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Vol. V. Part I.
The Negotiations of Woolsey, the great Cardinall of England.
Containing his life and death, viz. 1. The originall of his promotion. 2. The continuance in his magnificence. 3. His fate, death, and buriall. Composed by one of his owne servants, being his Gentleman-Usher, [G. Cavendish.] London, printed
for Willian Sheares, 1641. Cavendish's Life of Wolsey, in Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Bio
graphy. Printed from a MS. in the Lambeth Library.
The fate of this most interesting piece of biography has been singularly unfortunate.-Until very lately, it has only been known in editions of the work, the earliest of which was printed nearly a hundred years after its composition, and then so garbled, abridged, and altered, by the caprice of a tasteless editor in order to serve a temporary purpose, as almost to destroy the identity of the work. Numerous MSS. (no less than ten in different public libraries) of it, have, however, very fortunately come down to our time; and to them, alone, must we recur for the elegant and simple language, the minute and accurate narrative, the instructive and extraordinary facts, of the biographer. Moreover, it was but a short time ago, that the real author was properly ascertained, and the popular error, which attributed the credit of the work to Sir William Cavendish, the founder of the house of Devonshire, completely refuted. The author of that excellent pamphlet,“ Who wrote Cavendish's Life of Wolsey ?”
VOL. V, PART I.
has set the matter at rest, by proving, that our gratitude should be paid to George Cavendish the elder, the poor and neglected brother of Sir William ; and thus, by consequence, shewing the fallacy of the tradition, that the wealth of that distinguished house had its foundation in certain advantages which Sir William was supposed to have enjoyed in the course of his service upon Cardinal Wolsey. To George Cavendish, of Glemsford (as it is rightly stated by Lord Herbert), the faithful follower of the great Cardinal, a zealous Catholic and loyal subject of Queen Mary, do we owe this remarkable account of his master's high estate and precipitate fall. Of the ten MSS. which still exist of this ancient work, one has lately been edited by Dr. Wordsworth, in his Ecclesiastical Biography, from a MS. in the Lambeth Library; and it is this, rather than the imperfect earlier editions, which we shall use for our extracts, not only because it is illustrated and amended with great judgement and taste, in that excellent and valuable work, but because the book from which it is copied appears to have the best claims to originality of any of the others, whether print or manuscript, which have met our view.
There have been few more remarkable and eventful lives than that of Wolsey, which has even become a proverb in the mouths of all those who would exemplify the instability of human grandeur, and the uncertainty of the favour of princes. Cavendish appears to have been a constant attendant upon the person of the Cardinal for the last few years of that prelate's life, and to have enjoyed perpetual opportunities of close observation. The latter years of his own life, after the death of Wolsey, he probably employed in recording the facts which had come under his own view, and in recollecting and committing to writing those which his master, in his hours of familiar confidence, had related to him.
It is seldom that we can get so near a view of a life so remarkable and eventful as that of this great courtier; and the rarity of such works increases in proportion to the remoteness of the period. But what adds to the value of this production, is, that there is no where a more vivid and striking representation of the manners of that distant age, than in the pages we are about to review.
When Cavendish lived, literature was neither a very common nor a very necessary accomplishment, nor is it at all usual to find the gentlemen of that age sitting down to record the memorable events of their lives for the instruction or amusement of posterity. Our author, however, was too much struck by the splendour and grandeur of the Cardinal, too much affected by the awful change in the fortunes of his patron, and what is still more amiable, too indignant at the spreading slan