Gentle Flame: The Life and Verse of Dudley, Fourth Lord North

Gentle Flame: The Life and Verse of Dudley, Fourth Lord North

by Dale B. J. Randall

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Gentle Flame recounts the life and presents for the first time the hitherto unknown poetry of Dudley, Fourth Lord North. Born during the reign of Elizabeth I, reared in that of James I, elected to Parliament under Charles I, and retired to his country seat during the time of Charles II, the life an poetry of the Fourth Lord North deepens present-day


Gentle Flame recounts the life and presents for the first time the hitherto unknown poetry of Dudley, Fourth Lord North. Born during the reign of Elizabeth I, reared in that of James I, elected to Parliament under Charles I, and retired to his country seat during the time of Charles II, the life an poetry of the Fourth Lord North deepens present-day understanding of an age that saw much social change.

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Gentle Flame

The Life and Verse of Dudley, Fourth Lord North (1602â"1677)

By Dale B. J. Randall

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1983 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-0491-3



Sir Dudley North, fourth Baron North (1602-1677), was a conservative, Christian gentleman who lived to a ripeness and saw much. Born at the close of Elizabeth's reign, he was knighted by James, participated uneasily in the Long Parliament until shortly before the stormy close of Charles's life, retreated to manage the affairs of his family seat in Cambridgeshire during the days of "Leviathan" Cromwell, and enjoyed a reasonably content old age, surrounded in his library by quantities of books, papers, and parchments, including a pardon from Charles II. Through the years, like many another English gentleman, North occasionally took to his pen. Apparently he had doubts about appearing in print, partly because of a natural reticence, partly because he realized that his skills were limited, and partly because gentlemen were supposed to be uneager to appear in the marketplace. On the other hand, in his sixty-seventh year, he finally did offer the reading public his Observations and Advices Oeconomical (1669), a handbook in which he endeavored to tell how a great house might be managed without a great fortune. The following year he published A Narrative of Some Passages in or Relating to the Long Parliament. Then finally, five years after his death, his family made a collection of his miscellaneous prose writings (devotional, discursive, and biographical) and for the first time placed his name on a title page: Light in the Way to Paradise (1682). Students of the seventeenth century, therefore, have long had some cause to know of Sir Dudley North. Nevertheless, it is only with the discovery of a manuscript that has lain in private hands for about three hundred years that we discover North to have been a writer of verse. Introduction of the life and verse of this minor seventeenth-century writer is the purpose of the present book.

* * *

In a biography that he wrote in 1658 Sir Dudley North speaks of Edward, first Lord North, as "the common Parent and raiser of our Family," the man "to whom we owe our eminency, if any we have." Identifying himself as the grandchild of Edward's grandchild, Sir Dudley gives a favorable but largely factual account of the striking career of his ancestor. Born about 1496 into a family which had come to London from Walkeringham, Nottinghamshire, Edward North studied at St. Paul's School under William Lily, continued his education at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and eventually was called to the bar. His rise thereafter suggests something of both the man and his time. After serving as Advocate for the City of London, he rose to be Clerk of the Parliament and then King's Serjeant-at-Law. These posts made his abilities increasingly conspicuous, and in 1540 he was named treasurer of the Court of Augmentations, a court which had come into being recently because of the flood of business following the phenomenal "augmentation" of royal holdings when the monasteries were dissolved. In the years 1540-1543 North served as sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, and in 1542 he was knighted. Three times he served in Parliament (1542-1544, 1547-1552, and 1553), and in 1544 he ascended to the chancellorship of the Court of Augmentations—at first a joint appointment with Sir Richard Rich, and later one that he enjoyed alone. Vast wealth passed through Edward North's hands, and a certain amount of it doubtless found its way into his pockets. Still more important to his family's future, however, is the fact that as a trusty servant of the King he received extensive grants of abbey and other crown lands. Lawrence Stone observes that "Wentworth, Windsor, Cromwell, Seymour, Eure, Russell, Paulet, Wharton, Wriothesley, Darcy of Chiche, Paget, Rich, Sheffield, Herbert, Browne, North, and Williams were substantially, and in some cases almost entirely, the product of the great share-out among officials, soldiers, and courtiers of the property seized from the Church between 1536 and 1553." Making his position yet stronger, North in 1546 joined Henry's Privy Council.

