Two Famous Authors on Anne and Henry

 

Jane Austen ‘s Parody of Oliver Goldsmith, in her The History of England (1791), composed when Austen was 17:

“It would be an affront to my Readers were I to suppose that they were not as well acquainted with the particulars of [Henry VIII’s] reign as I am myself.  It will therefore be saving them the task of reading again what they have read before, and myself the trouble of writing what I do not perfectly recollect, by giving only a slight sketch of the principal Events which marked his reign. Among those may be ranked Cardinal Wolsey’s telling the father Abbott of Leicester Abbey that ‘he was come to lay his bones among them,’ the reformation in Reigion, and the King’s riding through the streets of London with Anna Bullen. It is however but Justice and my Duty to declare that this amiable Woman was entirely innocent of the Crimes with which she was accused, of which her Beauty, her Elegance, and her Sprightliness were sufficient proofs, not to mention her solemn protestations of Innocence, the weakness of the Charges against her, and the King’s Character, all of which add some confirmation, tho’ perhaps but slight ones when in comparison with those before alleged in her favor.  Tho’ I do not profess giving many dates, yet as I think it proper to give some and shall of course make choice of those which it is most necessary for the Reader to know, I think it right to inform him that her letter to the King was dated on the 6th of May.   The Crimes and Cruelties of this Prince, were too numerous to be mentioned, (as this history I trust has fully shown) and nothing can be said in his vindication, but that his abolishing Religious Houses and leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape/of England in general, which probably was a principal motive for his doing it, since otherwise why should a Man who was of no Religion himself be at so much trouble to abolish one which had for ages been established in the Kingdom.”

 

Jonathan Swift’s marginalia on Henry VIII, found hand-written in one of his books:

            “I wish he had been flayed, his skin stuffed and hanged upon a gibbet.  His bulky guts and flesh left to be devoured by birds and beasts for a warning to his successors forever.  Amen.”

 

 

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