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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Coke also has a place in literature


When

we read Camden's letters we become acquainted with a circle of scholars engaged in the severest studies. In his Britannia, which gives a more complete and instructive picture of the country than any other work, they all took a lively interest. Their works are clumsy and old-fashioned, but they breathe a spirit of thoroughness and breadth which does honour to the age. With what zeal were ecclesiastical antiquities studied in Cambridge, after Whitaker had pointed the way! Men sought to weed out what was spurious, and in what was genuine to set aside the part due to the accidental forms of the time, and to penetrate to the bottom of the sentiments, the belief, and activity of the writers. The constitution of the Church naturally led them to devote special study to the old provincial councils. For the history of the country they referred to the monuments of Anglo-Saxon times, and began even in treating of other subjects to bring the original sources to light. Everywhere men advanced beyond the old limits which had been drawn by the tradition of chroniclers and the lack of historical investigation hitherto shown.

Francis Bacon was attracted by the task of depicting at length a modern epoch, the history of the Tudors, with the various changes which it presented and the great results it had introduced, in which he saw the unity of a connected series of events. Yet he has only treated the history of the first of that line. He furnishes one of the first

examples of exact investigation of details combined with reflective treatment of history, and has exercised a controlling influence on the manner and style of writing English history, especially by the introduction of considerations of law, which play a great part in his work. The political points of view which are present to the author are almost more those of the beginning of the seventeenth than those of the beginning of the sixteenth century. But these epochs are closely connected with each other. For what Henry VII established is just what James I, who loved to connect himself immediately with the former monarch, wished to continue. Bacon was a staunch defender of the prerogative.

The dispute which arose between Bacon as a lawyer and Edward Coke deserves notice.

Coke also has a place in literature. His reports are, even at the present day, known without his name simply as 'The Reports,' and his 'Institutes' is one of the most learned works which this age produced. It is rather a collection provided with notes, but is instructive and suggestive from the variety of and the contrast of its contents. Coke traced the English laws to the remotest antiquity; he considered them as the common production of the wisest men of earlier ages, and at the same time as the great inheritance of the English people, and its best protection against every kind of tyranny, spiritual or temporal. Even the old Norman French, in which they were to a great extent composed, he would not part with, for a peculiar meaning attached itself, in his view, to every word.

On the other hand Bacon as Attorney-General formed the plan of comprising the common law in a code, by which a limit should be set to the caprice of the judges, and the private citizen be better assured of his rights. He thought of revising the Statute-Book, and wished to erase everything useless, to remove difficulties, and to bring what was contradictory into harmony.


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