38. Sources and Literature
For § 39. Church and Society in England, etc. — Thomas Walsingham: Hist. Anglicana, ed. by Riley, Rolls Ser., London, 1869. — Walter de Heimburgh: Chronicon, ed. by Hamilton, 2 vols., 1848 sq. — Adam Merimuth: Chronicon, and Robt. de Avesbury: De gestis mirabilibus Edwardi III., ed. by Thompson with Introd., Rolls Ser., 1889. — Chron. Angliae (1326-1388), ed. by Thompson, Rolls Ser., 1874. — Henry Knighton: Chronicon, ed. by Lumby, Rolls Ser., 2 vols., 1895. — Ranulph Higden, d. bef. 1400: Polychronicon, with trans. by Trevisa, Rolls Ser., 9 vols., 1865-1886. — Thos. Rymer, d. 1713: Foedera, Conventiones et Litera, London, 1704-1715. — Wilkins: Concilia. — W. C. Bliss: Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers relating to G. Britain and Ireland, vols. II.-IV., London, 1897-1902. Vol. II. extends from 1305-1342; vol. III., 1342-1362; vol. IV., 1362-1404. A work of great value. — Gee and Hardy: Documents, etc. — Haddan and Stubbs: Councils and Eccles. Doc’ts. — Stubbs: Constit. Hist. of Engl., III. 294-387. — The Histt. of Engl., by Lingard, bks. III., IV., and Green, bk. IV. — Capes: The Engl. Ch. in the 14th and 15th Centt., London, 1900. — Haller: Papsttum und Kirchenreform, pp. 375-465. — Jessopp: The Coming of the Friars. — Creighton: Hist. of Epidemics in England. — Gasquet: The Great Pestilence, 1893. — Rashdall and others: Histt. of Oxford and Cambridge. — The Dict. of Nat. Biog. — Also Thos. Fuller’s Hist. of Gr. Brit., for its general judgments and quaint statements. — Loserth: Studien zur Kirchenpolitik Englands im 14 Jahrh. in Sitzungsberichte d. kaiserl. Akademie d. Wissenschaften in Wien, Vienna, 1897. — G. Kriehn: Studies in the Sources of the Social Revol. of 1381, Am. Hist. Rev., Jan.-Oct., 1902. — C. Oman: The Great Revolt in 1381, Oxford, 1906. — Traill: Social Engl., vol. II., London, 1894. — Rogers: Six Centt. of Work and Wages. — Cunningham: Growth of Engl. Industry.
For §§ 40-42. John Wyclif. — I. The publication of Wyclif’s works belongs almost wholly to the last twenty-five years, and began with the creation of the Wyclif Society, 1882, which was due to a summons from German scholars. In 1858, Shirley, Fasc., p. xlvi, could write, “Of Wyc’s Engl. writings nothing but two short tracts have seen the light,” and in 1883, Loserth spoke of his tractates “mouldering in the dust.” The MSS. are found for the most part in the libraries of Oxford, Prag and Vienna. The Trialogus was publ. Basel, 1525, and Wycliffe’s Wycket, in Engl., Nürnberg, 1546. Reprinted at Oxford, 1828. — Latin Works, ed. by the Wyclif Soc., organized, 1882, in answer to Buddensieg’s appeal in the Academy, Sept. 17, 1881, 31 vols., London, 1884-1907. — De officia pastorli, ed. by Lechler, Leipzig, 1863. — Trialogus, ed. by Lechler, Oxford, 1869. — De veritate sac. Scripturae, ed. by Rudolf Buddensieg, 3 vols., Leipzig, 1904. — De potestate papae, ed. by Loserth, London, 1907. — Engl. Works: Three Treatises, by J. Wyclffe, ed. by J. H. Todd, Dublin, 1851. — *Select Engl. Works, ed. by Thos. Arnold, 3 vols., Oxford, 1869-1871. — *Engl. Works Hitherto Unprinted, ed. by F. D. Matthew, London, 1880, with valuable Introd. — *Wyclif’s trans. of the Bible, ed. by Forshall and Madden, 4 vols., Oxford, 1850. — His New Test. with Introd. and Glossary, by W. W. Skeat, Cambridge, 1879. — The trans. of Job, Pss., Prov., Eccles. and Canticles, Cambridge, 1881. — For list of Wyclif’s works, see Canon W. W. Shirley: Cat. of the Works of J. W., Oxford, 1865. He lists 96 Latin and 65 Engl. writings. — Also Lechler in his Life of Wiclif, II. 559-573, Engl. trans., pp. 483-498. — Also Rashdall’s list in Dict. of Nat. Biog. — II. Biographical. — Thomas Netter of Walden, a Carmelite, d. 1430: Fasciculi zizaniorum Magistri Joh. Wyclif cum tritico (Bundles of tares of J. Wyc. with the wheat), a collection of indispensable documents and narrations, ed. by Shirley, with valuable Introd., Rolls Ser., London, 1858. — Also Doctrinale fidei christianae Adv. Wicleffitas et Hussitas in his Opera, Paris, 1532, best ed., 3 vols., Venice, 1757. Walden could discern no defects in the friars, and represented the opposite extreme from Wyclif. He sat in the Council of Pisa, was provincial of his order in England, and confessor to Henry V. — The contemporary works given above, Chron. Angliae, Walsingham, Knighton, etc. — England in the Time of Wycliffe in trans. and reprints, Dept. of Hist. Univ. of Pa., 1895. — John Foxe: Book of Martyrs, London, 1632, etc. — John Lewis: Hist. of the Life and Sufferings of J. W., Oxford, 1720, etc., and 1820. — R. Vaughan: Life and Opinions of J. de Wycliffe, 2 vols., London, 1828, 2d ed., 1831. — V. Lechler: J. von Wiclif und die Vorgesch. der Reformation, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1873. — *Engl. trans., J. W. and his Engl. Precursors, with valuable Notes by Peter Lorimer, 2 vols., London, 1878, new edd., 1 vol., 1881, 1884. — *R. Buddensieg: J. Wiclif und seine Zeit, Gotha, 1883. Also J. W. as Patriot and Reformer, London, 1884. — E. S. Holt: J. de W., the First Reformer, and what he did for England, London, 1884. — V. Vattier: J. W., sa vie, ses oeuvres et sa doctrine, Paris, 1886. — *J. Loserth: Hus und Wiclif, Prag and Leipzig, 1883, Engl. trans., London, 1884. Also W.’s Lehre v. wahrem u. falschem Papsttum, in Hist. Zeitschrift, 1907, p. 237 sqq. — L. Sergeant: John Wyclif, New York, 1893. — H. B. Workman: The Age of