Linacre, Thomas

, one of the most eminent physicians and scholars of his age, descended from the Linacres of Li nacre-hall in the parish of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, was born at Canterbury about 1460. Having completed his school-education, under William de Sellingj a very eminent master, in his native city, he entered at Oxford, and was chosen fellow of All Souls’ college in 1484. Being desirous of farther advancement in learning, he accompanied De Selling into Italy, whither the latter was sent on an embassy to the court of Rome by Henry VII. De Selling left him at Bologna, with strong recommendations to Politian, one of the most elegant Latinists in Europe; and removing thence to Florence, Linacre acquired the favour of that munificent patron of literature, Lorenzo de Medicis, who granted him the privilege of attending the same preceptors with his own sons; an opportunity, by which he knew how to profit; and under Demetrius Chalcondylas, who had fled from Constantinople when it was taken by the Turks, he acquired a perfect knowledge of the Greek language. He then went to Rome, and studied medicine and natural philosophy under Hermolaus Barbaras. He applied particularly to the works of Aristotle and Galen, and is said to have been the first Englishman who made himself master of those writers by perusing them in the original Greek. He also translated and published several of Galen’s tracts into most elegant Latin, and along with Grocyn and William Latimer, undertook a translation of Aristotle, which, however, they left imperfect. On his return to England, he was incorporated M. D. at Oxford, which degree he had taken at Padua, gave temporary lectures on physic, and taught the Greek language in that university. His reputation soon became so high, that king Henry VII. called him to court, and entrusted him with the care both of the health and education of his son, prince Arthur. He is said also to have instructed princess Catherine in the Italian language. He was made | successively physician to the kings Henry VII., Henry VIII., and Edward VI., and to the princess Mary.

In the reign of Henry VIII. indeed, he appears to have Stood above all rivalship at the head of his profession; and he evinced his attachment to its interests, as well as to the public good, by various acts; but especially by founding two lectures on physic in the university of Oxford, and one in that of Cambridge. That at Oxford was left to Merton college, and the Cambridge lecture was given to St. John’s, at which college it is said by Wood and Knight that Linacre studied for some time. The endowment of both is the manor of Tracys, or Tracies, in Kent; but although he bequeathed these at his death in 1524, and the lectures were actually read even in his life-time, they were not established until December 1549, by Tunstall, bishop of Durham. Linacre also may be reputed the founder of the royal college of physicians in London. Regretting that there was no proper check upon illiterate monks and empirics, licences being easily obtained by improper persons, when the bishops were authorised to examine and license practitioners in an art of which they could not be competent judges, Linacre obtained letters patent in 1518 from Henry VIII. constituting a corporate body of regularly bred physicians in London, in whom was vested the sole right of examining and admitting persons to practise within the city, and seven miles round it; and also of licensing practitioners throughout the whole kingdom, except such as were graduates of Oxford or Cambridge, who by virtue of their degrees were independent of the college, except within London and its precincts. The college had likewise authority given to it to examine prescriptions and drugs in apothecaries’ shops. Linacre was the first president of the new college, and continued in the office during the remaining seven years of his life; and, at his death, he bequeathed to the college his house in Knight-rider-street, in which its meetings were held.

After receiving all these honours, as attestations and reyards of superior merit in his profession, he resolved to change it for that of divinity. To this study he applied himself in the latter part of his life*; and, entering into


Sir John Cheke, in censuring this change, observes, that be did not begin this -tuily till he was broken by age and infirmities; and that, upon reading the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of St. Matthew, he threw the book away with violence, and swore, that this was either not the Gospel, or we

| the priesthood, obtained the rectory of Mersham, October 1509; but, resigning it within a month, he was installed into the prebend of Eaton in the church of Wells, and afterwards, in 1518, into another of York; he was alsa precentor in the latter church, but resigned it in half a year. He had other preferments in the church, some of which he received from archbishop Warham, as he gratefully acknowledges in a letter to that prelate. Dr. Knight informs us, that he was a prebendary of St. Stepiien’s, Westminster; and bishop Tanner writes, that he was also rector of Wigan, in Lancashire. He died of the stone, in great pain and torment, Oct. 20, 1524, and was buried in St. Paul’s cathedral; where a handsome monument was afterwards erected to his memory by his admirer and successor in fame, Dr. Caius.

