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country, no honest minister could have ad-my lord cardinal. But whether they were devised the remission of the penalty. Still vised of policy to pacify the mutterings of the more without ground is the accusation brought people, which had divers communications and against Wolsey, about the “ benevolences,” imaginations of my lord being there, or whether which he is represented as having originated the disposition of the common people are accus
they were devised of some malicious person as without consulting the king; which Henry is tomed to do, whatever the occasion or cause was, made so grandly to remit, and Wolsey basely this I am well assured of, that, after
my lord was to claim credit for the remission. The money thereof advertised, and had perused one of the was required to carry out the war in France, said books, he was not a little offended, and as. at the moment at which it was crippled by sembled all the privy council of France together, the defeat and imprisonment of Francis I. ; to whom he spake his mind thus : - that it was and the war itself was one which Wolsey re- not only a suspicion in them, but also a great rcgarded as disastrous alike to England, to Eu- buke and defamation of the king's honor to sce rope, and to Christendom; a war against which and know any such seditious untruths openly dihis influence had always been strained to its vulged and set forth by any malicious and subtle
traitor of this realm; saying, furthermore, that utinost.
The Commons mutinied—but not if the like bad been attempted within the realm against him; and he used the opportunity to of England, he doubted not but to see it pun, prevail on Henry to give way. It is true, that ished according to the traitorous demeanor and when it was the fasbion to lay the odium of deserts of the author thereof. * every unpopular measure upon him, those who were really responsible for it endeavored to
In the presence of evidence such as tbis, it escape their fault, and make him answer for is scarcely possible to maintain the story any it; but Henry's own words are sufficient to longer. And it is not so unimportant as it bear him clear, who expressly. told Anne may seem to ascertain whether there be truth Boleyn, when she spoke of it to him, that he in it or not; since it is commonly represented knew more of that matter than she, and the as an essential feature in Wolsey's scheme of Cardinal was not to blame."*
policy. He encouragerl, we are told, the di. In the story of the French princess, whom vorce of Queen Catherine, because he deShakspeare makes Wolsey intend for Henry, sired to revenge himself on the Emperor Charles after the divorce had been completed, he fol- for a personal affront; and in marrying. Henry lows Hall, who relates it elaborately: But to the Princess Renée, he would bind him in a Cavendish furnishes so complete a refutation close connection with Charles's most dangerof Hall, that we are surprised to find Shak
ous enemy speare repeating him. Cavendish was with
Of his actual conduct in the matter of the Wolsey, in France, at the time when the ne- divorce, we shall speak at length presently. gotiation was supposed to be going forward; In the meantime, to proceed with Shakspeare's and as the story did at that time actually origi- charges : there is another matter in which a nate, it is worth while to extract what he says most unfavorable impression is left against him, about it.
on which it is desirable to say something. lle
is said to have shared deeply in the prevailing In this time of my lord's being in France, over vice of the celibate ecclesiastics, and to havo and beside his noble entertainment with the king been a person of profligate habits. Shakspeare and his nobles, he sustained divers displeasure accuses him through the mouth of Queen of the French 'slaves (sic) that devised a certain Catherine ; and from the manner in which the book which was set forth in articles upon the cause of my lord being there, which should be, as accusation is brought out, forining part of a they surmised, that my lord was come thither to judicial estimate of Wolsey's character, it is conclude two marriages — the one between the clear that Shakspeare himself believed it to king our sovereign lord and Madame Renée, of be just, and desired his readers to believe it. whom I spake heretofore (the divorce of Queen Ön reviewing the evidence, however, and Catherine had not at this time been mooted in we believe that we possess all which ShakEngland, but the legitimacy of the Princess Mary speare had before him, and much which he had been publicly called in question in the French had not, it does not warrant any such concluChambers; the suggestion of a second marriage sion. A charge of the kind is included in the lence), the other between my Lady Mary and the articles of impeachment against Wolsey, which Duke of Orleans, with divers other conclusions were drawn up by the Lords, and to which and agreements touching the same. Of this book Hall most strangely represents him as having many were imprinted and conveyed into England pleaded guilty; but these articles, when sent unknown to my lord, he being then in France, to down to the Commons, were dismissed as unthe great slander of the realm of England and of worthy of notice; while, at the same time, a
fact comes out, which explains the manner in * The servants who were waiting at supper in which the impression may have arisen about the King's room, heard him say so, and informed Cavendish of it.
