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story of his marriages and divorces, and the proceedings by which he endeavoured to colour the indulgence of his wanton appetites with the sanction of religion and law, are full of details and questions of no very proper tendency; and we confess that, on opening Mrs. Thomson's volumes, we felt some doubt whether the subject altogether could be treated by a lady with adequate truth and yet without violation of decorum. But we have been agreeably surprised by the mingled ingenuity and modesty with which this embarrassing part of the narrative has been executed. In other respects, Mrs. Thomson appears to have entered on her undertaking fearlessly and industriously, and she may certainly be declared to have performed it with ability. All the lighter sketches of her subject she has invested with a grace and an animation which are truly feminine: the coarser details are managed with delicate tact and propriety, honourable alike to her good sense and purity of mind; and even the weightier and more arduous task of delineating the ecclesiastical and political affairs of so remarkable a period she has accomplished with no inconsiderable talent and vigour.

In compiling her work, our fair author has consulted the usual authorities. The Chronicles of Hall and Holinshed, and the life of Wolsey by his servant Cavendish, are the principal contemporary materials which she has used for her general narrative; but she has also had recourse to the valuable collection of original letters, illustrative of our history, which the judicious industry of Mr. Ellis has dug out from the stores of the British Museum. There is, however, one work which we have been surprised to find so frequently numbered among Mrs. Thomson's references; we mean the History of the Reign of Henry VIII. by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, a great name, but a little authority." The merits of both that book and its author have been grossly overrated. Lord Herbert cannot even claim the advantage of having been contemporary with the events which he records: his work has little to entitle it to the credit which some writers, and Mrs. Thomson after them, would seem strangely inclined to render to it: it is distinguished only by glaring partiality, pedantic affectation of manner, and inaccurate relation of facts.

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It is due, however, to Mrs. Thomson to say, that, upon the whole, she has produced an amusing work. Necessarily possessing only the same sources of information which are open to all, and which are, for the most part, perfectly familiar to the historical enquirer, she has doubtless not aspired to the discovery of additional facts, nor found reason to place those which were previously known in any new or very striking light. her volumes still bear, in a great degree, the charm of novelty; for the nature of her design has enabled her to blend and harmonise the public transactions, which usually engross the whole care of professed historians, with all those minute and curious

But

notices of the state of literature and the domestic condition of society, which are elsewhere to be found only in scattered and disjointed fragments. To attempt any analysis or digest of her volumes would only be to reduce her subject again to the meagre elements of an abridgment, and to divest it of the graceful drapery in which she has clothed it. It is not the historical summary of the period, but the enlarged treatment of all its collateral and minute incidents, which is a desideratum for the reading world; and, avoiding altogether to notice the mere outlines of a reign which are "familiar as household words," we shall just afford our readers one or two specimens of her manner.

The gorgeous pageants and processions, the elaborate entertainments and shows, the splendid jousts and tournaments, which have particularly celebrated this age of our manners, naturally engage a great portion of our fair author's attention: but among these we shall notice only the peculiarities of the banquet.

There were few of the fashionable amusements of the day more likely to diminish the resources of the royal purse than the banquet of olden times. In the sixteenth century, it was usually an early supper, at six or seven o'clock in the evening, and was composed of the most substantial and costly viands that the royal parks or forests could supply every festivity, every solemn occasion of business or of state, was closed by a feast, either at the hour of twelve, as a dinner, or early in the evening. Nor was it, in those chivalrous days, considered either well-bred or decorous to exclude the fair sex from participating in these convivialities, or to admit them merely to the tantalizing privilege of being spectators; the ladies of Henry's court obtained a share in this, as in every species of diversion, and were not only allowed to sit as guests at the feasts, but were thought to be essential members of the company. At the palace of Wolsey, Cavendish describes them as sitting alternately with the gallants of the court; and at the feast of the Serjeants, held at Ely House in the twenty-third year of Henry's reign, Queen Katharine presided at the head of one table, and the King at another, in separate apartments.

The party being assembled, and the King and Queen seated in their chairs of state, it was the custom to begin the cermonial of royal banquets by presenting hippocras and wafers to the sovereign and his consort. The dishes were then placed, and were frequently replenished, according to the quality and number of those assembled at the board; but the courses were always numerous, and included a considerable number and variety of viands.

