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Matrimonial Epistle.

farcy and great running sores in his legs. God have you in keeping. Written at Norwich, on Saint Thomas' Even, in great haste, by your mother, AGNES PASTON.

NORWICH, Friday, 6th of July 1453.


HASTINGS, ETC. THE LORD GREY,-Right worshipful and my right good Lord, I recommend me to your good Lordship, and whereas it pleased your Lordship to direct your letter to me for a marriage for my poor sister to a gentleman of your knowledge of 300 marks livelihood, in case she were not married ; wherefore I am greatly bound to do your Lordship service ; forsooth, my Lord, she is not married, nor insured to no man ; there is and hath been divers times of late, communication of such marriages with divers gentlemen, not determined as yet, and whether the gentleman that your Lordship meaneth be one of them or nay, I doubt; and whereas your said letter specifieth that I should send you word whether I thought you should labour farther in the matter or nay.

In that, my Lord, I dare not presume to write so to you without I knew the gentleman's name; notwithstanding, my Lord, I shall take upon me, with the advice of other of her friends, that she shall neither be married nor insured to no creature, nor farther proceed in no such matter, before the feast of the Assumption of our Lady next coming, during which time your Lordship may send me, if it please you, certain information of the said gentleman's name, and of the place and country where his livelihood lieth, and whether he hath any children ; and after I shall demean me in the matter as your Lordship shall be pleased ; for in good faith, my Lord, it were to me great joy that my said poor sister were, according to her poo

Howell and Garrard.


degree, married by your advice. Trusting, then, that ye would be her good lord, right worshipful and my right good Lord, I beseech Almighty God to have you in his keeping. Written at Norwich the 15th day of July.

NORWICH, Monday, 15th of July 1454.

Another early English collection of familiar letters is the correspondence of James Howell, who flourished during the first half of the seventeenth century. It affords abundant evidence of the ability and intelligence of the writer, and contains some very graphic descriptions of the historical events and personages of that eventful period. Towards the middle of the same century, we have a series of letters addressed by the Reverend George Garrard to Sir Thomas Wentworth, Lord Deputy of Ireland. They are to be found among a mass of public despatches in two bulky folios devoted to the life of Lord Strafford, and are described by Mr. Charles Knight as some of the most gossiping, and therefore amusing letters in our language.'

Probably one of the most affecting effusions ever penned is poor Anne Boleyn's last letter to her capricious lord and master, embracing, as it does—to use the language of Addison—the expostulations of a slighted


Anne Boleyn's last Letter

lover, the resentments of an injured woman, and the sorrows of an imprisoned queen :'

SIR, Your Grace's displeasure, and my imprisonment, are things so strange unto me, as what to write, or what to excuse, I am altogether ignorant. Whereas you send unto me (willing me to confess a truth, and so obtain your favour) by such an one, whom you know to be mine ancient professed enemy, I no sooner received this message by him, than I rightly conceived your meaning ; and if, as you say, confessing a truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all willingness and duty perform your command.

* But let not your Grace ever imagine, that your poor wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a fault, where not so much as a thought thereof preceded. And to speak a truth, never Prince had wife more loyal in all duty, and in all true affection, than you have ever found in Ann Boleyn ; with which name and place I could willingly have contented myself, if God and your Grace's pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forget myself in my exaltation or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an alteration as I now find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer foundation than your Grace's fancy, the least alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that fancy to some other object. You have chosen me, from a low estate, to be your queen and companion, far beyond my desert or desire. If, then, you found me worthy of such honour, good your Grace, let not any light fancy, or bad counsel of mine enemies, withdraw your princely favour from me; neither let that stain, that unworthy stain, of a disloyal heart towards your good Grace, ever cast so foul a blot on your most dutiful wife, and the Infant-Princess your daughter. Try me, good King, but let me have a

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to King Henry VIII.


lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and judges ; yea, let me receive an open trial, for my truth shall fear no open shame; then shall you see either mine innocence cleared, your suspicion and conscience satisfied, the ignominy and slander of the world stopped, or my guilt openly declared. So that whatsoever God or you may determine of me, your Grace may be freed from an open censure, and mine offence being so lawfully proved, your Grace is at liberty, both before God and man, not only to execute worthy punishment on me as an unlawful wife, but to follow your affection, already settled on that party for whose sake I am now as I am, whose name I could some good while since have pointed unto, your Grace not being ignorant of my suspicion therein.

‘But if you have already determined of me, and that not only my death, but an infamous slander must bring you the enjoying of your desired happiness; then I desire of God, that he will pardon your great sin therein, and likewise mine enemies, the instruments thereof, and that he will not call you to a strict account for your unprincely and cruel usage of me, at his general judgment-seat, where both you and myself must shortly appear, and in whose judgment I doubt not (whatsoever the world may think of me) mine innocence shall be openly known and sufficiently cleared.

My last and only request shall be, that myself may only bear the burden of your Grace's displeasure, and that it may not touch the innocent souls of those poor gentlemen who (as I understand) are likewise in strait imprisonment for my sake. If ever I have found favour in your sight, if ever the name of Ann Boleyn hath been pleasing in your ears, then let me obtain this request, and I will so leave to trouble your Grace any further, with mine earnest prayers to the Trinity to have your



Sixteenth Century Letters.

Grace in his good keeping, and to direct you in all your actions. From my doleful prison in the Tower, this sixth of May.--Your most loyal and ever faithful wife,


About twenty years ago, an interesting collection of Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain was published, at the suggestion of Sir Thomas Phillips, by Mary Ann Everett Wood. It contains no fewer than 442 epistles, of which nearly 400 belong to the sixteenth century. The earliest of the remainder is a letter addressed by Matilda of Scotland, Queen of Henry I., to Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, about the year 1103, and commences with these words :—' To her piously remembered father and worthily reverenced lord, Anselm the Archbishop, Matilda, by the grace of God Queen of England, the least of the handmaidens of his holiness, wishes perpetual health in Christ.'

Certain well-known letters of the Earl of Essex (temp. Elizabeth), Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Strafford, and the Earl of Derby (of the time of the Commonwealth), are remarkable for their vigorous and independent tone ; while, at a later period, the correspondence of Lady

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