* Cavendish. Singer's edition, p. 181.
him, among persons rearly to judge him hard-1 So it stands with these particular charges; ly, and yet have arisen unfairly. It is certain, and if we consent to let thein drop, it must be that Wolsey had two children, and that both acknowledged that the shadows in Shakspeare they and their mother were supported by him lose not a little of their depth of hue. Nor, if up to the last year of his life. There is no the discovery, in these instances, of so much evidence to show when they were born; and rhetorical exaggeration, leads us to look more as he was twenty-five years old, at least, be- closely into the narratives of Shakspeare's fore he was in priest's orders, it is quite pos- authorities, and to test them, as we are well sible that he broke no vows in his relation able to do, by the State Papers which have with their mother. But if he did—if
, in the since his time been brought to light, will they in days of his early manlıood, those iron vows any degree regain our confidence. Hall, infailed to crush in him the instincts and crav- deed, except when his personal dislike of ings of humanity, and he fell before the temp- Wolsey gets the better of him (and then he tation-let it pass for what it is worth. It was can be incredibly wrong), is generally accurate. a sin, perhaps a great one; yet not an infinite Taken as a whole, we should be inclined to sin, nor one, we hope, for which there is no rate Hall's Chronicle among the very best pardon. Doubtless, it furnished occasion for historical works in the language. But Cavenscandal. The single act admitted easily of juish, with whom, in the subject before us, we being represented as a habit; and the main-are now most concerned, is not to be trusted tenance of the mother might have born a hard at all beyond the range of his own actual obcomplexion ; yet the connection, in itself, may, servation ; and with the exception, perhaps, of for all we know, have been of the briefest Sir James Melville, has introduced more eladuration; and while those who bore Wolsey borate falsehoods into English history, than ill-will may have believed that he was keeping any other single writer. He was one of those a mistress, he may have been but fulfilling the men who, unhappily, are really with an opinion honest duty of an honestly penitent man. We upon every thing, whether they have or have are aware that this is only hypothesis; and not a right to have formed one, and guessing that, on the other siile, there are the positive with the utmost facility, almost always guess assertions of the articles of impeachment, and wrong. Brought up as a page in Wolsey's certain angry words which Hall ascribes to household, he knew as much, perhaps, of the Catherine ; but there is no subject in which affairs of State which were passing through greater caution is required in forining an opin- Wolsey's hands, as young gentlemen in similar ion, because there is none in which persons situations might be supposed to know; that is, are more ready to generalize a habit out of an such views and such stories as were current at
And if we are to believe the fact of the the pages' dinner-table. These, at a distance habit
, it implies an amount of hypocrisy and of twenty-five years from his master's death, insincerity in Wolsey, which it is difficult to he composed into a book, at a time when it believe could have existerl in any man who was creditable to him to have dared to speak was occupying so conspicuous a position. No well of Wolsey at all; but when the many common hypocrite, indeed, he was, if, being years which had intervened of clamor and himself consistently profligate, he was so loud prejudice had impaired his real knowledge, against the similar sins of the clergy, and so and had even injured partially his good feeleager to reform them; yet it is surely possible ing: Thus his book is full of inconsistency; that a man pay have known what sin was by and, at the first perusal, it is hard to know his own experience, and may yet have hated with what feelings he really regarded Wolsey. it without hypocrisy, may honestly have At one time, he speaks of him with tender labored to save others from falling into it. If affection; at another, he imputes actions to it be not so, God help us all! Let us summon him which would justly have forfeited all afup our own lives before us, and call others fection. Now, he gives him credit for devout bypocrites, if we dare. Once for all, the one and genuine piety; now, he insinuates that fact which we know about the matter is, that he wore but the hypocritical show of piety, he was the father of two children, who were writing in fact with one eye on the truth born at some period long preceding his dis- which he knew, with the other on Queen grace, and, perhaps, his ordination; the re- Mary, whom it was dangerous to offend. inain«ler being only inference---while, to set Hence a large clearance will have to be against it, we have positive evidence that, in made out of our history books, of many fathe milst of all his splendor, he was apparently vorite stories for which Cavendish has made an (arnest and devout man-a man in whom, himself responsible. We have been told whatever of life was yet remaining in the much about Henry's carelessness in matters perisling faith of Catholicism, was present in of business during the first years of his reign ; more than ordinary measure, and to whom and that it was encouraged by an artifice of Gol and duty were very meaning and living Wolsey's. “ As the ancient councillors," says words.
