Hall, Edward (DNB00)

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HALL, EDWARD (d. 1547), historian, was the son of John Hall of Northall, Shropshire, by his wife Catharine, daughter of Thomas Gedding. He was probably born in 1498 or 1499, as in 1514 he left Eton College, where he was educated, and proceeded to King's College, Cambridge. He took the degree of B.A. in 1518, and then proceeded to read law at Gray's Inn. The remainder of his life was spent in legal and political activity in London. In 1532 he was appointed common serjeant, and in 1535 secondary of Bread Street compter, which he exchanged in 1537 for secondary of the Poulter compter. In 1533 he was autumn reader at Gray's Inn, and in 1540 Lent reader. In political matters Hall was a staunch supporter of Henry VIII, and his parents seem to have been important personages among the more advanced reformers. There are two letters of Bradford to 'John Hall and his wife, prisoners in Newgate for the testimony of the Gospel,' in 1555 (Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. 1847, vii. 242-4). Strype says that Mrs. Hall, mother of Hall the chronicler, was the same to whom several of the martyrs wrote letters ; and her death is recorded in 1557 by Machyn (Diary, p. 139). Thus Hall was probably allied with the reforming party, but he showed a lawyer's caution in not going beyond the wishes of the king. We do not know when he first entered parliament, but in 1542 he sat for the borough of Bridgnorth (Willis, Notitia Parl. iii. 6). He seems to have gone toparliament as a creature of the crown, and Foxe (v. 504) gives an abstract of a characteristic speech of his in support of the Bill of Six Articles in 1539. Hall's historical studies were boldly applied to the maintenance of an extreme theory of the royal supremacy. 'In chronicles may be found,' he said, 'that the most part of the ceremonies now used in the church of England were by princes either first invented, or at the least were established.' After such a speech it is not surprising to find that Hall was one of the commissioners appointed in January 1541 to inquire into all transgressions of that statute (Foxe, v. 440, and Appendix ix.), and in this capacity his name is set as a witness to the confession of Anne Askew on 20 March 1544 (ib. p. 543). Hall died in 1547, and was buried in the church of St. Benet Sherehog (Stow, Surrey of London, ed. 1770, bk. iii. 28).

Hall's chronicle shows its character in its title, 'The Union of the Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and York.' It is a glorification of the house of Tudor, and especially a justification of the actions of Henry VIII. It begins with the accession of Henry IV and reaches to the death of Henry VIII. The first edition printed by Berthelot in 1542 is so rare, that it is doubtful if there exists a complete copy (Ames, Typographical Antiquities, ed. 1816, iii. 461, 466); a second edition appeared in 1548, but the most complete edition was issued by Richard Grafton [q. v.] in 1550. In his preface Grafton says: 'This is to be noted that the author thereof, though not to all men, yet to many very well known, was a man in the later time of his life not so painful and studious as before he had been.' He adds that Hall finished his chronicle to the year 1532, and left a number of notes, which Grafton says he put together without any addition of his own. Possibly after 1532 Hall found the office of royal panegyrist beset with difficulties and dangers.

The early part of Hall's chronicle is a compilation without much independent value, though here and there he adds a detail, and Shakespeare followed him closely in his earlier historical plays. For the reign of Henry VII he is more important. His groundwork is the history of Polydore Vergil, but he alters the point of view and adds a good deal from the floating knowledge of the citizens of London. It is for the early years of Henry VIII that he becomes an authority of the greatest value, not so much for the facts which he relates as for the light which he throws upon the social life and opinions of his times. He expresses the profound loyalty of the middle class, and represents the conditions which rendered possible the policy of the king. His descriptions of the festivities of the court are full and vivid; he shows us the discontent awakened by Wolsey, and gives many instructive accounts of London life, and of the growing spirit of independence among Englishmen. His literary merits are of high order, especially in his accounts of the opposition which Wolsey's masterful proceedings aroused; his power of describing the action of a mob is admirable. Hall has scarcely yet met with due recognition. His chronicle was one of the books prohibited by Mary in 1555, and in consequence became rare. The later chronicles of Grafton, Holinshed, and Stow borrowed a good deal from Hall, and became more popular, so that Hall's chronicle was not reprinted till 1809 by Ellis, and the only English historian who has seen its full value is Brewer in his 'History of the Reign of Henry VIII.'

[Bale's Catalogus, p. 718; Dugdale's Origines Juridiciales, p. 292; Creasy's Eminent Etonians, ed. 1876, p. 417; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 92, 537; Pauli's Geschichte von England, v. 701-2; Gairdner's Chroniclers of England, pp. 300-4.]

M. C.