[blocks in formation]

WHEN Richard Hooker gave to the world his splendid work on the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, English prose literature acquired a dignity it had not known before. The last decade of Elizabeth was indeed a glorious time in the annals of British authorship. The genius of Shakspere was then bursting into the full bloom, whose bright colours can never fade; Spenser was penning the Faerie Queene on the sweet banks of Mulla; Bacon, a rising young barrister, was sketching out the ground-plan of the great Novum Organum; and in the quietude of a country parsonage, a meek and hen-pecked clergy man was composing, with loving carefulness, a work which, for force of reasoning and gracefulness of style, is justly regarded as one of the master-pieces of our literature. Richard Hooker was writing his great treatise.

Born at Heavytree near Exeter, in 1553 or 1554, Hooker was indebted to the kindness of Bishop Jewell for a university education. The modest young student, who was enrolled on the books of Corpus Christi at Oxford, did not disappoint the hopes of his patron: his college career was marked with steady application and closed with honour. His eminence as a student of Oriental tongues led to his appointment in 1579 as lecturer on Hebrew. Two years later he entered the Church.

And then a great misfortune befell Master Richard Hooker. Appointed to preach at St. Paul's Cross, he left his college, a perfect simpleton in the world's ways, and journeyed up to Lon



don. There he had lodgings in the house of one John Churchman, whose wife so won by her officious attentions upon the drenched and jaded traveller, that he thought he could not do better than follow her advice and marry her daughter Joan, whom she strongly recommended as a suitable wife and skilful nurse for a man so delicate as he appeared to be. Accordingly in the following year Richard and Joan were married; and not till it was too late did the poor fellow find that he had bound himself for life to a downright shrew.

The first year or so of his married life was spent in Bucks, where he was rector of Drayton-Beauchamp. But the affection of an old pupil, Sandys, son of the Archbishop of York, obtained for him in 1585 the post of Master of the Temple. It was his duty here to preach in the forenoon, while the afternoon lecture was delivered by Travers, a zealous Calvinist. The views of the two preachers were so diametrically opposed to each other, that it was said “ the forenoon sermons spoke Canterbury, and the afternoon Geneva.” Travers was forbidden to preach by Archbishop Whitgift; and a paper war began between the rivals, which so vexed the gentle Hooker, that he begged to be restored to a quiet parsonage, where he might labour in peace upon the great work he had begun.

In 1591 his wish was granted. He received the living of Boscomb in Wiltshire; and, gathering his darling books and papers round him, he sat down to his desk, no doubt, with a deep sense

of relief. There he wrote the first four books of the Ecclc1594 siastical Polity, which were published in 1594.

cognition, probably, of this great service to the Church

of England, the Queen made him in the following year rector of Bishop's-Bourne in Kent. The important duties of bis sacred office and the completion of his eight books filled up the few remaining years of his life. Never very strong, and weakened, perhaps, by ardent study, he caught a heavy cold, which, settling on his lungs, proved fatal on the 2d of November 1600. The fifth book of the “ Ecclesiastical Polity” was printed in 1597 ; the remaining three did not appear until 1647.

In re


[ocr errors]




“ The first book of the 'Ecclesiastical Polity,'” says Hallam, "is at this day one of the master-pieces of English eloquence.” The moderate tone of the work, which was written against the Puritans, is worthy of all praise. The author is somewhat censured for the great length of his sentences; but the best critics agree in admiring the beauty and dignity of his style, which, woven of honest English words chosen by no vulgar hand, is yet embroidered with some of the fairest and loftiest figures of poetry. This charm-the ornament of figures - English prose had probably never possessed till Hooker wrote.

