« PreviousContinue »
This poem, which, if not the earliest, is yet among the earliest of our author's productions, was published in 4to, 1606, by Christopher Purset, with the following title: "Fame's Memorial, or the Earl of Devonshire' deceased; with his honourable Life, peaceful End, and solemn Funeral.”
quis talia fando Mirmydonum, Dolopumue, aut duri mniles Ulissi Temperet à lachrimis?
' The Eurl of Devonshire.] Charles Blount, eighth Lord Mountjoy. He was a man of great eminence; and while a commoner, (for he did not succeed to the title till 1594,) followed the profession of arms with bonour, and held a command in the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada. His extraordinary perils did not escape the quick eye of Elizabeth, who gave him various tokens of her favour, and thus exposed him to the "envy of Essex, with whom, as the author of Aulicus Coq. says, he stood in competition for fame. In 1600, the Queen constituled him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, when he repulsed the Spaniards with great bravery at Kinsale. In truth, the whole of his conduct with regard to that agitated country, was meritorious in the highest degree, and as such fully acknowledged by her, as well as by James, who, on his accession, conferred on him the same important office; and very shortly afterwards, (July, 1603,) made him a Knight of the Garter, and created him Earl of Devonshire. “Certainly,” says his secretary Morrison, “ he was beautiful in his person, as well as valiant ; and leamed as well as wise.” And Camden styles him “a person famous for conduct, and so eminent in courage and learning, that, in these respects, he had no superior, and but few equals."
It is distressing to pursue his bistory. About two years after his prosperous c:ireer in Ireland, (Dec. 25, 1605,) he married Larly Rich, with whom, probably, he had never ceased to converse ; and, by this one step, which, according to our notions, and probably to his own, was calculated to repair, in some measure, the injury which the lady's character bad sustained, ruined both her and hinself. There is something in this which is not easily explained. While the Earl maintained an adulterous commerce with the lady, all went smoothly; but the instant he married her, he lost the protection of the Court, and the estimation of the public. • The king,” says Sanderson, was so much displeased thereat, as it broke the Earl's heart; for his Majesty told him that he had purchased a fair woman with a black soul.” Hearts are not always broken in the way supposed; but there was more than enough to depress the lofty spirit of this great Earl in the sudden blow given to his reputation. He died a few months after his marriage, “soon and early," as Chamberlaine says, " for his years (fortythree), but late enough for bimself: and happy had he been if he liad gone two or three rears since, before the world was weary of him, or that he had left his scandal bebind him."
I have elsewhere noticed, (Jonson, vol. vii. p. 19.) the obloquy which Land brought op himself by marrying this ill-starred couple; an act which is recorded in bis Diary as the greatest misfortune of his life. The head and front of his offending, as far as my conjecture reaches, is to be sought in that obscurity which yet bangs orer this transaction. He apparently believed, with many others, That the lady had been divorced from her husband ; and may have subsequently discovered that she hand merely withdrawn froin him by mutual consent.
THE RIGHTLY RIGHT HONOURABLE LADY,
THE LADY PENELOPE,
COUNTESS OF DEVONSHIRE.
Most NOBLE LADY.
HAD the blessings whilom bestowed, and too soon deprived, been as permanent as they were glorious; the world had not then had such a general cause of just sorrow to bewail, nor I of particular grief to inscribe, the
· Nor I of particular grief, &c.] It is not very easy to discover wbat is meant by particular grief, in this place. Ford admits that he is altogether unknown to the Countess; and it nowhere appears that he bad any personal acquaintance with the deceased Earl. But leaving this, it may be proper to say, that the Lady Penelope bere addressed was the daughter of Walter, first Earl of Essex, and the beloved sister of Robert, the unfortunate favourite of Elizabeth, and the victim of her fears and jealousies. There was a family intimacy between the Devereuxes and the Mountjoys, which seems to have facilitated the meetings of this beautiful young creature with Sir Charles Blount, and led, as in the usual mode, to a mutual attachment, and a promise of marriage. In those“ blessed days," marriages among the great were not quite so easily managed as at present; the Queen regarded the state with a strange mixture of envy and spleen; and the accursed Court of Wards eternally troubled " the current of true love." Lady Penelope was forced, with a heart full of affection for Mountjoy, into the arms of Lord Rich, a man whom she appears to have regarded with peculiar aversion. Thus far she was more sinned against than sinning; but she seems to have thought her private engagement of a more binding character than her vow at the altar; and the usual consequences followed. After a few miserable years with Lord Rich, she deserted him partly or wholly, and renewed her connection with her first lover, to whom she bore several children. There must have been something peculiar in this lady's case ;
present loss of so worthy a Lord: but a most sad truth it is, Fame may be lamented, never recalled : upon which infallible axiom, desperate of all
possibility, either of regaining the same, or hoping his peer, as much as in the reach of my weak talent lay (unusual to this stile), I have endeavoured to register his memory, whose memory will grace my labours. To you, excellent Lady, it was intended, to you it is addressed; not doubting, but whatsoever hath been of him said, and truly said, your honourable favour will allow the favourable protection of your expressest patronage, who, whilst he lived, endowed you, and justly endowed you, with all the principles of his sincerest heart, and best fortunes.
Let not, therefore, worthy Countess, my rasher presumption seem presumptuous folly in the eyes
perhaps the violence put upon her early affections wrought some pardou or pity for her; for she lost no caste, even under Elizabeth, and she was one of the first ladies selected by her Council to proceed to Holyrood House, and conduct the wife of the new monarch to Whitehall. Her accomplishments were of the highest kind, and in every splendid and graceful measure she appears among the foremost. To Inn she made herself very agreeable, from her first introduction ; and the Queen's partiality to her is noted with an evident tincture of displeasure by the high-born and bighspirited Lady Ann Clifford, at this period a young woman.
I am unable to say whether Lady Rich was actually and legally divorced from her husband, or whether the separation took place in consequence of articles drawn up between themselves; but though Mountjoy returned from Irelavd in 1603, he did not marry the Countess till two years afterwards, so that she appears as Lady Rich in the inagnificent Masque of Blackness, and in the splendid procession from the Tower to Wbitehall, where she walks,“ by especial cominandement," immediately after the Countess of Shrewsbury
your discreeter judgment, in that without your privity (being a mere stranger, altogether unknown unto you) I have thus adventured to shelter my
lines under the well-guided conduct of your honourable name: grounding my boldness upon this assurance, that true gentility is ever accompanied (especially in your sex, more specially in yourself) with her inseparable adjunct, singular Humanity, principally towards those, whom neither mercenary hopes or servile flattery, bave induced to speak but with the privilege of troth. And as for such who misdeem virtue without cause, innocency shall pity them, though not eagerly with mortal hate: yet simply with naked truth, to which envy is ever opposite. Thus, Madam, presuming on your acceptance, I will in the mean while think my willing pains, hitherto confined to the Inns of Court, studies much different, highly guerdoned, and mine unfeathered muse, as soon dead as born, richly graced under the plumes of so worthy a protectress. The Honourer and Lover of your noble perfections,