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

I. Englishmen and the Classical Renascence

§ 5. William Grocyn

William Grocyn was early distinguished by his knowledge of Greek and taught that language at Oxford before 1488. It is likely that he, as well as Linacre, owed his knowledge of Greek to Cornelio Vitelli. He followed Linacre to Italy, studied, like him, under Poliziano and Chalcondylas at Florence and, like him, made the acquaintance of the great Venetian printer. On his return to England, he taught Greek at Oxford, and his daily lectures were attended by the chief scholars of the time. Unlike most of the Italian humanists who were his contemporaries, Grocyn thought little of Plato and much of Aristotle. Yet he lectured on Pseudo-Dionysius at Oxford and for some time believed him to have been the convert of St. Paul, but soon became convinced, either by independent study or by the criticism of Laurentius Valla, that the Celestial Hierarchy belonged to a much later age. He introduced Colet to the writings of Dionysius and also proved to him that the author could not have been the Areopagite. Grocyn resembled in many ways some of the older German humanists, who were content to spend their time in study and in directing and encouraging the work of younger scholars, without contributing to the store of learning by books of their own making.

With Grocyn and Linacre must be classed William Latimer, who had a great reputation for learning among his contemporaries, English and continental. He had spent many years in Italy in acquiring a knowledge of the humanities, and his knowledge of Greek was highly esteemed by Erasmus. He was selected to be the tutor of young Reginald Pole, the future cardinal, whose scholarship, doubtless, was due to his early preceptor. The reasons he gave to Erasmus for refusing to act as teacher to John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, show the scorn of a scholar for the man who was content with a smattering of such a language as Greek and the preference of the humanist for classical Greek as compared with that of the New Testament.

Richard Pace and Cuthbert Tunstall are also to be classed among the English contemporaries of Erasmus who went to Italy to absorb the spirit of humanism in its peculiar home. The former studied at Padua, Ferrara and Bologna; the latter at Padua, where he made the acquaintance of Jerome Busleiden (Buslidianus), a scholar from the Netherlands and afterwards a friend both of More and of Erasmus. Both Pace and Tunstall were engaged in the diplomatic service of Henry VIII and received ecclesiastical preferment for their services. Tunstall was cardinal Wolsey’s agent at the famous diet of Worms, and wrote to his master that he believed there were a hundred thousand Germans ready to lay down their lives in Luther’s defence. Pace was employed in the vain endeavour to secure the imperial crown for Henry and the papacy for Wolsey.