Introduction

1. When Henry VII entered London on 27 August, 1485, NOTE 1 a blind Franciscan monk from Toulouse named Bernard André [Bernardus Andreas, d. 1522] NOTE 2 recited a Latin ode composed for the occasion. Henry appointed André his pensioned poet laureate (a position he continued to hold under Henry VIII), and it is principally as an occupant of this position that he is remembered and studied by modern scholarship. NOTE 3 By granting him this position and surrounding himself with other Neo-Latin court poets, Henry was announcing to the world that he intended to govern as a modern Renaissance monarch, and deck out his reign with all the enticing cosmopolitan trappings of Humanism. NOTE 4
spacer2. In the course of his biography (beginning at § 59) André gives us a glimpse of other Neo-Latin poets of Henry’s court, Italian immigrants all, when they entered into a hostile poetical slanging-match with the French ambassador Robert Gaguin. NOTE 5 These were Italians Giovanni Gigli [1434 – 1498], Pietro Carmeliano [d. 1527] and Cornelio Vitelli (all three have entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, with valuable guides for further reading). The Oxford-educated Gigli, a papal diplomat and Bishop of Worcester, wrote Latin poetry, including a noteworthy epithalamium on the marriage of Henry VII, NOTE 6 epigrams on the birth of Prince Arthur, and poems addressed to the royal secretary Richard Foxe. Carmeliano, a prolific poet, arrived in the reign of Edward IV and by about 1490 was appointed Latin Secretary to Henry VII (he was destined to be succeeded in this office by another poetry-writing Italian, Andrea Ammonio, who served as Latin Secretary to the young Henry VIII beginning in 1511). NOTE 7 Vitelli was evidently the first man to teach Greek at Oxford. Modern scholars such as David Rundle in a series of interesting articles NOTE 8 have been gradually chipping away at the common notion that Englishmen existed in benighted medievalism until Erasmus descended on them like a bomb with his New Learning, by showing that glimmerings of Humanism are already visible in fifteenth-century England. The collective influence of these immigrant Humanists was presumably not negligible (most of them served, in one way or another, as educators) and surely deserves further study. NOTE 9
spacer3. André was awarded at least two other positions, as well as an assortment of Church livings. NOTE 10 He was appointed one of the tutors of Prince Arthur (he discusses his service in that position at § 50) and also given a position as some sort of court historian (in the title of his biography of Henry he styles himself regius historiographus). It was presumably in this capacity that he wrote the present work, De Vita atque Gestis Henrici Septimi Historia, and also a series of annual historical records, only partially preserved, of which the installments for the years 1504/5 and 1507 have been printed by James Gairdner under the title Annales Henrici Septimi, in the same volume as the Vita.
spacer4, The Vita is preserved in British Library Cottonian MS. Domitian XVIII (fols. 126 - 228) and covers Henry’s life down to the suppression of the Perkin Warbeck rebellion in 1499. At this point, the narrative breaks off. Beginning in its dedication, André repeatedly asserts that it was written as a diversion to while away his idle hours, as a kind of praeludium or warm-up for the writing of serious history. Whatever faults or omissions it contains — and there are plenty — are blamed, in the dedication and elsewhere, on the consideration that he is writing a biography rather than a history, on his blindness, and on the fact that he is writing in some secluded place “far from court” (Praefatio 3), where he lacks any informant to supply him with necessary details. Evidently he had been appointed a tutor to Prince Arthur in 1496, quit or had been discharged four years later, and had gone into some kind of retirement, possibly in a friary. In any event, both the dedication to the king and the numerous blanks deliberately left to receive new information where it was wanting go to show that he presented it to Henry in its unfinished state, perhaps to assure his royal patron that he indeed was making progress in his capacity as regius historicus. Significantly, a couple of things he writes go to show that he expected that the king would issue orders for him to be supplied with the information necessary to bring his work to completion (cf. the remark ac mihi potius scribendi materiam praestari edixeris in the dedication, and similar one. posthac quum ad perfectum ineptias nostras redigi princeps edixerit, adiicientur at § 66). These two remarks go far towards establishing what one would anyway suspect, that the Vita was composed as no mere private diversion or preliminary exercise in historiography, but rather that André wrote it as part of his official duties and had a pretty firm understanding that his king wanted to see it brought to completion. The only other further internal evidence the Vita contains about the circumstances of its composition is that André commenced its writing in 1500 (Praefatio 2). This receives corroboration (if such is needed) from the implication in § 2 that Prince Arthur was still alive at the time he wrote that paragraph. NOTE 11 On the other hand, by the time he reached § 49 Arthur was dead, i. e., that passage was written after 2 April, 1502. NOTE 12
spacer5. In his introduction to his 1858 edition of the Vita and the Annales, as he called them, James Gairdner wrote (p. xi): NOTE 13

