caught--as in silken meshes--all the young foragers on the ways of
Romance. To this epoch, of which we have talked, belongs most likely that
brave ballad of Chevy Chase, which keeps alive the memory of Otterbourne,
and of that woful hunting which

    “Once there did, in Chevy Chase befal.

    “To drive the deare with hounde and horne
      Erle Percy took his way;
    The child may rue, that is unborn
      The hunting of that day.”

Hereabout, too, belongs in all probability the early English shaping of
the jingling history of the brave deeds of Sir Guy of Warwick; and some
of the tales of Robin Hood and his “pretty men all,” which had been sung
in wild and crude carols for a century or more, now seem to have taken
on a more regular ballad garniture, and certainly became fixtures in
type. This is specially averred of “Robin Hood and the Monk,” beginning:--

    “In summer when the shawes be sheyne
      And levès be large and long,
    Hit is full merry, in feyre forést,
      To here the foulé’s song;
    To see the dere draw to the dale,
      And leve the hillés hee,
    And shadow them in the levés green,
      Under the grenwode tree.”

But was Robin Hood a myth? Was he a real yeoman--was he the Earl of
Huntington? We cannot tell; we know no one who can. We know only that
this hero of the folk-songs made the common people’s ideal of a good
fellow--brave, lusty--a capital bowman, a wondrous wrestler, a lover of
good cheer, a hater of pompous churchmen, a spoiler of the rich, a helper
of the poor, with such advices as these for Little John:--

    “Loke ye do no housbande harme
      That tylleth with his plough;
    No more ye shall no good yeman
      That walketh by grenewode shawe,
    Ne no knyght, ne no squyèr,
      That wolde be a good felawe.”

That very charming ballad of the Nut-Brown Maid must also have been
well known to contemporaries of Caxton: She is daughter of a Baron, and
her love has been won by a wayfarer, who says he is “an outlaw,” and a
banished man, a squire of low degree. He tries her faith and constancy,
as poor Griselda’s was tried in Chaucer’s story--in Boccaccio’s tale, and
as men have tried and teased women from the beginning of time. He sets
before her all the dangers and the taunts that will come to her; she must
forswear her friends; she must go to the forest with him; she must not be
jealous of any other maiden lying _perdue_ there; she must dare all, and
brave all,--

    “Or else--I to the greenwood go
    Alone, a banished man.”

At last, having tormented her sufficiently, he confesses--that he is not
an outlaw--not a banished man, but one who will give her wealth, and
rank, and name and fame. And I will close out our present talk with a
verselet or two from this rich old ballad.

The wooer says--

            “I counsel you, remember howe
              It is no maydens law
            Nothing to doubt, but to ren out
              To wed with an outlaw:
            For ye must there, in your hand bere
              A bowe ready to draw,
            And as a thefe, thus must you live
              Ever in drede and awe
            Whereby to you grete harme might growe;
              Yet had I lever than
            That I had to the grenewode go
              Alone, a banished man.”

    _She_: “I think not nay, but as ye say
              It is no maiden’s lore
            But love may make me, for your sake
              As I have say’d before,
            To come on fote, to hunt and shote
              To get us mete in store;
            For so that I, your company
              May have, I ask no more,
            From which to part, it maketh my hart
              As cold as any stone;
            For in my minde, of all mankinde
              I love but you alone.”

    _He_: “A baron’s child, to be beguiled
              It were a cursèd dede!
            To be felawe with an outlawe
              Almighty God forbid!
            Yt better were, the poor Squyère
              Alone to forest yede,
            Than ye shold say, another day
              That by my cursed dede
            Ye were betrayed; wherefore good maid
              The best rede that I can
            Is that I to the grenewode go
              Alone, a banished man.”

    _She_: “Whatever befal, I never shall
              Of this thing you upraid;
            But if ye go, and leve me so
              Then have ye me betrayed;
            Remember you wele, how that ye dele
              For if ye, as ye said
            Be so unkynde to leave behinde
              Your love the Nut Brown Mayd
            Trust me truly, that I shall die
              Soon after ye be gone;
            For in my minde, of all mankinde
              I love but you alone.”

    _He_: “My own deare love, I see thee prove
              That ye be kynde and true:
            Of mayd and wife, in all my life
              The best that ever I knewe
            Be merry and glad; be no more sad
              The case is chaunged newe
            For it were ruthe, that for your truthe
              Ye should have cause to rue;
            Be not dismayed, whatever I said
              To you when I began;
            I will not to the grenewode go
              I am no banished man.”

    _And she, with delight and fear_--
            “These tidings be more glad to me
              Than to be made a quene;
            If I were sure they shold endure
              But it is often seene
            When men wyl break promise, they speak
              The wordes on the splene:
            Ye shape some wyle, me to beguile
              And stele from me I wene;
            Then were the case, worse than it was
              And I more woebegone,
            For in my minde, of all mankynde
              I love but you alone.”

    _Then he--at last_,--
            “Ye shall not nede, further to drede
              I will not disparàge
            You (God defend!) syth ye descend
              Of so grate a linèage;
            Now understand--to Westmoreland
              Which is mine heritàge
            I wyl you bring, and with a ryng
              By way of marriàge
            I wyl you take, and lady make
              As shortely as I can:
            Thus have you won an Erly’s son
              And not a banished man.”

       *       *       *       *       *

In our next chapter we shall enter upon a different century, and
encounter a different people. We shall find a statelier king, whose name
is more familiar to you: In place of the fat knight and Prince Hal, we
shall meet brilliant churchmen and hard-headed reformers; and in place of
Otterbourne and its balladry, we shall see the smoke of Smithfield fires,
and listen to the psalmody of Sternhold.



CHAPTER V.


When we turned the leaf upon the Balladry of England, we were upon
fifteenth century ground, which, you will remember, we found very barren
of great writers. Gower and Froissart, whom we touched upon, slipped off
the stage just as the century began--their names making two of those
joined in that group of deaths to which I called attention, and which
marked the meeting of two centuries. Next we had glimpse of Lydgate and
of King James (of Scotland), who, at their best, only gave faint token of
the poetic spirit which illuminated the far better verses of Chaucer.

We then passed over the period of the Henrys, and of the War of the
Roses, with mention of Shakespeare’s Falstaff--of his Prince Hal--his
Agincourt--his courtship of Katharine of Valois--his inadequate
presentment of the Maid of Orleans--his crabbed and crooked Richard
III.--all rounded out with the battle of Bosworth field, and the coming
to power of Henry of Richmond.

We found the book-trade taking on a new phase with Caxton’s press:
we gave a tinkling bit of Skelton’s “Merry Margaret;” we put a
woman-writer--Dame Juliana Barnes--for the first time on our list; we
lingered over the quaint time-stained Paston Letters, which smelled so
strongly of old English home-life; and we summed up our talk with a
little bugle-note of that Balladry which made fitful snatches of music
all through the weariness of those hundred years.


_Early Days of Henry VIII._

To-day we front the sixteenth century. Great names and great deeds crop
out over it as thickly as leaves grow in summer. At the very outset,
three powerful monarchs came almost abreast upon the scene--Henry VIII.
of England, Francis I. of France, and Charles V. of Spain, Germany, and
the Low Countries.

Before the first quarter of the century had passed, the monk Luther had
pasted his ticket upon the doors of the church at Wittenberg; and that
other soldier-monk, Loyola, was astir with the beginnings of Jesuitism.
America had been planted; the Cape of Good Hope was no longer the outpost
of stormy wastes of water with no shores beyond. St. Peter’s church was
a-building across the Tiber, and that brilliant, courteous, vicious,
learned Leo X. was lording it in Rome. The Moors and their Saracen faith
had been driven out of the pleasant countries that are watered by the
Guadalquivir. Titian was alive and working; and so was Michael Angelo
and Raphael, in the great art-centres of Italy: and Venice was in this
time so rich, so grand, so beautiful, so abounding in princely houses,
in pictures, in books, in learning, and in all social splendors, that
to pass two winters in the City of the Lagoon, was equal to the half
of a polite education; and I suppose that a Florentine or Venetian
or Roman of that day, thought of a pilgrimage to the far-away, murky
London, as Parisians think now of going to Chicago, or Omaha, or San
Francisco--excellent places, with delightful people in them; but not the
centres about which the literary and art world goes spinning, as a wheel
goes spinning on its hub.

We have in the contemporary notes of a well-known Venetian chronicler,
Marini Sanuto--who was secretary to the famous Council of Ten--evidence
of the impression which was made on that far-off centre of business
and of learning, by such an event as the accession of Henry VIII. to
the throne of England. This Sanuto was a man of great dignity; and by
virtue of his position in the Council, heard all the “relations” of the
ambassadors of Venice; and hence his Diary is a great mine of material
for contemporary history.

    “News have come,” he says, “through Rome of the death of the
    King of England on April 20th [1509]. ’Twas known in Lucca on
    the 6th May, by letters from the bankers Bonvisi. The new King
    is nineteen years old, a worthy King, and hostile to France. He
    is the son-in-law of the King of Spain. His father was called
    Henry, and fifty odd years of age; he was a very great _miser_,
    but a man of vast ability, and had accumulated so much gold
    that he is supposed to have [had] more than wellnigh all the
    other Kings of Christendom. The King, his son, is liberal and
    handsome--the friend of Venice, and the enemy of France. This
    intelligence is _most_ satisfactory.”

Certainly the new king was most liberal in his spending, and as certainly
was abundantly provided for. And money counted in those days--as it does
most whiles: no man in England could come to the dignity of Justice of
the Peace--such office as our evergreen friend Justice Shallow holds
in Shakespeare--except he had a rental of £20 per annum, equivalent to
a thousand dollars of present money--measured by its purchasing power
of wheat.[69] By the same standard the average Earl had a revenue of
£20,000, and the richest of the peers is put down at a probable income of
three times this amount.

What a special favorite of the crown could do in the way of expenditure
is still made clear to us by those famous walks, gardens, and gorgeous
saloons of Hampton Court, where the great Cardinal Wolsey set his
armorial bearings upon the wall--still to be seen over the entrance of
the Clock Court. If you go there--and every American visitor in London
should be sure to find a way thither--you will see, may be, in the lower
range of windows, that look upon the garden court--the pots of geranium
and the tabby cats belonging to gentlewomen of rank, but of decayed
fortune--humble pensioners of Victoria--who occupy the sunny rooms from
which, in the times we are talking of, the pampered servants of the great
Cardinal looked out. And when the great man drove to court, or into the
city, his retinue of outriders and lackeys, and his golden trappings,
made a spectacle for all the street mongers.

Into that panorama, too, of the early days of Henry VIII., enters with
slow step, and with sad speech, poor Katharine of Aragon--the first in
order of this stalwart king’s wives. Mrs. Fanny Kemble Butler used to
read that queen’s speech with a pathos that brought all the sadnesses
of that sad court to life again: Miss Cushman, too, you may possibly
have heard giving utterance to the same moving story; but, I think, with
a masculinity about her manner she could never wholly shake off, and
which gave the impression that she could--if need were--give the stout
king such a buffet on the ears as would put an end to all chaffer about
divorce.

Shakespeare, writing that play of Henry VIII., probably during the
lifetime of Elizabeth (though its precise date and full authenticity are
matters of doubt), could not speak with very much freedom of the great
queen’s father: She had too much of that father’s spirit in her to
permit that; otherwise, I think the great dramatist would have given a
blazing score to the cruelty and _Bluebeardism_ of Henry VIII.

I know that there be those acute historic inquirers who would persuade us
to believe that the king’s much-marrying propensities were all in order,
and legitimate, and agreeable to English constitutional sanction: but I
know, too, that there is a strong British current of common-sense setting
down all through the centuries which finds harbor in the old-fashioned
belief--that the king who, with six successive wives of his own choice,
divorced two, and cut off the heads of other two, must have had--vicious
weaknesses. For my own part, I take a high moral delight--Froude to
the contrary--in thinking of him as a clever, dishonest, good-natured,
obstinate, selfish, ambitious, tempestuous, arrogant scoundrel. Yet,
withal, he was a great favorite in his young days;--so tall, so trim,
so stout, so rich, so free with his money. No wonder the stately and
disconsolate Queen (of Aragon) said:--

    “Would I had never trod this English earth,
    Or felt the flatteries that grow upon it;
    Ye’ve angels faces, but Heaven knows your hearts!”

And this wilful King befriended learning and letters in his own wilful
way. Nay, he came to have ambitions of his own in that direction, when he
grew too heavy for practice with the long-bow, or for feats of riding--in
which matters he had gained eminence even amongst those trained to sports
and exercises of the field.


_Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More._

It was with the King’s capricious furtherance that Cardinal Wolsey
became so august a friend of learning. The annalists delight in telling
us how the great Cardinal went down to St. Paul’s School to attend
upon an exhibition of the boys there, who set afoot a tragedy founded
upon the story of Dido. And at the boys’ school was then established
as head-master that famous William Lilly[70] who had learned Greek in
his voyaging into Eastern seas, and was among the first to teach it in
England: he was the author too of that _Lilly’s Latin Grammar_ which
was in use for centuries, and of which later editions are hanging about
now in old New England garrets, from whose mouldy pages our grandfathers
learned to decline their _pennæ--pennarum_. Wolsey wrote a preface for
one of the earlier issues of this Lilly’s Grammar; and the King gave
it a capital advertisement by proclaiming it illegal to use any other.
The Cardinal, moreover, in later years established a famous school at
his native place of Ipswich (a rival in its day to that of Eton), and
he issued an address to all the schoolmasters of England in favor of
accomplishing the boys submitted to their charge in the most elegant
literatures.

The great Hall of Christ’s Church College, Oxford, still further serves
to keep in mind the memory and the munificence of Cardinal Wolsey: it
must be remembered, however, in estimating his munificence that he had
only to confiscate the revenues of a small monastery to make himself
full-pocketed for the endowment of a college. ’Tis certain that he loved
learning, and that he did much for its development in the season of his
greatest power and influence; certain, too, that his ambitions were too
large for the wary King, his master, and brought him to that dismal fall
from his high estate, which is pathetically set forth in Shakespeare’s
Henry VIII.:

                “----Farewell to all my greatness!
    This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
    The tender leaves of hope, to-morrow blossoms
    And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;
    The third day comes a frost--a killing frost;
    And--when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
    His greatness is a ripening--nips his root
    And then he falls as I do. I have ventured,
    Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
    This many summers in a sea of glory;
    But far beyond my depth; my high-blown pride
    At length broke under me; and now has left me,
    Weary, and old with service, to the mercy
    Of a rude stream that must forever hide me.”

Another favorite of Henry in the early days of his kingship, and one
bearing a far more important name in the literary annals of England
than that of Wolsey, was Sir Thomas More. He was a Greek of the very
Greeks, in both character and attainment. Born in the heart of London--in
Milk Street, now just outside of the din and roar of Cheapside, he
was a scholar of Oxford, and was the son of a knight, who, like Sir
Thomas himself, had a reputation for shrewd sayings--of which the old
chronicler, William Camden,[71] has reported this sample:--

    “Marriage,” said the elder More, “with its chances, is like
    dipping one’s hand into a bag, with a great many snakes
    therein, and but one eel; the which most serviceable and
    comfortable eel might possibly be seized upon; but the chances
    are largely in favor of catching a stinging snake:”

But, says the chronicler--this good knight did himself thrust _his_ hand
three several times into such a bag, and with such ensuing results as
preserved him hale and sound to the age of ninety or thereabout. The son
inherited this tendency to whimsical speech, joining with it rare merits
as a scholar: and it used to be said of him as a boy, that he could
thrust himself into the acting of a Latin comedy and extemporize his
part, with such wit and aptness, as not to break upon the drift of the
play. He studied, as I said, at Oxford; and afterward Law at Lincoln’s
Inn; was onewhile strongly inclined to the Church, and under influence
of a patron who was a Church dignitary became zealous Religionist, and
took to wearing in penance a bristling hair-shirt--which (or one like
it) he kept wearing till prison-days and the scaffold overtook him, as
they overtook so many of the quondam friends of Henry VIII. For he had
been early presented to that monarch--even before Henry had come to the
throne--and had charmed him by his humor and his scholarly talk: so
that when More came to live upon his little farm at Chelsea (very near
to Cheyne Row where Carlyle died but a few years since) the King found
his way thither on more than one occasion; and there are stories of his
pacing up and down the garden walks in familiar talk with the master.

There, too, came for longer stay, and for longer and friendlier
communings, the great and scholarly Erasmus (afterward teacher of Greek
at Cambridge)--and out of one of these visitations to Chelsea grew the
conception and the working out of his famous Praise of Folly, with its
punning title--_Encomium Moriæ_.[72]

The King promised preferment to More--which came in its time. I think he
was in Flanders on the King’s business, when upon a certain day, as he
was coming out from the Antwerp Cathedral, he encountered a stranger,
with long beard and sunburnt face--a man of the “Ancient Mariner” stamp,
who had made long voyages with that Amerigo Vespucci who stole the honor
of naming America: and this long-bearded mariner told Sir Thomas More of
the strange things he had seen in a country farther off than America,
called _Utopia_. Of course, it is something doubtful if More ever really
encountered such a mariner, or if he did not contrive him only as a good
frontispiece for his political fiction. This is the work by which More is
best known (through its English translations); and it has given the word
Utopian to our every-day speech. The present popular significance of this
term will give you a proper hint of the character of the book: it is an
elaborate and whimsical and yet statesmanlike forecast of a government
too good and honest and wise to be sound and true and real.

Sir Thomas smacked the humor of the thing, in giving the name _Utopia_,
which is Greek for _Nowhere_. If, indeed, men were all honest, and women
all virtuous and children all rosy and helpful, we might all live in a
Utopia of our own. All the Fourierites--the Socialists--the Knights of
Labor might find the germs of their best arguments in this reservoir of
the ideal maxims of statecraft. In this model country, gold was held
in large disrespect; and to keep the scorn of it wholesome, it was
put to the vilest uses: a great criminal was compelled to wear gold
rings in his ears: chains were made of it for those in bondage; and a
particularly obnoxious character put to the wearing of a gold head-band;
so too diamonds and pearls were given over to the decoration of infants;
and these, with other baby accoutrements, they flung aside in disgust,
so soon as they came to sturdy childhood. When therefore upon a time,
Ambassadors came to Utopia, from a strange country, with their tricksy
show of gold and jewels--the old Voyager says:--

    “You shᵈ have sene [Utopian] children that had caste away their
    peerles and pretious stones, when they sawe the like sticking
    upon the Ambassadours cappes;--digge and pushe theire mothers
    under the sides, sainge thus to them,--‘Loke mother how great a
    lubbor doth yet were peerles, as though he were a litel child
    stil!’ ‘Peace sone,’ saith she; ‘I thinke he be some of the
    Ambassadours fooles.’”

Also in this model state industrial education was in vogue; children
all, of whatsoever parentage, were to be taught some craft--as “masonrie
or smith’s craft, or the carpenter’s science.” Unlawful games were
decried--such as “dyce, cardes, tennis, coytes [quoits]--do not all
these,” says the author, “sende the haunters of them streyghte a
stealynge, when theyr money is gone?”

The Russian Count Tolstoi’s opinion that money is an invention of Satan
and should be abolished, is set forth with more humor and at least equal
logic, in this Latin tractate of More’s.

In the matters of Religion King Utopus decreed that

    “it should be lawful for everie man to favoure and folow what
    religion he would, and that he mighte do the best he could
    to bring other to his opinion, so that he did it peaceablie,
    gentelie, quietlie and sobelie, without hastie and contentious
    rebuking.”

Yet this same self-contained Sir Thomas More did in his after
controversies with Tyndale use such talk of him--about his “whyning
and biting and licking and tumbling in the myre,” and “rubbing himself
in puddles of dirt,”--as were like anything but the courtesies of
Utopia. Indeed it is to be feared that theologic discussion does
not greatly provoke gentleness of speech, in any time; it is a very
grindstone to put men’s wits to sharpened edges. But More was a most
honest man withal;--fearless in advocacy of his own opinions; eloquent,
self-sacrificing--a tender father and husband--master of a rich English
speech (his _Utopia_ was written in Latin, but translated many times
into English, and most languages of Continental Europe), learned in
the classics--a man to be remembered as one of the greatest of Henry
VIII.’s time; a Romanist, at a date when honestest men doubted if it were
worthiest to be a King’s man or a Pope’s man;--not yielding to his royal
master in points of religious scruple, and with a lofty obstinacy in what
he counted well doing, going to the scaffold, with as serene a step as he
had ever put to his walks in the pleasant gardens of Chelsea.


_Cranmer, Latimer, Knox, and Others._

A much nobler figure is this, to my mind, than that of Cranmer,[73] who
appears in such picturesque lights in the drama of Henry VIII.--who
gave adhesion to royal wishes for divorce upon divorce; who always
colored his religious allegiances with the colors of the King; who was
a scholar indeed--learned, eloquent; who wrought well, as it proved,
for the reformed faith; but who wilted under the fierce heats of trial;
would have sought the good will of the blood-thirsty Mary; but who
gave even to his subserviencies a half-tone that brought distrust, and
so--finally--the fate of that quasi-martyrdom which has redeemed his
memory.

He stands very grandly in his robes upon the memorial cross at
Oxford: and he has an even more august presence in the final scene of
Shakespeare’s play, where amidst all churchly and courtly pomp, he
christened the infant--who was to become the Royal Elizabeth, and says
to the assembled dignitaries:

                                    “This royal infant
    Tho’ in her cradle, yet now promises
    Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings,
    Which time will bring to ripeness: She shall be
    A pattern to all princes living with her,
    And all that shall succeed her. Truth shall nurse her,
    Holy and heavenly thoughts still counsel her:
    She shall be loved and feared.
    A most unspotted lily shall she pass
    To the ground, and all the world shall mourn her.”[74]

Tennyson, in his drama of Queen Mary (a most unfortunate choice of
heroine) gives a statuesque pose to this same Archbishop Cranmer; but
Shakespeare’s figures are hard to duplicate. He was with Henry VIII. as
counsellor at his death; was intimate adviser of the succeeding Edward
VI.: and took upon himself obligations from that King (contrary to his
promises to Henry) which brought him to grief under Queen Mary. That
brave thrust of his offending hand into the blaze that consumed him,
cannot make us forget his weaknesses and his recantations; nor will we
any more forget that he it was, who gave (1543) to the old Latin Liturgy
of the Church that noble, English rhythmic flow which so largely belongs
to it to-day.

It is quite impossible to consider the literary aspects of the period of
English history covered by the reign of Henry VIII., and the short reigns
of the two succeeding monarchs, Edward VI. and Mary, without giving large
frontage to the Reformers and religious controversialists. Every scholar
was alive to the great battle in the Church. The Greek and Classicism of
the Universities came to have their largest practical significance in
connection with the settlement of religious questions or in furnishing
weapons for the ecclesiastic controversies of the day. The voices of the
poets--the Skeltons, the Sackvilles, the Wyatts, were chirping sparrows’
voices beside that din with which Luther thundered in Germany, and Henry
VIII. thundered back, more weakly, from his stand-point of Anglicanism.

We have seen Wolsey in his garniture of gold, going from court to school;
and Sir Thomas More, stern, strong, and unyielding; and Archbishop
Cranmer, disposed to think rightly, but without the courage to back up
his thought; and associated with these, it were well to keep in mind the
other figures of the great religious processional. There was William
Tyndale, native of Gloucestershire, a slight, thin figure of a man;
honest to the core; well-taught; getting dignities he never sought;
wearied in his heart of hearts by the flattering coquetries of the King;
perfecting the work of Wyclif in making the old home Bible readable by
all the world. His translation was first printed in Wittenberg about
1530:[75] I give the Lord’s Prayer as it appeared in the original
edition:--

    “Oure Father which arte in heven, halowed be thy name. Let thy
    kingdom come. Thy wyll be fulfilled, as well in erth, as hit
    ys in heven. Geve vs this daye oure dayly breade. And forgeve
    vs oure trespases, even as we forgeve them which treespas vs.
    Leade vs not into temptacion but delyvre vs from yvell. Amen.”

