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Years 1399-1485 page 5

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The schools and colleges founded during this century were the following: - Lincoln College, Oxford; founded in 1430, by Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, and completed by Thomas Scott, of Rotherham, Bishop of Lincoln, in 1475. All Souls' College, Oxford; founded by Chicheley, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1437. He expended upon its erection £4,545, and procured considerable revenues for it out of the lands of the alien priories, dissolved just before that time. Magdalene College, Oxford; founded by William Patten, Bishop of Winchester, in 1458, which soon became one of the richest colleges in Europe. King's College, Cambridge; founded by Henry VI., in 1443. Queen's College, Cambridge; founded by Margaret of Anjou, in 1448; and Catherine Hall, Cambridge, founded by Robert Woodlark, third provost of King's College, in 1475.

Besides these, Henry VI. founded Eton College, and Thomas Hokenorton, Abbot of Osney, founded in Oxford, in 1439, the public schools, called the New Schools. Before that time the professors of several sciences in both universities read their lectures in private houses, at very inconvenient distances from each other. To remedy this inconvenience, public schools were erected in both universities at this period. Hokenorton's schools comprehended the teaching of divinity, metaphysics, natural and moral philosophy, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, music, logic, rhetoric, and grammar. They required liberal aid from other benefactors, and they found these in the noble Humphrey of Gloucester, and the two brothers Kemp, the one Archbishop of York and the other Bishop of London. They were completed in 1480, including Duke Humphrey's noble library. The quadrangle, containing the public schools of Cambridge, was completed in 1475.

Up to this period Scotland had possessed no university whatever, and its youth had been obliged to travel to foreign universities for their education. But now the University of St. Andrews was founded in 1410, and obtained a charter in 1411 from Archbishop Wardlaw, which was confirmed by the Pope in 1412, and by James I in 1431. The great need of such an institution was soon evidenced by the university becoming famous. In 1444 Kennedy, the successor of Wardlaw, founded the College of St. Salvator in that city; and in 1451 James II., at the instance of William Turnbull, the Bishop of Glasgow, founded the university of that city; and in the same year was founded the college or faculty of arts in Glasgow, the king taking both college and university under his especial patronage and protection. This college received a handsome endowment from James, Lord Hamilton, and his lady, Euphemia, Countess of Douglas, in 1459. These were great measures in a very dark age, preparing light for those which came after.

Of the sciences taught in these institutions little can be said. There were few masters of such eminence in them, as to give a high tone to them. Medicine, which was now taught in them all, had rather fallen off than advanced. Dr. Friend, in his History of Physic, could find not one physician of those times whose works deserve mention. Yet Dr. Gilbert Kymer, Duke Humphrey's physician, wrote a Dietary for the Preservation of Health - Dietarium de Sanitatis Custodia; and Dr. Fauceby, physician to Henry VI., was commissioned by Henry to discover the long sought-for Elixir of Life, and the Philosopher's Stone. But the sweating sickness, one of the most terrible distempers which ever visited this kingdom, and which raged from 1485 to 1551, completely set at defiance all the medical science of the times. It carried off its victims in seven or eight hours, and amongst them two lord mayors, five aldermen, and a prodigious number of people of all ranks. What is most extraordinary is that it is asserted to have attacked Englishmen residing in foreign countries at the same time, though foreigners living in England escaped.

Most amazing, however, are the facts regarding surgery at that period. At a time when foreign or domestic war was raging through nearly the whole country, anatomy, so far from being studied, was abominated as a barbarous violation of the remains of the dead. Henry V. when invading France took only one surgeon with him! This surgeon, Thomas Morstede, however, engaged to bring fifteen assistants, twelve students of surgery, and three archers. Morstede was to have the pay of a man-at-arms, and his assistants that of common archers. What an idea does this give us of the agonies suffered, and of the wholesale waste of human life in those wars! Henry himself seems to have been impressed with this fact, for in his second expedition he was anxious to procure a competent supply of surgeons, but not being able, he granted to Morstede a warrant empowering him to press the requisite number, or what Morstede thought a requisite number, of surgeons for the army. There is little doubt that Henry himself fell a victim, in his prime, to the medical ignorance of the age, for his complaint was a fistula, which none of his professional attendants knew how to cure. Yet the surgeons of Paris, at this time, 1474, achieved a chef d'oeuvre in their art, performing successfully on an archer, under sentence of death, an operation for the stone.

