Page images

with horror, still have that fascination for the mind, which power always gives.

We have; in our minds, little doubt that it was the novels of Sir Walter Scott, that, by their picturesque and vivid delineations of the historic characters and manners of the feudal ages, greatly contributed to awaken the taste for antiquarian research, and led to the publication of so many interesting historical works. The researches of Thierry, Michelet, Capefigue and Guizot, in France, made the public aware of the rich treasures contained in the unpublished manuscripts, records, and national documents, in which the public libraries of France so abound. In England the spirit of antiquarian research has not been less active, and has led to equally interesting results. When we behold such a work as the Lives of the Queens of England, the production of a female writer, we have, indeed, reason to be proud, and we render the talented authoress our thanks and the homage of our admiration.

In the work before us, the fair author has, with admirable skill, avoided dwelling on those points of general history, with which most of our readers must be well acquainted, whilst every fact, which can tend to characterize or individualize the particular portrait, is skillfully introduced, and so clearly narrated, as to give us at once not only the history and character of the Queen, but a graphic picture of the manners and spirit of the times. Thus we are enabled to trace the progress of civilization, of social order and political freedom. As it should be, in reading every well written historical work,—in perusing the history of an individual, we are, at the same time, studying the history of the human race.

The first era, that of barbarism, is always characterized by physical strength.

Great size and bodily power, were the attributes prized in the chieftain, and ensured his influence over his subjects or retainers. Homer makes the rock thrown by Ajax ten times the size of that thrown by any meaner hand. No one could bend the bow of Ulysses ; and Achilles, Hector and Æneas, were all distinguished for their size and strength. As civilization advances, we see a gradual development of mental energy, which, directing this great physical power to bold and venturous enterprises, produces an era of conquest. This was the period in Assyria, when Semiramis overran India, in Macedon, when Philip and Alexander subdued Greece and Asia; and in Rome, from its foundation till the Roman Empire extended from Ultimé Thule to the Euphrates. But an age of high refinement has rarely been an age of arms and conquest. After the irruption of the northern barbarians had submerged the learning, the arts, the refinement of the ancients, we again trace the same progress of civilization. First, the age of physical force ; secondly, when some portion of mental power directed this physical force in the path of conquest; then, we behold a few bold and adventurous spirits set forth to conquer kingdoms, bound together by no tie, but a sympathetic love of danger, interest, and a desire to gain fame and wealth, and, perhaps, dominion, by the sword. And the talent and wisdom displayed by many of these chiefs, in legislating for the kingdoms they won, excite our surprise and admiration. The French Charlemagne, the Norman Rollo, the Anglo-Saxon princes, Egbert, Alfred, Athelstan, Edgar, Edward, and the Norman William the Conqueror, displayed a power of mind, and grasp of intellect, which make them stand out in strong relief, when contrasted with the mere physical force of their ferocious retainers.

The progress of civilization produced a more extended cultivation of the mental powers. The iron-framed war riors of the north, in quest of occupation and adventure, often sojourned in the courts of southern princes, where music, love and song triumphed, even over a passion for

Then rose the age of chivalry,bearing to the history of mankind, since the christian era, the same relation, that the heroic ages did to the history of the world, anterior to that event.

Arms was the only honorable employment. Every landed proprietor was a chief, whilst the serfs, who tilled the land, were compelled to do him service in the field. The tie that linked the serf and his chieftain was one of mutual interest : the laws of property were too little regarded to enable the husbandman to till his land in security, and reap the reward of his labor; the protection of his chieftain secured him these advantages, and was repaid by fidelity to his interests, and by military service. It was by arms that every younger brother sought to open a path to


fame, to gain the favor of his prince, and augment his fortune. Such spirits flocked in crowds to the standard of every chief about to undertake any warlike enterprize, filled the ranks of the army of William the Conqueror in his descent upon England, and, in the next century found, in Asia, a theatre for their military ardour, and for many a grave.

In reading the history of the Provençal Queens, we are enabled to elucidate much that appeared anomalous in the history of chivalry; we can account for the mixture of barbarism and refinement, of deadly revenge and knightly courtesy. The hardy and fierce warriors of the north, tamed to softness under the influence of southern skies, and to a something of refinement from the all-powerful influence of woman, where her mind was then most highly cultivated, and she, in some degree, held her legitimate station in society, exhibited those alternate traits of barbarity and generosity, courtesy and ferocious cruelty, which seize upon the imagination, and make us dwell with deep interest upon so stirring a picture.

