Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

holy orders to other and safer scenes of education, where the youthful mind may be helped in the path of life, instead of meeting with dangerous obstacles, and perhaps coming to a terrible downfall.

But on

FROUDE'S HISTORY OF ENGLAND-QUEEN MARY. History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Eliza

beth. By James Anthony Froude, M.A., late Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. Vol. VI. London : John W. Parker and Son, West Strand. 1860.

In our last number we introduced Mr. Froude's fifth volume to our readers. It spoke of the gentle Edward. We have now before us his sixth volume. It treats of the ferocious Mary and her reign of blood. We complained that Mr. Froude bad little sympathy with the Reformation ; we hasten at once to acquit him of any disposition to defend the conduct of the wretched Mary and her bad advisers. If he has no reverence for the Reformers, he does not extenuate the misdeeds of Gardiner, Pole, and Bonner. As Protestants, we are perhaps not indisposed to admire the contemptuous wit and gentlemanly scorn with which he exposes the folly of Mary, and the bigotry both of herself and of her court. reflection, we feel at once that this is not the tone in which religious errors of frightful magnitude ought to be treated; and that, in fact, the historian who treats them so, can scarcely understand the nature of the crimes which he denounces. The judge pronouncing the dreadful sentence of death may wear the black cap-it suits the occasion ; but the car and bells are out of place. We rose from the fifth volume with the impression that the author owned but a slight allegiance to the Protestant faith; we rise from the present one under the conviction that he is too indifferent to all religions.

There are subjects on which an author writes all the better because his feelings are not interested. It is sometimes of advantage to a writer that he should be perfectly dispassionate; it is sometimes an essential condition of success. Impassioned mathematicians, and grammarians eloquent with indignation, only make themselves ridiculous. But noble as their pursuits may be, there are studies of a still higher kind. These require scarcely less patience, scarcely less acuteness, scarcely less abstraction of mind; but they demand, in addition, feeling, imagination, and even passion. A judge should be endowed with the calmness of the mathematician, and his powers of investigation. But it will not be maintained that he ought to feel none of the warmer emo

Vol. 59.-No. 273.

4 H

tions of our nature. If such were the constitution of his mind, he could not safely be intrusted with the adıninistration of justice. The sentence would often be disproportioned to the offence; for the circumstances of the criminal, the force of temptation, the differences of age and education-these, and many other points which aggravate or mitigate crime, he would be unable to comprehend. In the case of the historian, these remarks are still more applicable; for the virtues and vices which he describes owe their magnitude, in many instances, to the circumstances of the actor. A gust of passion blameable in a child, may rise to the dimensions of an atrocious crime in a despotic sovereign. A facility of temper pleasing in the drawing-room, may be deserving of the severest reprobation in a commander. It may depopulate a province, it may consign the patriot to the dungeon, or the martyr to the stake. Hence the necessity in the historiau of many qualifications combined: scientific skill to investigate, judicial wisdom to decide, warmth and feeling justly to appreciate, and eloquence to clothe the narrative in attractive colours. Hence the dignity of history and the paucity of great historians.

The young king Edward expired at Greenwich, July 7, 1553. Mary was at her house at Hunsdop. The king's death was made a secret by the duke of Northumberland and his party; and then followed the ten days' reign of lady Jane Grey. Never was usurpation less excusable, nor usurper more innocent. For the same reason that we rejoice in the exclusion of James II., and the revolution of 1688, we could have acquiesced in the exclusion of Mary from the throne. She was a bigoted papist, and of an agefor she was now thirty-six-at which her convictions were not likely to be shaken though had her character been less stubborn. The nation had decided in favour of the Reformation, and the prince who would not accept the decision was morally disqualified to reign. But her half-sister Elizabeth would then have been the lawful occupant of the throne; and the pretext of her illegitimacy, assigned in Edward's will as a reason for her exclusion, was too flimsy to deceive the meanest understanding. That Edward, in his dying hours, had been induced to sign a will excluding his two sisters, and settling the crown upon his cousin, was an argument good neither in law nor morals, even had no compulsion been used or misrepresentations practised. The intrigues of the unprincipled Northumberland, who had married his son, Guilford Dudley, to lady Jane Grey, have but one excuse. He may have been extremely anxious to save the Reformation ; and he may have thought that, in this case, the end justified the means; and that in the elevation of lady Jane Grey to the throne lay the sole hope of England. Some of the Reformers were induced to advocate her cause. On the Sunday after she was proclaimed,“ the preachers,” Mr. Froude tells us, “ exerted themselves.” “Ridley," he adds, not in the best taste, “shrieked against Mary at St. Paul's Cross.” Sandys, then

