Page images

fired amry; though the cereye upon the cromo

England. His council advised him by all means to make himself master of some good walled town; as well to make his men find the sweetness of rich spoils, and to allure to him all loose and lost people, by like hopes of booty; as to be a sure retreat to his forces, in case they should have any ill day, or unlucky chance of the field. Wherefore they took heart to them, and went on, and besieged the city of Exeter, the principal town for strength and wealth in those parts. ...

Perkin, hearing this thunder of arms, and preparations against him from so many parts, raised his siege, and marched to Taunton; beginning already to squint one eye upon the crown and another upon the sanctuary; though the Cornish men were become, like metal often fired and quenched, churlish, and that would sooner break than bow; swearing and vowing not to leave him, till the uttermost drop of their blood were spilt. He was at his rising from Exeter between six and seven thousand strong, many having come unto him after he was set before Exeter, upon fame of so great an enterprise, and to partake of the spoil; though upon the raising of his siege some did slip away. When he was come near Taunton, he dissembled all fear, and seemed all the day to use diligence in preparing all things ready to fight. But about midnight he fled with three score horses to Bewdley * in the New Forest, where he and divers of his company registered themselves sanctuary-men, leaving his Cornish men to the four winds; but yet thereby easing them of their vow, and using his wonted compassion, not to be by when his subjects' blood should be spilt. The king, as soon as he heard of Perkin's flight, sent presently five hundred horse to pursue and apprehend him, before he should get either to the sea, or to that same little island called a sanctuary. But they came too late for the latter of these. Therefore all they could do, was to beset the sanctuary, and to maintain a strong watch about it, till the king's pleasure were further known. [Perkin at last gave himself up.]

Perkin was brought unto the king's court, but not to the king's presence ; though the king, to satisfy his curiosity, saw him sometimes out of a window, or in passage. He was in shew at liberty, but guarded with all care and watch that was possible, and willed to follow the king to London. But from his first appearance upon the stage in his new person of a sycophant or juggler, instead of his for

* The Abbey of Beaulieu, near Southampton.

mer person of a prince, all men may think how he was exposed to the derision not only of the courtiers, but also of the common people, who flocked about him as he went along; that one might know afar off where the owl was by the flight of birds; some mocking, some wondering, some cursing, some prying and picking matter out of his countenance and gesture to talk of: so that the false honour and respects, which he had so long enjoyed, was plentifully repaid in scorn and contempt. As soon as he was come to London, the king gave also the city the solace of this May-game; for he was conveyed leisurely on horseback, but not in any ignominious fashion, through Cheapside and Cornhill, to the Tower, and from thence back again unto Westminster, with the churm of a thousand taunts and reproaches. But to amend the show, there followed a little distance of Perkin, an inward counsellor of his, one that had been serjeant farrier to the king. This fellow, when Perkin took sanctuary, chose rather to take an holy habit than an holy place, and clad himself like an hermit, and in that weed wandered about the country, till he was discovered and taken. But this man was bound hand and foot upon the horse, and came not back with Perkin, but was left at the Tower, and within few days after executed. Soon after, now that Perkin could tell better what himself was, he was diligently examined; and after his confession taken, an extract was made of such parts of them as were thought fit to be divulged, which was printed and dispersed abroad; wherein the king did himself no right; for as there was a laboured tale of particulars, of Perkin's father and mother, and grandsire and grandmother, and uncles and cousins, by names, and sirnames, and from what places he travelled up and down; so there was little or nothing to purpose of anything concerning his designs, or any practices that had been held with him; nor the Duchess of Burgundy herself, that all the world did take knowledge of, as the person that had put life and being into the whole business, so much as named or pointed at. So that men missing of that they looked for, looked about for they knew not what; and were in more doubt than before; but the king chose rather not to satisfy, than to kindle coals. . . . . . . . . .

It was not long but Perkin, who was made of quicksilver, which is hard to hold or imprison, began to stir. For, deceiving his keepers, he took him to his heels, and made speed to the sea-coasts. But presently all corners were laid for him, and such diligent pursuit and

search made, as he was fain to turn back, and get him to the house of Bethlehem, called the priory of Sheen (which had the privilege of Sanctuary), and put himself into the hands of the prior of that monastery. The prior was thought an holy man, and much reverenced in those days. He came to the king, and besought the king for Perkin's life only, leaving him otherwise to the king's discretion. Many about the king were again more hot than ever, to have the king take him forth and hang him. But the king, that had an high stomach, and could not hate any that he despised, bid, “ Take him forth, and set the knave in the stocks;” and so promising the prior his life, he caused him to be brought forth. And within two or three days after, upon a scaffold set up in the palace court at Westminster, he was fettered and set in the stocks for the whole day. And the next day after, the like was done by him at the cross in Cheapside, and in both places he read his confession, of which we made mention before; and was from Cheapside conveyed and laid up in the Tower....

