Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

This

may be, and probably is, an exaggeration ; but that it has been founded on the well-known liberality of Lord Southampton to Shakspeare ; on a certain knowledge that donations had passed from the peer to the poet, there can be little doubt. It had become the custom of the age to reward dedication by pecuniary bounty, and that Lord Southampton was diffusively and peculiarly generous in this mode of remuneration, we have the express testimony of Florio, who, dedicating his World of Words to this nobleman in 1598, says :“ In truth, I acknowledge an entire debt, not only of my

best knowledge, but of all ; yea of more than I know, or can to your bounteous lordship, in whose pay and patronage I have lived some years ; to whom I owe and vowe the years I have to live. But, as to me, and many more, the glorious and gracious sunshine of

your

honour hath infused light and life.” Here, if we except the direct confession relative to “ pay,” the language is similar to, and not more emphatically expressive of gratitude than was Shakspeare's; and that, under the phrase “ many more,” Florio meant to include our poet, we may, without scruple, infer. To an actor, to a rising dramatic writer, to one who had placed the first fruits of his genius under his protection, and who was still contending with the difficulties incident to his situation, the taste, the generosity, and the feeling of Lord Southampton, would naturally be attracted; and the donation which, in all probability, followed the dedication of Venus and Adonis, we have reason, from the voice of tradition, to conclude, was succeeded by many, and still more important, proofs of His Lordship’s favour.

The patronage of literature, however, was not the only inclination which, at this early period of life, His Lordship cultivated with enthusiasm ; the year subsequent to his receival of Shakspeare's dedication of The Rape of Lucrece, saw him entangled in all the perplexities of

with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted; that my Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time." Reed's Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 67.

love, and the devoted slave of the faire Mrs. Varnon. Of this attachment, which was thwarted by the caprice of Elizabeth, Rowland Whyte, in a letter to Sir Henry Sydney, dated September 23rd, 1595, writes in the following terms :-—“ My Lord Southampton doth with too much familiarity court the faire Mrs. Varnon, while his friends, observing the Queen's humours towards my Lord of Essex, do what they can to bring her to favour him ; but it is yet in vain. ” * This young lady, Elizabeth Vernon, was the cousin of the celebrated Earl of Essex, between whom and Southampton differences had arisen, which this passion for his fair relative dissipated for ever. *

Yet the fascinations of love could not long restrain the ardent spirit of Lord Southampton. In 1597, when Lord Essex was appointed General of the forces destined to act against the Azores, Southampton, at the age of twenty-four, gallantly came forward as a volunteer, on board the Garland, one of Her Majesty's best ships, an offer which was soon followed by a commission from Essex to command her. An opportunity speedily occurred for the display of his courage; in an engagement with the Spanish fleet, he pursued and sunk one of the enemy's largest men of war, and was wounded in the arm, during the conflict. I Sir William Monson, one of the Admirals of the

expedition, tells us, that the Earl lost time in this chase, which might have been better employed s; but his friend Essex appears to have considered his conduct in a different light, and conferred

upon him, voyage,

the honour of knighthood.

during his

* Sydney Papers, vol. i. p. 348.

† “ There were present, at this Council, the Earl of Southampton, with whom, in former times, he (Essex) had been at some emulations, and differences, at Court : But, after, Southampton, having married his Kinswoman, plunged himself wholly into his fortune,” &c. Declaration of the Treason of the Earl of Essex, sign. D. quoted by Mr. Chalmers, Supplement. Apology, p. 110.

| Rowland Whyte informs us, that “ Lord Southampton fought with one of the king's great men of war, and sunk her.” Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 72; but Sir William Monson cails this man of war “a frigate of the Spanish fleet.”

Account of the Wars with Spain, p. 38.

On his return to England, in October, 1597, he had the misfortune to find that the Queen had embraced the opinion of Monsoħ, rather than that of Essex, and frowned with displeasure on the officer who had presumed to pursue and sink a Spanish vessel, without orders from his commander ; a censure which was intended also to reach the General, with whom she was justly offended for having assumed the direction of a service to which his judgment and his talents were inadequate.

