Harding, John

, one of our old English historians, descended from a reputable northern family, was born in 1373, and at the age of twelve was admitted into the family of sir Henry Percy, eldest son to the earl of Northumberland, familiarly known by the name of Harry Hotspur, on account of his impatient spirit. He was one of the most esteemed warriors of his time, active | and enterprising, had a large vassalry, numerous partizans, and unlimited authority. His household, as lord of the east march of England, was constantly held at Berwick^ upon-Tweed. Harding, it appears, was with his patron, as a volunteer, in the battles of Homildon and Cokelawe. After the death of Percy, he enlisted under the banners of sir Robert Umfravile, with whom he had fought at Horoildon, and who was connected with the Percies by the ties of affinity as well as those of arms. In 1405, when king Henry IV. reduced the fortresses of lord Bardolph and the earl of Northumberland, sir Robert Umfravile’s services in the expedition were rewarded with the castle of Warkworth, under whom Harding became the constable. How long he remained at Warkworth does not appear, but his knowledge of Scottish geography seems soon to have engaged him in the secret service of his country, In 1415 we find him attendant on the king at Harfleur, and his journal of the march which preceded the memorable battle of Agincourt forms one of the most curious passages among the additions to the late reprint of his Chronicle. In 1416 he appears to have accompanied the duke of Bedford to the sea-fight at the mouth of the Seine. In 1424 he was at Rome, and employed partly in inspecting “the great Chronicle of Trogus Pompeius;” but soon after he was again employed in collecting documents for ascertaining the fealty due from the Scottish kings, which seems to have been attended with some personal danger. He has even been accused of forging deeds to answer his royal master’s purpose; but the truth of this charge cannot now be ascertained.

Actively as Harding was engaged in public life, he found time to gather materials lor his “Chronicle,”, and appears to have finished the first composition of it toward the latter en4 of the minority of king Henry VI. The Lansdowne manuscript closes with the life of sir Robert Umfravile, who died, according to Dugdale, Jan. 27, 1436, and under whom Harding seems to have lived in his latter years as constable of Kyme castle in Lincolnshire. Of the rewards which he received for his services, we find only a grant for life often pounds per annum out of the manor or alien preceptory of Wyloughton in the county of Lincoln, in the eighteenth year of Henry VI.; and in 1457 he had a pension of twenty pounds a year for life by letters patent, charged upon the revenues of the county of Lin., | coin. During his latter days he appears to have re-composed his “Chronicle” for Richard duke of York, father to king Edward IV. who was slain in the battle of Wakefield, Dec. 31, 1460. It was afterwards presented to king Edward IV. himself. The history comes no lower than the flight of Henry VI. to Scotland, but from “the excusacion” touching his “defaultes,” in which the q‘ueen’is mentioned, it is evident that Harding could not have finished his work before 1465. How long he survived its completion is unknown, but he must then have been at least eighty-seven years of age. His “Chronicle of England unto the reign of king Edward IV.” is in verse, and as a metrical composition is beneath criticism, but, as a record of facts, is highly interesting to the English historian and antiquary. It was first printed by Grafton in 1543, with a continuation by the same, to the thirty-fourth year of Henry VIII. This has been long ranked among the most rare and expensive of our Chronicles, but those who prefer use to mere antiquity, will set a higher value on the edition printed in 1812 by the booksellers of London, Henry Ellis, esq. the learned editor of this edition, has prefixed a biographical and literary preface, to which the preceding account is much indebted, and has carefully collated Harding’ s part of the “Chronicle” with two manuscripts of the author’s own time, the Lansdowne and the Harleian, both which are in the British Museum; and Grafton’s addition has been collated with his duplicate edition.^ It is noticed by Mr. Ellis as a very singular fact, that there should be two editions of Harding, both printed by Grafton in the month of January 1543, differing in almost every page, and one, in Grafton’s own portion of the work, containing (in the reign of Henry VIII.) no less than twenty-nine pages more than the other. 1


Mr. Ellis’s Preface as above.