In his literary character, Linacre stands eminently distinguished; as he was one of the first, in conjunction with Colet, Lily, Grocyn, and Latimer, who revived, or rather introduced, classical learning in this island. Translations from the Greek authors into Latin were the chief occupations of the literati of those times; and Linacre, as we have already observed, conferred a benefit on his profession, by translating several of the most valuable pieces of Galen. These were the treatises, “De Sanitate tuenda,” in six books, which was printed at Cambridge in 1517, and dedicated to king Henry VIII.; “De Morbis curandis,” in fourteen books, printed at Paris in 1526; three books “De Temperamentis,” and one “De inaequali Temperie,” first printed at Cambridge in 1521, and inscribed to pope Leo X. A* copy of this on vellum, which Linacre presented to Henry VIII. is now in the Bodleian. There is another edition, without date or printer’s name. “De naturalibus Facaltatibus,” three books, together with one book “De Pulsuum Usu,” without date, but they were reprinted by Colinaeus in 1528, as well as his posthumous translation of the four books “De Morborum Symptomatibus.” In these versions Linacre exhibited a Latin style so pure and elegant, as ranked him among the finest writers of his age. In the polish of his style he was rather fastidious, and his friend Erasmus describes him as “Vir non | exacti tantum, sed severi judicii;‘’ and Huet, in his learned treatise” De claris Interpretatoribus," gives him the pra?se of extraordinary elegance and chasteness of style, but intimates that he occasionally sacrifices fidelity to these qualities.

It was, indeed, on his reputation as a philologist, that he seems chiefly to have valued himself. His first essay was a translation of “Proclus on the Sphere,” dedicated to his pupil, prince Arthur; and he also wrote a smal book of the rudiments of the Latin grammar, in English, for the use of the princess Mary, which was afterwards translated into Latin by the celebrated Buchanan. But the work which appears to have engaged a very large portion of his time, and was universally acknowledged to be a work of the most profound erudition, was a larger grammatical treatise, entitled “De emendata structura Latini Sermonis, libri sex.” This work, which was not printed till after his death, in December 1524, when it appeared with a recommendatory letter from the learned Melancthon, was received with much applause by men of erudition, and passed through several editions. The original is very scarce; but from the translation of it, by Buchanan, it appears to be little more than the present accidence taught in schools, and still retaining the title of “Rudiments, &c.” His friend Erasmus, indeed, in his “Moriae Encomium,” bestowed some good-natured raillery upon the author, for having tortured himself for twenty years by the subtleties of grammar, and, after forsaking other more important objects, thought himself happy in living long enough to establish certain rules for distinguishing the eight parts of speech.

In his professional character, Linacre acquired universal reputation, among his countrymen and contemporaries, for skill and practical ability, as well as for his learning; and he was equally the subject of applause and estimation es an upright and humane physician, a steady and affectionate friend, and a munificent patron of letters. It were sufficient of itself to justify this eulogium, to mention that he was the intimate friend of Erasmus. That great and worthy roan frequently takes occasion to express his affection and esteem for his character and abilities j and writing to an acquaintance, when seized with an illness at Paris, he pathetically laments his absence from | Linacre, from whose skill and kindness he might receive equal relief.*


The following epitaph, written by Caius, will be acceptable to the learned reader, from the elegance of its composition: “Thomas Lynacrus, Regis Henrici VIII. medicus vir et Graced et Latine, atque inremedica longe eruditissimus. Multos Delate sua languentes, et qui jam animam desponderant, vitæ restituit. Multa Galeni opera in Latinam linguam, mira et singulari facundia, vertit. Egregium opus de emendata structura Latini sermonis, amicorum rogatu, paulo ante mortem edidit. Medicinae studiosis Qxonia: publicas lectiones duas, Cantabiiglce uuatn, in perpetuum stabilivit. In hac urbe Collegium Medicorum fieri sua industria curavit, cujus et Praesidena proximus electus est. Fraudes dolosque mirfc perosus; fidusamicis; omnibus juxta charus: aliquot annoa antequam obierat Presbyter factus plenus annis, ex hac vita migravit, multum desideratus, anno 1524, die 21 Octobris. Vivit post funera virtus. Thomae Linacro elarissirno Medico, Johannes Caius posuit, anno 1557.


Ath. Ox. vol, I. new edit. Biog. Brit. Fuller’s Worthies. Freind’s Hist, of Physic. -y-Wood’s Annals by Gutch. Aikin’s Biog. Memoirs of Medicine. Rees’s Cyclopedia.