« PreviousContinue »
ouncil; but the same favour was shown to Exeter* and Buckingham, both of whom afterwards fought and died for the Red Rose.
The Paston letters include one from a person serving under Sir John Falstolf, who was taken prisoner by the rebels. He says nothing of York, but mentions a herald of the Duke of Exeter as present in the rebel camp. No one of the chroniclers,t prior to Fabyan, mentions the Duke of York, and he says only that Cade called himself “ Mortimer, and cousin of the Duke of York.”I Stow is the first who tells us, that “ those who favoured the Duke of York, and wished the crown upon his head, procured a commotion in Kent."'S
Fabyan and Holinshed (who closely follows him) are pretty nearly adhered to in the narrative of Cade's prowess, the defeat of the Staffords and of Matthew Gough, the committal and murder of Lord Say.
And so in the incident of striking the sword upon London stone ; but the poet omits to say that the rebels were admitted into London by the civic authorities themselves. About the termination of the rebellion there is some doubt.|| The chroniclers say that Cade, as well as his people, accepted the king's pardon (sent, not by Buckingham and Clifford, but by two bishops 1), and that he afterwards resumed his arms. All agree that he was slain by Iden, in a garden in Sussex, into which he had, as sheriff, pursued him.
York's sudden return from Ireland, with a considerable force, just about the period of Cade's insurrection, affords presumptive evidence that York was concerned in the rising, and so Shakspeare means us to understand; but, in the play, the declarations of the two leaders do not correspond. Of York it is said
“ He still proclaimeth, as he comes along,
His arms are only to remove from thee
The Duke of Somerset, whom he terms a traitor." And the king promises to send “Duke Edmund to the Tower," avowing to that duke his intention of setting him free so soon as York's forces should be dismissed, but the dramatic Cade says nothing of Somerset (who was now in France), nor, so far as we know, did either the historical Cade, or York himself, at this time.
“ He came out of Ireland with great bobaunce and inordinate people, harnessed and arrayed in manner of war, and there beat down the speres and walles in your chamber (this is addressed to the King), having no consideration for your high presence, by the which might be understood his disposition, at which time he was answered by you to his desires and demands, that it seemed to all your true subjects that the spirit of wisdom of God was in you."
This is recited from a Lancastrian record, ** in which document is also averred that some of the Kentish rebels avowed on the scaffold their intention to make the Duke of York king. A contemporary adds, that York's demand was, that a parliament should be called, and it would appear that this was done.
The fifth act of the play exhibits the King and York both encamped between Dartford and Blackheath; but this is an anticipation.
* This Exeter must be Henry Holland, son of John. † See W. Wyrc., 469; and Cont. Croyl, 526.
Fab., 622. $ Stow, 388. || See Lingard, 139. See Malone's note in Bosw., 306. ** The act of attainder of York and others, 1459; Rolls., V. 340; and W. Wyre., 473.
History tells us that after York had retired from court, and before parliament met, Somerset came from France, after having lost Normandy.* He was immediately taken into favour, and made high constable; but he had made himself so unpopular by his ill-success in France, that he was attacked by the populace of London, and only saved by getting into the Earl of Devonshire's barge.t
In this parliaments the Commons petitioned for the removal of Somerset, and several other persons, but the king refused to part with “ any lord named in the said petition."'S An unsuccessful motion was made to declare York heir to the crown, which (since Henry had as yet no issue) he assuredly was.
After parliament was up, York again raised forces: he informed his friends that the advice which he had given to the king was— "laid apart, and to be of none effect, through the envy, malice, and untruth of the Duke of Somerset, which for my trust, faith, and allegiance that I owe unto the king, and the good will and favour that I have to all the realm, laboureth continually about the King's highness for my undoing, and to corrupt my blood, and to disherit me and my heirs, and such persons as be about me, without any desert or cause done or attempted on my part or theirs.
I am fully concluded to proceed in all haste against him with the help of my kinsmen and friends. I
The King marched against the Duke, and, in February, 1452, the two parties finally encamped near Dartford, as in the play.
The King promised to call a new council, of which York should be a member; and now it was agreed that the Duke of Somerset should be committed, to answer charges against him ; but the Duke of York found his party weak, broke up his host, and submitted himself to the King, with whom he found the Duke of Somerset.It York accompanied the King to London almost as a prisoner; but, having sworn allegiance to Henry, was not further detained.
Holinshed chiefly follows Stow, whose narrative agrees pretty much with the above ; but Shakspeare does not implicitly follow his usual authority.
There is in the play some semblance of all that I have related, especially as to Somerset's committal and perfidious release. The queen's part in this is suggested by Fabyan.II For the arrival of Edward and Richard Plantagenet at this critical moment, there is no foundation but the opinion of a chronicler that it was the rumour of the Earl of March's coming that prevented York's arrest. But Edward was at this time only fourteen years old at the most, and Richard not four.SS
* W. Wyrc., 473; Paston, iji. 88.
