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SPECIMENS

OF THE

LYRICAL, DESCRIPTIVE, AND NARRATIVE

BRITISH POETS.

HENRY HOWARD, EARL OF SURREY.

BORN 1516-BEHEADED 1517,

“ Who has not heard of Surrey's fame ?

His was the hero's soul of fire,
And his the bard's immortal name,
And his was love exalted high
By all the glow of chivalry."

SURREY, the grace and ornament of the court of the tyrant

who caused his death, was the eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk. He was educated at Cambridge, and was in his sixteenth year betrothed to Lady Frances Vere, the daughter of the Earl of Oxford. It had been a common practice of the English nobility, in unsettled times, to strengthen and consolidate their family alliances by the early contracts of their children; and it was some time before this custom was discontinued. Surrey's marriage was not completed till three years afterwards; and in this interval he resided at Windsor and Hampton as the domestic companion and fellow-student of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, the natural son and favourite child of Henry VIII. To this young nobleman, who was contracted in marriage to his sister, Surrey was warmly attached; and the tender re. collection of this youth, who died at the age of seventeen,

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often breaks out in his verses with marks of sensibility at least as authentic as those with which he has celebrated the beauty of Geraldine, or the depth and constancy of

the passion she inspired. With the young Duke of Richmond Surrey attended Car

dinal Wolsey's College at Oxford ; and it is said he went over to France with him to receive the king on his memorable visit to Francis I., and thus must have been a witness and partaker of the stately pageants of the “Field of the Cloth of Gold,” But this rests on little better authority than that he assisted in gaining the victory at the fight of Flodden-field, which was stricken be

fore he was born. The romantic traditionary history of Surrey, which was

handed down even to our own day unquestioned, and received with admiration and delight, has been grievously demolished of late by one of those lovers of accuracy in dates and matters of fact, who appear to have a malicious pleasure in setting folks right on small points of chronology and unimportant truth, at the sacrifice of the finest points of their romantic creed. Surrey's late ingenious biographer cannot well get rid of the Fair Geraldine, whom the passion and genius of her lover have rendered so illus trious in poetical annals; but he is only too successful in showing, that, instead of pricking forth her knight and lover-proclaiming her peerless charms at the point of the lance at all the courts of Europe-throwing defiance to

Christian, Turk, Jew, Saracen, or Cannibal,” who should dare to dispute her charms, as we have ever fondly believed, -Surrey never at this time left England. If he never was abroad-never jousted in honour of Geraldine at the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany-another interesting tradition respecting this romantic lover is destroyed by a back-stroke. In the course of his chivalrous progress, it is said he remained some days at the court of the Emperor, where he became acquainted with that ce.

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lebrated adept in natural magic, Cornelius Agrippa, who showed him in a mirror the image of his beloved Geraldine reclining sick on a couch, and reading by a taper one

of his most passionate sonnets. Even Geraldine herself has been imagined an ideal being,

though there is little doubt that Surrey's mistress had a real existence, and was a daughter of the Earl of Kildare. She was an attendant on some of the princesses, and at an early age married Sir Anthony Wood, and afterwards the Earl of Lincoln. Surrey was probably married before he had ever seen Geraldine, as he has named her; but such poetical attachments were, in chivalrous times, no im. peachment either on the fame of the knight or the purity of the lady. Bayard, the chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, was through life the avowed knight of the Dame of Fluxas ; and Sir Philip Sydney's attachment to one “ whose fair neck a foul yoke bore," did not in this parti

cular infringe the good custom of chivalry. In the midst of his love and sonneteering, Surrey was knight

ed and sent to France in 1540, to superintend the defences of the possessions England then held on the frontier of that kingdom. In the subsequent year he is imagined to have been employed in translating Virgil, and in original composition, till he accompanied his father into Scotland on the military expedition which has been confounded with that which ended at Flodden. Surrey's biographer, not content with rescuing him from the imputation of being a practical Amadis or Quixote, shows him, on his return from Scotland, tarnishing his first-won laurels by the inglorious pastime of breaking the windows of the citizens of London with stones shot from his cross-bow, to the great bodily peril of the lieges, and in very youthful wantonness. For such offences, and for eating meat in Lent, he was twice imprisoned, and in confinement consoled himself by writing love-verses. Chaucer, nearly two hundred years before, had been fined for beating a

friar in Fleet-street; and there can be no doubt that the monk richly deserved it. Without this great precedent the ingenuity of Surrey's apology for his unknightly amusements may prove their excuse with posterity. He said, “ he saw the citizens were sunk in popish corruptions and personal luxury, and by a sudden stroke he wished to arouse their consciences, and remind them of the Divine retribution."-If this apology were sincere and serious, there can yet be no doubt that Surrey, as a knight-errant, challenged Turk, and Jew, and Cannibal,

in honour of Geraldine. A haughty temper, impatience of restraint, consciousness of

superior abilities, and contempt of those petty observances to which every man must submit for the good of all men, soon involved this gallant and accomplished person in more serious disasters than those which a short imprison

ment could fully expiate. When war broke out with France, Surrey obtained a com

mand, and conducted himself with the skill of a modern tactician, and the reckless bravery of those heroes of romance whom he admired and emulated the paladins of the age when love and arms went hand in hand. In this campaign he still amused his leisure, or beguiled the languor of absence, by pouring forth “ditties highly penned" to his distant mistress. In the course of the war he was made governor of Boulogne. He did much to repair the decayed fortifications, and put the place in a proper state of defence, and was successful in several skirmishes with the enemy. In a sally, not only bravely but prudently planned, he failed from sudden and unaccountable panic seizing his troops, or from their less pardonable cowardice. This disaster was taken advantage of by his personal foe, and the hereditary enemy of his family, the Earl of Hertford, who, having intrigued against him in his absence, now procured his recall, and was himself appointed to the highest command in France.

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Of Hertford, his bitter enemy, Surrey, on his return, spoke

with the warm and open indignation of a soldier avowing his angry feelings, and careless of consequences. A hasty and unguarded expression which he had employed, of obtaining the revenge of his enemy in another reign which was forbidden in this, was reported to the King. It was also insinuated that Surrey aspired to an alliance with the Princess Mary, though his wife long outlived himself, and that he corresponded with Cardinal Pole. But the true causes of his ruin are more implicitly stated by War. ton :-“ As Surrey's popularity increased,” says he, his interest declined with the King, whose caprices and jealousies grew more violent with his years and infirmities. The brilliancy of Surrey's character--his celebrity in the military science-his general ability, wit, learning, and affability, were viewed by Henry with disgust and suspicion.”-Other authorities impute the downfal of this accomplished nobleman to the intrigues of Hertford, who thought the sacrifice of Surrey necessary to his own safety. But wherever the scent of blood lay, the royal hound needed little cheering on. The virtues and high qualities of his victims gave fresh zest to the gratification of his natural cruelty. Surrey was committed to the Tower; his real fault, if he had committed any, being contempt or carelessness in propitiating the tyrant who held his life in his hands. The chief accusation on which the charge of high treason was founded, was his wearing the arms of Edward the Confessor, which he proved had been done by his ancestors and himself in presence of Henry and of former English kings, and by the authority of the heralds. He made an eloquent and manly defence; but the jury were assembled to condemn

him, not to hear the proofs of his innocence. “ Surrey,” says the historian of English poetry, “ for his

justness of thought, correctness of style, and purity of expression, may justly be pronounced the first English

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