But Tyndale was not safe in England; nor yet in the Low Countries whither
he went, and where the long reach of religious hate and jealousy put its
hand upon him and brought him to a death whose fiery ignominies are put
out of sight by the lustrous quality of his deservings.

I see too amongst those great, dim figures, that speak in Scriptural
tones, the form of Hugh Latimer, as he stands to-day on the Memorial
Cross in Oxford. I think of him too--in humbler dress than that which the
sculptor has put on him--even the yeoman’s clothes, which he wore upon
his father’s farm, in the Valley of the Soar, when he wrought there in
the meadows, and drank in humility of thought, and manly independence
under the skies of Leicestershire[76]--where (as he says), “My father had
walk for an hundred sheep, and my mother milked thirty kine.” He kept
his head upon his shoulders through Henry’s time--his amazing wit and
humor helping him to security;--was in fair favor with Edward; but under
Mary, walked coolly with Ridley to the stake, where the fires were set,
to burn them both in Oxford.

Foxe[77] too is to be remembered for his Stories of the Martyrs of these,
and other times, which have formed the nightmare reading for so many
school-boys.

I see, too, another figure that will not down in this coterie of
Reformers, and that makes itself heard from beyond the Tweed. This is
John Knox,[78] a near contemporary though something younger than most
I have named, and not ripening to his greatest power till Henry VIII.
had gone. Born of humble parentage in Scotland in the early quarter of
the century, he was a rigid Papist in his young days, but a more rigid
Reformer afterward; much time a prisoner; passing years at Geneva; not
altogether a “gloomy, shrinking, fanatic,” but keeping, says Carlyle,
“a pipe of Bordeaux in that old Edinboro house of his;” getting to know
Cranmer, and the rest in England; discussing with these, changes of
Church Service; counselling austerities, where Cranmer admitted laxities;
afraid of no man, neither woman;--publishing in exile in Mary’s day--_The
first Blaste of the Trumpet against the monstrous Regiment of Women_,
and repenting this--quietly no doubt--when Elizabeth came to power. A
thin, frail man; strong no ways, but in courage, and in brain; with
broad brows--black cap--locks floating gray from under it, in careless
whirls that shook as he talked; an eye like a falcon’s that flashed
the light of twenty years, when sixty were on his shoulders; in after
years, writhing with rheumatic pains--crawling upon his stick and a
servant’s arm into his Church of St. Andrews; lifted into his pulpit by
the clerk and his attendant--leaning there on the desk, a wilted heap
of humanity--panting, shaking, quivering--till his breath came, and
the psalm and the lifted prayer gave courage; then--fierce torrents of
speech (and a pounding of the pulpit till it seemed that it would fly in
shivers), with a sharp, swift, piercing utterance that pricked ears as it
pricked consciences, and made the roof-timbers clang with echoes.

Of all these men there are no books that take high rank in Literature
proper--unless we except the _Utopia_ of More, and the New Testament of
Tyndale: but their lives and thought were welded by stout blows into the
intellectual texture of the century and are not to be forgotten.


_Verse-Writing and Psalmodies._

And now, was there really no dalliance with the Muses in times that
brought to the front such fighting Gospellers as we have talked of?

Yes, even Thomas More did write poems--having humor in them and grammatic
proprieties, and his Latin prosody is admired of Classicists: then
there were the versifiers of the Psalms, Sternhold and Hopkins, and the
Whittingham who succeeded John Knox at Geneva--sharing that Scotchman’s
distaste for beautiful rubrics, and we suspect beautiful verses also--if
we may judge by his version of the Creed. This is a sample:--

    “The Father, God is; God, the Son;
      God--Holy Ghost also;
    Yet are not three gods in all
      But one God and no mo.”

From the Apostles’ Creed again, we excerpt this:--

    “From thence, shall he come for to judge
      All men both dead and quick.
    I, in the Holy Ghost believe
      And Church thats Catholick.”

Hopkins,[79] who was a schoolmaster of Suffolk, and the more immediate
associate of Sternhold, thus expostulates with the Deity:--

    “Why doost withdraw thy hand aback
      And hide it in thy lappe?
    Oh, plucke it out, and be not slacke
      To give thy foes a rap!”

As something worthier from these old psalmists’ versing, I give this of
Sternhold’s:--

    “The earth did shake, for feare did quake,
      The hills their bases shook
    Removed they were, in place most fayre
      At God’s right fearful looks.
    He rode on hye and did so flye
      Upon the Cherubins,
    He came in sight, and made his flight
      Upon the wings of winds,” etc.

It may well be that bluff King Harry relished more the homely Saxonism
of such psalms than the _Stabat Maters_ and _Te Deums_ and _Jubilates_,
which assuredly would have better pleased the Princess Katharine of
Aragon. Yet even at a time when the writers of such psalmodies received
small crumbs of favor from the Court, the English Bible was by no means a
free-goer into all companies.

    “A nobleman or gentleman may read it”--(I quote from a
    Statute of Henry VIII.’s time)--“in his house, or in his
    garden, or orchard, yet quietly and without disturbance of
    order. A merchant may read it to himself privately: But the
    common people, women, artificers, apprentices, journeymen and
    servingmen, are to be punished with one month’s imprisonment,
    as often as they are detected in reading the Bible, either
    privately or openly.”[80]

Truly this English realm was a strange one in those times, and this a
strange King--who has listened approvingly to Hugh Latimer’s sermons--who
harries Tyndale as he had harried Tyndale’s enemy--More; who fights the
Pope, fights Luther, holds the new Bible (even Cranmer’s) in leash, who
gives pension to Sternhold, works easy riddance of all the wives he
wishes, pulls down Religious Houses for spoils, calls himself Defender
of the Faith, and maybe goes to see (if then on show) _Gammer Gurton’s
Needle_,[81] and is hilariously responsive to such songs as this:--

    “I cannot eat but little meat
      My Stomach is not good
    But sure I think, that I can drink
      With him that wears a hood;
    Tho’ I go bare, take ye no care
      I nothing am a colde,
    I stuffe my skin so full within
      Of jolly good ale and olde.”


_Wyatt and Surrey._

The model poets, however, of this reign[82]--those who kept alive the
best old classic traditions, and echoed with most grace and spirit
the daintiness of Italian verse, were the Earl of Surrey and Sir
Thomas Wyatt. The latter was son of an old courtier of Henry VII., and
inheritor of an estate and castle in Kent, which he made noteworthy by
his decorative treatment, and which is even now counted worthy a visit
by those journeying through the little town of Maidstone. He was, for
those times, brilliantly educated; was in high favor with the King (save
one enforced visit to the Tower); he translated Petrarch, and in his own
way imitated the Italian poet’s manner, and was, by common consent, the
first to graft the “Sonnet” upon English forms of verse. I find nothing
however in his verse one-half so graceful or gracious as this tribute to
his worth in Tennyson’s “Queen Mary:”--

    “Courtier of many courts, he loves the more
    His own gray towers, plain life, and lettered peace,
    To read and rhyme in solitary fields;
    The lark above, the nightingale below,
    And answer them in song.”

Surrey was well born: was son to the Duke of Norfolk who figures in the
Shakespearean play of Henry VIII., and grandson to the Surrey who worsted
the Scotch on Flodden Field: he was companion of the King’s son, was
taught at the Universities, at home and abroad. There was no gallant
more admired in the gayer circles of the court; he too loved Petrarch,
and made canzonets like his; had a Geraldine (for a Laura), half real
and half mythical. The further story once obtained that he went with a
gay retinue to Florence, where the lists were opened--in the spirit of
an older chivalry--to this Stranger Knight, who challenged the world to
combat his claims in behalf of the mythical Geraldine. And--the story
ran--there were hot-heads who contended with him; and he unhorsed his
antagonists, and came back brimming with honors, to the court--before
which Hugh Latimer had preached, and where Sternhold’s psalms had been
heard--to be imprisoned for eating flesh in Lent, in that Windsor Castle
where he had often played with the King’s son. The tale[83] is a romantic
one; but--in all that relates to the Florentine tourney--probably untrue.

I give you a little taste of the graceful way in which this poet sings of
his Geraldine:--

    “I assure thee even by oath
    And thereon take my hand and troth
    That she is one of the worthiest
    The truest and the faithfullest
    The gentlest, and the meekest o’ mind
    That here on earth a man may find;
    And if that love and truth were gone
    In her it might be found alone:
    For in her mind no thought there is
    But how she may be true, iwis,
    And is thine own; and so she says
    And cares for thee ten thousand ways;
    Of thee she speaks, on thee she thinks
    With thee she eats, with thee she drinks
    With thee she talks, with thee she moans
    With thee she sighs, with thee she groans
    With thee she says--‘Farewell mine own!’
    When thou, God knows, full far art gone.”

Surrey is to be held in honor as the first poet who wrote English blank
verse; he having translated two books of the Æneid in that form. But
this delicate singer, this gallant soldier cannot altogether please the
capricious monarch; perhaps he is too fine a soldier; perhaps too free a
liver; perhaps he is dangerously befriended by some ladies of the court:
Quite certain it is that the King frowns on him; and the frowns bring
what they have brought to so many others--first, imprisonment in the
Tower, and then the headsman’s axe. In this way the poet died at thirty,
in 1547: his execution being one of the last ordered by Henry VIII., and
the King so weak that he could only stamp, instead of signing the death
warrant.

Honest men breathed freer, everywhere, when the King died, in the same
year with Surrey: and so, that great, tempestuous reign was ended.


_A Boy-King, a Queen, and Schoolmaster._

Edward VI. succeeded his father at the age of ten years--a precocious,
consumptive boy, who gave over his struggle with life when only sixteen;
and yet has left his “Works,” printed by the Roxburgh Club. There’s a
maturity about some of the political suggestions in his “Journal”--not
unusual in a lively mind prematurely ripening under stress of disease;
yet we can hardly count him a literary king.

The red reign of Mary, immediately following, lasted only five years, for
which, I think, all Christian England thanked God: In those five years
very many of the strong men of whom we have talked in this chapter came
to a fiery end.

Only one name of literary significance do we pluck from the annals of her
time; it is that of Roger Ascham,[84] the writer of her Latin letters,
and for a considerable time her secretary. How, being a Protestant as
he was, and an undissembling one, he kept his head upon his shoulders so
near her throne, it is hard to conjecture. He must have studied the art
of keeping silence as well as the arts of speech.

He was born in that rich, lovely region of Yorkshire--watered by
the River Swale--where we found the young Wyclif: his father was a
house-steward; but he early made show of such qualities as invited the
assistance of rich friends, through whose offices he was entered at St.
John’s College, Cambridge, at fifteen, and took his degree at eighteen.
He was full of American pluck, aptness, and industry; was known specially
for his large gifts in language; a superb penman too, which was no little
accomplishment in that day; withal, he excelled in athletics, and showed
a skill with the long-bow which made credible the traditions about Robin
Hood. They said he wasted time at this exercise; whereupon he wrote a
defence of Archery, which under the name of _Toxophilus_ has come down
to our day--a model even now of good, homely, vigorous English. “He that
will write well in any tongue,” said he, “must follow this counsel--to
speak as the common people do--to think as wise men do.” Our teachers of
rhetoric could hardly say a better thing to-day.

The subject of Archery was an important one at that period; the long-bow
was still the principal war weapon of offence: there were match-locks,
indeed, but these very cumbrous and counting for less than those
“cloth-yard” shafts which had won the battle of Agincourt. The boy-King,
Edward, to whom Ascham taught penmanship, was an adept at archery,
and makes frequent allusion to that exercise in his Journal. In every
hamlet practice at the long-bow was obligatory; and it was ordered by
statute that no person above the age of twenty-four, should shoot the
light-flight arrow at a distance under two hundred and twenty yards.
What would our Archery Clubs say to this? And what, to the further
order--dating in Henry VIII.’s time--that “all bow-staves should be three
fingers thick and seven feet long?”

This book of Ascham’s was published two years before Henry’s death,
and brought him a small pension; under the succeeding king he went to
Augsburg, where Charles V. held his brilliant court; but neither there,
nor in Italy, did he lose his homely and hearty English ways, and his
love of English things.

In his tractate of the _Schoolmaster_, which appeared after his death, he
bemoans the much and idle travel of Englishmen into Italy. They have a
proverb there, he says, “_Un Inglese italianato é un diabolo incarnato_”
(an Italianized Englishman is a devil incarnate). Going to Italy, when
Tintoretto and Raphael were yet living, and when the great Medici family
and the Borgias were spinning their golden wheels--was, for a young
Englishman of that day, like a European trip to a young American of ours:
Ascham says--“Many being mules and horses before they went, return swine
and asses.”

There is much other piquant matter in this old book of the
_Schoolmaster_; as where he says:--

    “When the child doeth well, either in the choosing or true
    placing of his words, let the master praise him, and say, ‘Here
    ye do well!’ For I assure you there is no such whetstone to
    sharpen a good wit, and encourage a will to learning as is
    praise. But if the child miss, either in forgetting a word, or
    in changing a good with a worse, or mis-ordering the sentence,
    I would not have the master frown, or chide with him, if the
    child have done his diligence and used no truantship: For I
    know by good experience, that a child shall take more profit of
    two faults gently warned of, than of four things rightly hit.”

And this brings us to say that this good, canny, and thrifty Roger
Ascham was the early teacher, in Greek and Latin, of the great Princess
Elizabeth, and afterward for years her secretary. You would like to hear
how he speaks of her:--

    “It is your shame (I speak to you all young gentlemen of
    England) that one mind should go beyond you all in excellency
    of learning, and knowledge of divers tongues. Point forth
    six of the best given gentlemen of this court, and all they
    together show not so much good will, spend not so much time,
    bestow not so many hours daily, orderly, and constantly, for
    the increase of learning and knowledge as doth this Princess.
    Yea, I believe that beside her perfect readiness in Latin,
    Italian, French and Spanish, she readeth here now, at Windsor
    more Greek every day, than some prebendarys of this Church doth
    read Latin in a whole week.”

He never speaks of her but with a hearty tenderness; nor did she speak
of him, but most kindly. At his death, she said, “She would rather that
£10,000 had been flung into the sea.” And--seeing her money-loving, this
was very much for her to say.

       *       *       *       *       *

In our next chapter we shall meet this prudent and accomplished Princess
face to face--in her farthingale and ruff--with the jewels on her
fingers, and the crown upon her head--bearing herself right royally. And
around her we shall find such staid worthies as Burleigh and Richard
Hooker; and such bright spirits as Sidney and Raleigh, and that sweet
poet Spenser, who was in that day counting the flowing measures of that
long song, whose mellow cadences have floated musically down from the far
days of Elizabeth to these fairer days of ours.



CHAPTER VI.


In our last talk we entered upon that brilliant sixteenth century, within
whose first quarter three great kings held three great thrones:--Charles
V. of Spain, Francis I. of France, and Henry VIII. of England. New
questions were astir; Art--in the seats of Art--was blazing at its best:
the recent fall of Constantinople under the Turk had sent a tide of Greek
scholars, Greek art, and Greek letters flowing over Western Europe, and
drifting into the antiquated courts of Oxford and Cambridge. I spoke of
the magnificent Wolsey, and of his great university endowments; also,
of that ripe scholar, Sir Thomas More, who could not mate his religion,
or his statesmanship with the caprices of the King, and so, died by the
axe. We saw Cranmer--meaning to be good, if goodness did not call for
strength; we heard Latimer’s swift, homely speech, and saw Tyndale with
his English Testament--both these coming to grief; and we had glimpses of
John Knox shaking the pulpit with his frail hand, and shaking all Scotch
Christendom with his fearless, strident speech.

We heard the quaint psalmody of Sternhold, and the sweeter and more
heathen verse of Wyatt and of Surrey; lastly, I gave a sketch of that old
schoolmaster, Roger Ascham, who by his life, tied the reigns of Henry and
of Elizabeth together, and who taught Greek and Latin and penmanship and
Archery to that proud princess--whom we encounter now--in her high ruff,
and her piled-up head-dress, with a fair jewelled hand that puts a man’s
grip upon the sceptre.


_Elizabethan England._

Elizabeth was in her twenty-sixth year when she came to the throne,
and it was about the middle of the sixteenth century; the precise year
being 1558. The England she was to dominate so splendidly was not a
quiet England: the fierce religious controversies which had signalized
the reign of Henry VIII.--who thwacked with his kingly bludgeon both
ways and all ways--and which continued under Edward VI.--who was feebly
Protestant; and which had caught new vigor under Mary--who was arrant
and slavish Papist--had left gouts of blood and a dreadful exasperation.
Those great Religious Houses, which only a quarter of a century
before, were pleasantly embayed in so many charming valleys of Great
Britain--with their writing-rooms, their busy transcribing clerks--their
great gardens, were, most of them, despoiled--and to be seen no more.
An old Venetian Ambassador,[85] writing to the Seigneury in those days,
says--“London itself is disfigured by the ruins of a multitude of
Churches and Monasteries which once belonged to Friars and Nuns.” Piers
Plowman, long before, had attacked the sins growing up in the pleasant
Abbey Courts; Chaucer had echoed the ridicule in his Abbot riding to
Canterbury, with jingling trappings: Gower had repeated the assault in
his _Vox Clamantis_, and Skelton had turned his ragged rhymes into the
same current of satire. But all would have availed nothing except the
arrogant Henry VIII. had set his foot upon them, and crushed them out.

There was a wild justice in it--if not an orderly one. The spoils went to
fill the Royal coffers; many of those beautiful properties were bestowed
upon favorites; many princely estates are still held in England, by title
tracing back to those days of spoliation--a fact which will be called to
mind, I suspect--with unction, in case of any great social revolution
in that country. Under Mary, some of these estates had been restored
to Church dignitaries; but the restoration had not been general: and
Elizabeth could not if she would, and would not if she could, sanction
any further restitution.

She was Protestant--but rather from policy than any heartiness of belief.
It did not grieve her one whit, that her teacher, Roger Ascham, had been
private secretary to bloody Mary: the lukewarmness of her great minister,
Lord Burleigh, did not disturb her; she always kept wax tapers burning
by a crucifix in her private chamber; a pretty rosary gave her no shock;
but she _was_ shocked at the marriage of any member of the priesthood,
always. In fact, if Spanish bigotry had not forced her into a resolute
antagonism of Rome, I think history would have been in doubt whether to
count her most a Lutheran, or most a Roman.

Yet she made the Papists smoke for it--as grimly as ever her sister Mary
did the Protestants--if they stood one whit in the way of England’s grasp
on power.


_Personality of the Queen._

I think our friend Mr. Froude, whose history we all read, is a
little unfair toward Queen Bess, as he was a little over-fair, and
white-wash-i-ly disposed in the case of Henry VIII.: both tendencies
being attributable to a mania this shrewd historian has--for unripping
and oversetting established forms of belief. I think that he not only
bears with a greedy zeal upon her too commonly manifest selfishness and
heartlessness, but that he enjoys putting little vicious dabs of bad
color upon her picture--as when he says, “she spat, and swore like a
trooper.” Indeed it would seem that this clever biographer had carried
a good deal of his fondness for “vicious dabs” in portraiture into his
more recent _post-mortem_ exhibits; as if it were his duty and pleasure
to hang out all sorts of soiled linen, in his office of Clean-Scrubber:
Yet, I wish to speak with all respect of the distinguished
historian--whose vigor is conspicuous--whose industry is remarkable,
whose crisp sentences are delightful, but whose accuracy is not of the
surest; and whose conscience does, I think, sometimes go lame--under
strain of his high, rhetorical canter.

The authority for all most damnatory statements with respect to the
private life of the Queen, rests upon those Spanish Relations--so minute
as to be suspicious--if they were not also so savagely bitter as to
twist everything to the discredit of the Protestant Sovereign. Signor
Soranzo--the Venetian ambassador (whom Froude does not cite--but who had
equal opportunities of observation with the Spanish informer), says of
Elizabeth (in a report--not written for publication, but lying for years
in the archives of Venice): “Such an air of dignified majesty pervades
all her actions that no one can fail to judge her a queen. She is a good
Greek and Latin scholar; and beside her native tongue she speaks Latin,
French, Spanish, and Italian _benissimo_--and her manners are very
modest and affable.”[86]

I talk thus much--and may talk more--about the personality of Queen
Elizabeth, because she must be counted--in a certain not very remote
sense--one of the forces that went to endow what is called the English
Literature of her day--so instructed was she; so full of talent; so
keen-sighted; so exact--a most extraordinary woman. We must not think her
greatness was factitious, and attributable to her only because she was
a queen. There could be no greater mistake. She would have been great
if she had been a shoemaker’s daughter; I do not mean that she would
have rode a white horse at Tilbury, and made the nations shake: but she
would have bound more shoes, and bound them better, and looked sharper
after the affairs of her household than any cobbler’s wife in the land.
Elizabeth would have made a wonderful post-mistress--a splendid head of
a school--with perhaps a little too large use of the ferule: and she
would have had her favorites, and shown it; but she would have lifted
her pupils’ thoughts into a high range of endeavor; she would have
made an atmosphere of intellectual ambition about her; she would have
struck fire from flinty souls; and so she did in her court: She inspired
work--inspired imagination; may we not say that she inspired genius.
That auburn hair of hers (I suppose we should have called it red, if her
name had been Abigail) made an aureole, around which wit coruscated by a
kind of electric affinity. It was counted worth toil to have the honor
of laying a poem at her gracious feet, who was so royally a Queen--whose
life, and power, and will and culture, made up a quadrature of poems.


_Burleigh and Others._

And who was there of literary significance about Elizabeth in those early
days of her reign? Roger Ascham was still doling out his sagacious talk,
and his good precepts; but he was not a force--only what we might call
a good creature. There was Sackville[87] (afterward the elegant Earl
of Dorset); he was in his prime then, and had very likely written his
portion of the _Mirror for Magistrates_--a fairish poetic history of
great unfortunate people--completed afterward by other poets, but hardly
read nowadays.

Old Tusser,[88] too--the farmer-poet--lived in these times; an Essex man,
of about the same age as Ascham, but who probably never came nearer to
the court than to sing in the choir of old St. Paul’s. He had University
experience, which, if it did not help his farming, on the banks of the
Stour, did, doubtless, enable him to equip his somewhat prosy poems with
such classic authentication and such directness and simplicities as
gave to his _Pointes of Husbandrie_ very great vogue. Many rhyming saws
about farming, still current among old-fashioned country-folk, trace
back to Master Tusser, who lived and farmed successively (tradition
says not very successfully) at Ipswich, Dereham, and Norwich. His will,
however, published in these later times, shows him to have been a man of
considerable means.

Then there was Holinshed,[89] who, though the date of his birth is
uncertain, must have been of fair working age now--a homely, honest,
simple-hearted chronicler (somewhat thievish, as all the old chroniclers
were) but whose name is specially worth keeping in mind, because he--in
all probability--supplied Shakespeare’s principal historic reading, and
furnished the crude material, afterward beaten out into those plaques
of gold, which we call Shakespeare’s Historic Plays. Therefore, we
must always, I think, treat Holinshed with respect. Next, there was
the great Lord Burleigh,[90] the chief minister and adviser of the
Queen--whom she set great store by: the only man she allowed to sit in
her presence; and indeed he was something heavy, both in mind and in
person; but far-sighted, honest, keen, cautious, timid--making his nod
count more than most men’s words, and in great exigencies standing up
for the right, even against the caprices of the sovereign. Whoever goes
to Stamford in England should not fail to run out--a mile away only--to
the princely place called Burleigh House (now the property of the Marquis
of Exeter) which was the home of this minister of Elizabeth’s--built
out of his savings, and equipped now with such paintings, such gardens,
such magnificent avenues of oak, such great sweeps of velvet lawn, such
herds of loitering deer as make it one of the show-places of England.
Well--this sober-sided, cautious Burleigh (you will get a short, but good
glimpse of him in Scott’s tragic tale of Kenilworth) wrote a book--a sort
of earlier Chesterfield’s Letters, made up of advices for his son Robert
Cecil, who was cousin, and in early life, rival of the great Francis
Bacon. I will take out a tid-bit from this book, that you may see how
this famous Lord Burleigh talked to his son:

    “When it shall please God to bring thee to man’s estate”--he
    says--“use great Providence, and circumspection in choosing
    thy wife: For from thence will spring all thy future good and
    evil. And it is an action of life--like unto a stratagem of
    War, wherein a man can err but once. If thy estate be good,
    match near home and at leisure: if weak--far off, and quickly.
    Inquire diligently of her disposition, and how her parents have
    been inclined in their youth. Choose not a base, and uncomely
    creature, altogether for Wealth; for it will cause contempt in
    others, and loathing in thee: Neither make choice of a fool,
    for she will be thy continual disgrace, and it will irk thee to
    hear her talk.”