It was about this period, that the substantial character of these repasts began to give place to a greater degree of elegance in the choice of provisions. Except venison (sometimes eaten with furmenty), or pork stewed into broth, no butchers' meat was allowed to appear on table at the high-day festivals of the court, or at the palaces of the nobles: but at city feasts, or at those purely ceremonial, the baron of beef, or even the spectacle of an entire carcase, was still permitted to gladden the eyes of the hungry. At the dinner before specified, which was declared o be little inferior to the feast of a coronation, it was deemed necessary to provide twenty-four great "beefes," one hundred fat "muttons,"

ninety-one pigs, one carcase of an ox; besides fourteen dozen of swans, and other varieties of the feathered and finny tribe, too numerous to be detailed. As the female members of a company are usually critics in the more delicate minutia of the culinary art, our ancestors did not fail to intersperse their banquets with intricate confectionary, in which their skill appears to have been by no means despicable. The "subtleties," so frequently specified by the chroniclers of the period, were devices made with jellies or sweetmeats, and placed in the centre of the table for ornament; and, in order to be consistent with that taste for symbolical display which then prevailed, they were frequently intended to convey particular meanings, couched in corresponding mottoes; a chain of gold, or a crown, according to the dignity of the president of the feast, usually surmounting these skilful contrivances. Between the courses, and after the feast, the attendants presented to the company services of fruit, butter, spiced cakes, hard cheese, and sweetmeats; and in these intervals the introduction of music and songs filled up the pauses in conversation; and pageants, mummings, and dancing, were sometimes contrived to vary the monotonous pleasures of the table.'

The wines most in use at this period appear to have been Malmsey, Rhenish, and the wines of Gascony and of Guienne; which last were introduced into England at the time when part of the French dominions surrendered to the British arms; besides these, it has been decided that the Champagne vintage was already in great repute, and among others who estimated its productions, Henry the Eighth is numbered, and is even stated to have held one of the vineyards of Ay in his own hands; sack, that still unexplained object of antiquarian inquiry, was also one of the luxuries of this age. At coronations or banquets, it was, however, invariably the custom to dilute the genuine wines, and to cover the harshness and acidity which they possessed by mixing them with honey or with spices.'-pp. 218-222.

To turn to graver matter; the only remaining extract for which we can afford room we shall select from Mrs. Thomson's account of the state of education, which, curious as it is, is nevertheless very little known.

'Hitherto, with few exceptions besides the two great schools of Eton and Winchester, and the recent institution by Dr. Colet, the arduous office of instruction had devolved either upon monks and nuns, or on the society of parish clerks, before specified as the heroes of the stage, and who united to the profession of the histrionic art the accomplish ments of singing and of reading. To the monasteries chiefly was society indebted, also, for the greater portion of the learning which it possessed during the early and middle ages. In most of the convents, whether male or female, the common rudiments of knowledge were taught gratuitously; and by the constitutions of the friars, each prior of a monastery was obliged to select a diligent master, in order to instruct the novices, who came thither either for education or for initiation into the monastic profession. The master was to teach the children to be "humble in heart and body," and especially to inculcate upon them this text, "Learn of me, who am meek and lowly of heart ;" he was to instruct them how to receive discipline, and not to speak of absent blessings; he was also to ground his young pupils in grammar, logic, and philosophy; to direct them how to be constantly reading, or learning by heart; and

how to conduct themselves in the minor observances of their rule; and besides these instructions, music, both in the science and the practice, accounts, writing, turning, gilding, painting, sculpture, and almost every useful pursuit, were inculcated on those who had a turn for these occu pations, or who were not destined to any particular and secular pursuits. The female novices were attended with equal assiduity by a mistress, who, besides superintending the general conduct of her young charges, was expected to instruct them in the service and the rule, and to those who were destined to take the veil, supernumerary accomplishments were imparted. A well-tutored novice was able to copy works upon parchment, to read both French and Latin, to excel in needle-work, even to transmit the narratives of history to canvass, to dress wounds, to administer medicines with efficacy, to dance, to make confectionary, to draw, to play upon musical instruments, to cast accounts, to which an earlier attention was given by them than by the boys, to be skilled in hawking and horsemanship, and even in tumbling and playing, of which itinerant professors were sometimes introduced into the convents. "Music, which," as Fuller remarks, "sang its own dirge at time of the dissolution," was cultivated with great care in these seminaries; in many convents there was a song-school erected within the church, and a master appropriated to teach the boys the use of the organ and of the voice; a practice the more essential, as not only were vocal and instrumental performers required for the daily and nightly services, but in the family of every bishop, and of many of the nobility, there were choirs of singing boys, thus previously tutored in monastic establishments.

