Page images


foundation and an increasing credibility to every sinister tradition or calumny that was invented or reported about him.

It seemed to me that more just and probable views ought to be taken of his character, for the right understanding of this portion of our history, as well as to have a true idea of what he really

This might be accomplished by displaying the motives of his conduct, and the embarrassments, dangers, and necessities with which he was surrounded, and by which he was entangled; and also by delineating his thoughts and feelings as they successively occurred to him; and by tracing and drawing out his more genuine spirit, passions, and ambitious temperament.

Such contemplations would furnish intelligible perception, how such a prince, at that day, accustomed to such a court and society, and advancing national mind, under Edward IV., could have been led to the outrages which he committed : or could have prevailed on himself to perpetrate them under any pressure of events, or from any instigations of others. They would also explain why any noblemen and gentlemen


more en

about him, even parliament itself, should have urged or sanctioned much of what he did.

Several ideas on these interesting points then occurred to me, with a strong impulse to attempt the delineation. I penned down some sketches of these at the moment as they arose, and these became the GERM of the following work.

At that time my occasional leisure was grossed by the history of the Anglo-Saxons, and more particularly by Alfred the Great; whose actions, studies, compositions, and character, had not been sufficiently nor satisfactorily elucidated Here was also a prominent personage in our English annals, who deserved a more minute and extensive investigation. To this theme I devoted my chief attention, and had not then any definite expectation or intention of proceeding with my inquiries into the middle or feudal ages of British history. But amid this occupation of my hours of study, the life and character of Richard III. still pressed on my imagination and feelings ; and while the successive impressions lasted, I indulged in such thoughts and views which the favourite subject naturally, and I thought reason

ably, suggested. Thus gradually from my twentyfourth year to my seventieth, at various intervals, as the inclination or impulse affected my mind, the present work has been progressively formed, until at length it became a regular story, corresponding with this proverbed king's real history, or rather biography, as far as from the authentic materials I was able to conceive it.

The question at first arose, in what mode of composition it should be framed

-a prose romance or a poem. But as I had for my intellectual improvement practised myself in easy versification, I felt that I could condense the ideas which arose, and more effectually express them, in verse than in prose; which requires a greater diffusion of language, and would therefore often weaken the sentiments or impressions that I desired to convey, and be likewise more tedious or indifferent to the reader. The same

reasons led me to rhime instead of blank verse, though not as preferring the one to the depreciation of the other, for I equally admire and am delighted with both. Shakspeare, Milton, Thomson, Akenside, Young, Cowper, and Wordsworth in his “Excursion,” are as agreeable and interesting in their blank verse to me, as Spenser, Dryden, Pope, Collins, Campbell, Rogers, Sir Walter Scott, and other poets are in their mellifluous rhime. In poetry, as in music, it is wise and right to cultivate a taste for all the various beauties of its different styles and compositions. If we do not, the exclusion of any becomes an habitual prejudice of that kind, and lessens the extent of our attainable gratifications.

As the main object of the poem is to portray the natural feelings and the natural thoughts of the characters introduced, as they acted on them, the ease and melody of Oliver Goldsmith's poetry, and the pleasure I have derived from it, have induced me to wish to resemble, as much as my ability would permit, his natural, musical, and unlaboured style. This was more suited to my powers than Pope's stately, elaborate, and elegant, but too uniform, versification.

In the history of Richard's reign, as part of the middle age of my English history, I have stated all the authentic facts which I could collect from the ancient records and MSS. that I was able to consult; but was necessarily limited there to such


exact and impartial reasonings and inferences concerning them careful deduction could supply. All additions beyond accurate conclusions from the ascertained incidents would have been unsuited to history. It was only in an imaginative work that I could take greater liberties, and, while adhering to the decided outlines of his genuine actions, endeavour to portray such a man and prince in that personal representation of him which I desired to delineate, as a probable picture of the extraordinary reality.

Such a work would allow me to display him thinking as well as acting, and thus enable me to make him in his soliloquies, and in his conferences with others, state his various and varying motives, feelings, reasonings, impulses, and excitations, on which he proceeded successively, step by step, to perform those revolting deeds, which have made his name and reign so lamentably distinguished in the regal annals of our country.

This poem may therefore be considered as an appendage to his real history, by endeavouring to illustrate and explain more completely the transactions which actually took place. It is designed

« PreviousContinue »