Home  »  Volume III: English RENASCENCE AND REFORMATION  »  § 4. Thomas Linacre

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

I. Englishmen and the Classical Renascence

§ 4. Thomas Linacre

Thomas Linacre had been a pupil of William Tilly of Selling in the monastery school at Christ Church and, probably, had received his earliest aspirations towards scholarship from his master. He had gone to Oxford, where he had an opportunity of studying Greek under Cornelio Vitelli, who had been invited by the warden of New College, Thomas Chaundler, to act as praelector in his college, and who was the first to teach Greek publicly in England. His old teacher, William Tilly of Selling, was sent as ambassador by Henry VII to Innocent VIII; Linacre went with him and, spending some years in Italy, made the acquaintance of scholars and devoted himself to the humanities. At Bologna, he was introduced to Angelo Poliziano, and, at Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici permitted him to share the instructions given by that Italian humanist and by the learned Greek, Demetrius Chalcondylas, to his children Piero and Giovanni (afterwards pope Leo X). From Florence he went to Rome, where he became intimate with Hermolaus Barbarus, who, it is generally assumed, inspired him with the interest he afterwards displayed in the writings of Aristotle, Pliny, Galen and other medical writers among the ancients. In Venice, he made the acquaintance of Aldus Manutius Romanus, the great printer, and assisted him in the Aldine edition of Aristotle. In Padua, on the occasion of his graduating as M.D., he sustained a brilliant discussion against the senior physicians of that city. In Vicenza, he became the pupil of Nicolaus Leonides, equally famous as a humanist and as a physician. On Linacre’s return to England he almost at once took the position which Leonides occupied in northern Italy. He was recognised as a distinguished physician and as the foremost scholar in his native land. He taught at Oxford, and Thomas More owed his knowledge of Greek to Linacre’s instruction. He was tutor to prince Arthur. Later, he was one of the king’s physicians to Henry VIII. He practised in London and was the founder of the Royal College of Physicians. He was appointed Latin tutor to princess Mary, then five years of age, and wrote for her use a grammar which afterwards became famous. This grammar was translated into Latin from the original English by George Buchanan, and, in this form, continued to be the standard Latin grammar in France for more than half a century. The rest of his writings were mainly medical translations from the works of Galen, the great Greek physician, whom he made known to European students of medicine.