Wyclif, London, 1901. — Geo. S. Innes: J. W., Cin’ti. — J. C. Carrick: Wyc. and the Lollards, London, 1908. — C. Bigg, in Wayside Sketches in Eccles. Hist., London, 1906. — For other Biogg., see Shirley: Fasciculus, p. 531 sqq. — III. J. L. Poole: W. and Movements for Reform, London, 1889, and W.’s Doctr. of Lordship in Illustr. of Med. Thought, 1884. — Wiegand: De Eccles. notione quid Wiclif docuerit, Leipzig, 1891. — *G. M. Trevelyan: Engl. In The Age Of W., London, 2d ed., 1899. — Powell and Trevelyan: The Peasants’ Rising and the Lollards, London, 1899. — H. Fuerstenau: J. von W.’s Lehren v. d. Stellung d. weltl. Gewalt, Berlin, 1900. — Haddan and Stubbs: Councils and Eccles. Docts. — Gee and Hardy. — Stubbs: Constit. Hist., III. 314-374. — The Histt. of Capes, Green and Lingard, vol. IV. — The Histt. of the Engl. Bible, by Eadie, Westcott, Moulton, Stoughton, Mombert, etc. — Matthew: Authorship of the Wycliffite Bible, Engl. Hist. Rev., January, 1895. — Gasquet: The Eve of the Reformation, new ed., London, 1905; The Old Engl. Bible and Other Essays, London, 1908. — R. S. Storrs: J. Wyc. and the First Engl. Bible in Sermons and Addresses, Boston, 1902. An eloquent address delivered in New York on the 500th anniversary of the appearance of Wyclif’s New Test. — Rashdall in Dict. of Natl. Biog., LXIII. 202-223. — G. S. Innis: Wycliffe Cinti.
For § 43. Lollards. — The works noted above of Knighton, Walsingham, Rymer’s Foedera, the Chron. Angliae, Walden’s Fasc. ziz., Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Also Adam Usk: Chronicle. — Thos. Wright: Polit. Poems and Songs, Rolls Ser., 2 vols., London, 1859. — Fredericq: Corp. inquis. Neerl., vols. I.-III. — Reginald Pecock: The Repressor of overmuch Blaming of the Clergy, ed. by Babington, Rolls Ser., 2 vols., London, 1860. — The Histt. of Engl. and the Church of Engl. — A. M. Brown: Leaders of the Lollards, London, 1848. — W. H. Summers: Our Lollard Ancestors, London, 1904. — *James Gairdner: Lollardy and the Reform. in Engl., 2 vols., London, 1908. — E. P. Cheyney: The Recantations of the Early Lollards, Am. Hist. Rev., April, 1899. — H. S. Cronin: The Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards, Engl. Hist. Rev., April, 1907. — Art. Lollarden, by Buddensieg in Herzog, XI. 615-626. — The works of Trevelyan and Forshall and Madden, cited above, and Oldcastle, vol. XLII. 86-93, and other artt. in Dict. of Nat. Biog.
For §§ 44-46. John Huss. — Hist. et monumenta J. Hus atque Hieronymi Pragensis, confessorum Christi, 2 vols., Nürnberg, 1558, Frankfurt, 1715. I have used the Frankfurt ed. — W. Flajshans: Mag. J. Hus Expositio Decalogi, Prag, 1903; De corpore Christi: De sanguine Christi, Prag, 1904; Sermones de sanctis, Prag, 1908; Super quatuor sententiarum, etc. — *Francis Palacky: Documenta Mag. J. Hus, vitam, doctrinam, causam in Constantiensi actam consilio illustrantia, 1403-1418, pp. 768, Prag, 1869. Largely from unpublished sources. Contains the account of Peter of Mladenowitz, who was with Huss at Constance. — K. J. Erben (archivarius of Prag): Mistra Jana Husi sebrané spisy Czeske. A collection of Huss’ Bohemian writings, 3 vols., Prag, 1865-1868. — Trans. of Huss’ Letters, first by Luther, Wittenberg, 1536 (four of them, together with an account by Luther of Huss’ trial and death), republ. by C. von Kuegelgen, Leipzig, 1902. — Mackenzie: Huss’ Letters, Edinburgh, 1846. — *H. B. Workman and B. M. Pope: Letters of J. Hus with Notes. — For works on the Council of Constance, see Mansi, vol. XXVIII., Van der Hardt, Finke, Richental etc., see § 12. — C. von Hoefler: Geschichtsschreiber der hussitischen Bewegung, 3 vols., Vienna, 1856-1866. Contains Mladenowitz and other contemporary documents. — *Palacky, a descendant of the Bohemian Brethren, d. 1876: Geschichte von Boehmen, Prag, 1836 sqq., 3d ed., 5 vols., 1864 sqq. Vol. III. of the first ed. was mutilated at Vienna by the censor of the press (the office not being abolished till 1848), on account of the true light in which Huss was placed. Nevertheless, it made such an impression that Baron Helfert was commissioned to write a reply, which appeared, Prag, 1867, pp. 287. In 1870, Palacky publ. a second ed. of vol. III., containing all the excerpted parts. — Palacky: Die Vorlaeufer des Hussitenthums in Boehmen, Prag, 1869. — L. Koehler: J. Hus u. s. Zeit, 3 vols., Leipzig, 1846. — E. H. Gillett, Prof. in New York Univ., d. New York, 1876: Life and Times of J. Huss, 2 vols., Boston, 1863, 3d ed., 1871. — W. Berger: J. Hus u. Koenig Sigismund, Augsburg, 1871. — Bonnechose: J. Hus u. das Concil zu Kostnitz, Germ. trans., 3d ed., Leipzig, 1870. — F. v. Bezold: Zur Gesch. d. Husitenthums, Munich, 1874. — E. Denis: Huss et la guerre des Hussites, Paris, l878. — A. H. Wratislaw: J. Hus, London, 1882. — *J. Loserth: Wiclif and Hus, also Beitraege zur Gesch. der Hussit. Bewegung, 5 small vols., 1877-1895, reprinted from magazines. Also Introd. to his ed. of Wiclif’s De ecclesia. Also art. J. Huss in Herzog, Encyc., VIII. 473-489. — Lechler: J. Hus, Leipzig, 1890. — *J. H. Wylie: The Counc. of Constance to the Death of J. Hus, London, 1900. — *H. B. Workman: The Dawn of the Reformation, The Age of Hus, London, 1902. — Lea: Hist. of the Inquis., II. 431-566. — Hefele, vol. VII. — *J. B. Schwab: J. Gerson, pp. 527-609. — Tschackert: Von Ailli, pp. 218-235. — W. Faber and J. Kurth: Wie sah Hus aus? Berlin, 1907. — Also J. Huss by Luetzow, N. Y., 1909, and Kuhr, Cinti.
For § 47. The Hussites. — Mansi, XXVII, XXIX. — Haller: Concil. Basiliense. — Bezold: Koenig Sigismund und d. Reichskriege gegen d. Husiten, 3 vols., Munich, 1872-1877. — *Jaroslav Goll: Quellen und Untersuchungen zur Gesch. der Boehmischen Brueder, 2 vols., Prag, 1878-1882. — *L. Keller: Die Reformation und die aelteren Reformparteien, Leipzig, 1885. — W. Preger: Ueber das Verhaeltniss der Taboriten zu den Waldesiern des 14ten Jahrh., 1887. — Haupt: Waldenserthum und Inquisition im suedoestlichen, Deutschland, Freiburg i. Br., 1890. — H. Herre: Die Husitenverhandlungen, 1429, in Quellen u. Forschungen d. Hist. Inst. von Rom, 1899. — *E. Müller: Boehm. Brueder, Herzog, III. 445-467. — E. De Schweinitz: The Hist. of the Church known as the Unitas Fratrum, Bethlehem, 1885. — Also Hergenroether-Kirsch: Kirchengesch., II. 886-903.
39. The Church in England in the Fourteenth Century
The 14th century witnessed greater social changes in England than any other century except the 19th. These changes were in large part a result of the hundred years’ war with France, which began in 1337, and the terrible ravages of the Black Death. The century was marked by the legal adoption of the English tongue as the language of the country and the increased respect for parliament, in whose counsels the rich burgher class demanded a voice, and its definite division into two houses, 1341. The social unrest of the land found expression in popular harangues, poems, and tracts, affirming the rights of the villein and serf class, and in the uprising known as the Peasants’ Revolt.
The distinctly religious life of England, in this period, was marked by obstinate resistance to the papal claims of jurisdiction, culminating in the Acts of Provisors, and by the appearance of John Wyclif, one of the most original and vigorous personalities the English Church has produced.
An industrial revolution was precipitated on the island by the Great Pestilence of 1348. The necessities of life rose enormously in value. Large tracts of land passed back from the smaller tenants into the hands of the landowners of the gentry class. The sheep and the cattle, as a contemporary wrote, “strayed through the fields and grain, and there was no one who could drive them.” The serfs and villeins found in the disorder of society an opportunity to escape from the yoke of servitude, and discovered in roving or in independent engagements the joys of a new-found freedom. These unsettled conditions called forth the famous statutes of Edward III.’s reign, 1327-1377, regulating wages and the prices of commodities.
The popular discontent arising from these regulations, and from the increased taxation necessitated by the wars with France, took the form of organized rebellion. The age of feudalism was coming to an end. The old ideas of labor and the tiller of the soil were beginning to give way before more just modes of thought. Among the agitators were John Ball, whom Froissart, with characteristic aristocratic indifference, called “the mad priest of Kent,” the poet Longland and the insurgent leader, Watt Tyler. In his harangues, Ball fired popular feeling by appeals to the original rights of man. By what right, he exclaimed, “are they, who are called lords, greater folk than we? On what grounds do they hold us in vassalage? Do not we all come from the same father and mother, Adam and Eve?” The spirit of individual freedom breathed itself out in the effective rhyme, which ran like wildfire, —
When Adam delved and Eve span
Who was then the gentleman?
The rhymes, which Will Longland sent forth in his Complaint of Piers Ploughman, ventilated the sufferings and demands of the day laborer and called for fair treatment such as brother has a right to expect from brother. Gentleman and villein faced the same eternal destinies. “Though he be thine underling,” the poet wrote, “mayhap in heaven, he will be worthier set and with more bliss than thou.” The rising sense of national importance and individual dignity was fed by the victory of Crécy, 1346, where the little iron balls, used for the first time, frightened the horses; by the battle of Poictiers ten years later; by the treaty of Brétigny, 1360, whereby Edward was confirmed in the possession of large portions of France, and by the exploits of the Black Prince. The spectacle of the French king, John, a captive on the streets of London, made a deep impression. These events and the legalization of the English tongue, 1362, contributed to develop a national and patriotic sentiment before unknown in England.
The uprising, which broke out in 1381, was a vigorous assertion of the popular demand for a redress of the social inequalities between classes in England. The insurgent bands, which marched to London, were pacified by the fair promises of Richard II., but the Kentish band led by Watt Tyler, before dispersing, took the Tower and put the primate, Sudbury, to death. He had refused to favor the repeal of the hated decapitation tax. The abbeys of St. Albans and Edmondsbury were plundered and the monks ill treated, but these acts of violence were a small affair compared with the perpetual import of the uprising for the social and industrial well-being of the English people. The demands of the insurgents, as they bore on the clergy, insisted that Church lands and goods, after sufficient allowance had been made for the reasonable wants of the clergy, should be distributed among the parishioners, and that there should be a single bishop for England. This involved a rupture with Rome.
It was inevitable that the Church should feel the effects of these changes. Its wealth, which is computed to have covered one-third of the landed property of the realm, and the idleness and mendicancy of the friars, awakened widespread murmur and discontent. The ravages made among the clergy by the Black Death rendered necessary extraordinary measures to recruit its ranks. The bishop of Norwich was authorized to replace the dead by ordaining 60 young men before the canonical age. With the rise of the staples of living, the stipends of the vast body of the priestly class was rendered still more inadequate. Archbishop Islip of Canterbury and other prelates, while recognizing in their pastorals the prevalent unrest, instead of showing proper sympathy, condemned the covetousness of the clergy. On the other hand, Longland wrote of the shifts to which they were put to eke out a living by accepting secular and often menial employment in the royal palace and the halls of the gentry class.
