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hundred and ten hospitals, and two thousand three hundred and seventy-four chantries and free chapels, were granted to the king, beside the houses, lands, and goods of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, (knights of Malta,) who had been suppressed in 1540. The act of the 37th of Henry VIII. was farther enforced, by one passed in the 1st year of the reign of Edward VI. But prior to any of these acts, twenty-one monasteries had been dissolved in 1524, by a bull of Pope Clement VIII. and granted by King Henry VIII. to Cardinal Wolsey, towards erecting two colleges, one at Ipswich; and the other at Oxford; and, in 1528, six others were dissolved by a bull of the same pope; to which Tanner adds two other monasteries, and two hospitals.
The too hasty dissolution of these religious bouses oecasioned such a devastation of a variety of valuable books, as warrants the strong language of some of our early writers. Old Bishop Bale, a strenuous enemy to the monks, thus deplores the loss of the literary treasures of the monastic libraries: "Never had we bene offended for the loss of our lybraryes, beynge so many in nombre, and in so desolate places for the more parte, yf the chiefe monumentes, and most notable workes of our most excellent wryters, had bene reserved. If there had bene in every shyre of Englande, but one solempne lybrarye to the preservacyon of those noble workes, and preferrement of good lernynge in our posteritye, it had bene sumwhat. But to destroye all without consideracyon, is and will be unto Englande for ever, a moste horryble infamy amonge the grave senyours of other nacyons. A great nombre of them, whych purchased those superstycyouse mansyons, reserved of those lybrary bokes, some to serve theyr jakes, some to scoure their candelstyckes, and some to rubbe their bootes. Some they sold (42) Tanner's Notitia Monastica, Pref. and pp. 286, 287. Oxford,
to the grossers and sopesellers, and some they sent over see to the bokebynders, not in small nombre, but at tymes whole shypes full, to the wonderynge of foren nacyons. Yea, the vnyversytees of thys realme are not all clere in this detestable fact. But cursed is that bellye, whyche seketh to be fedde with suche ungodly gaynes, and so depelye shameth his natural countrey. I knowe a merchaunt man, whych shall at thys tyme be namelesse, that boughte the contentes of two noble lybraryes for xl. shyllynges pryce, a shame it is to be spoken. Thys stuffe hath he occupyed in the stede of graye paper, by the space of more than these ten years, and yet he hath store ynough for as many yeares to come. A prodygyouse example is this, and to be abhorred of all men which love their nation as they shoulde do."43 Our quaint church historian, Fuller, also expresses his detestation of the conduct of these avaricious and ignorant plunderers of conventual literature, in the following terms: “The English monks were bookish of themselves, and much inclined to hoord up monuments of learning. Britain, (we know,) is styled Another World, and in this contradistinction, (though incomparably lesse in quantity,) acquits itself well in proportion of famous writers, producing almost as many classical schoolmen for her natives as all Europe besides. Other excellent books of foraign authors were brought hither, purchased at dear rates; if we consider that the presse, (which now runs so incredibly fast,) was in that age in her infancie,newly able to goe alone, there being then few printed books in comparisop of the many manuscripts. These, if carefully collected, and methodically compiled, would have amounted to a librarie, exceeding that of Ptolomie's for plenty; or many Vaticans for choicenesse, and rarity. Yea, had they been transported beyond the seas, sen (43) Lives of Leland, Hearne, and Wood, I. Bale's Pref, to Leylande's
Newe yeares gyfte. Oxf. 1772, 8vo.
