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activity shown, but throughout the length and breadth of England the walls of our great cathedrals and minsters, and those of well-nigh every little parish church in the land, still bear their testimony to what was done out of love for God's house during the period in question by the English people. Moreover, by the aid of the existing accounts and inventories it can be proved to demonstration that it was a work which then, more than at any other period of our national existence, appealed to the people at large and was carried out by them. No longer, as in earlier times, was the building and beautifying of God's house left in this period to some great noble benefactor or rich landowner. During the fifteenth century the people were themselves concerned with the work, initiated it, found the means to carry it out, and superintended it in all its details.
The same may be said of art. The work of adorning the walls of the churches with paintings and frescoes, the work of filling in the tracery of the windows with pictured glass, the work of setting up, and carving, and painting, and decorating; the making of screens, and stalls, and altars, all during this period, and right up to the eve of the change, was in every sense popular. It was the people who carried out these works, and evidently for the sole reason because they loved to beautify their churches, which were, in a way now somewhat difficult to realise, the centre no less of their lives, than of their religion. Popular art grows, and only grows luxuriantly, upon a religious soil, and under the inspiration of a popular enthusiasm the parish churches of England became, if we may judge from the evidence of the wills, accounts and inventories which still survive, not merely sanctuaries, but veritable picture galleries, teaching the poor and unlettered the history and doctrine of their religion. Nor were the pictures themselves the miserable daubs which some have suggested. The stained glass windows were not only multiplied in the churches of England during this period,
but by those best able to judge, the time between 1480 and 1520 has been regarded as the golden age of the art; and as regards the frescoes and decorations themselves, there is evidence of the existence in England of a high proficiency, both in design and execution, before the Reformation. Two examples may be taken to attest the truth of this : the series of paintings against which the stalls in Eton College Chapel are now placed, and the pictures on the walls of the Lady Chapel at Winchester, now unfortunately destroyed by the whitewash with which they had been covered on the change of religion. Those who had the opportunity of examining the former series, when many years ago they were uncovered on the temporary removal of the stalls, have testified to their intrinsic merit. Indeed, they appeared to the best judges of the time as being so excellent in drawing and colour that on their authority they were long supposed to have been the work of some unknown Italian artist of the school of Giotto. By a fortunate discovery of Mr. J. Willis Clarke, however, it is now known that both these, and the Winchester series, were in reality executed by an Englishman, named Baker.
The same is true with regard to decoration and carved work. In screen work, the Perpendicular period is allowed to have excelled all others, both in the lavish amount of the ornament as well as in the style of decoration. One who has paid much attention to this subject says : “ During this period, the screen work was usually enriched by gilding and painting, or was 'depensiled,' as the phrase runs, and many curious works of the limner's art may still be seen in the churches of Norfolk and Suffolk. In Sussex, the screens of Brighton and Horsham may be cited as painted screens of beauty and merit, both having been thus ornamented in a profuse and costly manner, and each bore figures of saints in their panels.". The
'J. L. Andre in Sussex Archeological Journal, xxxix. p. 31.
church wardens' accounts, too, show that the work of thus decorating the English parish churches was in full operation up to the very eve of the religious changes. In these truthful pictures of parochial life, we may see the people and their representatives busily engaged in collecting the necessary money, and in superintending the work of setting up altars and statues and paintings, and in hiring carvers and decorators to enrich what their ancestors had provided for God's house. It was the age, too, of organ-making and bell-founding, and there is hardly a record of any parish church at this time which does not show considerable sums of money spent upon these. From the middle of the fifteenth century to the period described as “the great pillage," music, too, had made great progress in England, and the renown of the English school had spread over Europe. Musical compositions had multiplied in a wonderful way, and before the close of the fifteenth century "prick song,” or part music, is very frequently found in the inventories of our English parish churches. In fact, it has been recently shown that much of the music of the boasted school of ecclesiastical music to which the English Reformation had been thought to have given birth, is, in reality, music adapted to the new English services, from Latin originals, which had been inspired by the ancient offices of the Church. Most of the prick song" masses and other musical compositions were destroyed in the wholesale destruction which accompanied the religious changes, but sufficient remains to show that the English pre-Reformation school of music was second to none in Europe. The reputation of some of its chief masters, like Dunstable, Tallis, and Bird, had spread to other countries, and their works had been used and studied, even in that land of song, Italy.
A dispassionate consideration of the period preceding the great religious upheaval of the sixteenth century will, it can hardly be doubted, lead the inquirer to conclude that it was not in any sense an age of stagnation, discontent, and darkness. Letters, art, architecture, painting, and music, under the distinct patronage of the Church, had made great and steady progress before the advent of the new ideas. Moreover, those who will examine the old parish records cannot fail to see that up to the very eve of the changes, the old religion had not lost its hold upon the minds and affections of the people at large. And one thing is absolutely clear, that it was not the Reformation movement which brought to the world in its train the blessings of education, and the arts of civilisation. What it did for all these is written plainly enough in the history of that period of change and destruction.
CHAPTER II. THE REVIVAL OF LETTERS IN ENGLAND.
The story of the English literary revival in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is of no little interest and importance. The full history of the movement would form the fitting theme of an entire volume; but the real facts are so contrary to much that is commonly believed about our English renaissance of letters, that some brief account is necessary, if we would rightly understand the attitude of men's minds on the eve of the Reformation. At the outset, it is useful to recall the limits of this English renaissance. Judged by what is known of the movement in Italy, the land of its origin, the word “renaissance" is usually understood to denote not only the adoption of the learning and intellectual culture of ancient Greece and Rome by the leaders of thought in the Western World during the period in question, but an almost servile following of classical models, the absorption of the pagan spirit and the adoption of pagan modes of expression so fully, as certainly to obscure, if it did not frequently positively obliterate, Christian sentiment and Christian ideals. In this sense, it is pleasing to think, the renaissance was unknown in England. So far, however, as the revival of learning is concerned, England bore its part in, if indeed it may not be said to have been in the forefront of, the movement.
This has, perhaps, hardly been realised as it should be. That the sixteenth century witnessed a remarkable awakening of minds, a broadening of intellectual interests,