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and happiness of females, which stamp all the ancient romances, naturally tended to soften the manners and to improve the minds of such uncultivated readers. Thus, it is clear, that, however useless the ancient romances may be, at the present time, yet they hold a conspicuous place in the history of the progress of literature. Their contents were of a nature admirably suited to rouse the curiosity of a people so superstitious as were the English before Elizabeth, and thus reading became necessary to all who would peruse these wonderful productions; and the lofty and gallant conduct prescribed for all who would be knights, gradually infused a degree of refinement into the rude society of that early period, which was admirably adapted to prepare them for the splendid constellation of genius which burst forth in every direction under the happy reign of the virgin queen.
But this happy change, which only glimmered under the seventh Harry, began to glow with a steadier light under his successor. The custom, at that time, prevalent of removing to foreign countries, there to acquire the language of the ancients in their purity, had a prodigious effect in the advancement of solid literature. The institution of grammar schools in the larger towns, and the encouragement given to the most learned men of all countries to settle in the colleges, tended greatly to render learning fashionable; and the noble institution of Woolsey's College at Oxford, to which the most profound scholars of Europe were invited, laid at once the foundation for an extensive and liberal plan of education.
The translation of the historical works of Froissart, was one of the earliest productions of this reign. This translation was made by Sir John Bourchier, at the command of Henry the Eighth himself. Froissart was as accurate an historian as any that has ever written, and his history of the transactions which took place during the reigns of Edward the Third and Richard the Second, is the best extant even at this day,
Fischer, the ill-fated Bishop of Rochester, was also distinguished in this reign for his profound learning and unaffected piety. His works are chiefly in Latin, but he published some very curious sermons and tracts in the English language, which do credit to the high character for erudition which he attained during his life. But neither his character for erudition, his exemplary life, nor the real respect and affection of the king, whose tutor he had been, could preserve him from the headstrong violence of Henry, because he refused to countenance his lawless treatment of the unhappy Catharine. Notwithstanding his extreme age, he was permitted to linger in a foul
prison, without even sufficient clothing to cover his person for a whole twelvemonth; at the expiration of which time, the Pope having sent to him a cardinal's hat as the reward of his constancy to his faith, the king, with his characteristic violence, caused this faithful old servant to be consigned to the block. Sir Thomas More, whose steady adherence to the cause of Queen Catharine, and whose execution for the same cause rendered him the counterpart of Fischer, was one of the most profound scholars that ever enlightened England by his writings. In addition to his numerous and weighty avocations in the successive offices of law, reader at Furnival's Inn, speaker of the commons, master of the requests, ambassador, member of the privy council, and finally, keeper of the great seal, (an honour conferred on a layman, for the first time, in the person of Sir Thomas More,) he found time to give to the world his famous History of Edward the Fifth, and his brother, and of Richard the Third;' and his Utopia, which passed for a real history, with some of the most eminent men of the day. To this we may add his numerous polemical writings, which possess great merit. As an historian, Sir Thomas More has uniformly enjoyed the most unqualified approbation. Notwithstanding the great obscurity thrown over the bloody and contentious wars between York and Lancaster, yet, wherever More's pen has been employed in an elucidation of the events and general transactions of that time, his revered and honourable fame sufficiently assures us that no prejudice or bias could have induced that magnanimous and impartial man to swerve from the path of truth. In the words of Hume, no historian, either of ancient or modern times, can possibly have more weight and again, his authority is irresistible, and sufficient to overbalance a hundred little doubts and scruples and objections.' But bis unsullied virtue, bis long tried fidelity, his eminent utility, his profound and varied learning were all insufficient to save him from the tyrannical vengeance of Henry the Eighth; who, under pretence that he had absolutely refused to acknowledge his supremacy, after a mere mock trial, condemned to the scaffold this admirable man, who died with an intrepidity, nay, with a cheerfulness, that marked the serenity of his soul and the purity of his principles; and with a holy resignation that has rendered the scene of his execution an object of wonder and admiration to all who consider at once his innocence and integrity, and the unprincipled severity of the ferocious Henry.
Under this reign, Leland, the father of English antiquaries, produced some works of much curiosity, but, as they do not fall
within the general scope of English literature, we shall leave him to the care of the antiquaries; merely remarking that his 'Collections' contain a very curious and quaintly written account of the lives and characters of the English writers who preceded him, mingled with many superstitious stories of prophets and their prophecies, written in the early stages of English writing.
John Harding was the author of The Chronicle, from the first beginning of England, unto the reign of king Edward the Fourth, when he made an end of his chronicle; and from that time is added a continuation of the story in prose, to this our time. Now first imprinted, gathered out of divers and sundry authors that have written of the affairs of England.' This narrative consists of prose and verse; and the most curious part is the metrical history of England, from its fabulous history up to the time of the fourth Henry. It is only valuable, however, as a matter of curiosity.
Edward Hall, who was not many years younger than Harding, is one of the few laborious historians, who have, by the publication of their recondite researches, furnished valuable materials for the modern historians to compile their annals. He is chiefly estimable as an author, for the account he gives of the youthful sports and diversions of Henry the Eighth, and for his precise and special history of the variations of dress in each of the several reigns whose history he has written.
