John Twyne deserves to be better known. Any man raised as he was in a society still not accustomed to drawing a clear line between history and myth, yet who struggled as valiantly as he did to make the nation's distant past comprehensible to men of reason, merits more than a second glance – if only because his failure to free himself completely from the myths and legends against which he was contesting tells as much about the limitations of humanist scholarship as his partial success tells about its potentialities. As it is, no one but the rare scholar interested in Geoffrey of Monmouth's reputation or the fortunes of the Brutus legend in Renaissance thought is likely ever to have heard of him. His one known work, the engagingly levelheaded (and at times engagingly wrongheaded) dialogue, De rebus Albionicis, Britannicis atque Anglicis, remained in the limbo of forgotten books until Sir Thomas Kendrick restored it to its proper place as one of the most resourceful critiques of the British History to appear in the century.
It is less, however, for his substantive contribution to the controversy over the Trojan origin of the British people that Twyne rates additional attention than for his approach to the problems involved in it – a fact which helps account for the neglect he has suffered. An original rather than a profound mind, not quite in the first rank of scholars despite his considerable classical learning, he nevertheless makes possible the examination, in a rarely revealing example, of the sense of temporal perspective then emerging in Renaissance England.
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