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GEORGE CAVENDISH, author of the Life of Cardinal Wolsey, the first true biography written in England, was born in 1500, and died in 1561. He was the eldest son of Tbomas Cavendish, Clerk of the Pipe in the Exchequer. In 1524 be was married to a niece of Sir Thomas More. Two years later, in 1526, be took service in the suite of Cardinal Wolsey, “abandoning,” as the Cardinal said, “ bis own country, wife and children, bis own house and family, bis rest and quietness, only to serve me.'
.” In the four years that intervened between this time and Wolsey's fall and death, Cavendish was bis devoted servitor. He was with bim in the time of his adversity, and was present at bis death.
Cavendish seems deeply to bave meditated the dramatic spectacle which bis master's life presented, and to bave taken to beart its lesson of the “wondrous mutability of vain bonours, the brittle assurances of abundance, the uncertainty of dignities, the flattering of vain friends, and the tickle trust to worldly princes.” After Wolsey's burial, Cavendish retired as speedily as be might to bis quiet country bome in Suffolk, there to spend the thirty-one years of life remaining to him, in comparative poverty and failure. He must, bowever, have found solace in continual brooding upon the rich and crowded years of his service with the great Cardinal, for after some years of idleness be bestirred bimself to write this simple, sincere, and picturesque record If the things be bad seen.
His work remained long in manuscript, for, owing to its reflections upon the character of Henry VIII, it could not safely be publisbed in the lifetime of bis daughter. It was first printed in an incomplete and corrupt form in 1641, for the sake of turning its moral against Archbishop Laud, another prelate ambitious in statecraft. Before this time, bowever, it had been largely circulated in numerous manuscript copies, and it had formed the basis of the account of Wolsey in Holinshed's Chronicles. Either indirectly, through
[vi] Holinsbed, or directly in manuscript, it bad coloured the interpretation of Wolsey's character and career that has been made traditional by Shakespeare.
Than man could give bim, be died fearing God. Editions of the book were printed from imperfect manuscripts several times in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but no edition bas any final value until we come to that of S. W. Singer, who reprinted it, from what is fairly established to have been the author's manuscript, in 1815. The present edition follows that of Singer, who slightly modernized the archaic orthography of the original manuscript, and made uniform its irregularities, though certain of the corrections made from the manuscript by Mr. F. S. Ellis, who edited it for the Kelmscott Press Edition in 1893, and for the Temple Classics Edition in 1899, have been embodied in it.
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