Poetry and romance have thrown their spells around the names of Paladin and Troubadour; we gaze with wonder and admiration upon those coats of armour, which

appear to us, now, as made to encase a race of giants, and in which they performed almost incredible feats of strength and valour. The late publication of some of the lays of the Provençal poets have made us acquainted with the poetry of the Paladins and Troubadours. But though history has sketched the portraits of Caur-de-Lion, the Bayards, the Montmorencis, the Birons, and the Sidneys, it is but in outline, and we must draw upon our imaginations to fill


the picture.

In tracing the history of society, and the progress of civilization, writers have generally bestowed but very little and cursory notice upon one half of the human race,—that portion, too, which is allowed to give a tone to manners, and stamp the degree of refinement upon an age.

Several distinguished female writers have, however, within these last few years, directed their talents to the elucidation of the character and endowments of women. But well and judiciously written biography, by showing us the lights and shades of the female character, will do more towards

eliciting truth, and securing her legitimate influence in society, than a thousand essays, or a hundred physiological treatises.

Entertaining these sentiments, it was with no ordinary pleasure that we hailed the appearance of the present work, which is, as it should be, the production of a lady. None but a woman's pencil could give the requisite delicacy and truth to the picture; none but one proud of her sex, and jealous of its honor, could have brought out and delineated those delicate shades of character, which mark the individuality of each. In reading the lives of the different Queens, we feel that each character is a portrait, as distinctly marked out as if we beheld the different features on the canvas. It is not the distinction made by blue eyes or black, dark hair or golden locks; it is the distinction of individual mind and character, still further impressed by the influence of climate.

As far as these volumes extend, the author has formed a work, which, some future Mrs. Jamieson may take as a text book for a new series of characteristics. Whilst with true delicacy and womanly pride, she dwells upon the beauties of character, she never glosses over, nor seeks to palliate, folly or vice. She enters into no fanciful and absurd theories respecting woman's rights or wrongs, but she shows that, to perform with judgment, humility and tenderness her arduous duties; with firmness and dignity to support the ills of life, should be her aim and glory, so as to be, indeed, man's guide to heaven, his fairer and better part.

Could we express any thing but gratitude for what Miss Strickland has already accomplished, we should regret that she has not entered into a more extended notice of the Saxon Queens of England. And we venture a hope that some female pen may be devoted to making us better acquainted with the Queens of England anterior to the Conquest ; amongst them, as Miss Strickland has elegantly remarked, “ we hail the nursing mothers of the christian faith in this Island, who firmly established the good work begun by the British lady Claudia and the empress Helena.”

Of Boadicea, the warrior Queen of Iceni, so celebrated for her heroic defence of her kingdom against the Romans,

Miss Strickland quotes the following picturesque description:

“ After she had dismounted from her chariot, in which she had been driving from rank to rank to encourage her troops, atttended by her daughters and her numerous army, she proceeded to a throne of marshy turfs, apparalled after the fashion of the Romans, in a loose gown

of changeable colors, under which she wore a kirtle very thickly plaited, the tresses of her yellow hair hanging to the skirts of her dress. About her neck she wore a chain of gold, and bore a light spear in her hand, being of person tall, and of a comely, cheerful, and modest countenance; and so awhile she stood, pausing to survey her army, and being regarded with reverential silence, she addressed to them the impassioned and eloquent speech which has been preserved in Tacitus.” Introd. xxiii.

The establishment of trial by jury and the common law, has generally been attributed to Alfred the Great, but Miss Strickland, on the authority of Holingshed, gives it a much earlier date, and we think with every probability of being correct, when we consider that trial by jury was established in Scandinavia many years before the reign of Alfred, and is very likely, therefore, to have been introduced into Britain by some of the earliest Saxon conquerors, who, having won their dominion by the sword, were obliged to establish some degree of law and order, before they could enjoy the fruits of their conquest.

Our author says, “there is every reason to suppose that the majestic code of laws, called the common law of England, usually attributed to Alfred, were by him derived from the laws first established by a British queen.” “Martia,” says Holingshed, “ surnamed Proba, or the Just, was the widow of Gutiline, king of the Britons, and was left protectress of the realm during the minority of her son. Perceiving much in the conduct of her subjects which needed reformation, she devised sundry wholesome laws, which the Britons, after her death, named the Martian statutes. Alfred caused the laws of this excellently learned princess, whom all commend for her knowledge of the Greek tongue, to be established in the realm.” These laws, embracing trial by jury, and the just descent of property, were afterwards collated and still further improved by Edward the Confessor, and were as pertinaciously demanded from the successors of William the 5

VOL. 1.--NO. 2.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »