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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

VII. Historical and Political Writers

§ 14. Historians Contemporary with Burnet: Strype

Among ecclesiastical historians in this period, Burnet has precedence, by right of seniority, over John Strype, whose first appearance as the author of any substantial work, however, dated from after his fiftieth year. His Memorials of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1694) was succeeded (1698) by The Life of the Learned Sir Thomas Smith, which evenly treats of his services to the welfare of the state and of those to the pronunciation of Greek. Then followed the lives of bishop Aylmer (1701); “the learned Sir John Cheke” (1705); archbishop Grindal (1710); archbishop Parker (1711)—which closes with a fuller attempt at the drawing of character than is usual with the author, perhaps because he was exceptionally impressed by a learning which “though it were universal, yet ran chiefly upon Antiquity”—and archbishop Whitgift (1718). Strype had now, in his own words, “lived to finish the Lives and Acts (as far as my Collections will serve me) of the Four First Holy Archbishops” (in the title-page “Protestant Archbishops”) “of Canterbury, those Wise and Painful, Just and Good Governors of this Reformed Church of England.” But, meanwhile, he had also been at work upon his magnum opus, Annals of the Reformation and Establishment of Religion (1700–31). The orthodoxy of this work is guaranteed by a sort of imprimatur from the archbishop and bishops of the church of England, prefixed to vol. II, and commending it, in rather feminine style, as carrying on “so useful and desirable a Piece of Church History, so much wanted.” As both this work and the biographies, for the most part, deal with a period later in date than that covered by Burnet’s History of the Reformation, they contain few references to it. The last of Strype’s more important publications is his Ecclesiastical Memorials, Relating chiefly to Religion and the Reformation of it, treating of the history of the church of England under Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary (3 vols. 1721); the “originals” in the appendixes to which are particularly full of varied interest. As a historical writer, he shows the plodding habits, but not always the sure sagacity, befitting his Dutch descent; and his works, though the fruit of long and patient research, may, as a whole, be regarded as compilations rather than compositions; and their reader has to be prepared to wrestle with appendixes of extraordinary length—averaging not much less than one-third of the text to which they are attached. But his long and valuable labours mark the steady progress of historical research, as well as the growth of a love of learning which was to be among the surest supports of the stability of the church of England.