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EARL OF HENRY HOWARD SURREY (1518?-1547)

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Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 139 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EARL OF HENRY HOWARD SURREY (1518?-1547), English poet, son of Lord Thomas Howard, afterwards 3rd duke of Norfolk, and his wife Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of the duke of Buckingham, was born probably in 15181 He succeeded to the courtesy title of earl of Surrey in 1524, when his father became duke of Norfolk. His early years were spent in the various houses belonging to the Howards, chiefly at Kenning-hall, Norfolk. He had as tutor John Clerke, who, beside instructing him in the classics, inculcated a great admiration for Italian literature. The duke of Norfolk was proud of his son's attainments (Chapuys to the emperor, December 9; 1529). The duke was governor of Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond, the natural son of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth Blount. Surrey was a little more than a year older than Fitzroy, and became his companion and friend. Fitzroy was at Windsor from 1 530 to 1532, and it must be to these years that Surrey refers in the lines written in prison at Windsor, " where I, in lust and joy, with a king's son, my childish years did pass." Anne Boleyn tried to arrange a marriage between the princess Mary and her kinsman, Surrey. The Spanish ambassador, in the hope of detaching the duke of Norfolk's interest from Anne Boleyn in favour of Catherine 1 The only authority for the date of his birth is the legend Sat. superest. Aetatis XXIX. on a portrait of Henry Howard at Arundel Castle.of Aragon, seems to have been inclined to favour the project; but Anne changed her mind, and as early as October 1530 arranged a marriage for Surrey with Lady Frances de Vere,. daughter of the 15th earl of Oxford. This was concluded at the earliest possible date, in February 1532, but in consequence of the extreme youth of the contracting parties, Frances did not join her husband until 1535. In October Surrey accompanied Henry VIII. to Boulogne to meet Francis I., and, rejoining the duke of Richmond at Calais, he proceeded with him to the French court, where the two Englishmen were lodged with the French royal princes. Surrey created for himself a reputation for wisdom, soberness and good learning, which seems curious in view of the events of his later life. Meanwhile in spite of his marriage with Frances de Vere, the project of a contract between him and the princess Mary was revived in a correspondence between Pope Clement VII. and the emperor Charles V., but definitely rejected by the latter. Surrey only returned to England in the autumn of 1533, when the duke of Richmond was recalled to marry his friend's sister, Mary Howard. Surrey made his home at his father's house of Kenning-hall, and here was a witness of the final separation between his parents, due to the duke's relations with Elizabeth Holland, who had been employed in the Howards' nursery. Surrey took his father's side in the family disputes, and remained at Kenning-hall, where his wife joined him in 1535. In May 1536 he filled his father's functions of earl marshal at the trial of his cousins Anne Boleyn and Lord Rochford. In the autumn of that year he took part with his father in the bloodless campaign against the rebels in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, in the " Pilgrimage of Grace." Although he had supported the royal cause, insinuations were made that he secretly favoured the insurgents. Hasty in temper, and by no means friendly to the Seymour faction at court, he struck a man who repeated the accusation in the park at Hampton Court. For breaking the peace in the king's domain he was arrested (1537), but thanks to Cromwell, who had yielded to the petition of the young man's father, he was not compelled to appear before the privy council, but was merely sent to reside for a time at Windsor. During this imprisonment and the subsequent retirement at Kenninghall, he had leisure to devote himself to poetry. In 1539 he was again received into favour. In May 1540 he was one of the champions in the jousts celebrated at court. The fall of Thomas Cromwell a month later increased the power of the Howards, and in August Henry VIII. married Surrey's cousin, Catherine Howard. Surrey was knighted early in 1541, and soon after he received the order of the Garter, was made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and, in con-junction with his father, grand seneschal of the university of Cambridge. He apparently preserved the royal favour after the execution of Catherine Howard (at which he was present), for in December 1541 he received the grant of certain manors in Norfolk