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and playe of the Chesse.” The first two large books which he printed in England were Chaucer's “ Canterbury Tales ” and the “ History of Jason.” Thenceforward, until his death in 1491, Caxton must have been a very busy man. He printed in all over 50 books, of which at least a third were translations which he made himself. For these and many of the others he wrote prologues and epilogues. The list includes history, romance, poetry, books of devotion, and school books. Aside from his position as the father of English printing, Caxton has two great claims to our gratitude. He was such an ardent admirer of Chaucer that he set up a tablet in Westminster Abbey to his memory; and he labored to unify the English language, which worried him, as it worries some people of to-day, because it altered so rapidly. "Certaynly," he wrote, “our langage now used varyeth ferre from that whiche was used and spoken when I was borne.” The fact that changes went on at different paces in different places made dialects that it was hard to understand; for instance, when a merchant asked a woman for "eggs,” she thought he was speaking French, so he had to demand "eyren.” “And thus,” writes the old printer, “between playn, rude, and curious I stand abasshed, but in my judgemente the comyn that be dayli used ben lyghter to be understonde than the olde and auncyent englysshe.”
One of the most interesting and important phenomena that resulted from the introduction of printing was the impetus it gave to the writing of prose. So long as books were scarce and dear, oral transmission of literary material retained an importance which it is now hard to comprehend. So long as such oral transmission retained its importance, metrical composition remained supreme. The mediæval romances are almost without exception in verse. When Caxton began to print, however, he found that the reading public bought prose more readily than poetry. In his effort to satisfy this preference he himself made a compilation of stories known as the
Golden Legend ” and he printed a compilation of the stories of King Arthur under the title of the “ Morte d'Arthur.”
The latter is on the whole the most important book of the fifteenth century. Its author, Sir Thomas Malory, was probably a Lancas
trian knight who perished as a result of the triumph of the House of York. It was completed about 1461.
Malory modernized, unified, and humanized the Arthurian
legends, and did his work so well that even Tennyson with his “Idylls of the King" cannot be said entirely to have supplanted it. As Caxton in his preface quaintly and truly says, “Herein may be seen noble chivalrye, curtosye, humanyte, friendynesse, hardynesse, love, friendship, cowardyce, murdre, hate, vertue, and synne.”
Throughout the century, however, the intellectual life of the nation was centred mostly in Oxford and Cambridge. The former had been at least since 1200 the seat of a great university. King John in 1209 had frightened 3000 students away from its cloisters by hanging three of their number for a crime which somebody else had committed. Cambridge University was in existence in 1229. The early history of both institutions was marked by brawls between town and gown, the history of which sounds strangely familiar to an American who has as Alma Mater one of our newer colleges. The shifts to which impecunious students were put in order to continue their education also smack strangely of the United States. They handled shovels, carried earth and bricks, waited at table, begged on the highway, and sang from door to door. Here, however, the resemblance ends. The faculties were composed exclusively of members of the clergy. The course of study for the undergraduate consisted of the trivium, which comprised grammar, logic, and rhetoric; when these had been mastered he was proclaimed Artium Baccalaureus, " Bachelor of Arts," and passed to the study of the quadrivium-arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy_his conquest of which was rewarded by the degree of Artium Magister, “Master of Arts.” Instead of passing written examinations, the student was compelled to debate in public and to deliver lectures. When he completed his course he knew about as much grammar, geography, and arithmetic as a boy now does when he enters the high school, enough music to sing a mass, and enough astronomy to determine the date of Easter. He could argue skilfully about questions that are not worth arguing about, but he knew next to nothing about literature and nothing about science. If by chance he showed a taste for the latter, he was suspected of an alliance with the Saracens or the devil. From this state of darkness England was rescued in the sixteenth century by those two great world movements which are known as the Renascence and the Reformation.
The following table may serve at once as a historical review of the fifteenth century and a guide to illustrative reading:
1. Describe the political conditions that crushed literary activity during the
fifteenth century. 2. Gower wrote in three languages. What were they and why were they
those which they were? 3. What is the difference between a song and a ballad ? 4. What were the themes of some of the fifteenth century ballads? 5. How would you describe Chaucer's influence upon this century? 6. Is there a connection between the invention of printing and the end of
the ballad era; if so, what? 7. Before printing was invented, how were books made? 8. What prose work of this century has had the most influence on modern
literature? 9. Compare the studies of the life of a student at Oxford in the fifteenth
century with those of a student at some American college in the
twentieth. 10. By reference to an encyclopædia, write an outline of the development of
the mechanics of printing from Caxton's time to our own.
Suggested Readings.—Dip into Malory for an hour or so, and read the ballads contained in Ward's “English Poets.”
A CENTURY OF EXPANSION (1500-1600)
The glory of the priesthood and the shame.”—Pope. 'Utopia,' the one work by More which still lives in all the freshness of youth.”—T. M. Lindsay.
“The best features of the translation of 1611 are derived from the version of Tyndale.”—Marsh.
“I had rather have thrown ten thousand pounds into the sea than have lost my Ascham.”—Queen Elizabeth.
Sonnets are of fouretene lynes, every line conteyning tenne syllables. The first twelve do ryme in staves of foure lines by crosse meetre, and the last two ryming together do conclude the whole."--George Gascoigne.
“Mr. Chetwind fell commending of Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity’as the best book and the only one that made him a Christian, which puts me upon the buying of it, which I will do shortly.”-Samuel Pepys.
Sidney was a refinement upon nobility.”—Edinburgh Review.
In the sixteenth century the world became bigger physically, intellectually, and morally. This phenomenon was due to three circumstances—the progress of discovery, the Renascence, and the Reformation. Under Henry VII (1485–1509) the Renascence, or Revival of Learning, made a good beginning; under Henry VIII (1509– 1547), Edward VI (1547-1553), and Mary (1553-1559) the war of English religious independence was fought; and in the reign of Elizabeth (1559–1603), as the ripe fruit of all three forces, there came a period of literary achievement unequalled in the annals of mankind. In this result that great work of geographical expansion which began with the discovery of America had no small share in kindling men's imaginations.
In 1453 the Turks captured Constantinople and brought to an end the Roman Empire of the East. This event had been long foreseen and in anticipation of it many Greek scholars had fled to Italy. Here they established themselves as teachers of those literary masterpieces of Greece which had been forgotten for ten centuries in western Europe. The discovery of America was probably received with less enthusiasm than the rediscovery, thus made, of the “Iliad”