« PreviousContinue »
me for my bed but a little pad of straw, and a rotten covering, with a tick and a few feathers therein, the chamber being vile and stinking, until by God's means good people sent me bedding to lie in. Of the one side of which prison is the sink and filth of the house, and on the other side the town ditch, so that the stench of the house hath infected me with sundry diseases. During which time I have been sick, and the doors, hasps, and chains being all closed, and made fast upon me, I have mourned, called, and cried for help; but the warden, when he hath known me many times ready to die, and when the poor men of the wards have called to help me, hath commanded the doors to be kept fast, and charged that none of his men should come at me, saying, 'Let him alone, it were a good riddance of him. And amongst many other times, he did thus the 18th of October 1553, as many are witness. I paid always like a baron to the said warden, as well in fees as for my board, which was twenty shillings a week, besides my man's table, until I was wrongfully deprived of my bishoprick, and since that time I have paid him as the best gentleman doth in his house; yet hath he used me worse, and more vilely than the veriest slave that ever came to the hall commons. The said warden hath also imprisoned my man, William Downton, and stripped him out of his clothes to search for letters, and could find none, but only a little remembrance of good people's names that gave me their alms to relieve me in prison : and to undo them also, the warden delivered the same bill unto the said Stephen Gardiner, God's enemy and mine. I have suffered imprisonment almost eighteen months; my goods, living, friends, and comfort taken from me; the Queen owing me by just account eighty pounds or more: she hath put me in prison, and giveth nothing to find me; neither is there any suffered to come at me, whereby I might have relief. I am with a wicked man and woman, so that I see no remedy (saving God's help), but I shall be cast away in prison before I come to judgment. But I commit my just cause to God, whose will be done, whether it be life or death.” This exemplary prelate remained a prisoner in the Fleet till his removal to Gloucester, the principal town of his diocese, where he suffered martyrdom by being burnt in a slow fire, on the 9th of February 1554--5.
The pious poet and divine, Dr. Donne, was for some time a prisoner in the Fleet. The circumstances connected with his incarceration almost verge on the romantic. After having accompanied the Earl of Essex in his expeditions against Cadiz and the Azores, and after travelling for some time in Italy and Spain, he obtained the appointment of Secretary to Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, in whose family he lived contentedly for five years.
At the table of his patron he constantly met a beautiful girl, the daughter of Sir George More,-Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, and Lieutenant of the Tower,and niece to Lady Ellesmere, who had brought her up under her own roof. Between this young lady and
the Secretary there sprung up a mutual attachment, of which Sir George More having obtained some suspicion, he removed his daughter in all haste to his own house at Lothesley, in the county of Surrey. The lovers, however, had solemnly plighted their troth; they found means to correspond with each other; and an intimate friend of Donne, the Rev. Samuel Brooke, who had been his fellow-student at Cambridge, was prevailed upon to unite them in a secret marriage.
The virtues and talents of Donne had endeared him to Henry Percy, the “stout old Earl of Northumberland”-himself eminent as a philosopher and a mathematician. Their secret was confided to the old lord. Time had not yet hardened him against a sympathy for the temptations of youth: he conceived a deep interest in the lovers, and undertook the task of breaking the intelligence to, and softening the anger of, Sir George More. The latter, however, was inexorable ; and Lady Ellesmere being no less incensed, she insisted upon the Chancellor at once dismissing Donne from his post of Secretary. It was not without great reluctance that Lord Ellesmere yielded to his wife's entreaties.
• I part," he said, “ with a friend, and with such a secretary as is fitter to serve a King than a subject.” Sir George's anger was not satisfied till he had obtained the committal of his son-in-law to the Fleet Prison. Fortunately Donne obtained his release after a short durance, when, by the kindness and friendship of Sir Francis Wooley, he was enabled
to support his wife and young children, till the dawn of brighter days.
A still more romantic clandestine marriage, which led to the incarceration of one of the lovers in the Fleet, had occurred only a few years previously. The heroine of the tale was the Lady Mary Grey, youngest daughter of Henry Duke of Suffolk. She was fourth in descent from Elizabeth Woodville, the beautiful consort of Edward the Fourth; and great-grand-daughter of Henry the Seventh, by the marriage of her grand-father, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, to Mary Queen Dowager of France, daughter of King Henry. She was consequently first cousin to Queen Elizabeth. Before she had reached the age of womanhood, the Lady Mary had experienced more of misery than usually falls to the lot of humanity. As a child she had stood before the altar, at Durham House in the Strand, when her sister, Lady Jane Grey, had given her hand to Lord Guildford Dudley. Within less than two years, that sister and that brother-in-law died by the hands of the executioner; and eleven days afterwards her father perished by the same fate. She could hardly have attained her fifteenth year, when she suffered a fresh misfortune by the death of her mother. She had no brother, and her only surviving sister, Lady Katherine, had been four years a prisoner in the Tower, whither she had been committed by Queen Elizabeth for uniting herself to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, and where she died four years after the death of her mother. Finding herself alone in the world, moreover, exposed to numberless perils, more especially from the jealousy of Elizabeth, who hated her for her affinity to the throne,——the Lady Mary was induced to give her hand secretly to a private gentleman, Martin Keys, Serjeant-porter to the Queen. Keys was immediately arrested, and sent for a short time to the Fleet. His young wife survived his release but a short time. She died on the 20th of April 1578, and was buried near her mother in Westminster Abbey.
Henry the Seventh had two daughters. From the Princess Margaret is descended the present blood-royal of England; from the Pincess Mary, the present Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, who is also the representative of the ducal houses of Grey and Brandon. It is remarkable that the house of Chandos should owe their existence and their honours to a bribe by which their ancestor, Lord Hertford, obtained admission to his wife's apartments in the Tower. The result of their brief interview was the birth of a child. Elizabeth was in the highest degree exasperated, and such strict precautions were adopted for the future that they never met again. Lord Hertford was even heartlessly refused admittance to his wife when she was on her death-bed.
The Fleet prison is intimately associated with the misfortunes and mutilation of the acrimonious Puritan, William Prynne. In consequence of his libel on Henrietta Maria, in his famous “ Histrio