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Hall, Edward (c. 1498–1547) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION

hall’s creighton henry kingsford

Edward Hall, a Londoner by birth and a lawyer by profession, came of age during the momentous reign of Henry VIII (1509–47). As a member of the House of Commons he witnessed and supported the first stages of the English Reformation. But we know relatively little of his life. He was of middle-class origins, his parents affluent enough to allow him to be educated at Eton, King’s College, Cambridge, and Grey’s Inn in London. He held the office of “common sergeant” (a judicial position) of the city of London, was a judge in the sheriff’s court, and for a time represented Bridgnorth in the Commons. A loyal supporter of the king, Hall remained out of trouble, but his parents were not so fortunate. In 1555, in the Catholic reaction during the reign of Mary (1553–58), they were both jailed, and Hall’s book was banned (Creighton, 947–48).

CRITICAL RECEPTION

It has been conceded that Hall’s Chronicle is generally “accurate” (Hunt and Poole, 490). It has also been recognized as a major source for Shakespeare’s history plays, but also that large portions are propagandistic and translations of Polydor Vergil (Kingsford, 261; Fussner, 255). Thus, one critic has judged that portions of Hall (probably those dealing with the fifteenth century) are “without independent value” (Creighton, 948) The description of Richard III, caricature that it is, has nonetheless been immortalized. Not quite immortal, but still of enormous longevity, again, is the Hall–Vergil picture of the fifteenth century, which has “remained undisturbed until a century ago [until about 1850] and his [Vergil’s] evaluation of the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII has had an even longer currency” (Hay, Polydor Vergil , vii; Fussner, 255). One critic, a friendly one, has found “contradictions” and “misinterpretations of Vergil” in Hall (Trimble, 36). Another, also friendly, has found “distortions” (in connection with the reign of Henry VI) (Kingsford, 265). But Kingsford still rates Hall’s account of the French wars between 1430 and 1438 of “exceptional value” (261).

Somewhat puzzling to this writer, in view of what we have shown about Hall’s treatment of Henry VIII, is the generally favorable comment that those portions of the Chronicles have received. Two points explain this: (1) Hall’s work is based, in part, on now lost sources; (2) Hall (as we have already noted) was an eyewitness to much of what he describes, capturing the zeitgeist of Tudor England and especially of its middle classes (Hunt and Poole, 490; Creighton, 948). To conclude, though Hall has been called “a creature of the crown” (Creighton, 947–48), it still may well be, as Trimble writes, that he was “the greatest of the native historians of this period” (Trimble, 36), who produced a work of literary merit of “a high order” (Kingsford, 261; Creighton, 948).

Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo (1929–) - Slave Societies in Colonial American History [next] [back] Hall, Albert (1937–)

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