over, and sold entire to such who knew their value, and would preserve them, England's losse had been Europe's gain, and the detriment the lesse to learning in generall. Yea, many years after, the English might have repurchased for pounds, what their grandfathers sold for fewer pence, into foraign parts. But alas! those abbeys were now sold to such chapmen, in whom it was questionable, whether their ignorance or avarice were greater, and they made havock and destruction of all. As broakers in Long-lane, when they buy an old suit, buy the lineings together with the outside: so it was conceived meet, that such as purchased the buildings of monasteries, should in the same grant, have the libraries, (the stuffing thereof,) conveyed unto them. And now these ignorant owners, so long as they might keep a Leiger-book, or Terrier, by direction thereof to finde suche stragling acres as belonged unto' them, they cared not to preserve any other monuments. The covers of books, with curious brasse bosses, and claspes, intended to protect, prov'd to betray them, being the baits of covetousnesse. And so, many excellent authours, stripp'd out of their cases, were left naked, to be burnt, or thrown away. Thus Esop's cock, casually lighting on a pearl, preferr'd a grain before it ; yet he left it as he found it ; and as he reap'd no profit by the pearl, it received no damage by him. Whereas, those cruel cormorants, with their barbarous beaks, and greedy claws, rent, tore, and tattered these inestimable pieces of antiquity. Who would think, that the Fathers should be condemned to such servile employment, as to be scavengers, to make clean the foulest sink in men's bodies? Yea, which is worse, many an antient manuscript Bible cut in pieces, to cover filthy pamphlets: so that a case of diamond hath been made to keep dirt within it; yea, the Wisemen of Gotham, bound up in the Wisdome of Solomon. I judge this to be true, and utter it with heavinesse, that neither the Britons, under the Romans and Saxons; nor yet the English people, under the Danes and Normans, had ever such damage of their learned monuments, as we have seen in our time. Our posterity may well curse this wicked fact of our age; this unreasonable spoil of England's most noble antiquities. What soul can be so frozen, as not to melt into anger hereat ? What heart having the least spark of ingenuity, is not hot at this indignity offered to literature? I deny not, but that in this heap of books there was much rubbish. Legions of lyi ng Legends, good for nothing but fewell, whose keeping would bave caused the losse of much pretious time in reading them. I confesse also, there were many volumes full fraught with superstition, which notwithstanding, might be usefull to learned men ; except any will deny apothecaries the privilege of keeping poison in their shops, when they can make antidotes of them. But besides these, what beautiful BiBLES ! rare fathers ! subtile schoolmen! What painfull comments were here amongst them!
What monuments of mathematicks, all massacred together! seeing every book with a Crosse was condemned for popish ; with circles, for conjuring. Yea, I may say, that then holy Divinity was prophaned ; Physick itself hurt, and a trespasse, yea a riot committed on the Law itself. And more particularly the history of former times, then and there received a dangerous wound, whereof it halts at this day; and without hope of a perfect cure, must go a cripple to the grave.""
About the commencement of the year 1550, the Council Book mentions the king's sending a letter for the purging his library at Westminster. The persons are not named, but the business was “to cull out all superstitious books, as missals, legends, and such like, and to deliver the
garniture of the books, being either gold or silver, to Sir Anthony Aucher;" many of them being plated with gold (44)Fuller's Church History of Britain, B. vi. p. 334. Lond. 1656, fol.
and silver, and curiously embossed. The Oxford libraries met with a similar fate the same year, from the king's visitors. For instance, Merton College had almost a cart-load of manuscripts carried off, and thrown away, or used for the vilest purposes ; including works on divinity, astronomy, and the mathematics, by some of the most eminent persons of that college. Baliol, Exeter, Queen's, and Lincoln Colleges, were purged of a great part of the Fathers and schoolmen ; and great numbers of books were burnt in a large fire kindled in the marketplace, some of the junior members of the university designating the conflagration by the appellation of “Scotus his funeral." The public library composed, in a great measure, of the books given by AUNGERVILLE, bishop of Durham, COBHAM, bishop of Worcester, and HUMPHREY, duke of Gloucester, shared the same fate. “The books marked with red,” says Jer. Collier, "Were generally condemned at a venture for popery; and where circles, and other mathematical figures were found, they were looked upon as compositions of magic, and either torn or burnt. And thus an almost inestimable collection both for number and value were either seized by the visitors, turned into bonfires, or given to binders and tailors for the use of their trade."45
The sudden suppression of the monasteries, and the imprudent conduct of the visitors in the dilapidation of many of the public schools, and the destruction of the libraries, proved, for a considerable time, injurious to the interests of literature and science. The profession of letters being judged to be without support and reward, the youth of the kingdom betook themselves to mechanical employments, or devoted themselves to commercial pursuits. Many towns and their adjacent villages were thus deprived of their means of instruction ; so that at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Wil(45) Collier's Eccles. Hist. II. p. 307.