The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

The Prologue

IN the beginning of this dialogue the doctor answereth to certain questions, which the student made to the doctor before the making of his dialogue concerning the laws of England and conscience, as appeareth in a dialogue made between them in Latin the twenty-fourth chapter. And he answereth also divers other questions, that the student maketh to him in his dialogue, of the law of England and conscience. And in divers other chapters of this present dialogue is touched shortly, how the laws of England are to be observed and kept in this realm, as to temporal things as well in law as in conscience, before any other laws. And in some of the chapters thereof is also touched, that spiritual judges in divers cases be bound to give their judgments according to the king’s law. And in the latter end of the book the doctor moveth divers cases concerning the laws of England, wherein he doubteth how they may stand with conscience; whereupon the student maketh answer in such manner as to the reader will appear.


Stud. In the latter end of our first dialogue in Latin, I put divers cases grounded upon the laws of England, wherein I doubted, and yet do, what is to be holden therein in conscience. But forasmuch as the time was then far past, I shewed thee that I would not desire thee to make answer to them forthwith at that time, but at some better leisure; whereunto thou saidst thou wouldst not only shew thine opinion in these cases, but also in such other cases as I would put. Wherefore pray thee now (forasmuch as methinketh thou hast good leisure) that thou wilt shew me thine opinion therein.

Doct. I will with good-will accomplish thy desire; but I would that when I am in doubt what the law of this realm is in such cases as thou shalt put, that thou wilt shew me what the law is therein; for though I have by occasion of our first dialogue in Latin learned many things of the laws of this realm which I knew not before, yet nevertheless, there be many more things that I am yet ignorant in, and that peradventure in these self cases that thou hast put, and intendest hereafter to put: and, as I said in the first dialogue in Latin the twentieth chapter, to search conscience upon any case of the law it is in vain, but where the law in the same case is perfectly known.

Stud. I will with good-will do as thou sayest, and I intend to put divers of the same questions that be in the last chapter of the said dialogue in Latin, and sometime I intend to alter some of them, and add some new questions to them as I shall be most in doubt of.

Doct. I pray thee do as thou sayest, and I shall with good-will either make answer to them forthwith as well as I can, or shall take longer respite to be advised, or else peradventure agree to thine opinion therein, as I shall see cause. But first, I would gladly know the cause why thou hast begun this dialogue in the English tongue, and not in the Latin tongue, as the, first cases that thou desiredst to know mine opinion in, be; or in French, as the substance of the law.

Stud. The cause is this. It is right necessary to all men in this realm, both spiritual and temporal, for the good ordering of their conscience, to know many things of the law of England that they be ignorant in. And though it had been more pleasant to them that be learned in the Latin tongue to have had it in Latin rather than in English: yet nevertheless, forasmuch as many can read English that understand no Latin, and some that cannot read English, by hearing it read, may learn divers things by it, that they should not have learned if it were in Latin; therefore, for the profit of the multitude, it is put into the English tongue rather than into the Latin or French tongue. For if it had been in French, few should have understood it but they that be learned in the law, and they have least need of it; forasmuch as they know the law in the same cases without it, and can better declare what conscience will thereupon than they that know not the law nothing at all. To them therefore that be not learned in the law of the realm this treatise is specially made: for thou knowest well by such studies thou hast taken to some knowledge of the law of the realm, that is to them most expedient.

Doct. It is true that thou sayest, and therefore I pray thee now proceed to thy questions.