[blocks in formation]

Touching musical harmony, whether by instrument or by voice, it being but of high and low in sounds a due proportionable disposition, such notwithstanding is the force thereof, and so pleasing effects it hath in that very part of man which is most divine, that some have been thereby induced to think that the soul itself by nature is, or hath in it, harmony; a thing which delighteth all ages, and beseemeth all states; a thing as seasonable in grief as in joy; as decent reing added unto actions of greatest weight and solemnity, as being used when men most sequester themselves from action. The reason hereof is an admirable facility which music hath to express and represent to the mind, more inwardly than any other sensible mean, the very standing, rising and falling, the very steps and inflections every way, the turns and varieties of all passions where. unto the mind is subject; yca, so to imitate them, that, whether it resemble unto us the same state wherein our minds already are, or a clean contrary, we are not more contentedly by the one confirmed, than changed and led away by the other. In harmony, the very image and character even of virtue and vice is perceived, the mind delighted with their resemblances, and brought by having them often iterated into a love of the things themselves. For which cause there is nothing more contagious and pestilent than some kinds of harmony; than some, nothing more strong and potent unto good.

[blocks in formation]

SACKVILLE was the herald of that splendour in which Elizabeth's glorious reign was destined to close. He was born in 1536, at Buckhurst in Sussex, the seat of his ancestors. His father, Richard Sackville, had held high office in the Exchequer. Some home teaching, a few terms at Oxford, and a continuation of his course at Cambridge, where he graduated as M.A., prepared the way for his entrance upon the profession of the law and a statesman's life. While at college, his skill in verse-making gained him some little fame; and when entered at the Inner Temple, and regularly set down to the study of dry and dusty law books, he did not forget those flowery paths in which he had spent so many glad hours, but often stole from his graver studies to weave his darling stanzas.

With his political career we have here little to do, and a few notes of it must therefore suffice. Created Lord Buckhurst in 1566 by Elizabeth, he laid aside his literary pursuits and gave himself up to the toils of statesmanship. Twice he crossed the seas as ambassador. He was selected, on account of his gentle manner and address, to tell her doom to the wretched woman who once was Queen of Scotland. And, in a later year, he sat as Lord Steward, presiding over those brother peers who were appointed to try the unhappy Essex. The dislike of Leicester clouded his fortunes, and cast him into prison; but when in 1588 death freed him from this foe, he regained the royal favour. He reached the pinnacle of his greatness in 1598, upon the death of Lord Burleigh, when he became Lord High Treasurer of England



This great office he continued to hold until he died in 1608, at a good old age. Elizabeth and James, unlike in almost everything else, agreed in appreciating the services of this great and gifted man.

While still a student in the Temple, he had joined Thomas Norton in writing a play then called Gorboduc, which was acted before Elizabeth at Whitehall by a company of his fellow-students of the Inner Te ple, as part of the Christmas revels of 1561. This was the first English tragedy, so far as is known. It resembles the later tragedies in having five acts, of which probably Norton wrote three, and Sackville the last two; but it differs from them in the use of that very prosy and unnatural excrescence of the ancient plays, called the Chorus. Every act of Gorboduc, or Ferrex and Porrex as the authors called it in the revised edition of 1571, is closed with an ode in long-lined stanzas, filled, as was the old Greek chorus, with moral reflections on the various scenes. The plot of this play was founded on a bloody story of ancient British history.

But a greater work than Gorboduc adorns the memory of Sackville. During the last years of Mary, which might well be called gloomy, were it not for the fiery glare that tinges them red as if with martyrs' blood, he sketched out the design of a great poem, which was to be entitled The Mirrour of Magistrates, and was to embrace poetic histories of all the great Englishmen who had suffered remarkable disasters. The bulk of this work, which first appeared in 1559, was done by minor writers of the 1559 time; but the Induction and the Story of the Duke of Buckingham, contributed to the second edition in 1563, are from the powerful pen of Sackville. The “Induction” is a grand pictured allegory, which describes “ within the porch and jaws of hell ” Remorse, Dread, Revenge, and other terrible things, that are ever gnawing away at the root of our human life. It contains only a few hundred lines, and yet these are enough to place Sackville high on the list of British poets. As already hinted, these poems were the fruit of Sackville's early summer; the ripe luxuriance of his life was devoted to cares of the state, whose ample honours crowned his head when frosted with the touch of winter.


« ElőzőTovább »