From Richard Grafton's Chronicle at Large (1569)

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From Richard Grafton's Chronicle at Large (1569)

[Richard Grafton was a printer and scholar whose very influential history (1569) summarized Major's version and moved on to give an account which both carried a good deal more detail than had previously been provided and also firmly gentrified the hero. This is the first chronicle which deliberately includes material from the ballads, though the earlier chroniclers were clearly aware of the popular tradition. Nevertheless, Grafton presents Robin as a real figure and does not mention Little John: gentrification and elevation of the hero develop together.

This obviously provided a structure for Martin Parker's quasi-biographical A True Tale of Robin Hood, and Grafton himself claims authenticity in several ways. The king's price on Robin's head, says Grafton, is to be confirmed "by the recordes in the Exchequer." In the same spirit of verification, the story ends by insisting that Robin's gravestone and memorial cross are available for inspection, and it also claims ancient authenticity on the basis of using as source "an olde and auncient Pamphlet." None of this evidence has survived, and probably never existed. The gravestone was later described and drawn (Holt, 1989, p. 43), but it looks suspiciously like an artist's impression of Grafton's remarks.

No "auncient Pamphlet" has survived which tells Grafton's story of an earl-or perhaps a soldierly man who became an earl-who was disgraced through wastefulness and so became a leader of an outlaw band and an enemy to the king. This sounds more like Fouke than Robin the yeoman, and Fouke le Fitz Waryn is a possible distant source. The second part of Grafton's story, where Robin is hunted by the king and betrayed by the Prioress, is not found in any previous text, though the Gest does touch on these events to some degree.

Grafton certainly consulted sources: his priory is called Bircklies probably because he misread a capital K (printed or written) in the familiar name Kirklees. It remains conceivable that there was a lost story combining the yeoman outlaw with an aristocrat fallen from grace, but it is more likely that for the "pamphlet" he has in mind the well known Gest, perhaps the equally widely distributed Gamelyn, and that the references to grave, cross and records are based on contemporary hearsay.

Partly through this aura of credibility, Grafton's popularization of a now firmly gentrified hero set the tone for the gentlemanly outlaw who was to appear in play and song and, in some sense, to be absorbed into the mainstream right through into gallant Sir Robin of modern Hollywood. After summarizing Major, Grafton strikes out on his own]:

But in an olde and auncient Pamphlet I finde this written of the sayd Robert Hood. This man (sayth he) discended of a nobel parentage: or rather beyng of a base stocke and linage, was for his manhoode and chivalry advaunced to the noble dignité of an Erle. Excellyng principally in Archery, or shootyng, his manly courage agreeyng therunto: But afterwardes he so prodigally exceeded in charges and expences, that he fell into great debt, by reason wherof, so many actions and sutes were commenced against him, wherunto he aunswered not, that by order of lawe he was outlawed, and then for a lewde shift, as his last refuge, gathered together a companye of Roysters and Cutters, and practised robberyes and spoylyng of the kynges subjects, and occupied and frequentede the Forestes or wilde Countries. The which beyng certefyed to the King, and he beyng greatly offended therewith, caused his proclamation to be made that whosoever would bryng him quicke or dead, the king would geve him a great summe of money, as by the recordes in the Exchequer is to be seene: But of this promise, no man enjoyed any benefite. For the sayd Robert Hood, beyng afterwardes troubled with sicknesse, came to a certein Nonry in Yorkshire called Bircklies, where desirying to be let blood, he was betrayed and bled to deth. After whose death the Prioresse of the same place caused him to be buried by the high way side, where he had used to rob and spoyle those that passed that way. And upon his grave the sayde Prioresse did lay a very fayre stone, wherin the names of Robert Hood, William of Goldesborough and others were graven. And the cause why she buryed him there was for that the common passengers and travailers knowyng and seeyng him there buryed, might more safely and without feare take their jorneys that way, which they durst not do in the life of the sayd outlawes. And at eyther end of the sayde Tombe was erected a crosse of stone, which is to be seene there at this present (1569, pp. 84-85).

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