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doubt through his father's connection with the monastery of Christchurch, Canterbury, of which house he was a "confrater," became a student at the monks' college at Oxford. In later years Sir Thomas himself, when Chancellor of England, perpetuated the memory of his life-long connection with the monks of Canterbury by enrolling his name also on the fraternity lists of that house.
Linacre, in 1484, became a Fellow of All Souls' College, but evidently he did not lose touch with his old friends at Canterbury, for, in 1486, Prior Selling being appointed one of the ambassadors of Henry VII. to the Pope, he invited his former pupil to accompany him to Italy, in order to profit by the teaching of the great humanist masters at the universities there. Prior Selling took him probably as far as Florence, and introduced him to his own old master and friend, Angelo Politian, who was then engaged in instructing the children of Lorenzo de Medici. Through Selling's interest, Linacre was permitted to share in their lessons, and there are letters showing that the younger son, when in after years he became Pope, as Leo X., was not unmindful of his early companionship with the English scholar.1 From Politian, Linacre acquired a purity of style in Latin which makes him celebrated even among the celebrated men of his time. Greek he learnt from Demetrius Chalcocondylas, who was then, like Politian, engaged in teaching the children of Lorenzo de Medici.8
From Florence, Linacre passed on to Rome, where he gained many friends among the great humanists of the day. One day, when examining the manuscripts of the Vatican Library for classics, and engaged in reading the Phado of Plato, Hermolaus Barbarus came up and politely expressed his belief that the youth had no claim, as he had himself, to the title Barbarus, if it were lawful to judge from his choice of a book. Linacre at once, from the happy compliment, recognised the speaker, and this chance interview led to a life-long friendship between the Englishman and one of the great masters of classical literature.1
in memory of his great benefits to them, his name should be mentioned daily in the conventual mass at Canterbury, and that at dinner each day at Oxford he should be named as founder.
1 Galeni, De Timpcramcntis libri Ires, Thoma Linacro interpretante, is dedicated to Pope Leo X., with a letter from Linacre dated 1521. "The widow's mite was approved by Him whose vicar on earth" Pope Leo is, so this book is only intended to recall common studies, though in itself of little interest to one having the care of the world.
* G. Lilii, Elogia, ed. P. Jovii, p. 91.
After Linacre had been in Italy for a year or more, a youth whom he had known at Oxford, William Grocyn, was induced to come and share with him the benefit of the training in literature then to be obtained only in Italy. On his return in 1492, Grocyn became lecturer at Exeter College, Oxford, and among his pupils in Greek were Sir Thomas More' and Erasmus. He was a graduate in theology, and was chosen by Dean Colet to give lectures at St. Paul's and subsequently appointed by Archbishop Warham, Master or Guardian of the collegiate church o Maidstone.' Erasmus describes him as " a man of most rigidly upright life, almost superstitiously observant of ecclesiastical custom, versed in every nicety of scholastic theology, by nature of the most acute judgment, and, in a word, fully instructed in every kind of learning."4
1 Ibid., lxiii. p. 14$.
'Sir Thomas More writing to Colet says: "I pass my time here (at Oxford) with Grocyn, Linacre, and our (George) Lilly: the first as you know the only master of my life, when you are absent; the second, the director of my studies; the third, my dearest companion in all the affairs of life" (J. Stapleton, Tret TAoma,p. 165). Another constant companion of More at Oxford was Cuthbert Tunstall, one of the most learned men of his day, afterwards in succession Bishop of London and Durham. Tunstall dedicated to More his tract De arte supputandi, which he printed at Paris in 1529.
'Reg. Warham, in Knight's Erasmus, p. 22 note.
4 Encyclop. Brit, sub nomine.
Linacre, after a distinguished course in the medical schools of Padua, returned to Oxford, and in 1501 became tutor to Prince Arthur. On the accession of Henry VIII. he was appointed physician to the court, and could count all the distinguished men of the day, Wolsey, Warbam, Fox, and the rest, among his patients; and Erasmus, Sir Thomas More, and Queen Mary among his pupils in letters. In his early life, entering the clerical state, he had held ecclesiastical preferment; in advanced years he received priest's orders, and devoted the evening of his life to a pious preparation for his end.1 Grocyn and Linacre are usually regarded as the pioneers of the revival of letters. But, as already pointed out, the first to cross the Alps from England in search for the new light, to convey it back to England, and to hand it on to Grocyn and Linacre, were William Selling, and his companion, William Hadley. Thus, the real pioneers in the English renaissance were the two monks of Christchurch, and, some years after, the two ecclesiastics, Grocyn and v* ~>^Linacre.
