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hopeful boy, and who in his old age bore grateful testimony to his benefactor's worth. In the campaign of 1544 he was Marshal of the army, and with his father conducted the siege of Montreuil : there he was dangerously wounded in an attempt to take the place by storm; but recovered in time to cover the retreat, and so to prove that the failure of the siege has not been owing to any want of skill or courage on his part.
“He had next the command at Guisnes, and then at Boulogne, from whence he was soon removed through the jealousy, as he believed, of Hertford (afterwards the Protector Seymour), to whom he was indebted for many ill-offices; and for the resentment which he expressed with characteristic freedom, he was imprisoned in Windsor Castle. In August he was released, and apparently once more in favour; in December he was committed to the Tower, and brought to trial upon a preposterous charge of high treason, in which his father was involved. Hertford, who has crimes enough upon his head, is supposed to have sought his destruction in order to rid himself of a formidable enemy; and Surrey's only sister,--the widow of his dearest friend-of that friend whose early loss he had continually regretted, ---appeared as a voluntary witness, to take away the lives of her father and her brother! The duke was saved by Henry's timely death; but Surrey, in the flower of his age, was beheaded a few days before that event took place; this judicial murder (for not the shadow of a crime was proved against him,) being the last of those acts by which the name of Henry VIII. has deservedly been rendered hateful.”
It is worthy of remark that no English Historian of the slightest pretensions to credit or reputation, has ventured to defend the execution of this young, chivalrous, and guiltless nobleman. He fell a victim to the malice, tyranny, and despotism of an unprincipled king. The writer of an elaborate article on the History of England, published in “The Encyclopedia Britannica," comments upon the lamented fate of the Earl of Surrey, in terms which the circumstances of the case fully justify. “The cruelty of Henry," says the author referred to, “continued conspicuous to the very close of his life. Disease made dreadful ravages upon his worn-out and unwieldy frame, so that he had to be moved from place to place by machines contrived for the purpose. Yet even these unequivocal tokens of approaching dissolution had no effect in subduing the vindictive spirit or humanizing the mind of the sufferer. It was in this pitiable state that he perpetrated an act which has become memorable from the fame of the illustrious victim; this was the execution of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, so justly renowned for his poetical genius. There had for some time existed a spirit of rivalry between the Seymours and the house of Howard. The Duke of Norfolk was indignant at the ascendancy of the former in the royal favour; and his son, the Earl of Surrey, could not forgive the Earl of Hertford, a member of the other family, for having superseded him in the command of the garrison of Boulogne ; he had also been heard to predicate that the time of revenge was not far distant. The house of Howard alone stood in the way of the Seymours in the pursuit of their aggrandizement under the approaching minority; and they accordingly employed every means of drawing down the vengeance of the king upon their heads.
“Norfolk and Surrey were accordingly committed to the Tower on the 12th of December, 1546. Surrey was tried on the 13th of January following, on a charge of having quartered on his shield the arms of Edward the Confessor. He vainly defended himself with his usual eloquence and spirit, and showed that he had worn the arms fourteen years without giving offence, and that they had been assigned to him by a decision of the heralds. But the fact being admitted, it was taken as sufficient evidence that he aspired to the throne, and the jury condemned him to suffer death. About a week after the sentence was pronounced, this gallant and accomplished nobleman expired upon the scaffold. His father was also tried and condemned to perish in the same manner on the 29th of January. But on the morning of the 28th the spirit of Henry VIII. followed that of Surrey to the judgment seat; and Norfolk, after remaining in prison for several years, was at length set at liberty.”
Of Lord Surrey's private character and habits the particulars that have been preserved are not very minute, and much that has been published is not authentic. Dr. Nott describes his person, manners, and mode of living. From his statements it would appear, that this young nobleman was fascinating and accomplished, full of courage and spirit, ambitious of display, and yet preferring, as has been said by another writer, "the nobility of his nature to that of his fortune. He was a fast and enthusiastic friend. He was a knight after the model of the knights of old, undaunted and incorruptible, first in the lists, and graceful in the dance. He was a munificent patron of literature and the fine arts; and his generosity was frequently extended to brother poets in distress.” Dr. Nott has said of him, “that he beheld fame and excellence in others without envy, and that he honoured and fostered genius wherever he found it." He had a proud spirit and an irritable temper; and like all men of great ability who possess these defects, he was subjected to many annoyances which a less excitable temperament would have enabled him to bear with greater composure.
