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allegiance to its twenty-five conservators ; and finally, with the utmost show of graciousness, had, on the closing day of the conference, taken back again all the revolted barons for his liegemen, and granted them their former estates and honours. But once left with his creatures, the mask fell. He cursed the day of his birth, he gnashed his teeth, he rolled his eyes, he gnawed sticks and straws, and underwent the ridiculous phrenzy of a madman. The popular notion of the first hopeless extent of his discomfiture may be guessed at from the grave assertion of Mathew of Paris, who tells us that he spent the day after the signature of the charter at Windsor, skulked away the next morning to the Isle of Wight, took up the profession of a pirate, and passed three months in the island, or at sea in the company of mariners. Public records prove that this could not have been. His first acts showed a collected and practical treachery, much more congenial with his nature. He sent two deputations to the Continent. One was charged to hire adventurers and mercenaries for his standard ; the other to implore the powerful interposition of Rome, on the ground that concessions extorted from the vassal were insults offered to the authority of the lord. This done, he ordered all his castles to be provisioned and fortified, and set himself to the device of schemes for surprise of the capital.
Secret intelligence of some such measures would seem to have reached the triumphant barons when in full preparation for a magnificent tournament at Stamford, to be fought in celebration of Runnymede. The purpose was immediately foreborne ; and after fruitless attempts to warn and recover the king (in which they lost valuable time), their trumpet sounded to arms more desperate. The first struggle took place under the walls of Rochester Castle, which ultimately surrendered to the king. Mercenaries poured in daily to his standard, and the barons seem to have been perplexed at the suddenness of the movement against them.
The siege of Rochester had scarcely been decided, when a bull reached England from the Pope annulling the Great CHARTER. England was become a fief of the Holy See, this document proclaimed, and her king had no longer the power, even if he had the will, to surrender the rights of his crown without permission from his feudal lord. Every concession extorted from John, therefore, in the late contumacy at Runnymede, had been lawlessly taken, in contempt of the Holy See, to the degradation of royalty, to the disgrace of the nation, and to the impediment of that crusade which John had so religiously embraced. The barons were ordered finally to submit and make due concession. Without a dissentient they refused. Langton was then ordered to excommunicate them ; and that great-minded prelate paying no attention to this command, he was suspended from the exercise of his archiepiscopal functions. This was followed by a second bull of excommunication, in which the chiefs of the confederated barons, mentioned by name, were declared to be worse than Saracens, and in which the City of London (staunch always to the Charter) was laid under an interdict. But this too was met with calm contempt. Such matters, said the barons, in a remarkable manifesto issued by their orders, were not within the jurisdiction of Rome. Temporal concerns were not subject to the. Pope's interference: Christ had only entrusted ecclesiastical control to Peter and to Peter's successors. (Ex hoc maxime quod non pertinet ad papam ordinatio rerum laicarum: cum Petro apostolo et ejus successoribus non nisi ecclesiasticarum dispositio rerum a domino sit collata.)
Several months thus passed, during which the mercenary bands of John had been recruited in unexampled numbers, chiefly from Flanders, Picardy, Poitou, and Guienne. They now laid waste with wanton violence the richest counties of the south, and John in person marched to the north, where the Scots had taken up the cause of the Confederacy. The horrible scenes here enacted by the tyrant are said to have had no parallel since those of the Conqueror's devastation. With his own hands he was wont to set fire in the morning to the house which had given him shelter on the preceding night. Castles, villages, towns, were given recklessly to the flames ; and countless human beings, without respect of age or sex, rank or calling, were subjected to tortures, mutilations, and deaths, too horrible to be named! At length wherever John appeared, forests and mountains became the only refuge to human life ; the labours of agriculture were suspended ; and, with a sad significance, in churchyards alone, as having a right of sanctuary for the most part respected by even the royal marauders, a meeting or a market could be held.
Unhappily for their fame, the barons took a resolve in this condition of things—their available force proving unequal to any speedy determination of the contest - to call in, on their side also, the help of the foreigner. They offered the English crown to the eldest son of the king of France, already allied to the family of Plantagenet by his marriage with the niece of John. He landed at Dover with a considerable force, before which John's mercenaries made precipitate retreat ; and, receiving the homage of the barons and citizens in London at Paul's Cathedral, took solemn oath to govern them by good laws, to protect them against their enemies, and to reinstate them in all their old rights and possessions. His first movements were successful ; and it had become little doubtful what the issue of the campaign now vigorously entered on, must have been, when Providence interposed the death of John. Entire success must have involved the Confederacy in a false allegiance, in all probability fatal to the cause with which their names are so greatly connected. But the success with which they began, only served, most happily, to involve John's latter days in gloom ; and was not needed further.
On the 14th of October 1216, the tyrant, after a luckless and heavy march in the country of the fens, sought rest in the Cistercian convent of Swineshead, where fatigue, or mortification, or poison, or a surfeit of peaches, or all combined, threw him into a mortal fever. He was conveyed next day with difficulty and anguish to the castle of Sleaford ; and on the day following to Newark Castle ; where, made sensible of approaching death, he named his eldest son Henry for his successor. He died on the 19th of October, in the forty-ninth year of his age and the seventeenth of his reign ; more thoroughly hated, and more deservedly condemned to everlasting infamy, than any other man of whom history keeps contemptuous record.
