Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/109

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Sackville
Sackville
97

tended the grammar school of Sullington, Sussex, and in 1546 was nominated incumbent of the chantry in the church there, a post from which he derived an income of 3l. 16s. a year. There is no documentary corroboration of the reports that he was a member of Hart Hall at Oxford and of St. John's College, Cambridge. Subsequently he joined the Inner Temple, of which his father was governor, and he was called to the bar (Abbot, Funeral Sermon, 1608). In early youth he mainly devoted himself to literature. About 1557 he planned a poem on the model of Lydgate's ‘Fall of Princes.’ The poet was to describe his descent into the infernal regions after the manner of Virgil and Dante, and to recount the lives of those dwellers there who, having distinguished themselves in English history, had come to untimely ends. Sackville prepared a poetical preface which he called an ‘Induction.’ Here ‘Sorrow’ guides the narrator through Hades, and after the poet has held converse with the shades of the heroes of antiquity he meets the ghost of Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, who recites to him his tragic story. Sackville made no further contribution to the design, which he handed over to Richard Baldwin [q. v.] and George Ferrers [q. v.] They completed it—adopting Sackville's seven-line stanzas—under the title of ‘A Myrrovre for Magistrates, wherein may be seen by example of others, with howe grievous plages vices are punished, and howe frayle and unstable worldly prosperity is founde even of those whom fortune seemeth most highly to favour.’ A first volume was issued in 1559, and a second in 1563. Sackville's ‘Induction,’ though obviously designed to introduce the work, appears towards the end of the second volume. It is followed by his ‘Complaint of the Duke of Buckingham.’ These contributions give the volumes almost all their literary value. In dignified, forcible, and melodious expression Sackville's ‘Induction’ has no rival among the poems issued between Chaucer's ‘Canterbury Tales’ and Spenser's ‘Faërie Queene.’ Spenser acknowledged a large indebtedness to the ‘Induction,’ and he prefixed a sonnet to the ‘Faërie Queene’ (1590) commending the author—

Whose learned muse hath writ her own record
In golden verse, worthy immortal fame.

Other editions of the ‘Mirror’ are dated 1563, 1571, 1574, 1587, 1610, and 1815 [see art. Baldwyn, William; Blenerhasset, Thomas; Higgins, John; Niccols, Richard]. Of equal importance in literary history, if less interesting from the literary point of view, was Sackville's share in the production of the first English tragedy in blank verse, ‘The Tragedy of Gorboduc.’ It was first acted in the hall of the Inner Temple on Twelfth Night 1560–1. Sackville was alone responsible (according to the title-page of the first edition of 1565) for the last two acts. These are by far the ‘most vital’ parts of the piece, although Sackville's blank verse is invariably ‘stiff and cumbersome.’ There is no valid ground for crediting him with any larger responsibility for the undertaking. The first three acts were from the pen of a fellow student of the law, Thomas Norton [see art. Norton, Thomas, (1532–1584), for bibliography and plot of ‘Gorboduc’]. Sackville's remaining literary work is of comparatively little interest. Commendatory verses by him were prefixed to Sir Thomas Hoby's ‘Courtier,’ a translation of Castiglione's ‘Cortegiano,’ 1561, and he has been credited with a poem issued under the signature ‘M. S.’ in the ‘Paradise of Dainty Devices,’ 1576. That he wrote other poems that have not been identified is clear from Jasper Heywood's reference to ‘Sackvyles Sonnets, sweetly sauste,’ in his preface to his translation of Seneca's ‘Thyestes’ (1560). George Turberville declared him to be, in his opinion, superior to all contemporary poets. In his later years William Lambarde eulogised his literary efforts; and Bacon, when sending him a copy of his ‘Advancement of Learning,’ reminded him of his ‘first love.’ His chaplain, George Abbot, spoke in his funeral sermon of the ‘good tokens’ of his learning ‘in Latine published into the world;’ but the only trace of his latinity survives in a Latin letter prefixed to Bartholomew Clerke's Latin translation of Castiglione's ‘Cortegiano’ (1571). Literature was not the only art in which Sackville delighted. Music equally attracted him. Throughout life he entertained musicians ‘the most curious which anywhere he could have’ (Abbot). Among his other youthful interests was a zeal for freemasonry, and he became in 1561 a grand master of the order, whose headquarters were then at York. He resigned the office in 1567, but while grand master he is stated to have done the fraternity good service by initiating into its innocent secrets some royal officers who were sent to break up the grand lodge at York. Their report to the queen convinced her that the society was harmless, and it was not molested again (Dr. James Anderson, New Book of Constitutions of the Fraternity of Freemasons, 1738, p. 81; Preston, Illustrations of Masonry; Hyneman, Ancient York and London Grand Lodges, 1872, p. 21).