Parson and parish priest pleyned to the bishop,
That their parishes were pore sith the pestilence tym,
To have a license and a leve at London to dwelle
And syngen there for symonye, for silver is swete.
There was a movement from within the English people to limit the power of the bishops and to call forth spirituality and efficiency in the clergy. The bishops, powerful as they remained, were divested of some of their prestige by the parliamentary decision of 1370, restricting high offices of state to laymen. The first lay chancellor was appointed in 1340. The bishop, however, was a great personage, and woe to the parish that did not make fitting preparations for his entertainment and have the bells rung on his arrival. Archbishop Arundel, Foxe quaintly says, “took great snuff and did suspend all such as did not receive him with the noise of bells.” Each diocese had its own prison, into which the bishop thrust refractory clerics for penance or severer punishment.
The mass of the clergy had little learning. The stalls and canonries, with attractive incomes, where they did not go to foreigners, were regarded as the proper prizes of the younger sons of noblemen. On the other hand, the prelates lived in abundance. The famous bishop of Winchester, William of Wykeham, counted fifty manors of his own. In the larger ones, official residences were maintained, including hall and chapel. This prelate travelled from one to the other, taking reckonings of his stewards, receiving applications for the tonsure and ordination and attending to other official business. Many of the lower clergy were taken from the villein class, whose sons required special exemption to attend school. The day they received orders they were manumitted.
The benefit of clergy, so called, continued to be a source of injustice to the people at large. By the middle of the 13th century, the Church’s claim to tithes was extended not only to the products of the field, but the poultry of the yard and the cattle of the stall, to the catch of fish and the game of the forests. Wills almost invariably gave to the priest “the best animal” or the “best quick good.” The Church received and gave not back, and, in spite of the statute of Mortmain, bequests continued to be made to her. It came, however, to be regarded as a settled principle that the property of Church and clergy was amenable to civil taxation, and bishops, willingly or by compulsion, loaned money to the king. The demands of the French campaigns made such taxation imperative.
Indulgences were freely announced to procure aid for the building of churches, as in the case of York Cathedral, 1396, the erection of bridges, the filling up of muddy roads and for other public improvements. The clergy, though denied the right of participating in bowling and even in the pastime of checkers, took part in village festivities such as the Church-ale, a sort of mediaeval donation party, in which there was general merrymaking, ale was brewed, and the people drank freely to the health of the priest and for the benefit of the Church. As for the morals of the clergy, care must always be had not to base sweeping statements upon delinquencies which are apt to be emphasized out of proportion to their extent. It is certain, however, that celibacy was by no means universally enforced, and frequent notices occur of dispensations given to clergymen of illegitimate birth. Bishop Quevil of Exeter complained that priests with families invested their savings for the benefit of their marital partners and their children. In the next period, in 1452, De la Bere, bishop of St. David’s, by his own statement, drew 400 marks yearly from priests for the privilege of having concubines, a noble, equal in value to a mark, from each one. Glower, in his Vox clamantis, gave a dark picture of clerical habits, and charges the clergy with coarse vices such as now are scarcely dreamed of. The Church historian, Capes, concludes that “immorality and negligence were widely spread among the clergy.” The decline of discipline among the friars, and their rude manners, a prominent feature of the times, came in for the strictures of Fitzralph of Armagh, severe condemnation at the hands of Wyclif and playful sarcasm from the pen of Chaucer. The zeal for learning which had characterized them on their first arrival in England, early in the 13th century, had given way to self-satisfied idleness. Fitzralph, who was fellow of Balliol, and probably chancellor of the University of Oxford, before being raised to the episcopate, incurred the hostility of the friars by a series of sermons against the Franciscan theory of evangelical poverty. He claimed it was not scriptural nor derived from the customs of the primitive Church. For his temerity he was compelled to answer at Avignon, where he seems to have died about the year 1360. Of the four orders of mendicants, the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and Augustinians, Longland sang that they
Preached the people for profit and themselve
Glosed the Gospel as them good lyked,
For covetis of copis construed it as they would.
Of the ecclesiastics of the century, if we except Wyclif, probably the most noted are Thomas Bradwardine and William of Wykeham, the one the representative of scholarly study, the other of ecclesiastical power. Bradwardine, theologian, phiIosopher, mathematician and astronomer, was a student at Merton College, Oxford, 1325. At Avignon, whither he went to receive consecration to the see of Canterbury, 1349, he had a strange experience. During the banquet given by Clement VI. the doors were thrown open and a clown entered, seated on a jackass, and humbly petitioned the pontiff to be made archbishop of Canterbury. This insult, gotten up by Clement’s nephew Hugo, cardinal of Tudela, and other members of the sacred college, was in allusion to the remark made by the pope that, if the king of England would ask him to appoint a jackass to a bishopric, he would not dare to refuse. The sport throws an unpleasant light upon the ideals of the curia, but at the same time bears witness to the attempt which was being made in England to control the appointment of ecclesiastics. Bradwardine enjoyed such an enviable reputation that Wyclif and other English contemporaries gave him the title, the Profound Doctor — doctor profundus. In his chief work on grace and freewill, delivered as a series of lectures at Merton, he declared that the Church was running after Pelagius. In the philosophical schools he had rarely heard anything about grace, but all day long the assertions that we are masters of our own wills. He was a determinist. All things, he affirmed, which occur, occur by the necessity of the first cause. In his Nun’s Tale, speaking of God’s predestination, Chaucer says: —
But he cannot boult it to the bren
As can the holie doctour, S. Austin,
Or Boece (Boethius), or the Bishop Bradwardine.
Wykeham, 1324-1404, the pattern of a worldly and aristocratic prelate, was an unblushing pluralist, and his see of Winchester is said to have brought him in £60,000 of our money annually. In 1361 alone, he received prebends in St. Paul’s, Hereford, Salisbury, St. David’s, Beverley, Bromyard, Wherwell Abergwili, and Llanddewi Brewi, and in the following year Lincoln, York, Wells and Hastings. He occupied for a time the chief office of chancellor, but fell into disrepute. His memory is preserved in Winchester School and in New College, Oxford, which he founded. The princely endowment of New College, the first stones of which were laid in 1387, embraced 100 scholarships. These gifts place Wykeham in the first rank of English patrons of learning at the side of Cardinal Wolsey. He also has a place in the manuals of the courtesies of life by his famous words, “Manners makyth man.”
