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woodlands.] ' I was a good space knocking at the
abbot's door ; neither did any sound or sensible
manifestation of life betray itself, saving the abbot's
little dog, that within his door, fast locked, bayed and
barked. I found a short pole-axe standing behind
the door ; and with it I dashed the abbot's door in
pieces ictu oculi [in the twinkling of an eye] ; and set
one of my men to keep that door ; and about the
house I go with that pole-axe in my hand — ne forte
[" lest hy any chance " * — holding in suspense such
words as ^^ some violence sltould he qff'ered"'\ — for the
abbot is a dangerous, desperate knave, and a hardy.
But, for a conplusion, his gentlewoman bestirred her
stumps towards her starting holes ; and then Bartlett,
watching the pursuit, took the tender demoisel ; and,
aftej I had examined her, to Dover — to the mayor,
to set her in some cage or prison for eight days.
And I brought holy father abbot to Canterbury ;

* ' Nc forte ' is a case of what is learnedly called aposiopcsis or
reticcntia ; that is, where (for the sake of effect) some emphatic

words are left to be guessed at : as Virgil's Qiws ego (Whom

if I catch, I'll )



STORMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY. 281

and here, in Ciirist Church, I will leave hiin in
piisou.'

This little interlude, offering its several figures in
such life-like attitudes — its big-boned abbot prowling
up and down the precincts of the abl)ey for the chance
of a ' shy ' at the intruding commissioner — the little
faithful bow-wow doing its petit possible to warn big-
bones of his danger, thus ending his faithful services
by an act of farewell loyalty — and the unlucky
demoisel scuttling away to her rabbit-warren, only to
find all the spiracles and peeping-holes preoccupied or
stopped, and her own ' apparel ' unhappily locked up
' in the abbot his coffer,' so as to render hopeless all
evasion or subsequent denial of the fact, that tea
big-boned ' indusia ' (or shirts) lay interleaved in one
and the same ' coffer,' inter totidem niveas camisas * (or
chemises) — all this framed itself as a little amusing
parenthesis, a sort of family picture amongst the
dreadful reports of ecclesiastical commissioners.

No suppression of the religious houses had originally
been designed ; nothiiag more than a searching visit-
ation. And at this moment, yes, at this present
midsummer of 1856, waiting and looking forward to
the self-same joyful renewal of leases that then was
looked for in England, but not improbably, alas !
summoned to the same ineffable disappointment as
fell more than three centuries back upon our own

* ' Camisas : ' i. e. chemises ; but at one time the word camisa
was taken inditfrirently for shirt or chemise. And hence arose
the term camisado for a night-attack, in which the assailants
recognised each other in the dark by their white shirt-sleeves,
sometimes further distinguished by a tight cincture of broad
black riband. Tlie last literal camisado, that I remember, was a
nautical one — a cutting-out enterprise somewhere about 1S07-8.



282 DE QUINCEY.

England — lies, waiting for her doom, a great kingdom
in central Europe. She, and under the same causes,
may chance to be disappointed. What was it that
caused the tragic convulsion in England 1 Simply
this : regular and healthy visitation having ceased,
infinite abuses had ari^en ; and these abuses, it was
found at last, could not be healed by any measure less
searching than absolute suppression. Austria, as
regards some of her provinces, stands in the same
circimistances at this very moment. Imperfect
visitations, that cleansed nothing, should naturally
have left her religious establishments languishing for
the one sole remedy that was found applicable to the
England of 1540. And what was that ? It was a
remedy that carried along with it revolution, England
was found able in tliose days to stand that fierce
medicine : a more profound revolution has not often
been witnessed than that of our mighty Reforma-
tion. Can Austria, considering the awful contagions
amongst which her political relations have entangled
her, hope for the same happy solution of her case 1
Perhaps a revolution, that once unlocks the fountains
of blood in central Germany, wdll be the bloodiest of
all revolutions : whereas, in our own chaptei's of
revolution even the stormiest, those of the Marian
Persecution and of the Parliamentaiy War, both
alike moved under restraints of law and legislative
policy. The very bloodiest promises of English
history have replied but feebly to the clamour and
expectations of cruel or fieiy partisans. Different is
the prospect for Austria. Erom her, and from the
auguries of evil which becloud her else smiling atmo-
sphei'e, let us turn back to our own histoi'y in this



STORMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY. 283

sixteenth century, and for a moment make a brief
inquest into the blood that really was shed — whether
justly or not justly. Bloodshed, as an instinct —
bloodshed, as an appetite — raged like a monsoon in
the French Revolution, and many centuries befoi-e in
the Rome of 8ylla and Marius — in the Home of the
Triumvirate, and generally in the period of Proscrip-
tions. Too fearfully it is evident that these fits of
acharnement were underlaid and fed by paroxysms of
personal cruelty. In England, on the other hand,
foul and hateful as was the Marian butchery, never-
theless it cannot be denied that this butchery rested
entirely upon principle. Homage offered to anti-
Lutheran principles, in a moment disarmed the Popish
executioner. Or if (will be the objection of the
reflecting reader) — if there are exceptions to this
rule, these mi;st be looked for amongst the king's
enemies. And the term ' enemies ' will fail to repre-
sent adequately those who, not content with ranking
themselves wilfully amongst persons courting objects
irreconcilable to the king's interests, sought to ex-
asperate the displeasure of Henry by special insults,
by peculiar mortifications, and by complex ingratitude.
Foremost amongst such cases stands forward the
separate treason of Anne Boleyn, mysterious to this
hour in some of its features, rank with pollutions
such as European prejudice would class with Italian
enormities, and by these very pollutions — literally by
and through the very excess of the guilt — claiming
to be incredible. Neither less nor more than this
which follows is the logic put into the mouth of the
Lady Anne Boleyn : — From the mere ent)rmity of the
guilt imputed to me, from that very abysmal stye of



284 DE QUINCEY.

incestuous adultery in which now I wallow, I challenge
as of right the presumption that I am innocent ; for
the very reason that I am loaded in my impeachmeut
with crimes that ai-e inhuman, I claim to be no
criminal at all. Because my indictment is revolting
and monstrous, therefore is it incrediljle. The case,
taken apart from the person, would not (unless
through its mysteriousness and imperfect circum-
stantiation) have attracted the interest which has given
it, and will in all time coming continue to give it, a
root in history amongst insoluble or doubtfully soluble
historical problems. The ease, being painful and
shocking, would by readers generally have long since
been dismissed to darkness. But the persoti, too
critically connected with a vast and immortal revolu-
tion, will for ever call back the case before the
tribunals of earth. Tiie mother of Queen Elizabeth,
the mother of Protestantism in England, cannot be
suffered — never tmll be suffered — to benefit by that
shelter of merciful darkness which, upon any humbler
person, or even upon this person in any humbler case,
might be suffered to settle quietly as regards the
memory of her acts. Mr. Froude, a pure-minded
man, is the last man to call back into the glare of a
judicial inquest deeds of horror, over which eternal
silence should have brooded, had such an issue been
possible. But three centuries of discussion have
made that more and more impossible. And now,
therefore, with a view to the improvement of the
dispute, and, perhaps, in one or two instances, with a
chance for the rectification of the ' issues ' (speaking
juridically) into which the question has been allowed
to lapse, Mr. Froude has in some degree re-opened



STORMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY. 285

the discussion. ' The guilt,' he says, * mast rest
where it is due. But uuder any hypothesis guilt
there was — dark, mysterious, and most miserable.'

Tell this story how you may, and the evidence
remains of guilt under atiy hypothesis — guilt such as
in Grecian tragedy was seen thousands of years ago
hanging in clouds of destiny over princely houses,
and reading to them a doom of utter ruin, root and
branch, in which, as in the anai'chy of hurricanes, no
form or feature was descried distinctly — nothing but
some dim fluctuating phantom, pointing with recording
finger to that one ancestral crime thiough which the
desolation had been wrought.

Mr. Froude, tln'ough his natural sense of justice,
and his deep study of the case, is unfavourably dis-
posed towards the Lady Anne Boleyn : nevertheless
he retains lingering doubts on her behalf, all of which,
small and great, we have found reason to dismiss.
We, for our parts, are thoroughly convinced of her
guilt. Our faith is, that no shadow of any ground
exists for suspending the verdict of the sentence ; but
at the same time for mitigating that sentence thei-e
arose this strong argument — namely, that amongst
women not formally pronounced idiots, there never
can have been one more pitiably imbecile.

