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Vol. I



\^All rights reserved']





The present edition of selected works of John Wyclif, English
and Latin, was undertaken by the Delegates of the University Press
at the earnest instance of the late Canon Shirley, who devoted the
best part of ten years of a life, alas ! too short, to the study of the
works and the age of the English reformer.

At a meeting of the Delegates of the Press, held on the 23rd
of March, 1866, a resolution was passed, and recorded in a minute,
of which the material portion is as follows : —

' Dr. Shirley's proposal to prepare for publication selected English
works of Wyclif in three volumes 8vo .... was accepted;
and he was authorized to negotiate with Mr. T. Arnold ....
for the editing of the same under his own superintendence.'

Dr. Shirley intended, as general Editor, to have prefixed to the
works an elaborate Introduction, in which he would have endeavoured
to fix the exact theological position of the writer in reference both to
his own and to later times, besides probably settling, so far as the
means at our disposal allow, the chronology and authenticity of the
immense mass of writings ascribed to Wyclif, — a subject which Bale
left in utter confusion, and which Lewis has done very little to
elucidate. Such minor matters as the critical collation of MSS.,
the preparation of a text for the press based on such collation,
the verification of references, and the illustration of the text by
occasional notes, he desired to commit to the hands of an as-
sistant or assistants ; and it was thus that he asked me to take a share



in the work. I gladly consented, — having indeed already formed
the opinion independently, after reading the Fasciculi Zizaniorum
and Dr. Shirley's admirable Introduction to that strange miscellany, —
that the principal works of the reformer, particularly his English
works, ought long ere this to have been given to the public. Before,
however, any material step had been taken towards the execution
of his plans, this good man and ripe scholar was cut off by death.
A greater share of the responsibility of the edition has, in conse-
quence, been thrown upon me than was originally intended, or than,
to say the truth, I feel myself quite competent to meet. I have how-
ever spared no pains to give to the reader a faithful and readable
copy of those of the original works, which it has been resolved to
print, and for this purpose I have collated, in whole or in part,
a number of other JNISS., preserved in various libraries, with the
excellent Bodleian Codex, upon which the text of the following
Sermons is based. I have also entered in the following pages, and
shall enter more at length in the Introduction to the third volume,
on the critical questions relating to the authenticity of the various
works ascribed to Wyclif, so far as the discussion is necessary in
order to justify the selection of his writings which has been made.

I desire to take this early opportunity of acknowledging the great
and invaluable assistance that I have received in the task of editing
from Professor Stubbs, whose learning and judgment, always most
kindly and freely imparted, have signally lightened my labours, often
directed me into the true path of investigation, and kept me from
falling into many errors.

Wyclif wrote both in Latin and English ; but his Latin works are
far the most numerous and the most voluminous of the two. Ninety-
six Latin works are enumerated in Dr. Shirley's Catalogue a, and only
sixty-five English. It is proposed in the following remarks to give
some account of the English writings, to show what has been already
done towards making them known, and to explain the grounds on
which the selection resolved upon in the present work has been

a Catalog7ie of the Original Works of John Wyclif. Oxford, 1 865.


English writings. — Of the sixty-five English works included in
the Catalogue, there are a few which I have not yet had an opportunity
lo examine. The most important of these are Nos. 6i and 62, De
Officio Pastorali and De Papa, the only MS. of which is in the library
of Lord Ashburnham. Another is the tract De Schtsmate, No. 59, the
only MS. of which is in the library of Trinity College, Dublin.
Others are Nos. 58 and 60, short tracts contained in the same
manuscript. There are five or six others, one of which, for reasons
presently to be given, I do not believe to be authentic, while of
the rest I will defer the examination to the Preface of the third

I have only met with one English writing of Wyclifs, large or
small, which was not included by Dr. Shirley in his Catalogue. This
is the Lhtcolniensis, a short tract, the only copy of which, so far
as appears, exists in a Bodleian manuscript (MS. Bodl. 647). I have
no doubt that this, like most of the remaining contents of that MS. ,
was written by Wyclif.