In this preface [André] intimates his intention of presenting yearly to the king some literary effort, greater or less according to the fertility of his genius for the time being, which might be accepted as the tenths and first fruits of his leisure. this attention he appears to have fulfilled by writing yearly an account of the principal occurrences of the time; but of these compositions, unfortunately, only two of Henry VII’s time are known to be extant...We have other two written in the succeeding the reign, the one in 1515, presented to Henry VIII on entering the seventh year of his reign, and the other in 1521, wishing prosperity to the thirteenth.

These annual historical summaries consist of the detailed record of the events of the year in question, small and large alike, written much in the manner of so-called herald’s journals. They are not worked up into any kind of literary form and the organizing and prioritizing iudicium of the true historian is absent. As such, while they may contain plenty of interesting and useful nuggets of historical information, they can scarcely be identified as a history. At most, they are the raw material for a history that was never written.
spacer6. In introducing his edition of the Vita and the Annales (p. xiii) Gairdner wrote “The works of Bernard André printed in this volume are, first, his Life of Henry VII, extending down to the capture of Perkin Warbeck, and, secondly, the two smaller pieces giving an account of the events of Henry’s 20th and 23d years, which appear to have been portions of a continuation of the Life.” So Gairdner evidently entertained a theory that the Annales commenced at the point in time where the Vita ends. But, as will be discussed below, our manuscript of the Vita is not very good one, and its abrupt ending may well be yet another of its many defects, and so offers no definitive evidence of what André actually wrote or what his intentions were. At minimum, had André truly meant to stop where the manuscript ends, with a description of Henry punishing Perkin Warbeck’s Cornish followers (§ 81), it is hard to imagine he would have lacked the literary savvy to see that a concluding summary paragraph was required to tie the whole thing up into a neater package, but even this is uncertain. In actuality, we have no secure idea how far down the Vita did or was meant to carry or how far back in time André went with the Annales, so the impression that there was no chronological overlap between the two works may be no more than an optical illusion created by the state of our available evidence. A suspension of judgment about the relationship of André’s two works seems in order. NOTE 14
spacer7. It is obvious that King Henry’s attempt to make a historian out of the poet André was a failure. Above all, for all that he managed to put on paper, André never produced anything fit to print, and surely it was a printable history that Henry wanted to see. It would therefore appear that eventually Henry gave up on André and turned to another immigrant Humanist to do the job. The first manuscript of Polydore Vergil’s Anglica Historia was completed in 1512/13 and Polydore must have commenced his work considerably earlier (William J. Connell, author of the O. D. N. B., says his research “most likely began in 1506 - 7,” but some writers think he started work even before that). In the address to his brother, dated 1517, that prefaces the 1521 Basel edition of his De Inventoribus Rerum Polydore writes:

Veni post haec, missu Alexandri sexti Romani pontificis in Britanniam, quae nunc Anglia est, ut quaesturam pontificiam apud Anglos gererem. Ubi ne bonum ocium tererem, rogatu Henrici eius appellationis septimi regis praestantissimi res eius populi gestas scripsi, in historiaeque stilum redegi.

[“I was afterwards sent by Pope Alexander VI to Britain, now called England, to serve as a papal tax-gatherer among the English. So as not to make bad use of my leisure, at the request of that most excellent king Henry VII I have been writing the achievements of that people and reducing them to the style of a history.”]

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that André’s failure to come up with a finished product led to Henry’s appeal to Polydore. Certainly, the chronology seems to make a good fit.
spacer8. And this brings us to the true interest of André’s Vita, the poetry he copiously reproduces in it, and the nature of his relationship with King Henry. David Carlson got the thing exactly right in the title of an article I have already cited, “Politicizing Tudor Court Literature: Gaguin’s Embassy and Henry VII’s Humanists’ Response,” in which “politicizing” is the crucial word, and on p. 279 he makes the lapidary statement:

The court literature that [emerged] in concert with a court at the center of English politics late in the fifteenth century had as its main purpose not entertainment or even edification such much as promotion of the political goals of the Tudor state.

