Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

ment in his expectation of being successor to Ben Jonson as poet-laureat, William d'Ave. nant being appointed in his stead. We afterwards find him in the republican army commanded by Fairfax, and in the post of a secretaryship under the parliament. He died in 1650.

1. May first appeared, in a literary character, as a poet and dramatist. He also translated Virgil's Georgics, with annotations; as likewise, “ Select Epigrams of Martial." But his most important translation was that of " Lucan's Pharsalia," with a “Continuation" of that poem, in English and Latin, to the death of Julius Cæsar.

2. By his majesty's command, he wrote a metrical history of “The Reign of Henry the Second;" to which he added in prose, “The Description of Henry II. with a short Survey of the Changes of his Reign.” Also,“ The single and comparative Characters of Henry and Richard, his Sons."

3. But his most considerable work is "Thre History of the Parliament of England ;" which may be considered rather as a brief history of the Civil Wars" which arose during its sitting. He represents this work as a task in

posed upon him, and which he undertook with reluctance. “ For (says he) I wished more than life, that for the public's sake, my theme could rather have been the prosperity of these nations, the honour and happiness of the king, and such a blessed condition of both, as might have reached all the ends for which government was first ordained in the world.” The full title is, “The History of the Parliament of England, which began November 3, 1640, with a short and necessary View of some precedent Years : written by Thomas May, Esq. secretary for the parliament; published by authority;" folio, 1847. To this first edition is prefixed a preface (never reprinted) in which the following passage deserves transcription, as it explains the situation of the author at the commencement of the civil wars, as likewise his means of informatior.

That (says be) which of all other is most likely to be differently related, is concerning the actions of war and soldiery; and in the time of this war it is a thing of extraordinary difficulty, I might say, of im. possibility, for those of one party to be truly informed of all the councils, or very performances and actions of commanders and soldiers on the other side. How much valour the English nation on both sides have been guilty of in this unnatural war, the world must needs know in the general fame: but for particulars, how much worth, virtue, and courage, some particular lords, gentlemen, and others have shewed, unless both sides do write, will never perfectly be known. My residence (continues he) hath been, during these wars, in the quarters, and under the protection of the parliament; and whatsoever is briefly related of the soldiery, being towards the end of the book, is according to that light which I discerned there. For whatsoever I have missed concerning the other party, I can make no other

ароlogy than such as Meteranus doth in the preface of his History, de Belg. Tumultibus ; whose words are, Quod plura de reformatorum et patriæ defensorum quam de partis adversæ rebus gestīs exposuerim; mirum haud quaquàm est, quoniam plus commercii et familiaritatis mihi cum ipsis, et major indagandi opportunitas fuit : Si pars adversa idem tali probitate præstiterit et ediderit ; Posteritas gesta omnia legere, et liquido cognoscere magno cum fructu poterit. In like manner I may aver, (says he, to give his own translation,) that if, in this discourse, more particulars are set down, concerning the actions of those men who defended the parliament, than of them that warred against it; it was because my conversation gave me more light OR that side; to whom, as I have endeavoured to

[ocr errors]

give no more than what is due, so I have cast no blemishes on the other ; nor bestowed any more characters than what the truth of story must require : if those that writ on the other side will use the same candor, there is no fear but that posterity may receive a full information concerning the unbappy distractions of these kingdoms.

[ocr errors]

The first book of this history begins with short characters of queen Elizabeth, king James, and the beginning of Charles I. to the year 1641 ; and the last ends with a narrative of the first battle of Newbury, 1841. The author afterwards made an abstract of this his. tory, and continued it in Latin, to the death of Charles I.; which work he likewise translated into English

He thus-speaks of the causes which preceded and produced the civil war. The extract 'commences at the dissolution of the parlia'ment in the fourth year of Charles.

After the breaking off this parliament (as the historian speaketh of Roman liberty, after the battle of Philippi, nunquam post hoc prælium, &c. the people of England for many years never looked back to their

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »