Page images

1858. London: Williams and Norgate.-The spectacle of what Hellenism sunk to from Socrates to Jamblichus, the reputed author of the book of the Egyptian Mysteries, as exhibited here, scarcely justifies the high opinion of it arrived at by M. Lasoulx, unless, perhaps, on the principle, Corruptio optimi pessima. Tis Greece, but living Greece no more. The production before us is a valuable contribution to the history of the religion of the Greeks, and forms a useful supplement to the great work of Näglesbach on the Post-Homeric Theology of that people from the time of Alexander the Great.

Aurora: sine Bibliotheca ex scriptis eorum, qui ante Lutherum ecclesiæ studuerunt restituendæ. Edidit F. G. SCHÖPFF. Tom. I.

M. Hugonis a Sto. Victore de Laude Caritatis libellus. Tom. II. Nicolai de Clamengis liber de Studio Theologico. Tom III. Hieronymi Savonarola Meditationes in Psalmos LI. et XXXI. quas in ultimis vitæ quæ diebus scripsit. Cum prefatione Lutheri. Dresden: Adder and Dietze. Williams and Norgate.

Aurora; or a Select Library from the Writings of those who before Luther endeavoured to Reform the Church. 1. Hugo of St. Victor's Tract in Praise of Charity. 2. Nicolas de Clamengis on Theological Study. 3. The Meditations of Savonarola shortly before his death on the 51st and 31st Psalms. Edited by J. G. SCHÖPFF.-Another series of cheap and small books, the longest not much exceeding sixty pages. Other treatises will follow by Wycliffe, Huss, Peter d'Ailly, Gerson, Nicolas Cusanus, Thomas à Kempis, Geiler of Kaisersberg, John of Goch, &c., men who in very different ways were all more or less reformers before the Reformation. Such a series will be of the highest interest and value to the student of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Indeed, the assistance they will afford the lover of history by enabling him to hear the age tell its own story, might alone be sufficient inducement to commence a study of those times. Hugo's Tractate is much earlier in date, and his tendency was only reformatory in as far as all earnest piety must be so according to its opportunity. But we need a word now and then to commend to us dear Charity in the midst of our disputes. So it makes, we think, an excellent commencement of the series. Then, too, its style is so beautiful as well as its sentiment so heavenly, that no one who reads through these ten pages will be at a loss to understand why they called Hugo, lingua Augustini. The little book of Nicolas de Clamengis draws a picture of what bishops and priests ought to be, and what they were in that groaning fifteenth century, showing how deep was the need of Luther, and how deeply some good men were conscious of such need. The Meditations of the great Florentine reformer, written in prison, interrupted at last by the coming in of those who were to lead him to his martyrdom-unfold to us the struggles, the confessions, the aspirations of a man of God about to appear before his Maker. It seems as though two spirits spake with him. Sadness (Tristitia) awakens all his fears, but Hope (Spes) answers and prevails-dying thoughts full of pathos and solemn teaching.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Vols. III., IV.
ART. I.-The History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the
Death of Elizabeth. By J. A. FROUDE, M.A.
London: John W. Parker and Son. 1858.

IN the April number of this Journal, we reviewed that part of Mr. Froude's history which contains his account of the social condition of Tudor England, and of the events which were the prelude of our first Reformation. Our review embraced a fragment only of his first and second volumes: his third and fourth have since been given to the public; and, as the portion of his narrative which is now open to our examination comprises the momentous period of 1529-1547, we shall make no apology for criticising it immediately. We have already expressed our judgment on the first half of Mr. Froude's performance-that it has been written under a conception essentially just, that its method is excellent, its research profound, and its style admirable, but that it is deficient in some important particulars, that it abounds in genius and imagination rather than in reason and judgment, and that it has run out into extravagant paradoxes. We shall here only observe that Mr. Froude's second effort corresponds altogether with his previous one: that it has thrown a light upon the events of the era it deals with, which, hitherto, they have never received; that, unlike all antecedent histories of the time, it has risen to the level of its high argument; that, as it comes in contact with the later years of Henry VIII., it carries out logically the ideas under which it proceeded from the first; and that the merits and defects of the entire work are in equally clear prominence throughout it. Speaking generally, however, we are disposed to think that the narrative of the third and fourth volumes of this history is even better than that of the two first; that it is more



flowing, picturesque, and beautiful; but that it is less adorned with profound remarks, and contains fewer passages worthy of quotation. In short, Mr. Froude as he proceeds upon his course, becomes more of an historian and less of a thinker, and grows in sympathy with his subject rather than with his own reflections.

