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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 protégé, 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. 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
1 Harl. MS. 6237, and Add. MS. 15,673.
2 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 10 Henry VII., and to him Erasmus dedicated three of his works.
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."l 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.
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. In 1483 Langton became Bishop of Winchester, and “such was his love of letters" that he established in his own house a schola domestica for boys, and himself used to preside in the evening at the lessons. One youth, his secretary, attracted his attention by his music. This was Richard Pace, afterwards renowned as a classical scholar and diplomatist. Bishop Langton recognised his abilities, and forthwith despatched him to Italy, paying all his expenses at the university of Padua and Rome. At the former place, he says: “When as a youth I began to work at my humanities, I was assisted by Cuthbert Tunstall and William Latimer, men most illustrious and excelling in every branch of learning, whose prudence, probity, and integrity were such that it were hard to say whether their learning excelled their high moral character, or their uprightness their learning.
1 Leland, De Scriptoribus Britannicis, 482.
* 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.
At this university he was taught by Leonicus and by Leonicenus, the friend and correspondent of Politian : “ Men," he says, as being unable to give higher praise, “ like Tunstall and Latimer.”8 Passing on to Bologna he sat at the feet of Paul Bombasius, “who was then explaining every best author to large audiences.” Subsequently, at Rome, he formed a lasting friendship with William Stokesley, whom he describes as “his best friend on earth; a man of the keenest judgment, excellent, and
Richard Pace, De Fructu, p. 27. The work De Fructu was composed at Constance, where Pace was ambassador, and where he had met his old master, Paul Bombasius. He dedicates the tract to Colet, who has done so much to introduce true classical Latin into England, in place of the barbarous language formerly used. The work was suggested to him by a conversation he had in England two years before on his return from Rome, with a gentleman he met at dinner, who strongly objected to a literary education for his children, on the ground that he disapproved of certain expressions made use of by Erasmus. The tract shows on what 'a very intimate footing Pace was with Bombasius.
2 De Fructu, p. 99. Pace published at Venice, in 1522, Plutarchi Cheronei Opuscula, and dedicated the work to Bishop Tunstall. He reminds the bishop of their old student days, and says the translation has been examined by their “old master, Nicholas Leonicus.”
indeed marvellous, in theology and philosophy, and not only skilled in Greek and Latin, but possessed of some knowledge of Hebrew”; whose great regret was that he had not earlier in life realised the power of the Greek language. At Ferrara, too, Pace met Erasmus, and he warmly acknowledges his indebtedness to the influence of this great humanist.
In 1509, Richard Pace accompanied Cardinal Bainbridge to Rome, and was with him when the cardinal died, or was murdered, there in 1514. Whilst in the Eternal City, “urged to the study by the most upright and learned man, William Latimer, he searched the Pope's library for books of music, and found a great number of works on the subject. The cardinal's death put a stop to his investigations; but he had seen sufficient to be able to say that to study the matter properly a man must know Greek and get to the library of the Pope, where there were many and the best books on music. “But,” he adds, “this I venture to say, our English music, if any one will critically examine into the matter, will be found to display the greatest subtlety of mind, especially in what is called the introduction of harmonies, and in this matter to excel ancient music.''2
It is unnecessary to follow in any detail the story of the general literary revival in England. Beginning with Selling, the movement continued to progress down to the very eve of the religious disputes. That there was opposition on the part of some who regarded the stirring of the waters with suspicion was inevitable. More especially was this the case because during the course of the literary revival there rose the storm of the great religious revolt of the sixteenth century, and because the practical paganism which had resulted from the movement in Italy was perhaps not unnaturally supposed by the timorous to be a
i De Fructu, p. 99.
2 De Fructu, p. 51. antiquitatem superasse.”
“Quas vocant proportionum inductiones ...
necessary consequence of any return to the study of the classics of Greece and Rome. The opposition came generally from a misunderstanding, and “not so much from hostility to Greek itself as from little aspirations for any learning.” This Sir Thomas More expressly declares when writing to urge the Oxford authorities to repress a band of giddy people who, calling themselves Trojans, made it their duty to fight against the Grecians. It is true also that the pulpit was at times brought into requisition to decry “not only Greek and Latin studies,” but all liberal education of any kind. But, so far as England is concerned, this opposition to the revival of letters, even on the score of the dangers likely to come either to faith or morals, was, when all is said, slight, and through the influence of More, Fisher, and the king himself, easily subdued. The main fact, however, cannot be gainsaid, namely, that the chief ecclesiastics of the day, Wolsey, Warham, Fisher, Tunstall, Langton, Stokesley, Fox, Selling, Grocyn, Whitford, Linacre, Colet, Pace, William Latimer, and Thomas Lupset,3 to name only the most distinguished, were not
| More to the University of Oxford in Knight's Erasmus, p. 31.
2 Bishop Fisher's love and zeal for learning is notorious. He did all in his power to assist in the foundation of schools of sound learning at Cambridge, and especially to encourage the study of Greek. Richard Croke, the protégé of Archbishop Warham and Bishop Fisher, after teaching Greek in 1516 at Leipzig, was sent by Fisher in 1519 to Cambridge to urge the utility of Greek studies at that university. In his Orationes he delivered there, after speaking of the importance of Greek for all Biblical study, he says that Oxford had taken up the work with great avidity, for “they have there as their patrons besides the Cardinal (Wolsey), Canterbury (Warham), and Winchester, all the other English bishops except the one who has always been your great stay and helper, the Bishop of Rochester, and the Bishop of Ely.” It was entirely owing to Bishop Fisher's generosity, and at his special request, that Croke had gone to Cambridge rather than to Oxford, where his connection with Warham, More, Linacre, and Grocyn would have led him, in order to carry on the work begun by Erasmus.
3 Thomas Lupset was educated by Colet, and learnt his Latin and Greek under William Lilly, going afterwards to Oxford. There he made the acquaintance of Ludovico Vives, and at his exhortation went to Italy.