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III. Latimer's Sermons and Foxe's “ Book
of Martyrs”. Another writer of homely English prose was Hugh Latimer. His sermons did much to spread the doctrine
of the Reformation. Born in 1485, he was Latimer.
in 1516 appointed professor of Greek at Cambridge, at which university he had been educated. In 1530 he preached his first sermon before Henry VIII., who in 1535 made him Bishop of Worcester. His sermons were exceedingly popular, and he often preached at Paul's Cross.
Latimer's English style, though somewhat rude and rough, is forcible and direct. His utterances have the His English stamp of sincerity, and they went straight to style. the hearts of his hearers; humour, simple illustrations from everyday life and a knowledge of men, give the sermons an originality and distinction that compensate for their lack of high literary style. They offer an example of the force and power of which the English language, plain and unadorned, was then capable, and present a faithful picture of the political and social condition of England under Edward VI.
One of the most famous of the sermons is the Sermon on the Ploughers, preached at St. Paul's on January 18th,
1549. It is a vigorous onslaught on popery,
and the ineffectiveness of the clergy, and Ploughers".
forms as a whole a spirited appeal to men to lead worthy lives.
On Mary's accession Latimer was imprisoned for his opinions, and in 1555 was burned at the stake at Oxford in company with Bishop Ridley.
John Foxe was also a writer of homely English
The “Sermon on the
1A pulpit which stood on the north side of St. Paul's Cathedral. There the most eminent divines were invited to preach, and the invitation was regarded as a recognition of worth. The preacher received a fee, and was allowed board and lodging at a house provided for the purpose, for two days before and one day after the sermon.
The pulpit dated back to 1259, and was pulled down by order of Parliament in 1643.
prose. His work was inspired by the events of the Reformation. During the violent reaction of Mary's reign, many men and women holding the reformed opinions suffered at the stake. In 1563 Foxe published his Book of Martyrs, The "Book printed from types of Gothic character in of Martyrs”. imitation of Caxton, and illustrated by quaint woodcuts. It contains a graphic account of those who suffered martyrdom for their religious faith, purporting to be taken from authentic contemporary records. In reading the book, however, we must always remember that as it was written by a fierce partisan, its statements are often exaggerated, and must not all be taken as fact. The ease with which the tales are told gives the book literary value, and it still retains much of the popularity that it won at the outset.
Sir Thomas Elyot (1490?-1546) published in 1531 The Governour. The book is dedicated to Henry VIII., and is an attempt to describe in English the form of a just and good government. It also treats of education. In both style and subject, Elyot was greatly influenced by the Renaissance.
IV. The Translation of the Bible. The Bible has been called the supreme English classic. Of the importance and influence of the English Bible on English literature there can be no reasonable The Bible: doubt. In most great writers may be traced
English a close acquaintance with its thought and classic. forms of expression. Its phrases have become our common language. For the greater number of us, it is the first book of any literary value that we read. Indeed some of the greatest masters of English prose style acknowledge their indebtedness to the English of the Bible. Mr. Ruskin, for example, tells us, that when a child, he was made to learn by heart long chapters from the Bible, beginning with Exodus and ending with Revelation, and to this early and close acquaintance with the Scriptures
Its influence on our literature.
he attributes, as he puts it, “the first cultivation of my ear in sound”. One important effect of that part of his education is doubtless to be seen in his fine prose style.
This is not the place to point out how powerful the English Bible has been in its workings on the life and
thought of mankind; we are here only concerned with the literary history of that great
book, and with the particular influence that it has exercised on our literature.
Most of the forms and subjects of poetry and prose may be found in the Bible. Of poetry, we have idylls such as the Book of Ruth and the Song of Solomon; songs of triumph in the songs of Moses (Exodus xv. 1-18) and of Deborah (Judges v.); an elegy in the lovely lament of David for Jonathan (2 Samuel i. 19-27); pure lyrical poems in the Psalms. Of prose we have history, biography, oratory, philosophy in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
,. and allegory in the parables.
It was Erasmus who laid the foundation of the translation of the Bible into the 'vulgar tongue' of each country. Erasmus and In 1516, he published at Bâle an edition
of the New Testament containing in two columns, printed side by side, the original Greek, and a new Latin translation by himself.
I wish (he said) that even the weakest woman should read the Gospels
and I wish that they were translated into all languages, so that they might be read and understood not only by Scots and Irishmen, but also by Turks and Saracens. I long that the husbandman should sing portions of them to himself as he follows the plough, that the weaver should hum them to the time of his shuttle, that the traveller should beguile with their stories the tedium of his journey.
In spite of much opposition and objection the book went through several large editions. In 1522 Martin Luther, the great German reformer (1483-1546), while Tyndale's imprisoned in the Castle of Wartburg in Gertranslation.
many, turned the New Testament into German. Tyndale printed his English translation of the New
Testament at Hamburg in 1525; a second edition was printed at Worms in 1526, and in the same year copies of it were brought into England. In 1530 Tyndale printed at Marburg, in Germany, his translation of the Pentateuch, in which he had been helped by Miles Coverdale. Tyndale suffered martyrdom at Brussels for his heretical opinions in 1536, and in that year his New Testament was printed in England for the first time. The following year saw the publication of the whole Bible by Miles Coverdale in this country.
Other versions touched up by different hands appeared, culminating in 1540 in Cranmer's, which was read in the churches for twenty-eight years. In 1568 a new version again appeared: it was called the Bishops' Bible, because so many bishops were engaged in its preparation. James I.'s Authorised Version (1611) closely followed the Bishops' Bible, and it was that version that was read by all Englishspeaking peoples until our day, when a Revised Version has been issued. But in spite of all changes, our English Bible is based on Tyndale's translation, and to him belongs the honour of first making it possible for us to read the Book of Books in our own tongue. Mr. Froude, in estimating the importance of Tyndale’s work, writes :
Of the translation itself, though since that time it has been many times revised and altered, we may say that it is substantially the Bible with which we are all familiar. The peculiar genius—if such a word may be permitted—which breathes through it, the mingled tenderness and majesty, the Saxon simplicity, the preternatural grandeur, unequalled, unapproached in the attempted improvements of modern scholars—all are here, and bear the impress of the mind of one man- -William Tyndale.
As literature, then, the English Bible may be said to belong to the period of the early Renaissance.
The simplicity, power, and picturesqueness of the English style of the Bible need no comment. It did as much as Chaucer's poems to fix our language. A living critic of style recently declared that the best example of perfect English prose is to be found in the following verses from Solomon's Song (viii. 6, 7):
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
Older students should read the article on Thomas More in the Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xxxviii. Easily accessible reprints of More's Utopia and Ascham's Schoolmaster are to be found in Cassell's National Library.
1. Tottel's Miscellany. Modern English poetry begins with the publication in 1557 of the collection of poems known as Tottel's Mis
cellany. It is our first anthology, and was at “ Tottel's Miscellany"; once popular. A second edition appeared in the first book the same year, and the book had altogether English eight editions during Elizabeth's reign. The poetry
full title of the volume is Songs and Sonnets written by the Right Honourable Lord Henry Howard, late Earl of Surrey, and others. It was edited by Nicholas Grimald, and contained in its first form thirty-six poems by the Earl of Surrey, ninety by Sir Thomas Wyatt, forty by Grimald, and ninety-five by unnamed authors, many of whom have since been identified. It is beyond doubt the book referred to by Slender in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor (i. 1. 205–6), when he says, “I had rather than forty shillings I had my book of songs and sonnets here”.
Such collections of poems found much favour with the