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Henry of Monmouth, Volume 1 by James Endell Tyler

By a comparison either with Percy himself


in the structure

of our habitations, the nature of our clothing, our habits of cleanliness, our food, comparative moderation in the use of inebriating liquors, with many other causes of health now believed to exist among us. To two causes of the average shortness of life, in operation through that range of years to which these Memoirs chiefly refer, the Author's mind has been especially drawn in the course of his researches: one of a political character,--in itself far more obvious, and chiefly affecting men; the other arising from habits of domestic life with regard to one of our institutions of all the most universally comprehensive,--a cause chiefly, but far from exclusively, affecting the life of females. The first cause, awful and appalling, is seen in the precarious tenure of human life, during the violence of those political struggles which deluged the whole land with blood. Those families seem to have been rare exceptions, of which no member forfeited his life on the scaffold or in the field; those houses were few which the scourge of civil or foreign wars passed over without
leaving one dead. The second cause is traced to the very early age at which marriages were then solemnized. The day of Nature's trial came before the constitution had gained strength for the struggle, and an awful proportion of females was thus prematurely hurried to the grave; whilst the offspring also shared in the weakness of the parent. Comparatively a small minority sunk by gradual and calm decay; in the case of very few could the comparison of Job's reprover be applied with truth, "Thou shalt come to the grave in full age, as a shock of corn cometh in his season."]

Though these facts prove that Shakspeare has spread through the (p. 350) world a most erroneous opinion of the relative ages and circumstances of Bolinbroke, Hotspur, and Henry of Monmouth,--a circumstance, (p. 351) indeed, in itself of no great importance,--the question on which we are engaged will be more immediately and strongly affected if it can be shown precisely, that at the very time when (according to the poet's representation) Henry IV. uttered this lamentation, expressive of deep present sorrow at the reckless misdoings of his son, and of anticipations of worse, that very son was doing his duty valiantly and mercifully in Wales.

On the lowest calculation, a full month before Mortimer's capture, the young royal warrior had scoured the whole country of Glyndwrdy in person, and had burnt two of Owyn's mansions; whilst the strong probability is, that he had headed his troops on that expedition more than a year before.

It is very remarkable (though Shakspeare doubtless never became acquainted with the circumstance) that the identical Percy whom he makes Henry IV. desire to have been his son, instead of his own Henry, bears ample testimony, at least a full year previously, to the valour and kind-heartedness of him on whose brow the poet makes his father lament "the stain of riot and dishonour."

Sir Edmund Mortimer was taken by Glyndowr at Melienydd in Radnor, June 12th, 1402; and, as early as the 3rd of May 1401, Percy wrote from Caernarvon to the council that North Wales was obedient to the law, except the rebels of Conway and Rees Castles, who were in the mountains, whom he expresses his expectation that the Prince of (p. 352) Wales would subdue. "These will be right well chastened," said he, "if God please, by the force and governance which my lord the Prince _has_ sent against them, as well of his council as of his retinue." In the same letter Hotspur informs the King's council that the commons of the counties of Caernarvon and Merioneth (who had come before him in the sessions which he was then holding as Chief Justice of North Wales) had humbly expressed their thanks to the Prince for the great pains of his kind good-will in endeavouring to obtain their pardon."[321] Henry Prince of Wales, whom the poet makes his father thus to disparage at the mere mention of Henry Percy's victory, would lose nothing in point of prowess, and generosity, and high-minded bearing, at this very early period of his youth, by a comparison either with Percy himself, or with any other of his contemporaries, whose names are recorded in history.


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