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The English Chroniclers—a continuous succession of whom was kept up during the entire period of which we are now treating. Of these writers, Grafton, Stow, Holinshed, Hooker, Boteville, Harrison, Hakluyt, and Purchas first claim our attention.
RICHARD GRAFron, the first of these writers mentioned, was by trade a printer, and practiced the typographical art in the city of London during the latter part of the reign of Henry the Eighth, through the reigns of that monarch's two immediate successors, and for a number of years after Elizabeth ascended the throne. Being printer to Edward the Sixth, Grafton was employed, after the death of that young king, to prepare the proclamation which declared the succession of Lady Jane Grey to the crown. For this simple professional act, he was deprived of his patent, and afterward, ostensibly for the same reason, committed to prison. While thus removed from his regular calling, he compiled An Abridgment of the Chronicles of England, which was published in 1562. The work possesses little merit for originality, and the author, though sometimes referred to as authority by modern compilers, holds but a low rank among English historians. It does not afford any passage that our design requires us to introduce.
John Stow was contemporary with Grafton, and enjoyed a much higher reputation as an accurate and impartial recorder of public events. He was the son of a respectable tailor, and was born in London in 1525. Of his youth nothing is farther known than that he was brought up to his father's trade, and early exhibited a strong inclination for antiquarian research. By industry and perseverance he acquired, while still following his business, a vast amount of historical information; and, in 1560, he formed the design of composing annals of English history. To prepare himself to execute this design successfully, he abandoned his trade, and travelled on foot through a considerable part of England, for the purpose of examining the historical manuscripts preserved in cathedrals and other public establishments. He also enlarged, as far as his pecuniary means would allow him, his collection of old books and manuscripts, of which there were, at that time, many scattered throughout the country, in consequence of the recent suppression of monasteries by Henry the Eighth. He was, however, compelled, through necessity, to resume his trade, and his studies were suspended, till, by the bounty of Parker, archbishop of Canterbury, he was enabled again to prosecute them.
In 1565, Stow published his Summary of English Chronicles, embracing the period which elapsed from the coming in of Brutus, until the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth. This work was dedicated to the Earl of Leicester, and was founded on a curious tract written by that nobleman's grandfather while he was confined in the Tower. The original chronicle was entitled The Tree of the Commonwealth, and was dedicated to Henry the Eighth, but it never came into that monarch's hands.
The death of bishop Parker in 1575, materially reduced Stow's income, though he still managed to continue lis researches, to which his whole time and energies were now devoted. After many years of laborious research and severe study, appeared, in 1598, his Survey of London, the best known of his writings, and the work which has served as the basis of all subsequent histories of that metropolis. He wrote another work, his large Chronicle, or History of England, on which he bestowed forty years' labor, and which he was very anxious to publish ; but no part of it, excepting an extract under the title of Annals of England, ever appeared. In his old
Stow's poverty was such as to compel him to solicit publie charity. With this view he made two applications to the mayor and aldermen of London, but with little success. He at length appealed to James the First, and received the royal license to repair to churches, or other places, to receive the gratuities and charitable benevolence of well-disposed people. It is little to the honor of the contemporaries of this worthy and industrious man, that he should have been thus literally reduced to beggary. Under the pressure of want and disease Stow died on the fifth of April, 1605, at the advanced age of eighty years, and was buried in the church of St. Andrew Under Shaft, London, where a suitable monument was afterward erected to his memory by his widow.
The works of this interesting author, though possessing few graces of style, have always been highly esteemed for accuracy and research. He used often to declare that, in composing them he had never allowed himself to be swayed either by fear, favor, or malice; but that he had impartially, and to the best of his knowledge, delivered the truth. So highly was his accuracy esteemed by contemporary authors, that even Bacon and Camden were accustomed to take statements upon his sole authority. We shall conclude these remarks with the following extract, taken from the 'Survey of London.'
SPORTS UPON THE ICE IN ELIZABETH'S REIGN.
When that great moor which washeth Moorfields, at the north wall of the city, is frozen over, great companies of young men go to sport upon the ice; then fetching a run, and setting their feet at a distance, and placing their bodies sidewise, they slide a great way. Others take heaps of ice, as if it were great mill-stones, and make seats; many going before, draw him that sits thereon, holding one another by the hand in going so fast; some slipping with their feet, all fall down together; some are better practiced to the ice, and bind to their shoes bones, as the legs of some beasts, and hold stakes in their hands headed with sharp iron, which sometimes they strike against the ice; and these men go on with speed as doth a bird in the air, or darts shots from some warlike engine: sometimes two men set themselves at a distance, and run one against an her, as it were at tilt, with these stakes, wherewith one or both parties are thrown down, not without some hurt to their bodies; and after their fall, by reason of the violent motion, are carried a good distance from one another; and wheresoever the ice doth touch their head, it rubs off all the skin, and lays it bare; and if one fall upon his leg or arm, it is usually broken; but young men, greedy of honour, and desirous of victory, do thus exercise themselves in counterfeit battles, that they may bear the brunt more strongly when they come to it in good earnest.
RAPHAEL HOLINSHED, to whom we have already had frequent occasion to refer, was one of the most remarkable of these early chroniclers, though of his history, nothing is known farther than that he died about 1580. Toward The Chronicles to which Holinshed's name is attached, John Hooker, an uncle of the author of the Ecclesiastical Polity, Francis Buteville, an individual of whom nothing has been recorded, farther than that he was • a man of great learning and judgment, and a wonderful lover of antiquities,' and William Harrison, contributed. Prefixed to the historical portion of the work is a description of Britain and its inhabitants, by Ilarrison, which is still highly valued, as affording an interesting picture of the state of the country, and the manners of the people, in the sixteenth century. This is followed by a history of England to the Norman Conquest, by Holinshed; a history and description of Ireland, by one Richard Stanihurst, of whom nothing more is known; additional chronicles of Ireland, translated or written by Holinshed and Hooker; a description and history of Scotland mostly translated from Hector Boece, by Holinshed and Harrison; and a History of England, by Holinshed, from the Norman Conquest to 1577, when the 'Chronicles' were published. It was from the translation of Boece that Shakspeare, as we have already remarked, derived the groundwork of his tragedy of Macbeth.
Among the authors who combined their researches and learning to produce these Chronicles,' WILLIAM HARRISON is, perhaps, the most remarkable; and we are tempted to quote from “The Chronicles,' some of his sarcastic remarks on the degeneracy of his contemporaries, their extravagance in dress, and the growth of luxury among them. But his account of the languages of Britain, being peculiarly suited to the object we have before us in these lectures, and at the same time, from the quaintness and simplicity of the style, highly amusing, is here given in preference to any other extract:
THE LANGUAGES OF BRITAIN.
The British tongue called Cymric doth yet remain in that part of the island which is now called Wales, whither the Britons were driven after the Saxons had made a full conquest of the other, which we now call England, although the pristine intercourse thereof be not a little diminished by mixture of the Latin and Saxon speeches withal. Howbeit, many poesies and writings (in making whereof that nation hath evermore delighted) are yet extant in my time, whereby some difference between the ancient and present language may easily be discerned, notwithstanding that among all these there is nothing to be found which can set down any sound and full testimony of their own original, in remembrance whereof their bards and cunning men have been most slack and negligent. *
Next unto the British speech, the Latin tongue was brought in by the Romans, and in manner generally planted through the whole region, as the French was after by the Normans. Of this tongue I will not say much, because there are few which be not skillful in the same. Howbeit, as the speech itself is easy and delectable, so hath it perverted the names of the ancient rivers, regions, and cities of Britain, in such wise, that in these our days their old British denominations are quite grown out of memory, and yet those of the new Latin left as most uncertain. This re
maineth, also, unto my time, borrowed from the Romans, that all our deeds, evidences, charters, and writings of record, are set down in the Latin tongue, though now very barbarous, and thereunto the copies and court-rolls, and processes of courts and leets registered in the same.
