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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Owing to their allusions and antitheses


Not

that Queen Mary by this fully acquiesced in what had happened, or recognised the state of affairs in Scotland. She even now confirmed neither the treaty of Edinburgh, nor the resolutions of Parliament based on it: but in the first place took possession of her throne, reserving her dynastic rights.

A sight without a parallel, these two Queens in Albion, haughty and wondrous creatures of nature and circumstances!

They were both of high mental culture. From Mary we have French poems, of a truth of feeling and a simplicity of language, which were then rare in literature. Her letters are fresh and eloquent effusions of momentary moods and wishes: they impress us even if we know that they are not exactly true. She has pleasure in lively discussion, in which she willingly takes a playful, sometimes a familiar, tone; but always shows herself equal to the subject. From Elizabeth also we have some lines in verse, not exactly of a poetic strain, not very harmonious in expression, but full of high thoughts and resolves. Her letters are skilful but, owing to their allusions and antitheses, far from perspicuous products of reflection, although succinct and rich in matter. She was acquainted with the learned languages, had studied the ancient classics and translated one or two, had read much of the church-fathers: in her expressions there sometimes appears an insight into the inner connexion between history and ideas, which

fills us with astonishment. In conversation she tried above all things to produce a sense of her gifts and accomplishments. She shone through a combination of grandeur and condescension which appeared like grace and sweetness, and sometimes awakened a personal homage, for which in the depths of her soul she cherished a longing. She did but toy with such feelings, to Mary they were a reality. Mary possessed that natural power of womanly charm which awakens strong, even if not lasting, passion. Her personal life fluctuates between the wish to find a husband who could advance her interests and those passionate ebullitions by which she is also herself overpowered. This however does not hinder her from devoting all her attention to the business of government. Both Queens work with like zeal in their Privy Council: and they only deliberate with men of intimate trust; the resolutions which are adopted are always their own. Elizabeth yields more to the wisdom of tried councillors, though even these are not sure of her favour for a moment, and have a hard place of it with her. Mary fluctuates between full devotion and passionate hate: she is almost always swayed by an unlimited confidence in the man who meets her wishes. Elizabeth lets things come to her: Mary is ever restless and enterprising.[205] Elizabeth appeared once in the field, to animate the courage of her troops in a great peril. Mary took a personal share in the local Scottish feuds: she was seen riding at the head of a small feudal army against the enemy, with pistols at her saddle-bow.

But we here discontinue this representation of the antitheses of character between them, which first acquired historical import through the differences of position in which the two sovereigns found themselves.


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