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The example that was set by royalty itself had no small share in contributing to this. Henry VIII., being himself a great scholar, took care that his children should be well taught; his daughter Mary wrote, with ease and elegance, Latin, French, and Spanish; while her sister Elizabeth, besides being proficient in these Elizabeth languages, as well as Italian, was an accomplished Jane Grey. Grecian, and read more Greek every day, says Ascham, her tutor, than some prebendaries of the church read Latin in a whole week. Equal in scholarship, but far superior in taste, was Lady Jane Grey, whose favourite author was Plato, and the study of whose last hours was the Greek Testament. The interesting pictures of her, drawn by Ascham, are well known. To these we might add many others; the two Margarets, the female luminaries of Sir Thomas More's household; the three wonderful daughters of Sir Anthony Cooke, who married, respectively, Lord Burleigh, Sir Nicholas Bacon, the father of the illustrious philosopher, and Sir Henry Killigrew. The Elizabethan gentlewoman could always play upon the lute, viol, and Elizabethan virginal. She began the morning with prayer, and, after woman. an early breakfast of meat and ale, betook herself to her needle, and embroidered. She then went to the dairy, whence she repaired to the pastry, in which she took much delight. The garden next demanded her care; she had to visit her bees, and to see if the hemp and flax were coming up; for she was at once a spinster, a pastry cook, a still-room woman, and a housewife. After this she would delight the husbandman and ploughman by going to see how the cows fared, and watching the poultry in the farmyard. The ladies of the court, says old Harrison, avoided idleness, by exercising their fingers with the needle, by continual reading either of the Holy Scriptures, or histories of our own or foreign nations about us, and divers in writing volumes of their own, or translating other works; while the younger sort applied themselves to music, when they were not in attendance upon the Queen. They were also skilful in surgery, and the distillation of waters.†
36. Poetical literature. The English language, in the course of the sixteenth century, reached, in regard to both its vocabulary and its structural and syntactical character, very nearly the state in which it still exists. This course of improvement is more clearly shown in the poetry than in the prose of the period. But no poet, worthy of the name, arose after the time of Chaucer and his immediate successors, until the time of Lord Surrey and Sir * Shakspere's England, II., 396. + Pict. Hist., II., 823
Thomas Wyatt, who are generally considered as the founders of the modern poetical literature of England. There were rhymesters, such as Hawes, Barclay, who wrote The Ship of Fools, Skelton, poet-laureate to Henry VIII., and John Heywood. Surrey's poetical works were a collection of songs and sonnets, a translation, in verse, of Solomon's Ecclesiastes, and a translation, poems. in blank verse, of the second and fourth books of Virgil's Eneid. Like Chaucer, he adopted the poetry of Italy for his model; and, while he polished his native tongue into a refinement which it had not hitherto exhibited, he avoided the artificial and quaint style of his instructors, and aimed at being natural. He was the first of English writers who attempted blank verse. Wyatt. Wyatt was the father of that Sir Thomas Wyatt, who rebelled against Queen Mary, and was executed. As a poet he was not so graceful or tender as Surrey, but he occasionally exhibited greater strength and depth of feeling. The effect which the writings of these two poets had upon their immediate successors may be easily recognised in the classical style and versification of Grimoald, Lord Vaux, and Sackville, Lord Dorset, Sackville, poets in the reign of Mary. The first of these is chiefly remarkable for the small poem, called "The aged lover renounceth love," from which Shakspere borrowed three stanzas, which he has put into the mouth of his grave-digger in "Hamlet." Sackville is the best known of the three. projected "The Mirror for Magistrates," upon the plan of Dante's Inferno, in which was described the misfortunes of the great in English History, and for which he wrote "The Induction," and "The Legend of the Duke of Buckingham." The first of these is a magnificent collection of allegorical characters, with which the poet is brought into acquaintance while he is conducted by Sorrow through the infernal regions; and they are delineated with such power, as to be little inferior to those of Spenser himself. Sackville also wrote "Ferrex and Porrex," the earliest specimen of a regular tragedy in the English language. But the greatest of all the poets who appeared in this age was Edmund Spenser. Spenser, who was born in London about the year 1553; he was educated at Cambridge, became secretary to Lord Grey, of Wilton, lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and, obtaining a grant of land in Cork, out of the forfeited estates of the Earl of Desmond, took up his abode at Kilcolman Castle, where he commenced his great poem, the "Faerie Queen." At the instigation of his friend, Sir Walter Raleigh, he published the first three books in 1590; three others followed in 1596; and then cala
mities came which prevented his writing more. Tyrone's rebellion broke out in 1597; the insurgents burnt down the castle; and Spenser, having lost one of his children in the flames, returned to London, a heart-broken and impoverished man, and died in 1599. The malignity of Lord Burleigh had pursued him through life, and, beyond his barren estate, and a scanty pension, he never received any favour from Elizabeth, on whom he had lavished his richest panegyrics. Besides his principal poem, Spenser wrote "The Shepherd's Calendar," "Colin Clout's come home again," "Mother Hubbard's Tale," "Hymns and Visions,” "The Tears of the Muses," and some translations. He also wrote, in prose, a "Memorial on the State of Ireland, and its Remedy," a work still applicable to the condition of that unhappy country. But the "Faerie Queen" has completely eclipsed all his other productions; a description of its gorgeous imagery, however, would require more space than we have at command.* There were other English poets during the Elizabethan Minor! age who might be noticed; for it was, indeed, a poetic poets. era, and as many as two hundred names have been mentioned by some authorities, as the writers of sonnets and other miscellaneous pieces. Among these are Drayton, Chapman, Fairfax, who translated Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered," Gascoyne, and others. But the drama, in which poetry evinced its highest powers, and accomplished its noblest achievements, was the great glory of the This will be fully treated of in another chapter.
