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Or what is commonly called our Elizabethan literaturc, the greater portion appertains to the reign, not of Elizabeth, but of James—to the seventeenth, not to the sixteenth century. The common name, nevertheless, is the fair and proper one. It sprung up in the age of Elizabeth, and was mainly the produce of influences which belonged to that age, although their effect extended into another. It was born of and ripened by that sunny morning of a new day,—“ great Eliza’s golden time,”—when a general sense of security had given men ease of mind and disposed them to freedom of thought, while the economical advancement of the country put life and spirit into every thing, and its growing power and renown filled and elevated the national heart. But such periods of quiet and prosperity seem only to be intellectually productive when they have been preceded and ushered in by a time of uncertainty and struggle which has tried men’s spirits: the contrast seems to be wanted to make the favourable influences be felt and tell ; or the faculty required must come in part out of the strife and contention. The literature of our Elizabethan age, more emphatically, may be said to have had this double pal-’ VOL. nr. 8
rentage: if'that brilliant day was its mother, the previous night of storm was its father.
THE MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES.
Our classical Elizabethan poetry and other literature dates only from about the middle of the reign ; whatever was produced in the earlier half of it, constrained, harsh, and immature, still bears upon it the impress of the preceding barbarism. Nearly coincident with its commencement is the first appearance of a singular work, ‘ The Mirror for Magistrates.’ It is a collection of narratives of the lives of various remarkable English historical personages, taken, in general, with little more embellishment than their redueu'on to a metrical form, from the common popular chronicles ; and the idea of it appears to have been borrowed from a Latin work of Boeeaccio’s, which had been translated and versified many years before by Lyd gate, under the title of ‘ The Fall of Princes.’ It was planned and begun (it is supposed about the year 1557) by Thomas Sackville, then a very young man, and probablya student of law, afterwards distinguished as a statesman, and ennobled by the titles of Lord Buekhurst and Earl of Dorset. But Sackville soon found himself obliged to relinquish the execution of his extensive design, which contemplated a survey of the whole range of English history from William the Conqueror to the end of the wars of the Roses, to other hands. The two writers to whom he recommended the carrying on of the work were Richard Baldwynne, who was in orders, and had already published a metrical version of the Song of Solomon, and George
F errers, who was a person of some rank, having sat in_