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The history of Henry the Eighth was undertaken by desire of Prince Charles, to whom the history of Henry the Seventh was dedicated. The undertaking did not suit very well with Bacon's plans at that time; for it must have been a long business, owing to the quantity of original letters and other documents that had been preserved and must have been consulted, and he was now anxious to make the most of his time in pushing on his philosophical inquiries. He seems to have entered upon it without appetite and proceeded somewhat reluctantly. He had some difficulty also in obtaining free use of the requisite materials. Answering a letter from Tobie Matthew (then with the Prince and Buckingham in Spain) dated 26th of June, 1623, he writes, “ Since you say the Prince hath not forgotten his commandment touching my history of Henry the Eighth, I may not forget my duty. But I find Sir Robert Cotton, who poured forth what he had in my former work, somewhat dainty of his materials in this.” And in sending the Prince a copy of the De Augmentis Scientiarum, then newly published (22nd of October, 1623), he says, “ For Henry the Eighth, to deal truly with your Highness, I did so despair of
my health this summer, as I was glad to choose some such work as I might compass within days: so far was I from entering into any work of length.” How far he proceeded in gathering materials, or at what time this opening paragraph was written, we are not informed. But we know from Dr. Rawley that this was all he ever did of it.
It was published by Dr. Rawley in 1629, in a small volume entitled “ Certain Miscellany works of the Right Hon. Francis Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban.” But I have preferred to take the text from a manuscript copy in the British Museum (additional MSS. 5503, f. 120 b.): which I suspect to be a more original authority.
HISTORY OF THE REIGN
KING HENRY THE EIGHTH.
AFTER the decease of that wise and fortunate King, King Henry the Seventh, who died in the height of his prosperity, there followed (as useth to do when the sun setteth so exceeding clear) one of the fairest mornings of a kingdom that hath been known in this land or anywhere else. A young King about eighteen years of age, for stature, strength, making, and beauty, one of the goodliest persons of his time. And although he were given to pleasure, yet he was likewise desirous of glory; so that there was a passage open in his mind by glory for virtue. Neither was he unadorned with learning, though therein he came short of his brother Arthur. He had never any the least pique, difference, or jealousy, with the King his father, which might give any occasion of altering court or counsel upon the change; but all things passed in a still. He was the first heir of the White and of the Red Rose; so that there was no discontented party now left in the kingdom, but all men's hearts turned towards him; and not only their hearts, but their eyes also; for he was the only son of the kingdom. He had no brother; which though it be a comfort for Kings to have, yet it draweth the subjects' eyes a little aside. And yet being a married man in those young years, it promised hope of speedy issue to succeed in the Crown. Neither was there any Queen Mother, who might share any way in the government or clash with the counsellors for authority, while the King intended his
I comfortable thing. R.