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day his armure to assay in fete of armes with some of his meyne.'1 Wl'hen ripened to manhood, he is employed with the bow, in wrestling, Jeaping, vaulting. Henry viir.'s court, in its noisy merriment, was like a village fair. The king, says Holinshed, exercised himself
dailie in shooting, singing, dancing, wrestling, casting of the barre, plaieing at the recorders, flute, virginals, in setting of songs, and making of ballads.' He leaps the moats with a pole, and was once within an ace of being killed. He is so fond of combat, that publicly, on the field of the Cloth of Gold, he seized Francis 1. in his arms to throw him. This is how a soldier or a bricklayer nowadays tries a new comrade. In fact, they regarded as amusements, like soldiers and bricklayers, gross jests and brutal buffooneries. In every great house there was a fool, whose business was to bring out pointed jests, to make eccentric gestures, horrible faces, to sing licentious songs,' as one might hear now in a beer-house. They thought malice and obscenity a joke. They were foul-mouthed, they swallowed Rabelais' words undiluted, and delighted in conversation which would revolt .us. They had no respect for humanity; the empire of proprieties and the habits of good breeding began only under Louis XIV., and by imitation of the French ;/ at this time they all blurted out the word that fitted in, and that was most frequently a coarse word. You will see on the stage, in Shakspeare's Pericles, the filth of a haunt of vice. The great lords, the well-dressed ladies, spoke Billingsgate slang. When Henry v. paid his court to Catherine of France, it was with the coarse bearing of a sailor who might have taken a fancy to a sutler; and like the tars who tattoo a heart on their arms to prove their love for the girls they left behind them, you find men who devoured sulphur and drank urine's to win their mistress by a proof of affection. Humanity is as much lacking as decency.* Blood, suffering, does not move them. The
i The Chronicle of John Hardyng (1436), ed. H. Ellis, 1812. Preface.
2 Act iv. 2 and 4. See also the character of Calypso in Massinger; Putana in Ford ; Protalyce in Beaumont and Fletcher.
3 Middleton, Dutch Courtezan.
+ Commission given by Henry viii. to the Earl of Hertford, 1544: “You are there to put all to fire and sword ; to burn Edinburgh town, and to raze and deface it, when you have sacked it, and gotten what you can out of it. ... Do what you can out of hand, and without long tarrying, to beat down and overthrow the castle, sack Holyrood-House, and as many towns and villages about Edinburgh as ye conveniently can ; sack Leith, and burn and subvert it, and all the rest, putting man, woman, and child to fire and sword, without exception, when any resistance shall be made against you; and this done, pass over to the Fife land, and extend like extremities and destructions in all towns and villages whereunto ye may reach conveniently, not forgetting amongst all the rest, so to spoil and turn upside down the cardinal's town of St Andrew's, as the upper stone may be the nether, and not one stick stand by another, sparing no creature alive within the same, specially such as either in friendship or blood be allied to the cardinal. This journey shall succeed most to his majesty's honour.'—Pictorial History of England, ii. 440, note.
court frequents bear and bull baitings, where dogs are ripped up and chained beasts are sometimes beaten to death, and it was, says an officer of the palace, 'a charining entertainment.?? No wonder they used their arms like clodhoppers and gossips. Elizabeth used to beat her maids of honour, so that these beautiful girls could often be heard crying and lamenting in a piteous manner. One day she spat upon Sir Mathew's fringed coat; at another time, when Essex, whom she was scolding, turned his back, she gave him a box on the ears. It was then the practice of great ladies to beat their children and their servants. Poor Jane Grey was sometimes so wretchedly “boxed, struck, pinched, and ill-treated in other manners which she dare not relate,' that she used to wish herself dead. Their first idea is to come to words, to blows, to have satisfaction. As in feudal times, they appeal at once to
delay.) On Thursday laste,' writes Gilbert Talbot to the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury, as my Lorde Rytche was rydynge in the streates, there was one Wyndam that stode in a dore, and shotte a dagge at him, thynkynge to have slayne him. ... The same daye, also, as Sr John Conway was goynge in the streetes, Mr Lodovyke Grevell came sodenly upon him, and stroke him on the hedd wth a sworde. ... I am forced to trouble yor Honors wth thes tryflynge matters, for I know no greater.' No one, not even the queen, is safe among these violent dispositions.: Again, when one man struck another in the precincts of the court, his hand was cut off, and the arteries stopped with a red-hot iron. Only such atrocious imitations of their own crimes, and the painful image of bleeding and suffering flesh, could tame their vehemence and restrain the uprising of their instincts. / Judge now what materials they furnish to the theatre, and what characters they look for at the theatre: to please the public, the stage cannot deal too much in open lust and the strongest passions; it must depict man attaining the limit of his desires, unchecked, almost mad, now trembling and rooted before the white palpitating flesh which his eyes devour, now haggard and grinding his teeth before the enemy whom he wishes to tear to pieces, now carried beyond himself and overwhelmed at the sight of the honours and wealth which he courts, always raging and enveloped in a tempest of eddying ideas, sometimes shaken by impetuous joy, more often on the verge of fury and madness, stronger, more ardent, more daringly let loose beyond the pale of reason and law than he himself ever was. We hear from the stage as from the history of the time, these fierce murmurs: the sixteenth century is like a den of lions.