Nor was the immediately subsequent conduct of Southampton in the least degree calculated to appease the anger of Elizabeth; he renewed his proposals of marriage, and again without consulting her wishes; he quarrelled with, and challenged the Earl of Northumberland, and compelled her to issue a mandate in order to prevent their meeting; and one evening, being engaged at play, in the presence-chamber, with Raleigh and some other courtiers, they protracted their amusement beyond the hour of the Queen's retirement to rest; and being warned by Willoughby, the officer in waiting, to depart, Raleigh obeyed, but Southampton, indignant and easily irritated, refused compliance, and, warm language ensuing, he struck Willoughby, who was not backward in returning the blow. When the Queen, the next morning, was apprised of this disgraceful scuffle, she applauded Willoughby for his spirited conduct, adding, that “ he had better have sent Southampton to the porter's lodge, to see who durst have fetched him out." **

This heedless and intemperate ebullition of passion, the result of youth and inexperience, was atoned for by many sterling virtues of the head and heart ; and the career of dissipation was fortunately interrupted by His Lordship's attention to his duty as a senator in the first place, and, secondly, by an engagement to accompany Mr. Secretary Cecil on an embassy to Paris.

His introduction to parliamentary business began on the 24th of October, 1597, and ter

1

Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 83.

7

[ocr errors]

minated, with the session, on the 8th of February 1598; and two
days afterwards, he left London to commence his tour.

Previous to his quitting the capital, he, and his friends, Cobham
and Raleigh, thought it necessary to entertain his future fellow-
traveller; and, on this occasion, Southampton had recourse to his
favourite amusement, the drama ; for it is recorded that they “ severally
feasted Mr. Secretary, before his departure; and had plaies, and ban-

The bare mention of this excursion, however, had afforded extreme grief to the fair object of his affections, who “passed her time in weeping t;" and, in order to obviate the apprehended consequences of his absence, and consequently her sorrow, it had been secretly proposed that Lord Southampton should marry his mistress before his departure. I Circumstances having prevented the accomplishment of this plan, we are not surprised to learn that when His Lordship departed, on the 10th of February 1598, he left “ behind. him a most desolate gentlewoman, that almost wept out her fairest

quets.” *

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

eyes.”

[ocr errors]

The travellers reached Paris on the 1st of March 1598, and on the 17th of the same month, Cecil introduced his friend, at Angers, to that illustrious monarch Henry the Fourth, telling His Majesty, that Lord Southampton “ was come with deliberation to do him service.” Henry received the Earl most graciously, and embraced him with many expressions of regard ; and, had not the peace of Vervins intervened, His Lordship would have ardently seized the opportunity of serving the ensuing campaign under a general of such unrivalled reputation.

In the course of November 1598, there is reason to suppose that this enterprising nobleman returned to London || ; soon after which event, his union with Elizabeth Vernon took place. His bride was

* Sydney Papers, vol. ü. p. 87.

+ Ibid., p. 81. # Ibid., p. 88.
Ibid., p. 90.
1 In a letter, dated November 2nd, 1598, Rowland Whyte says, that Lord Southampton
is about to return to England. Sydney Papers, vol. ii. p. 104.

the daughter of John Vernon of Hodnet, in the county of Salop, and she appears to have possessed a large share of personal charms. A portrait of her was drawn by Cornelius Jansen, which is said to have “ the face and hands coloured with incomparable lustre.” * The unjustifiable resentment of the Queen, however, rendered this connection, for a time, a source of much misery to both parties. Her capricious tyranny was such, as to induce her to feel offended, if any of her courtiers had the audacity to love or marry without her knowledge or permission ; and the result of what she termed His Lordship’s clandestine marriage, was the instant dismissal of himself and his lady to a prison. How long their confinement was protracted, cannot now be accurately ascertained ; that it was long in the opinion of the Earl of Essex, appears from an address of his to the Lords of Council, in which he puts the following interrogation :—“ Was it treason in my Lord of Southampton to marry my poor kinswoman, that neither long imprisonment, nor any punishment besides, that hath been usual, in like cases, can satisfy, or appease † ?” But we do know that it could not have existed beyond March, 1599; for on the 27th of that month, Lord Southampton accompanied his friend Essex to Ireland, where, immediately on his arrival, he was appointed by the Earl, now Lord Deputy of that country, his general of the horse.

This military promotion of Southampton is one among numerous proofs of the imprudence of Essex, for it was not only without the Queen's knowledge, but, as Camden has informed to his instructions.”. What was naturally to be expected, therefore, soon occurred; Lord Southampton was, by the Queen's orders, deprived of his commission, in the August following, and on the 20th of September, 1599, he revisited London, where, apprehensive of the

us,

“ clean contrary

* Imperfect Hints towards a New Edition of Shakspeare, 4to. Part II., Advertisement,

P. xxi.

+ Birch's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 422.
| Kennet's History of England, vol. ii. p. 614.

« VorigeDoorgaan »