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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 same. 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 *.
More writers than one were concerned in the execution of this piece: but its primary inventor, and most distinguished
[A new edition of the Mirrour for Magistrates, printed from that of 1587, and collated with those of 1559, 63, 71, VOL. IV.
75, 78 and 1610, appeared in 1815 under the editorship of Mr. Haslewood.-EDIT.]
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 antient and illustrious family in the parish of Withiam in Sussex. His birth is placed, but with evident inaccuracy, under the year 1536. 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 Elisabeth, 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
Archbishop Abbot, in Sackville's he was not twenty years of age when he Funeral-sermon, says he was aged 72 wrote GORBODUC. when he died, in the year 1608.
b Wood, ATH. Oxon. i. F. 767.
purpose to remark, that his original elegance ana 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, with 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 practiced 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 star-chamber bell " After he was made a peer by the title of Lord Buckhurst, 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 Elisabeth 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.
FRAGM. REGAL. p. 70. d Lloyd's WORTHIES, p. 678.
e Many of his Letters are in the CAAnd in the university register at
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 t. I have already mentioned his metrical version of SOLOMON'S SONG, dedicated to king Edward the Sixth f. His patron was Henry lord Stafford §.
George Ferrers, a man of superior rank, was born at Saint Albans, educated at Oxford, and a student of Lincolns-inn.
afterwards to have qualified himself for a compositor." Typog. Ant. p. 551. -PARK.]
f See supr. p. 3.
Ut infr. He wrote also Three bookes of Moral Philosophy. And The Lives and Sayings of Philosophers, Emperors, Kings, etc. dedicated to lord Stafford, often printed at London in quarto. Altered by Thomas Palfreyman, Lond. 1608. 12mo. Also, Similies and Proverbs. And The Use of Adagies. Bale says that he wrote "Comoedias etiam aliquot." pag. 108. [He was appointed to "set forth a play before the king in the year 1552-3.” See Mr. Chalmers's Apology for the believers in the Shakspeare papers.—ED.]
Leland, who has given him a place in his ENCOMIA, informs us, that he was patronised by lord Cromwell. He was in parliament under Henry the Eighth; and, in 1542, imprisoned by that whimsical tyrant, perhaps very unjustly, and for some cabal now not exactly known. About the same time, in his juridical capacity, he translated the MAGNA CHARTA from French into Latin and English, with some other statutes of England. In a scarce book, William Patten's Expedition into Scotlande of the most woorthely fortunate prince Edward duke of Somerset, printed at London in 1548 3, and partly incorporated into Hollinshed's history, it appears from the following passage that he was of the suite of the protector Somerset. "George Ferrers a gentleman of my lord Protectors, and one of the commissioners of the carriage of this army." He is said to have compiled the history of queen Mary's reign, which makes a part of Grafton's CHRONICLE. He was a composer almost by profession of occasional interludes for the diversion of the court and in 1553, being then a member of Lincolns-inn, he bore the office of LORD OF MISRULE at the royal palace of Greenwich during the twelve days of Christmas. Stowe says, George Ferrers gentleman of Lincolns-inn, being lord of the disportes all the 12 days of Christmas anno MDLIII', at Greenwich who so pleasantly and wisely behaved himself, that the king had great delight in his pastymes "." No common talents were required for these festivities. Bale says that he wrote some rhymes, rhythmos aliquot". He died at Flamstead in Hertfordshire in 1579. Wood's account of George Ferrers, our author, who, misled by Puttenham the author of the ARTE OF ENGLISH POESIE, has confounded him with Edward Fer