Tyndale, who was publicly executed at Antwerp; Coverdale, who was imprisoned by bloody Mary together with Holgate, archbishop of York, Ridley, bishop of London, and Hooper of Gloucester; and John Rogers, the prebendary of St. Pauls; were all severally occupied in a translation of the scriptures, of which, however, nothing particular need be said; inasmuch as the translation in the reign of James the First has superceded all attempts of the sort in the English language.
The intrepid Latimer, although he perhaps gained his chief celebrity under the reign of Mary, yet, while bishop of Worcester under Henry, became distinguished for his free and forcible denunciation of the prevailing vices of those days. Although a strong Catholic to the age of thirty, he began, soon after his conversion, to assist the cause of the reformers with much zeal. On the passing of the six articles, or the bloody bill, as the Protestants justly called it, Latimer exhibited that firmness and determination which uniformly marked all his subsequent life. On that occasion, he conscientiously threw up his bishopric, and, on a subsequent information was committed to prison, where he remained until Henry's death, after
which he was restored to his liberty, without, however, being permitted to resume his episcopal functions. Latimer was burnt at the stake under the reign of bloody Mary, together with Ridley, the bishop of London, to whom he cried out, with that dauntless intrepidity and full consciousness of rectitude which had marked his whole life: Be of good cheer master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day kindle such a torch in England, as, I trust in God, shall never be extinguished.' His chief writings are sermons, which are marked by a dignity, power and simplicity that are rarely, if ever, to be noted in modern pulpit discourses. Some of these sermons were delivered, with much applause, before Henry himself; and, notwithstanding their homely dress, will, we venture to assert, amply compensate the reader of the present day for the trouble of a serious and careful perusal. No writings of Henry's time combining language better assorted, or home thrusts more touching and expressive can be found in any of the productions of this reign; added to which, we find, in his very sermons, the most singularly descriptive pictures of the private and peculiar manners of the times. For ourselves, we candidly confess, we never arise from the writings of the honest and heroic Latimer without an increased respect for the sincerity and talents of the man, and we think we venture little in strongly recommending to such of our readers as have them within reach, a careful perusal of the substantial though familiar sermons of Bishop Latimer.
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, was one of the chief opponents of Latimer, and, though neither possessed of the abilities nor the honesty of the latter, completely triumphed over the friends of the reformation, and, during the short but cruel reign of Mary, applied the torch to the funeral pile of many a worthier man and better christian. As his literary career is only remarkable for his controversial writings, which seem to have been dictated more by policy than any thing like true religion, it is unnecessary to dwell upon it.
Of Sir John Cheke, it is by no means undue praise to say, that he may be considered the father of the true Greek pronunciation in England, and perhaps the first Greek scholar of his own, or any other age. He was distinguished at a very early age for his great proficiency in the ancient tongues, and was placed in the chair of Greek lecturer in his own college as soon as he had completed his collegiate course. From this station, he was promoted to the Greek professorship, founded by Henry the Eighth at Cambridge, and was shortly after appointed one of the tutors of Prince Edward, who, soon after
his accession to the British throne, appointed him to various offices of high trust and dignity, and finally constituted him one of the secretaries of state and a privy counsellor. Notwithstanding the violent opposition of the Catholics, aided by all the influence of Gardiner, Cheke, with the assistance of his friend Smith, succeeded in establishing a more correct pronunciation of the Greek language, which was at that time pronounced in a manner so discordant as to destroy all the effect of the harmony of that musical language, and which, therefore, was evidently a different mode of pronunciation from that of the Greeks themselves. The opposition of the Catholics to this innovation was so great, and the contest between them and the more enlightened favourers of Cheke rose so high, as to give place to some pitched battles, in which Greek met Greek with the same animosity as of old the Trojans and Grecians opposed each other. Cheke also proposed many amendments in the philology of the Latin and English, which were unsuccessful, and, in our opinion, deservedly so. His writings are by no means interesting to the general reader; but, although he confined himself almost entirely to philological pursuits, yet we hazard nothing in pronouncing Cheke the first classical scholar that had flourished in England from the days of the conqueror.
We know of but one other writer (if we except Grafton, who was but a compiler of Chronicles from the works of others) worthy of notice prior to the reign of Elizabeth. This is Thomas Wilson, the first English writer who has attempted any regular work on rhetoric and logic. His treatise is entitled, The Art of Rhetoric, for the use of all such as are studious of eloquence, set forth in English.' This very interesting volume, notwithstanding the confusion and turbulence of Mary's reign, made its appearance in the very first year after her accession. When we consider the time in which this volume was produced, we cannot but be struck with admiration of the author's genius, and respect for his unbounded learning and copious research. His strictures on elocution, composition and style, are such as do honour to his taste and to the literary character of his time. Of his remarks on the necessity of a due preservation of character, Warton makes the following observation: Shakspeare himself has not delineated the characters of these English monarchs with more truth;' and so great was the impression made by this remarkable and spirited critical treatise, that the bigoted inquisitors of the Holy See, imagining it to be an innovation of a most daring nature, seized the author when he was on a visit at Rome, and imVol. I. No. VI.