_A Group of Great Names._

But the greater names which went to illustrate with their splendor the
times of Elizabeth, only began to come to people’s knowledge after she
had been upon the throne some twenty years.

Spenser was a boy of five, when she came to power: John Lilly, the author
of _Euphues_ which has given us the word _euphuistic_, and which provoked
abundant caricatures, of more or less fairness--was born the same year
with Spenser; Sir Philip Sidney a year later; Sir Walter Raleigh a
year earlier (1553); Richard Hooker, the author of the _Ecclesiastical
Polity_, in 1554; Lord Bacon in 1561; Shakespeare in 1564. These are
great names to stand so thickly strewed over ten or twelve years of
time. I do not name them, because I lay great stress on special dates:
For my own part, I find them hard things to keep in mind--except I group
them thus--and I think a man or woman can work and worry at worthier
particularities than these. But when Elizabeth had been twenty years a
Queen, and was in the prime of her womanly powers--six years after the
slaughter of St. Bartholomew--when the first English colony had just
been planted in Virginia, and Sir Francis Drake was coasting up and down
the shores of California; when Shakespeare was but a lad of fourteen, and
poaching (if he ever did poach there--which is doubtful) in Charlecote
Park; when Francis Bacon was seventeen, and was studying in Paris--Philip
Sidney was twenty-four; in the ripeness of his young manhood, and just
returned from Holland, he was making love--vainly as it proved--to the
famous and the ill-fated Penelope Devereaux.

Richard Hooker--of the same age, was teaching Hebrew in the University of
Oxford, and had not yet made that unfortunate London marriage (tho’ very
near it) by which he was yoked with one whom old Izaak Walton--charitable
as the old angler was--describes as a silly, clownish woman, and withal a
perfect Xantippe.

The circumstances which led to this awkward marriage show so well the
child-like simplicity of this excellent man, that they are worth noting.
He had come up to London, and was housed where preachers were wont to
go; and it being foul weather, and he thoroughly wetted, was behoven to
the hostess for dry clothes, and such other attentions as made him look
upon her as a special Providence, who could advise and care for him in
all things: So, he accepted her proffer to him of her own daughter, who
proved to him quite another sort of Providence, and a grievous thorn
in the side; and when his friends, on visits to his homestead in after
years, found the author of the _Ecclesiastical Polity_--rocking the
cradle, or minding the sheep, or looking after the kettles, and expressed
sympathy--“My dear fellows,” said he--“if Saints have usually a double
share in the miseries of this Life, I, that am none, ought not to repine
at what my Wise Creator hath appointed for me, but labor (as indeed I do
daily) to submit mine to his will and possess my soul in patience and
peace.”

I don’t know if any of our parish will care to read the _Ecclesiastical
Polity_; but if you have courage thereto, you will find in this old
master of sound and cumbrous English prose, passages of rare eloquence,
and many turns of expression, which for their winning grace, their
aptitude, their quality of fastening themselves upon the mind, are not
overmatched by those of any Elizabethan writer. His theology is old and
rankly conservative; but he shows throughout a beautiful reverence for
that all-embracing Law, “whose seat (as he says) is the Bosom of God, and
whose voice is the Harmony of the World.”[91]


_Edmund Spenser._

As for Edmund Spenser, he was a year older at this date--twenty-five:
he had taken his master’s degree at Cambridge and had just returned to
London from a visit to the North of England, where he had encountered
some fair damsel to whom he had been paying weary and vain suit, and whom
he had embalmed in his _Shepherd’s Calendar_ (just then being made ready
for the press) under the name of Rosalind.

    “Ah, faithless Rosalind, and voyd of grace,
    That art the root of all this ruthful woe
    [My] teares would make the hardest flint to flow;”

and his tears keep a-drip through a great many of those charming
eclogues--called the _Shepherd’s Calendar_. Some of the commentators on
Spenser have queried--gravely--whether he ever forgot this Rosalind; and
whether the occurrence of the name and certain woe-worn words in some
madrigal of later years did not show a wound unhealed and bleeding. We
are all at liberty to guess, and I am inclined to doubt here. I think he
was equal to forgetting this Rosalind before the ink of the _Shepherd’s
Calendar_ was fairly dry. He loved dreams and fed on dreams; and I
suspect enjoyed the dream of his woe more than he ever suffered from a
sting of rebuff.

Indeed, much as we must all admire his poetic fervor and fancies, I
do not find in him traces of heroic mould;--easily friendly rather
than firmly so;--full of an effusive piety, but not coming in way of
martyrdom for faith’s sake;--a tenderly contemplative man, loving and
sensing beauty in the same sure and abounding way in which Turner has
sense of color--exhaustless in his stock of brilliant and ingenious
imagery--running to similes as mountain rills run to rivers; a courtier
withal--honeyed and sometimes fulsome; a richly presentable man
(if portraits may be trusted), with a well-trimmed face, a cautious
face--dare I say--almost a smirking face;--the face of a self-contained
man who thinks allowably well of his parts, and is determined to make
the most of them. And in the brows over the fine eyes there is a bulging
out--where phrenologists place the bump of language--that shows where
his forte lies: No such word-master had been heard to sing since the
days when Chaucer sung. He is deeply read in Chaucer too; and read in
all--worth reading--who came between. His lingual aptitudes are amazing.
He can tear words in tatters, and he can string them rhythmically in
all shapes; he makes his own law in language, as he grows heated in
his work; twists old phrases out of shape; makes new ones; binds them
together; tosses them as he will to the changing level of his thought:
so that whereas one may go to Chaucer, in points of language, as to an
authority--one goes to Spenser as to a mine of graceful and euphonious
phrases: but the authority is wanting--or, at least, is not so safe. He
makes uses for words which no analogy and no good order can recognize.
And his new words are not so much the product of keen, shrewd search
after what will fullest and strongest express a feeling or a thought,
or give color to epithet, as they are the luxuriant outcropping of a
tropical genius for language, which delights in abundant forms, and makes
them with an easy show of its own fecundity, or for the chance purpose of
filling a line, or meting out the bounds of an orderly prosody.

He came up to London, as I said, about the year 1578, at the invitation
of a prig of a classmate, who makes him known to Philip Sidney: Sidney
is the very man to recognize and appreciate the tender beauty of those
woful plaints in the _Shepherd’s Calendar_, and invites the poet down
to Penshurst, that charming home of the Sidneys, in Kent. There, such
interest is made for him that he is appointed to a secretaryship in
Ireland, where the Queen’s lieutenants are stamping out revolt. Spenser
sees much of this fiery work; and its blaze reddens some of the pages of
the _Faery Queen_. In the distribution of spoils, after the Irish revolt
was put down, the poet has bestowed upon him, amongst other plums, some
three thousand acres of wild land, with Kilcolman Castle, which stands
upon a valley spur of this domain. This castle is represented as an
uninteresting fortress--like Johnnie Armstrong’s tower in Scotland--upon
the borders of a small lake or mere, and the landscape--stretching in
unlovely waste around it--savage and low and tame. Yet he finds rich
rural pictures there--this idealist and dreamer: let him see only so much
of sky as comes between the roofs of a city alley, and he will pluck out
of it a multitude of twinkling stars; let him look upon a rood square of
brown grass-land, and he will set it alight with scores of daisies and of
primroses.


_The Faery Queen._

And it is in this easy way he plants the men and women, the hags and
demons, the wizards and dragons that figure in the phantasmagoria of the
_Faery Queen_; they come and go like twilight shadows; they have no root
of realism.

There is reason to believe that the first cantos of this poem were
blocked out in his mind before leaving England; perhaps the scheme had
been talked over with his friend Sidney; in any event, it is quite
certain that they underwent elaboration at Kilcolman Castle, and some
portions doubtless took color from the dreary days of rapine and of war
he saw there. I will not ask if you have read the _Faery Queen_: I fear
that a great many dishonest speeches are made on that score; I am afraid
that I equivocated myself in youngish days; but now I will be honest
in saying--I never read it through continuously and of set purpose; I
have tried it--on winter nights, and gone to sleep in my chair: I have
tried it, under trees in summer, and have gone to sleep on the turf: I
have tried it, in the first blush of a spring morning, and have gone--to
breakfast.

Yet there are many who enjoy it intensely and continuously: Mr.
Saintsbury says, courageously, that it is the only long poem he honestly
wishes were longer. It is certainly full of idealism; it is full of sweet
fancies; it is rich in dragonly horrors; it is crammed with exquisite
harmonies. But--its tenderer heroines are so shadowy, you cannot bind
them to your heart; nay, you can scarce follow them with your eyes: Now,
you catch a strain which seems to carry a sweet womanly image of flesh
and blood--of heartiness and warmth. But--at the turning of a page--his
wealth of words so enwraps her in glowing epithets, that she fades on
your vision to a mere iridescence and a creature of Cloud-land.

      “Her face so faire, as flesh it seemèd not,
    But Heavenly Portrait of bright angels hew,
      Clear as the skye, withouten blame or blot
    Thro’ goodly mixture of Complexion’s dew!
      And in her cheeks, the Vermeil red did shew,
    Like Roses in a bed of Lillies shed,
      The which ambrosial odors from them threw,
    And gazers sense, with double pleasure fed,
      Hable to heal the sick, and to revive the dead!

      “In her faire eyes two living lamps did flame
    Kindled above at the Heavenly Makers Light,
      And darted fiery beams out of the same
    So passing persant and so wondrous bright,
      That quite bereaved the rash beholders sight.
    In them the blinded God--his lustful fire
      To kindle--oft assay’d, but had no might,
    For with dred Majesty, and awful ire
      She broke his wanton darts, and quenchèd base desire!

      “Upon her eyelids many Graces sate
    Under the shadow of her even brows,
      Working Belgardes and amorous Retrate,
    And everie one her with a grace endows,
      And everie one, with meekness to her bowes;
    So glorious mirror of Celestial Grace
      And soveraigne moniment of mortal vowes,
    How shall frail pen describe her Heavenly face
      For feare--thro’ want of skill, her beauty to disgrace?

      “So faire, and thousand times more faire
    She seem’d--when she, presented was, to sight.
      And was y-clad, for heat of scorching aire
    All in a silken _Camus_, lilly white,
      Purfled upon, with many a folded plight
    Which all above besprinkled was throughout
      With golden Aygulets, that glistered bright
    Like twinckling starres, and all the skirt about
      Was hemmed with golden fringe, …”

and so on, by dozens, by scores, by hundreds--delicate, mellifluous
stanzas--fair ladies and brazen-scaled dragons, lions and fleecy lambs,
sweet purling brooks and horrors of Pandemonium, story grafted upon
story, and dreams grafted upon these, and still flowing on--canto after
canto--until the worldlings are tempted to exclaim, “When will he stop?”
It is an exclamation that a good many lesser men than Spenser have
tempted--in class-rooms, in lecture-rooms, and in pulpits. And I am
wicked enough to think that if a third had been shorn away by the poet
from that over-full and over-epitheted poem of the _Faery Queen_, it
would have reached farther, and come nearer to more minds and hearts. But
who--save the master--shall ever put the shears into that dainty broidery
where gorgeous flowers lie enmeshed in page-long tangles, and where
wanton tendrils of words enlace and tie together whole platoons of verse?

In brief, the Poem is a great, cumbrous, beautiful, bewildering,
meandering Allegory, in which he assigns to every Virtue a Knight to be
ensampler and defender of the same, and puts these Knights to battle with
all the vices represented by elfin hags, or scaled dragons, or beautiful
women; and so the battles rage and the storms beat. But we lose sight of
his moral in the smoke of the conflict. The skeleton of his ethics is
overlaid with the wallets of fair flesh, and with splendid trappings; his
abounding figures gallop away with the logic; his roses cumber all his
corn-ground. There are no passages of condensed meaning, or of wondrous
intuition that give one pause, and that stick by us like a burr. There is
a symphonious clatter of hammers upon golden-headed tacks, but no such
pounding blow as drives a big nail home.

All this is the criticism of a matter-of-fact man, who perhaps has no
right of utterance--as if one without knowledge of music should criticise
its cumulated triumphs. Many a man can enjoy a burst of balladry--of
little vagrant songs--who is crushed and bored by the pretty tangles
and symphonies of an opera. Spenser was poets’ poet--not people’s poet;
hardly can be till people are steeped in that refinement, that poetic
sensibility, which only poets are supposed to possess. And I am rather
unpleasantly conscious that I may offend intense lovers of this great
singer by such mention of him: painfully conscious, too, that it may
have its source (as Saintsbury assures us must be the case) in a poetic
inaptitude to give largest and adequate relish to the tender harmonies
and the mythical reaches of his sweetly burdened song. But shall I not be
honest?

Yet Spenser is never ribald, never vulgar, rarely indelicate, even
measured by modern standards: He always has a welcoming word for honesty,
and for bravery, and, I think, the welcomest word of all for Love, which
he counts, as so many young people do, the chiefest duty of man.

Once upon a time, there comes to see Spenser in his Kilcolman home--that
daring adventurer, that roving knight, Sir Walter Raleigh--who is so
well taught, so elegant, so brave that he can make the bright eyes even
of Queen Bess twinkle again, with the courtliness of his adulation; he
comes, I say, to see Spenser;--for he too has a grant of some forty
thousand acres carved out of that ever-wretched and misgoverned Ireland:
and Spenser, to entertain his friend, reads somewhat of the _Faery
Queene_ (not more than one canto I suspect), and Sir Walter locks arms
with the poet, and carries him off to London, and presents him to the
Queen; and Spenser weaves subtle, honeyed flattery for this great
_Gloriana_; and his book is printed; and the Queen smiles on him, and
gives him her jewelled hand to kiss, and a pension of £50 a year, which
the stout old Burleigh thinks too much; and which Spenser, and poets all,
think too beggarly small. There are little poems that come after this,
commemorating this trip to Court, and Raleigh’s hobnobbing with him--

    “Amongst the coolly shade
    Of the green alders, by the Mulla’s shore
    [Where]--he piped--I sung--
    And when he sung, I piped,
    By chaunge of tunes, each making other merry.”

Spenser has found, too, a new _Rosalind_ over amid the wilds of Ireland,
to whom he addresses a cluster of gushing _Amoretti_; and she becomes
eventually his bride, and calls out what seems to me that charmingest of
all his poems--the _Epithalamium_. You will excuse my reciting a tender
little lovely picture from it:--

    “Behold, whiles she before the Altar stands
    Hearing the Holy Priest that to her speaks,
    And blesseth her with his two happy hands.
    How the red roses flush up in her cheeks,
    And the pure snow, with goodly vermeil stain
    Like crimson dyed in grain:
    That even the Angels, which continually
    About the sacred altar do remain,
    Forget the service, and about her fly,
    Oft peeping in her face, that seems more fair,
    The more they on it stare--
    But her sad eyes still fastened on the ground,
    Are governèd with goodly modesty,
    That suffers not one look to glance awry,
    Which may let in a little thought unsound.
    Why blush ye, Love, to give to me your hand?
    The pledge of all our band?
    Sing, ye Sweet Angels, Allelujah sing!
    That all the woods may answer, and your echos ring!”

To my mind the gracious humanity--the exquisite naturalness of this is
worth an ocean of cloying prettinesses about _Gloriana_ and _Britomart_.
Not very many years after this--just how many we cannot say--comes
the great tragedy of his life: A new Irish rebellion (that of Tyrone)
sends up its tide of fire and blood around his home of Kilcolman; his
crops, his barns, his cattle, his poor babe[92]--the last born--all are
smothered, and consumed away in that fiery wrack and ruin. He makes
his way broken-hearted to London again; his old welcome as an adulator
of the Queen is at an end; Raleigh is not actively helpful; Sidney is
dead; he has some cheap lodging almost under the shadow of Westminster:
He is sick, maimed in body and in soul; other accounts--not yet wholly
discredited--represent him as miserably poor; bread, even, hard to come
by; my Lord of Essex--a new patron--sends him a few guineas; and the poor
poet murmurs--too late--too late!--and so he dies (1599). How glad we
should have been to help him, had we been living in that time, and all
this tale of suffering had been true;--so we think: and yet, ten to one
we should have said--“Poor fellow, what a pity!”--and buttoned up our
pockets, as we do now.


_Philip Sidney._

Meantime what has become of that Philip Sidney[93] who flashed upon us
under the eyes of Elizabeth at the age of twenty-four? You know him as
the chivalric soldier and the model gentleman. Students and young people
all, who are under the glamour of youthful enthusiasms, are apt to have a
great fondness for Philip Sidney: But if any of my young readers chance
to be projecting an essay about that courteous gentleman--and I know
they will, if they have not already--I would counsel them to forego any
mention of the story about the dying soldier and the cup of water. It
has been cruelly overworked already. Indeed it might have been matched
in scores of cases upon the battle-fields of our own war: When the last
shattering blow comes to our poor humanity, the better nature in us does
somehow lean kindly out, in glance and in purpose. Yet Philip Sidney was
certainly a man of great kindness and full of amiabilities and courtesies.

Why, pray, should he not have been? Consider that in all his young life
he was wrapped in purple. It is no bad thing in any day to be born
eldest son of an old and wealthy and titled family of England; but it is
something more to be born eldest son of a Sidney--nephew to Leicester,
prime favorite of the Queen, cousin to the Northumberlands, the
Sutherlands, the Warwicks--heir to that old baronial pile of Penshurst,
toward which summer loiterers go now, every year, from far-away
countries--to admire its red roofs--its gray walls curtained with
ivy--its tall chimneys, that have smoked with the goodly hospitalities
of centuries--its charming wood-walks, that Ben Jonson and Spenser and
Massinger have known--its courts and parterres and terraces, where
“Sidney’s sister, Pembroke’s mother,” gathered posies--its far-reaching
lovely landscape, with Penshurst church cropping out near by--blue, hazy
heights off by Tunbridge--lanes bowered with hedge-rows--wide-lying wavy,
grain-fields, and sheep feeding in the hollows of the hills. He was born
heir to all this, I say, and had the best masters, the tenderest and the
worthiest of mothers--who writes to him in this style,

    “Your noble Father hath taken pains, with his own hand, to give
    you in this--His Letter--so wise precepts for you to follow
    with a diligent mind, as I will not withdraw your eyes from
    beholding, and reverent honoring the same--no, not so long a
    time as to read any letter from me: Wherefor--I only bless
    you--with my desire to God to plant in you his grace, and have
    always before your mind the excellent councils of my Lord, your
    dear Father: Farewell, my little Philip; and, once again, the
    Lord bless you!

                          “Your loving mother,

                                                     “MARIE SIDNEY.”

Ought not a boy, with such a mother, and Penshurst in prospect, and
cousinly relations with the Talbots and Howards and Stanleys to be
gentlemanly and amiable? Then--his great-uncle--Leicester (who is
Chancellor of the University) writes up to Oxford, where young Sidney
is reading for his degree--“Pray have my boy, Philip Sidney, who is
delicate, excused from fasting during Lent.” And there is a plot afoot
to marry this young Oxford man to Anne, daughter of that Lord Burleigh I
told you of, and there are letters about the negotiation still extant.
Would you like to hear how Lord Burleigh discusses his daughter’s affairs?

    “I have been pressed,” he says, “with kind offers of my lord
    of Leicester, and have accorded with him, upon articles (by
    a manner of A. B. C.) without naming persons--that--if P. S.
    and A. C. hereafter shall like to marry, then shall H. S.
    (father of P. S.) make assurances, etc., and W. C. [that’s Lord
    Burleigh] father of A. C. shall pay, etc.: What may follow,
    I know not: but meanwhile P. S. and A. C. shall have full
    liberty.”

What did follow was, that old Burleigh thought better of it, and married
his daughter to a bigger title--that is Lord Oxford, a learned and
elegant, but brutal man, who broke poor Anne Cecil’s heart.

Sidney, after his Oxford course, and another at Cambridge (as some
authorities say) went--as was the further mode--upon his travels:
and goes, with the same golden luck upon him, to the great house of
Walsingham, ambassador of England, in Paris. Why not be gentle? What is
to provoke? It is quite a different thing--as many another Cambridge
man knew (Spenser among them), to be gentle and bland and forbearing,
when illness seizes, when poverty pinches, when friends backslide,
when Heaven’s gates seem shut;--then, amiability and gentleness and
forbearance are indeed crowning graces, and will unlock, I think, a good
many of the doors upon the courts, where the weary shall be at rest.

Sidney is at Paris when that virago Catharine de’ Medici was lording
it over her sons, and over France;--there, too, as it chanced, through
the slaughter of St. Bartholomew’s day, from which bloody holocaust he
presently recoils, and continues his travel over the Continent, writing
very charming, practical letters to his younger brother Robert:

    “You think my experience,” he says, “has grown from the good
    things I have learned: but I know the only experience which I
    have gotten is, to find how much I _might_ have learned and how
    much indeed I have missed--for want of directing my course to
    the right end and by the right means.” And again he tells him,
    “not to go travel--as many people do--merely out of a tickling
    humor to do as other men have done, or to talk of having been.”

He goes leisurely into Italy--is for some time at the famous University
of Padua; he is in Venice too during the great revels which were had
there in 1574, in honor of Henry III. (of France). The Piazza of San
Marco was for days and nights together a blaze of light and of splendor:
what a city to visit for this young Briton, who came accredited by
Elizabeth and by Leicester! The palaces of the Foscari and of the
Contarini would be open to him; the younger Aldus Manutius was making
imprints of the classics that would delight his eye; the temple fronts
of Palladio were in their first freshness: Did he love finer forms of
art--the great houses were rich in its trophies: the elder Palma and
Tintoretto were still at work: even the veteran Titian was carrying
his ninety-eight years with a stately stride along the Rivi of the
canal: if he loved adventure, the Venetian ladies were very beautiful,
and the masks of the Ridotto gave him the freedom of their smiles; the
escapade of Bianca Capello was a story of only yesterday; and for other
romance--the air was full of it; snatches from Tasso’s _Rinaldo_[94]
were on the lips of the gondoliers, and poetic legends lurked in every
ripple of the sea that broke upon the palace steps. It is said that
Sidney was painted in Venice by Paul Veronese; and if one is cunning
in those matters he may be able to trace the likeness of the heir of
Penshurst in some one of those who belong to the great groups of noble
men and women which the Veronese has left upon the walls of the Ducal
Palace.

In 1575 he came home, with all the polish that European courts and
European culture could give him. We may be sure that he paid dainty
compliments to the Queen--then in the full bloom of womanhood: we may
be sure that she devoured them all with a relish that her queenliness
could not wholly conceal. He won his sobriquet of “The Gentleman” in
these times; elegantly courteous; saying the right thing just when he
should say it:--perhaps too elegantly courteous--too insistent that even
a “Good-morning” should be spoken at precisely the right time, and in
the right key--too observant of the starched laws of a deportment that
chills by its own consciousness of unvarying propriety, as if--well, I
had almost said--as if he had been born in Boston. His favorite sister
meantime has married one of the Pembrokes, and has a princely place
down at Wilton, near Salisbury (now another haunt of pleasure-seekers).
Sidney was often there; and he wrote for this cherished sister his book,
or poem--(call it how we will) of _Arcadia_; writing it, as he says,
off-hand--and without re-reading--sheet by sheet, for her pleasure: I am
sorry he ever said this; it provokes hot-heads to a carelessness that
never wins results worth winning. Indeed I think Sidney put more care to
his _Arcadia_ than he confessed; though it is true, he expressed the wish
on his deathbed, that it should never be printed.