The struggles of previous centuries against the encroachment of Rome upon the temporalities of the English Church was maintained in this period. The complaint made by Matthew Paris that the English Church was kept between two millstones, the king and the pope, remained true, with this difference, however, the king’s influence came to preponderate. Acts of parliament emphasized his right to dictate or veto ecclesiastical appointments and recognized his sovereign prerogative to tax Church property. The evident support which the pope gave to France in her wars with England and the scandals of the Avignon residence were favorable to the crown’s assertion of authority in these respects. Wyclif frequently complained that the pope and cardinals were “in league with the enemies of the English kingdom” and the papal registers of the Avignon period, which record the appeals sent to the English king to conclude peace with France, almost always mention terms that would have made France the gainer. At the outbreak of the war, 1339, Edward III. proudly complained that it broke his heart to see that the French troops were paid in part with papal funds.
The three most important religious acts of England between John’s surrender of his crown to Innocent III. and the Act of Supremacy, 1534, were the parliamentary statutes of Mortmain, 1279, of Provisors, 1351, and for the burning of heretics, 1401. The statute of Mortmain or Dead-hand forbade the alienation of lands so as to remove them from the obligation of service or taxation to the secular power. The statute of Provisors, renewed and enlarged in the acts of Praemunire, 1353, 1390 and 1393, concerned the subject of the papal rights over appointments and the temporalities of the English Church. This old bone of contention was taken up early in the 14th century in the statute of Carlyle, 1307, which forbade aliens, appointed to visit religious houses in England, taking moneys with them out of the land and also the payment of tallages and impositions laid upon religious establishments from abroad. In 1343, parliament called upon the pope to recall all “reservations, provisions and collations” which, as it affirmed, checked Church improvements and the flow of alms. It further protested against the appointment of aliens to English livings, “some of them our enemies who know not our language.” Clement VI., replying to the briefs of the king and parliament, declared that, when he made provisions and reservations, it was for the good of the Church, and exhorted Edward to act as a Catholic prince should and to permit nothing to be done in his realm inimical to the Roman Church and ecclesiastical liberty. Such liberty the pope said he would “defend as having to give account at the last judgment.” Liberty in this case meant the free and unhampered exercise of the lordly claims made by his predecessors from Hildebrand down. Thomas Fuller was close to the truth, when, defining papal provisions and reservations, he wrote, “When any bishopric, abbot’s place, dignity or good living (aquila non capit muscas — the eagle does not take note of flies) was like to be void, the pope, by a profitable prolepsis to himself, predisposed such places to such successors as he pleased. By this device he defeated, when he so pleased, the legal election of all convents and rightful presentation of all patrons.”
The memorable statute of Provisors forbade all papal provisions and reservations and all taxation of Church property contrary to the customs of England. The act of 1353 sought more effectually to clip the pope’s power by forbidding the carrying of any suit against an English patron before a foreign tribunal.
To these laws the pope paid only so much heed as expediency required. This claim, made by one of his predecessors in the bull Cupientes, to the right to fill all the benefices of Christendom, he had no idea of abandoning, and, whenever it was possible, he provided for his hungry family of cardinals and other ecclesiastics out of the proverbially fat appointments of England. Indeed, the cases of such appointments given by Merimuth, and especially in the papal books as printed by Bliss, are so recurrent that one might easily get the impression that the pontiff’s only concern for the English Church was to see that its livings were put into the hands of foreigners. I have counted the numbers in several places as given by Bliss. On one page, 4 out of 9 entries were papal appointments. A section of 2 1/2 pages announces “provisions of a canonry, with expectation of a prebend” in the following churches: 7 in Lincoln, 5 in Salisbury, 2 in Chichester, and 1 each in Wells, York, Exeter, St. Patrick’s, Dublin, Moray, Southwell, Howden, Ross, Aberdeen, Wilton. From 1342-1385 the deanery of York was held successively by three Roman cardinals. In 1374, the incomes of the treasurer, dean and two archdeaneries of Salisbury went the same way. At the close of Edward III.’s reign, foreign cardinals held the deaneries of York, Salisbury and Lichfield, the archdeanery of Canterbury, reputed to be the richest of English preferments, and innumerable prebends. Bishops and abbots-elect had to travel to Avignon and often spend months and much money in securing confirmation to their appointments, and, in cases, the prelate-elect was set aside on the ground that provision had already been made for his office. As for sees reserved by the pope, Stubbs gives the following list, extending over a brief term of years: Worcester, Hereford, Durham and Rochester, 1317; Lincoln and Winchester, 1320; Lichfield, 1322; Winchester, 1328; Carlisle and Norwich, 1825; Worcester, Exeter and Hereford, 1827; Bath, 1829; Durham, Canterbury, Winchester and Worcester, 1334. Provisions were made in full recognition of the plural system. Thus, Walter of London, the king’s confessor, was appointed by the pope to the deanery of Wells, though, as stated in the papal brief, he already held a considerable list of “canonries and prebends,” Lincoln, Salisbury, St. Paul, St. Martin Le Grand, London, Bridgenorth, Hastings and Hareswell in the diocese of Salisbury. By the practice of promoting bishops from one see to another, the pope accomplished for his favorites what he could not have done in any other way. Thus, by the promotion of Sudbury in 1874 to Canterbury, the pope was able to translate Courtenay from Hereford to London, and Gilbert from Bangor to Hereford, and thus by a single stroke he was enriched by the first-fruits of four sees.
In spite of legislation, the papal collectors continued to ply their trade in England, but less publicly and confidently than in the two preceding centuries. In 1879, Urban VI. sent Cosmatus Gentilis as his nuncio and collector-in-chief, with instructions that he and his subcollectors make speedy returns to Rome, especially of Peter’s pence. In 1375, Gregory XI. had called upon the archbishops of Canterbury and York to collect a tax of 60,000 florins for the defence of the lands of the Apostolic see, the English benefices, however, held by cardinals being exempted. The chronicler Merimuth, in a noteworthy paragraph summing up the curial practice of foraging upon the English sees and churches, emphasizes the persistence and shrewdness with which the Apostolic chair from the time of Clement V. had extorted gold and riches as though the English might be treated as barbarians. John XXII. he represents as having reserved all the good livings of England. Under Benedict XII., things were not so bad. Benedict’s successor, Clement VI., was of all the offenders the most unscrupulous, reserving for himself or distributing to members of the curia the fattest places in England. England’s very enemies, as Merimuth continues, were thus put into possession of English revenues, and the proverb became current at Avignon that the English were like docile asses bearing all the burdens heaped upon them. This prodigal Frenchman threatened Edward III. with excommunication and the land with interdict, if resistance to his appointments did not cease and if their revenues continued to be withheld. The pope died in 1353, before the date set for the execution of his wrathful threat. While France was being made English by English arms, the Italian and French ecclesiastics were making conquest of England’s resources.
