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Henry the Eighth, his Court, and his Character
ANNE BULLEN, or Boleyn, was born in 1507, two years before Henry the Eighth ascended the throne of England : the revolutions of her fortune are indissolubly connected with the changes of that eventful reign, and offer an interesting illustration of those earlier times, in which we discover rather a foreign than a familiar aspect; features strange to our sympathies, and repulsive to our conceptions of the English character. In contemplati g this antiquated portraiture of our country, we are admonished, by certain internal feelings, of the immeasurable distance between us. It is not alone the exterior that creates this impression of remoteness and alienation : imagination might renovate fashions long since decayed, or impart grace to beauty and honor mouldering in oblivion. We could be reconciled to the coat of mail and ponderous spear, but we recoil from the image of England, entrammelled by ignorance and superstition, abetting persecution and oppression, and sub
mitting with pusillanimous baseness to become alternately the minister and the victim of tyranny and injustice. Mortified and disgusted, we are ready to disclaim affinity with a race in whom we discover no indications of those powerful energies, those expansive feelings of justice and humanity, which it is the pride of our national faith to identify with the air we breathe ; but which it should be the part of more enlightened patriotism to ascribe to the benignant influence of truth and liberty.
In referring to the life of Anne Boleyn, it is scarcely possible not to become aware of our obligation to knowledge and culture, and of the inseparable connexion between the interests of morality and the cause of civil and religious freedom. It is worthy of remark, that Henry, however sanguinary and despotic, was not more unprincipled than contemporary princes, or less esteemed than his immediate predecessors. Of the insurrections that occasionally disturbed his tranquillity, there were scarcely any that originated in generous indignation or patriotic energy: the same people who acquiesced without repugnance in the immolation of Edmund de la Pole, and tacitly approved the unconstitutional murder of Buckingham, scrupled not to invade the rights of property if they clashed with their favorite pursuits*, or to violate the laws of hospitality
* In 1514, the citizens of London sallied forth with shovels and spades, and breaking down the inclosures of garden ground, in the villages of Hoxton, Hackney, and