Cavendish, "advised the king to leave his
pleasure and to attend to the affairs of the Talbot, the lady whom he actually married, realm, so busily did the Almoner persuade before he ever saw Anne Boleyn, and that, him to the contrary.” And now we have the therefore, no second contract with the latter clearest proof from letters of Henry's own could have been entered into by him; while and from authentic correspondence of the it is again impossible that, supposing him to members of his council, that at no time after have attempted it, his father, in his supposed his accession, not even when he was a mere address to him, should have made no allusion boy, was the king less than his own first min-to the previous engagement which was immeister. His very coronation oath was interlined diately afterwards fulfilled. But we have with his own band, and in the words which he stronger proofs than this of Cavendish's miserased, and in the words which he substituted, take. Something, indeed, must have passed; it is easy to read the spirit of the same Henry for at the time when Queen Anne's prematriwho broke the papal power. Again, Cavendish monial proceedings were undergoing investitells us that Wolsey ill-treated Archbishop gation, Lord Perey was examined upon path Warham, and that in order to secure his own before the Privy Council; but if he had so elevation to the chancellorship he contrived to openly acknowledged his engagement with have Warham dismissed from it-while we her to Wolsey, he would scarcely have venfind in the contemporary correspondence that tured to swear as he did on that occasion, or Warbam, so far from being disinissed, with to have written such a letter as the following difficulty obtained permission to resign; and to Cromwell :Sir Thomas More, when afterwards imitating his example, expressly wrote to him in praise “I perceive,” the letter runs, “ that there is a and admiration of so great magnanimity. supposed precontract between the queen and me,
Possessing such uncommon facilities for going whereupon I was not only heretofore examined wrong, it is not to be wondered at that Ca- upon mine oath before the Archbishops of Canvendish should also miss his way among the terbury and York, but also received ihe blessed complications of the Anne Boleyn story. Yet sacrament upon the same before the Duke of here he goes' even beyond our expectations, the spiritual law, assuring you, Mr. Secretary, by
Norfolk and others the king's council Icarned in and he represents himself as having been per- the said oath and blessed body which afore I sonally cognizant of facts which cannot pos- received, and hereafter intend to receive, that the sibly have taken place, at least in the manner same may be to my damnation, if ever there were in which he relates them. He declares that any contract or promise of marriage between her Anne Boleyn was contracted* to Lord Percy, and me.” one of the young noblemen then residing under Wolsey's care; that Wolsey separated Equally remote from the truth is the acthem by the king's order, and that Annecount which the same writer gives us of the Boleyn never forgave him for the loss of her Duke of Bourbon's campaigns in Italy, of the lover. He introduces conversations between battle of Pavia, and of the double policy Wolsey and Lord Perey, in which the latter which he ascribes to Wolsey ; for, if he is right acknowledges and defends his engagement, in his account of the policy itself, he is so declaring that he had entered into it before hopelessly wrong in the facts with which he many witnesses." He brings the Earl of interweaves it, as to oblige us to distrust him Northumberland to London on this express wholly. What opportunity, indeed, is he occasion, and introduces a long harangue likely to have had of knowing more about the which the earl is supposed to have addressed matter than any other Englishman. He could to his son in the presence of the assembled but know the floating rumors of the palace, members of Wolsey's household ; he declares and if we may interpret the past by our prethat he forced Lord Percy's obedience under sent experience, the amount of truth in such a threat of disinheritance, and married him in rumors is generally rather below zero than haste to a daughter of Lord Shrewsbury, in above it-a plain negative quantity of entire order to prevent future difficulties. Now it is falsehood. possible that something may have passed But the saddest of all Cavendish's errors is between Lord Percy and Anne Boleyn; but in the version which Shakspeare has copied Perey could not have defended an engagement so literally of the great scene before the lewhich could not have existed, and Lord gates, between Queen Catherine and Henry Northumberland, if he really interfered, could in the Hall of the Black Friars. It is the not have said what Cavendish gives as his saddest not because it is the most incorrect, words, and for a very simple reason. We but because, under Shakspeare's treatment, have evidence in a letter to the Earl of the beautiful story has woven itself into the Shrewsbury (Lodge's Illustrations, vol. i. p. 20) very heart of our national traditions; and to that Lord Percy was contracted to Lady Mary question the truth of it is almost to bring his
tory itself into discredit. Cavendish, as we * Cavendish, p. 120—129.
