Page images
PDF
EPUB

Just before the Queen's death, as is well known, all sorts of stories were spread abroad. She was certainly sick unto death, and there were courtiers at Holyrood who swore that the Queen was already at her rest, but that Cecil had substituted an old lady to represent her. Such things had been done before. Thus, Edward VI. was dead three days before the fact was proclaimed. Manningham, to ascertain the truth, rode down to Richmond, where the Court was then staying, and after hearing his friend Parry preach, dined with him in the Privy Chamber, in company with the Deans of Windsor and Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester. From one of these divines Manningham heard the tale of her last hours. "For this fortnight," says he, "her Majesty refused to eat any thing, to receive any physic, or admit any rest in the bed. . . . . She hath been in a manner speechless for two days, very pensive and silent, sitting with her eye fixed on one object for hours together; yet she always had her perfect senses and memory. . . . . This morning," he adds, "about three o'clock, her Majesty departed this life, mildly, like a lamb-easily, like an apple from a tree . . . . and I doubt not she is among the royal saints in heaven." Most important, too, is his testimony with reference to Elizabeth's choice of a successor, which has been involved in doubt, even by recent writers. We feel no question but that Manningham's story is true, and that what he wrote down at the time is more correct than any other version which has come down. Most likely he heard it directly from Parry's lips. "The Queen,” he says, “nominated our King" (James I.) “for her successor; for being demanded whom she would have succeed, her answer was, there should no rascals sit in her seat. Who then?' 'A king,' said she. What king ?' 'Of Scots,' said she, for he hath the best right, and in the name of God let him have it.'" We wish we had room for many more of the very interesting notices of people and things in this short but excellent diary; but we must stop. We will add only an epigram made by Sir W. Ralegh on a man of the name of Noel, and his reply. "Sir W. Rawley," says he, "made this rhyme upon the name of a gallant, one Mr. Noel :

[ocr errors]

"The word of denial, and the letter of fifty,

Makes the gent's name which will never be thrifty."

And Noel's answer :

[Noe-L]

"The foe to the stomach, and the word of disgrace,

[Raw-Ly]

Shews the gent's name with the bold face.”

Among at least semi-historical documents, we may class what has been called ballad literature, though all the publications are not, strictly speaking, ballads, being editions, by Mr. F. J. Furnivall, of "Ballads from Manuscripts" (vols. i. ii.) : the first relating to the condition of England in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Edward VI., with reference also to Cardinal Wolsey and Anne Boleyn; the second containing "The Poore Man's Pittance," by Richard Williams, a writer of the time of James I. The poems included in the latter are, "The Life and Death of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex," and the "Story of Anthony Babbington, the Conspirator," and the " Tale of the Powder Plot." As the composition and work of a contemporary, Williams's work has some interest; we should, however, like to know who he is, which Mr. Furnivall has not told us-perhaps because he cannot. Mr. Furnivall has, on the other hand, added a preface to the poem called " Now-a-days," of more than 100 pages length, in which he has drawn out a sketch of English society, in opposition to the picture painted by Mr. Froude, which he considers defective in that the happiness and pleasant life

of the "good old days" has been (he thinks) greatly exaggerated by that otherwise able and conscientious historian. These new views he rests mainly on incidental notices he finds in the Ballads he is editing; and we are inclined to think that he has proved his points. The general result would certainly seem to be that the state of the poor in the reign of Henry VIII. was in every way worse than at the present time. Moreover, slaves-i. e. bondsmen to the land, adstricti gleba-had by no means ceased to exist, as is evident from the well-known action between the Duchess of Buckingham and Richard Moors, in which the former maintained and succeeded in maintaining by law-that the family of Moors had always been bondsmen to her ducal house :-from the petition of Kett and his rebels, in which he claims "that the bondsmen shall be free," and, above all, from the provisions of that most curious Act of Parliament, 1 Edward VI., c. 3, called "An Act for the punishment of Vagabonds, and for the relief of the Poor." By this Act, a man found "loitering may be taken before two Justices of the Peace, who can, if they think fit, order him to be burnt on the chest with the letter V (for vagabond), and adjudge him to be, for two years, the slave of the man who has brought the "loiterer" before them. The new master of the slave is ordered to give him bread and water and small drink, and "such refuse meat as he shall think meet," and shall cause "the said slave to work by beating, chaining, or otherwise, in such work and labour, however vile soever it be, that he shall put him unto." Poor women wandering about with children are treated no less harshly: any one finding such a woman and child had power to seize the child, despite the mother's entreaties, and to carry it to the nearest parish constable, and to "two other honest and discreet neighbours," who could adjudge it the finder's servant till the child is twenty years old. Another portion of the same Act empowers the master "to sell, bequeath, or give the service and labour of such slaves," just as he might have done with any of his moveable goods or chattels. So much for English freedom in the times of the Tudors.

