Графични страници
PDF файл


To know nor right nor wrong, nor crime, nor virtue,
But as subservient to Rome's cause and Heaven's-
I've school'd my haughty soul to subtlest craft,
I've strung my tender heart to bloodiest hayoc;
And stand prepar'd to wear the martyr's flames,
Like nuptial robes ; far worse, to drag to the stake
My friend, the brother of soul-if thus

I sear the hydra heads of heresy.' Cardinal Wolsey was a ' bold bad man ;' his ambition, that scarlet sin,' prompted him to remove all obstructions in the way of his preferment, and he is suspected of practising against the Duke of Buckingham.

He was a man
Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking

Himself with princes ;' But not without reason, for if he had faults he had also many virtues :

From his cradle
He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one ;
Exceeding wise, fair spoken, and persuading :
Lofty and sour to them that loved him not;
But to those men that sought him, sweet as summer.
And though he were unsatisfied in getting,
(Which was a sin) yet in bestowing

He was most princely.' Such a man is not without a claim upon our sympathies—he is within the sphere of our common humanity. The last acts of his life redeem the preceding. We have often admired the patience which he displays when Norfolk, Suffolk, and Surrey produce to him

the grand sum of his sins,

The articles collected from his life;'while, in their malice, they exultingly specify the charges against him in the king's possession, he stands in silent endurance, until they leave him with the taunting valediction

· So fare you well, my little good Lord Cardinal;' - then follows his fine soliloquy, beginning with • So farewell to the little good you

bear me; Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness :

This is the state of man, &e.'and the touching dialogue with Cromwell, wherein he tells him, that he has recommended him to the king, and warns him against ambition :

• By that sin fell the angels ; how can man then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by it ?'


and concludes with

Oh! Cromwell! Cromwell!
Had I but served my God with half the zeal
I served my king, he would not in mine age

Have left me naked to mine enemies.'
The circumstances of his death are equally affecting :

• After the stout Earl of Northumberland
Arrested him at York, and brought him forward
(As a man sorely tainted) to his answer,
He fell sick suddenly, and grew so ill
He could not sit his mule.
At last, with easy roads, he came to Leicester,
Lodged in the abbey, where the reverend abbot,
With all his convent, honourably received him,
To whom he gave these words, " O father abbot,
An old man, broken with the storms of state,
Is come to lay his weary bones amongst ye;
Give him a little earth for charity!"
So went to bed, where eagerly his sickness
Pursued him still; and three nights after this,
About the hour of eight, (which he himself
Foretold should be his last,) full of repentance,
Continual meditations, tears, and sorrows,
He gave his honours to the world again,

His blessed part to heaven, and slept in peace.' Thus it is always with Shakspeare. His worst characters have some claim upon our kindly feelings. Genius is the power of reflecting nature; for genius, as the word imports, is nature. The mind of Shakspeare was as a magic mirror, in which all numan nature's possible forms and combinations were present, intuitively and inherently—not conceived—but as connatural portions of his own humanity. Whatever his characters were besides, they were also men. Such they were in the world of his imagination—such they are also in the world of reality. It is this harmony and correspondence, between the world without and the world within, that gives the charm to his productions. His characters are not the mere abstractions of intellect from an understood class or species, but are generated in his own mind, as individuals having personal being there, and are distinctly brought out, not so much as representatives of character in actual nature, as the original productions of a plastic genius, which is also nature, and works like her. This is to be a poet—this is what is meant by a creative imagination. But what is Angelo Caraffa ?-an airy nothing,' that the poet's pen has turned to shape' ?-a creature of the poet's imagination ? No: Mr. Mil

2 A 2


man has given us, under this name, only an abstraction produced by the understanding from its historical knowledge, an intellectual conception embodied by the fancy. His Caraffa is not a Jesuit, but all the Jesuits in one-an impersonated generalization of the order, not the portrait of any particular individual ; and of the order, not as composed of men, but of the disciples of Loyola.

With this explanation all the acts ascribed to Angelo are sufficiently intelligible. He serves no king, but the King of kings; or rather the idol of his mind, misnamed from Deity, as embodied in the papal supremacy. This service he pursues through good and evil, and by means in the adoption of which, though evil, his conscience perceives no impropriety. To him the blameless life of Anne Boleyn is no reason why she should not die branded like an adulteress, for her heresy is a germinating seed which includes all crime. All sins are in that one-adultery, murder, nought is wanting but desire or meet occasion, and the loose heart gives ways' Touching the king, each lustful thought, each murtherous deed, is a new link of the chain to trammel him.' To let slip the tyrant's ' fierce passions, ruthless as the dogs of war,' is the way to compel him ultimately to become a suppliant to the church,—at any rate,

to brand the heretic cause with shame.' Caraffa makes no scruple of converting the confessional into a political engine. Thus, he induces Lady Rochford, as an expiatory service to the church, to

scatter hints and seeds of hate in the king's path,' and obtains from her the paper, in Lady Wingfield's hand, afterwards produced on the trial of the queen. But he practises principally with the boy, Mark Smeaton, a singer at the royal chapel, and the queen's musician, whose • dulcet voice and skilful handling the sweet lute had been famed through Italy.' He persuades him that his minstrelsy may entitle him to peculiar favours from his royal mistress, and takes upon him, as a father to the orphan-youth, to warn him against the bewitching manners of the queen.