said, wrote at the time of the reaction under Queen Mary: he was possessed strongly with and the queen only in person. Of what passthe Catholic detestation of the Reformation, ed'the register only says, that she appealed to and of all which had arisen out of it; and Rome. Hall is more explicit, but in substance Queen Catherine's treatment-so justly felt says the same thing. to be the central injury of the Catholics, as if her real figure was not sad enough or her
The qucen, being accompanied with four bish, story pathetic enough in its grand simplicity-ops, and others of her council
, and a great comshaped itself out in his recollection into an pany of ladies and gentlewomen following her, ideal and dramatized form, beautiful indeed obeisance, sadly, and with great gravity, done,
came personally before the legates, and after her exceedingly, but which is not a real picture she appealed from them as judges not competent of the wrongs of Catherine of Arragon. It for that cause to the court of Roine, and after was Burnet* who first discovered that the fine that done, she departed again, speeches attributed both to the king and to her could never have been delivered. He And this, in sorrow be it confessed, was all found the original register of the proceedings that passed, and the beautiful ideal falsehood, of the court, from which it appears, with the for all persons who care to know the hard utmost clearness, that the king and queen truths of life, must pass again under the ivory were not present together before the legates gate through which it entered among us, and at all. His statement has, since that time, take its place with the spirits of those never been called eagerly in question ; and no realized visions, which ought to have been wonder when such a treasure is being wrested true and were not. The queen behaved away from us. Nevertheless, if we compare like herself, like a noble lady sadly resentful the story found by Burnet in the register, of the measure which was dealt out to her, with " Hall's Chronicle,” which in all this but buoyed up with her high Castilian heart matter is most careful and accurate, and also to endurance and defiance. She never knelt with the letters of the Bishop of Bayonne, at the king's feet, that history knows of, and which furnish almost a second register of the she made no fine speeches to him. The words. proceedings from day to day, no doubt can which Cavendish, and Shakspeare after him, remain that Burnet is right.
assign to her, are composed out of what she The legate campeggio arrived in England said in private to the legates in the preceding in October, 1528. In the same month the October; and those which they assign to the Bishop of Bayonne writes that he and Wolsey king were uttered by him in her high praise had then held their first interview with the in the court on a later occasion. queen; and that the queen had spoken vio- So much for the authority of Cavendish's lently of Wolsey. Of this interview we have "Life." If it be our object to prove that fair a full account from Hall, who adds that it was justice has not been done to Wolsey, we may at the palace of the Bridewell, and was strict- be thought to have acted unwisely in questions ly private; giving also the words which the ing the evidence of the one English writer queen was said to have used, and which the who has shown anything like tenderness for bishop describes only in general terms. his memory. It is this evident tenderness,
No progress was made in the trial of the however, which lies at the bottom of so many cause throughout the winter, through default of our mistakes, bespeaking as it does, so of instructions from the pope. In January general a credence to his narrative. Through1528–9, it was feared that he would recall the out his book there is an apparent struggle becommission, and it was openly stated in Lon-tween kindly feeling and moral disapprobadon, that the emperor had said, that if Henry tion, and the censures gain double weight dared to proceed, “ he would hurl him from from the seeming. unwillingness with which his throne by the hands of his own subjects." they are uttered. But moreover, we cannot In the spring, the French government laid a help feeling, on a careful perusal of what pressure on the pope, and the commission was Cavendish says, that the picture, as drawn by allowed to be opened, but from the first, it him, is not a picture of one man, but of two appears, there was a private understanding men wholly different, the characteristics of between the legates and the court of Rome, whom cannot possibly have co-existed in any that no sentence was to be delivered. The single person, and thus it becomes essential to proceedings, such as they were, commenced determine what amount of accurate knowlat the Hall of the Black Friars, on the 31st edge of the matter he is really likely to have of May, 1529. The king and queen were possessed. Wherever he is telling anything summoned; and then ought to have been the in which he himself was personally concernfamous scene and the speech at the king's feet. ed; in his account of all his own interviews Unhappily, both the register and Hall are with Wolsey, and of almost everything which agreed that the king appeared by proctor, he describes himself as having witnessed, he
draws the likeness of an exceedingly noble * Burnet. Naros' ed. vol. iii. p. 64. person, as little resembling the Wolsey of ordinary history as the Socrates of Plato resem- If many persons hated Wolsey, there were bles the Socrates of Aristophanes. Wherever, some at least who loved him, who loved him on the other hand, he is writing from hearsay, in his greatness and did not forsake him in his we have the old figure of Hall and Polydore fall
. The common people loved him. The Virgil and Foxe, a figure so unlike the other king loved him. Part, at least, of the council that both cannot be true, and we must make loved him. No fallen minister ever found our choice between them. On the one side loyalty more constant in the followers who lies the mass of the authorities; on other, had gathered round him in his splendor; and the experience of a personal friend ; and the buman beings are not so constructed as to natural inference is, that as long as Cavendish love deeply what is utterly without claim for was kept in check by actual knowledge, he being loved. drew his master's features faithfully; and that And again, if that vulgar figure in our as soon as he passed beyond his own recollec- history books was the real Wolsey, it is a tions, he wrote only what other people told slighter reproach to the man whom it reprebim, in the tone in which they told it, yield- sents, than to the age which raised a person ing to the stream of popular opinion which of such a character out of nothing, to the most Bet against Wolsey immediately after his death powerful position ever occupied by an English almost without an eddy.
