John Knox and the Reformation eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about John Knox and the Reformation.
Knox himself actually wrote about 1547-48.  Mr. Hill Burton observes in the tract “the mark of Knox’s vehement colouring,” and adds, “it is needless to seek in the account for precise accuracy.”  In “precise accuracy” many historians are as sadly to seek as Knox himself, but his peculiar “colouring” is all his own, and is as marked in the pamphlet on Wishart’s trial, which he cites, as in the “History” which he acknowledged.

There are said to be but few copies of the first edition of the black letter tract on Wishart’s trial, published in London, with Lindsay’s “Tragedy of the Cardinal,” by Day and Seres.  I regard it as the earliest printed work of John Knox. {20} The author, when he describes Lauder, Wishart’s official accuser, as “a fed sow . . . his face running down with sweat, and frothing at the mouth like ane bear,” who “spat at Maister George’s face, . . . " shows every mark of Knox’s vehement and pictorial style.  His editor, Laing, bids us observe “that all these opprobrious terms are copied from Foxe, or rather from the black letter tract.”  But the black letter tract, I conceive, must be Knox’s own.  Its author, like Knox, “indulges his vein of humour” by speaking of friars as “fiends”; like Knox he calls Wishart “Maister George,” and “that servand of God.”

The peculiarities of the tract, good and bad, the vivid familiar manner, the vehemence, the pictorial quality, the violent invective, are the notes of Knox’s “History.”  Already, by 1547, or not much later, he was the perfect master of his style; his tone no more resembles that of his contemporary and fellow-historian, Lesley, than the style of Mr. J. R. Green resembles that of Mr. S. R. Gardiner.


We now take up Knox where we left him:  namely when Wishart was arrested in January 1546.  He was then tutor to the sons of the lairds of Langniddrie and Ormiston, Protestants and of the English party.  Of his adventures we know nothing, till, on Beaton’s murder (May 29, 1546), the Cardinal’s successor, Archbishop Hamilton, drove him “from place to place,” and, at Easter, 1547, he with his pupils entered the Castle of St. Andrews, then held, with some English aid, against the Regent Arran, by the murderers of Beaton and their adherents. {22} Knox was not present, of course, at Beaton’s murder, about which he writes so “merrily,” in his manner of mirth; nor at the events of Arran’s siege of the castle, prior to April 1547.  He probably, as regards these matters, writes from recollection of what Kirkcaldy of Grange, James Balfour, Balnaves, and the other murderers or associates of the murderers of the Cardinal told him in 1547, or later communicated to him as he wrote, about 1565-66.  With his unfortunate love of imputing personal motives, he attributes the attacks by the rulers on the murderers mainly to the revengeful nature of Mary of Guise; the Cardinal having been “the comfort to all gentlewomen, and especially to wanton widows.  His death must be revenged.” {23a}

Project Gutenberg
John Knox and the Reformation from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook