Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Critical Introduction by Henry Craik
John Hayward (1564?1627)
[John Hayward (1564?1627) was born at Felixstowe and educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 1599 he wrote a History of the First Year of Henry IV., and, through the fulsome flattery which he addressed to Essex in the dedication, he brought himself, as it would appear, unintentionally, under the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth, and was imprisoned on suspicion of sympathy with the designs of Essex. After the accession of James I. he was patronised by the court, practised with profit as a lawyer, and was knighted in 1619. He wrote on the Succession to the Crown, as a defender of divine right, and was involved in a controversy thereon with Parsons the Jesuit, who wrote under the name of R. Dolman. Encouraged by Prince Henry he wrote lives of William I., William II., and Henry I.; and his works comprise a History of the Reign of Edward VI., and one of the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, which was not printed till 1840. He also wrote many forgotten works on religious topics.]
ALTHOUGH Hayward holds no high place even amongst the historians of his own age, there is much that is characteristic about him, and he marks a distinct phase of literary style. Anthony Wood thought his historical work good, but too dramaticthat is to say, in modern language, too much coloured for the sake of effect, and written with too little regard to strict historical accuracy. A certain interest attaches to him as the colleague of Camden in Chelsea College, founded by James I.; but there is no such permanent value in his work as there is in that of his colleague. Hayward makes much show of learning. He adduces proofs and illustrations from a very wide range of subjects, but he has no idea whatever of historical proportion; he drags in his authorities with no thought of their appositeness, and he has no conception whatever of criticism. But in spite of this his history marks a distinct step forward in the historical style. He sets before himself clearly the aim of rising out of the track of the older annalists, and of giving some literary finish to history. He has recounted a conversation between himself and Prince Henry, in which his patron urges him to undertake what he himself admits to be a want in the English language, a style of historical narrative which shall more nearly approach the classical models, and shall be more worthy of the part which England played in history. With this end in view Hayward has drawn abundantly upon the Latin historiansupon Livy, to a large extent, but still more markedly upon Tacitus. Nothing could illustrate Haywards position better than the discussion between Queen Elizabeth and Bacon, of which Bacon himself has left the record. Elizabeth complained to Bacon of Haywards unlucky first attempt, and asked if Bacon could not find places that might be drawn within the case of treason. For treason surely, answered Bacon, I find none, but for felony very many. And when Her Majesty asked me hastily, Wherein? I told her the author had committed very apparent theft; for he had taken most of the sentences of Cornelius Tacitus and translated them into English, and put them into his text. And another time when the Queen would not be persuaded that it was his writing whose name was to it, but that it had some more mischievous author, and said, with great indignation, that she would have him racked to produce his author, I replied, Nay, Madam, he is a doctor; never rack his person, but rack his style, and let him have pen, ink, and paper, and help of books, and be enjoined to continue the story where it breaketh off, and I will undertake by collating the style to judge whether he were the author or no. Haywards style could indeed be racked without any undue cruelty. There is very little art in his imitation of his models, and he has scarcely mastered the manner so far as to give much attention either to the selection or critical examination of the matter. But it is something that he pursued, according to his lights, a distinct literary style in history, and thereby produced a noticeable effect on his successors. He is frequently dramatic in the better sense, and not only in the worse sense condemned by Wood. His diction is formal, and though sometimes forcible, often involved and confused. One of the most artificial features in his writing is the frequent introduction of imaginary speeches on the classical model: and the historical value of such speeches may well be tried by the following fantastic passage, which Hayward puts into the mouth of Edward VI. as expressing the boys regret for his part in the death of his uncle, the Protector Somerset. And where then, said he, was the good nature of a nephew? Where was the clemency of a prince? Ah, how unfortunate I have been to those of my blood! My mother I slew at my very birth, and since have made away two of her brothers, and haply to make a way for the purposes of others against myself. Was it ever known before that a kings uncle, a lord protector, one whose fortunes had much advanced the honour of the realm, did lose his head for a felony, a felony neither clear in law, and in fact weakly proved! Alas, how falsely I have been abused! How weakly carried! How little was I master over my own judgment, that both his death and the envy thereof must be charged upon me!
The history was certainly not very critical that could tolerate rhodomontade such as this; and such dramatic qualities as it has are drawn from the very worst stage models of Haywards own days. But it would be unjust to measure his style by such an example. It was an honest though mistaken result of his study of his models: and that study led to much that was good, along with a considerable mixture of what was absurd.