statesman. Let it not be thought a slight Yet notwithstanding infirm places in the thing, a thing in the least easy of explanation, evidence, it might remain easily true that that a person of humble origin actuated only Wolsey was in general what he is supposed by a mean ambition for power and grandeur, to have been. General impressions are fre- coarse in manner, and profligate in life, vain, quently right, though no satisfactory account impudent and overbearing, should have risen can be given of the facts out of which they as Wolsey rose, unassisted by any influence originate. They may result as a collective except what lay in himself and in his own caeffect of a great number of little things, each pacities, to be the equal of kings, and for fifin itself perhaps trifling, perhaps of a kind teen years the arbiter of Europe. If this be not admitting of being adequately expressed true, it is a fact by itself in history. No in words, and yet together perfectly convinc- hypothesis of his abilities” will help us ing Often within our own experience, we through the difficulty; for ability large enough form judgments on people's characters from to neutralize so much baseness is not found looks, from gestures, from babitual expres- let us say so at once and decisively, is not sions, from slight characteristic anecdotes, practically found to co-exist with it. Wicked, and a judginent so formed may be thoroughly indeed, men of high abilities have been and correct; although, if we try to justify it to a are; but they are great in their wickedness, stranger who knows nothing of these things, and they do not fall before vulgar and little we find it very difficult to do so, and in the temptations. Even ambition, the last ineffort, we detect ourselves exaggerating sep- firmity of noble minds," is the infirmity of a arate points and laying stress on them which very second-rate order of nobility, and is but they will not bear, merely from the desire to a poor account of the career of any remarkgive a sufficient reason for a conclusion which alle man. Men of real intellect do not set we kuow in itself to be right. Thus, anything out into life with a fixed idea of conquering like a common consent of a man's contempo- greatness for themselves. It is greatness raries in one opinion about him, although the rather which finds them, taking often no little grounds of that opinion escape investigation, pains to seek them out. Every man, as he or break down when examined into, remains passes into manhood, has work thrust upon an evidence for or against him in most cases, him as he is able to do it; and the able man wholly overwhelming; and even when such finds himself, as a matter of course, dragged unaniınity exists, as in Wolsey's case, not in up, he knows not how, from thing to thing, his own generation, but in the generation from step to step, employment after employnext sumeeding him, it is presumptive proof ment forcing itself into the hands best compe80 grave, that if there were no contemporary tent to deal with it; till at last he is on the evidence of another kind, we should admit it summit of the ladder, and the world moralizes at once as conclusive. Such evidence, how- on his ambition. Ambition !
The highest ever, there is, evidence both external and in- step of that ladder in Wolsey's time, was but ternal not easy to set aside, making clean an indifferent place to be ambitious for.against the popular view; and we believe it There was usually but one step more from it will be found considerably more easy to ex- 10 the flooring of the scaffold. The Anne plain why the generation which came after Boleyns may be ambitious, but not the Wolhim thought of him as they did, than to ex- seys. plain away the contradictions in which we 'If
, however, he was not the person which are involied, if we suppose them to have he is said to have been, what was he then ? thougl.t correctly.
and how came the world so singularly to agree