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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.

II. Religious Movements in the Fourteenth Century

§ 5. Wyclif’s Early Life

Although John Wyclif, like Rolle, was of northern origin, his life belongs altogether to Oxford and to national affairs. His northern background not only gave something to his character but also, probably, determined his career: his family had some connection with Balliol College, and it was the natural college for a Yorkshireman, At Oxford he came under the great influences which shaped himself and his work. But, between him and Rolle there were resemblances apart from the north and Oxford; each of them has a special place in the history of the English Bible as well as of the English tongue, and Biblical commentaries—probably due to Rolle—have been, at one time or another, ascribed to Wyclif. In both cases, assumptions have been made too readily before the existing works had been studied and classified: works such as The Last Age of the Church and An Apology for the Lollards—in which could not possibly have been Wyclif’s—have been put down as his. Until the Wyclif Society began its labours, his Latin works were mainly in manuscript, and, before they could be studied and compared with each other, the data for his life and character remained uncertain. Even now, there remain some points which it is wiser to leave open, but we know enough to say that certain traditional views and dates, at any rate, must be cast aside.

John Wyclif was born, according to Leland, at Ipreswel or Hipswell, near Richmond, in Yorkshire. His family took its origin form Wycliffe-on-Tees, and he himself is described in a papal document as of the diocese of York. The date of his birth is uncertain, but it is generally supposed to have been about 1320, and certainly not much later. The tradition which says that he went to Balliol College is probable, for we find him there as its Master in 1360. The university, which gained through papal provision some support for its learned sons, petitioned Urban V to grant Wyclif a canonry with prebend (or parish annexed) in York Minster. As an answer, he was appointed, by papal provision, to the prebend of Aust in the collegiate church of Westbury-on-Trym, in the diocese of Worcester (24 November 1362). And, on 26 December 1373, Gregory XI granted Wyclif leave to hold this prebend of Aust even after he had received a canonry with prebend in Lincoln, which he had been previously promised when a vacancy occurred. In his work De Civili Dominio, Wyclif apparently alludes to this latter appointment, and speaks, although without bitterness, of his being afterwards passed over for a young foreigner. Incidentally, it should be noticed that Wyclif was thus, as late as 1373, in good repute at the Curia; and, further, when he mentions the matter some years later (probably about 1377) he is not hostile to the pope.