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Bourchier, was induced to renounce the rational opinions he had embraced. His recantacion, however, which was the effect of allurement and terrour, though it preferved his life, could not secure to him the continuance of his exalted station. He was deprived of his fee, and was condemned to a retirement, perhaps to a prison, in which he would probably reflect with deep concern upon the timidity of his conduct.'
The general ignorance and barbarity of the times are marked by several curious and striking circumstances. When the heroic Maid of Orleans was cruelly put to death, the judges, in their condemnation of her, were influenced by a serious opinion that she was a sorceress, and a worThipper of the devil. Indeed, the infatuation with respect to the belief of witchcraft, must have been irresistible, when it was not in the power of such a distinguished character as Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, to prevent his duchess from being brought co an open trial, and sentenced to a public penance and imprisonment for life, upon an accusation of this kind. But all this will appear the less furprising, when we are informed, that, at the battle of Barnet, the earl of Warwick's forces were thrown into confufion by an unhappy mistake, in consequence of a mitt, which was believed to have been raised by friar Bungy, a reputed magician. In such a deplorable condition of the human mind, the clergy had ample encouragement to fuppress, with unrelenting rigour, the smallest attempts ac reformation, and to bind the laity closer still in the chains of absurdity, error, and superstition. .
The state of learning was correspondent to the general darkness of the age. Cornelius Vitellius, an Italian, who read lectures in New College at Oxford, did it with fo little effect, that no traces of his having produced any literary improvement have fallen within the compass of our enquiry. The scarcity of books, which had always been a formidable obstruction to the progress of knowledge, was increased during a period wherein long civil wars must, in a great measure, have destroyed both the patronage and the leisure that were necessary to the transcription of manu
scripts. In alınost the whole of the writers to whom the larger part of the firteenth century gave birth, a want of tafte is eininently discernible. They were equally itrangers to propriety of sentiment and purity of style ; nor was their composition vulgar only, but frequently ungramma. tical.
The Latin tongue continued to be the usual vehicle in which the authors of the time conveyed their works to the public. It might, therefore, have been expected that this language would have been cultivated at least as much as it had been in some preceding centuries. But fo far was this from being the cale, that the learned men we have formerly mentioned may be ranked as pure and classical composers, when compared with the writers of whom we are now speaks ing. Perhaps an exception might be made in favour of Thomas Chaundier, an ecelefiaftic of great preferinents, and of one or two more, concerning whom Leland and Wood speak in high terms. While the knowledge of the Latin tongue was upon the decline, it will not be thought strange that the study of the Greek language should almost totally be neglected. In vain shall we search for any names that by the cultivation of it conferred honour upon their country. We are not insenüble that, in making this assertion, we may be confronted with a catalogue of persons whom some of our antiquaries have highly applauded, But pompous encomiums, unless supported by the evidence of facts, and the production of writings, are entitled to little regard.
If any of our readers should imagine that, while philological and classical literature were thus neglected, the phi. losophical sciences will be found to have been in a more prosperous condition, they will be wholly disappointed, These sciences were as little attended to as the other parts of learning. We have here no characters to produce which can in any degree be ranked with some that have formerly been noticed. Were we to search into Tanner, Leland, Bale, Pitts, and other writers of that kind, we might draw out a list of persons who were said to have been mathematicians and philosophers si but no traces will
be met with of their having made any discoveries, or been the authors of any works, which deserve to be recorded.
Medicine, though more studied than natural philosophy in general, does not appear with much greater luftre. Dr. Freind, in his History of Physic, could not find one phylician in this period whom he thought worthy of being applauded. The “ Dietary for the Preservation of Health,” by Dr. Gibert Kymer, and which is still extant, is said, however, to contain several curious things, and some salutary advices. He was physician to Humphrey duke of Gloucester. Dr. John Fauceby, who stood in the same redation to king Henry the Sixth, obtained a commillion froin his royal master to discover an universal medicine, called the Elixir of Life, for the cure of all diseases, wounds, and fractures, and for prolonging the health and strength of the body, and the vigour of the mind, to the greatest posfible extent of time. This was the folly of the age. It was by an application to the occult sciences, and not by a rational attention to the human oeconomy, to the progress of nature, and the dictates of a judicious experience, that the art of healing was expected to be promoted. Surgery, though the knowledge of it was so much wanted, in confequence of the wars both at home and abroad, in which the nation was perperually engaged, was in an equally low state. Henry the Fifth found it difficult to procure a sufficient number of surgeons for his army, and their skill was inferior to their number. In the hands of ignorance, many wounded men, who might otherwise have been preserved, probably suffered the loss of their lives.
