Page images

Latin or French; pandects, chronicles, and romances. The whole consisted of 900 volumes. They were deposited in three chambers (in the Louvre), which, on this occasion, were wainscotted with Irish oak, and ceiled with cypress, curiously carved. The windows were of painted glass, fenced with iron bars and copper wire. The English became masters of Paris in the year 1425; on which event the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France, sent this whole library-then consisting of only 853 volumes, and valued at 2223 livres-into England; where, perhaps, they became the ground-work of Duke Humphrey's library, just mentioned.”* In another place the same writer furnishes the following additional information respecting Duke Humphrey, and his munificence as a book collector:-" About the year 1440 he gave to the University of Oxford a library, containing 600 volumes, only 120 of which were valued at 10007. They were the most splendid and costly copies that could be procured, finely written on vellum, and elegantly embellished with miniatures and illuminations: among the rest was a translation into French of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Only a single specimen of these valuable volumes was suffered to remain: it is a beautiful manuscript, in folio, of Valerius Maximus, enriched with the most elegant decorations, and written in Duke Humphrey's age, evidently with a design of being placed in this sumptuous collection. All the rest of the books-which, like this, being highly ornamented, looked like missals, and conveyed ideas of popish superstition-were destroyed or removed by the pious visitors of the University in the reign of Edward VI., whose zeal was equalled only by * Diss. on Introd. of Learning, p. cxiii.

their ignorance, or perhaps by their avarice.”* Several of the volumes of Duke Humphrey's library, however, still remain in various collections. In the library of Oriel College, Oxford, is a copy of John Capgrave's Commentary on Genesis, in the author's hand-writing, preceded by a Dedication to the Duke, the beautifully illuminated initial letter of which represents Capgrave humbly presenting his book to his patron. The volume contains also an entry, in French, in the hand-writing of the Duke, recording it to have been presented to him in the year 1438. Warton goes on to state that the patronage of Duke Humphrey was not confined to English scholars. Many of the most celebrated writers of France and Italy solicited his favour and shared his bounty. He also employed several learned foreigners in transcribing and in making translations of Greek works into Latin. The only literary production which has been ascribed to this distinguished patron of letters is a small tract on Astronomy; and it appears to have been only compiled at his instance, after tables which he had constructed. In the library of Gresham College, however, there is a scheme of astronomical calculations which bears his name. Astronomy," says Warton, was then a favourite science; nor is it to be doubted that he was intimately acquainted with the polite branches of knowledge, which now began to acquire estimation, and which his liberal and judicious attention greatly contributed to restore."†

* Hist. of Eng. Poetry, ii. 355.

+ Ibid. 359.

[ocr errors]






The most distinguished among the English nobility of this rude age for learning and intellectual tastes, was John Tiptoft, originally Lord Tiptoft, who was created Earl of Worcester by Henry VI. He afterwards, however, attached himself to the Yorkist family, for which he was put to death by Warwick, during the short restoration of Henry VI., in 1470-his execution being the only vindictive act of bloodshed by which that revolution was stained. The latest continuation of the history of the Abbey of Croyland (printed by Fulman, in his Rerum Anglic. Scriptor., pp. 449-546), asserts that the earl had, by his cruelty in the office of Constable of the Tower, acquired the hatred of the people, who called him "the butcher;" but general and passionate imputations of this kind cannot be allowed to go for much in the inflammation and ferocity of such a contest as then agitated men's minds. The more specific statement of other writers is, that Worcester was sent to the block under the pretence of punishing him for cruelty of which he had been guilty many years before, while exercising the government of Ireland, particularly towards two infant sons of the Earl of Desmond. As Walpole has well said, "it was an unwonted strain of tenderness in a man so liltle scrupulous of blood as Warwick, to put to death so great a peer for some inhumanity to the children of an Irish Lord; nor does one conceive why he sought for so remote a crime: he was not often so delicate. Tiptoft seems to have been punished by Warwick for leaving Henry for Edward, when Warwick had thought fit to

quit Edward for Henry." Others of the old chroniclers ascribe the charges brought against him to the malice of his enemies. He was probably singled out for destruction as being the ablest and most dangerous man of his party; for Worcester was distinguished for his political and military talents, as well as for his scholarship. It would be strange, at any rate, if his intellectual acquirements—which raised him so high above the herd of his fellow-nobles, and the great body of his countrymen—should, instead of softening and humanising him, according to the ancient poet's celebration of the effect of "having faithfully learned the ingenuous arts,"† have had an influence of the very opposite kind upon his nature and conduct. The Earl of Worcester was an ardent lover of books, and was, as well as Duke Humphrey, a liberal contributor to the shelves of the rising public library of the University of Oxford. On his return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, after residing for some years at Padua and Venice, and making great purchases of manuscripts in both those places, he repaired to Rome to satisfy his longing curiosity with a sight of the library of the Vatican, and drew tears of delight from Pope Pius II. (the learned Æneas Sylvius,) by a Latin oration which he pronounced before him. Of his literary performances the principal one that remains is the translation of Cicero's Treatise on Friendship, which was published by Caxton. He was one of the chief patrons of this earliest English printer, who says of him that he was one "to whom he knew none like among the lords of the temporality for science and moral virtue,' -a far better


[ocr errors]

* Royal and Noble Authors.

† Ovid, De Ponto, Lib. ii. Ep. 9, p. 47.

testimony to his worth than the party-spirit of the Croyland historian, or even the temporary clamour of the populace, if such did make itself heard against him in the triumph of the opposite faction, is of the reverse. He was only in his forty-second year when he was put to death; "at which death," says Caxton, "every man that was there might learn to die, and take his death patiently."

Fuller has said that "the axe then did at one blow cut off more learning than was left in the heads of all the surviving nobility." Yet there still survived a noble contemporary of Tiptoft, "by no means," to use the words of Walpole, "inferior to him in learning and politeness, in birth his equal, by alliance his superior, greater in feats of arms, and in pilgrimages more abundant." This was Anthony Widville, or Woodville, Lord Scales and Earl Rivers, the brother of the fair queen of Edward IV. By a fate closely resembling that of the Earl of Worcester, the brave and accomplished Lord Rivers was beheaded at Pomfret Castle, by order of the Protector Gloucester, afterwards Richard III., along with the Queen's son the Lord Gray, and other victims, on the 23rd of June, 1483. The earl, when he thus perished, had not completed his forty-first year. At a famous combat which took place in Smithfield, between Rivers, then Lord Scales, and Anthony the Bastard of Burgundy, in 1467, the Earl of Worcester presided as Lord High Constable; so that two of the chief figures at this one of the latest real passages of arms held in England, were the two Englishmen the most distinguished of their time for those intellectual tastes and accomplishments, in the diffused light of which the empire of chi

« PreviousContinue »