Shall I tell you anything of it--that it is an Allegory--shaped in fact
after a famous Italian poem of the same name--that few people now read
it continuously; that it requires great pluck to do so; and yet that
no one can dip into it--high or low--without finding rich euphuisms,
poetic symphonies, noble characters, dexterous experimentation in
verse--iambics, sapphics, hexameters, all interlaced with a sonorous
grandiloquence of prose--a curious medley, very fine, and _very_ dull?
When published after his death it ran through edition after edition, and
young wives were gravely cautioned not to spend too much time over that
cherished volume. His little book of the _Defence of Poesie_, which he
also wrote down at Wilton, appeals more nearly to our sympathies, and
may be counted still a good and noble argument for the Art of Poetry.
And Sidney gave proof of his skill in that art, far beyond anything in
the _Arcadia_--in some of those amatory poems under title of _Astrophel
and Stella_, which were supposed to have grown out of his fruitless love
for Penelope Devereux, to which I made early reference. I cite a single
sonnet that you may see his manner:--

    “_Stella_, think not, that I by verse seek fame,
    Who seek, who hope, who love, who live--but thee;
    Thine eyes my pride, thy lips mine history.
    If thou praise not, all other praise is shame,
    Nor so ambitious am I as to frame
    A nest for my young praise in laurel tree;
    In truth I vow I wish not there should be
    Graved in my epitaph, a Poet’s name.
    Nor, if I would, could I just title make
    That any laud thereof, to me should grow
    Without--my plumes from other wings I take--
    For nothing from _my_ wit or will doth flow
    Since all my words _thy_ beauty doth indite,
    And Love doth hold my hand, and _make_ me write.”

But it is, after all, more his personality than his books that draws
our attention toward him, amid that galaxy of bright spirits which is
gathering around the court of Elizabeth. In all the revels, and the
pageants of the day the eyes of thousands fasten upon his fine figure
and his noble presence. Though Scott--singularly enough--passes him by
without mention, he is down at Kenilworth, when the ambitious Leicester
turns his castle-gardens into a Paradise to welcome his sovereign. When
he goes as ambassador to Rudolph of Germany, he hangs golden blazonry
upon the walls of his house: Englishmen, everywhere, are proud of this
fine gentleman, Sidney, who can talk in so many languages, who can turn a
sonnet to a lady’s eyebrow, who can fence with the best swordsmen of any
court, who can play upon six instruments of music, who can outdance even
his Grace of Anjou. His death was in keeping with his life; it happened
in the war of the Low Countries, and was due to a brilliant piece of
bravado; he and his companions fighting (as at Balaclava in the Charge
of the Light Brigade) where there was little hope of conquest. All round
them--in front--in rear--in flank--the arquebuses and the cannon twanged
and roared. They beat down the gunners; they sabred the men-at-arms;
thrice and four times they cut red ways through the beleaguering enemy;
but at last, a cruel musket-ball came crashing through the thigh of this
brave, polished gentleman--Philip Sidney--and gave him his death-wound.
Twenty-five days he lingered, saying brave and memorable things--sending
courteous messages, as if the sheen of royalty were still upon him--doing
tender acts for those nearest him, and dying, with a great and a most
worthy calm.

We may well believe that the Queen found somewhat to wipe from her cheek
when the tale came of the death of “my Philip,” the pride of her court.
Leicester, too, must have minded it sorely: and of a surety Spenser in
his far home of Kilcolman; writing there, maybe--by the Mulla shore--his
apostrophe to Sidney’s soul, so full of his sweetness and of his
wonderful word-craft:--

      “Ah me, can so Divine a thing be dead?
    Ah no: it is not dead, nor can it die
      But lives for aye in Blissful Paradise:
    Where, like a new-born Babe, it soft doth lie
      In bed of Lilies, wrapped in tender wise
      And compassed all about with Roses sweet
      And dainty violets, from head to feet.
    There--thousand birds, all of celestial brood
    To him do sweetly carol, day and night
      And with strange notes--of him well understood
      Lull him asleep in angelic Delight
    Whilst in sweet dreams, to him presented be
    Immortal beauties, which no eye may see.”

Two black palls fling their shadows on the court of Elizabeth in 1587:
Sidney died in October of 1586; and in the following February Mary
Queen of Scots was beheaded. The next year the Spanish Armada is swept
from the seas, and all England is given up to rejoicings. And as we
look back upon this period and catch its alternating light and shade
on the pages of the historians and in the lives of English poets and
statesmen, the great Queen, in her ruff and laces, and with her coronet
of jewels, seems somehow, throughout all, the central figure. We see
Raleigh the Captain of her Guard--the valiant knight, the scholar, the
ready poet--but readiest of all to bring his fine figure and his stately
gallantries to her court: We see Sir Francis Drake, with his full beard
and bullet-head--all browned with his long voyages, from which he has
come laden with ingots of Spanish gold--swinging with his sailor-gait
into her august presence: We catch sight of Lord Burleigh, feeble now
with the weight of years, leading up that young nephew of his--Francis
Bacon, that he may kiss the Queen’s hand and do service for favors which
shall make him in time Lord Chancellor of England. Perhaps the rash,
headstrong Oxford may be in presence, whose poor wife was once the
affianced of Sidney: And the elegant Lord Buckhurst, decorous with the
white hair of age, who, in his younger days, when plain Thomas Sackville,
had contributed the best parts to the _Mirror for Magistrates_: Richard
Hooker, too, may be there--come up from the “peace and privacy” of his
country parsonage--in his sombre clerical dress, bent with study, but
in the prime of his age and power, with the calm face and the severe
philosophy with which he has confronted a termagant of a wife and the
beginnings of Dissent. And, if not in this presence, yet somewhere in
London might have been found, in that day, a young man, not much past
twenty--just up from Stratford-upon-Avon--to take his part in playing at
the Globe Theatre; yet not wholly like other players. Even now, while
all these worthies are gathering about the august Queen in her brilliant
halls at Greenwich or at Hampton Court, this young Stratford man may
be seated upon the steps of Old St. Paul’s--with his chin upon his
hand--looking out on the multitudinous human tide, which even then swept
down Ludgate Hill, and meditating the speeches of those shadowy courtiers
of his--only creatures of his day-dreams; yet they are to carry his
messages of wisdom into all lands and languages.

But I must shut the books where I see these figures come and go.



CHAPTER VII.


As we open our budget to-day, we are still under kingship of the great
Queen Bess, in whose presence we saw the portentous Lord Burleigh, whose
nod has passed into history; we saw, too, in our swift way, the wise, the
judicious, the simple-minded, the mismarried Richard Hooker. We called
Spenser before us, and had a taste of those ever-sweet poems of his--ever
sweet, though ever so long. Then his friend Philip Sidney flashed across
our view, the over-fine gentleman, yet full of nobility and courage, who
wrote a long book, _Arcadia_, so bright with yellow splendor as to tire
one; and still so full of high thinking as to warrant his fame and to
lend a halo to his brave and tragic death. You may remember, too, that
I made short mention of a certain John Lyly, who was about the same age
with Spenser, and who, with his pretty euphuisms came to cut a larger
figure in the days of Elizabeth than many stronger men did.


_John Lyly._

I recur to him now and tell you more of him, because he did in his time
set a sort of fashion in letters. He was an Oxford man,[95] born down in
Kent, and at twenty-five, or thereabout, made his fame by a book, which
grew out of suggestions (not only of name but largely of intent and
purpose) in the _Schoolmaster_ of Roger Ascham; and thus it happens over
and over in the fields of literature, that a plodding man will drop from
his store a nugget, over which some fellow of lively parts will stumble
into renown.

The book I refer to was called _Euphues, or the Anatomy of Wit_, which
came into such extraordinary favor that he wrote shortly after another,
called _Euphues and his England_. And the fashion that he set, was a
fashion of affectations--of prettinesses of speech--of piling words on
words, daintier and daintier--antithesis upon antithesis, with flavors of
wide reading thrown in, and spangled with classic terms and far-fetched
similes--so that ladies ambitious of literary fame larded their talk with
these fine euphuisms of Mr. Lyly. Something of a coxcomb I think we must
reckon him; we might almost say an Oscar Wilde of letters--posing as
finely and as capable of drawing female shoals in his wake. His strain
for verbal felicities, always noticeable, comparing with good, simple,
downright English, as a dancing-master’s mincing step, compares with the
assured, steady tread of a go-ahead pedestrian, who thinks nothing of
attitudes. Scott, you will remember, sought to caricature the Euphuist,
in a somewhat exaggerated way, in Sir Piercie Shafton, who figures in his
story of the _Monastery_; he himself, however, in the later annotations
of his novel, confesses his failure, and admitted the justice of the
criticism which declared Sir Piercie a bore. Shakespeare, also, at a
time not far removed from Lyly’s conquest, perhaps intended a slap at
the euphuistic craze,[96] in the pedant Schoolmaster’s talk of “Love’s
Labor’s Lost.”

Yet there was a certain good in this massing of epithets, and in this
tesselated cumulation of nice bits of language, from which the more wary
and skilful of writers could choose--as from a great vocabulary--what
words were cleanest and clearest. Nor do I wish to give the impression
that there were no evidences of thoughtfulness or of good purpose,
under Lyly’s tintinnabulation of words. Hazlitt thought excellently
well of him; and Charles Kingsley, in these later times, has pronounced
extravagant eulogy of him. Indeed he had high moral likings, though his
inspirations are many of them from Plato or Boëthius; it is questionable
also if he did not pilfer from Plutarch; certainly he sugar-coats with
his language a great many heathen pills.

In observation he is very acute. That _Euphues_ who gives name to his
book, is an Athenian youth of rare parts--“well-constituted” as the Greek
implies--who has lived long in Italy, and who talks in this strain of the
ladies he saw on a visit to England:--

    “The English Damoiselles have their bookes tied to their
    girdles--not feathers--who are as cunning in the Scriptures as
    you are in Ariosto or Petrark. It is the most gorgeous court
    [of England] that ever I have seene or heard of; but yet do
    they not use their apparel so nicely as you in Italy, who
    thinke scorne to kneele at service, for fear of wrinckles in
    your silk, who dare not lift up your head to heaven, for fear
    of rumpling the ruffs in your neck; yet your handes, I confess,
    are holden up, rather I thinke, to show your ringes, than to
    manifest your righteousness.”

Elizabeth would have very probably relished this sort of talk, and
have commended the writer in person; nor can there be any doubt that,
in such event, Lyly would have mumbled his thanks in kissing the royal
hands: there are complaining letters of his on the score of insufficient
court patronage, which are not high-toned, and which make us a little
doubtful of a goodly manhood in him. Certainly his deservings were
great, by reason of the plays which he wrote for her Majesty’s Company
of Child-players, and which were acted at the Chapel Royal and in the
palaces. In some of these there are turns of expression and of dramatic
incident which Shakespeare did not hesitate to convert to his larger
purposes; indeed there is, up and down in them, abundance of dainty
word-craft--of ingenuity--of more than Elizabethan delicacy too, and
from time to time, some sweet little lyrical outburst that holds place
still in the anthologies.

One of these, with which I daresay you may be over-familiar, is worth
quoting again. It is called Apelles’ Song, and it is from the play of
“Alexander and Campaspe:”

    “Cupid and my Campaspe played
    At cards for kisses--Cupid paid.
    He stakes his quiver, bows and arrows,
    His mother’s doves, and team of sparrows:
    Loses them too: then down he throws
    The coral of his lip--the Rose
    Growing on’s cheek (but none knows how);
    With these the crystal of his brow,
    And then the dimple of his chin--
    All these did my Campaspe win.
    At last, he set her both his eyes--
    She won; and Cupid blind did rise.
    O Love, has she done this to thee?
    What shall, alas! become of me?”

He puts, too, into imitative jingle of words the song of the
Nightingale--(as Bryant has done for the Bobolink); and of the strain of
the skylark nothing prettier was ever said than Mr. Lyly says:

    “How, at Heaven’s gate she claps her wings,
    The morn not waking--till _she_ sings.”


_Francis Bacon._

We go away from singing skylarks to find the next character that I
shall cull out from these Elizabethan times to set before you: this is
Lord Bacon--or, to give him his true title, Lord Verulam--there being,
in fact, the same impropriety in saying Lord Bacon (if custom had not
“brazed it so”) that there would be in saying Lord D’Israeli for Lord
Beaconsfield.

Here was a great mind--a wonderful intellect which everyone admired,
and in which everyone of English birth, from Royalty down, took--and
ever will take--a national pride; but, withal, few of those amiabilities
ever crop out in this great character which make men loved. He can see
a poor priest culprit come to the rack without qualms; and could look
stolidly on, as Essex, his special benefactor in his youth, walked to
the scaffold; yet the misstatement of a truth, with respect to physics,
or any matter about which truth or untruth was clearly demonstrable,
affected him like a galvanic shock. His biographers, Montagu and
Spedding, have padded his angularities into roundness; while Pope and
Macaulay have lashed him in the grave. I think we must find the real man
somewhere between them; if we credit him with a great straight-thinking,
truth-seeking brain, and little or no capacity for affection, the riddle
of his strange life will be more easily solved. Spedding,[97] who wrote
a voluminous life of Bacon--having devoted a quarter of a century to
necessary studies--does certainly make disastrous ripping-up of the seams
in Macaulay’s rhetoric; but there remain certain ugly facts relating to
the trial of Essex, and the bribe-takings, which will probably always
keep alive in the popular mind an under-current of distrust in respect to
the great Chancellor.

He was born in London, in 1561, three years before Shakespeare, and at
a time when, from his father’s house in the Strand he could look sheer
across the Thames to Southwark, where, before he was thirty, the Globe
Theatre was built, in which Shakespeare acted. He was in Paris when his
father died; there is no grief-stricken letter upon the event, but a
curious mention that he had dreamed two nights before how his father’s
house was covered with black mortar--so intent is he on mental processes.

He had a mother who was pious, swift-thoughted, jealous, imperious,
unreasonable, with streaks of tenderness.

    “Be not speedy of speech,” she says in one of her letters--“nor
    talk suddenly, but when discretion requireth, and that soberly
    then. Remember you have no father; and you have little
    enough--if not too little, regarded your kind, _no-simple_
    mother’s wholesome advice.”

    And again: “Look well to your health; sup not, nor sit not up
    late; surely I think your drinking near to bedtime hindereth
    your and your brother’s digestion very much: I never knew any
    but sickly that used it; besides ill for head and eyes.” And
    again, in postscript: “I trust you, with yr servants, use
    prayers twice in a day, having been where reformation is. Omit
    it not for any.”

And he responds with ceremony, waiving much of her excellent advice, and
sometimes suggesting some favor she can do him,--

    “It may be I shall have occasion to visit the Court this
    Vacation [he being then at Gray’s Inn], which I have not done
    this months space. In which respect, because carriage of stuff
    to and fro spoileth it, I would be glad of that light bed
    of striped stuff which your Ladyship hath, if you have not
    otherwise disposed it.”

Sharpish words, too, sometimes pass between them; but he is always
decorously and untouchingly polite.

Indeed his protestations of undying friendship to all of high station,
whom he addresses unctuously, are French in their amplitude, and French,
too, in their vanities. He presses sharply always toward the great end
of self-advancement--whether by flatteries, or cajolement, or direct
entreaty. He believed in the survival of the fittest; and that the
fittest should struggle to make the survival good--no matter what weak
ones, or timid ones, or confiding ones, or emotional ones should go
to the wall, or the bottom, in the struggle. His flatteries, I think,
never touched the Queen, though he tried them often and gave a lurid
color to his flatteries. She admired his parts as a young man; she had
honored his father; she accepted his services with thanks--even the
dreadful services which he rendered in demonstrating the treason of
the gallant and generous, but headstrong Earl of Essex. He never came
into full possession of royal confidences, however, until James I. came
to the throne: by him he was knighted, by him made Lord Chancellor, by
him elevated to the peerage; and it was under him that he was brought
to trial for receiving bribes--was convicted, despoiled of his judicial
robes, went to prison--though it might be only for a day--and thereafter
into that retirement, at once shameful and honorable, where he put the
last touches to those broad teachings of “Philosophy,” which the world
will always cherish and revere: not the first nor the last instance in
which great and fatal weaknesses have been united to great power and
great accomplishment.

But lest you may think too hardly of this eminent man, a qualifying word
must be said of that stain upon him--of receiving bribes: it was no
uncommon thing for high judicial personages to take gifts; no uncommon
thing for all high officers of the Government--nay, for the Government
itself, as typified in its supreme head. And, strange as it may seem,
Bacon’s sense of justice does not appear to have been swayed by the
gifts he took. Spedding has demonstrated, I think, that no judgment he
rendered was ever reversed by subsequent and farther hearing.[98] He was
not in the ordinary sense a money-lover; but he did love the importance
and consideration which money gave, yet was always in straits; and
those unwise receivings of his went to supply the shortcomings in a
very extravagant and disorderly home-life. His servants plundered him;
his tradespeople fleeced him; nor do I think that the mistress of the
Chancellor’s household was either very wary or very winning. Almost the
only time there is mention of her in his letters occurs previous to his
marriage (which did not take place till he was well in middle age), and
then only as “the daughter of an alderman who will bring a good dot” with
her. His mother-in-law, too, appears to have been of the stage sort of
mother-in-law, whom he addresses (by letter) in this fashion:--

    “Madam,” he says, “you shall with right good-will be made
    acquainted with anything that concerneth your daughters, if you
    bear a mind of love and concord: Otherwise you must be content
    to be a stranger to us. For I may not be so unwise as to suffer
    you to be an author or occasion of dissension between your
    daughters and their husbands; having seen so much misery of
    that kind in yourself.”

This looks a little as if the mother-in-law found the “grapes sour” in
the Bacon gardens. I do not think there was much domesticity about him,
even if home influences had encouraged it: he was without children,
and not one to read poetry to his wife in a boudoir; yet his essays
concerning marriage and concerning children and concerning friendship and
concerning extravagance, are full of piquant truths.

Indeed two distinct lines of life ran through the career of this
extraordinary man. In one he loved parade, ceremony, glitter; he stooped
ungraciously to those who ranked him in factitious distinctions; was
profuse and heartless in his adulation; taking great gifts with servile
acknowledgment; shunning friends who were falling; courting enemies who
were rising: and yet through all this, and looking out from the same
keen inscrutable eyes was the soul of a philosopher cognizant of all
humanities, searching sharply after the largest and broadest truths; too
indifferent to small ones; weighing his own shortcomings with bitter
remorse; alive to everything in science that should help the advancement
of the world, and absorbed in high ranges of thinking which the
animosities and cares and criminalities and accidents of every-day life
did not seem to reach or to disturb.

In such mood he wrote those essays, of some of which I have
spoken--wonderfully compact of thought, and as wonderfully compact of
language--which one should read and read again. No private library of a
hundred English books is complete without a copy of Bacon’s Essays. The
keen sagacity and perdurable sense of his observations always engage one.
Thus of Travel, he says,--

    “Let him [the Traveller] sequester himself from the company of
    his countrymen, and diet in such places where there is good
    company of the nation where he travelleth. He that travelleth
    into a country before he hath some entrance into the language,
    goeth to school and not to travel.”

    Of Friendship:--“This communicating of a man’s self to his
    friend, works two contrary efforts; for it redoubleth joys
    and cutteth griefs in halves.” Again, of the advantages of
    talk with a friend:--“Certain it is, that whosoever hath his
    mind fraught with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do
    clarify and break up, in the communicating and discoursing with
    another; he tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth
    them more orderly; he seeth how they look when they are turned
    into words; finally, he waxeth wiser than himself: and that
    more by an hours discourse than by a days meditation.”

Thus I could go on for page after page of citations which you would
approve, and which are so put in words that no mending or shortening
or deepening of their force seems anyway possible. And yet this book
of Essays--with all its sagacities, its ringing terseness, its stanch
worldly wisdom--is one we do not warm toward. Even when he talks of
friendship or marriage, death or love, a cold line of self-seeking
pervades it. Of sacrifice for love’s sake, for friendship’s sake, or
for charity’s sake, there is nothing; and in that Essay on “Parents and
Children”--what iciness of reflection--of suggestion! A man might talk as
Bacon talks there, of the entries in a “Herd-book.”

As for the _Novum Organum_ and the _Augmentis Scientiarum_--you would
not read them if I were to suggest it: indeed, there is no need for
reading them, except as a literary _excursus_, seeing that they have
wrought their work in breaking up old, slow modes of massing knowledge,
and in pouring light upon new ways;--in serving, indeed, so far as their
reach went, as a great logical lever, by which subsequent inquirers have
prised up a thousand hidden knowledges and ways of knowledge to the
comprehension and cognizance of the world.

And the two lines of life in Francis Bacon were joined by a strange
hyphen at last: He got out of his coach (which was not paid for), and in
his silk stockings walked through the snow, to prosecute some scientific
post-mortem experiment upon the body of a chicken he had secured by
the roadside, near to London. He caught cold--as lesser men would
have done; and he died of it. This date of his death (1626) brings us
beyond Elizabeth’s time--beyond James’ time, too, and far down to the
early years of Charles I. He was born, as I said, three years before
Shakespeare, three years after Elizabeth came to the throne; and the
_Novum Organum_ was published in the same year in which the Pilgrims
landed at Plymouth Rock--a convenient peg on which to hang the date of
two great events.

He was buried in the old town of St. Alban’s, of whose antiquities I have
already spoken, and near to which Gorhambury, the country home of Bacon,
was situated. The town and region are well worth a visit: and it is one
of the few spots whither one can still go by a well-appointed English
stage-coach with sleek horses--four-in-hand, which starts every morning
in summer from the White Horse Cellar, in Piccadilly, and spins over the
twenty miles of intervening beautiful road (much of it identical with the
old Roman Watling Street) in less than two hours and a half. The drive
is through Middlesex, and into “pleasant Hertfordshire,” where the huge
Norman tower of the old abbey buildings, rising from the left bank of the
Ver, marks the town of St. Alban’s. The tomb and monument of Bacon are in
the Church of St. Michael’s: there is still an Earl of Verulam presiding
over a new Gorhambury House; and thereabout, one may find remnants of the
old home of the great Chancellor and some portion of the noble gardens
in which he took so much delight, and in which he wandered up and
down, in peaked hat and in ruff, and with staff--pondering affairs of
State--possibly meditating the while upon that most curious and stately
Essay of his upon “Gardens,” which opens thus:--

    “God Almighty first planted a garden. And, indeed, it is the
    purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refreshment to
    the spirits of man, without which building and palaces are but
    gross handyworks: and a man shall ever see, that when ages
    grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately,
    sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater
    perfection.”

Surely, we who grow our own salads and “graff” our own pear-trees may
take exaltation from this: and yet I do not believe that the great
Chancellor ever put his hand, laboringly, to a rake-stave: but none
the less, he snuffed complacently the odor of his musk-roses and his
eglantine, and looked admiringly at his clipped walls of hedges.


_Thomas Hobbes._

There used to come sometimes to these gardens of Gorhambury, in Bacon’s
day, a young man--twenty years his junior--of a strangely subtle
mind, who caught so readily at the great Chancellor’s meaning, and was
otherwise so well instructed that he was employed by him in some clerical
duties. His name was Thomas Hobbes; and it is a name that should be
known and remembered, because it is identified with writings which had
as much influence upon the current of thought in the middle of the next
century (the seventeenth) as those of Herbert Spencer have now, and for
somewhat similar reasons. He was a very free thinker, as well as a deep
one; keeping, from motives of policy, nominally within Church lines, yet
abhorred and disavowed by Church-teachers; believing in the absolute
right of kings, and in self-interest as the nucleus of all good and
successful schemes for the conduct of life; weighing relations to the
future and a Supreme Good (if existing) with a trader’s prudence, and
counting Friendship “a sense of social utility.” His theory of government
was--a crystallization of forces, coming about regularly by the prudent
self-seeking of individuals. Of divine or spiritual influences he does
not take any sympathetic cognizance; hard, cold, calculating; not
inspiring, not hopeful; feeding higher appetites on metaphysic husks.