There is a mystery hanging over her connection
with the king which nobody has attempted to disperse
We will ourselves suggest a few considerations that
may bring a little cohei-ency amongst the scattered
glimpses of her fugitive court life. The very first
thought that presents itself, is a sentiment, that
would be pathetic in the case of a p^erson entitled to
more respect, upon the brevity of her public career.



286 DE QUINCEY.

Apparently she lost the king's favour almost in the
very opening of her married life. But in what way?
Not, we are persuaded, through the king's caprice.
There was hardly time for caprice to have operated ;
and her declension in favour from that cause would
have been gradual. Time there was none for her
beauty to decay — neither had it decayed. We are
disposed to think that in a very early stage of her
intercourse with the king, she had irritated the king
by one indication of mental imbecility rarely under-
stood even amongst medical men — namely, the
offensive habit of laughing profusely without the
least sense of anything ludicrous or comic. Oxford,
or at least one of those who shot at the Queen, was
signally distinguished by this habit. Without reason
or pretext, he would break out into causeless laughter,
not connected with any impulse that he could explain.
With this infirmity Anne Boleyn was plagued in
excess. On the 2nd of May, 1536, the very first day
on which she was made aware of the dreadful accusa-
tions hanging over her good name and her life, on
being committed to the Tower, and taken by Sir
William Kingston, the governor, to the very same
cliambers in which she had lain at the period of her
coronation, she said, ' It ' (meaning the suite of rooms)
' is too good for me ; Jesu, have mercy on me ; ' next
she kneeled down, ' weeping a great space.' Such are
8ir William's words ; immediately after which he
adds, ' and in the same sorrow fell into a great
laughing.' A day or two later than this, she said,
'Master Kingston, shall I die without justice?' —
meaning, it seems, would she be put to death without
any judicial examination of her case ; upon which Sir



STORMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY. 287

William replied, ' The poorest subject the king hath,
had justice ' — meaning, that previously to such an
examination of his case, he could not by regular
course of justice be put to death. Such was the
question of the prisoner — such was the answer of the
king's representative. What occasion was heie
suggested for rational laughter 1 And yet laughter
was her sole comment. ' Therewith,' says Sir William,
* she laughed.' On May 18th, being the day next
before that of her execution, she said, * Master
Kingston, I hear say I shall not die afore noon ; and
I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead
by this time, and past my pain,' Upon this Sir
William assured her ' it should be no pain, it was so
subtle ; ' meaning that the stroke of a sword by a
powerful arm, applied to a slender neck, could not
meet resistance enough to cause any serious pain.
She replied, ' I heard say the executioner was very
good, and I have a little neck ; ' after which she
laughed heartily. Sir William so much misunder-
stood this laughter, which was doubtless of the same
morbid and idiotic character as all the previous cases,
that he supposes her to have had ' much joy and
pleasure in death,' which is a mere misconstruction of
the case. Even in the very act of dying she could
not check her smiling, which assuredly was as morbid
in its quality and origin as what of old was known as
' risus sardo7iicus.'

Carrying along with us, therefore, a remembrance
of this lepiilsive habit, which argues a silliness so
constitutional, and noting also the obstinate (almost
it might be called the brutal) folly with which, during
the last seventeen days of her life, she persisted in



288 DE QUINCEY.

criminating herself, volunteering a continued rehearsal
of conversations the most profligate, under a mere
instinct of gossiping, we shall begin to comprehend
the levity which no doubt must have presided in her
conversations with the king. Too evidently in a
court but recently emerging from barbarism, there
was a shocking defect of rules or fixed ceremonial for
protecting the dignity of the queen and of her female
attendants. The settlement of any such rules
devolved upon the queen herself, in default of any
traditional system ; and unhappily here was a queen
without sense, without prudence, without native and
sexual dignity for suggesting or upholding such
restraints, and whose own breeding and experience
had been purely French. Strange it was that the
king's good sense, or even his jealousy, had not
peremptorily enjoined, as a caution of mere decency,
the constant presence of some elderly matrons, uniting
rank and station with experience and good sense.
But not the simplest guarantees for ordinary decorum
were apparently established in the royal household.
And the shocking spectacle was daily to be seen, of a
young woman, singularly beautiful, atrociously silly,
and without common self-respect, styling herself
Queen of England, yet exacting no more respect or
homage than a housemaid, suffering yovmg men, the
most licentious in all England, openly to speculate on
the contingency of her husband's death, to talk of it
in language the coarsest, as ' waiting for dead men's
shoes,' and bandying to and fro the chances that this
man or that man, according to the whim of the
morning, should ' have her,' or should not ' have her '
— that is, have the reversion of the queen's person as



STORMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY, 289

a derelict of the king. All this, though most injurious
to her prospects, was maJe known by Anne Boleyn
herself to the female companions who were appointed
to watch her revelations in prison. And certainly no
chambermaid ever rehearsed her own colloquies with
these vile profligates in a style of thinking more abject
than did at this period the female majesty of England.
Listening to no accuser, but simply to the unsolicited
revelations of the queen herself, as she lay in bed
amongst her female attendants in the Tower, every
man of sense becomes aware, that if these pre-
sumptuous young libertines abstained from daily
proposals to the queen of the most criminal nature,
that could arise only from the reserve and suspicion
incident to a state of rivalship, and not from any
deference paid to the queen's personal pretensions, or
to her public character.

Three years, probably one-half of that term, had
seen the beginning, the decay, and the utter extinction
of the king's affection for Anne. It is known now,
and at the time it had furnished a theme for con-
jecture, that very soon after his marriage the king
manifested uneasiness, and not long after angry
suspicions, upon matters connected with the queen.
We have no doubt that she herself, whilst seeking to
amuse the king with fragments of her French experi-
ences, had, through mere oversight and want of tact,
unintentionally betrayed the risks to which her
honour had been at times exposed. Without presence
of mind, without inventive talent or I'apidity of
artifice, she would often compromise herself, and
overshoot her momentary purposes of furnishing
amusement to the king. He had heard too much.

VOL. I. T



290 DE QUINCEY.

He believed no longer in her purity. And very soon,
as a natural consequence, she ceased to interest him.
The vague wish to get rid of her would for some time
suggest no hopeful devices towards such a purpose.
For some months, apparently, he simply neglected
her. This neglect unhappily it was that threw her
unprotected upon the vile society of young libertines.
Two of these — Sir Henry Norris and Sir Francis
Weston — had been privileged friends of the king.
But no restraints of friendship or of duty had checked
their designs upon the queen. Either special words,
or special acts, had been noticed and reported to the
king. Thenceforward a systematic watch had been
maintained upon all parties. Discoveries more
shocking than anybody looked for had been made.
The guilty parties had been cai'eless : blind them-
selves, they thought all others blind ; but, during
the April of 1536, the Privy Council had been
actively engaged in digesting and arranging the
information received.

On May-day, the most gladsome day in the whole
year, according to the usages of that generation, the
dreadful news transpired of the awful accusations and
the impending ti'ials. Smeton, a musician, was the
only person not of gentlemanly rank amongst the
accused. He was accused of adultery with the
queen ; and he confessed the offence ; never retract-
ing that part of his confession. In discvissing the
probabilities of the case, it is necessary to use special
and extraordinary caution. The confession, for in-
stance, of Anne herself has been treated as hollow
and unmeaning ; because, it is alleged, the king's
promise of indulgence and favour to her infant



STORMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY. 291

daughter was purchased under the condition of con-
fession. It is clear that such a ti-affic would not have
been available except in special and exceptional cases.
As to Smeton, he did not at all meet the king's
expectations, except as to the one point of confessing
the adultery. Consequently, as he was quite dis-
interested, had nothing at all to gain, and did gain
nothing by his confession, him we are obliged to
believe. On the other hand, the no«-confession of
some amongst the gentlemen, if any there were that
steadfastly adhered to this non-confession, proves
nothing at all ; since they thought it perfidy to con-
fess such a case against a woman. JMeantime, Con-
stantyne, a known friend of Sir H. Norris and of
Sir W. Brereton, two of the four gentlemen accused,
declares that, for himself, being a Protestant, and
knowing the queen's secret leaning to that party, he
and all other ' friends of the gospel ' could not bring
themselves to believe that the queen had behaved so
abominably. ' As I may be saved before God,' he
says, ' I could not believe it, afore I heard them speak
at their death. But on the scaffold, in a manner all
confessed, unless Norris ; and as to him, what he said
amounted to nothing.' The truth is, there occurred
in the cases of these gentlemen a di-eadful struggle.
The dilemma for them was perhaps the most trying
upon record. Gallantry and manly tenderness forbade
any man's confessing, for a certain result of ruin to a
woman, any ti'easonable instances of love which she
had shown to him. Yet, on the other hand, to deny
was to rush into the presence of God with a lie upon
their lips. Hence the unintelligible character of their
final declarations. Smeton, as no gentleman, was

