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THE famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth was first published in the folio collection of Shakspere's works in 1623. The text, taken as a whole, is singularly correct: it contains, no doubt, some few typographical errors, but certainly not so many as those which deform the ordinary reprints. The commentators have, speaking comparatively, meddled very little with this text; but for the want of a careful collation several verbal errors have been constantly transferred from one modern edition to another without correction. For example: in the exquisite song in the beginning of the third act, the passage

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The date of the original production of this drama has been a subject of much discussion. The opinions in favour of its having been produced in the reign of Elizabeth are far more numerous than those which hold it to be a later production. As the question is one of more than usual interest, we shall examine it somewhat in detail.

And first, of the external evidence. The Globe, Shakspere's theatre, was burnt down in June, 1613. The cause of this accident, and the circumstances attending it, are minutely related by several witnesses. In Winwood's Memorials' there is a letter from John Chamberlain to Sir Ralph Winwood, dated from London the 12th of July, 1613, which describes the burning,"which fell out by a peal of chambers." This conflagration took place on the previous 29th of June. The play acted on this occasion was one on the story of Henry VIII. Were the "chambers" (small cannon) which produced the misfortune those fired according to the original stage direction in the fourth scene of the first act of Shakspere's King Henry VIII., "Drum and trumpet, chambers discharged?" In the Harleian Manuscripts there is a letter from Thomas Lorkin to Sir Thomas Puckering, dated "this last of June, 1613," in which the writer says, "No longer since than yesterday, while Bourbage his company were acting at the Globe the play of Henry VIII., and there shooting of certain chambers in way of triumph, the fire catch'd." But this does not establish that it was Shakspere's play. The accomplished Sir Henry Wotton, writing to his nephew on the 6th of July, 1613, gives a minute and graphic account of the accident at the Globe:-"Now to let matters of state sleep, I will entertain you at the present with what happened this week at the Bankside. The king's players had a new

play, called All is True, representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry the Eighth, which was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage; the knights of the order, with their Georges and Garter, the guards with their embroidered coats and the like; sufficient, in truth, within a while to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now King Henry, making a mask at the Cardinal Wolsey's house, and certain cannons being shot off at his entry, some of the paper, or other stuff wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where, being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes being more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming, within less than an hour, the whole house to the very ground. This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks: only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not, by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with bottle ale."* Here, then, is a new play described "representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry VIII.;" and further, the passage of Shakspere's play in which the "chambers" are discharged, being the "entry" of the king to the "mask at the cardinal's house," is the same to the letter. But the title which Sir Henry Wotton gives the new play is All is True. Gifford thinks this sufficient to show that the play represented at the Globe in June, 1613, was not Shakspere's. But other persons call the play so represented Henry VIII.' Howes, in his continuation of Stowe's Chronicle, so calls it. He writes some time after the destruction of the Globe, for he adds to his account of the fire," and the next spring it was new builded in far fairer manner than before." He speaks of the title of the play as a familiar thing: -"the house being filled with people to behold the play, viz. of Henry the Eighth." When Howes wrote, was the title All is True' merged in the more obvious title derived from the subject of the play, and following the character of the titles of Shakspere's other historical plays? There can be no difficulty in showing that the Prologue to Henry VIII. especially keeps in view such a title as Sir Henry Wotton has mentioned:

"Such as give

Their money out of hope they may believe,
May here find truth too."

"Gentle hearers, know,

To rank our chosen truth with such a show

As fool and fight is," &e.

"To make that only true we now intend."

Boswell has a very ingenious theory that this Prologue had especial reference to another play on the same historical subject, When you see me you know me, or the Famous Chronicle History of King Henry the Eighth, &c., by Samuel Rowley,' in which "the incidents of Henry's reign are thrown together in the most confused manner." Upon the whole, then, the probability is that the Henry VIII. of Shakspere, and the All is True' described by Wotton, are one and the same play. The next question is, then, whether Wotton was correct in describing the Henry VIII. as a new play. Chalmers, who almost stands alone in his opinion, maintains that the fact of a play on the subject of Henry VIII. being termed new in 1613 is decisive as to the date of its original production at that time. Malone, on the contrary, conjectures that the Henry VIII. was written in 1601, and revived in 1613, with a new title and prologue," having lain by some years unacted." This conjecture rests upon no external evidence. We proceed, therefore, to the other division of the subject the evidence of its date which is furnished by the play itself.

In the prophecy of Cranmer in the last scene, the glories of the reign of Elizabeth are carried on to that of her successor, in the following lines:

"Nor shall this peace sleep with her: But as when

The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,

Her ashes new create another heir,

As great in admiration as herself;

So shall she leave her blessedness to one,

(When heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness,)

Who, from the sacred ashes of her honour,

Shall star-like rise, as great in fame as she was,

And so stand fix'd: Peace, plenty, love, truth, terror,

That were the servants to this chosen infant,

Shall then be his, and like a vine grow to him;

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Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine,

His honour, and the greatness of his name,

Shall be, and make new nations: He shall flourish,

And, like a mountain cedar, reach his branches

To all the plains about him :-Our children's children

Shall see this, and bless heaven."

This passage would appear to be decisive as to the date of the play, by the introduction of these lines:

"Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine,

His honour, and the greatness of his name,

Shall be, and make new nations."

That the colonization of Virginia is here distinctly alluded to is without doubt. The first charter was granted in 1606; the colony was planted in 1607, in which year James Town was built; another charter was given to the colonists in 1612, and a lottery was also then granted for the encouragement of the colony, which was struggling with great difficulties. That James took an especial interest in this important settlement, and naturally enough was recognised as the founder of "new nations," may be readily imagined. In the inscription upon a portrait of the king, which belonged to Lord Bacon, he is styled "Imperii Atlantici conditor." This part of Cranmer's prophecy, therefore, would fix the date of the play after the settlement of Virginia. But a new difficulty arises: All that part of the prophecy relating to James, which we have quoted, is held to be an addition upon a revival of the play in 1613.