Surrey's merits as a writer and a poet have been acknowledged by the highest critical authorities. The whole of his compositions are limited in amount. They consist principally of his Sonnets, Miscellaneous pieces of an amatory character, his translation of two books of Virgil, and his paraphrases from David and Solomon. The
poem which he wrote, during one of his imprisonments in Windsor Castle, is considered to be the most pleasing of his compositions. “It consists,” says one of his reviewers, “of recollections of his early youth; it has all the graces of his chivalrous spirit, without the pride. It combines the three best features of his character, personal and poetical: his tender spirit of friendship, his taste for knightly gallantry, and his powers of description."
To form a just estimate of Lord Surrey's poetical merits, and of the important services he rendered to
English literature, it will be necessary to advert briefly to the intellectual state of England from the time of Chaucer to the brilliant reign of Elizabeth. In the dreary interval between those periods very little improvement was visible either in prose or poetical composition. Until Spenser arose, to enrich with his immortal productions the language of his country, there was scarcely any writer appeared upon whom the praisa of being a great poet could with propriety be bestowed. It would be foreign to the purpose of this brief summary, to explain the various causes which impeded the progress of literature in England, especially in the department of poetry, during the greater part of the fifteenth century. It may be sufficient to state, generally, that they have been partly ascribed, by the most distinguished authors who have investigated the subject, “ to the repeated contests for the Crown, and the civil wars occasioned by them, which were attended with a grea. waste of human blood, and that uncertainty of possession, and those reverses of fortune which leave the mind but little relish for such pursuits as are chiefly calculated to gratify the taste." The effect of this state of public affairs was, that although Lydgate, Gower, Skelton, and a few other inferior writers of verse followed Chaucer, there was no distinguished name in English poetry for nearly a century, if we except the Scottish poet Dunbar, until the works of Wyatt and Surrey were first published in 1557.
The productions of both these writers have been the subject of extravagant panegyric, especially by the carly commentators upon English Literature; but the praise awarded to them by recent critics, though not so warm, is perhaps more just and discriminating. Hallam, in his invaluable work on the “Literature of Europe in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries,” remarks with respect to Surrey, that "there is more of the conventional tone of amorous song, than of real emotion in his poetry. His taste is more striking than his poetical genius. He did much for his own country and his native language. The versification of Surrey differs very considerably from that of his predecessors.
He introduced a sort of involution into his style which gives an air of dignity and remoteness from common life. His words are well chosen and well arr
rranged. He is the first writer whu introduced blank verse into our language. His translation of the second book of the Æneid is among the chief of his productions. No one had, before his time, known how to translate or imitate with appropriate expression.”
Campbell, whose taste, judgment, and impartiality as a judge of the merits of our poetical literature have never been doubted, makes the following observations in his Essay on English Poetry. Surrey was not the inventor of our metrical versification; nor had his genius the potent voice and the magic spell which rouse all the dormant energies of a language. In certain walks of composition, though not in the highest, viz., in the ode, elegy, and epitaph, he set a chaste and delicate example; but he was cut off too early in life, and cultivated poetry too slightly, to carry the pure stream of his style into the broad and bold channels of inventive fiction. Much, undoubtedly, he did, in giving sweetness to our numbers, and in substituting for the rude tautology of a former age a style of soft and brilliant ornament, of selected expression, and of verbal arrangement, which often winds into graceful novelties, though sometimes a little objectionable from its involution.”
In an article less favourable, which we have already quoted from the “Edinburgh Review," the writer thus expresses his opinion of Lord Surrey's real merits as a writer and improver of English versification : "The greater part of the noble poet's lyrics consist of no very profound reflections, and are not free from conceits, nor even from common-place, allowing for the earliness of his appearance. Now and then, however, comes a burst of nature, like sunshine. His style, too, is succinct and animated, with an air of the grace and conscious power of rank about it—and it must be mentioned, to the honour of his natural genius, that his best pieces are directed by those in which he has trusted to his own feelings, and described his own situations. Adversity evidently assisted his powers, as it has done those of other poets. It