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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

XII. English Prose in the Fifteenth Century, I

§ 3. Reginald Pecock

Reginald pecock was a Welshman, a student in the university of Oxford, where he became a fellow of Oriel and took holy orders. He was early celebrated for his finished learning and, before 1431, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, it seems, drew the rising man to London where, in that year, he was made Master of Whittington College near the Tower, the recent foundation of the famous mayor.

London was still thick with Lollards, and it became Pecock’s lifelong aim to overcome their heresy by persuasion. Before ten years were passed he had issued a number of books or pamphlets to cope with those which the heretics were pouring forth. In 1444, he was made bishop of St. Asaph, and he was so active in his diocese, in preaching and in other ways, as to rouse opposition. He had not, however, withdrawn from the public life of London; and, in 1447, he preached a sermon at Paul’s Cross which provoked much antagonism. He defended episcopal non-residence and neglect of preaching on the ground that the conduct of the ecclesiastical organisation was a prior buty; but he also justified papal “provisions” to benefices and the payment of annates to Rome upon grounds most displeasing to the English hierarchy. He put the substance of his discourse in writing and gave it to his friends. Yet not only the populace but many scholars, clergy and friars called him a heretic. His apology was controverted from Paul’s Cross by the celebrated Millington, Provost of King’s, Cambridge, and archbishop Stafford, though personally friendly, was obliged to investigate Pecock’s opinions. Pecock was not censured; but his translation to Chichester on the murder of Moleyns perhaps marked him as a member of the court party who might conveniently be thrust into a thankless post of danger. The mob hated him as one of Suffolk’s friends, and he had the distinction of mention in the lively ballad on the duke’s death, The Dirge of Jack Napes. As a privy councillor and trier of petitions, Pecock took his share in the unpopular work of government, but he continued to put forth short popular books against the Lollards and, at length, a complete and reasoned work, The Repressor of overmuch blaming of the clergy. This elaborate book, which its author thought would destroy Lollardy and prevent further criticism of the hierarchy, brought about his ruin.