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(a) Renaissance in Italy and Germany:

There was a stirring of fresh life, a kindling of new desires in Italy and Germany. In each country the horizon was aglow with promise- a promise that spoke according to the personality of each nation. In Italy the Renaissance thrills through the senses; in Germany it speaks through the intellect. Thus is it that from the first awakening assumed in Germany a religious character; it merged at once into the Reformation. In Italy it was different: the old ecclesiasticism became paginated. “The Gods descend from Olympus and live once more amongst men”. Pagan influences were n

needed: though the sudden transition from a starved asceticism to a rich, pulsing life could not be accomplished without moral disasters. Perhaps no more significant illustration of difference in outlook can be given than in the portal of the Cathedral at Basle had depicted the dead rising from graves and donning hurriedly their garments, so as to appear decently clad at the Last Judgment. After the Renaissance, as Jusserand has reminded us, a naked woman was wrought in bronze upon the tomb of a Pope. All that was beautiful and, through the eyes of the Renaissance, also divine. The human body, so long despised and ill-treated, came into its kingdom and was glorified: “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.”

(b) Renaissance in England:

It has been pointed out; the fifteenth century dawned upon an England that had outlived the energizing idealism of the twelfth century. The vigorous vitality of that era had been paralyzed by the wasteful futilities of the hundred years’ War with France, and divided counsels at home. Feudalism that had been a power in Norman times in evolving order and Solidarity out of anarchy and confusion, survived now only as a spent force. No longer did it suit the needs of the nation.

The plaint of Langland, the anathema of Wycliffe, bear witness to the general unrest and disorganization. The sterility of English literature after Chaucer testifies to the lowered vitality of the time. Yet once again is the old saying justified that it is darkest before the dawn.

But while Italy was on fire with the new sunrise it was still for England merely a streak of light upon the horizon.

The Medieval Church, in place of welcoming the cleansing changes of a Wycliffe, opposed all remedies for curing her of her sick condition. Nor were their Kings any more farseeing. Henry IV helped to the stiffen the automatic power of the church by passing the Act that practices should be burned to death.

Hennery persecuted the Collards with relentless vigor. But in vain did they try to prop up the tottering edifice of medieval thought. They could hold back for a while the oncoming tide; to give fresh life to what was moribund was beyond their power; so England stood: “Between two words, one dead, the other powerless to be born”

Invention of Printing:

The invention of the printing press, coupled with the discovery some time before, of a way of transforming linen rags into paper, made the multiplication and circulation of books a very different matter from what it had been in the Middle Ages.

Sir Thomas Malory :

Of SirThomas Malory every little is definitely known. He, an unknown writer, was suddenly made famous by Caxton. He may have belonged to a Worcestershire family of that name who fought with both Lancaster and York in the Wars of the Rose, one Member of Parliament in 1444-5; several families in Yorkshire and also in the Midlands aspire to have him for an ancestor, but no trace of a Thomas can be found who lived about that time. Professor Kittredge in” Who was Sir Thomson Malory?” traces him to a certain Sir Thomson Malory of Newbolt Revel in Warwickshire, who succeeded to the family estates about 1434. John Bale (1495-1563) the historian, in his Account of the lives of eminent writers of Great Britain, say he was a Welshman.

The one thing certain is, that he wrote the Mortem Arthur, which comprises twenty-one books compiled from a variety of sources. According to Bale, the first four books are founded on Robert de Boron’s Romance of Merlin, Book V from Mortem Arthur manuscript in Lincoln Cathedral Library; Book VI from the French Romance of Lancelot; Book VII is not identified; Books Val-X from the Romance of Tristan by Luce de Gas; Books XI-XXI are Lancelot, interpolations.


Caxton’s personality is an interesting one: it may be seen in his various prefaces. These reflect a kindly and simple nature, with a pleasant admixture of keen humor to take off the flatness.

His style is uncertain, for he is not clear how far to draw upon foreign tongues. But he has ready instinct for good Saxon prose, and his prose is far more readable and attractive than some of the prose written about this time. One of his pleasantest qualities is the confidential note, which he strikes – a note, that was later on to be the distinctive note of the English Essay. At present English prose is still in the experimental state: like, to a lesser extent, the verse. But poetry was to have a glorious career, before English to be reckoned.

For nearly fifty years after the death of Caxton, the book trade in English was directed for the most part by two men, Jan Winking reworded (d. 1534), and Richard Pinzon (d. 1530); but the admirable start made by Caxton was scarcely maintained by his successors. Classical learning took a very low place, and until 1543 no Greek book was printed in England. Religious literature of a mediocre kind could be had in abundance, there was a steady market for these, and the contemporary poets like Skelton and Hawes had the gratification of finding some of their work printed.

For any advance in the development of English literature we must look, however, not to the printer but to a wealthy nobleman, Lord Burners, who did admirable work as a translator.

Fabian and Hall:

Robert Fabian (d. 1513) did useful work as a chronicle of London history, despite his tendency to accept all the fabulous tales of our national origin first made by Geoffrey of Monmouth. EDWARD HALL (d.1547), is a man of more scholarly attainment. He chronicles the story of the House of Lancaster and York, and carries the story down to 1532. He had an eye for characterization; and some of his work attracted Shakespeare, who makes fairly generous use of it in his plays dealing with Plantagenet England.

Henry VII:

Hennery VII had done much to encourage the New Learning. Mention of him usually recalls the memory of shrewd and sagacious statesman, a man with a genius for practicability and cautious common sense. For the rest he does not impress himself upon us as a figure of the Renaissance. But there were two Henrys: and one of them especially marked in earlier year was a kindly, art-loving student, somewhat reserved perhaps, but with flashes of humor, and an ardent, romantic temperament.

We may recall the delight which Malory’s Legends afforded him; the pleasure it gave him to surround himself with the best scholars of the day; the careful education he bestowed upon his children. He lacked the open, genial bearing of his successor; yet his tastes were as fully filled with the New Learning as were those of his son.

Assuredly a man of the Renaissanc3, he wrote lyrics and composed music, was an expert on various instruments himself, and ranged over most subjects in science and philosophy, with an eager interest characteristic of the time. There was nothing of his father’s parsimony about him. Erasmus was made heartily welcome and Holbein invited to stay, the clever foreigner was welcome at court. England at length was coming into line with the Southern nations.

Sir Thomas More:

Among the most remarkable of the time is Sir THOMAS MORE; he was the son of Sir John More, a justice of the King’s Bench, who had his residence in the heart of the City, and it was here, in Milk street, that Thomas was born in 1478. As a child he attended St. Anthony’s School in Thread Needle Street, at that time considered to be a school of high repute. From here he followed the useful custom in those days of becoming attached to some great household.

Thomas More was particularly fortunate in his patron, Cardinal Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who quickly discovered his young retainer’s promise, remarking: “Whoever lived to try it, shall see this child here waiting at table prove a marvelous man.”

At the age of twenty-one, More was a Member of Parliament, and when a proposal was made four years later, by King Henry VII for a subsidy for the marriage portion of his daughter Margaret, who was to be James IV of Scotland, more openly opposed the demand of the King. As his opposition influenced Parliament to the extent of their refusing the subsidy he had at once to bear the wrath of the displeased monarch: “A beardless boy has disappointed the King’s purpose!”

Writings of Thomas More:

In 1510, Life of Pico of Girandole, from the incomplete History of Richard III (written in Latin c. 1513), has been called the first book in classical English prose; it is sometimes said to have been based on a Latin work by Archbishop Morton, not extant.

Utopia first printed in 1516 at Louvain; a second edition appeared in 1517. It was then revised by more and printed in 1518. Also reprinted in Paris and Vienna. It did not appear in English, till translated by Ralph Robison, after Moore’s death, 1551.

Moore’s other Latin works include epigrams, a translation of Lucian’s dialogues and pamphlets against the Lutherans.

Amongst his English controversial works the most important is the Dialoged against Lutheranism and Tyndale in five books.

He also wrote much English as well as Latin verse.