Mathematics were in this age confounded with astrology; the mathematician and astrologer were synonymous terms. A book by Arnold de Marests, an astronomer in France, was declared by the University of Paris to "contain many superstitions, many conjurations, many manifest and horrible invocations of the devil, and several latent heresies and idolatries." In England there was a board of commissioners for discovering and apprehending magicians, enchanters, and sorcerers - and by it Thomas Northfield, professor of divinity and sorcerer, was apprehended at Worcester in 1432, with all his books and instruments. Alchemy, as we have shown, was not only in high vogue, but especially patronised by Henry YI.


The scale of literary merit in this century, as may be inferred from what has gone before, is, for the most part, extremely low. You look in vain for one divine, physician, or philosopher, who cast a glory on the age. The names of the chroniclers are little more distinguished; their language is anything but elegant or classical, and the facts they record alone give them value. We have awarded Caxton his fame as a printer; as an author, and the continuator of Higdon's Polycronicon, he is less estimable. Next to him comes Thomas Walsingham, a monk of St. Albans, and unquestionably the best historian of the period. He wrote two works: a history of England from the first year of Edward I. to the death of Henry V., and a history of Normandy from the beginning of the tenth century to 1418, under the absurd title of Ypodigma Neustriae - Neustria being the ancient name of Normandy.

Thomas Otterbourne, a Franciscan friar, compiled a history of England from the chroniclers of an earlier period down to 1420. John Whethamstede, Abbot of St. Albans, wrote a chronicle of twenty years, from 1441 to 1461, in which there is a very full account of the two battles of St. Albans, and of the affairs of his abbey. He lived to be a hundred years old. Thomas de Elmham, Prior of Linton, wrote the life and reign of Henry Y. in a very inflated style. The history of Henry Y. was also written by an Italian who called himself Titus Livius, probably imagining himself on a par with the Roman historian in literary genius. He was a protege of the great Humphrey of Gloucester, and re-wrote Elmham's history in a more tolerable style. John Rous, the antiquary of Warwick, was an industrious collector of materials for a history of the kings of England, and a work still more valuable, called the Warwick Boll, containing portraits of the most celebrated persons of the time. Robert Fabyan, a merchant and alderman of London, wrote "The Concordance of Stories," a history of England and France, ending at the twentieth of Henry VII., 1504. It is one of the most valuable works of the time, written in English, and with a great air of truth. Besides these, John Harding also wrote a chronicle. But the chief writers of this age are not our own, but three Frenchmen - Froissart, Comines, and Monstrellet - who wrote with great life and spirit, and give us a better account of our own affairs than all our own writers put together.

Amongst the professors of law, by far the two most distinguished were Sir Thomas Littelton and Sir John Fortescue. Sir Thomas Littelton, one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas, is remembered for Jus work on the land tenures of England, which for ages remained an authority on that subject. We particularly mentioned Sir John Fortescue, lord high chancellor, for his faithful attachment to Margaret of Anjou in her exile, and for his famous work, "De Laudibus Legum Anglicae," on which a writer in the "Biographia Britannica" has pronounced this eulogium: - "Take it altogether, and it will appear to be a work which affords as full evidence of the learning, wisdom, uprightness, public spirit, and loyal gratitude of its author, as in our own or any modern language."

James I. of Scotland was» perhaps, the most accomplished scholar and real genius of his age; but we shall speak of him when we notice the poetry of this century. Nor must we omit two other men, though they have already figured in the general history of the times - Tiptoft, the Earl of Worcester, and the Earl of Rivers. John Tiptoft was a fellow-student of John Rous of Warwick, at Oxford. He became lord high treasurer of England under Henry YI. During the troubles of the kingdom, and the depression of the Lancastrian party, he went to Italy, and studied at Padua, under the most famous masters there - Carbo, Guarini, and Phrea. Previous to this he had visited the Holy Land. On the elevation of Edward IV. he returned home, submitted to him, and was made successively treasurer, Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and Constable of England. In 1470, when Edward IV. was again obliged to abandon the kingdom, Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, was seized in the top of a tree at Weybridge, brought to London, and executed. He had acquired the reputation, whether justly or not, for great severity and even cruelty in the wars; but he was a great collector of books, which, to the value of 500 marks, he gave to the University library at Oxford. He made an oration before the Pope and cardinals, which was very famous in his time, and translated the orations of Publius Cornelius and Caius Flaminius, as well as the De Amicitia and De Senectute of Cicero.