The abbots, many of them learned, and patrons of literature, had frequent opportunities of observing the necessity and advantages of erudition, of which their own share occasionally procured them the charge of embassies, and other important employments. As they had often no other mode of disposing of the superfluities of their revenues, it became a practice among the heads of the larger convents, especially among those who were honoured with the mitre, to receive into their private lodges the sons of the principal families in the neighbourhood, for the purposes of education. About the year 1450, Thomas Bromele, abbot of the mitred monastery of Hyde, near Winchester, boarded within his own abbatical house, in that monastery, eight young gentlemen, who were placed there for the sake of literary instruction, and who dined at the abbot's table. The apartments of the abbot of Glastonbury resembled, we are told, a kind of well disciplined court, where the sons of noblemen and of the gentry were sent for virtuous education; and Richard Whiting, the last abbot of Glastonbury, who was cruelly executed by Henry the Eighth, brought up nearly three hundred ingenious youths, besides many others whom he liberally supported at the universities.'. pp. 454-458,

These specimens may enable the reader to judge for himself of the general ability and character of Mrs. Thomson's volumes. Her style is in general simple, easy, and sufficiently accurate; yet it has occasionally a few blemishes, to which we would point, less from the desire of censure than as a caution to our fair candidate for literary honours. She will scarcely need to be told that such confused and involved sentences as the following are not in the best style:

In these vehicles sat ladies of quality, the fair ornaments of a scene which the joyousness of the occasion, and the youth and attractions which gave, even to royalty, additional interest, combined with the hope of future peace to a land which had long been agitated by the cruel discords of civil war, united to render one of the most memorable, exhilarating, and splendid that England had witnessed during several

centuries.'

Some dozen similar periods of obscure and careless construction might be selected from her first volume in particular; for, in justice to her be it said, they occur less frequently towards the close of her work; and we may safely leave the discovery and correction of them to her own good taste in the revision of a future edition. She will forgive us also for a hint against that besetting sin of female composition, the grave elaboration of truisms. Such are these: that probity cannot be too much estimated in a public station' (p. 12.); that covetousness is ' a vice which increases in proportion to its gratification' (p. 16.); that it is degrading to religion that her holy name should be lent to sanction the vanities and jarring interests of the world' (p. 87.); and so forth.

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In the same friendly spirit we shall take leave just to direct Mrs. Thomson's attention to two or three little inaccuracies and errors in statement which have attracted our notice in a careful perusal of her volumes. On a subject (p. 89.) in which, certes, the fair cannot be expected to be very deeply read, the notable science of slaying, Mrs. Thomson may be assured that she is marvellously ill advised when she asserts that the tremendous cannon was neither generally known nor in frequent use' in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and that muskets were not generally used until 1521. Both battering and field ordnance had been in use in every European army for nearly a century and a half; and muskets, intermingled with the pikes, were a common arm of the infantry in all the French and Italian wars after the middle of the fifteenth century.

Another mistake which we have found in her sketch of the restrictions imposed by our early monarchs and parliaments upon the papal authority in England, Mrs. Thomson may freely acknowledge without shame, since she has been led into it by the example of some great authorities. In p. 326. she refers positively to the reign of Edward I. for the first statute of " Provisors." This is an error originally promulgated by Coke, and adopted by Blackstone and various of our law-writers, who have mistaken the act 35 Ed. I. De Asportatis Religiosorum, because they did not read it, for one against papal provisions. The celebrated statute of Provisors of the 25 Ed. III., indeed, recites an act of Edward I., but the earlier statute no where appears; and, as Mr. Hallam has justly observed, it is exceedingly doubtful whether any such was ever really made. Mrs. Thomson would do well, therefore, to qualify at least the arbitrary assertion of her text, by a caveat in a note, after the prudent fashion of Gibbon.

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