Utopia: or, to give the full title, The Discourses of Raphael Hythloday, of the Best state of a Commonwealth.

This satire on the social and political evils of the age was written in Latin in two parts. Though printed at Louvain, Basle, Paris, and Vienna, no English edition appeared till Robinson’s translation in 1551. Gilbert Burnet made a better translation in 1684, and Burnet’s is the one used.

Erasmus and More:

Moore’s friend Erasmus was a man of equal ability, but quite other in temperament and character. Moore’s humor is genial, Erasmus is bitterly satirical. Erasmus’ brilliance is clear- cut and cold, Moore’s is softened with a kindliness of heart. His severities as chancellor, whatever we may think of them, were certainly not the expression of his real nature.

The best part of more is seen in his family life at Chelsea, and in the Utopia. His tenderness of heart extends to animals- a trait rare indeed in those times. “God,” says he, “has given them life that they may live. . . . How can we find more pleasure in seeing a dog run after a hare than in seeing a dog run after another dog?”

It is interesting to note both Moore’s Utopia and Erasmus’ Christian Primer were written about the same time, and embody the ideals of the new Learning as applied to social and political life; ideal defined by a modern historian as “the art of living together in civil society and of securing the common weal of the people”. Erasmus had little of Moore’s fine humanity and delicacy of feeling, but intellectually he is at one with him. He urges the importance of the Golden Rule, and suggests that kings should refrain from entering into any avoidable war.

It was best for them to seek the good of their people, not a mere section, but the good of the whole community. A king’s claim to the throne should rest upon the goodwill of the nation, he should tax them as little as possible, and what taxation there is should fall upon the wealthy, not the poorer classes.

William Tyndale:

William Tyndale (born c. 1484), a small, thin, earnest man of extreme pertinacity, was educated at Oxford and Cambridge, and later acted as tutor in a Gloucestershire family. He was an ardent supporter of Luther, and although he did not lack friends in London, found it necessary to go abroad to work at his translation of the New Testament from Greek into English.

This he completed at Hamburg, and the translation was finally printed at Worms, three years after Luther’s translation of the New Testament into German. He was helped in his work by one William Roy, a Minority educated at Cambridge. Tyndale had no special affection for his collaborator, about whom he remarked dryly: “As long as he had gotten no money, somewhat I could rule him; but as soon as he had gotten his money he became like himself again.

Nevertheless, I suffered all things till that was ended which I could not do alone … when that was ended took my leave and bade him farewell for our two lives, and as men say, a day longer.” The translation, coming as it did from one associated so closely with “the arch heretic” Luther was denounced by Cuthbert Turnstile at St. Paul’s cross, and publicly burnt.

More was selected to do battle against Tyndale. He criticized his text, for its avoidance of certain Catholic terms such as grace, confession, and penance. Tyndale defended his exclusion of these words, on the ground that a false meaning had become attached to them. More frankly admitted, however, that the English ought to have the Bible in their own tongue, and disposed of the argument that some might come to harm that way by saying that “to keep the whole commodity from any people because of harm that by their own folly and fault may come to some part, were as though an unlicensed surgeon should … cut off a man’s head by the shoulders to keep him from toothache.”

Whatever may be thought of Tyndale’s substitution of such words as congregation, elder, knowledge, penance, for church, priest, confession, penance, the rhythmic grace and verbal charm of his version has not been questioned.

‘Bible’ in English:

The first complete version of the Bible in English was made by Wycliffe in 1382, though Wycliffe himself was responsible probably only for the Gospels.

The introduction of printing signalized the rapid multiplication of summaries of various portions of the Bible, and in 1525 Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament was first issued. To Miles Coverdale, however, bel6ngs the privilege of rendering the first complete English Bible in 1535, a Bible based on the Swiss-German version. Tyndale’s translation, however, is freely used so far as it went.

Thomas Wyatt:

Thomas Wyatt was born in 1503, entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, at the age of twelve, and took his degree at fifteen.