ESSAYS ON SUBJECTS CONNECTED WITH THE LITERATURE, POPULAR SUPER
STITION, AND HISTORY OF THE MIDDLE AGES. By Thomas Wright, M.A. F.S.A, &c., &c. 2 vols., p. 8vo. London: J. Russell Smith.
The agitation of the great questions affecting the principles that govern large societies and densely-populated nations, ramifies itself into regions of literature and philosophical speculation, that at the first glance seem far removed from it. The study of antiquities, and particularly of literary antiquities, was, until very lately, confined to a few erudite and secluded students, whose pursuits were considered, even by their literary brethren, to be at the best a harmless amusement: the wits considered them as lawful game for banter, and the politician and man
of the world as dreamers. The necessity, however, for a more accurate examination into the statements of historians, and the demand for a more substantial knowledge of the progress of society, the development of political doctrines, and the comparison of the various modes of legislation and government, all fermented and excited by the party pleadings of various sections of theological and civil factions, have forced the attention of the reading public towards the learned researches of the antiquarians. The middle eras are no longer to be styled the dark ages ; and the sweeping denunciations of the arrogant but ignorant party-historians of the last century are gradually being wholly set aside by the light thrown upon this portion of history by the patient and plodding investigations of the literary antiquarians. In France this section of learning has been impregnated with the finest literary genius; and Thierry, Michelet, and others, have invested the hitherto considered dustiest of subjects with a freshness and charm allied to the noblest poetry and history. No such union has taken place with us, for though Sir Walter Scott to a great degree united the imaginative power with the accumulated learning, yet, he never made the former the means of revivifying the facts of past ages. His numerous imitators in their weakness wandered still further into the realms of mere fancy.
Mr. Wright makes no pretension to be ranked in the class of Michelet and Thierry, leaving to others the task of speculating on the materials he gathers; nor does he even seek himself to evolve the theory attached to the numerous facts his diligence and his learning weigh up from the deep profound of the past. Still his labours are extremely valuable-first, as adding richly to the stores of knowledge--and secondly, as being by his literary ability invested with an interest, which they otherwise never could have for the general reader. What, if given in its raw state, would be repulsive and uninteresting, becomes by his treatment suggestive and informing. This itself is of great benefit to literature, for it is rendering the study of antiquities a pleasure instead of a task. There is scarcely out of the twenty articles comprised in these two volumes one which a lady or a tolerably intelligent youth of either sex would not involuntarily peruse ; whilst to the sterner reader, anxious to be informed of the actual state of early English society, and of the progress of language, literature, and invention, they are of the utmost value. Some objections doubtless may be raised by those equally versed with Mr. Wright in antiquarian researches as to the dates he occasionally fixes and to the value of certain documents, but this in no way deteriorates from the general value of his contributions. He will be opposed, too, by those who draw different conclusions from the evidence he has thus adduced. We are very glad, however, to perceive that one so learned and so diligent in his researches is still on the side of those who have faith in the beneficial progress of mankind, and is not one of those who look back to the feudal period as the perfection of human society, and advocate the necessary subjection of the many to the tender mercies of the few. The following sentence in the dedication would alone entitle him to the perusal of every unprejudiced inquirer, justified as it is by the contents of his volumes "I have endeavoured to paint the spirit and manners of the age truly; concealing none of what appeared to me to be its beauties or its excellencies on the one hand, nor, on the other, hiding those great vices in the texture of society and defects in the medieval system, which ought to make us look back upon it with thankfulness as an age that has long passed away."
We shall not enter into any particular specification of these volumes, as it is a work which every one interested in literature, politics, or social progress, should peruse for himself.
AN ESSAY ON THE CHARACTER OF MACBETH. Demy 8vo. London:
C. Mitchell, Every thing that tends to fix the attention to the earnest examination and eludication of the full meaning of a truly great writer is valuable. This critical exercise of the mind is for many reasons to be encouraged, and the more especially that it is only by the most patient and intense devotion to a great author that his depth can be fathomed, or the vastness of his genius apprehended ; we cannot say even after the profoundest attention has been awarded to him, that he has been comprehended. Intellectual power opens to us in the midst of darkness a burst of light which radiating into infinite relations reveals innumerable truths. The speculations upon these are also innumerable; being varied according to the faculties, perceptions, and sympathies of those upon whom these rays of genius happen to fall. We are made up of fragments, and an intellectual microscope might discover that our minds are but a collection of spiritual animalcules. Thus it is that we have now hundreds of volumes on Shakespeare, and that there are hundreds more inevitably to be written. All however are of service, and the attentive perusal of the humblest is of more benefit to the mind, and more likely to invigorate it by exciting thought, than any volume containing mere facts.
The author of the present treatise confines himself to the refutation of an opinion sustained with considerable ingenuity by a late writer in the Westminster Review, that Macbeth is not a noble-minded mano'ercast by sudden passions, and deluding supernatural seductions--but is inherently a hase villain, a designing hypocrite, and a remorseless tyrant ; going even the length indirectly of asserting that Lady Macbeth has more remorse of character, and therefore a greater claim to the sympathy of the spectator. This is so paradoxical an assertion that we think it might very well have been left with other jour d' esprits of the same kind to its own refutation. In the Monthly Repository, may be found an article, very probably by the same ingenious disputant, maintaining that lago is the injured party in the play of Othello, and