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We think that the editor has performed a valuable service to science by preserving these memorials of the investigation and the ability of his deceased friend; and it gives us pleasure to ses the name of a very worthy individual rescued from oblivion.
Art. VIII. Dr. Nott's Edition of the Works of the Earl of
Surrey and Sir T. Wyatt.
[Art. concluded from the Rev. for June.] OUR notice having been already directed to the first volume
of this publication, containing the works of Lord Surrey, we proceed now to Sir Thomas Wyatt, who occupies Vol. II. Here the arrangement is nearly similar to that which was pursued on the former occasion, except that the space corresponding to the pages of the dissertation on early English poetry is devoted to an essay on Wyatt's poems. We also propose, commencing with the memoirs, to follow the same course of remark as before.
The first mention of the family of Wyatt occurs in the reign of Edward III., when they were situated at Southange, in Yorkshire; and their name in early times was spelt variously, Wiat, Wiot, Wyote, and Wyott. Their genealogical descent is not traced by the editor, sufficient documents probably not existing; and the first person concerning whom we receive any individual information is Sir Henry Wyatt, (father of the poet,) who was highly esteemed for his abilities by Henry VII. He was continued in places of honour and trust under Henry VIII., and, having married about the year 1502, his lady presented him in the following year with a son, Thomas, the subject of our present inquiries. The family were at this period in possession of large estates by purchase in Kent, at Allington Castle, in which county it appears that Sir Thomas Wyatt was born.
In the dearth of any certain information relative to Sir Thomas's instructor, Dr. Nott suggests the name of the famous Lily, the first and then existing master of St. Paul's school: but of the value of these presumptions we have already recorded our opinion. * In the year 1515, at the age of twelve, he was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he is said to have proceeded B. A. in 1518., and A.M., 1520. Anthony à Wood, always eager to claim distinction for his own Alma Mater, asserts that Wyatt, after having left Cambridge, re
* P. 115. Rev. for June.
moved for the completion of his studies to Wolsey's College, at Oxford: but the date of the incorporation of that society seems of itself sufficient to negative the claim. * Dr. Nott also disputes the fact of the young poet's travels in Italy, as mentioned by the same authority; and it certainly is rather extraordinary, if any part of his life was occupied in travelling to that country, that neither he himself nor any of his learned cotemporaries, by whom his name is recorded, have noticed his visit to the scenes of classical antiquity; especially when some of his shorter excursions are distinctly recorded. The most interesting story of the early years of the poet's manhood rests unfortunately on very slight evidence indeed; and we are indebted for it rather to the ingenuity and imagination than to the research of the present editor. We will first exhibit the foundation, and then the superstructure.
It is certain that Wyatt loved a person who was called Anna, as his own poems testify; and it is equally clear that he complains of the vanity of his pursuit, from a king having set his affections on the object of his admiration. It appears likewise that, after the arrest of Anne Boleyn, he, as well as others, was questioned respecting the nature of his former intimacy with the unfortunate queen; and, lastly, we are assured that a tradition of such an attachment was long preserved in Wyatt's family. On these few facts, Dr. Nott has written a really pretty little novel, and inserted it in his memoirs of the poet. The attachment commenced at the French court; it was renewed at that of Westminster, when Anne Boleyn was in attendance on Queen Catherine; similarity of pursuits cherished and increased it; and, when matured, it became what? - why, an attachment purely Platonic, and the lively tenderness of an innocent but dangerous friendship :' for Wyatt, like his friend Surrey, was a married man. This was the last event of his life, says his biographer, which bore *the character of levity, or the romance of youth ;' and from that time he looked on the “ Libros Panæti, et Socraticam domum," as the best provision for advancing years, or began, in his own words,
6 To deep himself in travail more and more;" in which expressions, however, the poet clearly includes his attention to the public business of the state. The first situation of any great responsibility, which he is recorded to have filled, was that of ambassador to the court of Charles V.; and indeed the larger part of his active life, which was but a
short one, was passed in the service of his master, at Madrid, in France during the progress of the Emperor, and subsequently in the Netherlands. His letters on business connected with these employments display a singularly quick and penetrating mind, and far exceed in interest those which have been preserved of Lord Surrey. He lays open the insincere character of the Emperor, whose motives and views he dissects with consummate ability: while he was by no means wanting in the exercise of bold remonstrance, or cooler political de bate. Qualities such as these probably rendered him no very agreeable resident to the Emperor at his court; and his known attachment to the principles of the Reformation did not well consort with Spanish bigotry. Influenced partly by these motives, and partly by a regard to his private circumstances, which were much embarrassed by prolonged absence, he frequently solicited his recall : but the interval allowed him by the grant of his request was short, as Henry well knew the value of his minister.