As early as 1532, four years before the monastic dissolution began, North had become sufficiently affluent to acquire the seat of Kirtling (or, familiarly, Catlage) in Cambridgeshire. Kirtling at the time was an old moated castle near the border of Suffolk, some six miles southeast of Newmarket in the southeastern corner of the county. North razed the castle and on its site, within the large moat, erected a splendid, sprawling, redbrick mansion which in the next century was to provide the fourth Lord North with most of his knowledge about great-house economy. Approached by an imposing new gatehouse with fifty-five-foot turrets, and situated "on a prettie Hill," the new Kirtling was said to have "a most statelie Rise by very many Steppes up into the House wherein you may behould a great Part both of this Shire & Suffolke...." As a matter of fact, the same source continues, "saving that yt standeth somwhat upon a wett Soile, yt is hardlie paraleild in both Sheires." To the old Norman church that stood close to the grounds of the house, Edward added a large family chapel, and eventually he was buried in a fine black marble tomb between the chancel and the chapel. There his successors might ponder his motto, Serva Fidem, and his arms, a lion passant amidst three fleurs-de-lis.

North's capabilities had been considerably enhanced through the years by his acquisition of a wealthy wife. At the age of about thirty-three he married Alice, daughter of Oliver Squire of Southby, Hampshire, and widow of Edward Myrffin (still earlier, she had been the widow of John Brigadine). The union of Edward North and Alice resulted not only in the rearing of the new mansion at Kirtling but also in the birth of four children, two of whom are of special concern here. Thomas (1535?-1601?) was to become the most famous writer that the North family ever produced. Though he had other skills as well, it is as a translator of Guevara, Bidpai, and, above all, Plutarch that he is remembered. Knighted about 1591, Sir Thomas was both a skillful writer himself and the source of skillful writing in others, most notably Shakespeare, who turned to North's Plutarch when writing his Roman plays. The other North offspring of concern here is Roger, who was to become the greatgrandfather of Sir Dudley.

In 1543, when both his family and his fortunes were burgeoning, Edward North acquired a second notable property. In Finsbury, about half a mile north of St. Paul's and not far beyond the old walls of London, stood the Charterhouse, fourth of the Carthusian monasteries to have been erected in England (ca. 1341). In 1535 its prior had been hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn, and in 1537 the monastery was surrendered. For a while thereafter the huge establishment was used for nothing more glorious than storing the King's tents and pavilions, but in February 1543 Edward North had a grant of the Charterhouse and proceeded to turn the old stone structure into a magnificent dwelling. Thanks to the monks, it was even supplied with pipes for running water. The Charterhouse may have proved to be a greater house than the Norths required, however, in view of their other holdings, for on 31 May 1565, only five months after Edward North died (31 December 1564), his executors and son Roger sold most of the property to the Duke of Norfolk. As matters evolved, the Charterhouse was to change hands several more times after this, but an important detail to bear in mind here is that many years later the Norths still retained that portion of the property lying east of the chapel, and this remainder was itself sufficiently commodious not only for a mansion but also for courts, stables, gardens, and orchards.

Aside from the Charterhouse and Kirtling, one more of North's properties should be noted. Harrow had long served as the occasional residence of the primate of all England; in fact by the time of Henry VIII it had been associated with Canterbury for some eight hundred years. In 1544, however, Archbishop Cranmer surrendered the Harrow Rectory to Henry, and in 1547, after various intermediate steps, both the Rectory Manor and the Manor of Harrow were merged and turned over to Edward North. In the years to come, Kirtling and the Charterhouse were both to figure intimately in family affairs, but the great manor at Harrow on the Hill was the "flower" of the North estates.