Of his Deism I give this exhibit:--

    “Forasmuch as God Almighty is incomprehensible, it followeth
    that we can have no conception or image of the Deity; and
    consequently, all his attributes signify our inability and
    defect of power to conceive anything concerning his nature,
    and not any conception of the same, except only this--that
    there is a God. For the effects, we acknowledge naturally, do
    include a power of their producing, before they were produced;
    and that power presupposeth something existent that hath such
    power: and the thing so existing with power to produce, if it
    were not eternal, must needs have been produced by somewhat
    before it; and that, again, by something else before that,
    till we come to an eternal (that is to say, the first) Power
    of all Powers, and first Cause of all Causes; and this is it
    which all men conceive by the name GOD, implying eternity,
    incomprehensibility, and omnipotency. And thus all that will
    consider may know that God is, though not _what_ he is.”

Cribbing his emotional nature (if he ever had any), he yet writes with
wonderful directness, perspicacity, and _verve_--making “Hobbism” talked
of, as Spencerism is talked of. Indeed, one does not see clearly how
any man, flinging only his bare hook of logic and his sinker of reason
into the infinite depths around us, can fish up anything of a helpfully
spiritual sort much better than Hobbism now.

He was specially befriended by the Cavendishes, having once been tutor to
a younger scion of that distinguished family; and so he came to pass his
latest years in their princely home of Chatsworth, humored by the Duke,
and treated by the Duchess as a pet bear--to be regularly fed and not
provoked; climbing the Derbyshire hills of a morning, dining at mid-day,
and at candle-lighting retiring to his private room to smoke his twelve
pipes of tobacco (his usual allowance) and to follow through the smoke
his winding trails of thought.[99]

He lived to the extreme age of ninety-two, thus coming well down into the
times of Charles II., who used to say of him that “he was a bear against
whom the Church played her young dogs to exercise them.” He lived and
died a bachelor, not relishing society in general, and liking only such
shrewd acute friends as could track him in his subtleties, who had the
grace to applaud him, and the wise policy of concealing their antagonisms.

He is not much cited now in books, nor has his name association with any
of those felicities of literature which exude perennial perfumes. He was
careless of graces; he stirred multitudes into new trains of thought; he
fed none of them with any of the minor and gracious delights of learning.
Perhaps he is best known in literary ways proper by a close and lucid
translation of the _History_ of Thucydides, which I believe is still
reckoned by scholars a good rendering of the Greek.[100]

He ventured, too, upon verse in praise of Derbyshire and of the valley
of the Derwent, but it is not rich or beautiful. A man who keeps
his emotional nature in a strait-jacket--for security or for other
purpose--may make catalogues of trees, or of summer days; but he cannot
paint the lilies or a sunrise. A translation of Homer which he undertook
and accomplished, when over eighty, was just as far from a success, and
for kindred reasons.


_George Chapman._

There was, however, another translation of Homer about those times, or a
little earlier, which was of much rarer quality, and which has not lost
its rare flavors even now. I speak of George Chapman’s. It is not so
true to the Greek as Hobbes’ Thucydides; indeed not true at all to the
words, but true to the spirit; and in passages where the translator’s
zeal was aflame catching more of the dash, and abounding flow, and brazen
resonance of the old Greek poet than Pope, or Cowper, Derby, or Bryant.

The literalists will never like him, of course; he drops words that worry
him--whole lines indeed with which he does not choose to grapple; he adds
words, too--whole lines, scenes almost; there is vulgarity sometimes, and
coarseness; he calls things by their old homely names; there is no fine
talk about the chest or the abdomen, but the Greek lances drive straight
through the ribs or to the navel, and if a cut be clean and large--we
are not told of crimson tides--but the blood gurgles out in great gouts
as in a slaughter-house; there may be over-plainness, and over-heat,
and over-stress; but nowhere weakness; and his unwieldly, staggering
lines--fourteen syllables long--forge on through the ruts which the
Homeric chariots have worn, bouncing and heaving and plunging and
jolting, but always lunging forward with their great burden of battle, of
brazen shields, and ponderous war-gods. I hardly know where to cut into
the welter of his long lines for sample, but in all parts his brawny pen
declares itself. Take a bit from that skrimmage of the Sixteenth Book
where--

                    “The swift Meriones
  Pursuing flying Acamas, just as he got access
  To horse and chariot--overtook, and dealt him such a blow
  On his right shoulder that he left his chariot, and did strow
  The dusty earth: life left limbs, and night his eyes possessed.
  Idomeneus his stern dart at Erymas addressed,
  As--like to Acamas--he fled; it cut the sundry bones
  Beneath his brain, betwixt his neck and foreparts, and so runs,
  Shaking his teeth out, through his mouth, his eyes all drowned in blood;
  So through his nostrils and his mouth, that now dart-open stood,
  He breathed his spirit.”

And again that wonderful duel between Patroclus and the divine Sarpedon:

  “Down jumped he from his chariot, down leaped his foe as light,
  And as, on some far-looking rock, a cast of vultures fight,
  --Fly on each other, strike and truss--part, meet, and then stick by,
  Tug, both with crooked beaks and seres, cry, fight, and fight and cry;
  So fiercely fought these angry kings, and showed as bitter galls.”

What a description this old Chapman would have made of a tug at foot-ball!

Another fragment I take from the Twenty-first Book, where the River God
roars and rages in the waters of Scamander against Achilles:

  ----“Then swell’d his waves, then rag’d, then boil’d again
  Against Achilles, up flew all, and all the bodies slain
  In all his deeps, of which the heaps made bridges to his waves
  He belch’d out, roaring like a bull. The unslain yet he saves
  In his black whirl-pits, vast and deep. A horrid billow stood
  About Achilles. On his shield the violence of the Flood
  Beat so, it drove him back, and took his feet up, his fair palm
  Enforc’d to catch into his stay a broad and lofty elm,
  Whose roots he tossed up with his hold, and tore up all the shore.”

When any of us can make as spirited a translation as that, I think we can
stand a scolding from the teachers for not being literal. George Chapman
lived a very long life, and did other things worthily; wrote a mass of
dramas[101]--but not of the very best; they belong to the class of plays
those people talk of who want to talk of things nobody has read. I think
better and richer things are before us.


_Marlowe._

Did it ever happen to you to read upon a summer’s day that delightful
old book--of a half century later--called _The Complete Angler_; and
do you remember how, on a certain evening when the quiet Angler had
beguiled himself with loitering under beech-trees and watching the
lambs and listening to the birds, he did encounter, in an adjoining
field, a handsome milkmaid, who lifted up her voice--which was like a
nightingale’s--to an old-fashioned song, beginning?--

    “Come live with me and be my love,
    And we will all the pleasures prove
    That valleys, groves, or hills, or field
    Or woods, or steepy mountains yield--

    And I will make thee beds of roses
    And then a thousand fragrant posies
    A cap of flowers and a kirtle
    Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle.”

Well, that song of the milkmaid, with its setting of verdant meads and
silver streams and honeysuckle hedges keeps singing itself in a great
many ears to-day: And it was written by Christopher Marlowe,[102] one
of the most harum-scarum young dare-devils of Elizabethan times. He was
born in the same year with Shakespeare--down in Canterbury, or near by
(whither we saw St. Augustine carrying Christian crosses)--was son of
a shoemaker who lived thereabout, yet came somehow to be a Cambridge
man, drifted thereafter to London--full of wit and words of wantonness;
developing early; known for a tragedy that caught the ear of the town
six years before Shakespeare had published the “Venus and Adonis.” He was
an actor, too, as so many of the dramatic wits of that day were--maybe
upon the same boards where Shakespeare was then certainly a mender, if
not a maker of parts. Did they hobnob together? Did they compare plots?
If we only knew: but we do not.

The critics of the days closely succeeding said he would have rivalled
Shakespeare if he had lived: Doubtless he would have brought more
learning to the rivalry; perhaps an equal wit--maybe an even greater
rhythmic faculty and as dauntless and daring imaginative power; but
dignity and poise of character were not in him. He died--stabbed--in a
drunken brawl before he was thirty.[103] In his tragedies--if you read
them--you will find the beat and flow and rhythm--to which a great
many of the best succeeding English tragedies were attuned. He scored
first upon British theatre-walls, with fingers made tremulous by tavern
orgies, a great sampler of dramatic story, by which scores of succeeding
play-writers set their copy; but into these copies many and many a one
of lesser power put a grace, a tenderness, and a dignity which never
belonged to the half-crazed and short-lived Marlowe. You will remember
him best perhaps as the author of the pleasant little madrigal of which
I cited a verselet; and if you value the delicatest of description, you
will relish still more his unfinished version of the Greek story of “Hero
and Leander”--a pregnant line of which--

    “who ever loved that loved not at first sight”

--has the abiding honor of having been quoted by Shakespeare in his play
of “As You Like It.”

I leave Marlowe--citing first a beautiful bit of descriptive verse from
his “Hero and Leander:”--

    “At Sestos Hero dwelt: Hero the fair,
    Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,
    And offered as a dower his burning throne,
    Where she should sit for men to gaze upon.
    The outside of her garments were of lawn,
    --The lining purple silk, with gilt stars drawn.

    Upon her head she wore a myrtle wreath
    From thence her veil reached to the ground beneath;
    Her veil was artificial flowers and leaves,
    Whose workmanship both man and beast deceives;
    Many would praise the sweet smell, as she past,
    When ’twas the odor that her breath forth cast;
    And there_for_ honey-bees have sought in vain
    And beat from thence, have lighted there again.
    About her neck hung chains of pebble stone,
    Which, lighted by her neck, like diamonds shone.
    She wore no gloves; for neither sun nor wind
    Would burn or parch her hands, but, to her mind;
    Or warm, or cool them; for they took delight
    To play upon those hands, they were so white.

    Some say, for her the fairest Cupid pin’d
    And, looking in her face, was strooken blind.
    But this is true; so like was one the other,
    As he imagined Hero was his mother:
    And often-times into her bosom flew,
    About her naked neck his bare arms threw,
    And laid his childish head upon her breast
    And, with still panting rock’t, there took his rest.”

I think all will agree that this is very delicately done.


_A Tavern Coterie._

But let us not forget where we are, and where we are finding such men and
such poems: we are in London and are close upon the end of the sixteenth
century; there are no morning newspapers; these came long afterward; but
the story of such a death as that of Marlowe, stabbed in the eye--maybe
by his own dagger--would spread from tongue to tongue; (possibly one
of his horrific dramas had been played that very day): certainly the
knowledge of it would come quick to all his boon friends--actors,
writers, wits--who were used to meet, maybe at the Falcon on Bankside, or
possibly at the Mermaid Tavern.

This Mermaid Tavern was a famous place in those and in succeeding days.
It stood on Cheapside (between Friday and Bread Streets) gorgeous with
three ranges of Elizabethan windows, that gave look-out upon an array
of goldsmiths’ shops which shone across the way. It was almost in the
shadow of the Church of St. Mary le Bow, burned in the great fire, but
having its representative tower and spire--a good work of Christopher
Wren--standing thereabout in our time, and still holding out its clock
over the sidewalk.

And the literary friends who would have gathered in such a place to talk
over the sad happening to Kit Marlowe are those whom it behoves us to
know, at least by name. There, surely would be Thomas Lodge,[104] who
was concerned in the writing of plays; wrote, too, much to his honor,
a certain novel (if we may call it so) entitled _Rosalynde_, from
which Shakespeare took the hint and much of the pleasant machinery for
his delightful drama of “As You Like It.” This Lodge was in his youth
hail fellow with actors who gathered at taverns; and--if not actor
himself--was certainly a lover of their wild ways and their feastings.
He admired _Euphues_ overmuch, was disposed to literary affectations
and alliteration--writing, amongst other things, _A Nettle for Nice
Noses_. He was, too, a man of the world and wide traveller; voyaged
with Cavendish, and was said to be engaged in a British raid upon the
Canaries. In later years he became a physician of soberly habits and much
credit, dying of the plague in 1625.

Nashe[105] also would have been good mate-fellow with Marlowe; a
Cambridge man this--though possibly “weaned before his time;” certainly
most outspoken, hard to govern, quick-witted, fearless, flinging his
fiery word-darts where he would. Gabriel Harvey, that priggish patron
of Spenser, to whom I have alluded, found this to his cost. Indeed this
satirist came to have the name of the English Aretino--as sharp as he,
and as wild-living, and wild-loving as he.

Nashe was a native of Lowestoft, on the easternmost point of English
shore, in Suffolk, not far from those potteries (of Gurton) whose old
quaint products collectors still seek for and value. Dr. Grosart, in the
Huth Library, has built a wordy monument to his memory; we do not say it
is undeserved; certainly he had a full brain, great readiness, graphic
power, and deep love for his friends. Like Lodge, he travelled: like him
took to his wits to pay tavern bills; a sharp fellow every way. He lent
a hand, and a strong one, to that tedious, noisy, brawling ecclesiastic
controversy of his day--called the _Mar-Prelate_ one; a controversy full
of a great swash of those prickly, sharp-tasted, biting words--too often
belonging to church quarrels--and which men hardly approach for comment,
even in our time, without getting themselves pricked by contact into
wrathful splutter of ungracious language.

One may get a true taste (and I think a surfeit) of his exuberance
in epithet, and of his coarse but rasping raillery in his _Pierce
Penilesse_. Here is one of his pleasant lunges at some “Latinless”
critic:--“Let a scholar write and he says--‘Tush, I like not these common
fellows’; let him write well, and he says--‘Tush, it’s stolen out of some
book.’”

Then there was Robert Greene[106]--a Reverend, but used to tavern
gatherings, and whose story is a melancholy one, and worth a little more
than mere mention. He was a man of excellent family, well nurtured, as
times went; native of the old city of Norwich, in Norfolk; probably
something older than either Marlowe or Shakespeare; studied at St.
John’s, Cambridge--“amongst wags”--he says in his _Repentance_--“as lewd
as myself;” was a clergyman (after a sort); pretty certainly had a church
at one time; married a charming wife in the country, but going up to
that maelstrom of London fell into all evil ways: wrote little poems a
saint might have written, and cracked jokes with his tongue that would
make a saint shudder; deserted his wife and child; became a red-bearded
bully, raging in the taverns, with unkempt hair: Yet even thus and
there (as if all England in those Elizabethan times bloomed with lilies
and lush roses, which lent their perfume to all verse the vilest might
write) inditing poems having a tender pathos, which will live. Take
these verselets for instance; and as you read them, remember that he
had deserted his pure, fond, loving wife and his prattling boy, and was
more deeply sunk in ways of debauchery than any of his fellows; ’tis a
mother’s song to her child:--

    “Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee,
    When thou art old, there’s grief enough for thee.
        Streaming tears that never stint,
        Like pearl-drops from a flint,
        Fell by course from his eyes,
        That one another’s place supplies.
        Thus he grieved in every part,
        Tears of blood fell from his heart
        When he left his pretty boy,
        Father’s sorrow--father’s joy.
        The wanton smiled, father wept,
        Mother cried, baby leapt;
        More he crowed more we cried,
        Nature could not sorrow hide;
        He must go, he must kiss
        Child and mother--baby bless--
        For he left his pretty boy,
        Father’s sorrow, father’s joy.
    Weep not, my wanton, smile upon my knee,
    When thou art old, there’s grief enough for thee.”

And the poet who wrote this--putting tenderness into poems of the
affections, and a glowing color into pastoral verse, and point and
delicacy into his prose--wrote also _A Groates worth of Wit, bought with
a Million of Repentance_, and he died of a surfeit of pickled herring and
Rhenish wine.

In that ‘Groat’s worth of Wit’ (published after his death) there is a
memorable line or two--being probably the first contemporary notice of
Shakespeare that still has currency; and it is in the form of a gibe:--

    “There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that
    with his Tygres heart wrapt in a players hide, supposes hee
    is as well able to bombast out a blanke-verse as the best of
    you; and, being an absolute Johannes-fac-totum, is in his owne
    conceyt the onely Shake-Scene in a countrey.”

How drolly it sounds--to hear this fine fellow, broken up with drink and
all bedevilments, making his envious lunge at the great master who has
perhaps worried him by theft of some of his dramatic methods or schemes,
and who gives to poor Greene one of his largest titles to fame in having
been the subject of his lampoon!

It gives added importance, too, to this gibe, to know that it was
penned when the writer, impoverished, diseased, deserted by patrons,
saw death fronting him; and it gives one’s heart a wrench to read how
this debauched poet--whose work has given some of the best color to the
“Winter’s Tale” of Shakespeare--writes with faltering hand, begging his
“gentle” wife’s forgiveness, and that she would see that the charitable
host, who has taken him in, for his last illness, shall suffer no
loss--then, toying with the sheets, and “babbling o’ green fields,” he
dies.

Keen critics of somewhat later days said Shakespeare had Greene’s death
in mind when he told the story of Falstaff’s.

It is quite possible that all these men I have named will have
encountered, off and on, at their tavern gatherings, the lithe, youngish
fellow, large browed and with flashing eyes, who loves Rhenish too in a
way, but who loves the altitudes of poetic thought better; who is just
beginning to be known poet-wise by his “Venus and Adonis”--whose name is
William Shakespeare--and who has great aptitude at fixing a play, whether
his own or another man’s; and with Burbage for the leading parts, can
make them take wonderfully well.

Possibly, too, in these tavern gatherings would be the young, boyish
Earl of Southampton, who is associated with some of the many enigmas
respecting Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and whom we Americans ought to know
of, because he became interested thereafter in schemes for colonizing
Virginia, and has left his name of Southampton to one of the Virginia
counties; and, still better, is associated with that beautiful reach of
the Chesapeake waters which we now call “Hampton Roads.”

In that company too--familiar with London taverns in later Elizabethan
years--the beefy Ben Jonson was sure to appear, with his great shag of
hair, and his fine eye, and his coarse lip, bubbling over with wit and
with Latin: he, quite young as yet; perhaps just now up from Cambridge;
ten years the junior of Shakespeare; and yet by his bulky figure and
doughty air dominating his elders, and sure to call the attention of
all idlers who hung about the doors of the Mermaid. He may be even now
plotting his first play of “Every Man in his Humour,” or that new club of
his and Raleigh’s devising, which is to have its meeting of jolly fellows
in the same old Cheapside tavern, and to make its rafters shake with
their uproarious mirth. For the present we leave them all there--with
a May sun struggling through London fogs, and gleaming by fits and
starts upon the long range of jewellers’ shops, for which Cheapside
was famous--upon the White Cross and Conduit, whereat the shop-girls
are filling their pails--upon the great country wains coming in by
Whitechapel Road--upon the tall spire of St. Mary le Bow, and upon the
diamond panes of the Mermaid tavern, to whose recesses we have just seen
the burly figure of Ben Jonson swagger in.



CHAPTER VIII.


In opening the preceding chapter I spoke of that dainty John Lyly, who
first set a fashion in letters, and whose daintiness hid much of the
strength and cleverness that were in him: I spoke of the wonderful
twin development of the Lord Chancellor Bacon--selfish and ignoble as
a man, serene and exalted as a philosopher; and I tried to fasten in
the reader’s mind the locality of his tomb and home at the old town of
St. Alban’s--a short coach-ride away from London, down in “pleasant
Hertfordshire:” I spoke of Hobbes (somewhat before his turn) whose
free-thinking--of great influence in its day, and the sharply succeeding
days--is supplemented by more acute and subtle, if not more far-reaching,
free-thinking now. I quoted the Homer of Chapman, under whose long and
staggering lines there burned always true Homeric fire. I cited Marlowe,
because his youth and power promised so much, and the promise so soon
ended in an early and inglorious death. Then came Lodge, Nashe, and
Greene, mates of Marlowe, all well-bred, all having an itch for penwork,
and some of them for the stage; all making rendezvous--what time they
were in London--at some tavern of Bankside, or at the Mermaid, where we
caught a quick glimpse of Ben Jonson, and another of the Stratford player.


_George Peele._

I might, however, have added to the lesser names that decorated the
closing years of the sixteenth century that of George Peele,[107] of
Devonshire birth, but, like so many of his fellows, a university man: he
came to be a favorite in London; loved taverns and wine as unwisely as
Greene; was said to have great tact for the ordering of showy pageants;
did win upon Queen Elizabeth by his “Arraignment of Paris” (half masque
and half play) represented by the children of the Chapel Royal--and
carrying luscious flattery to the ready ears of Eliza, Queen of--

    “An ancient seat of Kings, a second Troy,
    Y’compassed round with a commanding sea;
    Her people are y-clepéd _Angeli_.
    This paragon, this only, this is she
    In whom do meet so many gifts in one
    In honor of whose name the muses sing.”

Yet even such praises did not keep poor Peele from hard fare and a
stinging lack of money.

“An Old Wives Tale,” which he wrote, has conjurers and dragons in
it, with odd twists of language which remind one of the kindred and
nonsensical jingle of “Patience” or “Pinafore:”--

    “Phillida, Philleridos--pamphilida, florida, flortos;
    Dub--dub a-dub, bounce! quoth the guns
          With a sulpherous huff-snuff!”

This play is further notable for having supplied much of the motive for
the machinery and movement of Milton’s noble poem of _Comus_. It is worth
one’s while to compare the two. Of course Peele will suffer--as those who
make beginnings always do.

This writer is said to have been sometime a shareholder with Shakespeare
in the Blackfriars Theatre; he was an actor, too, like his great
contemporary; and besides the plays which carried a wordy bounce in
them, wrote a very tender scriptural drama about King David and the fair
Bethsabe, with charming quotable things in it. Thus--

    “Bright Bethsabe gives earth to my desires,
    Verdure to earth, and to that verdure--flowers;
    To flowers--sweet odors, and to odors--wings
    That carries pleasure to the hearts of Kings!”

And again:--

    “Now comes my lover tripping like the roe,
    And brings my longings tangled in her hair
    To joy her love, I’ll build a Kingly bower
    Seated in hearing of a hundred streams.”

Tom Campbell said--“there is no such sweetness to be found in our blank
verse anterior to Shakespeare.” And for his lyrical grace I cannot resist
this little show, from his “Arraignment of Paris:”--

    _Ænone [singeth and pipeth]._

    “Fair and fair, and twice so fair,
    As fair as any may be;
    The fairest shepherd on our green,
    A love for any lady.”

    _And Paris._

    “Fair and fair and twice so fair,
    As fair as any may be:
    Thy love is fair for thee alone
    And for no other lady.”

    _Then Ænone._

    “My love is fair, my love is gay,
    As fresh as bin the flowers in May,
    And of my love my roundelay,
    My merry, merry, merry roundelay,
    Concludes with Cupid’s curse,
    They that do change old love for new,
    Pray Gods, they change for worse!”


_Thomas Dekker._

Dekker was fellow of Peele and of the rest;[108] he quarrelled bitterly
with Ben Jonson--they beating each other vilely with bad words, that can
be read now (by whoso likes such reading) in the _Poetaster_ of Jonson,
or in the _Satiromastix_ of Dekker. ’Twould be unfair, however, to judge
him altogether by his play of the cudgels in this famous controversy.
There is good meat in what Dekker wrote: he had humor; he had pluck; he
had gift for using words--to sting or to praise--or to beguile one. There
are traces not only of a Dickens flavor in him, but of a Lamb flavor
as well; and there is reason to believe that, like both these later
humorists, he made his conquests without the support of a university
training. Swinburne characterizes him as a “modest, shiftless, careless
nature:” but he was keen to thrust a pin into one who had offended his
sensibilities; in his plays he warmed into pretty lyrical outbreaks, but
never seriously measured out a work of large proportions, or entered upon
execution of such with a calm, persevering temper. He was many-sided, not
only literary-wise, but also conscience-wise. It seems incredible that
one who should write the coarse things which appear in his _Bachelor’s
Banquet_ should also have elaborated, with a pious unction (that reminds
of Jeremy Taylor) the saintly invocations of the _Foure Birds of Noah’s
Ark_: and as for his _Dreame_ it shows in parts a luridness of color
which reminds of our own Wigglesworth--as if this New England poet of
fifty years later may have dipped his brush into the same paint-pot. I
cite a warm fragment from his _Dreame of the Last Judgement_;--

    “Their cries, nor yelling did the Judge regard,
    For all the doores of Mercy up were bar’d:
    Justice and Wrath in wrinkles knit his forhead,
    And thus he spake: You cursed and abhorred,
    You brood of Sathan, sonnes of death and hell,
    In fires that still shall burne, you still shall dwell;
    In hoopes of Iron: then were they bound up strong,
    (Shrikes [shrieks] being the Burden of their dolefull song)
    Scarce was Sentence breath’d-out, but mine eies
    Even saw (me thought) a Caldron, whence did rise
    A pitchy Steeme of Sulphure and thick Smoake,
    Able whole coapes of Firmament to choake:
    About this, Divels stood round, still blowing the fire,
    Some, tossing Soules, some whipping them with wire,
    Across the face, as up to th’ chins they stood
    In boyling brimstone, lead and oyle, and bloud.”