+ W. Wyrc., 474 ; Fab. 453. Thomas Courtenay, fifth earl of that name. It has been supposed that he was at first a Yorkist, though he and his sons were afterwards distinguished Lancastrians. Surely it was most probably as a friend that he rescued Somerset, whose sister he married. I may, perhaps, take an opportunity of attempting to vindicate this Courtenay from the charge of ratting.
It met at Westminster, in Nov., 1430, but prorogued, and nothing was done before May, 1451.
Rolls., 411. || Turner says that the Duke of York exhibited articles of impeachment against Somerset ; see vol. iii., p. 183. They are not in the Rolls. See Norfolk's speech in support of them in Paston Letters, iii., 109.
Elis, First Series, i. 11. ** Correspondence in Stow, 395; but whence taken ? See Fahyan, 626. ++ Leland, ii., 495.
II P. 628. of According to W. Wyrc., p. 462 and 477, Edward was born in 1442, and Richard in 1452, Dec.-VOL, LIV, NO. CCXVI.
Throughout this scene, York asserts his claim to the crown. I do not find that this claim had been made.
In the play, the battle of St. Alban's immediately follows; but more than two years, and some important events, intervened, as Shakspeare might have learned from Holinshed.
In 1453, while the parliament sat at Reading, Henry fell into a sickness which incapacitated him for government;* and the Duke of York was, by the lords spiritual and temporal, elected Protector.t Somerset was now committed to the Tower ;I but the king got well, and released Somerset. Nominally, the disputes between the two dukes were referred to arbitration, but York did not wait for the award. He took up arms once more, with Salisbury and Warwick, and the two parties met near St. Alban's.
Buckingham was sent by the king || to know the reason of the hostile array, and received the usual answer-Somerset. This mission is by Shakspeare transferred to the former meeting. ?
The battle immediately followed, ** in which Somerset and Clifford ++ were slain. This was the first battle between the two houses; but there was still, I believe, no claim to the crown.
The events of dramatic battles are generally fanciful. Clifford and Somerset, however, are correctly named among the slain, though there is as little ground for ascribing Clifford's death to York, as there is for attributing that of Somerset it to his infant son Richard. The son of Hotspur, too, SS was slain in this battle, fighting for the house of Lancaster, and Humphrey Stafford, the son of the Duke of Buckingham. Il
Something, perhaps, must be said of the persons who will not reappear in the third part—Gloucester, Winchester, Suffolk, Somerset, aud Clifford. No one of these exhibits a dramatic character of much importance, unless it be Winchester when on the point of death. I have already said that it is doubtful whether history verifies the odious character assigned to the cardinal by the poet. And the same doubt may be reversed as to the Duke Humphrey, who was, at least, ambitious in a degree not apparent in the play. The truth is that neither he nor any other of the personages of this play (with the one exception noticed), displays, in any remarkable way, the hand of the poet. It is clear that Shakspeare intends to represent Duke Humphrey as worthy of the epithet attached to his name; but goodness is less poetical than despair. The character of Suffolk as an ambitious profligate is well sustained; but there is not sufficient evidence to impute it to the man. Of Somerset we really know nothing but that he was an unfortunate commander, and so he is represented.
* W. Wyrc., 477; Rolls, 241 ; Wheth., 319.
+ March" 27, 1454. The appointment was afterwards confirmed by the Commons, to last till the prince should come of age. Rolls, 242-3, York had previously been appointed the king's lieutenant to hold the parliament.
Nicolas, vi., p. lix. Lingard says that he was committed before the meeting of parliament; but his own statement is that he was committed during the king's illness. See Rymer, xi. 362. § Lingard, 145.
|| Wheth., 352; Hol., 240. Act v., Sc. 1.
** St. Albans, 22 May, 1455. + Thomas, twelfth Lord de Clifford. The present Baroness de Clifford is his female representative. Lord Clifford of Chudleigh is his male heir.
11 The warning to him to shun castles is mentioned in Hol., 240. $$ Henry, second Earl of Northumberland.
H Hol., 240.
MY GRANDFATHER'S TALES.
DONNINGTON GIBBET; A LEGEND OF BERKSHIRE. [The respected and respectable author of the being of the author of mine, enjoyed, during his lifetime, the reputation of a truant disposition, the which, as I have been told, led him at times into strange adventures in his own person, and into the knowledge of still stranger in others. He was fond, it seems, in his leisure hours, of noting these down; and in a curiously carved and cobwebed cupboard, it was my lot, a few years since, to find a bundle of these dusty relics; one of which proceeds as follows:-)
In the year 1720 (I well know it was the year 1720, because it was just at the bursting of the famous, or rather infamous, South Sea bubble) I was an undergraduate at Worcester College, Oxford, purporting to be deeply busied in studies classical, physical, mathematical, logical, ethical, and such like, but, in fact, with my head running on nothing but plays and poems, and my heart filled with the divine image of the last lovely creature into whose delicious society my lucky stars had thrown me.
