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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

VII. Reformation and Renascence in Scotland

§ 15. John Leslie

The highest place among the Catholic writers of the period undoubtedly belongs to John Leslie, bishop of Ross, the friend, adviser and most distinguished champion of Mary, whom he attended during her imprisonment in England. Like many others of his Scottish contemporaries, Leslie chose history as his special province, and, like all the historians and chroniclers who have already been mentioned, he chose as his theme the history of his own country. His first work, written during his residence in England, took up the national history from the death of James I, where Hector Boece had stopped, and continued it to the year 1561. This fragment, composed in the vernacular, was followed up by a more ambitious performance in Latin (De Origine, Moribus et Rebus Scotorum,) published at Rome in 1578, in which he narrated the national history from its origins. In 1596, this was translated into Scots by Father James Dalrymple, a Scottish monk at Ratisbon, but the manuscript was not published till 1888. The first seven books of Leslie’s Latin history are mainly an epitome of Hector Boece, and he is as credulous as Boece himself regarding freaks of nature and his country’s legends. In the later portions of his work, however, he writes with seriousness and moderation, and his narrative of events during the reign of Mary is one of the valuable sources for the period. Writing as a dignitary of the church, he has his own point of view; but his natural equability of temper saved him from the explosions of Knox, while his mediocre gifts rendered his work common place compared with that of his great rival.