It is, however, as a social photographer that I wish to call special
attention to Dekker; indeed, his little touches upon dress, dinners,
bear-baitings, watermen, walks at _Powles_, Spanish boots, tavern
orgies--though largely ironical and much exaggerated doubtless, have
the same elements of nature in them which people catch now with their
pocket detective cameras. His _Sinnes of London_, his answer to _Pierce
Pennilesse_, his _Gull’s Horne Boke_ are full of these sketches. This
which follows, tells how a young gallant should behave himself in an
ordinary:--

    “Being arrived in the room, salute not any but those of your
    acquaintance; walke up and downe by the rest as scornfully and
    as carelessly as a Gentleman-Usher: Select some friend (having
    first throwne off your cloake) to walke up and downe the roome
    with you, … and this will be a meanes to publish your clothes
    better than Powles, a Tennis-court, or a Playhouse; discourse
    as lowd as you can, no matter to what purpose if you but make
    a noise, and laugh in fashion, and have a good sower face to
    promise quarrelling, you shall be much observed.

    “If you be a souldier, talke how often you have beene in
    action: as the _Portingale_ voiage, Cales voiage, besides some
    eight or nine imploiments in Ireland.… And if you perceive that
    the untravellᵈ Company about you take this doune well, ply them
    with more such stuffe, as how you have interpreted betweene
    the French king and a great Lord of Barbary, when they have
    been drinking healthes together, and that will be an excellent
    occasion to publish your languages, if you have them: if not,
    get some fragments of French, or smal parcels of Italian, to
    fling about the table: but beware how you speake any Latine
    there.”

And he goes on to speak of the three-penny tables and the twelve-penny
tables, and of the order in which meats should be eaten--all which as
giving glimpses of something like the every-day, actual life of the
ambitious and the talked-of young fellows about London streets and
taverns is better worth to us than Dekker’s dramas.


_Michael Drayton._

We encounter next a personage of a different stamp, and one who, very
likely, would have shaken his head in sage disapproval of the flippant
advices of Dekker; I refer to Michael Drayton,[109] who wrote enormously
in verse upon all imaginable subjects; there are elegiacs, canzonets,
and fables; there are eclogues, and heroic epistles and legends and
_Nimphidia_ and sonnets. He tells of the Barons’ Wars, of the miseries
of Queen Margaret, of how David killed Goliath, of Moses in the burning
bush--in lines counting by thousands; _Paradise Lost_ stretched six
times over would not equal his pile of print; and all the verse that
Goldsmith ever wrote, compared with Drayton’s portentous mass would
seem like an iridescent bit of cockle-shell upon a sea of ink. This
protracting writer was a Warwickshire man--not a far-off countryman of
Shakespeare, and a year only his senior; a respectable personage, not
joining in tavern bouts, caring for himself and living a long life. His
great poem of _Poly-olbion_ many know by name, and very few, I think, of
this generation ever read through. It is about the mountains, rivers,
wonders, pleasures, flowers, trees, stories, and antiquities of England;
and it is twenty thousand lines long, and every line a long Alexandrine.
Yet there are pictures and prettinesses in it, which properly segregated
and detached from the wordy trails which go before and after them, would
make the fortune of a small poet. There are descriptions in it, valuable
for their utter fidelity and a fulness of nomenclature which keeps
alive pleasantly ancient names. Here, for instance, is a summing up of
old English wild-flowers, where, in his quaint way, he celebrates the
nuptials of the river Thames (who is groom) with the bridal Isis, that
flows by Oxford towers. It begins at the one hundred and fiftieth line of
the fifteenth song of the fiftieth part:--

    “The Primrose placing first, because that in the Spring
    It is the first appears, then only flourishing;
    The azuréd Hare-bell next, with them they gently mix’d
    T’ allay whose luscious smell, they Woodbine plac’d betwixt;
    Amongst those things of scent, there prick they in the Lily,
    And near to that again, her sister--Daffodilly
    To sort these flowers of show, with th’ other that were so sweet,
    The Cowslip then they couch, and the Oxlip, for her meet;
    The Columbine amongst, they sparingly do set,
    The yellow King-cup wrought in many a curious fret;
    And now and then among, of Eglantine a spray,
    By which again a course of Lady-smocks they lay;
    The Crow-flower, and thereby the Clover-flower they stick,
    The Daisy over all those sundry sweets so thick.”

The garden-flowers follow in equal fulness of array; and get an even
better setting in one of his Nymphals, where they are garlanded about the
head of Tita; and in these pretty Nymphals, and still more in the airy,
fairy _Nymphidia_--with their elfins and crickets and butterflies, one
will get an earlier smack of our own “Culprit Fay.” Those who love the
scents of ancient garden-grounds--as we do--will relish the traces of
garden love in this old Warwickshire man. In his Heroic Epistles, too,
one will find a mastership of ringing couplets: and there are spirit and
dash in that clanging battle ode of his which sets forth the honors
and the daring of Agincourt. Its martial echoes--kept alive by Campbell
(“Battle of the Baltic”) and revived again in Tennyson’s “Balaclava,”
warrant me in citing two stanzas of the original:--

    “Warwick in blood did wade,
    Oxford the foe invade,
    And cruel slaughter made
        Still as they ran up;
    Suffolk his axe did ply,
    Beaumont and Willoughby
    Bear them right doughtily,
        Ferrers and Fanhope.

    “They now to fight are gone;
    Armour on armour shone,
    Drum now to drum did groan,
        To hear, was wonder;
    That, with the cries they make,
    The very earth did shake,
    Trumpet to trumpet spake,
        Thunder to thunder.”[110]


_Ben Jonson._

I now go back to that friend of Drayton’s--Ben Jonson,[111] whom we saw
at the closing of the last chapter going into the tavern of the Mermaid.
He goes there, or to other like places, very often. He is a friend no
doubt of the landlady; he is a friend, too, of all the housemaids,
and talks university chaff to them; a friend, too, of all such male
frequenters of the house as will listen to him, and will never dispute
him; otherwise he is a slang-whanger and a bear.

He was born, as I have said, some years after Shakespeare, but had roared
himself into the front ranks before the people of London were thoroughly
satisfied that the actor-author of “Richard III.” was a better man than
Ben. Very much of gossip with respect to possible jealousies between
Shakespeare and Ben Jonson may be found in the clumsy, bundled-up life of
the latter by William Gifford.[112]

Jonson was born probably in the west of London--and born poor; but
through the favor of some friends went to Westminster School, near to
which his step-father, who was a bricklayer, lived: afterward, through
similar favor, he went to Cambridge[113]--not staying very long,
because called home to help that step-father at his bricklaying. But
he did stay long enough to get a thorough taste for learning, and a
thorough grounding in it. So he fretted at the bricks, and ran off and
enlisted--serving a while in the Low Countries, where poor Philip Sidney
met his death, and coming back, a swaggerer, apt with his sword and his
speech, into which he had grafted continentalisms; apt at a quarrel, too,
and comes to fight a duel, and to kill his man.[114] For this he went
to prison, getting material this way--by hard rubs with the world--for
the new work which was ripening in the mind of this actor-author. So,
full of all experiences, full of Latin, full of logic, full of history,
full of quarrel, full of wine (most whiles) this great, beefy man turned
poet. I do not know if you will read--do not think the average reader of
to-day will care to study--his dramas. The stories of them are involved,
but nicely adjusted as the parts of an intricate machine: you will grow
tired, I dare say, of matching part to part; tired of their involutions
and evolutions; tired of the puppets in them that keep the machinery
going; tired of the passion torn to tatters; tired of the unrest and lack
of all repose. Yet there are abounding evidences of wit--of more learning
than in Shakespeare, and a great deal drearier; aptnesses of expression,
too, which show a keen knowledge of word-meanings and of etymologies;
real and deep acquirement manifest, but worn like stiff brocade, or
jingling at his pace, like bells upon the heels of a savage. You wonder
to find such occasional sense of music with such heavy step--such
delicate poise of such gross corporosity.

He helped some hack-writer to put Bacon’s essays into Latin--not that
Bacon did not know his Latin; but the great chancellor had not time for
the graces of scholastics. Ben wrote an English Grammar, too, which--for
its syntax, so far as one may judge from that compend of it which alone
remains--is as good as almost any man could invent now. Such learning
weighed him down when he put on the buskins, and made the stage tremble
with his heaviness. But when he was at play with letters--when he had
no plot to contrive and fabricate and foster, and no character to
file and finish, and file again, and to fit in with precise order and
methodic juxtaposition--when a mad holiday masque--wild as the “Pirates
of Penzance”--tempted him to break out into song, his verse is rampant,
joyous, exuberant--blithe and dewy as the breath of May-day mornings: See
how a little damsel in the dance of his verse sways and pirouettes--

    “As if the wind, not she did walk;
    Nor pressed a flower, nor bowed a stalk!”

Then, again, in an Epithalamion of his _Underwoods_, as they were called,
there is a fragment of verse, which, in many of its delicious couplets,
shows the grace and art of Spenser’s wonderful “Epithalamion,” which we
read a little time ago:--He is picturing the bridesmaids strewing the
bride’s path with flowers:--

    “With what full hands, and in how plenteous showers
      Have they bedewed the earth where she doth tread,
    As if her airy steps did spring the flowers,
      And all the ground were garden, where she led.”

Such verses do not come often into our newspaper corners, from first
hands: such verses make one understand the significance of that
inscription which came by merest accident to be written on his tomb in
Westminster Abbey--“O rare Ben Jonson!”

I do not believe I shall fatigue you--and I know I shall keep you in the
way of good things if I give another fragment from one of his festal
operettas;--the “Angel” is describing and symbolizing Truth, in the
_Masque of Hymen_:--

    “Upon her head she wears a crown of stars,
    Thro’ which her orient hair waves to her waist,
    By which believing mortals hold her fast,
    And in those golden cords are carried even
    Till with her breath she blows them up to Heaven.
    She wears a robe enchased with eagles’ eyes,
    To signify her sight in mysteries;
    Upon each shoulder sits a milk-white dove,
    And at her feet do witty serpents move;
    Her spacious arms do reach from East to west,
    And you may see her heart shine thro’ her breast.
    Her right hand holds a sun with burning rays
    Her left, a curious bunch of golden keys
    With which Heaven’s gates she locketh and displays.
    A crystal mirror hangeth at her breast,
    By which men’s consciences are searched and drest;
    On her coach-wheels, Hypocrisy lies racked;
    And squint-eyed Slander with Vain glory backed,
    Her bright eyes burn to dust, in which shines Fate;
    An Angel ushers her triumphant gait,
    Whilst with her fingers fans of stars she twists,
    And with them beats back Error, clad in mists,
    Eternal Unity behind her shines,
    That Fire and Water, Earth and Air combines;
    Her voice is like a trumpet, loud and shrill,
    Which bids all sounds in earth and heaven be still.”

In that line of work Shakespeare never did a better thing than this.
Indeed, in those days many, perhaps most, people of learning and culture
thought Ben Jonson the better man of the two;--more instructed (as he
doubtless was); with a nicer knowledge of the unities; a nicer knowledge
of mere conventionalities of all sorts: Shakespeare was a humble, plain
Warwickshire man, with no fine tinsel to his wardrobe--had no university
training; not so much schooling or science of any sort as Ben Jonson; had
come up to London--as would seem--to make his fortune, to get money--to
blaze his way: and how he did it!

I suppose a Duchess of Buckingham or any lady of court consequence
would have been rather proud of the obeisance of Ben Jonson, after
that play of “Every Man in his Humour,” and would have given him a
commendatory wave of her fan, much sooner, and more unhesitatingly,
than to the Stratford actor, who took the part of Old Knowell in it.
Ben believed in conventional laws of speech or of dramatic utterance
far more than Shakespeare; he regretted (or perhaps affected to regret
when his jealousies were sleeping), that Will Shakespeare did not shape
his language and his methods with a severer art;[115] he would--very
likely--have lashed him, if he had been under him at school, for his
irregularities of form and of speech--irregularities that grew out of
Shakespeare’s domination of the language, and his will and his power to
make it, in all subtlest phases, the servant, and not the master of his
thought.

Do I seem, then, to be favoring the breakage of customs, and of the rules
of particular grammarians? Yes, unhesitatingly--if you have the mastery
to do it as Shakespeare did it; that is, if you have that finer sense of
the forces and delicacies of language which will enable you to wrest its
periods out of the ruts of every-day traffic, and set them to sonorous
roll over the open ground, which is broad as humanity and limitless as
thought. Parrots must be taught to prate, particle by particle; but the
Bob-o-Lincoln swings himself into his great flood of song as no master
can teach him to sing.

Even now we do not bid final adieu to Ben Jonson; but hope to encounter
him again in the next reign (that of James I.) through the whole of which
he carried his noisy literary mastership.


_Some Prose Writers._

You must not believe, because I have kept mainly by poetic writers in
these later days of Queen Elizabeth, that there were no men who wrote
prose--none who wrote travels, histories, letters of advice; none who
wrote stupid, dull, goodish books; alas, there were plenty of them; there
always are.

But there were some to be remembered too: there was William Camden--to
whom I have briefly alluded already--and of whom, when you read good
histories of this and preceding reigns, you will find frequent mention.
He was a learned man, and a kind man, excellent antiquarian, and taught
Ben Jonson at Westminster School. There was Stow,[116] who wrote a
_Survey of London_, which he knew from top to bottom. He was born in
the centre of it, and as a boy used to fetch milk from a farm at the
Minories, to his home in Cornhill, where his father was a tailor. His
fulness, his truthfulness, his simplicities, and his quaintness have made
his chief book--on London--a much-prized one.

Again there was Hakluyt,[117] who was a church official over in Bristol,
and who compiled _Voyages_ of English seamen which are in every
well-appointed library. Dr. Robertson says in his _History_, “England
is more indebted [to Hakluyt] for its American possessions than to any
man of that age.” Of so much worth is it to be a good geographer! The
“Hakluyt Society” of England will be his enduring monument.

There was also living in those last days of the sixteenth century a
strange, conceited, curious travelling man, Thomas Coryat[118] by name,
who went on foot through Europe, and published (in 1611) what he
called--with rare and unwitting pertinence--_Coryat’s Crudities_. He
affixed to them complimentary mention of himself--whimseys by the poets,
even by so great a man as Ben Jonson--a budget of queer, half-flattering,
half-ironical rigmarole, which (having plenty of money) he had procured
to be written in his favor; and so ushered his book into the world as
something worth large notice. He would have made a capital showman. He
had some training at Oxford, and won his way by an inflexible persistence
into familiarity with men of rank, who made a butt of him. With a certain
gift for language he learned Arabic in some one of his long journeyings,
was said to have knowledge of Persian, and made an oration in that speech
to the Great Mogul--with nothing but language in it. His _Crudities_ are
rarely read; but some letters and fragments relating to later travels of
his, appear in Purchas’ _Pilgrims_. He lays hold upon peculiarities and
littlenesses of life in his work which more sensible men would overlook,
and which give a certain quaint piquancy to what he told; and we listen,
as one might listen to barbers or dressmakers who had just come back from
Paris, and would tell us things about cravats and hair-oil and street
sights that we could learn no otherwheres. Coryat says:--

    “I observe a custom in all those Italian Cities, and tounes
    thro’ the which I passed, that is not used in any other
    countrie that I saw--nor do I think that any other nation of
    Christendom doth use it, but only Italy. The Italian and most
    other strangers that are _cormorant_ in Italy doe always at
    their meales use a little forke, when they cut their meate. For
    while, with their knife which they hold in one hand they cut
    the meate out of the dish, they fasten the forke which they
    hold in their other hand upon the same dish, so that whatsoever
    he be that sitting in the companie of any others at meale,
    should unadvisidly touch the dish of meate with his fingers
    from which alle at the table doe cut, he will give occasion of
    offence unto the company, as having transgressed the laws of
    good manners.

    “This forme of feeding is, I understand, common in all places
    of Italy--their forkes being for the most part made of iron
    or steele, and some of silver--but _these_ are used only by
    gentlemen.

    “I myself have thought good to imitate the Italy fashion by
    this forked cutting of meate not only while I was in Italy, but
    also in Germany, and oftentimes in England, since I came home.”

Thus we may connect the history of silver forks with Tom Coryat’s
_Crudities_, and with the first reported foot-journeys of an Englishman
over the length and breadth of Europe. The wits may have bantered him in
Elizabeth’s day; but his journeyings were opened and closed under James.

Again, there were books which had a little of humor, and a little of
sentiment, with a great deal of fable, and much advice in them; as a
sample of which I may name Mr. Leonard Wright’s _Displaie of Duties,
deck’t with sage Sayings, pythie Sentences, and proper Similes: Pleasant
to read, delightful to hear, and profitable to practice_:[119] By which
singularly inviting title we perceive that he had caught the euphuistic
ways of Mr. John Lyly. In enumerating the infelicities of a man who
marries a shrew, he says:--

    “Hee shall find compact in a little flesh a great number
    of bones too hard to digest. And therefore some doe thinke
    wedlocke to be that same purgatorie which some learned divines
    have so long contended about, or a sharpe penance to bring
    sinful men to Heaven. A merry fellow hearing a preacher saye
    in his sermon that whosoever would be saved must take up and
    beare his cross, ran straight to his wife, and cast _her_ upon
    his back.… Finally, he that will live quietly in wedlock must
    be courteous in speech, cheerful in countenance, provident for
    his house, careful to traine up his children in virtue, and
    patient in bearing the infirmities of his wife. Let all the
    keys hang at her girdle, only the purse at his own. He must
    also be voide of jealousy, which is a vanity to think, and more
    folly to suspect. For eyther it needeth not, or booteth not,
    and to be jealous without a cause is the next way to have a
    cause.

    “This is the only way to make a woman dum:
    To sit and smyle and laugh her out, and not a word but _mum_!”

Quite another style of man was Philip Stubbes,[120] a Puritan
reformer--not to be confounded with John Stubbes who had his right hand
cut off, by order of the Queen, for writing against the impropriety and
villainy of her prospective marriage with a foreign prince--but a kinsman
of his, who wrote wrathily against masques and theatre-going; whipping
with his pen all those roystering poets who made dramas or madrigals, all
the fine-dressed gallants, and all the fans and ruffs of the women as so
many weapons of Satan.

    “One arch or piller,” says he, “wherewith the Devil’s kingdome
    of great ruffes is under propped, is a certain kind of liquid
    matter which they call _starch_, wherein the Devil hath learned
    them to wash and die their ruffes, which, being drie, will
    stand stiff and inflexible about their neckes.”

And he tells a horrific story--as if it were true--about an unfortunate
wicked lady, who being invited to a wedding could not get her ruff
stiffened and plaited as she wanted; so fell to swearing and tearing,
and vowed “that the Devil might have her whenever she wore _neckerchers_
again.” And the Evil One took her at her word, appearing in the guise of
a presentable young man who arranged her ruffs

    “--to her so great contentation and liking, that she became
    enamored with him. The young man kissed her, in the doing
    whereof he writhed her neck in sunder, so she died miserably;
    her body being straightwaies changed into blue and black
    colors, most ugglesome to behold, and her face most deformed
    and fearful to look upon. This being known in the city great
    preparation was made for her burial, and a rich coffin was
    provided, and her fearful body was laid therein. Four men
    assay’d to lift up the corps, but could not move it. Whereat
    the standers-by--marvelling causing the coffin to be opened to
    see the cause thereof, found the body to be taken away, and a
    blacke catte, very leane and deformed, sitting in the coffin,
    setting of great ruffes, and frizzling of haire, to the great
    feare and wonder of all the beholders.”

We do not preach in just that way against fashionable dressing in our
time.

A book on the _Arte of English Poesie_ belongs to those days--supposed
to be the work of George Puttenham[121]--written for the “recreation and
service” of the Queen; it has much good counsel in it--specially in its
latter part; and the author says he wrote it to “help the gentlewomen of
the Court to write good Poetry.” As an exampler, under his discussion of
“Ornament,” he cites what he graciously calls a “sweet and sententious
ditty” from the Queen’s own hand. The reader will be curious perhaps to
see some portion of this:--

    “The doubt of future foes, exiles my present joy,
    And wit me warnes to shun such snares as threaten mine annoy,
    For falsehood now doth flow, and subject faith doth ebbe,
    Which would not be, if reason rul’d, or wisdome wev’d the webbe.”

This much will serve for our republican delectation; but it is not the
only instance in which we find mention of her Majesty’s dalliance with
verse: In an old book called the _Garden of the Muses_, of the date of
1600, the author says the flowers are gathered out of many excellent
speeches spoken to her Majesty at triumphs, masques, and shows, as also
out of divers choice ditties sung to her; and “some especially proceeding
from her own most sacred selfe.” No one of them, however, would have
ranked her with any of the poets of whom we have made particular mention;
but for fine, clear, nervous, masculine English, to put into a letter, or
into a despatch, or into a closet scolding, I suspect she would have held
rank with any of them.

If not a poet, she led poets into gracious ways of speech. Her culture,
her clear perceptions, her love of pageants even, her intolerance of
all forms of dulness or slowness, her very vanities--were all of them
stimulants to those who could put glowing thought into musical language.
Her high ruff, her jewelled corsage, her flashing eye, her swift
impulses, her perils, her triumphs, her audacities, her maidenhood--all
drew flatteries that heaped themselves in songs and sonnets. So live a
woman and so live a Queen magnetized dulness into speech.


_The Queen’s Progresses._

I spoke but now of her love of pageants; every visiting prince from
every great neighbor kingdom was honored with a pageant; every foreign
suitor to her maidenly graces--whether looked on with favor or disfavor
(as to which her eye and lip told no tales)--brought gala-days to London
streets--brought revels, and bear-baitings, and high passages of arms,
and swaying of pennons and welcoming odes. Many and many a time the
roystering poets I named to you--the Greenes, the Marlowes, the Jonsons,
the Peeles, may have looked out from the Mermaid Tavern windows upon
the royal processions that swept with gold-cloth, and crimson housings
through Cheapside, where every house blazed with welcoming banners, and
every casement was crowded with the faces of the onlookers.

Thereby, too, she would very likely have passed in her famous
“Progresses” to her good friends in the eastern counties; or to her loved
Lord Burleigh, or to Cecil, at their fine place of Theobalds’ Park,[122]
near Waltham Cross. True, old Burleigh was wont to complain that her
Majesty made him frequent visits, and that every one cost him a matter of
two or three thousand pounds. Indeed it was no small affair to take in
the Queen with her attendants. Hospitable people of our day are sometimes
taken aback by an easy-going friend who comes suddenly on a visit with a
wife, and four or five children, and Saratoga trunks, and two or three
nursery-maids, and a few poodles and a fox-terrier; but think of the
Queen, with her tiring-women, and her ladies of the chamber, and her
ushers, and her grand falconer, and her master of the hounds, and her
flesher--who knows the cuts she likes--and her cook, and her secretary,
and her fifty yeomen of the guard, and her sumpter mules, and her
chaplain, and her laundry-women, and her fine-starchers! No wonder Lord
Burleigh groaned when he received a little notelet from his dear Queen
saying she was coming down upon him--for a week or ten days.