6

vice-chancellor of Cambridge, on the same day defended her title from the university pulpit. Parker, the first Protestant archbishop of Canterbury, Lever, and Bill, leaders of the Reformers, all residing at Cambridge, appear to have given their consent; but they were probably, at this early stage of the business, unacquainted with the facts, and were deceived by the false statements of Northumberland, who was then passing through the town on his way to Suffolk. Mr. Froude tells the story thus :

“ He sent for Parker, Lever, Bill, and Sandys to sup with him, and told them he required their prayers, or he and his friends were like to be made deacons of. Sandys, the vice-chancellor, must address the university

. the next morning from the pulpit.

"Sandys rose at three o'clock in the summer twilight, took his Bible, and prayed with closed eyes that he might open at a fitting text.

His eyes, when he lifted them, were resting on the 16th of the 1st of Joshua : • The people answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.'

“ The application was obvious. Edward was Moses, the duke was Joshua ; and if a sermon could have saved the cause, lady Jane would have been secure upon her throne.” (p. 27.)

John Knox was in England ; and from the pulpit at Amersham he more wisely denounced the approaching retribution. Those who have been taught to believe that Knox was a raving fanatic, will learn with surprise that he showed more discretion than some of the wisest of our own Reformers :

“ Buckinghamshire, Catholic and Protestant, was arming to the teeth ; and he was speaking at the peril of his life among the troopers of Sir Edward Hastings.

“ Oh England !' cried the saddened Reformer, ‘now is God's wrath kindled against thee—now hath he begun to punish as he hath threatened by his true prophets and messengers.

He hath taken from thee the crown of thy glory, and hath left thee without honour; and this appeareth to be only the beginning of sorrows. The heart, the tongue, the hand of one Englishman is bent against another; and division is in the realm, which is a sign of desolation to come. Oh, England, England ! if thy mariners and thy governors shall consume one another, shalt not thou suffer shipwreck? Oh England ! alas ! these plagues are poured upon thee because thou wouldst not know the time of thy most gentle visitation !'"

To the character of lady Jane herself, Mr. Froude does justice, in a passage which we quote; disfigured as it is with one of his usual exaggerations whenever he speaks of the evils which attended the Reformation :

“ Her character had developed with her talents. At fifteen she was learning Hebrew, and could write Greek; at sixteen she corresponded

a

with Bullinger in Latin at least equal to his own. But the matter of her letters is more striking than the language, and speaks more for her than the most elaborate panegyrics of admiring courtiers. She has left a portrait of herself, drawn by her own hand,*-a portrait of piety, purity,

, and free, noble innocence, uncoloured, even to a fault, with the emotional weaknesses of humanity. While the effects of the Reformation in England had been chiefly visible in the outward dominion of scoundrels, and in the eclipse of the hereditary virtues of the national character, lady Jane Grey had lived to show that the defect was not in the reformed faith, but in the absence of all faith,—that the graces of a St. Elizabeth could be rivalled by the pupil of Cranmer and Ridley. The Catholic saint had no excellence of which Jane Grey was without the promise ; the distinction was in the freedom of the Protestant from the hysterical ambition for an unearthly nature, and in the presence, through a more intelligent creed, of a vigorous and practical understanding.” (p. 7.)

