scription of his Lady when she hath on hire hood of grene’ (ib. p. 199). There occasionally he exhibits a frolicsome vein of satire, as well as insight into the weaknesses of human nature. Elsewhere he shows some sympathy with rural life and natural scenery, and although he delights in exposing women's foibles, he refers to them in his serious poems in terms of genuine respect. Despite the depression which all but a small fragment of his literary work excites in the reader, Lydgate may fairly be credited with a genial personality.
Lydgate admitted in his ‘Troy Book’ (fol. E 5 b) that he ‘set aside’ ‘truth of metre’ and took ‘none hede nother of shorte nor longe.’ But he employs in the ‘Falls of Princes’ and the majority of his works a very distinct metre known as Rhyme Royal. It consists of seven-line stanzas, each line containing ten syllables with rhymes a b a b b c c, but the scansion is irregular. A well-marked cæsura after the second foot, or after an extra syllable preceding the third foot, is very common, but the accented syllables vary arbitrarily from four to six, and this irregularity gives much of his verse the halting effect of doggerel. The rhyme is often exchanged for mere assonance or a repetition of the same syllable. The ‘Troy Book’ and ‘Thebes’ are in heroic couplets, like many of the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ and in two works, ‘Reason and Sensualitie’ and the ‘Pilgrimage,’ rhyming couplets (in eight-syllable lines) are employed after the manner of Gower's ‘Confessio Amantis.’ Lydgate's ballades are not accurate metrical experiments, but occasionally he attempted ‘roundels’ on a strict French model (cf. Schipper, Englische Metrik, i. 196). Many shorter poems owe such attractions as they possess to the repetition of the same line or refrain at the close of each stanza.
The list of works assigned to Lydgate by Bale, Tanner, and Ritson, is appallingly long. Ritson reached a total of 251, but his carelessness renders his results nearly useless. His titles constantly repeat the same work under two, three, or four different forms, and he assigns to Lydgate numerous poems known to be the work of Chaucer and other contemporaries. A valuable list of 114 works by Lydgate, including many ballads and short pieces, is printed on Stowe's authority in Speght's edition of Chaucer's ‘Works,’ 1598 (fol. 394). Many of Lydgate's writings have been printed by Caxton, Wynkyn de Worde, and Pynson, whose volumes are excessively rare, but a large number still remain in manuscript. The chief manuscript volumes are those transcribed by Shirley—Brit. Mus. Harl. MS. 2251 (293 ff.) and Addit. MS. 16165, and Bodl. Ashmol. MS. 59—but each volume contains much work by other authors. Harl. MS. 2255 (once the property of John Stowe), Addit. MS. 29729 (a copy in Stowe's autograph of a volume once in Shirley's collection), Lansd. MS. 699, and manuscripts of the Earl of Ashburnham (Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. pt. iii.) are also important. Numerous short pieces will be found in very many other volumes in the Harleian collection, in the Bodleian Rawl. MS. c. 48 and Laud. Misc. 683, and in the Camb. Univ. Libr. MS. Kk. i. 6.
Lydgate's chief poems may be classified thus: I. Narrative or Epic. 1. ‘Falls of Princes,’ probably written between 1430 and 1438 for Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. It consists of 36,316 lines, and is a rendering in English verse (rhyme royal) of a French version by Laurent de Premierfait of Boccaccio's Latin prose work, ‘De Casibus Virorum Illustrium’ (cf. Koeppel, Laurents de Premierfait und John Lydgates Bearbeitungen von Boccaccios De Casibus, Munich, 1885). A contemporary manuscript is Harl. MS. 1766; five other copies are in the same collection; others are in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 21410 (imperfect); at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, ccxlii.; at Belvoir Castle, the Duke of Rutland's seat (Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. p. 11), at Longleat (ib. 3rd Rep. p. 188), in Lord Mostyn's library (ib. 4th Rep. p. 362), in Earl of Jersey's library at Osterley (ib. 8th Rep. pt. ii. p. 101), and at Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. An extract, ‘The Tragedie of Duke Pompey,’ is in the Earl of Ashburnham's MS. (ib. 8th Rep. pt. iii. p. 106 b). It was twice printed in folio by Pynson, 27 Jan. 1494 (Bodl. and Brit. Mus. imp.), and 21 Feb. 1527 (Brit. Mus. and Trin. Coll. Camb.), under the title ‘The Tragedies gathered by Jhon Bochas of all such Princes as fell from theyr Estates through the mutability of Fortune since the Creation of Adam until his time.’ Other editions, by Tottel and John Wayland, are dated respectively 1554 and 1558. Some extracts appeared as ‘The Prouerbes of Lydgate’ (col. ‘Here endeth the prouerbes of Lydgate upon the fall of prynces. Enprynted at London in Flete Strete at the sygne of the sonne, by Wynkyn de Worde,’ 4to, 1510? Camb. Univ. Libr. and Brit. Mus.); this book contains, besides extracts from the ‘Falls,’ two short poems, ‘The Concords of Company’ and ‘A Poem against Self Love’ (Halliwell, Minor Poems, pp. 173–8, 156–164; cf. Harl. MS. 75, 78, No. 2).
2. ‘Troy Book’ (thirty thousand lines in heroic couplets, with prologue and epilogue