T 2



292 DE QUINCEY.

hanged. All the other four — Norris, Brereton,
Weston, and Eochford — Avere beheaded. The four
gentlemen and Smeton suffered all on the same day
— namely, Wednesday, the 17th of May. Of all the
five. Sir W. Brereton was the only one whose guilt
was doubted. Yet he was the most emphatic in
declaring his own guilt. If he could die a thousand
deaths, he said, all would be deserved.

But the crime of all the rest seemed pale by the
side of Rochford's. He had been raised to the
peerage by Henry, as an expression of his kindness
to the Boleyn family. He was the brother of Anne ;
and whilst the others had offended by simple adultery
with Anne, his crime was incestuous adultery ; and
his dying words appeared (to the auditors), ' if not,'
says Mr. Froude, ' a confession, yet something too
nearly resembling it.'

From such dreadful offences, all readers are glad
to hurry away ; yet in one respect this awful im-
peachment has a reconciling effect. No reader after
this wishes for further life to Anne. For her own
sake it is plain that through death must lie the one
sole peaceful solution of her unhappy and erring life.
Some people have most falsely supposed that the case
against the brother and sister, whatever might be
pronounced upon the four other cases, laboured under
antecedent improbabilities so great as to vitiate, or
to load with svispicion, the entire case of the Privy
Council. But, on the contrary, the shocking mon-
strosity of the charge strengthens the anti-Boleyn
impeachment. As a means for getting rid of Anne,
the Rochford case was not at all needed. If it could
even in dreams be represented as false, the injury



STOKMS IN ENGLISH HISTORY. 293

offered to the Boleyns, whilst quite superfluous for
any purpose of Henry's, would be too atrocious an
outrage upon truth and natural justice for human
nature to tolerate. The very stones would mutiny
against such a calumny coming as a crown or crest
to other injuries separately unendurable, if they could
once be regarded as injuries at all. Under these
circumstances, what should we think of a call upon
Lord Bei'kshire, the very father of Anne Boleyn, to
sit as one of the judges upon the cases. Not, indeed,
upon the cases of his son and his daughter ; from
such Roman trials of fortitude he was excused ; but
on the other cases he was required to offici ite as one
of the judges. And, in fact, the array of rank and
splendour, as exhibited in the persons of those who
composed the court, surpassed anything previously
known in England. On the part of the crown, it
was too keenly felt that the deep personal interest of
the king, in obtaining liberty to form a new man-iage
connection with Jane Seymoui*, would triumphantly
outweigh all the justice that ever could be arrayed
against the two Boleyns. Nothing could win a
moment's audience for the royal cause, except an un-
pai"alleled and matchless splendour in the composition
of the court. This, therefore, was secured. Pretty
nearly the whole peerage of that period was embattled
upon the bench of judges.

Meantime, the tragedy, so far as the queen is
concerned, took a turn which convicts all parties of a
blunder ; of a blunder the most needless and super-
fluous. This blunder was exposed by Bishop Burnet
about a hundred and fifty years later, but most
insufliciently exposed ; and to this hour it has not



294 DE QUINCE Y.

been satisfactorily cleared up. Let us pursue the
arrears of the case. The four gentlemen, together
with Mark Smeton, were executed (as we have seen)
on Wednesday, the 17th of May, 1536. Two days
later Queen Anne Boleyn was brought out at noonday
upon the verdant lawn within the Tower, and with
very slight ceremonies she suffered decapitation. A
single cannon-shot proclaimed to London and West-
minster the final catastrophe of this unhappy romance.
Anne had offered not one wordof self- vindication on
this memorable occasion ; and, if her motive to so
signal a forbearance were i-eally consideration for the
interests of her infant daughter, it must be granted
that she exhibited, in the farewell a^t of her life, a
grandeur of self-conquest which no man could have
anticipated. For this act she has never received the


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