4 JULY 1908, Page 31


Mn. VICKERS is not one of the fraternity of historical "white- washers." His book is as admirable for its impartiality as it is for the thoroughness and the intelligence of its research. On one side of his life, and one only, Duke Humphrey was a great man. As a scholar and patron of letters be stands in the very front rank of English, we might say European, Royalties and Princes of the blood. If we could take the last two chapters of Mr. Vickers's volume, and put away all con- sideration of the others, we might accept the strangely exaggerated estimate of his character which Camden, Hall, and Holinshed set down in their writings, and which earned for him the popular title of "the Good." He was the- chief leader of the Renaissance movement in England. And this leadership was of his own making. It is likely that he was destined from his early days for the ecclesiastical pro- fession. But any training that he may have thus received in his youth meant very little in the way of culture. What culture he had—and he had much—he won for himself in after life. Aeneas-Sylvius, no mean judge in these matters, writing to Adam Moleyns, speaks of him as "the illustrious Duke of Gloucester, who zealously received polite learning into your country." One of his services to classical learning was to commission Pier Candid° Decembrio to translate for him the Republic of Plato. The work was done, but, un- fortunately, we do not know what was paid for it. The Duke offered a pension of a hundred ducats; Candido wanted to have "Petrarch's Villa." But-that the Duke was open-banded cannot be doubted. He bought books--several scholars were on the look-out for him in Italy, and prices and commissions must have mounted up to large sums—and he gave them away. The University of Oxford received from him more than three hundred volumes, a gift far larger than any which Lad preceded it, and not to be equalled for many years to come. The after fate of this library is one of the most melancholy stories in English history.

It is distressing to turn from the literary to the political record of Humphrey of Gloucester. His brother's accession to the throne brought him suddenly from obscurity to a high position in the State. At first he was content to follow his

• Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: a Biography. By B. H. Vickers, ILA. London: A, epnntsbin and ce s, [15s, dot.]

; brother. He took a part of some distinction in the FrenA War. At Agincourt he was dangerously wounded—the result, it would seem, of a too impetuous valour—and he continued to show himself a brave and capable soldier. Then he pursued an ambition of his own. The charms of Jacqueline of Hainault and of her possessions suggested an enterprise which brought him neither gain nor credit. All these things will be found excellently set forth by Mr. Vickers; but if there had been nothing more to tell, the life would bare hardly been worth telling. As it is, the statesman is a fine foil to the scholar.