The Race of Time: Three Lectures on Renaissance by Erschel Baker

By Erschel Baker

Professor Baker recounts and analyses the family of the English Renaissance historians to different writers in their time and to the historians of later a while. Supported and enlivened with a wealth of citation from the historians themselves, their critics and their colleagues, The Race of Time illuminates the issues of historiography in an age whilst educational freedom was once constantly subservient to the nationwide curiosity, to the sensitivity of rulers, to the superiority of legends, and to the envy of contemporaries.

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39 D Another favorite theme, but one with much more literary and philosophical significance, was history as a refuge from devouring time. That youth and strength and beauty fade, that summer yields to autumn, that mighty states decline and fall are facts that all men everywhere have known, but in the Renaissance these facts were felt, and many times recorded, with extraordinary precision. 41 Although mutability can hardly be regarded as a Renaissance invention, it clearly held a special fascination for Shakespeare and his fellows.

48 He mentions, for example, that after the defeat of the Armada it was feared that James, already "exasperated" by his mother's recent execution, would throw his weight to Spain. " Richard Knolles, for instance, was denied the use of all official records while working on his General History of the Turks,51* and even Fulke Greville, with his superb connections, was also unsuccessful when he asked Sir Robert Cecil if he could examine the "Records of the Councell-chest" for a projected history of the late queen's reign.

These proceedings, which Sir Edward Coke conducted and for which his notes survive, made things look very black. In resurrecting a story two hundred years old, said Coke, Hayward had intended "the application of it to this tyme," for he showed a weak and ineffectual ruler, a corrupt and selfish council, a group of discontented nobles, and a commons "groning" under harsh taxation. 45 Few historians needed Hayward's hard instruction to know the truth of this assertion. Back in the days of Edward VI, when Thomas Cooper undertook to continue Lanquet's uncompleted chronicle and to bring it up to date, he was at first exhilarated by the prospect of dealing with an age so "weightie" and diverse.

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