Page:The house of Cecil.djvu/31

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With the latter he was especially intimate, though Cheke was a few years his senior and was already a Fellow of St. John's College, with a great repu- tation as a Greek scholar. His father, Peter Cheke, had been esquire-bedell of the University, but his widow was left in poor circumstances and supported herself and her children by keeping a wine-shop in the town. Here it was that Cecil met and fell in love with Mary Cheke, the sister of his friend. Whether his father found out what was going on we cannot tell, but in May, 1541, after six years' residence, Cecil left the University without taking a degree and entered Gray's Inn. It is a reasonable inference that his father, who no doubt had more ambitious designs for his son, removed him from Cambridge prematurely on account of this unbecoming attachment. If so his efforts were in vain ; for in August, what is, so far as we know, the only romantic episode in the life of William Cecil, culminated in his marriage with Mary Cheke. We learn incidentally from a letter written many years later, that on this occasion he incurred his father's severe displeasure. 1 As to his studies at Gray's Inn, little is known, In view of his amazing industry throughout his life, it is hardly to be supposed that he was idle. Yet it is strange that in after years he is said to have specially commended the study of the com- mon law above all other learning, saying that " if he should begin again, he would follow that study " ; and his ignorance of law is confirmed by

1 Roger Alford to Cecil, April gth, 1553 (Hatfield MSS., I. 435). C. C

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