Spueious and doubtful writings. — For some time after I had
begun to read the works which the Catalogue ascribes to Wyclif, I was
strongly disposed to question the authenticity of a considerable num-
ber of them, for various reasons. With regard to some of these,
farther inquiry has not removed my doubts, while in the case of
others, that internal evidence on which I relied to establish for them
the high probability, if not certainty, of a date subsequent to the death
of Wyclif, has been proved by fuller investigation to be far less
cogent than I had at first supposed. I will take these two classes of
probably spurious and doubtful writings separately.

I. No. I in the Catalogue is marked 'Early English Sermons;' it is
a collection of fifty-four sermons on the Sunday gospels, together
with five others on great festivals. No one, except Dr. Vaughan,
has ever ascribed these sermons to Wyclif; they exist only in two
MSS., and the partial examination which I was able to make of them
at Cambridge last year, convinced me that they were the production
of a traveller in the well-worn track of homiletics, who possessed no
spark of the erratic and daring spirit of our author.

b 2


Nos. 6-9 are Commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and
John, and on the Apocalypse. Even if they were certainly authentic,
those on the Gospels, at any rate, could not be considered as worth
printing, because the substance of them is wholly taken from the
writings of the Fathers, chiefly from SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, and
Ambrose, from Theophylact, the Venerable Bede, and Aquinas. The
Commentary on the Apocalypse is indeed original, but contains, so
far as I have examined it, nothing very remarkable. But there is
good ground for believing that no part of these Commentaries,
not even the prologues and epilogues, is by Wyclif. This I will
first endeavour to prove as regards the Commentaries on the

In the prologue to the Comimentary on Matthew occurs the
following passage ^ : —

* For J)is cause a synfiil caytif havyng compassion on lewed men
declarij? Jie gospel of Matthew to lewed men in Englische, wi|>
exposicion of syntis and holy writ, and alleggij) onely holy writ
and olde doctours in his exposicion,' &c.

In the prologue to the Commentary on Luke (MS. Bodl. 143)
we read, —

* Herfore a caityf lettid fro prechyng for a tyme for causis knowun
of God writi]> ]?e gospel of Luk in Englysh wi}? a short exposicioun of
olde and holy doctours, to ]?e pore men of his nacioun.' Farther on
the writer again calls himself ' )?is pore caitif;' and towards the end
he breaks forth into fierce denunciations, as does also the writer
of the Commentary on Matthew, of the ' ypocrisie, tirauntrie, and
cursidnesse of Antecrist and his meynee,' by whom he evidently
means the hierarchy.

Lastly, in the short prologue to the Commentary on John (MS.
Bodl. 243) occurs this passage: —

' A symple creature of God, willinge to here in party Jjc chargis of
symple pore men, writij) a schort glos in English on Jje gospel of
Joon,' alleging, as he tells us, his authors ' in general,' and remitting

b In the Bodleian MS. (Laud, 235) ; (B. I. 38) is stated by Dr. Shirley to
— the MS. at Trin. Coll. Cambr. have a different prologue.


to ' \t grettur gloos writun on Joon where and in what bokis jjes
doctours seyen ))es sentences.'

The strong similarity of style noticeable in these three prologues,
particularly in the first and second, point to the conclusion that they
and the glosses which they describe all proceeded from the same
hand. If so, that hand was certainly not Wyclifs, for he was never
* lettid fro prechyng,' nor would he have been likely to describe him-
self as a ' caitif.' by which was then meant an abject, obscure, and
despised person. One would be rather disposed to ascribe the
authorship of these glosses to the same person who wrote a col-
lection of tracts under the title of 'The Pore Caitif,' which Bale,
Lewis, and Dr. Vaughan ascribed unquestioningly to Wyclif, but
without cause, as Dr. Shirley was the first to show, since Bishop
Pecock, a writer nearly contemporary, tells us that they were written
by a mendicant friar ' pro suo defensorio c.' And that the author
belonged to a religious order, and therefore could not have been
Wyclif, might with some plausibility be inferred from a passage near
the end of the prologue to the Commentary on Matthew, where, in
the course of an invective against the ' religiouse,' he says, ' In so
myche, that if ony of siche religiouse, bounden to siche privat tra-
diciouns, wolde live as Crist and his postlis diden, and edifie truly
Cristen soulis bi the gospel, the potestatis of singular novelries crien
hym a cursed apostata and eretik distrier of Cristendome.' There is
a tone about these words, which certainly tends to make one believe
that th6 writer was describing his own experience.

