28 APRIL 1939, Page 22


The Great Chronicle of London (A. L. Rowse) ... 714 Matthew Arnold (Edward Sackville-West) 716 Jewish Champion (C. E. M. Joad) 718 Control of International Trade (Honor Croome) 718 Recusant Poets (Graham Greene) ... 72.0 Irish Cavalcade (Sean O'Faolain)


The History of Bedford College (Ray Strachey) ... 722 Lord Midleton's Memories ...

722 The Greatest Sea Raider (W. V. Emanuel)

724 The Gypsy Gentleman (E. E. Kellett) ... 724 What Rough Beast ? . 726 The Poet's Defence (Philip Henderson) ... 728 Harrap's French Dictionary ... 728 Fiction (Kate O'Brien) ... 730


By A. L. ROWSE IN these times, when we realise what a hostage to fortune we have given in London, how precious a possession of the English-speaking peoples it is, with its buildings and memorials of the past, its memories and continuing associations, it is very fitting that The Great Chronicle of London should be for the first time given to the public. The gift comes with a little poignancy just now: the book is itself such a tribute to all that past. It is like a pageant of London's history. As we read, the figures of those good citizens, mayors, sheriffs, aldermen in their scarlet cloaks, pass before our eyes year by year : now they are waiting by St. Magnus church to teceive Henry VII coming over London Bridge from Black- heath-field—very gracious he was after the victory, knighting the mayor, recorder and sheriff on the spot before going on to offer at St. Paul's ; now they are standing in the streets to welcome Margaret of Anjou to her wedding, the craftsmen "all clothed in brown blue" and every citizen wearing a scarlet hood, "the which gave a mighty shew." Or it is sixty years later, and Katherine of Aragon is passing by to her wedding ; an ominous shower falls, just outside the 'Car- dinal's Hat,' too, wetting her mantle and powdered ermines, so that "she was fain to be conveyed under the hovel of the drapers' stalls, till the shower were overpassed, which was not long." Or it is poor Henry VI being paraded through the streets, ever in the same long blue gown of velvet, "as though he had no mo to change with." Usually the citizens themselves are taking an active part: electing their officers for the year, sometimes not without discord and disturbance, banqueting, brawling, quarrelling, defending their walls against the Bastard of Falconbridge, or angry men of Essex who demand better prices for their "butter, cheese, eggs, pigs and all other victual." So much of the pageant of our history has been played upon that small, that adorable scene with its familiar features, old St. Paul's, London Bridge, the Tower : the coronations of kings, the wedding processions, the feasts at Westminster or in the City, the executions, the burnings of heretics, the hospitality of the great, and their various ends—satisfying like Henry VII's or tragic like the great King- maker's, his body lying naked in St. Paul's before the image of our Lady of Grace.

'Though this is not a book for the general reader—it is a sumptuous great volume like a family bible, superbly pro- duced and printed, and edited with admirable care and scholarship,—it may easily be imagined what a readable book could be made out of it. There are five hundred copies printed ; which we owe to the double generosity of Lord Wakefield of Hythe, in the first instance for purchasing the manuscript of the chronicle and presenting it to the Guildhall Library, and secondly for defraying the entire charges of the publication. It is an example of public-spiritedness in the grand style of the eighteenth century ; and it is very right that the volume should be such a superb specimen of craftsman- ship, in printing and binding no less worthy of that age. Perhaps it is not too much to hope that other benefactors may be inspired by this example ; that some members of the peerage, one or two dukes in especial, may be incited to publish their papers in a series of volumes like the Hatfield 01 Dropmore papers. • The historical importance of the chronicle is considerable. The late learned Mr. Kingsford regarded it as "perhaps the most important for the student of sources of all the original The Great Chronicle of London. Edited by A. H. Thomas and I. D. Thornley. (Printed at the Sign of the Dolphin, for the Library Committee at the Guildhall, London.)

authorities for English history in the fifteenth century " ; and it is following his usage that it has come to be known as The Great Chronicle of London. Very appropriately, for it is in some ways the fullest and most valuable of the London chronicles. It falls int2 two parts, the earlier being very simple and factual, though even here there are valuable public documents inserted. As time goes on it gets fuller,—it has the best account, for instance, of the dispute between Beaufort and Gloucester which held up public business in 1425. The insecurity was such that all the shops of London were shut in one hour, we are told ; while the Archbishop of Canterbury was employed riding eight times that day between the Cardinal and the Duke trying to compose their quarrel. The second part of the chronicle, from 1439 to 1512, is apparently the work of one hand, of someone writing in the reign of Henry VIII. As the story comes down to the writer's own day, to events of which he was evidently an eye-witness, the record becomes more personal, develops a -character of its own.

It becomes fascinating to read ; and to the historian a first- rate source with something new to tell us. For example, the account it gives us of the events in and around London during the Cornish Rebellion in 1497, when a motley army of Cornishmen marched all the way up through Southern Eng- land upon the City, is the fullest and best account we have anywhere. Similarly, we have all sorts of touches that are new, at any rate to me. At the dinner which the Mayor gave to the Scottish Ambassadors who had come to London to negotiate the marriage of Margaret Tudor to James IV, the chronicler tells us—he was evidently present—" In time of which dinner a Scottish priest sitting at one of the side tables made this ballad,"—and then there follows Dunbar's famous poem in praise of London, with its refrain :

"London, thou art the flower of cities all."

It is pleasant to know the occasion upon which this so well- known poem was first produced. The chronicler had a taste for poetry, and incorporates several poems, including the effective ballad against Empson, which he tells us was written by William Cornish, of the King's chapel, and a ballad against Empson's agent, John Baptist de Grimaldis, which only sur- vives here. Students of early Tudor literature will be grateful for these bits.

As we read, the picture of the man writing forms in our mind behind the anonymity of the chronicle. We see him at his desk copying rapidly, adding things of his own to the record. He had his own slant on things ; he was shrewd and sensible, not over-credulous, though orthodox ; he shared the conventional horror of heresy, in those ways like every- body else ; he enjoyed a good execution, and did not fail to append the sentiment, "upon whose soul and all Christen, Jesus have mercy, Amen." He had a sly sense of humour ; tells many a good story, like that of the handsome Edward IV kissing the good widow of Suffolk, who promptly doubled her contribution to his loan for the honour. He had a good news- sense ; the chronicle filled some of the functions of the Press today, and we know what popular reading it was. He was a draper : that is almost the only thing we know of him for certain, though we might have guessed it from his interest in dothes, the critical eye with which he appraises the dressing of every scene. The Tudor writers through whose hands the book passed, John Stow the antiquary, Foxe the martyro- logist, perhaps Hall, took it for granted that it was written by Fabian, the chronicler, alderman of the City and Master of the Drapers' Company. And, indeed, if it was not Fabian, who can it have been?