« AnteriorContinua »
Polydore Vergil and Hall.
FROM THE ACCESSION OF HENRY VII. TO THE DEATH
(A.) Contemporary Writers.-IT is a significant proof of the dearth of literary talent in England at the close of the fifteenth century, that our best sources of information with respect to the national history, so far, at least, as they assume the form of narrative, are from the pens of foreigners. Polydore Vergil now attains his chief value,' and as an authority for the reign of Henry VII. greatly surpasses all native writers, Hall being here little more than a translator of his contemporary's work. In connexion with the reign of Henry VIII., however, Polydore is by no means altogether to be trusted, and more than one critic, and especially Mr. Brewer, has convicted him of very unscrupulous misrepresentations with respect to individual characters; of cardinal Wolsey he habitually writes with an animosity which is sufficiently ex
As regards Polydore, Mr. Gairdner's criticism appears well worthy of being quoted. There was certainly,' he says, 'something in the new condition of things that produced a feeling of constraint; and the dul! intellects of native writers, accustomed only to record external events, which the contentions of feudal nobles and rival dynasties had produced in unwelcome abundance, could not be expected to penetrate the veil of subtle statesmanship, by which a politic and peaceful, but watchful and suspicious king, was putting an end to the long reign of violence. It required the brain of an Italian to gather the acts of such a reign into a regular narrative, and make their real significance apparent.'-Early Chroniclers, p. 306.
plained by some of the incidents in his personal career. CHAP. Hall, on the other hand, exhibits the opposite prejudices. He was a lawyer by profession, and he appears to have hailed with special satisfaction the accession of a sovereign whose undeniable hereditary right gave promise of a more tranquil era. While therefore he continues to borrow largely from Polydore, his strong sympathies with the Crown lead him to justify and extol Henry's policy to an undue extent; some of the passages which he adapts from his contemporary, containing expressions unfavourable to the Reformation, are even altered by him so as to bear a contrary sense. But there are also portions of Hall's narrative in which he becomes a valuable original authority. Among these is his account of the rising of the 'prentice lads against the aliens in London, and of some of the passages in Wolsey's career, where he writes as a personal observer.
To another foreigner, BERNARD ANDRÉ of Toulouse, Bernard we are also indebted for an excellent account, perhaps the best from a contemporary pen, of the reign of Henry VII. André was an Italian scholar, who, after having taught at Oxford, became permanently attached to the court of Henry VII. as poet laureat, and was the recipient of an annual pension. His Life of his royal patron is written in excellent Latin, and reflects, in its numerous quotations from classical authors and its frequent poetical effusions, the influence of the Renaissance. The example of Livy is especially to be recognised in the speeches attributed to Richard III. and Henry. The sketch of Henry's career prior to his coronation is probably derived from statements made by the monarch himself, but it supplies only an imperfect
Historia Regis Henrici Septimi, a Bernardo Andrea Tholosate conscripta, necnon alia quaedam ad eundem regem spectantia. Edited by James Gairdner. R. S. 1858.
The Venetian' Relation.'
The London Chronicie.
outline, and the value of the whole composition consists rather in the fact that it is the production of a contemporary than in the information which it supplies.
Another sketch of England under Henry VII. is the work of a Venetian, the secretary, it is supposed, of Francesco Capella, ambassador from the Republic of Venice to Henry's court.' It gives a clear and intelligent account of such features in the English political, commercial, and financial institutions as the writer thought likely to interest his countrymen. The time of its composition is supposed to be A.D. 1496-1502.
An account of London during the reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII.,2 published by the Camden Society, supplies a series of short notes on public events, from the progress of the Royal family and the arrival of illustrious visitors in London, down to minor incidents, such as the paving of Chancery, Fetter, and Shoe Lanes, the doings of the London 'prentices,' &c.
For the Divorce and the rupture with Rome of which it was mainly the cause, the treatise of NICHOLAS Harpsfield HARPSFIELD 3 and that of REGINALD POLE, de Unitate
Ecclesiae, are two of the most noteworthy illustrations of the feelings and sentiments of the Catholic party.