Having thus brought the impossible within the scope of thought,' he afterwards impresses upon his fancy the likelihood of the queen's returning the passion generated by himself in the heart of the poor boy. He engages him, by representing that the desire of the king is only to procure a divorce, to confess a criminal intercourse with the queen, by which the king's purpose will be accomplished. . He makes him believe that she, being in consequence reduced in rank and character, may probably return his affection, upon learning that he perpetrated the perjury to give the king another way of effecting his purpose than by her death. He succeeds, and his success conducts to the execution both of the guiltless mistress and the perjured servant. This object the saintly Angelo pursues in a manner the most remorseless, without any compunction; the



end that he insanely proposes is the glory of God, and he hopes for his reward in heaven!

There are, however, two instances of natural touches in this character, which we feel pleasure in pointing out. The one is where Caraffa describes the tilt at Greenwich, and his having felt the recollections of his former rank in life throng in upon him.

I stood
Within the tilt-yard, not to take delight
Carnal, unpriestly, in the worldly pageant :
Though, Heaven forgive me! when the trumpets blew,
And the lists fell, and knights as brave, and full
Of valour as their steeds of fire, wheel’d forth,
And mov'd, in troops or single, orderly
As youths and maidens in a village dance ;
Or shot, like swooping hawks, in straight career,
The old Caraffa rose within my

Struggled my soul with haughty recollections
Of when I rode through the outpoured streets of Rome,
Enamouring all the youth of Italy
With envy of my noble horsemanship.
But I rebuked myself, and thought how Heaven
Had taught me loftier mastery, to rein
And curb, with salutary governance,

The unmanaged souls of men.' The other is where he soliloquizes before receiving Mark Smeaton's signature to the suborned evidence prepared for production at the trial. He would fain excuse his conduct himself by the following reflections :

• What if the space of some few mortal lives

Be somewhat shrunk; some eyes untimely closed
On this world's sun; will not ten thousand souls
Live through eternity's unfathomed years,
And a whole nation walk in moral light ?
'Tis but the wise relentlessness of heaven.
Doth the dread earthquake feel remorse, that makes
A populous city one vast tomb, where guilt
And innocence lie side by side ?

Does Pity
Pale the blue cheek of Pestilence, that blasts
Whole nations ? Doth the sweeping deluge pause,
And hold suspended its vast weight of waters,
To give the righteous time to fly the ruin?
The best, the wisest, holiest saints and pontiffs
Have sent fierce war, with undiscerning vengeance,
To waste the heretic's land; for though just Heaven
Turn from the field of carnage—from the city
Made desolate, far rather it beholds them
Than the fierce tossings of the infernal pit,
And hell made rich with everlasting souls.'


And when the poor lad is led out to execution, he vows to say masses all his life for the welfare of the soul of his victim.

• So on to death, poor youth,

--Not abandoned, nor unwept by him
Whose aid thou scornest now; but thou shalt own

There, where all motives and all hearts are known.' Such is the character of this conscientious fanatic; such are all the natural pauses that it permits to interfere with his design, which is, “to lift the throne of Peter o'er the carnal lords of earth.' He is, as he is made to say, an earthquake—a pestilence--a deluge --that distinguishes not, but goes on in its work of desolation without respect to persons, in the performance of the will and the decree of heaven. Mr. Milman is justified by history in representing such to be the principle of the order of which Angelo describes himself to have been a nameless limb, although he is rather an impersonation of its spirit; but surely no individual of the order ever bent each corporal agent' thus into terrible conformity with the rigid ideal ; even Loyola himself had, probably,— Aquaviva certainly had,—other elements in his composition, common to him and his fellow men. The character is not natural —it is intellectual. It is an embodiment, by the understanding, of a conception of its own, derived from historical knowledge of the constitution of this order and of the principles of its founder-or rather of his more politic successors. It is not an individual, but a species--not a person, but an abstraction.

Dr. Johnson would, probably, have approved both the conception and execution of this character ; at least he praises Shakspeare's characters, upon the ground of their being species, not individuals. Johnson could not, from some strange peculiarity in the constitution of his great mind, perceive the individual traits induced upon the general nature presented by the poet. All the persons of the play of Henry the Eighth are, in a remarkable degree, individuals: this constitutes its greatest charm; though, most likely, it was the thing that occasioned the contemptuous criticism thereon pronounced by our great critic. • The meek sorrows,' says he, and virtuous distress of Katherine have furnished some scenes, which may be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakspeare comes in and goes out with Katherine. Every other part may be easily conceived and easily written.' We cannot subscribe to this verdict. In our opinion, the genius of Shakspeare is equally exhibited in Cardinal Wolsey; nor is it hidden in Buckingham, notwithstanding the brevity of the part. The speeches of the Duke, as he is led out to execution, are among the most touching in Shakspeare. It must be confessed, that the play is irregular in construction, and the subject deficient in unity; yet great judg


« ПредишнаНапред »