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Whatever mysteries may yet hang over the plots and counter- PREFAplots of 1603, it is certain that George Brooke proved in the issue to have been the instrument of the ruin, alike of his LETTER brother Cobham and of Ralegh. It is also certain that mere “ credulity of the practices of malice and envy" could never
1596-1597. have ripened, save in a very congenial soil, into the consummate baseness displayed both in the examinations and in some of the letters of George Brooke, after his arrest. In certain particulars, his baseness exceeded his brother Cobham's; and that is saying not a little as to its depth. One letter of his, addressed to Robert Cecil,-less dishonourable to Brooke's memory than the letters just glanced at —I have printed in the Appendix to this volume. There also the reader will find a very remarkable letter from the Bishop of Chichester respecting a statement made by Brooke immediately before the administration of the Holy Communion.
TO SECRETARY SIR ROBERT CECIL.
From the Original. Cecil Papers, vol. xxxvii. (Hatfield). Holograph.
BECAUSE I know not how you dispose of your sealf, I forbeare to vissitt yow; preferringe your plesinge before myne own desire. I had rather be with
I had rather be with yow now 1596-1597. then att any other tyme, if I could therby ether take of To Sir R.
Cecil. frome yow the burden of your sorrows, or lay the greater (From part therof on myne owne hart. In the mean tyme, I
boine.] would butt minde yow of this,—that yow should not
Jan. 24. A letter of sympathy and consolation on the death of Lady Cecil.
overshaddo your wisdome with passion, butt looke aright into things as the are.
There is no man sorry for death it scalf, butt only for the tyme of death ; every one knowing that it is a bonnd never forfeted to God. If then wee know the same to be certayne and inevitable, wee ought withall to take the tyme of his arivall in as good part as the knowledge; and not to lament att the instant of every seeminge adversety, whichc, we ar asured, have bynı on ther way towards us from the begininge. It apartayneth to every man of a wize and worthy spirritt to draw together into sufferance the unknown future to the known present : lookinge no less with the eyes of the minde then thos of the boddythe one beholdinge afar of, and the other att hand--that thos things of this worlde in which we live be not strange unto us, when the approach, as to febleness, which is moved with noveltes. Butt that, like trew men, particiI pating immortalletye, and know[ing] our destines to be of God, wee do then make our estates and wishes, our fortunes and desires, all one.
It is trew that yow have lost a good and vertuous wife, and my sealf an honorable frinde and kynswoman Butt ther was a tyme when shee was unknowne to yow, for whom yow then lamented not. Shee is now no more your's, nor of your acquayntance, butt immortall, and not needinge or knowing your love or sorrow. Therfore yow shall but greve for that which now is as then it visi when not your's; only bettered by the differance in this, that shee hath past the weresome jurney of this darke worlde, and hath possession of her inheritance.
Shee hath left behind her the frute of her love, for whos sakes yow ought to care for your sealf, that you leve them not without a gwyde, and not by grevinge to
1596-1597. Jan. 24.
repine att His will that gave them yow, or by sorrowing to dry up your own tymes that ought to establishe them.
I beleve it that sorrows are dangerus cumpanions, con-
Secritary to her Majestye.
Sir Walter Raleigh to my Master:" and beneath, in the hand of William Cecil, second Earl of Salisbury: “Sir Walter Ralegh's letter to my Father, touching the deathe of my Mother.”
PREFATORY NOTE TO LETTER LXXI.-RALEGH, ESSEX,
AND THE “RICHARD THE SECOND' OF SHAKE-
teresting-but somewhat obscure-letter, Ralegh tells Cecil it is his wish “shall never alter," and the continuance of which he believes to be “the trew way to all our good," than even to conjecture what was that “conceit of Richard the Second" which, when communicated to him from Cecil, made the Earl of Essex so merry. Our curiosity about that is the more reasonably excited, inasmuch as the comic merriment of 1597,-if it grew out of the Play,—tumed into very tragic grief in 1601. All readers remember the remarkable way in which 'Richard the Second figures in the last scenes of the life and death of Essex, and of his associates. Probably, if it were possible to find the letter of Cecil to which this is a reply, a gleam of strong light would be thrown, perhaps on that strange incident itself of 1601, but certainly on one of the most obscure points in the literary history of the Plays of Shakespeare. All Cecil's letters to Ralegh, however, have disappeared.
The quarrels of the myriad of Shakespeare 'commentators' are far less surprising than is their marvellous agreement whenever they have to face a real historical difficulty. Whether or not a Play of Shakespeare helped, in its measure, to take the head of Essex from his shoulders is a question-both literary and historical—very worthy of earnest research. To a man, the commentators have been telling us (now for almost two centuries) that there was an “old play," on the “ Deposition of Richard the Second," which “Sir Gilly Meyrick procured to be played before the Conspirators" on the eve of the Essex insurrection; and that this “old play" was certainly not
Shakespeare's." When one inquires on what evidence this PREFAconfident assertion rests, the only attainable answer is that note to there is no evidence at all. Camden's expression—'tragediam xxoldam,' and the resembling words in the depositions, pre
1597. served amongst our State Papers, prove nothing, either way. It can need no argument to show that a play which had had a great run in 1597 might be very stale' to the playgoers of 1601; even if, in 1597, it had been new. Of an older play than Shakespeare's “de tragica abdicatione regis Ricardi Secundi,” as Camden calls it, no commentator or anybody else, of recent days, ever saw a line. A playgoer of the time of James the First has left, however, a notice of the performance of a play, about Richard the Second, which seems to be plainly other than Shakespeare's (whether it were really older or later). But of that play, all the commentators again, who have written since the discovery of the notice of it, agree in asserting that it cannot,-from the terms in which its contents are minutely described by the auditor of 1611,-be the play which was performed before the Essex conspirators in 1601. On that theory, therefore, we are shut up to these three conclusions :-(1) That there were two old plays on the story of King Richard the Second, of neither of which a line is now known to have been preserved ; (2) That both had actual possession of the stage at some time within the
16011611; (3) That both held such occasional possession, notwithstanding the great popularity, on the same boards, and as performed by the same company, of Shakespeare's play ;-a stage popularity so great, as to be followed by the printing of two several editions, in the years 1597-98, within a few months of each other. All this may really be true; but it is a somewhat tall superstructure for such a slight foundation as the one word 'exoleta' in Camden's Annals, or the words 'old' and stale' in the Depositions of 1601; even when conjoined with the curious entry printed by Mr. Collier from Simon Forman's note-book of 1611.
How worthily interesting this small item of our literary