The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 24. James Gairdner

James Gairdner, who was a public servant at the Record office for more than half a century, used to say that what he knew he had taught himself; and no scholar has ever passed through a more conscientious training. He carried on Brewer’s Calendar of Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII to its completion in twenty-one volumes, further edited the documents of the preceding two reigns, together with chronicles and other monuments, and, in 1872–5, produced a standard edition of The Paston Letters. But he, also, made many original contributions to the study of English history, which were published in divers collective works, and reprinted in his own and James Spedding’s Studies in English History (1881); and, in addition to a remarkably fair, and by no means paradoxical, Life of Richard III, produced a short and equally original biographical estimate of Henry VII. The remainder of his writings are concerned with ecclesiastical history. Long studies in this field of research had matured in him conclusions as to the English reformation and its precursors, differing, in many respects, from current protestant opinion, but always resting on a careful and well-considered treatment of authorities. The editor of the nearly finished (fourth) volume left behind him by Gairdner of his Lollardy and the Reformation considers that, in writing the section of The History of the English Church, of which Gairdner’s later work was an unfinished enlargement, he (though already at an advanced age) believed himself to be fulfilling a duty; and he, certainly, had the cause of truth at heart. His sympathies, at the same time, were strongly on the side of authority, as is evident from his earlier essays on the Lollards, as well as from that entitled The Divine Right of Kings.