The Commentary on Luke is based on the ' Catena Aurea ' of
S. Thomas Aquinas, whom the compiler throughout the prologue
calls ' Alquin.' That on St. John's gospel is also based on the

Bale, in his most inaccurate catalogue of the writings of Wyclif <^,
describes the gloss on Matthew as a ' Translatio Clementis Lantho-
niensis.' But the Commentary now in question is certainly no
translation from Clement of Lanthony (a monk of the twelfth

^ Fasciculi Zizaniorum, xiii. note 3.
^ IlluUrium Britannine Scriptorum Snmmarmm. Basle, 1559-


century), since its compiler quotes among his authorities Robert
Grossetete, who flourished in the thirteenth. Nor again does it
appear to be based on the Catena; for although there are fewer
extracts on the whole, and those which coincide in the two works
are usually given more fully in the Catena, yet particular extracts may
be found which are fuller in the Commentary.

With regard to the Commentary on the Apocalypse, internal evi-
dence is, I think, decisive against its being the work of Wyclif The
Introduction seems to me the work of a man of softer and less robust
nature. In his interpretation of chap, xviii., the writer expounds the
Scarlet Woman to signify Antichrist, characterized by idolatry,
* mammetrie,' covetousness and lechery ; but the seven hills on which
she sits are — not Rome, but — the seven deadly sins. As the kings
under Antichrist fought against the Lamb, so the kings that now
were fought against holy Church, and not only * in bodily Jjingis but
in goostly also, for ]?orow |)e tallage ]>at ]?ei maken ]?ei bringen jje
simple folk into synne.' This is far enough from the position of the
man who thought that the secular power might freely resume Church
property, and was bound to do so if it were misused; rather it
reminds one of the state of things under Henry III. and Edward I.
Again, the host that followed him that sat on the white horse,
' bitoknen hem )>at willen fi^te a5en ]>e fend ]?orow lowness and wij)
conventise,' — i. e. in a conventual life ; but Wyclif devoted all his
powers during many years to the denunciation of the conventual life
in all its forms. Again, — ' As longe as Satanas is bounden, holy
chirche regne]?, and is free to serve God, and obediejit to pe Prelaws'
But it was the business of Wyclif's life to declaim against the prelates.
Again, — ' pat ])Q folk schulen gon in his li^t bitokne]),' that towards
the end of the world, ' jje religious of God schulen wexe more and
more, and men schul forsake worldly blisse for hope of J>e blisse
above.' But such a prospect of the spread of monkery would have
been to Wyclif a most dreary one. The reader will probably think
that sufficient evidence has been adduced to prove that Wyclif was
not the author of the Commentary on the Apocalypse.

No. 24, entitled ' A Short Rule of Life,' &c., is conceived in a


beautiful spirit, but there is not a particle of evidence to connect
it with W}xlif. Even the omnivorous Bale has not included it
within the sweep of his catalogue. That it should be found in a
MS. volume of tracts bequeathed by Archbishop Parker to Corpus
Christi College, Cambridge, and loosely said by him to contain
tracts by Wyclif, does not amount to evidence ; for some of these
compositions can be proved to be of different authorship, and the
general statement of Archbishop Parker must not be taken for
more than it is worth. Dr. Vaughan indeed says ^, after quoting
a fine passage from this tract, inculcating the purest Christian
virtues on different orders of men, ' The preacher whose counsels
were of this description was not the man to become the agent of
insurrection, after the fashion of John Ball and Wat Tyler, as some
of his ingenuous opponents have insinuated.' This is quite true; but
it would have been more to the purpose to prove that the tract is
by Wyclif, instead of merely assuming it. So far as the evidence of
style goes, I am myself greatly inclined to doubt its authenticity.

No. 48, a tract printed by Dr. Todd, in 1851, under the title 'Of
Antecrist and his Meynee,' does not appear to be authentic. The
style is narrower and more puritanic than that of Wyclif, and the
allusions to the persecutions to which the writer and his party were
subjected seem more suitable to a later time. Thus (p. cxlviii.) we
are told that Antichrist ' harder al day punyschij>, as al day now men
may see.' Again, Antichrist and his followers ' kille treue men in
her prison.' On the whole, this language suits a period subsequent
to the constitutions of the archbishops Arundel and Chicheley
better than the lifetime of the reformer ; and as the evidence of style
tends the other way, and there is not a tittle of external evidence
attributing it to Wyclif, the tract not being included even in Bale's
list, I think it may be safely struck out of the catalogue of the
reformer's writings.