But it was ordained, that this winding-ivy of a Plantagenet should kill the true tree itself. For Perkin, after he had been awhile in the Tower, began to insinuate himself into the favour and kindness of his keepers, servants to the lieutenant of the Tower, Sir John Digby, being four in number; Strangeways, Blewet, Astwood, and Long Roger. These varlets, with mountains of promises, he sought to corrupt, to obtain his escape; but knowing well that his own fortunes were made so contemptible as he could feed no man's hopes, and by hopes he must work, for rewards he had none, he had contrived with him. self a vast and tragical plot; which was, to draw into his company Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, then prisoner in the Tower; whom the weary life of a long imprisonment, and the often and renewing fears of being put to death, had softened to take any impression of counsel for his liberty. This young prince he thought these servants would look upon, though not upon himself; and therefore, after that by some message by one or two of them, he had tasted of the Earl's consent; it was agreed that these four should murder their master, the lieutenant, secretly, in the night, and make their best of such money and portable goods of his, as they should find ready at hand, and get the keys of the Tower, and presently let forth Perkin and the earl. But this conspiracy was revealed in time, before it could be executed. And in this again the opinion of the king's great wisdom did surcharge him with a sinister fame, that Perkin was but his bait, to entrap the Earl of Warwick. And in the very instant while this conspiracy was in working, as if that also had been the king's industry, it was fated that there should break forth a counterfeit Earl of Warwick, a cordwainer's son, whose name was Ralph Wilford; a young man taught and set on by an Augustin friar, called Patrick. They both from the parts of Suffolk came forwards into Kent, where they did not only privily and underhand give out that this Wilford was the true Earl of Warwick, but also the friar, finding some light credence in the people, took the boldness in the pulpit to declare as much, and to incite the people to come in to his aid. Whereupon they were both presently apprehended, and the young fellow executed, and the friar condemned to perpetual imprisonment. This also happening so opportunely, to represent the danger to the king's estate from the Earl of Warwick, and thereby to colour the king's severity that followed ; together with the madness of the friar so vainly and desperately to divulge a treason before it had gotten any manner of strength : and the saving of the friar's life, which nevertheless was, indeed, but the privilege of his order; and the pity in the common people, which if it run in a strong stream, doth ever cast up scandal and envy, made it generally rather talked than believed that all was but the king's device. But howsoever it were, hereupon Perkin, that had offended against grace now the third time, was at the last proceeded with, and by commissioners of oyer and determiner, arraigned at Westminster, upon divers treasons committed and perpetrated after his coming on land, within this kingdom, for so the judges advised, for that he was a foreigner, and condemned, and a few days after executed at Tyburn; where he did again openly read his confession, and take it upon his death to be true. This was the end of this little cockatrice of a king, that was able to destroy those that did not espy him first. It was one of the longest plays of that kind that had been in memory, and might perhaps have had another end, if he had not met with a king both wise, stout, and fortunate.


CRABBE. [CRABBE has been called the Teniers of poetry; by which title it is meant to be conveyed that he painted the minute details of low life with a brilliant fidelity. There is something more in Crabbe than we find in the Dutch painter. He exhibits, indeed, the coarse pleasures of the poor,-he has scenes of boisterous merriment and sottish degradation ;-but he is also the painter of the strong passions and deep feelings that belong to the common nature of the humble and the great. If he had sufficiently kept his power of delineating character within the limits of pleasurable effects—the great test of all high art,-if he had not too frequently revelled in descriptions that only excite unmixed disgust,-he would have been the Wilkie of poetry, a much higher order of artist than the whole race of Tenierses, and Ostades, and Jan Steens. Crabbe will always be a popular poet, to a certain extent;—although the chances are that as real poetry comes to be better understood, a great deal that he has written will be forgotten and neglected. It was said in his praise, by Mr. Jeffrey, in 1810, “ His characters and incidents are as common as the elements out of which they are compounded are humble; and not only has he nothing prodigious or astonishing in any of his representations, but he has not even attempted to impart any of the ordinary colours of poetry to these vulgar materials. He has no moralizing Swains or sentimental tradesmen.” This is a sarcasm against the poetry of Wordsworth, which it was then the fashion to sneer at, It would not be difficult to show that the “moralizing swains and sentimental tradesmen" are really as true to our higher nature—that nature with which poetry has especially to deal—as “the depraved, abject, diseased, and neglected poor,-creatures in whom everything amiable or respectable has been extinguished by sordid passions or brutal debauchery,”—are revolting accidents which poetry ought to avoid. Indeed, if Crabbe had not higher delineations than such as these, (which are too common in his writings,) he would not take the rank which he deservedly holds amongst English poets. It is where he does approach to the despised moralists and sentimentalists of another school, that he has the best assurance of an undying fame.

George Crabbe was the son of a humble tradesman at Aldborough, in Suffolk. He was born in 1754. He was apprenticed to a surgeon ; but his father was unable to afford the means of completing his professional education. In 1780, he went to London, a literary adventurer; sustained many hardships and mortifications; was finally res

« PreviousContinue »