and Suffolk. In 1542 he was imprisoned in the Fleet for a quarrel with a certain John Leigh, but on appeal to the privy council he was sent to Windsor Castle, and, after being bound over to keep the peace with John Leigh under a penalty of 1o,000 marks, he was soon liberated. Shortly after his release he joined his father on the Scottish expedition. They laid waste the country, but retreated before the earl of Huntly, taking no part in the victorious operations that led up to Solway Moss. To this year no doubt belong the poems in memory of Sir Thomas Wyat. His ties with Wyat, who was fifteen years his elder and of opposite politics, seem to have been rather literary than personal. He appears to have entered into closer relations with the younger Wyat. In company with " Mr Wyat," he amused himself by breaking the windows of the citizens of London on the 2nd of February 1543. For this he was accused by the privy council, a second charge being that he had eaten meat in Lent. In prison probably he wrote the satire on the city of London, in which he explains his escapade by a desire to rouse Londoners to a sense of their wickedness. In October he joined the English army co-operating with the imperial forces in Flanders, and on his return in the next month brought with him a letter of high commendation from Charles V. In the campaign of the next year he served as field marshal under his father, and took part in the unsuccessful siege of Montreuil. In August 1J45 he was sent to the relief of Edward Poynings, then in command of Boulogne, and was made lieutenant-general of the English possessions on the Continent and governor of Boulogne. Here he gained considerable successes, and insisted on the retention of the town in spite of the desire of the privy council that it should be surrendered to France. A reverse on the 7th of January at St Etienne was followed by a period of inaction, and in March Surrey was recalled. Surrey had always been an enemy to the Seymours, whom he regarded as upstarts, and when his sister, the duchess of Richmond, seemed disposed to accept a marriage with Sir Thomas Seymour, he wrote to her insinuating that this was a step to-wards becoming the mistress of Henry VIII. By his action in thwarting this plan he increased the enmity of the Seymours and added his sister to the already long list of the enemies which he had made by his haughty manner and brutal frankness. He was now accused of quartering with his own the arms of Edward the Confessor, a proceeding which, it was alleged, was only permissible for the heir to the crown. The details of this accusation were false; moreover, Surrey had long quartered the royal arms with his own without offence. The charge was a pretext covering graver suspicions. Surrey had asserted in the presence of a certain George Blage, who was inclined to the reforming movement, that on Henry's death, his father, the duke of Nor folk, as the premier duke in England, had the obvious right of acting as regent to Prince Edward. He also boasted of what he would do when his father had attained that position. All of this was construed into a plot on the part of his father and himself to murder the king and the prince. The duke of Norfolk and his son were sent to the Tower on the 12th of December 1J46. Every effort was made to secure evidence. The duchess of Richmond was one of the witnesses (see her depositions in Herbert of Cherbury, Life and Reign of Henry VIII., 1649) against her brother, but her statements were too doubtful to add anything to the formal indictment. On the 13th of January 1547 Surrey defended himself at the guildhall on the charge of high treason for having illegally made use of the arms of Edward the Confessor, before judges selected for their known hatred of himself. He was condemned by a jury, packed for the occasion, to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. This sentence was not carried out. Surrey was beheaded on Tower Hill on the ,9th of the month, and was buried in the church of All Saints, Barking. His remains were afterwards removed by his son the earl of Northampton to Framlingham, Suffolk. His father, who was charged with complicity in his son's crime, was, as a peer of the realm, not amenable to a common jury. The consequent delay saved his life. He was imprisoned during the whole of the reign of Edward VI., but on Mary's accession he was set free, by an act which also assured the right of the Howards, as descendants of the Mowbray family, to bear the arms of the Confessor. Surrey's name has been long connected with the " Fair Geraldine," to whom his love poems were supposed to be addressed. The story is founded on the romantic fiction of Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller , or Life of Jack Wilton (1594), according to which Surrey saw in a magic glass in the Netherlands the face of Geraldine, and then travelled throughout Europe challenging all corners to deny in full field the charms of the lady. At Florence he held a tournament in her honour, and was to do the same in other Italian cities when he was recalled by order of Henry VIII. The legend, deprived of its more glaring discrepancies with Surrey's life, was revived in Michael Drayton's Englands Heroicall Epistles (1598). Geraldine was the daughter of the earl of Kildare, Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, who was brought up at the English court in company with the princess Elizabeth (see James Graves, a Brief Memoir of Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, 1874). She was ten years old when in 1537 Surrey addressed to her the sonnet " From Tuskane came my ladies worthy race," and nothing more than a passing admiration of the child and an imaginative anticipation of her beauty can be attributed to Surrey. " A Song ... to a ladie that refused to daunce with him," is addressed to Lady Hertford, wife of his bitter enemy, and the two poems, " 0 happy dames " and " Good ladies, ye that have your pleasures in exile," are addressed to his wife, to whom, at any rate in his later years, he seems to have been sincerely attached. His poems, which were the occupation of the leisure moments ofhis short and crowded life, were first printed in Songs and Sonettes written by the ryght honorable Lorde Henry Howard late Earle of Surrey, and other (apud Richardum Tottel, 1557). A second edition followed in July 1557, and others in 1559, 1565, 1567, 1574, 1585 and 1587. Although Surrey's name, probably because of his rank, stands first on the title-page, Wyat was the earlier in point of time of Henry's " courtly makers." Surrey, indeed, expressly acknowledges Wyat as his master in poetry. As their poems appeared in one volume, long after the death of both, their names will always be closely associated. Wyat possessed strong individuality, which found expression in rugged, forceful verse. Surrey's contributions are distinguished by their impetuous eloquence and sweetness. He revived the principles of Chaucer's versification, which his predecessors had failed to grasp, perhaps because the value of the final e was lost. He introduced new smoothness and fluency into English verse. He never allowed the accent to fall on a weak syllable, nor did he permit weak syllables as rhymes. His chief innovation as a metrician lies outside the Miscellany. His translation of the second and fourth books of the Aeneid into blank verse—the first attempt at blank verse in English—was published separately by Tottel in the same year with the title of Certain Bokes of Virgiles Aeneis turned into English meter. It has been suggested that in this matter Surrey was influenced by the translation of Virgil published at Venice by Ippolito de' Medici in 1541, but there is no direct evidence that such was the case. His sonnets are in various schemes of verse, and are less correct in form and more loosely constructed than those of Wyat. They commonly consist of three quatrains with independent rhymes, terminating with a rhyming couplet. But his sonnets, his elegy on the death of Wyat, his lover's complaint cast in pastoral form, and his lyrics in various measures, served as models to more than one generation of court poets. Both in form and substance Surrey and his fellow poets were largely indebted to Italian predecessors; most of his poems are in fact adaptations from Italian originals. The tone of the love sentiment was new in English poetry, very different in its earnestness, passion and fantastic extravagance from the lightness and gaiety of the Chaucerian school. See Professor E. Arber's reprint of Songs and Sonettes (English Reprints, 1870) the Roxburghe Club reprint of Certain Bokes of Virgiles Aeneis (1814); Dr G. F. Nott, The Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (,815) ; and The Poetical Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (Aldine edition, i866). The best account of Surrey's life is in Edmond Bapst's Deux Gentilhommes-poctes de la tour de Henry VIII. (1891), which rectifies Dr Nott's memoir in many points. See also Brewer and Gairdner, Letters and State Papers of Henry VIII. ; Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Life and Raigne of Kinge Henry the Eighth (1649); J. A, Froude, History of England (chs. xxi. and xxii.); W. J. Courthope, History of English Poetry (1897), vol. ii. ch. iii., where the extent and value of Surrey's innovations in English poetry are estimated; F. M. Padelford, The MS. Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1906);0. Fest, "Uber Surreys Virgilubersetzung," in Palastra, vol. xxxiv. (Berlin, 1903).
End of Article: EARL OF HENRY HOWARD SURREY (1518?-1547)
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