After Henry VIII died (1547) and the new court of young Edward VI was established, North for reasons now unknown resigned his chancellorship of the Court of Augmentations. He retained his seat in the Privy Council, however, and at the close of Edward's reign (1553) resumed his ascent. Despite the fact that he had come out for Lady Jane Grey as Edward's successor, North soon was welcomed into the Privy Council of Queen Mary. In fact, it was Mary who raised North to the dignity of baron of the realm (1554). Obviously believing that such prolonged continuity of favor posed some puzzling questions, the fourth Lord North suggested that his predecessor had a behind-the-scenes arrangement with Mary even at the time that he was publicly espousing the cause of "Queen Jane." Be this as it may, in the same year that Mary herself died (1558), yet another royal Tudor, Elizabeth, did North the honor of visiting the Charterhouse and even held court there for six days before making her entry into the city. In 1559 North was appointed by Elizabeth to be Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, and in 1561 she visited him again at the Charterhouse. For some reason she decided to remove him from her Privy Council, but by that time a monarch's willingness to dispense with North's services as Councillor was much less remarkable than the fact that his political instinct had allowed him to thrive so well and so long as he did.

When Alice, Lady North, died in 1560, North, now in his middle sixties, decided to remarry. For his second wife he took another rich widow, Margaret, daughter of Richard Butler and widow of Sir David Brook. Then in his final four years he seems to have turned mainly to the country duties and peace of Cambridgeshire.

Edward North, first Baron North, was succeeded by his eldest son, Roger (1531-1600), whom Camden calls "Vir viuido ingenio, animo consilioque par." From early times when the young Princess Elizabeth tied a red silk scarf on Roger's arm at a tournament until both were comfortable old opponents at primero (he owned a book on how to win at cards, but his greater skill was losing), Roger was a man who manifested both spirit and wit. As a youth he is supposed to have attended his father's old college, Peterhouse. Then in his mid-twenties he married Winifred, widow of Sir Henry Dudley and daughter of Richard, Lord Rich, sometime associate of Edward North in the Court of Augmentations. Winifred was to bear Roger two sons, John and Henry, the first of whom was the grandfather of Sir Dudley North, and the second, founder of the Mildenhall, Suffolk, branch of the family.

Roger served in Parliament for Cambridgeshire in 1555, in 1558-1559, and in 1563-1564. Then in 1564 he assumed his seat among the Lords. Meanwhile he had been created Knight of the Bath at Elizabeth's coronation (1559) and granted admission to Gray's Inn (1561). Queen Elizabeth employed various means to demonstrate her confidence in Roger. She sent him on diplomatic missions, first to Vienna in 1568 with the Earl of Sussex, and most notably in 1574 as Ambassador Extraordinary to France; and in 1588 she appointed him Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. In 1577 he was able to reciprocate somewhat by entertaining her lavishly for three days at Kirtling, playing her in to supper with his own band of minstrels, augmented for the occasion by those of his good friend Leicester. Still a vigorous man at the age of fifty-five, he commenced a career as soldier. So successful was he, in fact, that after the battle of Zutphen (1586), where he displayed particular courage, Leicester gave him the title of Knight Banneret. The highest worldly ascent, however, of Roger, second Baron North, came in 1596: already a Privy Councillor, the old soldier and sometime primero player became Treasurer of the Royal Household.

Roger North was by no means the man of letters that his brother Thomas was. Thomas, after all, was one of the best prose stylists of the age. On the other hand, Roger North valued writing. In his personal copy of the Canterbury Tales—which today remains one of the finest of all surviving copies and is known as the Ellesmere manuscript—there are several poems scrawled in his hand and accompanied by his signature and his motto, Durum Pati. "My inward mane," he writes, "to hevenly things would trade me / But aye this flesh doth still and still dissuade me." When he died at his house in Charterhouse Yard in December 1600, the old courtier and soldier was given a funeral at St. Paul's, then carried down to Cambridgeshire to be buried with the pomp and circumstance of heralds in the chapel that his father had added to Kirtling's parish church. There, on a fine sixposter tomb, a stone man in armor was placed, his head on his helmet, his sword by his side, and the North crest at his feet. At his feet also were Roger's words, inscribed in large gold letters: Durum pati.

