Elizabeth and Leicester

Elizabeth and Leicester

Elizabeth and Leicester

Elizabeth and Leicester

Excerpt

This book began many years ago as a biography of the Earl of Leicester. There seemed at the time two good reasons for attempting one. Of all the prominent Elizabethans he was the most enigmatic and elusive; and biographers had somehow almost entirely fought shy of him. But presently the first reason began to explain the second. More and more his elusiveness seemed to arise from the fact that as a subject for biography he was incomplete. Unlike Cecil and Walsingham and others of his contemporaries, who, however subordinate to Elizabeth in their actions, still displayed personalities of their own, Leicester's personality often curiously merges with Elizabeth's, whose 'creature' in a very special sense both of them realized him to be. So familiar were their relations that their business was frequently carried on by private conversation, with little in the way of records to distinguish between what he felt and she felt. For a great many years the prime object of his life was to marry her, an important element in hers to keep him from doing so without finally refusing him, and of this lengthy, politically momentous, and not always loverly, transaction there was naturally very little preserved in documents. There was little need for him to communicate with a world which almost universally hated him as long as he could satisfactorily communicate with her in whose love and favour he had his being and without whom he would have been nothing. And so the projected biography of Leicester inevitably, almost imperceptibly, evolved into this more narrowly personal essay on Elizabeth and Leicester.

All the relevant material listed in Mr. Conyers Read's invaluable Tudor Bibliography has, I think, been consulted. I have gratefully to acknowledge Professor J. E. Neale's kindness in calling my attention to Leicester's letter to Douglass Sheffield recently identified by Mr. Read in the Huntington Library and to The Black Book of Warwick, and for correcting various errors in the first edition of this book; and to thank Professor G. M. Trevelyan, O.M., and Mr. A. L. Rowse for much friendly encouragement which I hope they will not think misplaced.

M.W.

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