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THE EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON.
When the pensive mind contemplates the interesting history of the times of Shakespeare, and seeks for records of events connected with that distinguished man, it is natural to entertain a feeling of attachment to the memory of those individuals who contributed to the personal comfort, and to the literary protection, of that pre-eminent genius. With this feeling, retrospection immediately signalizes Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, as an individual to whom England, in particular, and the world in general, are peculiarly indebted for his fostering patronage of that gifted child of nature.
There have been but few memoirs published of the lives of the illustrious men of those days; consequently, our knowledge of the private life of even so distinguished a character as the Earl of Southampton is but very scanty. We have traced some scattered anecdotes in various authors relative to him, and have deemed it best to present them as we have found them ; at the same time regretting that they do not enlighten us upon the literary intercourse that must have existed between this distinguished nobleman and his grateful protégé.
In the pages of Malone we find a brief but interesting notice of the Earl, which states that he was born on the 6th of October, 1573. His father died in 1581, when he was only eight years old. Being a youth of very quick parts, he was, at the age of twelve, admitted a student of St. John's College, Cambridge, where the eulogies of his contemporaries afford abundant reason for believing that he made great progress in his studies; in the course of four years he took his degree of
A.M., in the regular form, and in three years after he was admitted to the same degree at Oxford. After quitting the university, he studied the law in one of the Inns of Court (Gray's Inn or Lincoln's Inn); but he early adopted a military life, and joined the fortunes of the Earl of Essex, in 1596, and is said to have been in the battles fought against the Spanish Armada.
In 1597 he commanded a squadron of ships, with which he took, sunk, and dispersed, thirty-five sail of Spanish galleons, laden with treasure from Scuth America (through which he was probably greatly enriched).
In the same year Essex and Southampton, with a few English troops, took Villa Franca, in the island of St. Michael, at which attack Southampton behaved with such gallantry, that Essex knighted him in the field, ere (as it was observed at the time) “ that he could dry the sweat from his brows, or return his sword to the scabbard.”
In 1598 he attended Essex to Ireland, as general of the horse, where he again distinguished himself, against the rebels; but he was dismissed from his command by Elizabeth, who was offended at his having presumed to marry* without her consent.
Lord Southampton then withdrew from court; and at this period a circumstance is mentioned by a writer of that time, which accords with the received account of his acquaintance with, and of his admiration of, Shakespeare; for the writer (Rowland White) says, in a letter to Sir Robert Sidney, dated in the latter end of the year 1599,—“My Lord Southampton and Lord Rutland came not to court (at Nonsuch), the one doth very seldom ; they pass away the tyme in London, merely in going to plaies, every day.”*
* He married Miss Elizabeth Vernon, daughter of John Vernon, Esq., of Hednet, county of Salop. She was cousin to the Earl of Essex.
Lord Southampton having been implicated in the rebellion of the Earl of Essex, was with that nobleman committed to the Tower, and remained confined there after the decapitation of Essex until the death of the Queen ; he was much visited there, and six days after the Queen's demise (April 1, 1603), King James sent a letter for his release, and commanded him to meet his Majesty on his way to London : his attainder was immediately reversed, and he was installed a Knight of the Garter. In the same year he was made Governor of the Isle of Wight; in which office, says the historian of the island (Sir John Oglander), his just, affable, and obliging deportment gained him the love of all ranks of people, and raised the island to a most flourishing state, many gentlemen residing there in great affluence and hospitality.
In 1613 he took an excursion to Spa, being displeased at not having obtained a seat in the council ; and in 1614 he J oined the romantic Lord Herbert of Cherbury, at the siege of
Rees, in the Duchy of Cleves. He was made a privy councilLor in 1619.
On the rupture with Spain, in 1624, he was appointed, with Lords Oxford and Willoughby, and the young Earl of Essex, to the command of 6000 men in the Low Countries, under
* Paul Hentzner, who visited England in 1598, and wrote an account of his travels in Latin (which Horace Walpole translated), says (speaking of London),— without the city are some theatres, where English actors represent, almost every day, tragedies and comedies to very numerous audiences; these are concluded with excellent music, variety of dances, and the excessive applause of those that are present.” He then proceeds to give an account of the pastimes in the Bear Garden, p. 41.
Prince Maurice, but was cut off by a fever at Bergen-op-Zoom, on the 10th of November in that year.
Wilson, the historian, who attended the expedition, says, that both Lord Southampton and his son, Lord Wriothesley, were seized with fever at Rosendaell, where the son died, and Lord Southampton having recovered from the fever, left Rosendaell with the intention of bringing his son's body over to England : but at Bergen-op-Zoom he died of lethargy, from too copious bleeding, and that the two bodies were brought in the same vessel to Southampton, and were buried together at Titchfield, in Hampshire.
Of this amiable and accomplished nobleman there is an original portrait at Gorhambury, by Vansomer (as is supposed); another at Woburn Abbey, by Miervelt; and two in the possession of the Duke of Portland : one a wholelength, when he was a young man—the other a half-length, when he was a prisoner in the Tower. There exists, somewhere, a portrait of Lord Southampton on horseback, together with the Earl of Oxford, and, what is remarkable, Lord Southampton is painted with a jewel suspended from his left ear, without there being any historical notice of the reason of his wearing such a distinction ; but it is conceived that it was a present from the Queen, given when he enjoyed her Majesty's favour, and that the portrait was painted at that time.
HENRY WRIOTHESLEY, THIRD EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON,
The Patron of Shakespeare ;
RAPIN, HUME, HOWES, NICHOLLS, NICHOLAS, &c.,
Submitted with a view to stimulate a diligent and full inquiry into the life and times of that illustrious nobleman, particularly as connected with
our immortal poet.
FROM RAPIN. 1599. The Earl of Essex gave the command of the cavalry in
Ireland (1300 men) to his friend the Earl of Southampton, in opposition to the express commands of the Queen (Elizabeth), who was displeased with the Earl of Southampton for having married without her
consent. The Earl of Southampton accompanied Essex on his
return to England (without permission) to justify
himself to Elizabeth for his conduct in Ireland. 1622. January. The Earls of Oxford and Southampton were
committed to the Tower for having expressed themselves too freely, in the House of Lords, upon the subject of the royal prerogative.