No. 47, * Tractatus de Pseudo freris,' found in a single MS. at
Dublin, is similarly destitute of all external evidence tending to asso-

* Tracts and Idealises of John de Wydiffe, p. 48.


ciate it with W}'clif ; but as no previous writer has given any other
than the most general description of it, and I have not yet been able
to examine it myself, the question of its authenticity must be left
in suspense. Nos. 51, 61, and 64 must be included in the same
category ; there is no external evidence in their favour, but from the
only MSS. of them being either in private libraries or at Dublin,
I have not yet been able to exam.ine them.

It escaped Dr. Shirley's notice that Nos. 49 and 50 are merely
extracts from No. 63, which will be considered in the next

II. A considerable number of English tracts still remains, chiefly
those contained in the well-known C. C. C. manuscript at Cambridge,
with regard to which there is indeed some slight amount of external
evidence connecting them with Wyclif, but that evidence is not strong
enough to establish their authenticity, should the analysis of their
contents lead to an opposite conclusion. I propose to enter upon
the full examination of the claims of this class to rank among Wyclif s
writings in the Introduction to the third or miscellaneous volume
of the present collection. I did indeed at one time conceive myself
to have found a test, the application of which would in many cases
establish the non-authenticity of a treatise without further trouble.
In this, however, deeper research has proved that I was mistaken ;
and as the point is one which bears upon the authenticity of a por-
tion of the sermons in the present volume, — those for the Commune
Sanctorum, — it must be treated of here.

Relying upon the consensus of all the ordinary English historians,
including Lingard, I came to the study of the questions aff'ecting the
authenticity of writings ascribed to Wyclif with the preconceived
belief, that the attempts of the English state and hierarchy to coerce
heretical or erroneous opinions had not, previously to the enactment
of the famous statute commonly called De Haeretico Comburendo,
in 1 40 1, proceeded to the length of inflicting capital punishment,
either on the gibbet or at the stake, upon the holders of those
opinions. The common impression certainly is, — and it was shared
by myself, — that no one had suff'ered death in England for his



religious opinions, by direct infliction at the hands of the magistrate ^,
before William Sawtre, the first victim to the statute above mentioned.
If then, in a tract, the style and handwriting of which showed it to
belong either to the end of the fourteenth, or to the beginning of
the fifteenth century, mention was made of death by burning or
hanging as a fate ever impending over such as held the writer's
opinions, the conclusion was ready, that the date of that tract must
be subsequent to the passing of the statute of 1401, and that accord-
ingly Wyclif could not have been its author. Tried by this test,
the tracts numbered 12, 16, 18, 19, 29, 32, 33, 34, 38, and 63 (out
of which all but the last, which is in the Bodleian, are found in the
C. C. C. manuscript), since they all contain allusions to * brennyng '
as a punishment constantly impending over, or actually inflicted upon,
the followers of Wyclif, would be proved to have been composed
many years after the reformer's death e.

But if this conclusion were to be considered irrefragable, it presently
appeared that it would aff"ect other writings, which tradition and
common consent, and a fair amount of direct external evidence, had
hitherto attributed to Wyclif. Such are the Homilies on the gospels
contained in the offices of the Commune Sanctorum, forming the
second division of Homilies in the present edition. In Sermon
LXIV. (p. 201), in Sermon LXV. (p. 205), and again in Sermon
LXVII. (p. 211), occur passages which it is difficult to understand
in any other way than as testifying to the fact of a vigorous per-
secution of Lollards going on at the very time. The passages are
subjoined in a foot-note ^^ It immediately became a pressing question,

f I use these words, because there is
a case, mentioned by William of New-
burgh in his history (lib. ii. cap. 13),
where some thirty Paulician heretics,
having entered England about the year
1 1 63, were condemned at Oxford to be
branded, whipped, and turned out of
the city ; after which, all persons being
forbidden to harbour them or give them
food, they ' misere perierunt.' For this
reference I am indebted to Professor