I had received that same year an invitation to a very delightful shooting-party that had assembled at the house of a friend situated in the neighbourhood of the New Forest, in the acceptance of which I promised myself no small pleasure. The ist of October was the day fixed uponi to commence the work of devastation; and accordingly, about four o'clock in the afternoon of the preceding 29th September, I, having made the best excuse I could to my tutor for a week's absence, set out on horseback on my way from Oxford, intending to sleep that night at Newbury. It had been a close and sultry day, and I therefore jogged on but slowly, so that I had not accomplished more than two-thirds of my allotted distance, when night, which at the autumnal season is rather brisk in its movements, suddenly overtook me, and a warning gust or two that scattered the rustling leaves around me, together with a few drops of heavy rain, waked me up from the dreamy state into which I had for some time fallen, and brought the waking conviction to my mind that at such a time the parlour of a cheerful inn is far preferable to a dull and dreary road. Another reflection, too, at that moment flashed upon me, and this grew out of the fact that I had lately read in the public prints of more than one daring highway robbery which had been committed in the unfrequented country across which I was then journeying. Now I was a solitary and unarmed traveller, with scarcely enough of gold in my pocket to act as a bribe upon a robber not to become a murderer. These recollections were quickly succeeded (for the mind is curiously active at such moments) by others equally useless and not at all more agreeable. I thought of the time I had unnecessarily lost upon the road, and how easy it would have been for me to be at that moment at the close instead of the middle of my journey; I thought of my pistols, which were safely locked up in my bureau at college, and how silly it was of me not to have brought them with me; I thought of my father, to whom I had given a promise not again to absent myself, without his knowledge, from my studies, and how wrong it was in me to deceive, even in a trifling matter, so indulgent a parent as he had
ever proved himself. I did not at all like this last effort of my brain for it was instantly followed by one much more serious.
It might be that the first tidings received of my disobedience would be conveyed in an account of the catastrophe by which it had been so speedily punished. Stung by this, more than by all the rest put together, I endeavoured to break the chain of my ideas by a sudden effort, and was dashing forward at a smart pace, when, arriving that moment at a cross-road, I had scarcely time to perceive that a horseman was riding directly at me, before we encountered each other full tilt. I mechanically raised my arm to make the best defence I could, but before, in my bewildered state, I could bring it to bear upon my adversary, a well-directed blow from a heavy riding-whip, wielded by his powerful arm, brought me at once to the ground. Fortunately, however, it had fallen on my shoulders, so that I at least retained possession of my senses: and rage having now taken the place of surprise, I was in another moment on my feet, and, darting like a tiger-cat at the throat of my assailant, who was too much occupied with the antics of his astonished Bucephalus, to make further use of his formidable weapon, I brought him in turn to mother earth; and, still with one hand keeping my hold of him, I placed my knees upon his prostrate body, and in this favourable position dealt bim, regardless of the cutcry he made, repeated blows with the other, until I judged that I had sufficiently weakened his forces to admit safely of a parley. In this state of things we exchanged such civilities in words, as might be considered perfectly in character with our late respective doings; nor did we cease until certain espressions, not at all dubious in their general tendency, but somewhat ambiguous as to their individual applicability, brought me to the almost certainty that we were labouring under a mutual delusion.
I hereupon offered a truce, which a little further explanation ripened into a lasting peace. We had indeed thoroughly mistaken the matter, and, under the influence of that mistake, had each taken the other for no better than a biped beast of prey. Where both were equally in fault, and both had pretty equally suffered, matters could pretty soon be arranged; and, having speedily entered into a treaty offensive and defensive against all other aggressors whatsoever and wheresover, my honest farmer (for such he proved to be) and myself remounted, and set out anew for the common object of our journey– Newbury.
The night was now at its darkest, for the moon was in her last quarter, and the atmosphere was densely clouded. We had a good ten miles to ride, and, except the shrill moaning of the autumnal breeze, as it fitfully swept past us, or the distant baying of some careful watch-doy, not a sound arose to break the silence of the scene. Whatsoever might be the exact state of my companion's mind at such a time, I am not ashamed to say that mine partouk of the “ solemn stillness round;" and, as we rode silently on, I was soon quite aware that my nervous system was in a state to be affected by “trifles” that, under ordinary circumstances, would have seemed " light as air."
It is a curious fact, I have often thought, that at such times our conversation is almost invariably found to turn upon subjects, the consideration of which is, at the moment, the least welcome to our minds. For instance, during a thunder-storm, nine out of every ten present are sure to recount a variety of anecdotes that have occurred within their own