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THE LADY ARABELLA.
WHAT chapter of romance equals, in interest and pathos, the mournful tale of Arabella Stuart-the highborn, the beautiful, and the accomplished? Deep, indeed, did the royal lady drink of the bitter cup of sadness, and most melancholy was her untimely end; still her purity-her tender and devoted affection-form the one bright spot amid the dreary waste of profligacy, and heartlessness, that characterized the reign of the first James. On that purity and that devotion, memory loves to dwell; but the heart turns, with sorrow and indignation, from the unmanly cruelty which destroyed the fairest and sweetest flower that ever bloomed in the atmosphere of a court. The sufferings of Arabella Stuart stand upon the page of history, the damning blot on the fame of the monarch, her kinsman and her king, by whom they were caused.
Her story has been often and gracefully related. D'Israeli devotes to it some of the most enchanting pages of the Curiosities of Literature: Miss Aikin, in her "Court of James the First," narrates, but with less kindness, the same pathetic episode; and, still more recently, the gifted author of Darnley, a writer whose brilliant fictions may range, not unworthily, with the Waverley Novels, has thrown the halo of his genius around the blighted hope and broken heart of the
ill-fated lady. Nevertheless, the biographer has no slight difficulty in following the thread of her story, and must, in the absence of history's unerring rays, rest satisfied with the dim light of tradition. The lady's whole domestic life is veiled in obscurity, and its incidents are uncertain and contradictory. Even her pretensions to beauty admit of question; and her very portrait, ambiguous as her life, is insufficient to dispel the doubt. "She is said," remarks D'Israeli," to have been a poetess, and not a single verse substantiates her claim to the laurel. She is said not to have been remarkable for her intellectual accomplishments, yet I found a Latin letter of her composition in her manuscripts. The materials of her life are so scanty, that it cannot be written; and yet we have sufficient reason to believe that it would be as pathetic as it would be extraordinary, could we narrate its involved incidents, and paint forth her delirious feelings."
Arabella Stuart was daughter and heiress of Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, younger brother of Henry, Lord Darnley, consort of Mary, Queen of Scots; and in right of her grandmother, Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of the Queen Dowager of France, and niece of King Henry the Eighth, stood in close proximity to the throne-too close, unhappily, for her peace and prosperity. "Her griefs were deepened by their royalty, and her adventures, touched with the warm hues of love and distraction, closed at the bars of her prison grate—a sad example of a female victim to the state!"
Her double connexion with the blood royal was equally obnoxious to the jealousy of Elizabeth and the timidity of James; and they secretly dreaded the supposed danger of her having a legitimate offspring. Yet we find the Scottish Monarch, at one time, not unwil ling to wed his fair cousin to Lord Esme Stuart, whom
he had created Duke of Lennox. The bans, however, were forbidden by the English Queen, and the luckless maiden consigned to prison. The hand of the lady remained not long unsought: a curious project of the Pope's, favoured, it is said, by Henry the Great, of France, was to marry her to a brother of the Duke of Parma-to set aside James from the succession, and to place the Lady Arabella on the throne. Another as
pirant was a son of the illustrious house of Percy; and a fourth, no less a personage than the King of Poland. But to the fair maiden herself, crowns and husbands were like a fairy banquet seen at moonlight-opening on her sight; impalpable and vanishing at the moment of approach.
"Arabella Stuart," (we quote from Mr. James's Romance), "fancied herself in no degree ambitious. She had seen princes at her feet, without estimating them in the least by the crowns they offered, or the territories they possessed. She had willingly seen the proposals of some of the highest men in Europe rejected by those who ruled her fate; and yet she was, perhaps, the most ambitious person that it is possible to conceive: for she sought to obtain that which is most difficult for any human being to gain-especially of royal blood. The object of her ambition was happiness!—that glorious crown which all the jewels of the world cannot enrich, which, studded with the diamonds of the heart, can receive no additional lustre from such paltry things as power, or wealth, or station."
Her pursuit, however, was fruitless. The King, from political motives, invariably rejected all matrimonial offers made to his kinswoman; the Lady Arabella submitting with ill grace to this species of tyranny. Every noble youth who sighed for distinction ambitioned her notice; and she was frequently contriving a marriage
for herself. At length, undeterred by a censure passed on her a short time previously, for listening to a clandestine proposal, she ventured to receive similar overtures from William Seymour, second son of Lord Beauchamp, and grandson of the Earl of Hertford; on discovery of which both parties were summoned before the Privy Council and reprimanded.
To the King's prohibition Seymour submitted. "But love" (continues D'Israeli) "love laughs at Privy Councils, and the grave promises made by two frightened lovers." The parties were secretly married in 1610, and the contract came to the knowledge of the King in the July of the following year. They were then separately confined: Arabella at the house of Sir Thomas Parry, at Lambeth, and the bridegroom in the Tower, for "his contempt in marrying a lady of the Royal Family without the King's leave."
Their imprisonment, however, does not seem to have been very close or rigorous. The lovers suffered no personal restraint, and soon opened an intercourse of letters. One of these love epistles, exquisite in feeling, and not inelegant in style, is still preserved among the treasures of the Harleian Collection. We cannot refrain from giving it entire :—
The Lady Arabella to Mr. William Seymour.
"Sir, I am exceedingly sorry to hear you have not been well. I pray you, let me know truly how you do, and what was the cause of it. I am not satisfied with the reason Smith gives for it; but if it be a cold, I will impute it to some sympathy betwixt us, having myself gotten a swollen cheek at the same time with a cold. For God's sake, let not your grief of mind work upon your body. You may see by me what inconveniences it
will bring one to; and no fortune, I assure you, daunts me so much as that weakness of body I find in myself; for, si nous vivons l'age d'un veau, as Smart says, we may, by God's grace, be happier than we look for, in being suffered to enjoy ourself with his majesty's favour. But if we be not able to live to it, I, for my part, shall think myself a pattern of misfortune, in enjoying so great a blessing as you, so little a while. No separation but that deprives me of the comfort of you. For wheresoever you be, or in what state soever you are, it sufficeth me that you are mine! 'Rachel wept, and would not be comforted, because her children were no more.' And that, indeed, is the remediless sorrow, and none else! And, therefore, God bless us from that, and I will hope well of the rest, though I see no apparent hope. But I am sure, God's book mentioneth many of his children in as great distress, that have done well after, even in this world! I do assure you, nothing the state can do with me can trouble me so much, as this news of your being ill doth; and you see, when I am troubled I trouble you, too, with tedious kindness; for so I think you will account so long a letter, yourself not having written to me this good while so much as how you do. But, sweet sir, I speak not this to trouble you with writing but when you please. Be well, and I shall account myself happy in being
"Your faithful, loving wife,
66 ARB. S."
Thus far we have endeavoured to afford a sketch of the Lady Arabella, and we are almost tempted by the romance, which is inseparable from the mournful tale, to complete the outline. There is, however, a charm-a freshness in contemporaneous description, that more than