« VorigeDoorgaan »
HENRY HOWARD, EARL OF SURREY.
(1517-1546.) Our communications and intercourse with Italy, which began to prevail about the beginning of the sixteenth century, not only introduced the study of classical literature into England, but gave a new turn to our vernacular poetry. At this period Petrarch still continued the most favourite poet of the Italians, and had established a manner which was universally adopted and imitated by his ingenious countrymen. In the meantime, the courts both of France and of England were distinguished for their elegance. Francis I. had changed the state of letters in France by mixing gallantry with learn ing, and by admitting the ladies to his court in company with ecclesiastics. His carousals were celebrated with a brilliancy and festivity unknown to the ceremonious shows of former princes. Henry VIII. vied with Francis in these gaieties. His ambition, which could not bear a rival even in diversions, was seconded by a liberality of disposition and a love of ostentation. For Henry, with many boisterous qualities, was magnificent and affable. Had he never murdered his wives, his politeness to the fair sex would have remained unimpeached. His martial sports were unencumbered by the barbaric pomp of the ancient chivalry, and softened by the growing habits of more rational manners. He was attached to those spectacles and public amusements in which beauty assumed a principal share; and his frequent masques and tournaments encouraged a high
spirit of romantic courtesy. Poetry was the natural accompaniment of these refinements. Henry himself was a leader and chief character in these pageantries, and at the same time a reader and a writer of verses. The language and manners of Italy were esteemed and studied. The sonnets of Petrarch were the great models of composition. They entered into the genius of the fashionable manners; and in a court of such a complexion, Petrarch of course became the popular poet. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, with a mistress perhaps as beautiful as Leonora, and at least with Petrarch's passion, if not his taste, led the way to great improvements in English poetry, by happy imitation of Petrarch and other Italian poets, who had been most successful in painting the anxieties of love with pathos and propriety.
Henry Howard was the son and grandson of two lords treasurers, dukes of Norfolk, and in his early childhood discovered the most promising marks of lively parts and an active mind. While a boy, he was habituated to the modes of a court, being, in 1526, cup-bearer to the king. In 1532 he married Frances Vere, daughter of John Earl of Oxford ; and in the same year he attended the king to France, and was present at the interview between the English and French monarchs at Boulogne. Thence he appears to have accompanied the Duke of Richmond, the favourite natural son of Henry, to Paris, returning to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn in June 1533. In the autumn of the same year he was appointed to attend the young duke at Windsor, pending the obtainment of the dispensation necessary to legalise the prince's marriage with the Lady Mary Howard, Surrey's only sister. In 1536, Surrey was knighted, and soon afterwards was called upon to be present at the trial of Anne Boleyn, as the representative of his father in his quality of earl marshal, the duke having to preside on the sad occasion in his other quality of lord treasurer. In 1540, Surrey distinguished himself in the jousts and tournaments celebrated in honour of the king's marriage with Anne of Cleves; and in the same year he accompanied the forces sent into France. In 1542, he was made a knight of the Garter ; and in the same year accompanied the expedition, under the Duke of Norfolk, against Scotland. In April 1543 our poet was imprisoned in the Fleet for the offence-which Dr. Nott ludicrously considers as highly interesting and romantic—of " walking about the streets of the city at night in a lewd and unseemly manner, and breaking several windows with a stone-bow." His frolicsome lordship, in his Satire against the Citizens of London, humorously says “ that he had endeavoured to awaken them to a sense of their iniquities by flinging stones against their windows;" in which jocose explanation Dr. Nott further discerns “an attempt, however wild and extravagant, at religious reformation.” In the October following, Surrey joined the English army in alliance with the emperor, then encamped before Landrecy, near Boulogne, where, going to see the trenches soon after his arrival, he “escaped very hardly from a piece of ordnance that was shot towards him." He returned to England in November, and occupied himself for a while in constructing his seat called Mount Surrey, near Norwich, where the poet Churchyard was one of his pages. In the unhappy disputes between his parents, which commenced when he was about sixteen, it is painful to find his mother describe him as acting the part of "an ungracious son.” The duke, however, strenuously repelled the charge which his wife made against him; and we may hope that “the gentle Surrey” himself merited not the heavy imputation conveyed by his mother's expression.