A general view of English history from 1529 to 1547 brings before us the most momentous period of our annals. Amidst a chaos of fleeting, but interesting accidents of regal passion, arrogance, and tyranny, of parliamentary obsequiousness and injustice mingled with wisdom, of Papal intrigue, menace, and duplicity, of European politics alternating between scheming and hostility, and of domestic treasons, convulsions, and conspiracies, that period wrought out essential changes in our polity and social fabric, the effects of which have been immense upon the destinies of England, and to this day are working amongst us. Within that period, not from any popular impulse, but under the guidance of her Sovereign and her Legislature, and with the assent rather than the wishes of the nation, England threw off the outward forms of her ancient faith, and yet retained so much of its spirit, that it revived again for a brief season, that it influenced thoroughly the Reformation, and that it has interpenetrated the Anglican Church system. Within that period, against the will of the Government, and in spite of persecuting laws and proscriptions, the forces of Protestantism made themselves felt among us; and, gathering strength from the contemporaneous movement in Germany, from the fall of the Papal jurisdiction in England, and from the effects of the diffusion of the English Scriptures and Liturgy, so effectually embodied themselves in the national mind, that after a long and restless struggle with the old religious spirit, they either coalesced with the Church of England or issued in Puritanism and Nonconformity. Within that period the power of our Executive Government was so increased by the spoliation of the Church, by the elevation of a courtier noblesse, and in consequence of threats of war abroad and at home, that it approached a despotism in much of its conduct, and enabled a monarch of singular ability to play successfully the part of a dictator, to identify the nation with him in much that was cruel and unjust, to commit a variety of unconstitutional acts, and especially to visit individuals with iniquitous penalties. And throughout this period, so fertile in great events, so important for its constitutional changes, so full of the echoes of a great social and moral revolution, and so rich in interest, that after the lapse of three centuries we feel a peculiar sympathy with it; we see pass before us some of the most important personages who have ever affected the destinies of England-the stern, un

[blocks in formation]

scrupulous, but most able Henry Tudor; Thomas Cromwell, the great pillar of Erastianism; the gentle, weak, and compromising Cranmer, the type of the Anglican High Church party of to-day; the scheming and thoroughly hardened Gardiner; the not unpleasing form of Reginald Pole, worthy of a better cause; and Latimer, the real champion of English Protestantism. Nor less interesting, if less prominent, are other actors in the drama-the two fair queens who perished on Tower Green; the fierce and 'manlike' Margaret of Salisbury; the ambitious Norfolk, and his accomplished son; the pliant and heartless Seymours, the true types of the new aristocracy; the bold and heroic Robert Aske, and a crowd of personages of lesser note, who, mingling in the revolution which was then convulsing England, increase its interest by their successes or their fate.

How Mr. Froude has dealt with the events of this period, we have already stated in general terms. But before we enter upon his narrative, we must warn our readers against two sources of untruth which have overflowed the annals of the time, and have made it very difficult to discern the real nature of its events and personages. Writers who lived during the sixteenth century, either from sympathy, terror, or genuine admiration of the great achievements of which he was the author, overlook the moral quality of many of the acts of Henry VIII. and his ministers, and dazzle our eyes with the portrait of a mighty monarch who overthrew the Papal power in England, who coerced Scotland, and subdued Ireland, who, for years, was the arbiter of European politics, and who had singular skill in making himself popular with his subjects. On the other hand, writers of a later date who are far removed from the stormy crisis of the Reformation, and are unable to appreciate the difficulties of Henry's position, are too prone to confine their attention to the severities which marked his reign, and, coupling them with his undoubted personal faults, to represent him as a monster of cruelty and injustice. The result is that, when viewed under these opposite conceptions, the occurrences of Henry's reign-his acts and his character, appear in lights which thwart each other and the truth; and that the student of the time finds the greatest difficulty in forming a clear opinion upon it. He will perhaps arrive at the soundest conclusions if he steadily refuses to allow success, however great, and national benefits, however magnificent, to blind him to the evidences of moral wickedness; and if again he remembers that in ages of revolution there may be a palliation for acts which could not be excused in better times. We wish we could say that Mr. Froude has followed this method of judgment: on the contrary, he has almost disregarded it; he has frequently lost sight of the

real character of Henry's acts in the contemplation of their consequences; he has a habit of withdrawing his reader's attention from means used to ends gained; and, having filled his mind with contemporary authorities only, he gives us portraits of Henry VIII. and his ministers which we believe to be simply favourable exaggerations. And thus, while he avoids popular errors on this subject, he falls into opposite errors equally important; and deals with the era of Henry VIII. as if he were an enthusiastic iconoclast of 1540, who loses sight of all moral considerations when beholding the downfall of the Papal power in England.

When Henry VIII. called the Parliament of 1529 many causes conspired to promote the Reformation in this country. Undoubtedly the personal quarrel of the king-whatever may be thought of his purpose and motives-was scarcely a fair occasion for a religious schism; and the wrongs of Catherine of Arragon and the indecent relations already established between Henry and Anne Boleyn at once identified a large party in England with the cause of Rome. From the first these scandals united against the Reformation a powerful section of the clergy, a portion of the older nobility, and a formidable minority of the nation. The priests cried out that it was sacrilege to question the Pope's authority, or secretly foresaw their own downfal in any revolution. The Nevilles and the Courtenays liked Queen Catherine personally, remembered the wrongs they had endured from the Tudor dynasty, and very soon began to make the cause of conscience that of rebellion. Nor is it doubtful-however Mr. Froude may gloss over the fact-but that a very numerous party in England repudiated the conduct of Henry in the divorce altogether, and associated the question of ecclesiastical reform with concession to injustice, oppression, and lust. But, although the nature of the king's matter' immediately created a Roman opposition, it also gave to Henry and the strength of the nation a principle of common action by means of which the Reformation finally triumphed. The resolution of Henry to get rid of his wife led him on to controvert the Papal power in his realm, and at last to give the signal of its ruin. The desire of some patriotic statesmen to secure a male succession of the crown, and the anxiety of others to secularize church property, concurred to promote that breach with Rome which alone could fulfil their different objects. The general dislike of the people to Wolsey, the growing hostility felt against the priesthood, and the sense of the burden of Papal exactions, turned the mass of the nation in the same direction, and gradually won them on to Protestant sympathies. Nor were the relations of England with the powers of Europe adverse to the movement. For Henry and Francis I. were in close alliance; and

« PreviousContinue »