The great name of Wyclif, which appears distinctly in 1366, represents the patriotic element in all its strength. In his discussions of lordship, presented in two extensive treatises, he set forth the theory of the headship of the sovereign over the temporal affairs of the Church in his own dominions, even to the seizure of its temporalities. In him, the Church witnessed an ecclesiastic of equal metal with Thomas à Becket, a man, however, who did not stoop, in his love for his order, to humiliate the state under the hand of the Church. He represented the popular will, the common sense of mankind in regard to the province of the Church, the New Testament theory of the spiritual sphere. Had he not been practically alone, he would have anticipated by more than two centuries the limitation of the pope’s power in England.
40. John Wyclif
“A good man was there of religioun
That was a pore Persone of a town;
But rich he was of holy thought and werk;
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Christes gospel trewly wolde prech.
This noble ensample to his shepe he gaf,
That first he wrought and after that he taught.
A better priest I trow that nowhere non is,
He waited after no pompe ne reverence;
Ne maked him no spiced conscience,
But Christes lore and his apostles twelve
He taught, but first he folwed it himselve.”
The title, Reformers before the Reformation, has been aptly given to a group of men of the 14th and 15th centuries who anticipated many of the teachings of Luther and the Protestant Reformers. They stand, each by himself, in solitary prominence, Wyclif in England, John Huss in Bohemia, Savonarola in Florence, and Wessel, Goch and Wesel in Northern Germany. To these men the sculptor has given a place on the pedestal of his famous group at Worms representing the Reformation of the 16th century. They differ, if we except the moral reformer, Savonarola, from the group of the German mystics, who sought a purification of life in quiet ways, in having expressed open dissent from the Church’s ritual and doctrinal teachings. They also differ from the group of ecclesiastical reformers, D’Ailly, Gerson, Nicolas of Clamanges, who concerned themselves with the fabric of the canon law and did not go beyond the correction of abuses in the administration and morals of the Church. Wyclif and his successors were doctrinal reformers. In some views they had been anticipated by Marsiglius of Padua and the other assailants of the papacy of the early half of the 14th century.
John Wyclif, called the Morning Star of the Reformation, and, at the time of his death, in England and in Bohemia the Evangelical doctor, was born about 1324 near the village of Wyclif, Yorkshire, in the diocese of Durham. His own writings give scarcely a clew to the events of his career, and little can be gathered from his immediate contemporaries. He was of Saxon blood. His studies were pursued at Oxford, which had six colleges. He was a student at Balliol and master of that hall in 1361. He was also connected with Merton and Queen’s, and was probably master of Canterbury Hall, founded by Archbishop Islip. He was appointed in succession to the livings of Fillingham, 1363, Ludgershall, 1368, and by the king’s appointment, to Lutterworth, 1374. The living of Lutterworth was valued at £26 a year.
Wyclif occupies a distinguished place as an Oxford schoolman, a patriot, a champion of theological and practical reforms and the translator of the Scriptures into English. The papal schism, occurring in the midst of his public career, had an important bearing on his views of papal authority.
So far as is known, he confined himself, until 1366, to his duties in Oxford and his parish work. In that year he appears as one of the king’s chaplains and as opposed to the papal supremacy in the ecclesiastial affairs of the realm. The parliament of the same year refused Urban V.’s demand for the payment of the tribute, promised by King John, which was back 33 years. John, it declared, had no right to obligate the kingdom to a foreign ruler without the nation’s consent. Wyclif, if not a member of this body, was certainly an adviser to it.
In the summer of 1374, Wyclif went to Bruges as a member of the commission appointed by the king to negotiate peace with France and to treat with the pope’s agents on the filling of ecclesiastical appointments in England. His name was second in the list of commissioners following the name of the bishop of Bangor. At Bruges we find him for the first time in close association with John of Gaunt, Edward’s favorite son, an association which continued for several years, and for a time inured to his protection from ecclesiastical violence.
On his return to England, he began to speak as a religious reformer. He preached in Oxford and London against the pope’s secular sovereignty, running about, as the old chronicler has it, from place to place, and barking against the Church. It was soon after this that, in one of his tracts, he styled the bishop of Rome “the anti-Christ, the proud, worldly priest of Rome, and the most cursed of clippers and cut-purses.” He maintained that-he “has no more power in binding and loosing than any priest, and that the temporal lords may seize the possessions of the clergy if pressed by necessity.” The duke of Lancaster, the clergy’s open foe, headed a movement to confiscate ecclesiastical property. Piers Ploughman had an extensive public opinion behind him when he exclaimed, “Take her lands, ye Lords, and let her live by dimes (tithes).” The Good Parliament of 1376, to whose deliberation Wyclif contributed by voice and pen, gave emphatic expression to the public complaints against the hierarchy.
The Oxford professor’s attitude had become too flagrant to be suffered to go unrebuked. In 1377, he was summoned before the tribunal of William Courtenay, bishop of London, at St. Paul’s, where the proceedings opened with a violent altercation between the bishop and the duke. The question was as to whether Wyclif should take a seat or continue standing in the court. Percy, lord marshal of England, ordered him to sit down, a proposal the bishop pronounced an unheard-of indignity to the court. At this, Lancaster, who was present, swore he would bring down Courtenay’s pride and the pride of all the prelates in England. “Do your best, Sir,” was the spirited retort of the bishop, who was a son of the duke of Devonshire. A popular tumult ensued, Wyclif being protected by Lancaster.