The usurpation was utterly unpopular: no party embraced the cause of the unhappy lady Jane. " She was proclaimed in London amidst an ominous silence; not a voice in the crowd echoed the herald's cry, “God save queen Jane.” Mary had been informed

, by a private messenger of the king's death within a few hours of the event, and she fled at once to Framlingham castle. In a few days the nobility and gentry of England were gathering round her standard in Suffolk. Northumberland and his allies in the conspiracy soon discovered that they could not depend upon their own retainers; and without striking a blow, or waiting to meet their opponents in the field, they abandoned the cause they had so rashly undertaken. There were many reasons for the apathy of the nation, without throwing the blame, as Mr. Froude does, upon the rapacity of the Reformers, or the national miseries, on which he is never weary of insisting as the consequences of the Reformation. Northumberland himself was odious; he had been proud, overbearing, the keeper rather than the adviser of the late king, and the mortal enemy of the protector Somerset. Lady Jane was unknown in London, and was recognised elsewhere only as the puppet of her insolent father-in-law. Mary had lived retired : it was known that she was attached to the ancient faith ; but it was not known to what extent she was prepared to carry her devotion to it. Above all, there was a strong sense of justice enlisted on her behalf; the noblest feature in our national character in the best times, and almost the only good one that has never disappeared even in the worst. Mary was the eldest surviving child of Henry VIII., and therefore queen of England. One sentence contained the merits of the whole question; and when she was proclaimed, the enthusiasm of the people was unbounded. Mr. Froude describes it in a brilliant passage, reminding us, perhaps rather too much, of the descriptions of Lord Macaulay

“ Meanwhile the lords, with the mayor and the heralds, went to the

* Letters of Lady Jane Grey to Bullinger.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Cross at Cheapside to proclaim Mary queen. Pembroke himself stood out to read; and this time there was no reason to complain of a silent audience. He could utter but one sentence before his voice was lost in the shout of joy which thundered into the air. “God save the queen ! 'God save the queen !' rung out from ten thousands of throats. God save the queen ! cried Pembroke himself, when he had done ; and flung up his jewelled cap, and tossed his purse among the crowd. The glad news spread like lightning through London, and the pent up hearts of the citizens poured themselves out in a torrent of exultation. Above the human cries, the long-silent church bells clashed again into life; first began St. Paul's, where happy chance had saved them from destruction; then, one by one, every peal that had been spared caught up the sound; and through the summer evening and the summer night, and all the next day, the metal tongues from tower and steeple gave voice to England's gladness. The lords, surrounded by the shouting multitude, walked in state to St. Paul's, where the choir again sang a Te Deum, and the unused organ rolled out once more its mighty volume of music. As they came out again, at the close of the service, the apprentices were heaping piles of wood for bonfires at the cross-ways. The citizens were spreading tables in the streets, which their wives were loading with fattest capons and choicest wines; there was free feasting for all comers; and social jealousies, religious hatreds, were forgotten for the moment in the ecstasy of the common delight. Even the retainers of the Dudleys, in fear or joy, tore their badges out of their caps, and trampled on them.” (p. 33.)

Our evil passions are our own; the exhibition of them we owe to circumstances. When Mary ascended the throne she seemed to have a kind heart, and even a forgiving temper. She was strongly influenced by religion ; though unhappily it was a religion which, as she was taught to understand and practise it, made no provision for subduing the dictates of a hard heart and a corrupt nature. She was intolerant from principle; but cruel only when resistance had provoked and disappointment soured her. Hers is a solemn history; she has left on record a name the most detested that woman ever bore; and yet there was a time, and that when her character appeared to be quite matured, when her life was blameless, and when, if no great virtues adorned her character, no vice disgraced it. Almost all that is detestable in woman, one sin excepted, has for three hundred years been associated with her name; one revolting word sums up her hideous character, and will do so to the end of time. Yet this infamy was accumulated during the last six years of the life of her who died at two-andforty. Rome, in short, had her Messalina, Samaria her Jezebel, France her Catherine de Medicis, and England her bloody Mary. We trace the career of this wretched woman even now with mingled sentiments of disgust and horror ; but the stage on which she acted was too wide to permit her vices to be hid, and her dreadful example is too instructive to be lost.

When Mary ascended the throne, she had much to forgive. She

a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »