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In 1587 he went ambassador to the States-General; but having incurred the displeasure of Leicester and Burleigh, who were then in power, he was recalled, and confined for some months to his house.
On the death of Leicester be recovered the Queen's favour, was made a Knight of the Garter, appointed to sit at the trial of Lord Arundel, and joined with Burleigh in negociating a peace with Spain and Holland. On December 17th, 1591, in consequence of the earnest recommendation of the Queen, he was elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in opposition to Essex, the object of her capricious passion. On the death of Lord Burleigh, he succeeded him in the office of Lord High Treasurer, and in the next year was joined in the commission with Essex and Sir Thomas Egerton, for negociating an alliance with Denmark. He afterwards presided at the trial of the Earls of Essex and Southampton, officiating on the occasion as Lord High Steward.
At the accession of James the First, his patent of Lord High Treasurer was renewed for life ; and in 1603 he was created Earl of Dorset, and appointed one of the Commissioners for executing the office of Earl Marshal. But he did not long enjoy these accumulated honours; on the 19th of April, 1608, he died suddenly while at the council table, in the 81st year of his
age. He was interred with great funeral solemnity in Westminster Abbey; his funeral sermon being preached by his chaplain, Dr. Abbott, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.
The connection of this illustrious man with the County of Kent, commenced in the year 1567, when
Queen Elizabeth granted him the manor and mansionhouse of Knole, which had belonged originally to the See of Canterbury, but having been ceded to the crown, had passed by successive grants, through a series of eminent proprietors, and had lately been in the possession of the Earl of Leicester. This nobleman demised it upon lease, and Lord Buckhurst did not obtain possession until the year 1603. From this time it became the principal residence of him and his
Of the Earl of Dorset as a statesman, the present work does not take cognizance; as a Poet, though he has done but little, yet he is most justly entitled to an eminent rank. A disciple of the same school, and drawing from the same stock, he doubtless led the way for Spenser, whom he almost equals in some of the higher departments of poetry. His language is pure, rich, and dignified. The construction of his stanzas, harmonious and regular. Where he has attempted descriptions of nature, and natural scenery, as in his solemn and beautiful Winter's Evening, and in the fine picture of repose in the Legend of Buckingham, he has shewn the hand and eye of a master, and leaves us to regret that he has done so little in that most delightful walk. But it is in allegory that his chief perfection lies. “ The shadowy inhabitants of hell's gates,” says Warton,
his own, conceived with the vigour of a creative imagination, and described with great force of expression ; they are delineated with that fullness of proportion, that invention of picturesque attributes, distinctness, animation, and amplitude, of which Spenser is commonly supposed to have
given the first specimen in our language, and which are characteristical of his poetry.” The “ Induction to the Mirror for Magistrates," should be studied by the Poet and by the Painter; it is both in conception and execution, one of the most perfect poems in the English language. The Poet has introduced himself and his subject with the consummate art that almost equals the unrivalled Shakspear, and though it is high praise, it is perhaps no exaggeration, to assert, that this introduction will bear a comparison even with the opening scene in Hamlet. The approach of winter is first described by its effects, and every incident carefully wrought in that tends to heighten them. It is a winter's evening, and the poet has sought the fields,-night approaches with misty mantle spread,"—the sun sets, the moon and stars appear. The Poet, from the scene around him, is led to meditate upon the mutability of human affairs. From generalising, he descends to particular instances. He continues to ramble and to meditate. The night grows dark, and he quickens his pace; when suddenly his steps are arrested by the appearance of an hideous phantom, whom he first describes by her attributes, and afterwards by the name of Sorrow. This shadowy being,"knowing the subject of his thoughts, offers to conduct the Poet to the mansions of the dead, and introduce him to the illustrious unfortunate, that he may receive from them the particulars of their several fates. They proceed, and after passing the mouth of Avernus, encounter the grisly residents “ within the porch and jaws of hell !” These, consisting of Remorse of Conscience, Dread, Revenge, Misery, Care, Sleep, Old-age, Malady,
Famine, and War, are described in succession. They pass
the lake, and are introduced into the “large great kingdoms, and the dreadful reign of Pluto," where Sorrow pauses, and points out to her companion, 56 Princes of renown that whilom sat at top of fortune's wheel, now laid full low,”—she directs him to attend to their complaints, and to "recount the same to Kesar, King, and Peer.” The whole is a grand and solemn dream.
The "Legend of Buckingham" is not equal to the Induction, but it, notwithstanding, contains some excellent passages. It was badly selected, and appears to have been hastily composed.
The “Mirror for Magistrates," for which these pieces of Sackville's were written, was frequently reprinted within the first half century of its appearance, but no modern edition, or selection from it, has been published since. Sackville's share of it was first admitted into a collection of English poetry, by Dr. Anderson, in 1793. A complete collection of the works of this Poet including his Tragedy of Gorboduc, and whatever else may result from a careful search, is surely a desideratum in our literature.
A Winter's Evening, and personification of Sorrow,
from the Induction to the Mirror for Magistrates. The wrathful winter 'proaching on apace,
With blustering blasts hath all y-bared * the treen, And o!d Saturnus with his frosty face,
With chilling cold hath pierced the tender green:
The mantles rent wherein enwrapped been
The soil that erst so seemly was to seen,
Was all despoiled of its beauty's hue : And soot fresh flowers, wherewith the summer's queen Had clad the earth, now Boreas' blasts down blew :
And small fowls flocking, in their song did rue The winter's wrath, wherewith each thing defaced In woeful wise, bewailed the summer past.
Hawthorn had lost his motley livery,
The naked twigs were shivering all for cold, And dropping down their tears abundantly;
Each thing, methought, with weeping eye me told
The cruel season, bidding me withold Myself within,--for I was gotten out Into the fields, whereas I walked about,
When lo, the night with misty mantle spread,
'Gan dark the day, and dim the azure skies.
*" The prefix y does not, so far as can now be discovered, alter the sense ; and therefore in poetry, seems to serve the purpose merely of supplying the writer at pleasure, with an additional syllable."