Anthony Wydville, Earl of Rivers, the great patron of Caxton, and the mirror of chivalry of his time, wrote Ballads on the Seven Deadly Sins, and translated the Wise Sayings or Dictes of the Philosophers, the Proverbs of Christine of Pisa, and a work called Cordyale. He was beheaded at Pontefract by Richard III., and Rous of Warwick has preserved some verses which he is said to have composed in that prison a little before his death, which breathe a noble spirit of resignation to his fate. It has been thought a singular fact that the most illustrious characters of the age, the authors or the patrons of its literature, should all have suffered a violent death: Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, James I. of Scotland, the Earls of Worcester and Rivers. But where is the wonder when almost every prince and noble of those times fell amid the ever-fluctuating billows of civil carnage?


On everything which related to agriculture, gardening, and rural economy in general, the perpetual wars had a most depressing and deteriorating effect. The labourers were continually summoned from the fields to supply the waste of war, either by the king or by their own lords; and such was the destruction of this useful class of men, that labour grew deficient, and proportionately high in price. To remedy this, the rulers had recourse to their usual methods - of which no experience seems to have taught them the futility - that of issuing enactments to keep down labour to a certain price. When this did not avail they passed a law that no one who had been employed at the plough or other husbandry work till he was twelve years of age, should be allowed to follow any other calling; and that no man who had less than twenty shillings a year, equal to £10 at present, should put his sons apprentice to any other trade, but should bring them all up to husbandry.

These laws were enforced by severe penalties; but they could not all at once restore the slaughtered population, and the great landed proprietors, whether barons, prelates, abbots, knights, or gentlemen, were obliged to enclose large tracts of land round their castles, and allow them to lie in pasturage, where a few people could oversee their cattle and flocks. This was probably the origin of that general enclosure of lands into fields which prevails more in England than in any other country. There were not wanting people at the time who cried out mightily against these enclosures as an evidence that the aristocracy were determined to drive out the people and live in a stately solitude. John Rous, the Warwick chronicler, was one of the most vehement of these declaimers. The greater part of his history abounds with the fiercest denunciations of them, as depopulators, destroyers, pillagers, robbers, tyrants, basilisks, enemies to God and man; and he assures them that they will all go to the devil when they die. But the original cause was, no doubt, the want of a population, not a desire to drive one away; yet, when the fashion set in, it was carried to such a pitch that Henry VII. was obliged, in the fourth year of his reign, to interfere by statute to put some restraint upon it. The price of wheat was, in consequence of this decrease of tillage, often enormous, seldom under 4s. or 4s. 6d. a quarter, equal to 40s. or 45s. of our money; and in 1437 and 1438 it rose to £1 6s. 8d., equal to £13 6s. 8d. at present. This, again, produced such an importation from the Continent, that corn laws were adopted in 1463, and all importation was prohibited when wheat was below 6s. 8d. a quarter, rye 4s., and barley 3s., bearing a curious relation to the scale of the modern corn laws: the original corn law of our time prohibiting importation when wheat was under 80s., and Sir Robert Peel's sliding scale commencing at 62s., and running up to 73s. - the 6s. 8d. of Edward IV.'s time being equal to nearly 70s. of ours. In Scotland, agriculture, from the same causes, was equally low in condition, and all landowners were by law compelled to sow a certain quantity of grain of different kinds, under a penalty of 10s., equal to £5 now; and every labourer was expected to dig a square of seven feet every day, or contribute half an ox to drawing the plough. As pastures were enclosed, greater attention was paid to the breeding of cattle and sheep, but the sowing of grasses and the manuring of the land were yet unknown. Henry VI. brought over John de Scheidame and sixty men from Holland, to instruct his subjects in the manufacture of salt, and having failed to procure supplies of the precious metal by alchemy, the same monarch brought over from Bohemia, Austria, and Hungary, upwards of thirty skilful miners to work the royal mines, and to instruct his subjects in this art.

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