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sense of humor. He enjoyed the favor of the great.
Many noble and divers gentlemen " discussed literary matters with him in his humble workshop; even Kings took an interest in his work. He published the poems of Chaucer, whom he calls “that noble and great philosopher," "who deserves the name of a laureate poet," of Gower, and of other famous men. In the great world outside the walls of his peaceful workshop, terrible and momentous things were being done. The Duke of Gloucester murdered his little nephew and seated himself on the throne as Richard III: the battle of Bosworth was fought and the bloody Wars of the Roses were at last ended. But through all these years of battle, and violence, and sudden change, Caxton, in his little shop under the shadow of the Abbey, carried on in faithfulness and quietness his great work for England. Like Bede he labored until the last, finishing one of his books, The Lives of the Fathers, on the very day he died, in the year before Columbus discovered America.
Malory's Morte d'Arthur. — One of the most important of all the books that Caxton printed, was a collection of stories about King Arthur and his knights, under the name of Morte d'Arthur, or the Death of Arthur. The book was compiled by a certain Sir Thomas Malory. It was based on several French romances, which Malory translated into English prose, and connected as well as he could in such a way as to make a fairly continuous story. Who Malory was is uncertain, but we are told that he finished his book in the middle years of Edward IV's reign (1471), and we know that Caxton printed it in 1485. Malory's task was a difficult one, for there were many separate stories about Arthur and his different knights, and even the same story had been told in many different ways. It was consequently very hard to
arrange all this mass of legend in an orderly way so that it would be really one book and not a mere succession of separate adventures. It would probably have taken a man of the highest genius to unite all these fragmentary and conflicting stories and to make one complete story as perfect in its design and proportions as a great epic. Malory had not the genius to do this, but he succeeded better than any one had done before him. He had not the finished art of a modern storywriter, and the reader of to-day often finds his noble old book confusing and tedious. But we must remember that when Malory wrote, the language was still unsettled, and that very few books of any importance had then been written in English prose. Whatever its shortcomings, the Morte d'Arthur was the greatest English book of romance: written when the old feudal nobility of England were being destroyed in the strife of the Civil Wars, it expressed the spirit of the dying medieval chivalry in its weakness and its strength; at the very end of the Middle Ages it gathered together these fragments of old romances, gave them a new life and handed them on to later times. For generations it was mainly from Malory that England learned the stories of her great national hero of romance, and it is to Malory's book that poets like Tennyson have turned when they sought to retell these old legends in modern verse. In this wonderful storehouse of romance you will find many stories that modern writers have made familiar. You may read there of the doings of King Arthur himself — how he got his wonderful sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, how he warred against the heathen, how he married the beautiful Guinevere, and how at last, wounded in battle, he did not die but was taken to the peaceful Vale of Avalon to heal him of his wound. You
may read too, of the adventures of his knights, of Sir Launcelot, renowned for his courage and his courtesy, of Sir Tristram, the lover of the fair Iseult, of Sir Galahad, the pure in heart, to whom it was given to see the Holy Grail, and of many more. As a rule, Malory tells his story with no attempt at eloquence, and with but little comment; but there are a few places where he rises into a more impassioned style. One of these is this noble lament of Sir Ector over Sir Launcelot:
“And then Sir Ector threw his shield, his sword, and his helm from him; and when he beheld Sir Launcelot's visage, he fell down in a swoon; and when he awoke, it were hard for any tongue to tell the doleful complaints he made for his brother. 'Ah! Sir Launcelot,' said he, 'thou wert head of all Christian Knights. And now, I dare say,' said Sir Ector, 'that Sir Launcelot, there thou liest, thou wert never matched of none earthly knight's hands; and thou wert the courtliest knight that ever bear shield; and thou wert the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrode horse; and thou wert the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman; and thou wert the kindest man that ever struck with sword; and thou wert the goodliest person that ever came among the press of knights; and thou wert the meekest man, and the gentlest, that ever eat in hall among ladies; and thou wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.'”
End of the Wars of the Roses, 1485. — Shakespeare puts into the mouth of King Henry VII as he stands on the battlefield of Bosworth in the moment of his victory over Richard III the words:
“Now civil wars are stopp'd, peace lives again:
On the whole these hopes of the conqueror were realized. There were, indeed, some conspiracies against his throne, but they were easily suppressed, and under Henry's strong if despotic rule, the land, weary of battles and bloodshed, entered upon a period of tranquillity. A new era had dawned, although the men of that time were probably unable to realize its full meaning. The power of the old feudal nobility was broken, for many of the noble families had perished in the long wars: the middle classes were beginning to gain in wealth and importance, and the way became open for new methods and new men.
New Learning at the Universities. — A few years after Henry VII came to the throne, a revolution in English education was begun by the introduction of the new learning into Oxford University. Oxford was at last roused from her long sleep, she caught the new interest in the study of the classics, she was stirred by religious enthusiasm, and she became the home of new ideas and the first center of the new learning in England. This was accomplished during the last ten years of the fifteenth century by a group of remarkable men who, because they advocated various religious, social, and educational reforms, are called THE OXFORD REFORMERS. The chief members of this little group were WILLIAM GROCYN (14402-1519), THOMAS LINACRE (about 1460– 1524), JOHN COLET (1467?-1519?), SIR THOMAS MORE (1478–1535), and the great Dutch scholar, DESIDERIUS ERASMUS (1467–1536). In 1491 Grocyn returned from Italy, where he had studied under two of the greatest classical scholars of the day, and began the regular teaching of Greek at Oxford. He was soon joined by his friend and fellow-student, Linacre, a learned physician, who had also just returned from his studies in Italy, and the two worked together teaching Greek, a
language generally recognized as a principal feature in the new education. Colet, who, like his friends Grocyn and Linacre, had gone to Italy to study, got back to Oxford in 1496. He was a man of noble character and high aims. He was deeply religious, and, while he was interested in classical studies, the most important use he made of his scholarship was to study carefully the Greek Testament for himself. . Colet saw many things in the Church and in the State which he burned to set right, and while he was a quiet, gentle scholar, he could fight bravely and manfully for what he believed to be right. He exercised a great influence over Erasmus, who, too poor to go to Italy, came to Oxford in 1497, attracted by the reputation it had already gained for classical studies. Among Linacre's pupils was Thomas More, a merry boy with gray eyes, full of fun and mischief, but with a marvelous aptitude for study. More learned Greek from Linacre, but his association with Colet seems to have deeply influenced his future life and thought. After a little, Erasmus went to teach Greek at Cambridge, and that great university began to do its part in the educational revival.' Then, early in the sixteenth century, in Henry VIII's reign, the influence of Italian culture reached the Court, and finally became a part of the life of the nation.
Erasmus, Colet, and More. — In a few years the little circle of scholars at Oxford was broken. Erasmus went back to the Continent and became one of the famous men of his age. Colet was made Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He was rich, and he enjoyed both the favor and the respect of King Henry VIII, but wealth could not make him self-indulgent, nor could any worldly advantage make him less fearless and outspoken, or prevent him from doing what he thought was