Amid passions so strong as these there is not one lacking. Nature
1 Laneham, A Goodly Relief.
2 13th February 1587. Nathan Drake, Shakspeare and his Times, ii. p. 165. See also the same work for all these details.
3 Essex, when struck by the queen, put his hand on the hilt of his sword.
appears here in all its violence, but also in all its fulness. If nothing had been softened, nothing had been mutilated. It is the entire man who is displayed, heart, mind, body, senses, with his noblest and finest aspirations, as with his most bestial and savage appetites, without the preponderance of any dominant circumstance to cast him altogether in one direction, to exalt or degrade him. He has not become rigid, as he will be under Puritanism. He is not uncrowned, as in the Restoration. After the hollowness and weariness of the fifteenth century, he rose up by a second birth, as before in Greece man had risen by a first birth; and now, as then, the temptations of the outer world came combined to raise his faculties from their sloth and torpon A sort of generous warmth spread over them to ripen and make them flourish. Peace, prosperity, comfort began; new industries and increasing activity suddenly multiplied objects of utility and luxury tenfold. America and India, by their discovery, caused the treasures and prodigies heaped up afar over distant seas to shine before their eyes ; antiquity re-discovered, sciences mapped out, the Reformation begun, books multiplied by printing, ideas by books, doubled the means of enjoyment, imagination, and thought. They wanted to enjoy, to imagine, and to think; for the desire grows with the attraction, and here all attractions were combined. There were attractions of the senses, in the chambers which they began to warm, in the beds newly furnished with pillows, in the carriages which they began to use for the first time. There were attractions for the imagination in the new palaces, arranged after the Italian manner; in the variegated hangings from Flanders ; in the rich garments, gold-embroidered, which, being continually changed, combined the fancies and the splendours of all Europe. There were attractions for the mind, in the noble and beautiful writings which, spread abroad, translated, explained, brought in philosophy, eloquence, and poetry, from the restored antiquity, and from the surrounding Renaissance. Under this appeal all aptitudes and instincts at once started up; the low and the lofty, ideal and sensual love, gross cupidity and pure generosity. Recall what you yourself experienced, when from being a child you became a man : what wishes for happiness, what breadth of anticipation, what intoxication of heart you indulged in in face of all these joys; with what impulse your hands reached involuntarily and all at once every branch of the tree, and would not let a single fruit escape. At sixteen years, like Chérubin, we wish for a servant girl while we adore a Madonna; we are capable of every species of covetousness, and also of every species of selfdenial ; we find virtue more lovely, our meals more enjoyable; pleasure has more zest, heroism more worth; there is no allurement which is not keen; the sweetness and novelty of things are too strong; and in the hive of passions which buzzes within us, and stings us like the sting
1 A page in the Mariage de Figaro, a comedy by Beaumarchais. —TR.
of a bee, we can do nothing but plunge, one after another, into all sensations. Such were the men of this time, Raleigh, Essex, Elizabeth, Henry vii. himself, excessive and inconstant, ready for devotion and for crime, violent in good and evil, heroic with strange weaknesses, humble with sudden changes of mood, never vile with premeditation like the roysterers of the Restoration, never rigid on principle like the Puritans of the Revolution, capable of weeping like children, and of dying like men, often base courtiers, more than once true knights, displaying constantly, amidst all these contradictions of bearing, only the overflowing of nature. Thus prepared, they could take in everything, sanguinary ferocity and refined generosity, the brutality of shameless debauchery, and the most divine innocence of love, accept all the characters, prostitutes and virgins, princes and mountebanks, pass quickly from trivial buffoonery to lyrical sublimities, listen alternately to the quibbles of clowns and the songs of lovers. The drama even, in order to imitate and satisfy the prolixity of their nature, must take all tongues, pompous, inflated verse, loaded with imagery, and side by side with this, vulgar prose: more, it must distort its natural style and limits; put songs, poetical devices, in the discourse of courtiers and the speeches of statesmen ; bring on the stage the fairy world of the opera, as Middleton says, gnomes, nymphs of the land and sea, with their groves and their meadows; compel the gods to descend upon the stage, and hell itself to furnish its world of marvels. No other theatre is so complicated; for nowhere else do we find men so complete.