The family title fell not to a son, but to "my loving nephew [i.e., grandson] Dudley Northe, ... eldest sonne of my eldest sonne." Dudley's father, Sir John (1551?-1597), had died previously while still in his forties. Not much is known of him. In 1562 he was a fellow commoner "of immature age" at Pe-terhouse, Cambridge, and in 1567 he moved to Trinity when his tutor, John Whitgift, assumed the mastership there. Then in May 1572, after six years of study in humanioribus literis graecis et latinis, he was admitted M.A. The continuing importance of Cambridge University in the lives of the Norths becomes increasingly clear—not surprisingly, considering that Kirtling was so near. Equally clear are the signs of a genuinely bookish strain in the family.

John went traveling on the Continent in 1576, returned home in 1578 (his father thought a stay of twenty-six months was brief), and soon embarked again, this time with a band of volunteers for the wars in the Low Countries. Back in England once more in 1580, he married Dorothy, daughter and coheiress of his father's friend Dr. (later Sir) Valentine Dale, Master of the Court of Requests. The fact that another of Roger's good friends, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was the godfather of the first son of this marriage would seem to provide the best reason why Dudley became an important Christian name in the family.

In 1582, with a commission from the Duke of Anjou, John sailed off again to the Netherlandish wars. He returned to England to serve as M.P. of the shire for Cambridge (1584-1585, 1586-1587, 1588-1589), was knighted in Dublin in 1596, and, back in London the following year, died on 5 June of a summer "calenture." The inveterate letter-writer John Chamberlain reported that Sir John was "thought to have left his lady but a mean widow," yet funds were forthcoming to erect a fine monument to his memory in the church of St. Gregory by St. Paul's. Then in 1604, after an interval of about seven years, his widow, Dame Dorothy, married Sir James Ouchterlony, one of the carvers to England's new king.

There has been no previous biography of North, but helpful sketches appear in the following: [Arthur] Collins's Peerage of England, aug. Sir Egerton Brydges, IV (1812), 466-469; Lady Frances Bushby, "Memoirs of Some of the North Family During the Tudor and Stuart Dynasties" (typescript, 1893), Bodl. MS. Eng. hist, c.408; Augustus Jessopp, DNB, ed. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, XIV (Oxford, 1959-1960 rept.), 596-597; [George Edward Cokayne], The Complete Peerage ..., ed. H. A. Doubleday and Lord Howard de Walden, IX (1936), 656-657; and Mary Frear Keeler, The Long Parliament, 1640-1641: A Biographical Study of Its Members (Philadelphia, 1954), p. 286. Much useful data may be gleaned also from Roger North's Lives of three of Sir Dudley's sons (Francis, Dudley, and John), a work available in various forms, including the edition of Augustus Jessopp (1890), used here, and its reprinting with a new introduction by E. Mackerness (1972). Some Notes Concerning the Life of Edward Lord North, Baron of Kirtling, 1658 (hereinafter cited as Some Notes) was published with its own separate pagination but is usually bound in the volume called Light in the Way to Paradise; passages cited here are from p. 2 and A2v. The fullest published schematic pedigree of the Norths is in George Baker, The History and Antiquities of the County of Northampton, pt. II (1826), pp. 526-527. Bushby and DNB (various articles) give the best prose accounts, The Complete Peerage the most succinct. A few of the many manuscript sources include BL MSS. Harl. 806 (79r-80v), Harl. 1,529 (99r, Add. 5,819 (78r-8or and 114 v -120r), and 19,143 (175v 176r; County Record Office, Shire Hall, Cambridge, P101/1/1; and Bodl. MSS. Tanner 180 (75r), Rawl. B.314 (20v-21r), and North c.25 (70-76). Valuable guides to further materials in the Bodleian's massive collection are C. M. Borough, "Calendar of the Papers of the North Family" (1960; Bodl. R.13.111), and Mary Clapinson, "Index to the Calendar of North Family Papers in the Bodleian Library" (1972; Bodl. R.6.104).


Excerpted from Gentle Flame by Dale B. J. Randall. Copyright © 1983 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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