In 1554, upon the expedition to Boulogne, he was made marshal of the English army; and after taking that town, he was, in the beginning of September 1545, constituted the king's lieutenant and captain-general of all his army within the town and county of Boulogne. During his command there in 1546, hearing that a convoy of provisions of the enemy was on its way, he resolved to intercept it; but the Rhinegrave, with four thousand men of his own, and a considerable number of French, making an obstinate defence, the English were routed, Sir Edward Poynings, with many other gentlemen, killed, and the earl himself obliged to fly; though it appears, by a letter to the king, dated January 8th, 1548, that this advantage cost the enemy a great number of men. But the king was so highly displeased with this ill success, that he conceived a prejudice against the earl, and soon after removed him from his command. The earl being desirous, in the meantime, to regain his former favour with the king, skirmished with the French and routed them; but soon after writing over to the king's council that, as the enemy had cast much larger cannon than had been yet seen, with which they imagined they should soon demolish Boulogne, it deserved consideration whether the lower town should stand, as not being defensible, the council ordered him to return to England, in order to represent his sentiments more fully upon those points; and the Earl of Hertford was immediately sent over in his room. This exasperating the Earl of Surrey, occasioned him to let fall some expressions which savoured of revenge and dislike to the king, and a hatred of his councillors, and was probably one cause of his ruin, which soon after ensued. The Duke of Norfolk, who discerned the growing power of the Seymours, and the influence they were likely to have in the next reign, was for making an alliance with them. He therefore pressed his son, now a widower, to marry
the Earl of Hertford's daughter, and the Duchess of Richmond, his own daughter, now a widow, to marry Sir Thomas Seymour; but neither of these matches was effected, and the Seymours and Howards then became open enemies; and the Seymours failed not to inspire the king with an aversion to the Norfolks.
The real cause why the Earl of Surrey was finally committed (Dec. 12, 1547) to the Tower has never been accurately defined; but the charge upon which he was arraigned was, generally, high treason ; and particularly, among other alleged offences, the adding some part of the royal arms to his own; but in this he was justified by the heralds, as he proved that a power of doing so was granted by preceding monarchs to his forefathers. Upon the strength of these suspicions and surmises, however, he and his father were committed to the Tower, the one by water and the other by land, so that they knew not of each other's apprehension. The 15th day of January next following he was arraigned at Guildhall, where he was found guilty, and received judgment. About nine days before the death of the king, he lost his head on Tower Hill, Jan. 21, 1548.
It is said, when a courtier asked King Henry why he was so zealous in taking off Surrey : “I observed him," says he, “an enterprising youth his spirit was too great to brook subjection; and though I can manage him, yet no successor of mine will ever be able to do so ; for which reason I have despatched him in my own time.” He was first interred in the chapel of the Tower, and afterwards, in the reign of King James, his remains were removed to Framlingham in Suffolk.
Lord Surrey was the first of the English nobility who had any familiar intercourse with the Muses, and far surpassed his contemporaries in purity of language and harmony of numbers.
“ This is he,” expatiates Barry Cornwall,“ who trod on the Field of the Cloth of Gold; who gazed on the magic glass of Cornelius Agrippa ; who proclaimed the peerless beauty of his Florentine lady, and defended it in tilt and tournament. Vanity and love and heroism are written on his brow; and his life was an illustration of its aspect. He was a believer in princes and magicians; he was a nobleman, a courtier, a lover, a knight, a poet, an accomplished traveller, and an eminent soldier. He overcame the gallants of Tuscany, in honour of his Lady Geraldine; and he conquered the Scots at Flodden Field, in honour of his country. It was his misfortune to live in the reign of our Henry VIII., than whom a more fierce, uncertain, and relentless brute was never worshipped even among the abominations of Egypt. He was the first writer of narrative blank verse in the English language; though his poetry in general is in rhyme, and is more
like Petrarch's, perhaps, than any other model. He has some of the quaintness of his age upon him; but there is also a pure vein of pathos running through his poetry, and occasionally a depth of sentiment which is not perceptible in any of his contemporaries.”
(Born circa 1518.) William Baldwin is supposed by Wood to have been a west-country man. Having studied several years in logic and philosophy at Oxford, he proceeded M.A. in January 1532. The scanty materials of his life neither show his rank, pursuits, nor his connexions. In 1549 he subscribes himself “servaunt with Edwarde Whitchurche,” the printer; but what was his immediate station and dependence upon the press is uncertain, although he appears to have found employment thereupon for several years. It is conjectured by Herbert, that he was “ one of those scholars who followed printing in order to forward the Reformation,” and therefore submitted to the labour of correcting the press. In 1563 he tells his readers "he has been called to another trade of type ;' and he is believed to have then taken orders and commenced schoolmaster. With the exception of Sir Thomas Chaloner, he was the oldest man of the number who met by general assent to devise the continuation of Lydgate, in the form of the Mirrour for Magistrates, to which metrical series of histories he contributed fourteen out of the thirty-four lives, constituting part iii. One of the earliest of his writings, A Treatise of Moral Philosophy, was nearly as popular as the Mirrour for Magistrates, and went through many editions.
THOMAS LORD VAUX.
(Born circa 1520.) Thomas Lord Vaux, “a poetical writer among the nobility in the reign of King Henry VIII., whose commendation,” says Puttenham, “ lyeth chiefly in the facility of his metre, and the aptness of his descriptions, such as he takes upon himself to make—namely, in sundry of his songs, wherein he showeth the counterfeit action very