The third language apparently known is the Scythian,' or High Dutch, induced at first by the Saxons (which the Britons call Saysonaec,? as they do the speakers Sayson), a hard and rough kind of speech, God wot, when our nation was brought first into acquaintance withal, but now changed with us into a far more fine and easy kind of utterance, and so polished and helped with new and milder words, that it is to be avouched how there is no one speech under the sun spoken in our time, that hath or can have more variety of words, copiousness of phrases, or figures and flowers of eloquence, than hath our English tongue, although some have affirmed us rather to bark as dogs than talk like men, because the most of our words (as they do indeed) incline unto one syllable. This, also, is to be noted as a testimony remaining still of our language, derived from the Saxons, that the general name, for the most part, of every skillful artificer in his trade endeth in here with us, albeit the h be left out, and er only inserted, as scrivenhere, writehere, shiphere, &c.—for scrivener, writer, and shipper, &c.; beside many other relics of that speech never to be abolished,
After the Saxon tongue came the Norman or French language over into our country, and therein were our laws written for a long time. Our children, also, were, by an especial decree, taught first to speak the same, and thereunto enforced to learn their constructions in the French, whensoever they were set to the grammar-school. In like sort, few bishops, abbots, or other clergymen, were admitted unto any ecclesiastical function here among us, but such as came out of religious houses from beyond the seas, to the end they should not use the English tongue in their sermons to the people. In the court, also, it grew into such contempt, that most men thought it no small dishonour to speak any English there; which bravery took its hold at the last likewise in the country with every ploughman, that even the very carters began to wax weary of their mother-tongue, and laboured to speak French, which as then was counted no small token of gentility. And no marvel; for every French rascal, when he came once hither, was taken for a gentleman, only because he was proud, and could use his own language. And all this (I say) to exile the English and British speeches quite out of the country. But in vain; for in the time of King Edward I., to wit, toward the latter end of his reign, the French itself ceased to be spoken generally, but most of all and by law in the midst of Edward III., and then began the English to recover and grow in more estimation than before ; notwithstanding that, among our artificers, the most part of their implements, tools, and words of art, retain still their French denominations even to these our days, as the language itself is used likewise in sundry courts, books of record, and matters of law; whereof here is no place to make any particular rehearsal. Afterward, also, by diligent travail of Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower, in the time of Richard II., and after them of John Scogan and John Lydgate, monk of Bury, our said tongue was brought to an excellent pass, notwithstanding that it never came unto the ty po of perfection until the time of Queen Elizabeth, wherein John Jewel, bishop of Sarum, John Fox, and sundry learned and excellent writers, have fully accomplished the ornature of the same, to their great praise and immortal commendation; although not a few other do greatly seek to strain the same, by fond affectation of foreign and strange words, presuming that to be the best English which is most corrupted with external terms of eloquence and sound of many syllables. But as this excellency of the English tongue is found in one, and the south part of this island,
1 It is scarcely necessary to remark, that this term is here misapplied.
2 The Highlanders of Scotland still speak of the English as Sassenach (meaning Saxons)
so in Wales the greatest number (as I said) retain still their own ancient language, that of the north part of the said country being less corrupted than the other, and therefore reputed for the better in their own estimation and judgment. This, also, is proper to us Englishmen, that since ours is a middle or intermediate language, and neither too rough nor too smooth in utterance, we may with much facility learn any other language, beside Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and speak it naturally, as if we were home-born in those countries; and yet on the other side it falleth out, I wot not by what other means, that few foreign nations can rightly pronounce ours, without some and that great note of imperfection, especially the Frenchmen, who also seldom write any thing that savoureth of English truly. But this of all the rest doth breed most ad-' miration with me, that if any stranger doth hit upon some likely pronunciation of our tongue, yet in age he swerveth so much from the same, that he is worse therein than ever he was, and thereto, peradventure, halteth not a little also in his own, as I have seen by experience in Reginald Wolfe, and others, whereof I have justly marvelled.
The Cornish and Devonshire men, whose country the Britons call Cerniw, have a speech in like sort of their own, and such as hath indeed more affinity with the Armorican tongue than I can well discuss of. Yet in mine opinion, they are both but a corrupted kind of British, albeit so far degenerating in these days from the old, that if either of them do meet with a Welshman, they are not able at the first to understand one another, except here and there in some odd words, without the help of interpreters. And no marvel, in mine opinion, that the British of Cornwall is thus corrupted, since the Welsh tongue that is spoken in the north and south part of Wales doth differ so much in itself, as the English used in Scotland doth from that which is spoken among us here in this side of the island, as I have said already.
The Scottish-English hath been much broader and less pleasant in utterance than ours, because that nation hath not, till of late, endeavoured to bring the same to any perfect order, and yet it was such in manner as Englishmen themselves did speak for the most part beyond the Trent, whither any great amendment of our language had not, as then, extended itself. Howbeit, in our time the Scottish language endeavoureth to come near, if not altogether to match, our tongue in fineness of phrase and copiousness of words, and this may in part appear by a history of the Apocrypha translated into Scottish verse by Hudson, dedicated to the king of that country, and containing six books, except my memory do fail me.
Hakluyt is another of the laborious compilers of this period, to whom the world is indebted for the preservation, in an acceptable form, of narratives which would otherwise, in all human probability, have fallen into oblivion. The department of history he chose for his labors was that which is descriptive of the naval adventures and discoveries of his countrymen.
Richard Hakluyt was born in the city of London in 1553, and received his elementary education at Westminster school. From Westminster he entered Christ Church College, Oxford, where, besides the regular studies of the university, he engaged in an extensive course of reading in various languages, on geographical and maritime subjects, toward which he had early evinced a strong inclination. He soon acquired, in these departments of knowledge, such reputation, that he was appointed to lecture at Oxford on cosmography and the collateral sciences; and he carried on, at the same time, a correspondence with the celebrated continental geographers, Ortelius and Mercator. Having taken orders he obtained a desirable parish in Suffolk, but resigned it for the chaplaincy to the English ambassador at Paris, where he continued to reside for five years, during which time he cultivated