He was at one time, like Chaucer, esquire to the King. He travelled to Italy on several occasions, and was the first to introduce the sonnet into England. His friend Surrey praised his handsome appearance where “force and beauty met.” He was an accomplished swordsman, and could bandy words as well as the rapier; a fine linguist, an agreeable musician, a brilliant talker; it is small wonder that he became a favorite with Henry VIII. His letters to his son have the weighty wisdom of Chesterfield’s utterances.

Henry Howard:

Wyatt’s friend and disciple, HENRY HOWARD, Earl of Surrey, were born about 1517. More hot- blooded than his friend, he was continually getting into trouble as a young man, and made several visits to the Fleet Prison. His whole career was a chequered one; in fighting, sonneteering, and roistering.

He spent his days, and fell at last a victim to Henry’s arbitrary power, being beheaded, on a pretext of treason, in 1547. He was more dashing and indiscreet than his friend, but equally with him, had an open, ingenuous disposition, charm of manner, and a cultured mind.

Henry excels his friend as merits, and shows little of the awkwardness that mars much of Wyatt’s verse. But it must be remembered that if the disciple excelled his master in ease and assurances, the master has the advantage of having opened up the way. In the work of these men, we mark for the first time a more personal note in English poetry, for the great characteristic of medieval verse is its impersonal character. Conventional it still is, and often stiff in expression; but a more individual tone is now imparted to it.

George Gascoigne:

George Gascoigne (c. 1525-1577) is an interesting figure of the time and has been held responsible for the first English prose comedy. The Supposes (from Ariosto); the first regular verse satire, The Steel the first prose tale (from Bandello); the first translation from Greek tragedy, Jokester; the Chaucer to Shakespeare first critical essay, Notes of Instruction.

Whether this is correct or not, he was undoubtedly a man of considerable culture, was a well-known figure at Court and in Political circles, and was, as befitted a man of breeding and education, a fairly extensive traveler. He is tolerable merits and has a nice turn for fantasy, as may be seen by his collection of verse, Flowers, Herbs, and Weeds. His Lullaby of a Lover is pleasant specimen of original power.

Turnersville Gouge and Tusker:

These men were all agreeable verse-writers rather than genuine poets; happy occasionally in their phrasing and fancies, but uninspired and mediocre on the whole. It is best to regard them as indirectly helping the development of English poetry by their translation work. This indirectly served to strengthen and enrich the language, and therefore gave the original men of the age better material on which to exercise their craft.

“The green that you did wish me wear Aye for your love, And on my helm a branch to bear not to remove,

Was ever you to have in mind

Whom Cupid hath my fire assigned.

As winter’s force cannot deface

This branch his hue,

So let no change of love disgrace

Your friendship true;

Your were mine own, and so be still

So shall we live and love our fill.

Then I may think myself to be

Well recompensed,

For wearing of the tree that is

So well defenses

Against all weather that doth fall

When wayward winter spits his gall.”

Thomas Sackville:

The most original of the early group of poets is Thomas Sackville. He is not a cheerful writer, but he had real imagination, with nothing of that mannered prettiness which makes much of his contemporaries’ work so wearisome.

He attained a reputation as poet by his sonnets and the induction to the Mirror for Magistrates. His Mirror for Magistrates gives a powerful picture of the underworld where the poet describes his meeting with famous English-man who had suffered misfortune. This work is not all from Sackville’s pen but the Prologue and design are his, and the Prologue has a Dantesque intensity about it, and a power of allegorizing, unequalled save in the pages of Spenser.

Sir Philip Sidney:

Philip Sidney was born on the 30th November 1554, in the beautiful historic mansion of Pinehurst, in Kent-Sir Henry Sidney, his father, being engaged at this time in the thankless task of governing Ireland. His mother, Lady Mary Dudley, was a daughter of the duke of Northumberland, the nobleman whose schemes as queen-maker cost him his head, and it was at this tragic period of their family history that Sidney’s life began.

After Oxford, Sidney found it an easy matter to enter Queen Elizabeth’s Court, his uncle, the Earl of Leicester, being at the time the Queen’s favorite; and it was he who introduced him to the all- powerful man of the day, Sir William Cecil afterwards Lord Burghley.

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