Pope Gregory XI. himself now took notice of the offender in a document condemning 19 sentences from his writings as erroneous and dangerous to Church and state. In fact, he issued a batch of at least five bulls, addressed to the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of London, the University of Oxford and the king, Edward III. The communication to Archbishop Sudbury opened with an unctuous panegyric of England’s past most glorious piety and the renown of its Church leaders, champions of the orthodox faith and instructors not only of their own but of other peoples in the path of the Lord’s commandments. But it had come to his ears that the Lutterworth rector had broken forth into such detestable madness as not to shrink from publicly proclaiming false propositions which threatened the stability of the entire Church. His Holiness, therefore, called upon the archbishop to have John sent to prison and kept in bonds till final sentence should be passed by the papal court. It seems that the vice-chancellor of Oxford at least made a show of complying with the pope’s command and remanded the heretical doctor to Black Hall, but the imprisonment was only nominal.
Fortunately, the pope might send forth his fulminations to bind and imprison but it was not wholly in his power to hold the truth in bonds and to check the progress of thought. In his letter to the chancellor of Oxford, Gregory alleged that Wyclif was vomiting out of the filthy dungeon of his heart most wicked and damnable heresies, whereby he hoped to pollute the faithful and bring them to the precipice of perdition, overthrow the Church and subvert the secular estate. The disturber was put into the same category with those princes among errorists, Marsiglius of Padua and John of Jandun.
The archbishop’s court at Lambeth, before which the offender was now cited, was met by a message from the widow of the Black Prince to stay the proceedings, and the sitting was effectually broken up by London citizens who burst into the hall. At Oxford, the masters of theology pronounced the nineteen condemned propositions true, though they sounded badly to the ear. A few weeks later, March, 1878, Gregory died, and the papal schism broke out. No further notice was taken of Gregory’s ferocious bulls. Among other things, the nineteen propositions affirmed that Christ’s followers have no right to exact temporal goods by ecclesiastical censures, that the excommunications of pope and priest are of no avail if not according to the law of Christ, that for adequate reasons the king may strip the Church of temporalities and that even a pope may be lawfully impeached by laymen.
With the year 1378 Wyclif’s distinctive career as a doctrinal reformer opens. He had defended English rights against foreign encroachment. He now assailed, at a number of points, the theological structure the Schoolmen and mediaeval popes had laboriously reared, and the abuses that had crept into the Church. The spectacle of Christendom divided by two papal courts, each fulminating anathemas against the other, was enough to shake confidence in the divine origin of the papacy. In sermons, tracts and larger writings, Wyclif brought Scripture and common sense to bear. His pen was as keen as a Damascus blade. Irony and invective, of which he was the master, he did not hesitate to use. The directness and pertinency of his appeals brought them easily within the comprehension of the popular mind. He wrote not only in Latin but in English. His conviction was as deep and his passion as fiery as Luther’s, but on the one hand, Wyclif’s style betrays less of the vivid illustrative power of the great German and little of his sympathetic warmth, while on the other, less of his unfortunate coarseness. As Luther is the most vigorous tract writer that Germany has produced, so Wyclif is the foremost religious pamphleteer that has arisen in England; and the impression made by his clear and stinging thrusts may be contrasted in contents and audience with the scholarly and finished tracts of the Oxford movement led by Pusey, Keble and Newman, the one reaching the conscience, the other appealing to the aesthetic tastes; the one adapted to break down priestly pretension, the other to foster it.
But the Reformer of the 14th century was more than a scholar and publicist. Like John Wesley, he had a practical bent of mind, and like him he attempted to provide England with a new proclamation of the pure Gospel. To counteract the influence of the friars, whom he had begun to attack after his return from Bruges, he conceived the idea of developing and sending forth a body of itinerant evangelists. These “pore priests,” as they were called, were taken from the list of Oxford graduates, and seem also to have included laymen. Of their number and the rules governing them, we are in the dark. The movement was begun about 1380, and on the one side it associates Wyclif with Gerrit de Groote, and on the other with Wesley and with his more recent fellow-countryman, General Booth, of the Salvation Army.
Although this evangelistic idea took not the form of a permanent organization, the appearance of the pore preachers made a sensation. According to the old chronicler, the disciples who gathered around him in Oxford were many and, clad in long russet gowns of one pattern, they went on foot, ventilating their master’s errors among the people and publicly setting them forth in sermons. They had the distinction of being arraigned by no less a personage than Bishop Courtenay “as itinerant, unauthorized preachers who teach erroneous, yea, heretical assertions publicly, not only in churches but also in public squares and other profane places, and who do this under the guise of great holiness, but without having obtained any episcopal or papal authorization.”
It was in 1381, the year before Courtenay said his memorable words, that Walden reports that Wyclif “began to determine matters upon the sacrament of the altar.” To attempt an innovation at this crucial point required courage of the highest order. In 12 theses he declared the Church’s doctrine unscriptural and misleading. For the first time since the promulgation of the dogma of transubstantiation by the Fourth Lateran was it seriously called in question by a theological expert. It was a case of Athanasius standing alone. The mendicants waxed violent. Oxford authorities, at the instance of the archbishop and bishops, instituted a trial, the court consisting of Chancellor Berton and 12 doctors. Without mentioning Wyclif by name, the judges condemned as pestiferous the assertions that the bread and wine remain after consecration, and that Christ’s body is present only figuratively or tropically in the eucharist. Declaring that the judges had not been able to break down his arguments, Wyclif went on preaching and lecturing at the university. But in the king’s council, to which he made appeal, the duke of Lancaster took sides against him and forbade him to speak any more on the subject at Oxford. This prohibition Wyclif met with a still more positive avowal of his views in his Confession, which closes with the noble words, “I believe that in the end the truth will conquer.”
The same year, the Peasants’ Revolt broke out, but there is no evidence that Wyclif had any more sympathy with the movement than Luther had with the Peasants’ Rising of 1525. After the revolt was over, he proposed that Church property be given to the upper classes, not to the poor. The principles, however, which he enunciated were germs which might easily spring up into open rebellion against oppression. Had he not written, “There is no moral obligation to pay tax or tithe to bad rulers either in Church or state. It is permitted to punish or depose them and to reclaim the wealth which the clergy have diverted from the poor?” One hundred and fifty years after this time, Tyndale said, “They said it in Wyclif’s day, and the hypocrites say now, that God’s Word arouseth insurrection.”
Courtenay’s elevation to the see of Canterbury boded no good to the Reformer. In 1382, he convoked the synod which is known in English history as the Earthquake synod, from the shock felt during its meetings. The primate was supported by 9 bishops, and when the earth began to tremble, he showed admirable courage by interpreting it as a favorable omen. The earth, in trying to rid itself of its winds and humors, was manifesting its sympathy with the body ecclesiastic. Wyclif, who was not present, made another use of the occurrence, and declared that the Lord sent the earthquake “because the friars had put heresy upon Christ in the matter of the sacrament, and the earth trembled as it did when Christ was damned to bodily death.”