But while true fcience was little or not at all regarded, falfe science received the protection and support of government itself. This was eminently the case in the reign of Henry the Sixth. We have already mentioned this monarch's indulgence to the pretensions of his physician, Dr. John Fauceby. Other alchemists were treated with the like favour and distinction. An extraordinary commission was granted to them, and confirmed by parliament; in which they were auchorized to prosecute their endeavours for finding out an universal medicine, and for the transinú
tation of baser metals into real and fine gold and silver. By this commission, they were emancipated from the penalties of an act to which the professors of alchemy had been fubjected in the beginning of the reign of king Henry the Fourth. Hence it is evident, that our ancestors, instead of growing more enlightened, were become still greater Naves of ignorance and credulity.
History is so natural a study, and, indeed, is an object of such universal concern, that writers in it, of some kind or other, will never be wanting, so long as human beings are capable of holding a pen. Historians, accordingly, the present period affords; but not any that can be put into competition with a Matthew Paris, or a Williain of Malmfbury. Such as they were, they must not, however, be omitted in a delineation of the literature of the times. The first place is undoubtedly due to Thomas Walfingham, a monk belonging to the abbey of St. Alban's. Two historical works were composed by him, both of which were of considerable extent. The former was entitled " A History of England :" the latter had Normandy for its particular subject; but an account could not be given of that country, without the interspersion of many circumstances which related to English affairs.
Though Waisingham's style is sufficiently defective, his Latinity is not so barbarous as that of many of his contemporaries. His chief merit is, that, notwithstanding his abundant credulity, and his insertion of many idle stories, he gives a more copious narrative of facts than the other annalists of that time, and records things not elsewhere to be found. Upon the whole, the utility of his inforınation, with respect to the events he treats upon, is allowed to be of real importance.
Thoinas Otterbourne, a Franciscan friar, was the author of a History of England, from the supposed landing of Brutus to the year 1420. The former part of the work is merely a compilation from older historians, delivered in their own words. When the writer comes down to the times in which he himself lived, he conveys some useful intelligence.
The Chronicle of John Whethamstede, abboť of St. Alban’s, comprizes only twenty years, from 1441 to 1461, including the latter part of king Henry the Sixth's reign. It was the principal object of this historian to relate the affairs of his own abbey; but to the recital of these are added original papers, and an account of various civil events, especially of the two battles of St. Alban's.
Thomas de Elinham, prior of Linton, confined-himself to the reign of king Henry the Fifth. On this head he is full and particular, but in a style that is not at all capable of being read with pleasure. Nevertheless, his work is so far valuable, as much of the information it contains was derived from persons of consequence, who had been spectators of many of the transactions which they have enabled our historian to record. ;
An Italian, who came into England, and who was pro. tected by Hunphrey, duke of Gloucester, was the author of a judicious epitome of Thomas de Elmhain's history, to which also he made some additions. Profelling to be an imitator of the great Roman historian, Livy, he al fumed the name of Titus Livius. When we say that he did not attain either the elevation of sentiment or dignity of style which so eminently distinguished the model he wished to follow, we shall obtain full credit with our readers.
The Annals of William of Worcester, a native of Bristol, and a member of the university of Oxford, have little to recommend them in point of materials, and are contemptible with regard to their mode of composition. They are not, however, wholly destițute of intelligence which cannot be drawn from any other source.
Notwithstanding the numerous faults and absurdities of John Rous, the antiquary of Warwick, and which reduce him to a very low scale in the list of writers, various things occur in him that throw a light on the transactions and manners of the times. In most of the authors of this period, the small quantity of good ore which is to be met with, must be extracted from a disgusting heap of dross.