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England during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries than Mandevile's Travels.

Chaucer's prose works consist of two of the Canterbury Tales, the Tale of Melibæus, and the Parson's Tale,— a translation of Boethius' De Consolatione Philosophic,the Astrolabie, and the Testament of Love. The Tale of Melibaus, the design of which is to enforce the duty of forgiveness of injuries, is one of those which are supposed to be told by the poet himself. The Parson's Tale is a treatise on the sacrament of penance. Both of these are written in fluent intelligible English, and present few other difficulties to the reader but those which the old orthography occasions. In translating Boethius, Chaucer was renewing for the men of his own day the service rendered by Alfred to the Anglo-Saxons. The Testament of Love is divided into three parts. It professes to be an imitation of the work of Boethius. In the first part, Love bequeaths instructions to her followers, whereby they may rightly judge of the causes of cross fortune, &c. In the second, "she teacheth the knowledge of one very God, our Creator; as also the state of grace, and the state of glory." Throughout these two parts are scattered allusions, or what seem to be such, to the circumstances under which Chaucer lost his official employment, and was reduced to poverty. The third part is a remarkable discourse on necessity and freewill, in which the doctrine laid down. by St. Augustine and expounded by the schoolmen, is eloquently set forth. Of the Astrolabie we have already spoken (see page 54).

John Wycliffe, at one time head of Canterbury Hall at Oxford, and afterwards Rector of Lutterworth, completed about the year 1380 a translation from the Vulgate into English of the whole of the Old and New Testaments. The language of this version is extremely rough. Wycliffe also wrote many polemical tracts, against the Roman Court, the wealth of the clergy, against the right of bad men to

hold property, and finally against some of the doctrines then commonly received. A bold earnest tone distinguishes his style; but it is harsh in the extreme; his language is far ruder than that of Chaucer or Mandevile; and, whatever may be thought of the substance of his writings, he cannot be said to have contributed to the progress of our literature, or aided to polish our language.

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M. SISMONDI, in his admirable work on the literature of the South of Europe, has a passage*, explaining the decline of Italian literature in the fifteenth century, which is so strictly applicable to the corresponding decline of English literature for a hundred and seventy years after Chaucer, that we cannot forbear quoting it :

"The century which, after the death of Petrarch, had been devoted by the Italians to the study of antiquity, during which literature experienced no advance, and the Italian language seemed to retrograde, was not, however, lost to the powers of imagination. Poetry, on its first revival, had not received sufficient nourishment. The fund of knowledge, of ideas, and of images, which she called to her aid, was too restricted. The three great men of the fourteenth century, whom we first presented to the attention of the reader, had, by the sole force of their genius, attained a degree of erudition, and a sublimity of thought, far beyond the spirit of their age. These qualities were entirely personal; and the rest of the Italian bards, like the Provençal poets, were reduced, by the poverty of their ideas, to have recourse to those continual attempts at wit, and to that mixture of unintelligible ideas and incoherent images, which render the perusal of them so fatiguing. The whole of the fifteenth century was

* Vol. ii. p. 400 (Roscoe).

employed in extending in every direction the knowledge and resources of the friends of the Muses. Antiquity was unveiled to them in all its elevated characters-its severe laws, its energetic virtues, and its beautiful and engaging mythology;—in its subtle and profound philosophy, its overpowering eloquence, and its delightful poetry. Another age was required to knead afresh the clay for the formation of a nobler race. At the close of the century, a divine breath animated the finished statue, and it started

into life."

Mutatis mutandis, these eloquent sentences are exactly applicable to the case of English literature. Chaucer's eminence was purely personal; even more so, perhaps, than that of the great Italians, for the countrymen of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, at least possessed a settled and beautiful language, adapted already to nearly all literary purposes; while the tongue of Chaucer was in so rude and unformed a condition that only transcendent genius could make a work expressed through it endurable. The fifteenth century seems to have been an age of active preparation in every country of Europe. Though no great books were produced in it, it witnessed the invention of the art of printing, the effect of which was so to multiply copies of the master-pieces of Greek and Roman genius, to reduce their price, and to enlarge the circle of their readers, as to supply abundantly new materials for thought, and new models of artistic form, and thus pave the way for the great writers of the close of the next century. Printing, invented at Mentz by Gutenberg about the year 1450, was introduced into England by William Caxton in 1474. The zealous patronage of two enlightened noblemen, Lord Worcester and Lord Rivers, greatly aided him in his enterprise. This century was also signalized by the foundation of many schools and colleges, in which the liberal founders desired that the recovered learning of antiquity should be uninterruptedly and effectually cultivated. Eton, the greatest of

the English schools, and King's College at Cambridge, were founded by Henry VI. between 1440 and 1450. Three new universities arose in Scotland—that of St. Andrew's in 1410, of Glasgow in 1450, of Aberdeen in 1494;-all under the express authority of different Popes. Three or four unsuccessful attempts were made in the course of this and the previous century,—the latest in 1496-to establish a university in Dublin. Several colleges were founded at Oxford and Cambridge in the reign of Henry VIII., among which we may specify Christ Church, the largest college at the former university, which, however, was originally planned by the magnificent Wolsey on a far larger scale, and the noble foundation of Trinity College, Cambridge.

In the period now before us our attention will be directed to three subjects;-the poets, whether English or Scotch, the state and progress of learning, and the prose writers. The manner in which the great and complex movement of the Reformation influenced for good or evil the development of literature, is too wide a subject to be fully considered here. Something, however, will be said under this head, when we come to sketch the rise of the "new learning," or study of the Humanities in England, and inquire into the causes of its fitful and intermittent growth.

Poetry: Hawes, Skelton, Surrey, Wyat; first Poet Laureate.

The poets of this period, at least on the English side of the border, were of small account. The middle of the fifteenth century witnessed the expulsion of the English from France; and a time of national humiliation is unfavourable to the production of poetry. If, indeed, humiliation become permanent, and involve subjection to the stranger, the plaintive wailings of the elegiac Muse are naturally evoked; as we see in the instances of Ireland

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