And Elizabeth loved these little surprises overmuch, and the progress
along the high roads thither and back, which so fed her vanities: She was
a woman of thrift withal, and loved her savings; and the kitchen fires at
Nonsuch palace, or at Greenwich or at Richmond, might go out for a time
while she was away upon these junketings.

I know that my young readers will be snuggling in their minds a memory
of that greatest Progress of hers, and that grandest of all private
entertainments--at Kenilworth Castle; wondering, maybe, if that charming,
yet over-sad story of Walter Scott’s is true to the very life? And
inasmuch as they will be devouring that book, I suspect, a great deal
oftener than they will read Laneham’s account of the great entertainment,
or Gascoigne’s,[123] I will tell them how much, and where it varies
from the true record. There _was_ a Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester--a
brilliant man, elegant in speech, in person, in manner--at a court where
his nephew Philip Sidney had shone--altogether such a courtier as Scott
has painted him: And the Queen had regarded him tenderly--so tenderly
that it became the talk of her household and of the world. It is certain,
too, that Leicester gave to the Queen a magnificent entertainment at
his princely castle of Kenilworth, in the month of July, 1575. There
were giants, there were Tritons, there were floating islands. Lawns
were turned into lakes, and lakes were bridged with huge structures,
roofed with crimson canopies, where fairies greeted the great guest with
cornucopias of flowers and fruits. There was fairy music too; there were
dances and plays and fireworks, that lighted all the region round about
with a blaze of burning darts, and streams and hail of fire-sparks.

In all this there is no exaggeration in Scott’s picturing; none either
in his portraiture of the coquetries and princely graces of the Queen. It
is probable that no juster and truer picture of her aspect and bearing,
and of the more salient points of her character ever will or can be drawn.

Thither, too, had come--from all the country round--yeomen, strolling
players, adventurous youths, quick to look admiringly after that
brilliant type of knighthood Sir Philip Sidney, then in his twenty-first
year, and showing his gay trappings in the royal retinue: amongst such
youths were, very likely, Michael Drayton and William Shakespeare, boys
both in that day, just turned of eleven, and making light of the ten or
twelve miles of open and beautiful country which lay between Kenilworth
and their homes of Atherstone and of Stratford-upon-Avon.

It is true too, that Leicester, so admired of the Queen, and who was her
host, had once married an Amy Robsart: true, too, that this Amy Robsart
had died in a strangely sudden way at an old manor-house of Cumnor; and
true that a certain Foster and Varney, who were dependants of Leicester,
did in some sense have her in their keeping. But--and here the
divergence from history begins--this poor Amy Robsart had been married to
Sir Robert Dudley before he came to the title of Leicester, and she died
in the mysterious way alluded to, some fifteen years before these revels
of Kenilworth: but not before Elizabeth had been attracted by the proud
and noble bearing of Robert Dudley. Her fondness for him began about the
year 1559. And it was this early fondness of hers which gave color to
the story that he had secretly caused the death of Amy Robsart. The real
truth will probably never be known: there was a public inquiry (not so
full, he said, as he could have wished) which acquitted Leicester; but
his character was such that he never outlived suspicion. I observe that
Mr. Motley, in his _History of the United Netherlands_, on the faith of a
paper in the Record Office, avers Leicester’s innocence; but the tenor of
a life counts for more than one justifying document in measuring a man’s
moral make-up.

In the year 1575, when the revels of Kenilworth occurred, the Earl of
Leicester was a widower and Amy Robsart had been ten years mouldering in
her grave: but in the year 1576 the young Countess of Essex suddenly
became a widow, and was married privately, very shortly afterward, to the
Earl of Leicester. In the next year, 1577, the story was blazed abroad,
and the Queen showed her appreciation of the sudden match by sending
Leicester straight to the Tower. But she forgave him presently. And out
of these scattered actualities, as regards the Earl, Sir Walter Scott has
embroidered his delightful romance.

But we have already brought our literary mention up to a point far beyond
this in the Queen’s life; up to a point where Shakespeare, instead of
tearing over hedge-rows and meadows to see the Tritons and the harlequins
of Kenilworth, has put his own Tritons to swimming in limpid verse, and
has put his bloated, dying Falstaff to “babbling o’ green fields.” The
Queen, too, who has listened--besides these revels--to the tender music
of Spenser and outlived him; who has heard the gracious courtliness
of Sidney, and outlived him; who has lent a willing ear to the young
flatteries of Raleigh and seen him ripen into a gray-haired adventurer
of the seas; who has watched the future Lord Keeper, Francis Bacon, as
he has shot up from boyhood into the stateliness of middle age; who has
seen the worshipful Master John Lyly grow up, and chant his euphuism and
sing his songs and die: she too, now, is feeling the years--brilliant as
they may be in achievement--count and weigh upon her.

Long as she could, she cherished all the illusions of youth. That poor
old face of hers was, I suspect, whited and reddened with other pigments
than what the blood made, as the years went by. Such out-of-door sports
as bear-baiting became rarer and rarer with her; and she loved better
such fun as the fat Falstaff made, in her theatre of Whitehall. But only
nicest observers saw the change; and she never admitted it--perhaps not
to herself.

The gossiping Paul Hentzner, who had an ambassador’s chances of
observation, says of her, on her way to chapel at Greenwich:--

    “Next came the Queen, in her sixty-fifth year, as we are
    told--very majestic: her face, oblong, fair but wrinkled; her
    eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her nose a little hooked.
    She had in her ears two pearls with very rich drops; and she
    had on a necklace of exceeding fine jewels. She was dressed in
    white silk bordered with pearls of the size of beans, and over
    it a mantle of black silk shot with silver threads.”

This, observe, was over twenty years after the revels of Kenilworth: and
two years beyond this date, when the Queen was sixty-seven, a courtier
writes: “Her Majesty is well, and every second day is on horseback.” No
suitor could say a pleasanter thing to her than--“Your majesty is looking
very young!” She danced, when it made her old bones ache to dance.

No suitor could say a more inapt thing than to express a fear that a
revel, or a play, or a hunt, or a dance might possibly fatigue her
Majesty. It would bring a warning shake of the head that made the jewels
rattle.

But at last the days come--as like days are coming to us all--when she
can counterfeit youth no longer. The plays entice her no more. The three
thousand court dresses that she left, hang unused in her wardrobe:
weaknesses hem her in, turn which way she may. Cecil, the son of her old
favorite Burleigh, urges that she must quit her chair--which she clung
to, propped with pillows--that she _must_ take to her bed. “_Must_,”
she cries, with a kindling of her old passionate life, “little man,
little man, thy father never dared to use such a word to his Queen.”
The gust passes; and she clings to life, as all do, who have such fast,
hard grip upon it. In short periods of languor and repose, taking kindly
to the issue--going out, as it were, like a lamp. Then, by some windy
burst of passion--of hate, flaming up red and white and hot--her voice a
scream, her boding of the end a craze, her tenacity of purpose dragging
all friends, all hopes, all the world to the terrible edge where she
stands--the edge where Essex stood (she bethinks herself with a wild
tempest of tears)--the edge where Marie Stuart stood at Fotheringay,
in her comely widow’s dress; thinks of this with a shrug that means
acquiescence, that means stubborn recognition of a fatal duty: _that_
ghost does no way disturb her.

But there are others which well may. Shall we tell them over?

No; let us leave her with her confessor, saying prayers maybe; her rings
on her fingers; the lace upon her pillow; not forgetting certain fine
coquetries to the last: strong-souled, keen-thoughted, ambitious, proud,
vindictive, passionate woman, with her streaks of tenderness out of which
bitter tears flowed--out of which kindlinesses crept to sun themselves,
but were quick overshadowed by her pride.

Farewell to her!

       *       *       *       *       *

In our next talk we shall meet a King--but a King who is less a man than
this Queen who is dead.



FOOTNOTES


[1]

    The breeze which swept away the smoke
      Round Norham Castle rolled,
    When all the loud artillery spoke,
    With lightning flash and thunder stroke,
      As Marmion left the hold.

[2] London was possibly a British settlement before the Romans built
there; though latest investigators, I think, favor the contrary opinion.

[3]

    “To Cattraeth’s vale, in glittering row,
    Twice two hundred warriors go;
    Every warrior’s manly neck
    Chains of regal honor deck,
    Wreathed in many a golden link:
    From the golden cup they drink
    Nectar that the bees produce,
    Or the grape’s ecstatic juice,
    Flush’d with mirth and hope they burn,
    But none from Cattraeth’s vale return
    Save Aëron brave, and Conan strong
    (Bursting through the bloody throng),
    And I, the meanest of them all
    That live to weep and sing their fall.”

[4] Lady CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH SCHREIBER (_née_ GUEST) made the first
translations which brought these Welsh romances into vogue. Among them
is _Geraint, the son of Erbin_, which in our day has developed into the
delightful _Geraint and Enid_. Mr. W. F. Skene has published the texts of
various poems (from original MSS.) attributed to Taliesin, Aneurin, and
others, with translations by D. Sylvan Evans and Robert Williams.

[5] There was a sort of Christianizing of Britain in later Romish times,
but not much warmth or spending force in it; and Wright assures us that
amid all the Roman remains thus far brought to light of mosaics and
vases, only one Christian symbol has been found. This is on a tessellated
pavement of a Roman villa at Frampton, in Dorsetshire. Lysons published
an engraving of this pavement.

See also GREEN (introduction to _Making of England_) in reference to
Christian inscriptions and ornaments of Roman date. He makes no allusion
to the Frampton symbol.

[6] GREEN: _Making of England_, p. 337. A church he erected at
Bradford-on-Avon stands in almost perfect preservation to-day. MURRAY’S
_Alph. Eng. Handbook_. The Editor of Guide Book makes an error in date of
the erection.

[7] _Sonnet composed or suggested during a tour in Scotland, in summer of
1833._

                “Isle of Columba’s Cell,
    Where Christian piety’s soul-cheering spark,
    (Kindled from Heaven between the light and dark
    Of time) shone like the morning-star,--farewell!”

[8] Of late years, owing to the difficulty of working, the mining and
manufacture of the jet has nearly gone by--other carbon seams in Spain
offering better and more economic results; these latter, however, still
bear the name of Whitby Jet.

[9] I ought to mention that recent critics have questioned if all the
verse usually attributed to Cædmon was really written by him: nay, there
have been queries--if the picture of Satan itself was not the work of
another hand. An analysis of the evidence, by Thomas Arnold, may be found
in _Ency. Br._ See, also, _Making of England_, Chap. VII., note, p. 370.

[10] “During his last days verses of his own English tongue broke from
time to time from the master’s lip--rude runes that told how before the
‘need-fare,’ Death’s stern ‘must go,’ none can enough bethink him what is
to be his doom for good or ill. The tears of Beda’s scholars mingled with
his song. So the days rolled on to Ascension tide,” etc.

[11] It is of record in MATTHEW OF WESTMINSTER, a Benedictine monk of the
fourteenth century--_Flores Historiarum_--first printed in 1567. “_Nuda
equum ascendens, crines capitis et tricas dissolvens, corpus suum totum,
prater crura candidissima inde velavit._” The tradition is subject of
crude mention in the _Poly-olbion_ of DRAYTON; I also refer the reader to
the charming _Leofric and Godiva_ of LANDOR.

[12] _Harold: the Last of the Saxon Kings_; first published in 1848
and dedicated to the Hon. C. T. D’Eyncourt, M.P., whose valuable
library--says BULWER--supplied much of the material needed for the
prosecution of the work.

[13] GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH (Bishop of St. Asaph), d. 1154. His _Cronicon,
sive Historia Britonum_ first printed in 1508: translated into Eng.,
1718. Vid. _Wright’s Essays Arch. Sub._, 1861.

[14] Such exception as the name warrants, must be made in favor of
NENNIUS, § 50, A.D. 452.

[15] Other important Arthurian localities belong to the north and west of
England; and whoso is curious in such matters, will read with interest
Mr. STUART GLENNIE’S ingenious argument to prove that Scotland was the
great cradle of Arthurian Romance. _Early English Text Society, Part
iii._, 1869.

[16] The fable is Scandinavian. The Anglo-Saxon version, dating probably
from the seventh century, makes it a very important way-mark in the
linguistic history of England. Eng. editions are numerous: among
them--those of KEMBLE, 1833-7: THORPE, 1855 and 1875: ARNOLD, 1876: also
(Am. ed.) HARRISON, 1883: Translations accompany the three first named: a
more recent one has appeared (1883) by DR. GARNETT of Md.

[17] WALTER MAP, or MAPES, was born on the borders of Wales about 1143,
and was living as Archdeacon at Oxford as late as 1196: possibly this
was the Walter who supplied material to GEOFFREY of Monmouth; there was
however another WALTER (CALIENUS) who was also Archdeacon at Oxford.

[18] Layamon’s work supposed to date (there being only internal evidence
of its epoch) in the first decade of the thirteenth century. Vid. MARSH:
_English Language and Early Literature_. Lecture IV. An edition, with
translation, was published by Sir Frederic Madden in 1857.

[19] Among other direct Arthurian growths may be noted MORRIS’S _Defence
of Guinevere_; ARNOLD’S _Tristram and Issult_; QUINET’S _Merlin_,
WAGNER’S Operatic Poems, and SMITH’S _Edwin of Deira_.

[20] ORDERIC VITALIS, b. 1075; d. 1150. Of Abbey of St. Evroult, in
Normandy. An edition of his _Ecclesiastical History of England and
Normandy_ was published in 1826, with notice of writer, by GUIZOT.

[21] WILLIAM OF MALMSBURY: dates uncertain; his record terminates with
year 1143.

[22] MATTHEW PARIS, 1200-1259, a monk of St. Albans. His _Historia Major_
extends from 1235 to 1259.

[23] WILLIAM OF NEWBURGH, b. 1136; d. 1208. New edition of his record
(_Hist. Rerum Anglicarum_), edited by RICHARD HOWLET, published in 1884.

[24] ROGER DE HOVEDEN of twelfth century, (date uncertain.) His annals
first published in 1595.

[25] I do not mean to say that Scott’s portraitures may be taken as
archæologic data, or that one in search of the last and minutest truths
respecting our Welsh or Saxon progenitors should not go to more recondite
sources; meantime you will get very much from the reading of Scott to
aid you in forming an image of those times; and, what is better still,
you will very likely carry from the Romancer’s glowing pages a sharpened
appetite for the more careful but duller work of the historians proper.

[26] I give fragment of one, of the reign of Edward II., cited by MR.
MARSH: p. 247, _English Language and Early Literature_.

    “Quant honme deit parleir, videat qua verba loquatur;
    Sen covent aver, ne stultior inveniatur,
    Quando quis loquitur, bote resoun reste therynne
    Derisum patitur, ant lutel so shal he wynne,” _etc._

[27] Robert of Gloucester lived in the latter part of the thirteenth
century, perhaps surviving into the fourteenth. In addition to his
_Chronicle of England_, he is thought to have written _Lives and Legends
of the English Saints_.

[28] _Il milione di Messer Marco Polo, Veneziano._ Florence, 1827. MARCO
POLO d. 1323.

[29] ODORIC, a priest of Pordenone in Friuli, who went on Church mission
about 1318. His narrative is to be found in the _Ramusio Col._, 2d Vol.
1574. CARPINI (JOANNES _de Plano_), was a Franciscan from near Perugia,
who travelled East about 1245. HAKLUYT has portions of his narrative: but
full text is only in _Recueil de Voyages_, Vol. IV., by M. D’AVEZAC.

[30] Messrs. NICHOLSON and YULE, who are sponsors for the elaborate
article in the _Br. Ency._

[31] Page 407, chap. viii.

[32] An abbot presided over monasteries--sometimes independent of the
bishop--sometimes (in a degree) subject. Priors also had presidence over
some religious houses--but theirs was usually a delegated authority. An
æsthetic abbot or prior was always building--or always getting new colors
for the _missal_ work in the _scriptorium_: hunting abbots were thinking
more of the refectory. At least six religious services were held a day,
and always midnight mass. It was easy, but not wholly a life of idleness.
A bell summoned to breakfast, and bells to mass. Of a sunny day--monks
were teaching boys one side of the cloister--artistic monks working at
their missals the other; perhaps under such prior as he of _Jorvaulx_
(Scott’s Ivanhoe) some young monk would be training his hawks or dogs. An
interesting abstract of the Rule of the Benedictines may be found under
Monachism, _Br. Ency._, Vol. xvi.

[33] College Statutes of Merton date from 1274; those of University from
1280; and of Balliol from 1282. Paper of GEORGE C. BRODERICK, _Nineteenth
Century_, September, 1882.

[34] The story of the Black Prince meets with revival in our day, by
the recent publication of “_Le Prince Noir, Poeme du Herault d’Armes
Chandos_,” edited, translated, etc., by FRANCISQUE MICHEL, F.A.S.
Fotheringham: London, 1884. The original MS. is understood to be
preserved in the Library of Worcester College, Oxford.

[35] Precise dates are wanting with respect to Langlande. Facts
respecting his personal history are derived from what leaks out in his
poem, and from interpolated notes (in a foreign hand) upon certain MS.
copies. Of three different texts (published by the _E. E. Text Soc._)
Mr. SKEAT dates one about 1362--a second in or about 1377, and the third
still later. The first imprint has date of 1550.

[36] Not that he is specially free from foreign vocables: MARSH (_Lec.
VI., Eng. Language_) gives his percentage of Anglo-Saxon words in _Passus
XIV._ at only 84. See also SKEAT’S _Genl. Preface_, p. xxxiii.

[37] In saying this I follow literal statement of the poem (_Pass._
xviii., 12,948), as do TYRWHIT, PRICE, and Rev. Mr. SKEAT, whose opinions
overweigh the objections of Mr. WRIGHT, (_Introduction_, p. ix., note 3,
to WRIGHT’S _Piers Plowman_.) The Christian name William seems determined
by a find of SIR FREDERIC MADDEN on the fly-leaf of a MS. in the library
of Trinity College, Dublin.

_Piers Plowman’s Creed_, often printed with the _Vision_, is now by best
critics counted the work of another hand.

[38] Church chroniclers who were contemporaries of WYCLIF, girded at him
as a blasphemer. CAPGRAVE: _Cron. of Eng. (Rolls Series)_, speaks of him
as “the orgon of the devel, the enmy of the Cherch, the confusion of men,
the ydol of heresie,” etc. NETTER collected his (alleged) false doctrines
under title of _Bundles of Tares (Fasciculi Zizaniorum)_, Ed. by SHIRLEY,
1858. Dr. ROBT. VAUGHAN is author of a very pleasant monograph on WYCLIF,
with much topographic lore. Dr. LECHLER is a more scholarly contributor
to WYCLIF literature; and the Early Eng. Text Soc. has published (1880)
MATHEWS’ Ed. of “_hitherto unprinted Eng. works_ of WYCLIF, with notice
of his life.” RUDOLPH BUDDENSEIG, (of Dresden) has Ed. his polemical
works in Latin (old) besides contributing an interesting notice for the
anniversary just passed. Nor can I forbear naming in this connection
the very eloquent quin-centenary address of Dr. RICHARD S. STORRS, of
Brooklyn, N. Y.

[39] Those who love books which are royal in their dignities of print and
paper, will be interested in FORSHALL & MADDEN’S elegant 4to. edition of
the Wyclifite versions of the Bible.

[40] The biographers used to say 1328: this is now thought inadmissible
by most commentators. FURNIVAL makes the birth-year 1340--in which he
is followed by the two WARDS, and by Professor MINTO (_Br. Ency._).
Evidence, however, is not as yet conclusive; and there is an even chance
that further investigations may set back the birth-year to a date which
will better justify and make more seemly those croakings of age which
crept into some of the latter verse of the poet. For some facts looking
in that direction, and for certain interesting genealogic Chaucer
puzzles, see paper in _London Athenæum_ for January 29, 1881, by WALTER
RYE.

[41] _House of Fame_, Book II.

[42] There is question of the authenticity of the translation usually
attributed to Chaucer--of which there is only one fifteenth century MS.
extant. Some version, however, Chaucer did make, if his own averment is
to be credited. Prof. MINTO (_Br. Ency._) accepts the well-known version;
so does WARD (_Men of Letters_); Messrs. BRADSHAW (of Cambridge) and
Prof. TEN BRINK doubt--a doubt in which Mr. HUMPHREY WARD (_Eng. Poets_)
seems to share.

[43] SANDRAS: _Étude sur Chaucer_.

[44] A notable edition is that of Prof. Lounsbury (Ginn & Heath, 1877);
and it is much to be hoped that the same editor will bring his scholarly
method of estimating dates, sources, and varying texts, to some more
important Chaucerian labors.

[45] Another possible epoch of meeting with Petrarch may have been in the
year 1368, when at the junketings attending the wedding of Prince Lionel
(in Milan), Petrarch was present; also--perhaps--Chaucer in the suite of
the Prince. FROISSART makes note of the _Feste_, but without mention of
either poet, or of his own presence. _Chap. ccxlvii., Liv. I._

WALTER BESANT (_Br. Ency., Art. Froissart_), I observe, avers the
presence of all three--though without giving authorities. MURATORI
(_Annali_) mentions Petrarch as seated among the princely guests--_tanta
era la di lui riputazione_--but there is, naturally enough, no naming of
Chaucer or Froissart.

[46] “_Nous lui lairrons toute seule faire les honneurs; nous ne irons ni
viendrons en nulle place ou elle soit_,” etc.--Chroniques de SIRE JEAN
FROISSART (_J. A. Buchon_), tome iii., p. 236. Paris, 1835.

[47] “In the spandrils are the arms of Chaucer on the dexter side, and
on the sinister, Chaucer impaling those of (Roet) his wife.”--_Appendix
III._ to FURNIVAL, _Temporary Preface_, etc.

[48] Some MSS. have this poem with title of _Supplication to King
Richard_.

[49] This--in the engraving; the autotype published by the Chaucer
Society gives, unfortunately, a very blurred effect to the upper part of
the face: but who can doubt the real quality of Chaucer’s eye?

[50] The name, indeed, by some strange metonymy not easily explicable,
had become “Talbot.” There is a later “Tabard,” dreadfully new, on the
corner of “Talbot Inn Yard,” 85 High Street, Borough.

[51] Dean Stanley, without doubt in error, in measuring the pilgrimage by
twenty-four hours. See _Temp. Pref. to Six Text Edit._ FURNIVAL.

[52] _Nov. VI. Giorn. IX._ It may be open to question if Chaucer took
scent from this trail, or from some as malodorous _Fr. Fabliau_--as
TYRWHITT and WRIGHT suggest. The quest is not a savory one.

[53] His dethronement preceded his death, by a twelvemonth or more.

[54] Edited by Dr. Reinhold Pauli, London, 1857. Henry Morley (_Eng.
Writers_, IV., p. 238) enumerates a score or more of existing MSS. of the
poem. The first printed edition was that of Caxton, 1483.

[55] A more modern and accepted translation--by a wealthy Welsh
gentleman, Thos. Johnes--was luxuriously printed on his private press at
Hafod, Cardiganshire, in 1803.

[56] There is a manuscript copy in the (so-called) _Bibliothèque du Roi_
at Paris. A certain number--among them, the _Espinette Amoureuse_--appear
in the _Buchon_ edition of the _Chroniques_; Paris, 1835.

[57] John Lydgate: dates of birth and death unsettled.

[58] _The Storie of Thebe_ and _the Troy booke_ were among his
ambitious works. Skeat gives his epoch “about 1420,” and cites _London
Lickpenny_--copying from the Harleian MS. (367) in the British Museum.

[59] James I. (of Scotland), b. 1394 and was murdered 1437.

_The King’s Quair_, from which quotation is made, was written in 1423.
It is a poem of nearly 1400 lines, of which only one MS. exists--in the
Bodleian Library.

