Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 May 2022
Benedicta Rowe was the first to identify the M 9 chronicle as a major source for Edward Hall's Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke, which was published in 1548. In this section we shall look closely at the use which Hall made of the chronicle, whilst also considering how he might have had access to it and how his work (and hence his use of the chronicle) influenced other Tudor writers of the later sixteenth century. However, there is a conundrum facing us here. At the beginning of Hall's work we find a list of his sources: ‘The names of the aucthors aswell Latin as other out of the whiche this work was first gathered and after compiled and conioyned’. Under the heading ‘Englishe writers’ is the name ‘Ihon (i.e. John) Basset’. Yet the M 9 chronicle is, according to the incipit written by William Worcester, the work of Peter Basset, and it is in French. Could it be that Hall did not draw directly on the chronicle but on a now lost English text by a Basset which was linked in some way to the chronicle? We shall return to this question at the end of the section, but first let us consider Edward Hall and his Union.
Hall's Union, which covered events from the last years of the reign of Richard II to the author's own lifetime in the reign of Henry VIII, marks a distinctive turning point in the writing of history in England and in English. The significance of Hall's approach is neatly summed up by his biographer in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: ‘Hall's text represents an important confluence of humanist and vernacular historical writing. He did not produce a raw chronology of events; rather, he absorbed the lessons of humanist historiography both in giving his history a narrative shape and in concerning himself with political rather than divine causes.’ Hall's overarching aim was to explain how the political problems in the last years of Richard II's reign, which led to his deposition and the coming of the house of Lancaster, were worked out over the course of the fifteenth century until resolved by the coming of the Tudors.