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and sociological information for the period immediately following the destruction of the monasteries, is the author of a number of Latin elegies, in various metres, upon the death of Sir Thomas Wyat the elder, which evince no common elegance and mastery over the language. More's Utopia, published in 1516, was composed in Latin, but has been translated by Burnet and others. The idea of the work is evidently taken from Plato's Commonwealth; and even the communism of the Greek philosopher is re-produced. "In all other places it is visible, that while people talk of a commonwealth, every man only seeks his own wealth; but [in Utopia], where no man has any property, all men zealously pursue the good of the public." More's English writings are-a History of the Life and Reign of Edward V., written about 1513, a collection of Letters, and several controversial tracts in reply to Tyndal and other English reformers.
The regular series of English prose chronicles commences in this period. Robert Fabyan was an alderman and sheriff of London in the reign of Henry VII.; his Concordance of Storyes, giving the history of England from the fabulous Brutus to the year 1485, was published after the author's death in 1516. Successive subsequent editions of this work continued the history to 1559. Edward Hall, an under-sheriff of London, wrote in 1542 a chronicle, entitled the Union of the Two Noble Families of Lancaster and York, bringing the narrative down to 1532. Richard Grafton, himself the author of two independent chronicles in the reign of Elizabeth, printed in 1548 a new edition of Hall, with a continuation to the end of Henry's reign. A curious biographical work, Illustrium Majoris Britanniæ Scriptorum Summarium, was written by John Bale, a reformer, afterwards Bishop of Ossory, in 1548. The accuracy of this writer may be judged of by the fact, that in the article on Chaucer he fixes the date of the poet's death in 1450, and in the list of his works includes the
Fall of Princes (which was by Lydgate), and omits the Canterbury Tales.
Not much of the theological writing of the period possessed more than a passing value. Portions of it are indirectly interesting, as illustrating manners and customs, or as tinged with the peculiar humour of the writer. The sermons of Bishop Latimer, one of the leading reformers, who was burnt at the stake under Mary, possess this twofold attraction. Thus, in preaching against covetousness, he complains of the great rise in rents and in the price of provisions that had taken place in his time, winding up his recital of grievances with the singular climax,—“I think, verily, that if it thus continue, we shall at length be constrained to pay for a pig a pound." The strange humour of the man breaks out in odd similes-in unexpected applications of homely proverbs-in illustrations of the great by the little, and the little by the great: nor is it, it must be owned, ever restrained by good taste or reverence. Cranmer's works have but small literary value, though most important from the historical point of view. John Bale, already mentioned, Becon, Ridley, Hooper, and Tyndal, all composed theological tracts, chiefly controversial. More, Bishop Fisher, and Pole were the leading writers on the Catholic side. More's English works were printed in two black-letter folio volumes in the year 1557. All except the first two, -a Life of Picus of Mirandula, and the unfinished History of Edward V. (or of Richard III., as it is called in this edition), which has been already mentioned, are either of a devotional character, or treat of the chief points of religious controversy which were then under debate. His last work (1534)—a Treatise on the Passion-remains unfinished; and the editor has appended in a colophon these touching words: “Sir Thomas More wrote no more of this woorke; for when he had written this farre, he was in prison kept so streyght,
that all his bokes and penne and ynke and paper was taken from hym, and sone after was he putte to death."
The close of the period was adorned by the scholarship and refined good sense of Roger Ascham. A native of Yorkshire, he was sent at an early age to Cambridge, and during a lengthened residence there diligently promoted the study of the new learning. In 1544 he wrote and dedicated to Henry VIII. his Toxophilus, a treatise on Archery, in which, for military and other reasons, he deprecates the growing disuse of that noble art. His exertions were vain: we hear indeed of the bow as still a formidable weapon at the battle of Pinkie in 1547; but from that date it disappears from our military history. In 1550 Ascham went to Germany as Secretary to Sir Richard Morissine, who was then proceeding as ambassador to the Imperial Court; and in 1553, while at Brussels, he wrote in the form of a letter to a friend in England a curious unfinished tract, in which the character and career of Maurice of Saxony, whose successful enterprise he had witnessed, and of two or three other German princes, are described with much acuteness.
In 1553 he was appointed Latin secretary to Edward VI., and retained the office (the same that Milton held under Cromwell) during the reign of Mary. On the accession of Elizabeth he received the additional appointment of reader in the learned languages to the Queen. Elizabeth used to take lessons from him at a stated hour each day. In 1563 he wrote his Schoolmaster, a treatise on education. This work was never finished, and was printed by his widow in 1671. The sense and acuteness of many of his pedagogic suggestions have been much dwelt upon by Johnson. An excellent biography of Ascham may be found in Hartley Coleridge's Northern Worthies.
THIS is the golden or Augustan age of English literature. After its brilliant opening under Chaucer, a period of poverty and feebleness had continued for more than a hundred and fifty years. Servile in thought and stiff in expression, it remained unvivified by genius even during the first half of the reign of Elizabeth; and Italy with her Ariosto and Tasso, France with her Marot and Rabelais, Portugal with her Camoens, and even Spain with her Ercilla, appeared to have outstripped England in the race of fame. Hence Sir Philip Sidney in his Defence of Poesie, written shortly before his death in 1586, after awarding a certain meed of praise to Sackville, Surrey, and Spenser (whose first work had but lately appeared), does not "remember to have seen many more [English poets] that have poetical sinews in them." But after the year 1580 a change became apparent. England's Helicon, a poetical miscellany (comprising fugitive pieces composed between 1580 and 1600), to which Sidney, Raleigh, Lodge, and Marlowe contributed, is full of genuine and native beauties. Spenser published the first three books of the Faery Queen in 1590; Shakspeare's first playsupposed to have been the Two Gentlemen of Veronaappeared about the year 1586; and the Essays of Francis Bacon were first published in 1597. Raleigh, the first English historian worthy of the name, published his History of the World in 1614, and the first portion of
Hooker's learned work on Ecclesiastical Polity appeared in 1597.
The peaceable and firmly settled state of the country under Elizabeth was largely instrumental in the rise of this literary greatness. Under the tyranny of Henry VIII., and again in the short reigns of Edward and Mary, nothing was settled or secure; no calculations for the future could be made with confidence; and those who had not to fear for their lives and property were afraid to express a free opinion, or act an open, independent part. Doubt, suspense, and mutual mistrust, paralysed all spontaneous action. At Elizabeth's accession, the perplexed and intimidated nation was ready to receive any form of Christianity which its government chose to impose upon it, provided it could obtain firm social peace. The government, influenced, not so much by the personal leanings of Elizabeth, as by an instinctive dread of the numerous holders of the church lands, lest, if Catholicity should be permanently established, restitution should eventually become the order of the day,- a feeling which, without doubt, was much aided by the horror which the revolting cruelties of Mary's government had everywhere excited,-decided upon establishing Protestantism. Elizabeth, whose sagacity detected the one paramount political want of the country, concluded in the second year of her reign a rather inglorious peace with France, and devoted all her energies to the work of strengthening the power of her government, passing good laws, and improving the internal administration of the kingdom. The consequences of the durable internal peace thus established were astonishing. Men began to trade, farm, and build with renewed vigour; a great breadth of forest land was reclaimed; travellers went forth to "discover islands far away," and to open new outlets for commerce; wealth, through this multiplied activity, poured into the kingdom; and that general prosperity was the result which led her subjects to invest the