An edition by Chalmers (1824) embodies many errors: the only trustworthy
reading is that edited by the Rev. Walter Skeat for the Scottish Text
Soc. (1883-4). A certain _modernizing_ belongs of course to the citation
I make--as well as to many others I have made and shall make.

[60] Priest at Diss in Norfolk, b. (about) 1460; d. 1529. Best edition of
works edited by Rev. A. Dyce, 1843.

[61] Bedford (when Regent of France) is supposed to have transported to
England the famous Louvre Library of Charles V. (of France). There were
910 vols., according to the catalogue drawn up by Gilles Mallet--“the
greater number written on fine vellum and magnificently bound.”

[62] 1455 to 1485.

[63] Miss Halsted in her _Richard III._, chap. viii. (following the
_Historic Doubts_ of Horace Walpole), makes a kindly attempt to overset
the Shakespearean view of Richard’s character--in which, however, it must
be said that she is only very moderately successful. See also a more
recent effort in the same direction by Alfred O. Legge (_The Unpopular
King, etc._ London, 1885).

[64] Caxton had been concerned, in company with Colard Mansion, in
printing other books, on the Continent, at an earlier date than
this. The first book “set up” in England, was probably Caxton’s
translation--entitled “_The Recuyle of the Histories of Troye_.” Vid.
Blade’s _William Caxton_: London, 1882.

[65] Noticeable among these Louis de Bruges, Seigneur de la
Gruthuyse--afterward made (by Edward IV. of England) Earl of Winchester.

[66] More frequently called _Juliana Berners_--supposed relative of the
Lords Berners and Abbess of Sopwell. Rev. Mr. Skeat, however--a very
competent witness--confirms the reading given. For discussion of the
question see the _Angler’s Note Book_, No. iv. (1884) and opinions of
Messrs. Quaritch & Westwood.

[67] The authenticity of these letters, published by John Fenn, Esq.,
F.A.S., has been questioned by Herman Merivale and others; James
Gairdner, however (of the Record office), has argued in their favor, and
would seem to have put the question at rest.

[68] Fuller, in his _Worthies of England_, says “The comedian is not
excusable by some alteration of his name, seeing the vicinity of
sounds intrench on the memory of a worthy Knight; and few do heed the
inconsiderable difference in spelling their names.”

[69] The equipment of a parsonage house in Kent in those days, is
set forth in full inventory (from MS. in the Rolls House) by Mr.
Froude.--_History of England_, chap. i, p. 47.

[70] Not to be confounded with William Lilly the astrologer of the
succeeding century. William Lilly of St. Paul’s was b. 1468; d. (of the
plague) in 1532. His Latin Grammar was first published in 1513.

[71] William Camden, antiquary and chronicler; b. 1551; d. 1623. _Annales
Rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum regnante Elizabetha_, pub. 1615. In 1597
he published a Greek Grammar--for the Westminster boys; he being at the
time head-master of the school.

[72] _Erasmus_: by Robert Blackley Drummond (chap. vii.) London, 1873.

[73] Cranmer, b. 1489; d. 1556.

Complete edition of his works published 1834 (Rev. H. Jenkyns). Cranmer’s
_Bible_ so called, because accompanied by a prologue, written by Thomas
Cranmer, Archbishop, etc.

[74] There are many reasons for doubting if these lines were from
Shakespeare’s own hand. Emerson (_Representative Men_)--rarely given to
Literary criticism, remarks upon “the bad rhythm of the compliment to
Queen Elizabeth” as unworthy the great Dramatist: so too, he doubts,
though with less reason--the Shakespearean origin of the Wolsey
Soliloquy. See also Trans. New Shakespere Society for 1874. Part I.
(Spedding _et al._)

[75] William Tyndale, b. about 1480; d. (burned at the stake) 1536. G.
P. Marsh (_Eng. Language and Early Lit._) says “Tyndale’s translation
of the New Testament has exerted a more marked influence upon English
philology than any other native work between the ages of Chaucer and of
Shakespeare.”

[76] Latimer (Hugh) b. 1491; d. (at the stake) 1555. He was educated
at Cambridge--came to be Bishop of Worcester--wrote much, wittily and
strongly. A collection of his Sermons was published in 1570-71; and there
have been many later issues.

[77] John Foxe, b. 1517; d. 1587. He was a native of Boston,
Lincolnshire; was educated at Oxford; his _History of the Acts and
Monuments of the Church_ was first published in England in 1563. There
was an earlier edition published at Strasbourg in 1554.

[78] Born near Haddington, Scotland, in 1505 (d. 1572); bred a friar;
was prisoner in France in 1547; resided long time at Geneva; returned to
Scotland in 1559. Life by Laing (1847) and by Brandes (1863); Swinburne’s
_Bothwell_, Act iv., gives dramatic rendering of a sermon by John Knox.
See also Carlyle’s _Heroes and Hero-worship_, Lecture IV.

[79] In the issue of _Sternhold and Hopkins’ Psalmody_ of 1549 one year
after Sternhold’s death, there were 37 psalms by Sternhold, and 7 by
Hopkins. In subsequent editions more of Hopkins’ work was added.

[80] 34 and 35 Henry VIII.: A.D. 1542-43. The full text (_Statutes of
the Realm_, Vol. III., pp. 895-7) gives some alleviating provisions in
respect to “Noble women and gentle women, who reade to themselves;” and
the same Statute makes particular and warning mention of the “Craftye,
false and untrue translation of Tyndale.”

[81] A coarse comedy written (probably) by John Still, one time Bishop
of Bath. Its title on the imprint of 1575 runs thus:--“_A ryght pithy,
pleasant and merie Comedy, intytuled Gammer Gurton’s Nedle; played on the
Stage not longe ago in Christes Colledge, in Cambridge, made by Mr. S.,
Master of Art._”

[82] Sir Thomas Wyatt (or Wyat), b. 1503; d. 1542. The Earl of Surrey
(Henry Howard, and cousin to Catharine Howard, one of the wives of Henry
VIII.), b. about 1517, and beheaded 1547.

[83] Understood to be based on the relations of a certain _Unfortunate
Traveller_ (Jack Wilton) by Nash, 1595. The story was credited by
Drayton, Winstanley, the _Athenæ Oxonienses_ of Wood (edition of 1721),
by Walpole (_Noble Authors_), and by Warton: The relations spoken of,
however, show anachronisms which forbid their acceptance.

[84] B. 1515; d. 1568. His works (in English) were collected and edited
by Bennett in 1761. Fuller (_of the Worthies_) writes of Ascham: “He was
an honest man and a good shooter. His _Toxophilus_ is a good book for
young men; his _Scholemaster_ for old; his _Epistles_ for all men.”

[85] Report of Giacomo Soranzo (Venetian Ambassador) under date of 1554:
Rawdon Brown’s Calendar State Papers, 1534-54.

[86] Rawdon Brown’s Calendar State Papers, 1554. From Venetian Archives.

[87] A Thomas Sackville, b. 1527; d. 1608, was author of a portion of
_Mirror for Magistrates_; also associated with Thomas Norton, in
production of the Tragedy of _Gorboduc_.

[88] Thomas Tusser, b. about 1527; d. 1580.

[89] Raphael Holinshed, d. about 1580. First edition of his Chronicle was
published in 1577.

[90] William Cecil, b. 1520; d. 1598. Biography by Nares, 1828-31.

[91] Richard Hooker (1553-1600). Edition of his works (by Keble) first
appeared 1836. First book of _Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity_ has been
edited for Clarendon Press Series by R. W. Church, 1868.

[92] Grosart, in his _Life of Spenser_ (pp. 236-37), gives good reasons
for doubting this story which is based mainly on the Jonson-Drummond
interviews. Grosart also questions--as Prof. John Wilson had done before
him--all the allegations of Spenser’s extreme indigence.

[93] Philip Sidney, b. 1554; d. 1586.

[94] The first edition of Rinaldo was printed at Venice in 1562: this
great epic was completed at Padua in 1575.

[95] John Lyly, b. 1554; d. 1606.

[96] The style of Lyly has been traced by Dr. Landmann, an ingenious
German critic, to the influence of Don Antonio de Guevara, a Spanish
author, who wrote _El Libro Aureo de Marco Aurelio_, 1529. It was
translated into English by Lord Berners in 1531 (published in 1534).

[97] James Spedding, b. 1803; d. 1881. His chief work was the Bacon life;
and there is something pathetic in the thought of a man of Spedding’s
attainments, honesty of purpose, and unflagging industry, devoting thirty
of the best years of his life to a vindication of Bacon’s character. His
aggressive attitude in respect to Macaulay is particularly shown in his
_Evenings with a Reviewer_ (2 vols., 8vo), in which he certainly makes
chaff of a good deal of Macaulay’s arraignment.

[98] We are disinclined, however, to accept the same biographer’s over-mild
treatment of the bribe-taking, as a “moral negligence”--coupling it with
Dr. Johnson’s moral delinquency of lying a-bed in the morning! See closing
pages of _Evenings with a Reviewer_.

[99] The extraordinary habits of Hobbes are made subject of pleasant
illustrative comment in Sydney Smith’s (so-called) _Sketches of Moral
Philosophy_, Lecture XXVI.

[100] Hobbes’ _Thucydides_ was first published in the year 1628. An
earlier English version (1550) was, in effect, only a translation of a
translation, being based upon the French of Claude de Seyssel, Bishop of
Marseilles. Hobbes sneers at this, and certainly made a better one--very
literal, sometimes tame--sometimes vulgar, but remaining the best until
the issue of Dean Smith’s (1753).

[101] Among the best known with which Chapman’s name is connected
(jointly with Ben Jonson’s and Marston’s) is “_Eastward Hoe!_” containing
a good many satirical things upon the Scotch--which proved a dangerous
game--under James; and came near to putting the authors in limbo.

[102] B. 1564; d. 1593.

[103] Henceforth one who would know of Marlowe, and read what he wrote,
in text which comes nearest the dramatist’s own (for we can hardly hope
for absolute certainty) should consult the recent scholarly edition,
edited by A. H. Bullen (Nimmo, 1884), in three volumes. We doubt,
however, if such popular re-establishment of the poet’s fame can be
anticipated as would seem to be foreshadowed in the wishes and glowing
encomiums of his editor.

[104] B. about 1556; d. 1625.

[105] Thomas Nashe, b. about 1564; d. 1601.

[106] B. 1560(?); d. 1592. See Grosart’s edition of his writings (in Huth
Library) where Dr. G. gives the best color possible to his life and works.

[107] B. 1558 or thereabout; and d. 1598.

[108] Thomas Dekker, b. about 1568; d. about 1640. Best edition of his
miscellaneous works that of Grosart (Huth Library), which is charming
in its print and its pictures--even to the poet in his bed, busy at his
_Dreame_.

[109] Drayton, b. 1563; d. 1631. An edition of his works (still
incomplete) by Rev. R. Hooper is the most recent.

[110] There is an exquisite sonnet usually attributed to him
beginning--“Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part;” but
this is so very much better than all his other sonnets, that I cannot
help sharing the doubts of those who question its Drayton origin. If
Drayton’s own, the sonnet certainly shows a delicacy of expression, and a
romanticism of hue quite exceptional with him.

[111] Ben Jonson, b. 1573; d. 1637.

[112] Prefacing the edition of Jonson’s works of 1816; also in the
elegant re-issue of the same--under editorship of Colonel Cunningham in
1875. Gifford seems to have spent his force (of a biographic sort) in
picking up from various contemporary authors whatever contained a sneer
at Jonson, and exploding it, after blowing it up to its fullest possible
dimensions;--reminding one of those noise-loving boys who blow up
discarded and badly soiled paper-bags, only to burst them on their knees.

[113] Ward (_Ency. Br._) is inclined to doubt his going at all to
Cambridge: I prefer, however, to follow the current belief--as not yet
sufficiently “upset.”

[114] The facts regarding this “felony” of Jonson’s have been subject of
much and varied averment: recent investigation has brought to light the
“Indictment” on which he was arraigned, and some notes of the “Clerk of
the Peace.” See _Athenæum_, March 6, 1886.

[115] In his _Discoveries (De Shakespeare)_ Jonson says, “The players
have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing
(whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been,
would he had blotted a thousand. Which they thought a malevolent speech.…
I loved the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry as much
as any.”

[116] John Stow, b. 1525; d. 1605. His _Survey_ published in 1598:
reprinted over and over. Edition of 1876 has illustrations.

[117] Richard Hakluyt, b. about 1558; d. 1616.

[118] Thomas Coryat, b. 1577; d. 1617. Full title of his book
is--_Coryat’s Crudities hastily gobbled up in Five moneths Travells
in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia, commonly called the Orisons Country,
Helvetia, alias Switzerland, and some parts of Germany and the
Netherlands_.

[119] First published in 1589.

[120] Dates of birth and death uncertain. His _Anatomie of Abuses_ first
published in 1583.

[121] George Puttenham, b. about 1532: the book printed 1589.

[122] Nichols, in his _Progresses of Queen Elizabeth_, vol. i. (Preface),
says: “She was twelve times at Theobalds, which was a very convenient
distance from London, … the Queen lying there at his Lordship’s charge,
sometimes three weeks, or a month, or six weeks together.”

[123] George Gascoigne (b. 1530; d. 1577) published a tract, in those
days, entitled _The Princely Pleasures of Kenelworth Castle_, which
appears in Nichol’s _Progresses of Queen Elizabeth_; as does also
Laneham’s Account of the _Queen’s Entertainment at Killingworth _[sic]_
Castle_.



INDEX.


    Abbeys and Priories of England, 66 _et seq._

    Aldhelm, the Saxon scholar and poet, 10, 64.

    Alfred, King, 17 _et seq._

    Aneurin, a Welsh bard, the reputed author of Gododin, 7.

    “Arcadia” of Philip Sidney, 237.

    Archery in England, 199.

    Arnold, Matthew, on Celtic literature, 8.

    Arthur, King, the legends of, 39 _et seq._;
      Geoffrey’s version of, 42;
      Map’s version, 42;
      Layamon’s version, 43.

    Ascham, Roger, 197;
      his “Toxophilus,” 199;
      his “Schoolmaster,” 199;
      teacher of Queen Elizabeth, 201.


    Bacon, Francis, 242;
      his character, 250 _et seq._;
      his essays, 257;
      his _Novum Organum_ and _De Augmentis_, 258;
      his death, 259.

    Bacon, Roger, 77 _et seq._

    Balladry, English, 158.

    Barnes, Dame Juliana, 153.

    Battle Abbey, 35.

    Beda, 15, 64.

    Beowulf, 41.

    “Betrothed,” Scott’s novel, 48.

    Berners, Lord, his translation of Froissart, 129.

    Bible, Wyclif’s translation of, 90;
      Tyndale’s translation, 185;
      reading of, by the common people forbidden in reign of Henry
        VIII., 191.

    Black Prince, 93, 104, 106.

    Boccaccio, 83.

    Bœthius’ “Consolation of Philosophy,” translated by King Alfred, 19.

    “Boke of the Duchesse,” Chaucer’s poem, 107.

    Books at the end of the thirteenth century, 62;
      decoration of, 65.

    “Brut” of Layamon, 43.

    Burleigh, Lord, 212, 242.


    Cædmon, 13 _et seq._;
      possible influence of his paraphrase on Milton, 15.

    Camden, William, 176, 303.

    Camelot, 39, 40.

    Canute’s verse about the singing of the monks of Ely, 22.

    Canterbury School, 10.

    “Canterbury Tales,” Chaucer’s, 114.

    Caxton, 45, 149;
      books from his press, 151.

    Celtic literature, early, 7 _et seq._

    Chapman, George, and his Homer, 266.

    Chaucer, 89, 97 _et seq._;
      his early life in London, 98;
      a scholar, 100;
      his connection with the royal household, 103;
      his translation of the _Roman de la Rose_, 104;
      his “Boke of the Duchesse,” 107;
      his “Parliament of Foules,” 107;
      his “Troilus and Cresseide,” 108;
      his journeys on the Continent, 108;
      his portrait, 112;
      his “Canterbury Tales,” 114;
      characters of the Canterbury pilgrims, 114 _et seq._;
      localities of the pilgrimage, 117;
      his literary thefts, 119;
      example of his art, 120 _et seq._

    Chevy Chase, ballad of, 159.

    “Comus,” Milton’s, its relation to Peele’s “An Old Wives Tale,” 285.

    _Confessio Amantis_ of Gower, 128.

    Coryat, Thomas, 304.

    Cranmer, 182, 185.

    “Crayon, Geoffrey,” 38.


    Damoiselle, life of a, in the thirteenth century, 72.

    Danish invasions of England, 17.

    Dante, 83.

    Dekker, Thomas, 287.

    Drake, Sir Francis, 242.

    Drayton, Michael, 291;
      his “Poly-olbion,” 292;
      his “Nymphidia,” 293.


    Edward I., II., and III., 82 _et seq._

    Edward VI., 182, 197.

    Elizabeth, Queen, Roger Ascham’s encomium of her studiousness, 201;
      comes to the throne, 204;
      her religion, 206;
      Froude’s unfavorable portrait of, 207;
      Soranzo’s description of, 208;
      her greatness, 209;
      her literary attempts, 311;
      her love of pageants, 312;
      her progresses, 313;
      at Kenilworth, 314;
      her death, 321.

    Elizabethan authors, 214.

    Emerson, his enjoyment of Taliesin, 8.

    Erasmus, 177.

    “Euphues,” by Lyly, 245.


    Falstaff, Jack, 133.

    Foxe, John, 187.

    Froissart, Lord Berners’ translation of, 129.

    Froude, Mr., his history characterized, 207.


    Geoffrey of Monmouth, 37 _et seq._

    Green’s “History of the English People,” 5, 6;
      “Making of England,” 10, 17;
      cited, 64.

    Greene, Robert, 277;
      his relations with Shakespeare, 280.

    Godiva, Lady, tradition of, 23.

    Gower, John, 127.

    “Grave, the,” an Anglo-Saxon poem, 21.


    Hakluyt, Richard, 304.

    Hampton Court, 171.

    Harold the Saxon, 29 _et seq._

    “Harold,” Tennyson’s play, 29.

    Henry II., 48.

    Henry III., 56, 65.

    Henry IV., 127, 132, 145.

    Henry V., 141.

    Henry VI. and VII., 144.

    Henry VIII., 167;
      character of, 172.

    Hobbes, Thomas, 261;
      his translation of Thucydides, 265.

    Holinshed, Raphael, 211.

    Hooker, Richard, and the “Ecclesiastical Polity,” 215, 242.


    “Ivanhoe,” 50.


    James I. of Scotland, 137.

    Joan of Arc, 146.

    John, King, 53.

    John of Gaunt, 92;
      a friend of Wyclif, 92;
      of Chaucer, 110, 145.

    Jonson, Ben, 282, 295.


    Katharine of Aragon, 171.

    “Kenilworth,” 68;
      its picture of Queen Elizabeth’s visit, 314.

    “King’s Quair, the,” 137.

    Knox, John, 187.


    Langlande, William, 84.

    Lanier, Sidney, his “Mabinogion,” 8;
      his “King Arthur,” 45.

    Latimer, Hugh, 186.

    Layamon, 43.

    Leicester, Earl of, and Queen Elizabeth, 315.

    Libraries at the end of the thirteenth century, 63.

    Lilly, William, the head-master of St. Paul’s, 173.

    Lindisfarne Abbey, 12.

    Lodge, Thomas, 275.

    London, 6;
      in Chaucer’s time, 98.

    “London Lickpenny” of Lydgate, 136.

    Longfellow’s translation of “The Grave,” 21.

    Lord’s Prayer, the, in Tyndale’s version, 185.

    Lydgate, John, 135.

    Lyly, John, 245.

    Lytton, Lord, his “Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings,” 29.


    “Mabinogion,” the, 8.

    Macbeth, the murder of, 23.

    “Madoc,” Southey’s poem, 49.

    Mallory, Sir Thomas, 45.

    Mandeville, Sir John, 59;
      doubts respecting his travels, and personality, 60.

    Map, Walter, 42.

    Marco Polo, 59.

    Marini Sanuto on the accession of Henry VIII., 169.

    Marlowe, Christopher, 269.

    “Marmion,” 3, 12.

    Mary, Queen, 182, 184, 197.

    Mary Queen of Scots, 241.

    Matthew Paris, 46.

    Mermaid Tavern, the, 274.

    Milton, 15.

    “Monastery, the,” 246.

    More, Sir Thomas, 175, 185.


    Nashe, Thomas, 276.

    Norham Castle and “Marmion,” 3.

    _Novum Organum_, the, of Bacon, 258.

    Nut-Brown Maid, ballad of, 161.


    Occleve, 135.

    Orderic Vitalis, 46.

    Oxford in the thirteenth century, 77.


    “Parliament of Foules,” Chaucer’s poem, 107.

    Paston Letters, the, 154.

    Peele, George, 284;
      his “Old Wives Tale,” 285.

    Petrarch, 83.

    “Piers Plowman, the Vision of,” 84.

    Printing, the rise of, in England, 149.

    Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, 312.

    Purvey, his work on Bible of Wyclif, 96.

    Puttenham’s “Arte of English Poesie,” 310.


    Raleigh, 242.

    Religious houses, spoliation of, 205.

    Richard Cœur de Lion, 50.

    Richard II., 126, 130.

    Richard III., 148.

    Rienzi, 83, 90.

    Robert of Gloucester, 57.

    Robin Hood’s bay, 13.

    Robin Hood, 69.

    Robin Hood ballads, 159.

    Roger de Hoveden, 46.

    “Roman de la Rose,” 104.

    Roman remains in England, 6.

    “Rosalynde,” Lodge’s novel, 275.


    Sackville, Thomas, 210, 242.

    “Saxon Chronicle, the,” 17, 27, 37.

    St. Albans, 66.

    St. Augustine in England, 10, 63.

    St. Columba, monastery of, 11.

    “Schoolmaster, the,” by Ascham, 200.

    “Scottish Chiefs, the,” 81.

    Shakespeare, his “Henry IV.,” 133;
      “Henry V.,” 141;
      “Henry VI.,” 146;
      “Richard III.,” 148, 243;
      with the wits at the Mermaid Tavern, 281.

    Sidney, Philip, 230;
      his “Arcadia,” 237;
      his “Defence of Poesie,” 238.

    Skelton, John, 139.

    Sonnet, the, first used in English by Wyatt, 193.

    Soranzo, Signor, his report of Queen Elizabeth, 208.

    Spedding, James, his “Life of Bacon,” 251.

    Spenser, Edmund, 217;
      his “Shepherd’s Calendar,” 217;
      “Faery Queen,” 221 _et seq._;
      “Epithalamium,” 228.

    Sternhold and Hopkins’ versions of the Psalms, 189.

    Stow, John, 304.

    Stubbes, Philip, 308.

    Surrey, Earl of, 194;
      his poetry, and story of his Florentine tourney, 195.


    Taillefer, the Norman minstrel, 26.

    Taine’s treatment of Richard Cœur de Lion, 50.

    Taliesin, 8.

    “Talisman, the,” 51.

    Tennyson’s “Harold,” 30;
      “Idyls of the King,” 40;
      “Queen Mary,” 183.

    Thackeray’s treatment of Richard Cœur de Lion in “Rebecca and
      Rowena,” 51.

    Thomas à Becket, 48.

    Tolstoi, Count, 180.

    Tudor, Sir Owen, and the Tudor succession, 144.

    Tusser, Thomas, 211.

    Tyndale, William, 185.


    “Utopia,” by Sir Thomas More, 178.


    _Vox Clamantis_ of Gower, 127.


    Wace, 42.

    Wallace, William, 81.

    “Westward, Ho,” Kingsley’s novel, 40.

    Whitby Monastery, 12.

    Whittingham, 189.

    William the Norman, 25 _et seq._

    William of Malmsbury, 46.

    William of Newburgh, 46.

    Wolsey, Cardinal, 170, 173.

    Wyclif, 89, 90 _et seq._;
      his translation of the Bible, 95.

    Wyatt, Sir Thomas, 193.

    Wright, Leonard, 307.


    York, 6.

    York and Lancaster, the wars of, 145.





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