Contemporary with Walter Hilton is John Wyclif, a very different figure from any member of the [Richard] Rolle group, for Rolle was a contemplative mystic by temperament and sought to withdraw from the world, while Wyclif, controversialist, philosopher, politician, and reformer was, with his followers, responsible not only for attacks on some important claims and practices of the church but also for the first complete translation of the Bible into English.  The Wyclif Bible was certainly not all translated by Wyclif, but it was done under his inspiration.  Nicholas of Hereford seems to have done part of the earlier of the two versions (finished between 1382 and 1384) and John Purvey the later (finished soon after 1388).  The translation is done from the Latin text of the Vulgate and it has little grace or life, though the later version is better in this respect than the earlier.  The Wyclifite versions have neither the strength nor the idiomatic flow of Rolle’s prose, and scholars today are inclined to put Rolle and Hilton far above Wyclif, both among those responsible for the continuity of English prose from Anglo-Saxon to modern times and as pioneers of English prose style.  They helped to keep a standard of English prose alive until the late fifteenth century, when the increasing use of English prose in both secular and religious writing meant that the danger was over and, henceforth, the development of English prose, however uneven, was part of the natural progress of the language and its literature.

From: A Critical History of English Literature by David Daiches; 2 volumes (New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1960), 1:49.


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