8 Wyclif died at Lutterworth in 1384.

*> p. 201. ' oure prelatis

stranglen and killen men, and spoilen
hem of her goodis.'

p. 205. ' ])is word counfortij? symple
men, J^at ben clepid eretikes and ene-
myes to he Chirche, for )>ei tellen Goddis
lawe ; for \€\ ben somjained and repro-
vyd many weies, and after put in prison,
and brend or kild as worse ban Jeeves.'

p. 211, ' alle hese [popes and bishops,
helped by secular lords] bitraien Cristen
men to turment, and putten hem to
deejj for hoolding of Cristis lawe.'


whether, in the face of these passages, the authenticity of at least
this portion of the Homilies could be maintained.

The first point to be ascertained was whether all the best MSS.
contained the passages in question, or whether any omitted them,
or showed marks of interpolation. The MSS. of the first class in
which these sermons are contained are, besides Bodl. 788, upon
which the text of this edition is based, two in the British Museum
(Bib. Reg. 18 B. IX. and Cotton. Claud. D. VIII.) and one at Wrest
Park (No. 11), I have not had an opportunity of collating the last-
named MS., but a reference to those in the British IMuseum showed
that in each of these passages they agreed word for word with
Bodl. 788, and exhibited no trace of interpolation. It further ap-
peared that in one of the homilies for the Proprium Sanctorum,
a division which in all the copies is associated with that for the Com-
mune Sanctorum, and indisputably formed part of the same work
from the first, namely in Sermon CII. (p, 354), mention is made of
Richard II. as then reigning. Now, on the supposition that no
persecution proceeding to the length of capital punishment had taken
place before 1401, how reconcile the mention of Richard, whose
deposition and death happened in 1399, with the passages importing
that such persecution was actually going on ?

Being thus led to examine narrowly the grounds of the supposition
above mentioned, I came upon certain facts which tended to throw
doubt on their sufficiency to carry the conclusion based on them.
Mr. Bond, keeper of the MSS. at the British IMuseum, was good
enough to point out to me a passage in the Chronicle of Meaux,
lately edited by him for the Master of the Rolls, which is much to the
purpose of the present inquiry. Abbot Burton says (vol. ii. p. 323)
that the Franciscans, or a section of them, opposed certain con-
stitutions of Pope John XXII. , who thereupon caused many of
them to be condemned and burnt, some in France in 13 18, others
at various places in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, in 1330;
and that among the severities practised on this last occasion, * in
Anglia, in quadam silva, comhusta sunt viri qidnquaginta guinque,
ei mulieres ocio, ejusdem ordinis et erroris.' This is indefinite,


certainly, but there seems no possibility of questioning its substantial
truth ; and if it be true, then men and women were burnt in England
for heresy before 1 40 1.

Again, though no chronicler records any actual execution in the
fourteenth century, there is a passage in Walsingham which proves
that it was threatened by at least one bishop, and, considering the
imperfect nature of the communications between different parts of
the country in that age, and the paucity of records, it would surely
be hazardous to assert confidently, merely because the chroniclers
are silent, that no such threat was ever carried into effect. Speaking
of the Lollards in 1389, Walsingham, after blaming the culpable
remissness of most of the other bishops, who instead of exterminating
these pests went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchan-
dise, adds that the Bishop of Norwich, ' sit nomen ejus benedictum
in secula ! ' set an edifying example of zeal for the faith, in that he
swore that if any one of that perverse sect should presume to preach
in his diocese, he should either be burnt or beheaded (' vel ignibus
traderetur vel capite privaretur'). Walsingham adds that no Lollard
coveted the honour of martyrdom, and that the diocese accordingly
remained uncontaminated by their presence i. If the Bishop could
threaten this, one may suppose that without any violation of law it
could have been done. And in fact, if one reads the statute of 1401
carefully, it becomes plain that the legislature which enacted it was
not thinking of introducing forms of punishment hitherto unknown
to and unsanctioned by the law, but only regularizing and extending
uniformly over the country a penal machinery already existing and
legal. The remedy is to be applied, not de novo, but ' uberius et
celerius ' than has been hitherto possible ; — and because experience
proves that the bishops * per suam jurisdictionem spiritualem dictos
perfidos et perversos absque auxilio dictae majestatis regiae sufficienter

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