Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 03.djvu/164

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Barclay
Barclay
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niscences of the West occur even in his later poems (‘Bristowe’ in Ecl. iv., ‘the Severn’ in Ecl. ii.); but in the dedication of ‘The Myrrour of Good Maners, translated ‘at the desyre of Syr Gyles Alyngton, Knyght,’ and printed without a date by Pynson ‘at the instance and request’ of Richard, earl of Kent, Barclay calls himself ‘prest: and monke of Ely.’ This ‘Myrrour’ is a translation from Dominic Mancini's elegiac poem ‘De quatuor Virtutibus’ (1516); and the address prefixed to it contains the interesting statement that Sir Giles Alington had requested Barclay to abridge or adapt Gower's ‘Confessio Amantis,’ but that Barclay had declined the undertaking as unsuitable to his age, infirmities, and profession (Warton, iii. 195). The ‘Eclogues,’ the early editions of which are again undated, were manifestly also written at Ely (see in Ecl. iii. the passage on Bishop Alcock, ‘now dead and gone;’ Alcock, the founder of Jesus College, Cambridge, who is also lamented in Ecl. i., died in 1500; and see in Ecl. v. the reference to ‘Cornyx whiche dwelled in the fen,’ and the detailed description of a mural painting in Ely Cathedral). In the introductory lines he states that he was thirty-eight years of age when he resumed a subject at which he had already worked in his youth; and inasmuch as it is clear that at least one event mentioned in the ‘Eclogues,’ the death of Sir Edward Howard (Ecl. iv.) in 1513, could not have occurred long before the allegory concerning it was composed, the above-mentioned statement fixes his birth about the year 1475 (see the argument in Jamieson, i. lv–lxiii, but here the death of Howard is misdated 1514; see Lord Herbert of Cherbury's Life and Reign of Henry VIII, 31). While, then, still in the prime of life, Barclay had taken the vows as a Benedictine monk, and thus enrolled himself in the most conservative and aristocratic of the orders (it is curious that in Ecl. v. he should rather contemptuously introduce ‘a gentell Cluner,’ i.e. Cluniac monk, as a purveyor of charms to women). At Ely he also translated from Baptist Mantuan the ‘Life of St. George,’ which he dedicated to Nicholas West, bishop of Ely (Fairholt); from this translation Mackenzie (ii. 291) quotes some lines in the old fourteen-syllable metre, which are without any striking merit. When certain lives of other saints, said to have been written by Barclay, but all non-extant, were composed, can only be conjectured; the ‘Life of St. Thomas of Canterbury’ is thought by Jamieson to have been written when its author had become a Franciscan at Canterbury; of the ‘Lives of St. Catharine, St. Margaret, and St. Ethelreda,’ the last-named, of course, directly connects itself with Ely.

Under Henry VII, for whom Barclay cherished, or professed to cherish, a deep regard (see Ecl. i.), learning and letters were already coming into fashion, and the early years of Henry VIII were the heyday of the English Renascence. It is therefore not surprising that Barclay, whose efforts as an author began towards the close of the first Tudor reign, and achieved a conspicuous success at the end of the second, should have had a liberal experience of patrons and patronage. He seems to have enjoyed the goodwill of Henry VII's trusted adviser, Cardinal Morton, a prelate of literary tastes (see Eclogues iii. and iv.); but this must have been in the earlier part of his life, as Morton died in 1500. Perhaps, as Archbishop of Canterbury, he had come into some contact with Barclay at Croydon. He was befriended in his maturity by Thomas, duke of Norfolk, the victor of Flodden Field and lord treasurer of England—to whom, as has been seen, he dedicated his translation of the ‘Jugurtha,’ and the memory of whose second son, Sir Edward Howard, he, after the death of the latter off Brest, 25 April 1513, as lord high admiral in the war with France, sang in the graceful eclogue of the ‘Towre of Vertue and Honour,’ introduced into his ‘Ecl. iv.’ Other patrons of his, as has been seen, were Richard, earl of Kent, who died in 1523, and Sir Giles Alington. To another contemporary, of tastes and tendencies similar to his own, he pays in passing a tribute which to its object, Dean Colet, must have seemed the highest that could be received by him. ‘This man,’ we read in ‘Ecl. iv.,’ ‘hath won some soules.’ Little is known as to his relations to Cardinal Wolsey, an allusion to whom has been very unreasonably sought in the mention of ‘butchers dogges wood’ (mad) in the eulogy of Bishop Alcock in ‘Ecl. i.’ On the other hand, Jamieson has directed attention to a letter from Sir Nicholas Vaux to Cardinal Wolsey, dated 10 April 1520, and begging the cardinal to ‘send to them … Maistre Barkleye, the black monke and poete, to devise histoires and convenient raisons to florrishe the buildings and banquet house withal’ at the famous meeting called the Field of the Cloth of Gold (see Calendar of State Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, vol. iii. pt. i. 259). It would probably not have interfered with Barclay's execution of his task had he been the author of a tract against the French king's (query Lewis XII?) oppression of the church, which has been ascribed to him. In the same connection it may be added that a strong antipathy