III. In this free and universal expansion, the passions had their special bent withal, which was an English one, inasmuch as they were English. After all, in every age, under every civilisation, a people is always itself. Whatever be its dress, goat-skin blouse, gold-laced doublet, black dress-coat, the five or six great instincts which it possessed in its forests, follow it in its palaces and offices. To this day, warlike passions, a gloomy humour, subsist under the regularity and comfort of modern manners. Their native energy and harshness pierce through the perfection of culture and the habits of comfort. Rich young men, on leaving Oxford, go to hunt bears in Canada, the elephant at the Cape of Good Hope, live under canvas, box, jump hedges on horseback, sail their clippers on dangerous coasts, delight in solitude and peril. The ancient Saxon, the old rover of the Scandinavian seas, have not perished. Even at school the children ill-treat one another, withstand
1 The great Chancellor Burleigh often wept, so harshly was he used by Elizabeth.
? Compare, to understand this character, the parts assigned to James Harlowe by Richardson, oli Osborne by Thackeray, Sir Giles Overreach by Massinger, and Manly by Wycherley.
one another, fight like men; and their character is so indomitable, that they need the birch and blows to reduce them to the discipline of law. Judge what they were in the sixteenth century: the English race passed then for the most warlike race' of Europe, the most redoubtable in battle, the most impatient of anything like slavery.''
English savages' is what Cellini calls them; and the great shins of beef' with which they fill themselves, nourish the force and ferocity of their instincts. To harden them thoroughly, institutions work in the same groove with nature. The nation is armed, every man is brought up like a soldier, bound to have arms according to his condition, to exercise himself on Sundays or holidays; from the yeoman to the lord, the old military constitution keeps them enrolled and ready for action. In a state which resembles an army, it is necessary that punishments, as in an army, shall inspire terror; and to aggravate them, the hideous Wars of the Roses, which on every flaw of the succession are ready to break out again, are ever present in their recollection. Such instincts, such a constitution, such a history, raises before them, with tragic severity, the idea of life: death is at hand, and wounds, the block, tortures. The fine cloaks of purple which the Renaissance of the South displayed joyfully in the sun, to wear like a holiday garment, are here stained with blood, and bordered with black. Throughout,: a stern discipline, and the are ready for every suspicion of treason : great men, bishops, a chancellor, princes, the king's relatives, queens, a protector kneeling in the straw, sprinkled the Tower with their blood; one after the other they marched past, stretched out their necks; the Duke of Buckingham, Queen Anne Boleyn, Queen Catherine Howard, the Earl of Surrey, Admiral Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, Lady Jane Grey and her husband, the Duke of Northumberland, Mary Stuart, the Earl of Essex, all on the throne, or on the steps of the throne, in the highest rank of honours, beauty, youth, and genius : of the bright procession nothing is left but senseless trunks, marred by the tender mercies of the executioner. Shall I count the funeral pyres, the hang-. ings, living men cut down from the gibbet, disembowelled, quartered, their limbs cast into the fire, their heads exposed on the walls? There is a page in Holinshed which reads like a deatli register:
“The five and twentith daie of Maie (1535), was in saint Paules church at London examined nineteene men and six women born in Holland, whose opinions were (heretical). Fourteene of them were condemned, a man and a woman of them were
1 Hentzner's Travels ; Benvenuto Cellini. See passim, the costumes printed in Venice and Germany: Bellicosissimi. Froude, i. pp. 19, 52.
? This is not so true of the English now, if it was in the sixteenth century, as it is of continental nations. The French lycées are far more military in character than English schools.-TR.
3 Froude's Hist. of England, vols. i. ii. iii.
4 •When his heart was torn out he uttered a deep groan.'—Execution of Parry; Strype, iii. 251.