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« Then let me fly to Medway's stream,
Sir E. BRYDGES.
SIR THOMAS WYATT, was descended from a respectable family originally settled in Yorkshire. He was the son of Sir Henry Wyatt, being the eldest of three children. His brother Henry Wyatt lived also in Kent, but his family subsequently removed into the County of Essex,--His sister Margaret married Sir Anthony Lee, ancestor to the Earls of Litchfield.
Sir Henry Wyatt, the father of the poet, was a man distinguished in his time by the favour of two sovereigns. He seems to have attached himself to the House of Lancaster, and to have incurred in consequence the displeasure of Richard the third, by whose directions he was confined a prisoner in the Tower. There is a story connected with his confinement, which absurd as it certainly is, has attained with a late biographer some degree of credit,- We are told by the inscription on his Monument, " That he was imprisoned and tortured in the
Tower, in the reign of Richard the Third, and kept in that dungeon, when he was fed and preserved by a cat." The tradition illustrative of this record is, that the cat brought him every day a pigeon from a neighbouring dove-house. The untameable disposition, and total want of personal attachment, which are the well known characters of the domestic cat, are sufficient to confute this legend.
Sir Henry Wyatt was the first of his name who settled in Kent. About the year 1493, he purchased the castle and estate of Allington, near Maidstone, upon the banks of the Medway.—Here he fixed his family, and his descendants as long as they retained it, made this pleasant seat the chief place of their residence.* Soon afterwards, he made a further purchase in Kent, of the estate and mansion of the Mote, also near Maidstone, and the present residence of the Earls of Romney.
* Allington Castle seems to have been fortified so early as the time of Edward the first, when it belonged to Sir Stephen de Penchester. It was afterwards part of the ample possessions of the Cobhams. It reverted to the Crown upon the attainder of Sir Thomas Wyatt ihe younger, in 1554, and was given by Queen Elizabeth to the Astley family.--By this family the Castle was suffered to go to decay, and the park broken up and cultivated. The present ruins are extensive, but exbibit but little remains of a place of strength-the moat still exists, and on ancient gateway, built by one of the Cobliams, as well as one of the round towers, which is very large. “ The Castle,” says Dr. Nott,“ though partly in ruins, still serves as a residence to a farmer and three or four labourers. The situation is singularly pretty-it stands in an angle of a sweetly verdant meadow surrounded on three sides by the Medway. The oppo. site bank is abrupt, and clothed with hanging woods. The grounds behind the Castle form a gentle declivity, varicd with groves of wood, and hop-grounds intermixed. The country dame who shews the Castle to strangers, takes them to one of the towers, and tells them it is the identical place where the old Sir Henry was imprisoned; and then points to an adjoining dove-house, whence the faitbful cat, she assures them, reguJarly took the pigeon every day to support her master with.” The rains and estate form part of the possessions of the present Earl of Romney.
Sir Henry Wyatt was a Privy Counsellor to Henry the seventh, and named in that Monarch’s will as one of his executors. He was afterwards appointed of the Council for the management of public affairs during the minority of Henry the eighth.—Upon the coronation of the latter, he was made a Knight of the Bath; and after the Battle of Spurs, where he held a military command, was further distinguished by the chivalrous title of a Knight Banneret in the field of battlethis happened in 1513. In 1516 he was appointed to preside certain days in the Star Chamber, and about the same time was constituted Knight Marshall; in which capacity he attended his master to Calais, when the famous interview took place between the two Kings in the plains of Ardres. In 1521 he was made keeper of the King's jewels.' In 1527 he entertained the King at his Castle of Allington, who was then, according to a praiseworthy custom, now too much neglected, going his progress round Kent. In 1533 he appears to have been the King's Ewerer, an office of considerable distinction.
Sir Henry Wyatt died at Allington in 1538, being not less than 78 years of age.
Sir Thomas Wyatt was born at Allington Castle in Kent, in 1503, and was sent to the University of Cambridge, at the early age of twelve years. He was of St. John's College ; took his degree of Batchelor in 1518, and that of Master in 1520.-Wood
says afterwards removed to Oxford, which assertion seems contrary to the evidence of several facts. It is certain
that he had finished his studies, and was admitted a gentleman of the King's bedchamber, some time previous to the
Sir Thomas Wyatt married, in the year 1523, Elizabeth the daughter of Brook Lord Cobham, and his eldest son, the unfortunate Sir Thomas Wyatt the younger, was born the following year.
The next memorable incident in the life of Sir Thomas Wyatt, is after an interval of nine years, when, in 1533, he officiated for his father at the coronation of Anne Boleyn, in his capacity of Ewerer. All that we know of him during this interval is, that he filled the part of a courtier so well as to have obtained the envied situation of favourite to his capricious and dangerous master.
His ascendency over the King at this time was so great, that his recommendation was considered the surest road to preferment, and it became a common saying upon any unexpected promotion, that the successful candidate “ had been in Wyatt's closet.”
The accomplishments which insured our poet this exalted station, were-great personal beauty,—a quick and ready wit,-a generous and open disposition, dexterity in the martial exercises of the times,—a talent for verse,-skill in languages, and in music. It is certain that during this period of his life, Wyatt entered with animation into all the gaiety and dissipation of the court, and as such a life seems to have been congenial to his disposition, he appears to have been happy and contented. To these halcyon days, he doubtless alludes in the following stanza :
“ What earthly thing more can I crave?
What would I wish more at my will!
Save what I have, to have it still,
It was also during this spring-time of his age that love gave inspiration to his muse. His reverend biographer takes great pains to convince us that it was of that rare kind called platonic love,--"an innocent but a dangerous friendship.” It was the practice of the poets of that age, a practice borrowed from the example of their master Petrarch, to single out some object to whom they might address the most impassioned strains, without even a distant expectation of obtaining the usually hoped for reward of such efforts. Surrey, the celebrated contemporary and friend of Wyatt, was a married man when he assumed this poetic passion for his Geraldine, who was herself a child, and in the end but ill requited his labours.
labours. At a period rather later, Sir Philip Sydney, himself a married man, singled out the Lady Rich, a married woman, as the heroine of his muse, and under the assumed titles of Astrophel and Stella, addressed to her a volume of poems in the language of genuine passion. The object of Wyatt's attachment was the beautiful and unfortunate Anne Boleyn. It is a remarkable fact, and it tends in a degree to confirm the opinion that this poetic love was of the kind termed platonic, that the ladies, in almost every instance, requited the infatuated poets with the disdain they most justly merited. It is probable that this practice was not confined to poets only, but that in them it became notorious, and was handed down to posterity from their embodying it in
Dr. Nott has entered into an attempt to palliate, if not to justify it,--the attempt is fruitless,-the