86

Another valuable contribution on a similar, though not on exactly the same, subject, are The Chaucer Society's Publications "-the difference between these and the Ballad documents being, chiefly, that the latter are rather literary, while the former are mostly historical. The chief subjects published have been "A Sixtext Print of Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales,' in parallel columns, from the Ellesmere and from the Hengwrt MSS., from the Cambridge MS., from the Corpus Christi College MS., and from the Petworth and the Lansdowne MSS." :-an Essay on early English Pronunciation," resting mainly on Chaucer and Shakespere, but containing also an examination into the agreement between writing and speech from Anglo-Saxon to modern times-a work edited with great skill and learning by A. J. Ellis, Esq.; and, lastly, Ebert's review of Sandras' "Etude sur Chaucer, consideré comme Imitateur des Trouvères,"-"A Thirteenthcentury Latin Treatise on the Chilindre," and a Preface to the Six-text edition by Mr. Furnivall, in which he points out what he deems to be the true order of the 'Canterbury Tales," with the days and stages of the Pilgrims. It is most remarkable to see the extraordinary wealth of England in all documents of this nature; no sooner is research hinted at among early English literature than documents of untold interest turn up-the seed of the Dragon of Cadmus, ready armed for the conflict.

66

2. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES.

“Lives of Lord Lyndhurst and Lord Brougham, Lord Chancellors, and Keepers of the Great Seal of England," by the late John Lord Campbell. Those who have perused the "Lives of the Chancellors," made public during his lifetime by Lord Campbell, and notably those of Lords Eldon and Erskine, will be prepared for many of the grievous defects with which these posthumous memoirs are chokefull. They will hardly, however, be prepared for the absurdities which it has pleased the author to introduce repeatedly into his narratives, not to mention the marvellous bad taste (to say the least) every where conspicuous in them. The fact is, Lord Campbell was the very man who ought to have abstained from any life of either of these his two contemporary Chancellors, and this, if for no other reason, because during a long legal career he had been perpetually in conflict with one, if not both of them, and had shown himself, as those who remember those times can readily recollect, by no means a kind or generous antagonist. We therefore fully expected to meet with what we shall call "vulgar sneers," though we confess we did not suppose we should have found quite so much of them as we have really met with.

To begin with the notice of Lord Lyndhurst. It is well known that at a famous dinner in 1846, given by the Benchers to the heads of the law, on the occasion of Sir Robert Peel's retirement, Brougham, in allusion to Lord Campbell's "Lives of the Chancellors," remarked that "to an expiring Chancellor death was now armed with a new terror." But even Brougham did not foresee how every point that could have been made against himself and Lyndhurst would be taken advantage of by their "friend" and biographer: no trifling act, no petty phrase which could seem to dénigrer them being omitted by this singularly and affectedly candid pen. Thus, noticing Lyndhurst's pedigree, Lord Campbell states that he can find nothing of his ancestry in Debrett, Lodge, or Burke, "they do not even mention the Chancellor's father, for they all begin with his own birth on May 21, 1772, as if he had then sprung from the earth, without even telling us what region of the world witnessed this wonderful vegetation." Wonderful vegetation indeed! and wonderful perversion of language! We thought all the world knew that Lyndhurst's father was the great painter who drew the deaths of Wolfe and Chatham, of Major Pierson, of the siege of Gibraltar, and of the arrest of the five members by Charles I.; and that his illustrious son lived to his death in the house in George-street, Hanover-square, he inherited from a father he venerated, some of whose finest works he retained. Certainly Lyndhurst was the last man to care whether his name, Copley, might once have sounded like the Norman De Couple," but every one who had the privilege of knowing him knew, also, that he was proud indeed of his immediate ancestor.

66

The writer of this article had the good fortune to hear him speak in the House of Lords in March, 1849, in reference to works of art:-" They recall to my recollection many circumstances of my early life: when I attended the lectures of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Barry, and other professors, when I was very much associated with the proceedings of the Royal Academy, and when I was intimately acquainted with many of its members." On another occasion, he related that at one of Reynolds's lectures at which he was present, an alarm was spread that the floor was giving way, on which Burke, who also was one of the

audience, implored those there to keep calm, that the danger might not be increased by a rush. It should be added that when this speech was spoken, Lyndhurst was nearly seventy-seven, and that he was speaking of lectures which he could not have heard more recently than fifty-seven years before, as Sir Joshua himself died in 1792. Nor is Lord Campbell more just when he comes to speak of his later years, when, after attaining the University honour of second wrangler in 1794, Copley took to the serious study of the law, under the well-known Mr. Tidd, for the biographer states, "In after-life he (Lord Lyndhurst), asserted that he had never been a Whig-which I can testify to be true. He was a Whig, and something more-or, in one word, a Jacobin. He would refuse to be present at a dinner given on the return of Mr. Fox for Westminster, but he delighted to dine with the Corresponding Society,' or to celebrate the anniversary of the acquittal of Hardy and Tooke." Now, nothing can be farther from the fact. That young Copley may, for a short period—before men knew what the French Revolution would really become-have embraced principles of liberty which we know such men as Mackintosh, Southey, and Coleridge likewise adopted (only to discard them when, in a few years, they discerned their hollowness), is likely enough, nor could such a course be quoted as an instance of base political treason against any one by any other writer than Lord Campbell : but that Copley was no more Republican by ancestry than he was in maturer years from judgment, is certain from the fact that his family were sufferers for their adherence to and preference for the English Constitution, and that they were devotedly loyal.