37. Prose literature. The first example of good English prose was Sir Thomas More's Life of Edward V., written about the year 1509. Sir Thomas Elyot's Governor, published in 1531, is the next specimen. The author was a gentleman Elyot. of good family, and was employed by Henry VIII. in several embassies. He was an excellent grammarian, poet, rhetorician, and philosopher; but, though equal in learning and sagacity to Sir Thomas More, he was much inferior in genius. The subject of his work was the education of youth. Ascham, who does not excel him, was the next prose writer; he pub- Ascham. lished his Toxophilus, or Dialogue on Archery, in 1544; and his Schoolmaster was printed in 1570, no works of any elegance or eloquence having been written by any one, in the interval between these publications.
Roger Ascham was born at Kirby-Wiske, near Northallerton, in Yorkshire, 1515; was educated under the patronage of the family of the Wingfields, and by them sent to Cambridge, where he distinguished himself as a Greek scholar, and became
* See Hallam's Literary Hist., II., 233-241.
tutor to Prince Edward and the Lady Elizabeth, as well as to the Suffolk family. After spending some time in Germany, in the service of Charles V., he held the post of Latin secretary under Edward, and was retained in that capacity by both Mary and Elizabeth, the latter of whom held him in the highest estimation. He held several church preferments, and died in the year 1560.
The style of Ascham is plain and strong, but without grace or warmth; and his sentences have no harmony of structure. He stands, however, above all other writers of the first half of Elizabeth's reign. These writers express their meaning well, but lack rhythm and metaphor; they are not bad writers, because their solid sense is aptly conveyed to the mind; but they are not good, because they have little selection of words, and give no pleasure by means of style. Well measured prose, however, began to be written in the later years of the Queen's reign; but the want of good models gave rise to some perversion of the national taste, which, in poetry, showed itself in affected conceits, and, in prose, led to pedantic allusions to mythology and a Latinised phraseology. The most remarkable specimen of this class was the "Euphues" of Lilly, the dramatist, written of Lilly. in 1595, and of no value, except that it had a wonderful influence upon the public taste. All the ladies of the time became Lilly's scholars, so that she who did not speak Euphuism was as little regarded at court as if she could not speak French. Shakespere has ridiculed the style, which was that of affected antithesis and sententiousness, in Love's Labour Lost, although he has unconsciously used it in some of Hamlet's speeches.
The first really good prose writer in Elizabeth's reign was Sir Sir Philip Philip Sidney, whose chief works in this department Sidney. were, the " Arcadia," which appeared in 1590, and the "Defence of Poesie." The former is a pastoral romance, and is the only original fiction, worthy of notice, which our older literature can boast; but it is inferior in sense, style, and spirit to the latter work, in which, remarks Hallam, Sidney has shown the capacity of the English language for spirit, variety, graceful idiom, and masculine firmness.*
But the finest, as well as the most philosophical, writer of the Hooker. Elizabethan period was Hooker, the first book of whose Ecclesiastical Polity is at this day one of the masterpieces of English eloquence. We have already given some account of it. Bacon. Bacon's Essays, though first published in 1597, belong to the next period; for only ten of them were issued in that year, the others being added between 1612 and 1625. On the whole, therefore, the prose literature of Elizabeth's reign is very mean.
* Literary Hist., II., 297.
The pedantic Euphuism of Lilly overspreads the productions which aspire to the rank of polite literature; while the common style of the pamphlets and ephemeral writings, like those of Martin Mar-prelate and his answerers, or of such efforts at wit and satire as came from Greene, Nash, and other worthies of our early stage, is low and very stupid ribaldry. Good sense, in plain language, was not always wanting upon serious subjects; but, in polite writing, there were few productions of worth.*
CHAPTER VIII. THE REIGN OF JAMES THE FIRST.
Reigned twenty-two years and three days, from 24th March, 1603, to 27th March, 1625. Born in Edinburgh Castle, 19th June, 1566. Married Anne of Denmark. Died 27th March, 1625.
1. James's title to the throne. It was the general opinion that James of Scotland was the lawful heir to the throne, and, therefore, his accession was notified to the public without causing any excitement. This popular notion, however, was not based on good constitutional grounds; James had only the hereditary right, the parliamentary right belonging to the house of Suffolk. For it is a principle of the constitution, that "a lawful King of England, with the advice and consent of parliament, may make statutes to limit the inheritance of the crown as shall seem fit,"t and Henry VIII. and his parliament, acting upon this principle, had disposed of the succession, so that the descendants of Mary Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, should succeed to the throne, in default of issue from Henry's children. At the time of Elizabeth's death, the descendants of Mary were still living, and, although the legitimacy of Lord Beauchamp, the representative of Mary's eldest daughter Frances, was questioned, there yet remained the children of Eleanor, Countess of Cumberland, Mary's youngest daughter. So that the house of Stuart had no sort of constitu* Hallam's Literary Hist., II., 293-299. + Hallam's Const. Hist., I., 289.