« PreviousContinue »
practice admits of no palliation,-it was both criminal and absurd.*
That the object of Wyatt's poetic, or if the term be more appropriate, platonic affection, was Anne Boleyn, is proved from the internal evidence of his works, as well as from some obscure notices in the history of the time, and from family tradition. One of his poems is addressed to his love called Anna; in others, he alludes to the necessity of relinquishing the object of his affections tò a powerful rival, and there is a sonnet beginning with the line
" Whoso list to hunt, I know where is a hind."
* In his life of Surrey, Dr. Nott goes the length to assert, that “ Petrarch avowed his attachment to Laura when she wils a married woman; yet his love was deemed the purest and most exalted that the human breast could entertain.” In a note to. this passage, the Rev. Dr. further remarks" Some donbis have been entertained of late, whether Laura was really a married woman, as has been generally supposed. Lord Woodhouselee has written an ingenious essay to prove that she lived and died single. The point inuet still be considered us doubtful. But which ever way the truth may lie, in Surrey's time Laura was, I believe, unirersully believed to hure been married.” This is a remarkable instance of how far a writer may be carried in his wish to support a particular point. Dr. Nott is endeavouring to palliate a practice deserving only of reprobation, and he desires to support it by the authority at great names. Such triling to call it by 10 worse term, with the character of the illustrious dead, is not honourable in any writer. Dr. Nott must have known, if he had read the essay of Lord Woodhouselee, two things : first-that Laura was nerer married ; secondly, that in Surrey's time, the universal opinion wus, that she was never married. The fact is, that the calumny originated in the infamous vanity of a Frenchman in the last century. The essay of Lord Woodhouselee contains an ample refntation of this attempt, and is a most ingenious, delightful, and praise-worthy composition. Its merits are not sufficiently known, and it has not been justly appreciated.
which contains the following express declaration:
• Whoso list to hnot, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain ;
Graven with diamonds, in letters plain,
“ Noli ine tangere ;" for Cæsar's I am
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.” When the British tyrant had determined to sacrifice the unfortunate Anne to his lusi, attempts were made by his agents to fix a stain
anong others the attachment of Sir Thomas Wyatt was selected as affording a pretence of that nature. Writers are not wanting who assert, that he made himself a voluntary confession of criminal intimacy with her previous to her marriage. There is every reason to hope, for the credit of our poet, that this calumny was without foundation. It is not, it must be confessed, contrary to the character and spirit of the time, which afford instances of every thing mean, dastardly, and disgusting ; but there can be little doubt had he made such an acknowledgement, that he would have added another to the train of victims which accompanied this most revolting tragedy.
The whole compass of history does not furnish an example of more infernal tyranny on the part of a ruler, or more servile, base, and dastardly conduct on that of a numerous and powerful nobility, than that, exhibited in the trial and condemnation of Anne Boleyn. She was found guilty of a revolting and unpatural crime, opon evidence of the slightest and most suspicious nature; her near relation, the Duke of Norfolk, presiding at the head of a jury consisting of the prime of England's nobility; the gentle, the chivalrous Surrey, alas! officiating as Marshall. The number of Dukes, Marquisses, Earls, and Barons assembled on this disgusting occasion, was twentysix, and history has consigned their names to eterval infamy. The conduct of the royal monster outrages humanity. " The oak,” says Dr. Nott, “is, I believe, still existing, called
There are reasons to presume that the miserable Queen, either from vanity, or motives even less justifiable, was not totally insensible to Wyatt's passion, whatever its nature may have been. We
e are told that she indulged in reciting his poems composed in her praise ; that she retained his sister about her person, even to the latest moment of her life, and rewarded her with the last kind look and gift she had to bestow ; that the individuals of Wyatt's family, for a long time after her death, considered themselves bound in honour to defend the memory of the murdered Queen ; and that one of them when young, had collected materials with the intention of refuting the calumnies of her accusers. Considering the affair in this light, the practice before reprobated appears even more detestable, and it is not too much to suspect that it afforded the most unfeeling of all tyrants the pretence for sacrificing an innocent, but unguarded woman, to his inhuman lust. In this remark it is not intended to impute blame solely to Sir Thomas Wyatt-it is well known that several indi
Henry's oak, in Epping Forest, under which that King break. fasted, his hounds and attendant train beside him, on the morning which be bad directed Anne Boleyn to be beheaded. There he remained until he heard the gun fired, which was to be the signal to mark the time of the striking off her liead, No sooner, did he hear it, than starting up, he exclaimed " Ah! Ah! it is done the business is done--uncouple the hounds, let us now follow the sport!” It is painful to add, for it reflects discredit upon human nature, that Henry, after his return from hunting that very evening, married Lady Jane Seymour.” The only redeeming instance in this horrid tragedy, is the conduct of the Earl of Northumberland, who was one of the jury. He had been a lover of the Queen's in early life, and would have made her his wife but was compelled to resign her to the tyrant. On seeing her brought into conrt as a criminal, his feelings were overpowered, and he was obliged to retire from the scene,
viduals actually suffered death for their supposed attachment to the Queen. Why may not these have been platonic lovers ?
From this period Sir Thomas Wyatt seems to have strung his lyre to other notes than love. We are informed that he contributed very materially to the Reformation, as it was called, or more correctly speaking, to the dissolution of the religious houses. As a preliminary step, he had previously joined the conspiracy by which Cardinal Wolsey suffered disgrace. Dr. Nott is inclined to think that Wyatt was induced to this line of conduct by religious conviction ; he however furnishes us with the following anecdote of him, which, with its corollary, does not, it must be allowed, tend to confirm his opinion. “One day as the King was conversing with Wyatt on the suppression of monasteries, he expressed his apprehension on the subject, saying, he foresaw it would excite general alarm, should the crown resume to itself such extensive possessions as those belonging to the church.” “ True Sire,” replied Wyatt,
“ but what if the rook's nests were buttered ?" Henry understood the force and application of the proverb, and is said from that moment to have formed the design of making the nobility a party in the reformation, by giving to them a portion of the church lands.” The "rook's nests” assuredly were “ buttered” lavishly, and among the rest that belonging to our bard. We are told by the same authority, that the King “ reserved for him the house of the Friars at Aylesford in Kent, wbich he had particularly requested to have,” and that “it was an acquisition of the utmost importance to Wyatt, as it adjoined his family estate at Allington.”
After this acknowledgment it is little better than folly to speak of Wyatt's attachment to Henry's reformation from religious or disinterested motives.
The bonour of Knighthood was conferred upon Sir Thomas Wyatt on Easter-day, March 18th, 1536; soon after which he was confined for a short time in the Tower.— The cause of this imprisonment is unknown; but is said to have arisen out of some personal quarrel between himself and the Duke of Suffolk. It appears to have been of short duration, and not to have produced any
the conduct of the King as it respected Sir Thomas Wyatt. Immediately after his liberation, he was appointed to a command in the army designed to act against the rebels in Lincolnshire; and in the ensuing year, he was nominated High Sheriff for the County of Kent.
In April 1537, Sir Thomas Wyatt was sent Embassador to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, then resident in Spain. We are informed that he was selected for this embassy, in consequence of the unlimited confidence his master was disposed to place in him, and the chance that his engaging manners and address might contribute to promote the intentions of his mission.-It is not consistent with the object of the present work to enter into the particulars of this negociation, as they are matters of general history, and may be found at full in the proper places. Sir Thomas Wyatt, though he did not fully accomplish the purpose of his employer, seems to have conducted himself with much firmness and prudence, and entirely to his satisfaction. The situation, however, was neither very pleasant nor profitable to him, and he repeatedly signified his desire to