Hoccleve, Thomas

, an ancient English poet, who scarcely, however, deserves the name, was born probably about 1370, and has been styled Chaucer’s disciple. He studied law at Chester’s Inn, in the Strand, and was a writer to the privy seal for above twenty years. When he quitted this office, or what means of subsistence he afterwards had, cannot be easily determined. Pits seems wrong in asserting that he was provided for by Humphrey duke of Gloucester. Nor is Bale more correct in saying that he had imbibed the religious tenets of Wickliff. From his poems the following scanty particulars of his history have been communicated by a learned friend: " He dwelt in the office of the privy seal, a writer * unto the seal twenty-four years come Easter, and | that is nigh.‘ The king granted him an annuity of twenty marks in the exchequer, which it appears he had much difficulty in getting paid. He expresses much doubt of obtaining it from * yere to yere:’ fears it may not be continued when he is no longer able to ‘ serve’ (i. e. as a writer in the privy seal office). Besides this annuity he has but six marks coming in yearly * in noo tide.‘ Speaks of dwelling at home in his ’ pore coote,‘ and that more than two parts of his life are spent he is ignorant of husbandry;

* scarcely could skare away the kite;‘ can neither use plough or harrow, knows not * what land is good for what corn;’ unable to fill a cart or barrow from long use to writing; descants on the troubles and difficulties attending writing; says that ‘ hit is welle grett laboure,’ and contrasts very happily the life of an husbandman or artificer with that of a writer, adding that he has continued in writing twenty years and more. He ‘ whilom’ thought to have been a priest, but now is married, having long waited for a benefice; describes the corruption in his office, but that no share of the bribes come to the clerks. Name ‘ Okkleve’ acquainted with Chaucer has small knowledge of Latin and of French. He is advised to complain to the prince that he cannot get paid in the exchequer, and petition that his patent be removed into the haniper, but observes this cannot be done because of the ‘ ordinance,’ for

‘ longe after this shall noo graunt be chargeable.’ He says ‘ my lorde the prince is good lorde’ to him, and is advised to write him ‘ a goodlie tale or two,’ therein to avoid flattery, and write * nothinge that sowneth to vice,’ " &c.

Hoccleve is supposed to have died in 1454. Some of his poems were printed by Mr. George Mason, in 1796, 4to, from a ms. in his possession, and a preface, notes, and glossary. The glossary is useful, but the attempt to revive the poems impotent. Instead, indeed, of removing, they confirm Warton’s objection to him as a feeble poet, “whose chief merit seems to be, that his writings contributed to propagate and establish those improvements in our language, which were in his time beginning to take place.” The most favourable specimen of Hoccleve’s poetry is his “Story of Jonathas,” which the reader will find in the “Shepherd’s Pipe,” by William Browne, author of Britannia’s Pastorals. 1

1 Preface to Mason’s edition. Extracts communicated by Mr. Archdeacon Nares from Mr. Sharp of Coventry. Ellis’s Specimens. Warton’s Hist, of Poetry.
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