Page images

he was an able antiquary; but laments, that he "being withall poetically given, must forsooth write and publish his lucubrations in verse; whereby, for rhime's sake, many material matters, and the due timing of them, are omitted, and so consequently rejected by historians and antiquarians'." Yet he has not supplied his want of genealogical and historical precision with those strokes of poetry which his subject suggested; nor has his imagination been any impediment to his accuracy. At the end of his CRONICLE is the GENEALOGY OF THE BRUTES, in which the pedigree of king Edward the Sixth is lineally drawn through thirty-two generations, from Osiris the first king of Egypt. Here too Wood reproaches our author for his ignorance in genealogy. But in an heraldic inquiry, so difficult and so new, many mistakes are pardonable. It is extraordinary that a Welshman should have carried his genealogical researches into Egypt, or rather should have wished to prove that Edward was descended from Osiris: but this was with a design to show, that the Egyptian monarch was the original progenitor of Brutus, the undoubted founder of Edward's family. Bale says that he wrote, and dedicated to sir William Herbert, afterwards earl of Pembroke, a most elegant poetical panegyric on the Cambro-Britons". But Bale's praises and censures are always regulated according to the religion of his authors.

The first CHANSON à BOIRE, or DRINKING-BALLAD, of any merit, in our language, appeared in the year 1551*. It has a vein of ease and humour, which we should not expect to have been inspired by the simple beverage of those times. I believe I shall not tire my reader by giving it at length; and am only afraid that in this specimen the transition will be thought too violent from the poetry of the puritans to a convivial and ungodlie ballad.

[blocks in formation]

Backe and side go bare, go bare,
Booth foot and hand go colde;
But, belly, God send thee good ale inoughe,
Whether it be new or olde!

I love no rost, but a nut-browne toste,
And a crab laid in the fire;

A little bread shall do me stead,

[ocr errors]

Moche bread I noght desire.
No frost, no snow, no winde, I trowe,
Can hurt me if I wolde,
I am so wrapt, and throwly lapt
Of joly good ale and olde.
Backe and side, &c.

And TIB my wife, that as her life
Loveth well good ale to seeke,
Full oft drinkes shee, till ye may see

The teares run downe her cheeke.
Then doth she trowle to me the bowle
Even as a mault-worm sholde;
And, saith, "Sweet heart, I tooke my part
Of this joly good ale and olde."
Backe and side, &c.

Now let them drinke, till they nod and winke,
Even as good fellows should do:

They shall not misse to have the blisse

Good ale doth bringe men to.

And al goode sowles that have scoured bowles,
Or have them lustely trolde,

God save the lives of them and their wives,
Whether they be yong or olde!

Backe and side, &c.

This song opens the second act of GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE, a comedy, written and printed in 1551 P, and soon afterwards acted at Christ's College in Cambridge. In the title of the old edition it is said to have been written "by Mr. S.* master of artes," who probably was a member of that society. This is held to be the first comedy in our language; that is, the first play which was neither Mystery nor Morality, and which handled a comic story with some disposition of plot, and some discrimination of character. The writer has a degree of

having drunk, she says.

On the authority of MSS. Oldys. A valuable black-letter copy, in the possession of Mr. Steevens, is the oldest I have seen. [The play was acted before it was printed, and it was not printed till 1575. -RITSON.]

* [i. e. Still, afterwards bishop of Bath and Wells: from an original head, of whom at Cambridge, Mr. Steevens had a plate engraved, which, after a few impressions were taken off, he destroyed.-PARK.] See supr. vol. ii. p. 523.

jocularity which sometimes rises above buffoonery, but is often disgraced by lowness of incident*. Yet in a more polished age he would havc chosen, nor would he perhaps have disgraced, a better subject. It has been thought surprising that a learned audience could have endured some of these indelicate scenes. But the established festivities of scholars were gross, and agreeable to their general habits; nor was learning in that age always accompanied by gentleness of manners. When the sermons of Hugh Latimer were in vogue at court, the university might be justified in applauding GAMMEr Gurton's Needle†


Reign of queen Mary. Mirrour for Magistrates. Its inventor, Sackville lord Buckhurst. His life. Mirrour for Magistrates continued by Baldwyn and Ferrers. Its plan and stories.

TRUE genius, unseduced by the cabals and unalarmed by the dangers of faction, defies or neglects those events which destroy the peace of mankind, and often exerts its operations amidst the most violent commotions of a state. Without patronage and without readers, I may add without models, the earlier Italian writers, while their country was shook by the intestine tumults of the Guelfes and Guibelines, continued to produce original compositions both in prose and verse, which yet stand unrivalled. The age of Pericles and of the Peloponnesian war was the Careless of those who governed or disturbed the world, and superior to the calamities of a quarrel in which two mighty leaders contended for the prize of universal dominion, Lucretius wrote his sublime didactic poem on the system of nature, Virgil his bucolics, and Cicero his books of philosophy. The proscriptions of Augustus did not prevent the progress of the Roman literature.


In the turbulent and unpropitious reign of queen Mary, when controversy was no longer confined to speculation, and a spiritual warfare polluted every part of England with murthers more atrocious than the slaughters of the most bloody civil contest, a poem was planned, although not fully completed, which illuminates with no common lustre that interval of darkness, which occupies the annals of English poetry from Surrey to Spenser, entitled, A MIRROUR FOR MAGISTRATES‡.

[Perhaps, as they were in general graver at Cambridge than at the inns of court, when they did unbend, they were more apt to exceed.-ASHBY.]

[And yet, as Mr. Ashby suggests, if Wilson, who wrote the judicious treatise on Rhetoric in 1553, and himself a dean, could pronounce Hugh Latimer, "the fa

ther of all preachers" (vid. infra, Sect. LV.) why might not the court approve?-PARK.

