Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 58.djvu/259

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Vergil
Vergil
251

bishop of Hereford in 1502, and when, in 1504, he was translated to Bath and Wells, Polydore Vergil acted as his proxy at the enthronement. About 1507 he was made prebendary of Nonnington in the cathedral of Hereford, and on 6 Feb. 1507–8 archdeacon of Wells and prebendary of Brent. He cannot have been much at Wells. He lived a literary life in London, corresponding with his friends in Italy (cf. Gairdner, Letters and Papers of Richard III and Henry VII, i. 246, ii. 168) and occupied in writing books; once he is mentioned as buying horses for the Duke of Mantua. He presented hangings for the choir of Wells cathedral which Leland saw with Polydore Vergil's arms, a laurel tree vert on ground argent supported by two crocodiles proper, worked in them; they were there, says Burton, in his day, 1636. On 16 April 1507 Polydore Vergil was collated to the prebend of Scamlesby in the cathedral of Lincoln.

Wood states, what other authorities confirm, that Polydore enjoyed the friendship of the learned, in particular of Fox, More, Pace, Linacre, Tunstall, and Latimer. In his history he speaks kindly of Lily and Colet; one of Lily's sons was called Polydore, probably after him. In all his historical work he gives evidence of zealous personal investigation. The interesting letter which is extant from him to James IV of Scotland (printed in Polydore Vergil's History, ed. Ellis, vol. i. p. xii), besides containing some biographical particulars, asks for the names and deeds of the Scottish kings. He had in vain, he says, sought for this information from James's chaplain. James did not comply with the request, Ruddiman suggests because he thought that Scottish history could be best written by Scotchmen; and thus Hector Boethius came to take these matters in hand. Gawin Douglas [q. v.], bishop of Dunkeld, however, just before his death, about 1522, gave the required information, which Polydore Vergil gratefully acknowledged.

On 22 Oct. 1510 Polydore Vergil was naturalised without paying the usual fees, and, owing doubtless to the favour of the king, he was in 1513 excused from paying extra subsidy due from him as a foreigner. On 11 June of the same year he was collated to the prebend of Oxgate in St. Paul's Cathedral. In 1514 he decided to go to Rome, and on 26 Feb. in that year Henry wrote to Leo X commending him and saying that he wished to revisit his native land after twelve years' absence (printed in History, ed. Ellis, vol. i. p. xi).

The events which follow are obscure. In February Vergil returned from his visit to Rome, during which Wolsey apparently expected his aid in obtaining a cardinal's hat; but a letter dated 3 March, in which he made indiscreet references to Wolsey's ambition, was intercepted, and on 11 April 1515 Andrew Ammonius [q. v.] brought definite charges against Vergil of vilifying Wolsey and of forging dispensations. Vergil was thus seriously compromised, and he was put in prison. Henry VIII wrote to Leo on 22 May 1515 explaining the cause of this step, and asking that Ammonius should be appointed in his stead. Sir Henry Ellis cannot be right in saying that Ammonius was formally made sub-collector on 26 March 1515, unless the appointment was antedated.

Vergil's imprisonment occasioned great excitement. Leo X, Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, and the university of Oxford petitioned the king for his release. In September 1515 Polydore Vergil addressed himself to Wolsey in terms which show, as does his subsequent letter to Mary, how thoroughly pagan he was (printed in History, ed. Ellis, vol. i. p. xv). It appears that Vergil was released before 24 Dec. 1515. Although he lost his subcollectorship, he managed to retain his benefices. His imprisonment made him a determined enemy of Wolsey, and his view of Wolsey, as recorded in his history of England and copied by writer after writer, held the field until recent years.

On 12 March 1516 the pope wrote that he required Vergil at Rome at once. He was in England again in 1517. In 1521 Erasmus, writing to Pace, mentioned that Frobenius was printing some of Polydore Vergil's works, a reference doubtless to the edition of the ‘De Rerum Inventoribus’ which then appeared. In 1522 he was so far restored to favour that he was again treated as a native in respect of the clerical subsidy.

In 1523 he wrote offering Erasmus help and money. On his side Erasmus was grateful for his liberality, and helped Vergil with regard to the printing of his books. While passing an autumn vacation in the country in 1524 (Ferguson), Vergil composed a commentary on the Lord's Prayer with an epistle to Fisher prefixed. It seems to have appeared for the first time (ib.) in the edition of the ‘Proverbs and Inventions’ published in 1525. It was afterwards often printed with the ‘Inventions,’ and, with that book, appeared in Italian in 1543. Professor Ferguson cannot confirm Ellis's surmise that it was printed separately about 1554.

In the course of his studies for his history of England he edited in 1525 the work of Gildas for the first time. Tunstall