[ocr errors]

Again, though always in the same dispreziativo tone, we find Lord Campbell remarking that "he never heard of his being engaged in any literary undertaking, except writing some letters in the Times newspaper along with Benjamin D'Israeli, under the signature of Runnimede;"" and, further, that "Copley always had a great contempt for authorship, and would rather starve than disgrace himself by it." Two assertions for which, we need scarcely add, he gives no authority at all. When we come to what may be called Lord Lyndhurst's social relations, the calumnies become more foul, and the spirit of the calumniator worse and worse. Thus, after stating that Copley married first, in 1820, the widow of an officer who had fallen at Waterloo, and who was justly celebrated for her beauty and social talents, he adds, that, after living with her for some years in harmony, "there were afterwards jealousies and bickerings between them, which caused much talk and amusement; but they continued on decent terms till her death, in 1834, at Paris, an event he sincerely lamented. He was sitting as Chief Baron in the Court of Exchequer when he received the fatal news. He swallowed a large quantity of laudanum and set off to see her remains; but his strength of mind soon again fitted him for the duties and pleasures of life." We think we are fully justified in saying that a more farouche statement never flowed from the pen of any professing friend.

But enough of Lord Campbell's judgment of Lord Lyndhurst. When from this we turn to his life of Lord Brougham we notice the same defects as before, only they are decidedly intensified, Lord Campbell's dislike of Brougham being much greater than his dislike of Lyndhurst. One short sentence shows at once the temper and the tone in which Lord Campbell was prepared to describe the brilliant abilities of his great rival. Speaking of Brougham's disappointment at not immediately obtaining an extensive practice on being called to the English Bar in 1808, he says, "Neither brief nor retainer came in, and the world seemed quite uncon

scious of the great epoch which was supposed to have arrived in our forensic history." A sneer which was as unjust as unmerited. It is, however, certain that, with all his brilliant talents, Brougham did not get a large practice till he got into Parliament in 1810, but his success in Parliament itself was complete, for we find him at the end of the first Session competing with the Right Hon. G. Ponsonby, ex-Chancellor of Ireland, for the leadership of the Opposition, though shortly afterwards treated, as the Whigs have ever been ready to treat their ablest servants, with jealousy and distrust, and thus kept out of Parliament between 1812 and 1816.

[ocr errors]

'The Life of Columbus," by Arthur Helps and friends, could hardly fail to be a book worthy of perusal when we remember what this writer has accomplished in his earlier literary efforts; but we are not quite sure that this, his last, is his happiest compilation; indeed, we should much have preferred it, could we have known for certain how much of it was the actual production of his own pen. The author of " Friends in Council," one of the most original books ever written, -the writer of the "History of the Spanish Conquest in America," Mr. Helps, has claims upon our attention which comparatively few other writers have established.

"The Life of the Rev. John Milne, of Perth," by the Rev. Horatius Bonar, D.D., belongs to a class of works now happily almost extinct, yet common enough in the old days of the Cameronians, and still apparently surviving in some parts of Scotland. A few extracts will show better than any comment the way in which Holy Scripture, or rather, perhaps, the lessons derivable from it, is tortured by these gentlemen to suit their unreasoning and unreasonable theories. Speaking of the desecration of Sunday, which, with the writers of his class, he will call the Sabbath-which it happens not to be-he says, "Last night I came upon a group of grown-up lads in High-street, making a nice-looking dog stand on his hind-legs and beg. He looked tired. I put my hand on the shoulder of one that was conducting the operation, and said, 'That's a very nice dog, and he does it very well; but should not you let him rest on God's day?' They seemed taken aback, and one of them said, 'It's quite right, sir, we should.'" One more extract, and our readers will have been able to form a fair judgment both of the value of the work as a biographical sketch, and of our opinion of it. "Going to the infirmary, a number of women were sitting on a high wall, and a man was parading before them, and they were making a great noise. I said, Take care; you are like a city set on a hill.' 'Hech, sir,' said one of them; and they were quite still." We own we fail to see the connexion between these worthy Scotchwomen, who were probably only indulging a natural love of talking, and the "city set on a hill" of the Bible. It is clear, however, that the women felt the force of the comparison, their silence showing, as the minister believes, that he had struck the true key-note.

[ocr errors]

"The Life of Sir George Sinclair, Bart.," by James Grant, will be of interest to any readers who care for the personal history of the more eminent men who have played their parts in England during the last seventy years. The son of Sir John Sinclair, himself a man of much note-the personal, we might add, the confidential friend of William Pitt, and the intimate acquaintance of all the most distinguished men of the last quarter of the last century :-sent, too, to Harrow when he was only ten years of age, yet, before a year had elapsed, the composer of a poem in Latin "On Human Life," which naturally attracted much attention, as the production of one only just in his teens-we should naturally expect that

« PreviousContinue »