André, Gigli, and the other immigrant Humanists were not assembled by Henry for the purposes of providing either entertainment or adornment. They were recruited as a corps of propagandists, and in the case of André we can see, as starkly as one could wish, that from the very beginning of his reign Henry initiated a theme that would remain a constant throughout the course of the Tudor dynasty, the employment of literature as an instrument of government. This is true of the poetry turned out by André and the others, which was produced to mark important state occasions, celebrate victories, and berate the king’s antagonists. It is equally true of the history written by André and at least the contemporary part of the history Polydore Vergil was soon to write. André spends a lot of time flattering Henry (he can scarcely bring himself to write Henry’s name without prefacing it with the superlative form of some favorable adjective), and presenting him in the best possible light as a paladin of the virtues, Naturally enough, he says not a word about the most negative side of his reign, his constant grasping after money, on which Lord Bacon dwelt so much in his history of the reign (although, to be fair to Henry, the reason for this was probably the parlous financial state of the kingdom as he inherited it, rather than any mere flaw of character). But André's Vita is no mere exercise in courtly adulation. Rather, it is catalogue of the major propaganda themes of the period of Henry’s reign it covers (even the seemingly quixotic initial passage about the Tudors’ supposed direct descent from the old British dynasty of King Cadwallon and his saintly son Cadwallader can be identified as such), and a veritable instruction manual of how loyal Englishmen were supposed to think and feel about prominent individuals and events of the time. This is what Henry wanted to see, this is what André was careful to give him because he realized this was his essential task as regius historicus, and this is why he was confident that Henry would issue orders that he be furnished whatever information he lacked.
spacer9. Only one characteristic element of the Tudor use of politicized literature is crucially absent from the case of André and also from the poetry produced in connection with the Gaguin incident studied by Carlson. If Henry was aware of the political value of literature, he also had a thoroughly modern understanding of the multiplying power of the printing press. To document this we need not go outside the pages of the Vita, for André mentions both recently-published genealogies of the royal family at § 3, which, no doubt, stressed the ancient British ancestry of the Tudors and the most famous Tudor propaganda theme of them all, the union of the red rose and the white in the marriage of Henry with his Yorkist queen, and, at § 78, the gallows confession of Perkin Warbeck, which Henry had printed up and distributed throughout Continental Europe as well as England. Hence, one supposes, Henry was frustrated when André failed to produce anything which was fit to print, which is why he gave up on André and turned to Polydore Vergil. To sum up, whatever literary and historical value André’s poetic and historical efforts may or may not have, they are extremely instructive for showing the origins of Tudor politicizing of literature, and of the use of patronage to extract the kind of literature the government desired. The only piece of the later Tudor propaganda machine not yet in place was an available cadre of esurient young university men whom prospects of employment and patronage could entice into churning out a stream of the desired stuff, but the advent of the New Learning would soon supply that. One can draw a straight line from Henry eliciting the Vita from André and the Anglica Historia from Polydore Vergil to Burleigh convincing William Camden to write the Annales Rerum Gestarum Angliae et Hiberniae Regnante Elizabetha and John Case to write a commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics, the Sphaera Civitatis, as a vehicle for monumentalizing the political ideals of Elizabeth’s reign.
spacer10. The Vita, and also the Annales, were edited by James Gairdner in 1858. That edition is rendered inadequate for the needs of the modern reader by the absence of an English translation. Moreover, Gairdner supplied only light annotation, and, although he corrected some of the errors of the Vita manuscript, he let many others stand unchallenged, with the result that a number of places he printed Latin that simply makes no sense. One senses he did not appreciate how bad the manuscript actually is. In truth, when one considers all its copying errors and the many lacunae palpably not left by the author for the insertion of further information, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the copyist bungled his job — this is why its evidence about the work’s conclusion cannot be trusted — and that a good deal of further editorial intervention is necessary.
spacer11. I should like to thank Mr. Al Magary for making the suggestion that this work be included in The Philological Museum.