Dr. Nott presumes, with much reason, that an additional motive for Sir Thomas's wish to relinquish his employments may be found in the precarious state of the power of his friend and warm protector, Cromwell, who was now tottering on the brink of ruin, prepared for him by the machinations of Bonner and his associates. Wyatt's return to England in 1540 was nevertheless of little avail with regard to such an object; and the end of Cromwell is as well known to those who are in any degree conversant with English history, as the affecting advice given to him by Wolscy, when under very similar circumstances, (embellished by the inventive genius of our great dramatic poet,) is to every Englishman who can read. Sir Thomas's fortunes were in some measure connected with those of his patron, and he was put under arrest and placed in very ignominious confinement shortly after Cromwell's fall. The miseries of this incarceration are expressed by him very pathetically and simply in the following lines :
· Sighs are my food; my drink they are my tears ;
Clinking of fetters such music would crave :
Innocency is all the hope I have.
Malice assaults that righteousness should have.
But yet, alas! the scar shall still remain.” (P. 72. of Poems.) Wyatt successfully repelled the accusations of his enemies; and, indeed, we should imagine that he was not a man likely to have excited the suspicions even of a jealous prince. He 8+ .
was of serious, contemplative habits, and the romantic spirit of youth, although he died when only thirty-nine years old, appears to have evaporated much sooner with him than with his young friend Surrey. He had been called earlier not into active life, but into the serious occupations of active life; and this circumstance, united with some degree of natural philosophic gravity, (in which he indulged in the intervals of business,) effectually chastised his mind. Lord Surrey's employments were military, but those of Wyatt were almost exclusively diplomatic. His escape from the scaffold, --- in those days one of the common terminations of the life of eminent men in public situations, -- did not greatly prolong his existence, for he died of a fever at Sherborne, in Dorsetshire, whither he had gone to meet an ambassador from the Emperor, who had landed in the west, in the autumn of October 1542, and was buried in the great church in that town. No man, probably, was ever honoured with more epitaphs than Wyatt: but, as the editor observes, they may be more truly called elegies; since, although the næniæ of Surrey and Leland are extant, no monumental inscription is now found to mark the spot on which Sir Thomas lies, and scarcely a traditionary story remains to assign one for the repose of his mortal part. We give Dr. Nott full credit for his enthusiasm in proceeding to make every possible investigation, personally, at the almost undoubted place of Wyatt's interment.
We shall leave our readers to collect the summary of the poet's character from the facts which we have noticed respecting him: but we must add that Dr. Nott represents him as possessed of an uncommonly fine countenance and person. The anecdotes related of him are but few : – one may be amusing:
One day as Wyatt was conversing with the King he said playfully to him, “ Sir, I have at last found out a benefice that must needs make me a rich man, for it would give me an hundred pounds a year more than I could want. I beseech your Majesty bestow it on me."-" Ha!" quoth the King, “ we knew not that we had any such in our kingdom !"_“Yes, in good faith, Sir,” replied Wyatt, “ there is one such! The Provostship of Eton! There a man hath his diet, his lodging, his horse meat, his servants wages, and riding charges, and an hundred pounds a year beside.”
We hope that the present Provost's dieť and riding charges' would still make the situation an enviable one for a man who has wasted the prime of life, and much of his own independance, in the ungrateful service of diplomacy. The fact of Wyatt's intimacy with Surrey, who was, however, by some years younger, is to be collected from little else than the
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poetical effusions of the latter on the premature death of his friend, if such he was: but a living poet may elegize a departed poet, without implying much personal attachment; more especially when the former added, to the feeling of congeniality of taste, a strong sentiment of respect, as for a preceptor in his own peculiar art. We conceive that Wyatt's character as a man stands higher than that of Surrey ; since he appears to have been free from a certain degree of petulance and assumption, which, we think, the biographical accounts of that nobleman shew to have formed a part of his disposition. As a poet, Wyatt was as certainly eclipsed by his successor: but on this subject a few observations on the. next portion of the volume, the essay on Wyatt's poems,' will more fully explain our opinions.
Dr. Nott's essay' is a work of much less effort than his • dissertation in the preceding volume. Yet it displays, in an easy style, very considerable taste, judgment, and knowlege of his subject. He complains of Warton's observations on this head as too general, and such they are; - he might have added that they are too plainly marked with a want of research and discrimination :- his object, therefore, has been to supply the palpable deficiencies in his predecessor,
Many of Surrey's earlier productions had probably been communicated to Wyatt, and others he must have seen from various quarters : but, as he was the Earl's superior in age, he did not adopt to any great extent the improvements which were made in versification by a younger aspirant; or, if he was uninfluenced by any such feelings, these more enlarged views and polished constructions of language had not, from their novelty, been at that time duly appreciated by the lovers of elegant literature. Wyatt, therefore, as it has been said of Propertius, shews the scholar more than the poet, but in a different way; the Roman, by following a string of ideas naturalized in his language; the Englishman, by translating the expressions as well as borrowing from the imagination of poets of other countries. Dr. Nott says, “ he seems to have begun in every instance by translating from some other author,' whether Greek, Latin, Italian, French, or Spanish ; an observation which, while it gives him high credit as a linguist, deprives him of all claim to any share of inventive genius. We have seen nothing that is evidently drawn from the original Greek; and those pieces which have been derived from other sources have seldom, if ever, been improved by the translation. His versification was formed on the old rythmical system, of which we have already spoken; though some short compositions occur which are harmonious and