I toddled down to the Globe last night to see Henry VIII or All Is True. It's an odd little play that Shakespeare wrote in collaboration with John Fletcher. However, for me, Henry VIII has two melancholy and sobful associations.
When I was a young and hopeful boy I coined a brand new word: otherwhere. I put it in a petrarchan sonnet and for a few days I was happy. Then I looked in a dictionary and all joy fled. It turned out that otherwhere had been around since 1400 and had already been employed by such poets as Wyatt, Milton and Keats; and by such non-poets as Burns. My coinage was devalued and I have never smiled since. So these lines from Henry VIII are like a mallet to my balls:
The king has sent me otherwhere: besides,
You'll find a most unfit time to disturb him:
Health to your lordships
Much less importantly for the history of English literature, All Is True destroyed the original Globe Theatre. Here is a letter from Henry Wotton written on the second of July 1613 explaining:
I will entertain you at the present with what happened this week at the Banks side. The King's players had a new play called All is True, representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry the Eighth, which set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty even to the matting of the stage; the knights of the order with their Georges and Garter, the guards with their embroidered coats, and the like: sufficient in truth within awhile to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now King Henry making a Masque at the Cardinal Wolsey's house, and certain cannons being shot off at his entry, some of the paper or other stuff, wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but idle smoak, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very ground. This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabrick, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks; only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with a bottle of ale.
I kept a pint of London Pride beside me, just in case, because I always wear incendiary breeches.