Among the numerous City chronicles of this period, which intelligent London citizens were in the habit of
A Relation, or rather a true Account, of the Isle of Eng and; with sundry particulars of the Customs of these People and of the royal Revenues under King Henry the Seventh, about the year 1500. Translated from the Italian, with Notes, by Charlotte Augusta Sneyd. C. S. 1847.
2 A London Chronicle during the Reins of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. Edited by Clarence Hopper. Camden Miscellany, vol. iv. C. S. 1859.
Harpsfield's Treatise of the Pretended Divorce between Henry VIII. and Catharine of Aragon. Edited by the Rev. N. Pocock. C. S. 1879. See also the materials collected by the same editor in connection with the Divorce Question, entitled 'Records of the Reformation` (1527 1533). 2 vols. Clar. Press. 1870.
compiling, although apparently without any notion of bringing them under the public eye, is that of CHARLES WRIOTHESLEY, Windsor Herald.' This is of some value Wriotheas shewing us the way in which an Englishman of ordi- Chronicle. nary intelligence regarded the events of the time. Down to the eleventh year of Henry VIII. the Chronicle is a mere piece of plagiarism, but from that date it becomes original and supplies some valuable information.
No works of the period describe with greater force the social evils and abuses prevalent in the first half of the sixteenth century than the Utopia of SIR THOMAS More's Utopia and MORE, and STARKEY'S England in the Reign of Henry Starkey's England. VIII In the former production, these features are brought into relief by juxtaposition with the laws and institutions of an imaginary Commonwealth. In the latter, the treatment is cast into the form of a dialogue between Reginald Pole and Lupset. Thomas Lupset, who was afterwards a professor at Oxford, edited, while studying at Paris, a reprint of the first edition of the Utopia (printed at Paris, about 1518), and the two works have many sentiments in common. Of the Dialogue, its latest editor says, ' its unimpassioned statements respecting men, its judge-like suggestions for improvement, its keen appreciation of what would profit the country, and make men wiser, happier, and better, give it a value which few works of the time possess.'
With the Reformation, our English historical literature Influences begins to reflect the influences of the controversial spirit formation.
of the Re
A Chronicle of England during the Reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559. By Charles Wriothesley. Edited by W. D. Hamilton. vols. C. S. 1875.
Translated into English
2 Utopia. Originally printed in Latin, 1516. by Ralph Robinson. Edited by Edward Arber.
England in the Reign of King Henry the Eighth. Starkey, Chaplain to the King. Edited by J. M. Cowper. 1871.
of the age to an extent which renders it necessary to exercise more than ordinary caution in accepting many statements, however positively and circumstantially affirmed. While we can discern in writers of every school the effect of the new studies on learning, and also the growing richness and power of the native language, the spirit of partisanship becomes at the same time increasingly perceptible. The accounts given by Catholic writers concerning Protestants, or by Protestant writers concerning Catholics, those of either Catholics or Anglicans concerning Puritans, or those of Puritans concerning Catholics or Anglicans, are to be looked upon with almost equal distrust until corroborated by other and less prejudiced testimony. The overthrow of the monasteries, again, involved the discontinuance of much of the former laborious research,-the quict and the assured maintenance necessary to the prosecution of such labours being no longer at the command of the scholar,—a fact of which we are painfully reminded by the indifferent reward which waited upon the labours of patient investigators, such as Leland and Stowe, who ventured to carry on historical work at their own risk. A third cause, which operated powerfully to the prejudice of all learned enterprise, was the absorption of much of the intellectual vigour of the age in the narrow but exciting arena of theological polemics.
The collection known under the name of HOLINChronicles. SHED'S Chronicles,' is devoted mainly to purely political or social events, and is comparatively free from exaggerated partisanship. It contains (1) A Description of
Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. First collected and published by Raphael Holinshed, William Harrison, and others. Now newlie augmented and continued to the year 1586. By John Hooker, alias Vowell, Gent., and others. (Of this, the edition of 1807 in 6 vois. 4to. is an exact reprint.)