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The performance exhibited in the following pages is the work of an antiquated, though not quite forgotten, author: and though its merits as a literary production are by no means inconsiderable, its present claims to notice are chiefly founded on the subject of which it treats : this is the rise, grandeur, and decline of an illustrious statesman and magnificent courtier, who was great alike in his designs of good or evil : who lavished in munificence the wealth he gained by injustice; and often exercised for his country's good the influence which he had sought from motives of ambition : who finally realized, in full measure, the truth, that
“ Men's evil manners live in brass ; their virtues
We write in water.”
To attribute to the malice of the time all the stains which history has left upon the character of Wolsey, would be only to oppose one exaggeration to another; for although it might not be difficult to palliate, by the force of circumstances, some of his vices, and to throw on the age in which he lived the scandal of others, there would, nevertheless, remain, in the whole mental portraiture, sufficient traces of moral deformity to countenance the clamours of evil tongues. These certainly were not silent: and perhaps it was in the ordinary course of things, that one, who in his pride bade envy do its worst, should, when vanquished, feel the full vengeance of the spirit he had so daringly defied. It was but natural that a multitude of remembered wrongs should stir up those who had crouched before the successful favourite, to increase the bitterness of his fall. These are contingencies which ambition must always be prepared to meet; and, as Wolsey had carried the “ glorious fault” to an unusual pitch, he had reason to expect, that personal animosity should cling to his memory beyond the ordinary term. As he was a determined enemy to the reformation, the age of Elizabeth was not likely to be favorable to his fame, and the queen herself would feelingly remember that this or
proud priest” had been her mother's greatest foe. This was alone sufficient to raise the voice of all the poets and timeservers of that day against the very name of Wolsey: and that Shakespeare should be found among this number is rather a matter of regret than surprise: of regret, however, so much the deeper as he possessed the greater power of perpetuating the calumnies of an envious court. It was some time previous to the state of feeling above described, that Cavendish had taken up his honest pen in the service of his late master; not for the purpose of defending him with specious pleas, but with the view of giving a faithful account of all himself had seen and known : and for this he chose a style of narrative best calculated to gain credit by its own internal evidence. The current of prejudice was, however, too strong for his single effort; so that his work was not published till long after it was written, and then with a purpose very different from that which he originally designed. After personal hostility had long subsided, there remained for the name of Wolsey an after-crop of odium, such as has fallen to the lot of few, and which rose out of circumstances in which he was in no way connected. It was while the current of popular indignation was setting with deserved violence against the tyranny of Laud, and the terrors of the starchamber formed an effectual check to freedom of discussion, that some hideous effigy was wanted, on which the passions of the crowd might find utterance. Accordingly the character of Wolsey was dressed out by the followers of Pryn, as a kind of personification of ecclesiastical abuse; and against the memory of the dead cardinal were launched all the invectives designed for the living archbishop. Among the various expedients used to blacken the character of the former, one, which was unfortunately too efficacious, was to publish a garbled edition of Cavendish's Memoir, which was so altered, by means of innumerable interpolations, and still greater omissions, and so completely transformed in style, that the most impartial piece of biography in the language came forth to the world as a popular satire upon the clergy.
From these observations it will be seen, how great has been the posthumous injustice to which Wolsey has been exposed: and while the lovers of history must be concerned to rescue truth from the misrepresentations of faction, and the lovers of equity alike anxious to counteract the effects of contemporary malice on individual characters, a work like that before us, expressing the sentiments and the language of thinking men conversant with the times in question, cannot but be acceptable to both. Its author, as we learn from Wood's Athenæ, was born in London, and became a student of Christ Church in the year 1587. He proceeded to the degree of M. A. in 1594, and, taking up his residence in the university, joined with others of its members in composing a collection of songs and madrigals, some of which found a place in the early miscellany entitled England's Helicon. The present production, however, is the work on which the fame of our author rests, and the subject of it was, no doubt, suggested to his mind by the constant view of those splendid undertakings which must ever connect the name of Wolsey with ideas of grandeur and munificence. As the biographer of the cardinal, Storer has presented us with no new facts, and rather selects, from the known details of so eventful a life, such passages as form the best theme for poetical ornament or moral reflection. And although poetry was