 

Notes

spacerNOTE 1 The date of his entry is guaranteed by the London City Chronicle (ms. fol. 141, p. 193 Kingsford).

spacerNOTE 2 Biography and bibliographical references provided by David R. Carlson in the O. D. N. B.

spacerNOTE 3 At § 37 André describes Richard Foxe Bishop of Winchester as dominus ac Maecenas meus observandissimus, and so some scholars have not unreasonably supposed that Foxe was responsible for drawing him to Henry’s attention, in England or even before Henry’s return from French exile. For André in this salaried position see Chapter III of Edmund Kemper Broadus, Laureateship (Oxford, 1921, repr. Freeport N. Y. 1966).

spacerNOTE 4 According to Gordon Kipling, Henry wanted to pattern his court after the brilliant Burgundian style. See his The Triumph of Honour: Burgundian Origins of the Elizabethan Renaissance (Publications of the Sir Thomas Browne Institute General Series 6, Leiden, 1977), where a certain amount to say about Henry’s recruitment of André as being part of this effort.

spacerNOTE 5 Cf. the very detailed study of this episode by David Carlson, “Politicizing Tudor Court Literature: Gaguin’s Embassy and Henry VII’s Humanists’ Response,” Studies in Philology 85 (1988) 279 - 304, who prints texts of the poetry written on this occasion, and more recently Glenn Richardson, The Contending Kingdoms: France and England, 1420 - 1700 (Aldershot U. K. - Burlington Vt., 2008) 54.spacer

spacerNOTE 6 Gilbert and Godelieve Tournoy-Thouen, “Giovanni Gigli and the Renaissance of the Classical Epithalamium in England,” in Myricae: Essays on Neo-Latin Literature in Memory of Jozef Ijsewijn (edd. Dirk Sacré and Gilbert Tounoy, Humanistica Lovaniensia Supplement 16, 2000) 133 - 148.

spacerNOTE 7 His poetry has been edited by Clemente Pizzi, Andreae Ammonii carmina omnia; accedunt tres epistolae nondum editae (Florence, 1958).

spacerNOTE 8 A representative Rundle article is “Humanistic Eloquence among the Barbarians in Fifteenth-Century England,” Britannia Latina: Latin in the Culture of Great Britain from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century (Warburg Institute Colloquia 8, London - Turin, 2005) 68 - 85.

spacerNOTE 9 The only home-grown member of this propaganda team of Neo-Latin poets John Skelton (who served as a tutor to the future Henry VIII) His poetry has been edited by David R. Carlson, “The Latin Writings of John Skelton,” Studies in Philology 88 (1991) 1 - 125. Whether or not Skelton deserves in any serious sense to be identified as a Humanist may be arguable one way or the other, but his limitations as a poet is shown that he restricted himself to composing verse in hexameters and elegiac couplets, whereas the more sophisticated immigrants such as André and Ammonio were capable of writing in a wider variety of meters including hendecasyllables, and even Horatian odes in Alcaic and Sapphic stanzas.

spacerNOTE 10 According to Crusenius in the additamentum to his Monasticon Augustinianum, he left London in about 1517, but ab Henrico VIII adhuc catholico in aulam adscitus, regius orator ac poeta, necnon regiae bibliothecae, et typographiae praefectus renuntiatur. Eidem Regi auctor fuit ut Defensorium contra Lutheranorum errores scriberet.

spacerNOTE 11 Assuming the imperfect scriberem to be a so-called epistolary imperfect: interpreting it otherwise, Gairdner, p. xv, thought the Preface was written after the the work itself.

spacerNOTE 12 Pace Gairdner, p. xi, at § 37 he writes of Bishop Michael Deacon (or Dyacon) of Asaph of being “of blessed memory,” implying he was dead at the time of writing, and Deacon died in 1500.

spacerNOTE 13 James Gairdner (ed.), Historia Regis Henrici Septimi a Bernardo Andrea Tholosate Conscripta, necnon Alia Quaedam ad Eundem Regem Spectantia (vol. 10 of Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, London, 1858). The volume can be read here.

spacerNOTE 14 For the purpose of this edition, I am concerned only with André’s literary output under Henry VII, but I do not mean to suggest that his literary activities were restricted to this reign. Under Henry VIII he wrote such works as a poem on the English victories of 1513, De inclita invitissimi regis nostri Henrici octavi in Gallos et Scotos victoria, preserved by Hatfield House, MS. Cecil Papers 277/1, and Hymni Christiani, printed at Paris by Josse Bade in 1517 (with gratulatory epigrams by Erasmus, More, William Lilly, Andrea Ammonio, and others).