Page images
PDF
EPUB

time to crave her intercession in his favour. The Countess, unhappily, was prevailed upon by her husband to suppress her commission : and the Queen, who hourly expected this last appeal, found various excuses to delay signing the warrant for the execution of Essex; till female resentment, seconding Cecil's importunities, induced her at last, with great reluctance, to consent to his death.

Toward the close of the year 1602 the Countess of Nottingham, finding her dissolution fast approaching, despatched a special messenger to entreat a private visit from Elizabeth, alleging that she had something of importance to impart to her Majesty' At this interview, she revealed the fatal secret, imploring at the same time her royal mistress' forgiveness. She implored it in vain: the Queen, in the transport of her rage shook the dying lady in her bed, and exclaiming with great vehemence,“ God may forgive you, but I cannot," rushed out of the apartment.

To her rage succeeded a deep melancholy, which visibly preyed upon her strength: still, however, she affected to conceal it, and caused her inaugurationday to be observed with the usual magnificence. But the courtiers, according to custom, beginning already to turn their eyes to the young king of Scotland, her presumptive heir, she was heard to lament in bitter terms that she was neglected, betrayed, and deserted.' And, when she found the pardon of the Earl of Tyrone pressed upon her by the very ministers who had urged her to refuse that of Essex, she could not forbear instituting a comparison between the guilt of the arch-rebel who had desolated a considerable part of Ireland, and the single act of mad desperation committed by her executed favourite.

VOL. II.

She now utterly neglected the care of her health, removing from Westminster to her palace at Sheen in very tempestuous weather on the last day of January, 1603. Here she continued languishing, in a most deplorable condition, nearly two months; occasionally however joining in prayers with Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was constantly in waiting: and on the twenty-third of March, she breathed her last.*

It remains only to observe, that Nottingham's zeal in the affair of the succession procured for him the honour of officiating as High Steward at the coronation of James I. ; that he was sent on a splendid embassy to Spain, to conclude a treaty of friendship with that crown; and that subsequently, resigning his office of Lord High Admiral to Villiers Duke of Buckingham, he retired into the country, where he died in 1624.

He was a great lover of magnificence, we are informed by Fuller, having no less than “ seven standing houses at the same time;" and, in his embassy to Spain, being attended by a splendid train of five hundred persons. The ignorant Spaniards, who had heard much of the Kentish long-tails and other monsters in this nation of heretics,' were astonished when he made his public entry, not only at seeing the human form, but at seeing it in superior health and beauty t to what it appeared in their own country.

* A minute detail of her concluding moments is given in the interesting · Memoirs of Robert Cary, Earl of Monmouth.' See the Life of Sackville, p. 271.

+ It is observable, that M. Buffon includes the seat of beauty within two particular latitudes, so as to comprehend the greatest part of France, and to exclude England !

259

THOMAS SACKVILLE,

EARL OF DORSET.

[1536-1608.]

THOMAS SACKVILLE, the son of Richard Sackville Esq. by Winifred, daughter of Sir John Bruges Lord-Mayor of London (who afterward mar. ried Powlet, Marquis of Winchester) was born at Buckhurst in the parish of Withiam, Sussex, the seat of the ancient family of the Sackvilles, in 1536. Toward the latter end of the reign of Edward VI., he was sent to Hart Hall, Oxford; but he subsequently removed to Cambridge, where he took the degree of M. A. Thence he migrated to London, and entered himself a member of the Inner Temple; not with a view of following the profession of the law, but in order to qualify himself, by the study of it, for the service of his country in parliament.

Near the close of Mary's reign, he obtained a seat in the House of Commons; and having now become a public character, he in some degree neglected the Muses, to whom he had previously devoted so con- . siderable a portion of his leisure, that at the Univer

* AUTHORITIES. Wood's Athena Oxonienses ; Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia ; and Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors.

ICO

sity he had been deemed a good poet, and during his residence in the Temple had established his reputation by his Induction, (or Introduction) to a Mirror for Magistrates,' published in 1557. This work, exhibiting examples of bad men in high stations, who terminated their lives in misery or infamy from the Conquest to the end of the fourteenth century, was highly admired at the time of it's publication, and with justice; as in Warton's judgement it ‘approaches nearer to the Fairy Queen in the richness of allegoric description, than any previous or succeeding poem.'*'

In 1561, he produced a tragedy (the first, which deserved that name in the language) entitled, “Ferrex and Porrex, the two sons of Gorboduc, king of Britain;' + in which, however, he was assisted by Thomas Norton (a fellow-labourer of Hopkins and Sternhold) who, according to Wood's doubtful statement, wrote the three first acts. This was received with great applause by the public, after it had been performed by the gentlemen of the Inner Temple before Queen Elizabeth at Whitehall. Sir Philip Sidney, in his • Defence of Poesy,' gives the following character of it: “ Gorboduc is full of stately speeches and well-sounding phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca's stile; and as full of notable mo

* It was completed, through his recommendation, by Richard Baldwyne and George Ferrers; who invited to their assistance Churchyard, Phayer, and other men of wit and genius, and printed it in 4to in 1559, under the title of ' A Myrroure for Magistrates, &c.'

+ The title was subsequently, in 1590, changed to‘Gorboduc;' and several spurious impressions being circulated by the book. sellers, the author published a correct edition of it in 1570.

rality, which it doth most delightfully teach, and thereby obtains the very end of poetry.” Whoever indeed reads it with attention, and considers the infant state of English poetry at the time of it's appearance, must allow that it merited the pains taken by Pope and Spence to retrieve it from oblivion by recommending it to the manager of Drury-Lane Theatre in 1736, where it met with considerable success. *

In the first parliament of Elizabeth, Mr. Sackville was elected knight of the shire for the county of Sussex, his father being chosen at the same time for Kent; and in the second parliament of that reign, the father was returned for Sussex, and the son for Buckinghamshire. About this time he visited France and Italy, and during his tour was imprisoned at Rome. In 1566, however, receiving in this situation the news of his father's death, he procured his release, Hence it may be inferred, as he was now in possession of a large estate, that it was some affair of debt, for which he was enabled to offer security, and thus obtained leave to return home.

The Queen gave him a most gracious reception, and after conferring upon him in 1567 the honour of knighthood by the hands of the Duke of Norfolk, raised him to the dignity of a peer, with the title of Lord Buckhurst. But the same extrava. gance, which most probably had involved him in difficulties abroad, accompanied him to England; and to supply the means of his sumptuous, expenditure, he was obliged to borrow money upon usurious

* The same year, Mr. Spence published a new edition of it, which is the best.

« PreviousContinue »