"These lines," says Dr. Johnson, " to the interruption by the king, seem to have been inserted at some revisal of the play, after the accession of King James. If the passage be left out, the speech of Cranmer proceeds in a regular tenour of prediction and continuity of sentiments; but, by the interpolation of the new lines, he first celebrates Elizabeth's successor, and then wishes he did not know she was to die; first rejoices at the consequence, and then laments the cause." Is it so? The presumed interpolation immediately follows these lines:

The poet then adds

"In her days, every man shall eat in safety,
Under his own vine, what he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours, &c.

"Nor shall this peace sleep with her: But as when
The bird of wonder dies

So shall she leave her blessedness to one,

(When heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness,)
Who, from the sacred ashes of her honour,
Shall star-like rise."

Is it true, then, that he "first celebrates Elizabeth's successor, and then wishes he did not know she was to die?" Of the seventeen lines which relate to James, the first eleven never lose sight of Elizabeth. Her “blessedness," her "honour," her "fame," were to descend to her "heir." The extension of the dominion of England, under James,—the only passage in which "the greatness of his name" is separated from that of Elizabeth,-occupies the remaining part of the prophecy; and that the thread which connects the whole with Elizabeth may not be dropped even while those six lines are uttered, Cranmer returns to the close of her life, which in two-thirds of the previous seventeen lines he had constantly inferred :—

"She shall be, to the happiness of England,
An aged princess," &c.

It might as well be assumed, we venture to think, that the "Tu Marcellus eris" of Virgil is an interpolation. That famous passage is most skilfully connected with all that accompanies it; but it might nevertheless be as easily severed as the lines which are here maintained to be an unskilful addition.

But it is held, further, that Shakspere did not write these lines; that Ben Jonson wrote them; that Shakspere might properly compliment Elizabeth in her lifetime, but that he would not descend to flatter James, who was "a contemptible king." Shakspere, it is well known, had reason to be grateful to James for personal kindnesses; but there is not a word here of James's personal qualities. The lines apply to the character of his government-its "peace, plenty, love, truth, terror”the extension of its growth to "make new nations." Would Jonson, had he written this passage, have forgotten that James was somewhat prouder of his reputation as a scholar than as a king; and that one who knew him well had not hesitated to say to him, and perhaps, indeed, in ncerity,

"There has not been since Christ's time any king or temporal monarch which has been so learned in all literature and erudition, divine and human?"* We have no hesitation in accepting the passage as one that Shakspere might not have blushed to have written, and which derogates nothing from the manly independence of his character.

The later editors consider that the interpolation rested at the interruption of the king. Theobald would carry it further, through the remainder of Cranmer's speech: "If this play was wrote, as in my opinion it was, in the reign of Elizabeth, we may easily determine where Cranmer's eulogium of that princess concluded. I make no question but the poet rested here:

"And by these claim their greatness, not by blood."

Theobald omits to state the most obvious reason for his opinion. We hold that Shakspere, in the age of Elizabeth, would never have written

That passage is, also, to

"She shall be, to the happiness of England,
An aged princess."

our minds, clearly an interpolation, assuming that the play was produced during Elizabeth's reign. She, of all sovereigns, would least have endured to be called aged; she, of whom, in her seventieth year, the French ambassador writes, " Her eye is still lively, she has good spirits, and is fond of life, for which reason she takes great care of herself; to which may be added an inclination for the Earl of Clancarty, a brave, handsome Irish nobleman. This makes her cheerful, full of hope and confidence respecting her age." About a year before this time it is held that the Henry VIII. was written, and that it originally included the close of Cranmer's prophesy. "An aged princess!" "But she must die!" Shakspere must indeed have been a bold man to have ventured upon such truths.

But let us yield the whole question of interpolation to those who assert that the Henry VIII. was written in the time of Elizabeth; and give up even the passage of the "aged princess." It is held that the play was written to please Elizabeth. The memory of Henry VIII., perhaps, was not cherished by her with any deep affection; but would she, who in her dying hour is reported to have said, "My seat has been the seat of kings," allow the frailties, and even the peculiarities, of her father to be made a public spectacle? Would she have borne that his passion for her mother should have been put forward in the strongest way by the poet-that is, in the sequence of the dramatic action-as the impelling motive for his divorce from Katharine? Would she have tolerated the masque-scene immediately succeeding that in which Katharine is told by her husband, "You have half our power?" Would she have endured that her father, upon his next appearance after the meeting with Anne Bullen, when he exclaims,


"The fairest hand I ever touch d! O beauty,

Till now I never knew thee!"

"By heaven she is a dainty one! Sweetheart,

I were unmannerly to take you out,
And not to kiss you"-

that he should be represented in the depth of his hypocrisy gloating over his projected divorce, with,

"But conscience, conscience,

O! 't is a tender place, and I must leave her ?”

Would she have been pleased with the jests of the old lady to Anne upon her approaching elevation—her title-her "thousand pound a-year"—and all to be instantly followed by the trial-scene,— that magnificent exhibition of the purity, the constancy, the fortitude, the grandeur of soul, the self-possession, of the "most poor woman and a stranger" that her mother had supplanted; contrasted with the heartless coldness, salved over with a more heartless commendation of his injured wife, from the hypocritical tyrant, who ends the defence of his conduct, expressed in

"the sharp thorny points

Of my alleged reasons drive this forward,"

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