Selling, even after his election to the priorship of Canterbury, continued to occupy a distinguished place both in the political world and in the world of letters. He was chosen, though only the fifth member of the embassy sent by Henry VII. on his accession to the Pope, to act as orator, and in that capacity delivered a Latin oration before the Pope and Cardinals.'
He was also and subsequently sent with others by Henry on an embassy to the French king, in which he also fulfilled the function of spokesman, making what is described as "a most elegant oration."
s Ugo Balzani, Un' ambasciata inglese a Roma, Societa Romana di storia patria, iii. p. 175 seqq. Of this an epitome is given in Bacon's Henry VII., p. 95. Count Ugo Balzani says: "II prior di Canterbury sembra essere veramente stato l'anima dell' ambasciata." Burchardus, Rentm Urbanarum Commenlarii (ed. Thuasne), i. p. 257, gives a full account of the reception of this embassy in Rome and by the Pope.
That as Prior, Selling kept up his interest in the literary revival is clear from the terms of his obituary notice. There exists, moreover, a translation made by him after his return from his embassy to Rome, when he took his youthful protege, Linacre, and placed him under Chalcocondylas and Politian in Florence, which seems to prove that the renewal of his intimacy with the great humanist masters of Italy had inspired him with a desire to continue his literary work. Even in the midst of constant calls upon him, which the high office of Prior of Canterbury necessitated, he found time to translate a sermon of St. John Chrysostom from the Greek, two copies of which still remain in the British Museum.1 This is dated 1488; and it is probably the first example of any Greek work put into Latin in England in the early days of the English renaissance of letters. The very volume (Add. MS. 15,673) in which one copy of this translation is found shows by the style of the writing, and other indications, the Italian influences at work in Canterbury in the time of Selling's succession at the close of the fifteenth century; and also the intercourse which the monastery there kept up with the foreign humanists.*
It is hardly necessary to say more about the precious volumes of the classics and the other manuscripts which Selling collected on his travels. Many of them perished, with that most rare work, Cicero's De Republica in the fire caused by the carelessness of some of Henry VIII.'s visitors on the eve of the dissolution of Selling's old monastery at Canterbury. Some, like the great Greek commentaries of St. Cyril on the Prophets, were rescued half burnt from the flames; "others, by some good chance," says Leland, "had been removed; amongst these were the commentaries of St. Basil the Great on Isaias, the works of Synesius and other Greek codices."1 Quite recently it has been recognised that the complete Homer and the plays of Euripides in Corpus Christi College library at Cambridge, which tradition had associated with the name of Archbishop Theodore in the seventh century, are in reality both fifteenth-century manuscripts; and as they formed, undoubtedly, part of the library at Christchurch, Canterbury, it is hardly too much to suppose that they were some of the treasures brought back by Prior Selling from Italy. The same may probably be said of a Livy, a fifteenth-century Greek Psalter, and a copy of the Psalms in Hebrew and Latin, in Trinity College Library.*
1 Harl. MS. 6237, and Add. MS. 15,673.
* In the same beautifully written volume is a printed tract addressed to the Venetian Senate in 1471 against princes taking church property. The tract had been sent to the Prior of Christchurch by Christopher Urswick, with a letter, in which, to induce him to read it, he says it is approved by Hermolaus Barbarus and Guarini. Christopher Urswick was almoner to Henry VII., and to him Erasmus dedicated three of his works.
Prior Selling's influence, moreover, extended beyond the walls of his own house, and can be traced to others besides his old pupil, and possibly relative, Linacre. Among the friendships he had formed whilst at Padua was that of a young ecclesiastical student, Thomas Langton, with whom he was subsequently at Rome. Langton was employed in diplomatic business by the king, Edward IV., and whilst in France, through his friendship for Prior Selling, obtained some favour from the French king for the monastery of Canterbury; in return for this the monks offered him a living in London.' Prior Selling, on one occasion at least, drafted the sermon which Dr. Langton was to deliver as prolocutor in the Convocation of the Canterbury Province.1 In 1483 Langton became Bishop of Winchester, and " such was his love of letters" that he
1 Leland, De Scriptoribus Britannicis, 482.
* This information I owe to the kindness of Dr. Montague James.
* Canterbury Letters (Camden Soc.), p. xxvii.
4 Ibid., p. 36, the letter in which Dr. Langton asks Prior Selling to "attend to the drawing of it." The draft sermon is in Cleop. A. iii.