[A new edition of the Mirror for Magistrates, printed from that of 1587, and collated with those of 1559, 1563, 1571, 1575, 1578 and 1610, appeared in 1815 under the editorship of Mr. Haslewood.--PRICE.]

More writers than one were concerned in the execution of this piece; but its primary inventor, and most distinguished contributor, was Thomas Sackville the first lord Buckhurst, and first earl of Dorset. Much about the same period, the same author wrote the first genuine English tragedy, which I shall consider in its proper place.

Sackville was born at Buckhurst, a principal seat of his ancient and illustrious family in the parish of Withiam in Sussex. His birth is placed, but with evident inaccuracy, under the year 1536a: at least it should be placed six years before. Discovering a vigorous understanding in his childhood, from a domestic tuition he was removed, as it may reasonably be conjectured, to Hart-hall, now Hertford-college, in Oxford. But he appears to have been a master of arts at Cambridge. At both universities he became celebrated as a Latin and English poet; and he carried his love of poetry, which he seems to have almost solely cultivated, to the Inner Temple. It was now fashionable for every young man of fortune, before he began his travels, or was admitted into parliament, to be initiated in the study of the law. But instead of pursuing a science, which could not be his profession, and which was unaccommodated to the bias of his genius, he betrayed his predilection to a more pleasing species of literature, by composing the tragedy just mentioned, for the entertainment and honour of his fellow-students. His high birth, however, and ample patrimony soon advanced him to more important situations and employments. His eminent accomplishments and abilities having acquired the confidence and esteem of queen Elizabeth, the poet was soon lost in the statesman, and negotiations and embassies extinguished the milder ambitions of the ingenuous Muse. Yet it should be remembered, that he was uncorrupted amidst the intrigues of an artful court, that in the character of a first minister he preserved the integrity of a private man, and that his family refused the offer of an apology to his memory, when it was insulted by the malicious insinuations of a rival party. Nor is it foreign to our purpose to remark, that his original elegance and brilliancy of mind sometimes broke forth in the exercise of his more formal political functions. He was frequently disgusted at the pedantry and official barbarity of style, Iwith which the public letters and instruments were usually framed : and Naunton relates, that his "secretaries had difficulty to please him, he was so facete and choice in his style." Even in the decisions and pleadings of that rigid tribunal the star-chamber, which was never esteemed the school of rhetoric, he practised and encouraged an unaccustomed strain of eloquent and graceful oratory; on which account, says Lloyd, "so flowing was his invention, that he was called the starchamber bell." After he was made a peer by the title of Lord Buck

Archbishop Abbot, in Sackville's funeral-sermon, says he was aged 72 when he died, in the year 1608. If so, he was not 20 years of age when he wrote Gorboduc.


b Wood, Ath. Oxon. i. F. 767.
Fragm. Regal. p. 70.

4 Lloyd's Worthies, p. 678.

hurst, and had succeeded to a most extensive inheritance, and was now discharging the business of an envoy to Paris, he found time to prefix a Latin epistle to Clerke's Latin translation of Castilio's Courtier, printed at London in 1571, which is not an unworthy recommendation of a treatise remarkable for its polite Latinity. It was either because his mistress Elizabeth paid a sincere compliment to his singular learning and fidelity, or because she was willing to indulge an affected fit of indignation against the object of her capricious passion, that when Sackville, in 1591, was a candidate for the chancellorship of the university of Oxford, she condescended earnestly to solicit the university in his favour, and in opposition to his competitor the earl of Essex. At least she appears to have approved the choice, for her majesty soon afterwards visited Oxford, where she was entertained by the new chancellor with splendid banquets and much solid erudition. It is neither my design nor my province, to develop the profound policy with which he conducted a peace with Spain, the address with which he penetrated or baffled the machinations of Essex, and the circumspection and success with which he managed the treasury of two opulent sovereigns. I return to Sackville as a poet, and to the history of the MIRROur of MAGISTRATES.

About the year 1557, he formed the plan of a poem, in which all the illustrious but unfortunate characters of the English history, from the conquest to the end of the fourteenth century, were to pass in review before the poet, who descends like Dante into the infernal region, and is conducted by SORROW. Although a descent into hell had been suggested by other poets, the application of such a fiction to the present design is a conspicuous proof of genius and even of invention. Every personage was to recite his own misfortunes in a separate soliloquy *. But Sackville had leisure only to finish a poetical preface called an INDUCTION, and one legend, which is the life of Henry Stafford duke of Buckingham. Relinquishing therefore the design abruptly, and hastily adapting the close of his INDUCTION to the appearance of Buckingham, the only story he had yet written, and which was to have been the last in his series, he recommended the completion of the whole to Richard Baldwyne and George Ferrers.

Baldwyne seems to have been graduated at Oxford about the year 1532. He was an ecclesiastic, and engaged in the education of youth†. I have already mentioned his metrical version of SOLOMON'S SONG,

Many of his Letters are in the Cabala. And in the university register at Oxford, (Mar. 21, 1591,) see his Letter about the Habits. See also Howard's Coll. p. 297.

* [And Sackville was to have written "all the Tragedies" in this metrical mirror, from William the Conqueror to the Duke of Buckingham. See fol. 107 in edit. 1575, and fol. 205 in edit. 1587.PARK.]

[He further appears to have been one of those scholars who followed printing, in order to forward the reformation, and in 1549 styled himself "servaunt with Edward Whitchurch." Vid. supr. p. 159. Herbert, however, who thinks he assumed that modest appellation as corrector of the press, says "He appears afterwards to have qualified himself for a compositor." Typog. Ant. p. 551.-PARK.]

« PreviousContinue »