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“What the loftinesse of the argument requireth, I confesse with sorrow I have not performed: yet have I willingly bestowed what pains I have been able. I have neither in other works, nor yet in this, in any sort satisfied myself. Neverthelesse, I shall hold myself recompensed to the full, if by my ready willingnesse to preserve the memory of things, to relate truths, and to train up men's minds to honesty and wisdom, I may find a place for a time, amongst the petty writers of great matters.”—Camden, Introduction to the Annals.
WHEN we were all about to move from Holnicote to Mount Sorel, you may imagine what abundance of old rubbish was disturbed—what long-hoarded relics of bygone times were dragged from their mouldering recesses—what piles of worm-eaten books and packets of time-stained papers brought to light—as new to Mr. de Vere as to any
of I was his principal companion during this time, for we grew every day more and more attached to each other ; as he, from temper, and I, from circumstance, lived a good deal apart from the rest of mankind-and were both, perhaps, interested rather in the ideal, than the actual.
So we tossed over these old papers with almost equal interest. To him they were precious as the monuments of his family, to me, as records of that great human family to whom we equally belonged.
One day, after we had been thus engaged—I sorting some old books, while he was examining the contents of a huge black trunk-after nearly an hour's silence, during which he had been perusing several papers with an appearance of much interest, he turned to me and said:
“There, Edmund, is something for you.—These seem
curious fragments connected with a very incomprehensible portion of our history—one that has often been the subject of my reflections. These papers do not properly form part of my family archives, and I do not understand, exactly, how they came here; though I believe there have been intermarriages between the De Veres and some of the families in question. The indifference of principals and the carelessness of servants, jumble things together, and throw them into hands where they have properly no right to be. I make you a present of the contents of this trunk, Edmund, for I know you have a liking for such things. When you have nothing better to do, it may interest you to examine these papers; and to exercise your propensity for scribbling, by giving a certain form and consistency to this fatras of letters, notes, diaries, and law proceedings."
I accepted the commission with pleasure as a proof of confidence and affection on the part of Mr. de Vere, at that time most precious to my heart: but it was long before I'opened the trunk.
When at length, however, I came to examine the papers, I found they had reference to a period, and to circumstances, singularly dark and mysterious : I conceived that some very important lessons might be derived from this section of the history of our race; and I endeavoured to put the materials together so as to engage interest, and perhaps excite reflections that might possibly be useful :—though no one can be more aware than I myself am, of the imperfect manner in which I have executed my difficult task.
FATHER DARC Y.
" For the love of truth hath been my scope and aim."-Camden.
Let us picture to ourselves England at the latter end of the sixteenth century: when-after the desolations and destructions of that immense social revolution which took place under the reign of Henry VIII.; the short and well-directed efforts to establish some kind of order, under Edward VI.; the tremendous reaction, the confusion and misery of Queen Mary's reign it had for nearly forty years reposed under the firm, wise, and temperate sceptre of Queen Elizabeth.
What Queen Elizabeth's reign actually was—the full value of that firm, yet moderate system of government, which was then carried out-under the direction of two or three of the ablest statesmen that ever appeared, and the auspices of perhaps the very cleverest woman that has yet existed-must be learned, not by a comparison with what we now see about us; not by what has succeeded; but by what went before.
We must contrast the England of 1580 with the England of 1501:—and though, doubtless, there is still much left to grieve and sadden the heart in the manners, the ways of thinking, the system of jurisprudence, and the conduct of the government, yet let any one candidly compare that period of our history with those which had preceded it, and a somewhat juster estimate will be formed, than it has lately, perhaps, been the fashion to do- of the immense advances made in civilisation, under the influence of the reformed religion—and of the prodigious increase of domestic prosperity consequent upon the government of that wise monarch, who first carried out its principles into actual public life.
This is not the place to enumerate even the more important of these advances ; I merely point them out as a subject of contemplation for the candid and attentive reader of history. My business is with pictures: my design to raise again before your eye the scenes of that green and beautiful England—her soil no longer deluged with the blood of contending parties — the fierce contest of religious violence assuaged—no foreign enemy permitted to set his foot upon her sacred shores; and her ships and her commerce circumnavigating the globe.
Imagine her, to yourself, in all the graces of her still wild and unsubdued beauty.
The wide extent of her vast oak forests; interspersed with all the native trees that enrich our landscapes; the crimson and gold of the beeches, the green elms, the scarlet maples, the dark glossy hollies clothing