The council condemned 24 articles, ascribed to the Reformer, 10 of which were pronounced heretical, and the remainder to be against the decisions of the Church. The 4 main subjects condemned as heresy were that Christ is not corporally present in the sacrament, that oral confession is not necessary for a soul prepared to die, that after Urban VI.’s death the English Church should acknowledge no pope but, like the Greeks, govern itself, and that it is contrary to Scripture for ecclesiastics to hold temporal possessions. Courtenay followed up the synod’s decisions by summoning Rygge, then chancellor of Oxford, to suppress the heretical teachings and teachers. Ignoring the summons, Rygge appointed Repyngdon, another of Wyclif’s supporters, to preach, and when Peter Stokys, “a professor of the sacred page,” armed with a letter from the archbishop, attempted to silence him, the students and tutors at Oxford threatened the Carmelite with their drawn swords.
But Courtenay would permit no trifling and, summoning Rygge and the proctors to Lambeth, made them promise on their knees to take the action indicated. Parliament supported the primate. The new preaching was suppressed, but Wyclif stood undaunted. He sent a Complaint of 4 articles to the king and parliament, in which he pleaded for the supremacy of English law in matters of ecclesiastical property, for the liberty for the friars to abandon the rules of their orders and follow the rule of Christ, and for the view that on the Lord’s table the real bread and wine are present, and not merely the accidents.
The court was no longer ready to support the Reformer, and Richard II. sent peremptory orders to Rygge to suppress the new teachings. Courtenay himself went to Oxford, and there is some authority for the view that Wyclif again met the prelate face to face at St. Frideswides. Rigid inquisition was made for copies of the condemned teacher’s writings and those of Hereford. Wyclif was inhibited from preaching, and retired to his rectory at Lutterworth. Hereford, Repyngdon, Aston and Bedeman, his supporters, recanted. The whole party received a staggering blow and with it liberty of teaching at Oxford.
Confined to Lutterworth, Wyclif continued his labors on the translation of the Bible, and sent forth polemic tracts, including the Cruciata, a vigorous condemnation of the crusade which the bishop of Norwich, Henry de Spenser, was preparing in support of Urban VI. against the Avignon pope, Clement VII. The warlike prelate had already shown his military gifts during the Peasants’ Uprising. Urban had promised plenary indulgence for a year to all joining the army. Mass was said and sermons preached in the churches of England, and large sums collected for the enterprise. The indulgence extended to the dead as well as to the living. Wyclif declared the crusade an expedition for worldly mastery, and pronounced the indulgence “an abomination of desolation in the holy place.” Spenser’s army reached the Continent, but the expedition was a failure. The most important of Wyclif’s theological treatises, the Trialogus, was written in this period. It lays down the principle that, where the Bible and the Church do not agree, we must obey the Bible, and, where conscience and human authority are in conflict, we must follow conscience.
Two years before his death, Wyclif received a paralytic stroke which maimed but did not completely disable him. It is possible that he received a citation to appear before the pope. With unabated rigor of conviction, he replied to the supreme pontiff that of all men he was most under obligation to obey the law of Christ, that Christ was of all men the most poor, and subject to mundane authority. No Christian man has a right to follow Peter, Paul or any of the saints except as they imitated Christ. The pope should renounce all worldly authority and compel his clergy to do the same. He then asserted that, if in these views he was found to err, he was willing to be corrected, even by death. If it were in his power to do anything to advance these views by his presence in Rome, he would willingly go thither. But God had put an obstacle in his way, and had taught him to obey Him rather than man. He closed with the prayer that God might incline Urban to imitate Christ in his life and teach his clergy to do the same.
While saying mass in his church, he was struck again with paralysis, and passed away two or three days after, Dec. 29, 1384, “having lit a fire which shall never be put out.” Fuller, writing of his death, exclaims, “Admirable that a hare, so often hunted with so many packs of dogs, should die quietly sitting in his form.”
Wyclif was spare, and probably never of robust health, but he was not an ascetic. He was fond of a good meal. In temper he was quick, in mind clear, in moral character unblemished. Towards his enemies he was sharp, but never coarse or ribald. William Thorpe, a young contemporary standing in the court of Archbishop Arundel, bore testimony that “he was emaciated in body and well-nigh destitute of strength, and in conduct most innocent. Very many of the chief men of England conferred with him, loved him dearly, wrote down his sayings and followed his manner of life.”
The prevailing sentiment of the hierarchy was given by Walsingham, chronicler of St. Albans, who characterized the Reformer in these words: “On the feast of the passion of St. Thomas of Canterbury, John de Wyclif, that instrument of the devil, that enemy of the Church, that author of confusion to the common people, that image of hypocrites, that idol of heretics, that author of schism, that sower of hatred, that coiner of lies, being struck with the horrible judgment of God, was smitten with palsy and continued to live till St. Sylvester’s Day, on which he breathed out his malicious spirit into the abodes of darkness.”
The dead was not left in peace. By the decree of Arundel, Wyclif’s writings were suppressed, and it was so effective that Caxton and the first English printers issued no one of them from the press. The Lateran decree of February, 1413, ordered his books burnt, and the Council of Constance, from whose members, such as Gerson and D’Ailly, we might have expected tolerant treatment, formally condemned his memory and ordered his bones exhumed from their resting-place and “cast at a distance from the sepulchre of the church.” The holy synod, so ran the decree, “declares said John Wyclif to have been a notorious heretic, and excommunicates him and condemns his memory as one who died an obstinate heretic.” In 1429, at the summons of Martin IV., the decree was carried out by Flemmyng, bishop of Lincoln.
The words of Fuller, describing the execution of the decree of Constance, have engraven themselves on the page of English history. “They burnt his bones to ashes and cast them into Swift, a neighboring brook running hardby. Thus this brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wicliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed the world over.”
In the popular judgment of the English people, John Wyclif, in company with John Latimer and John Wesley, probably represents more fully than any other English religious leader, independence of thought, devotion to conscience, solid religious common sense, and the sound exposition of the Gospel. In the history of the intellectual and moral progress of his people, he was the leading Englishman of the Middle Ages.