Imagens das páginas

· the northern extremity of England, where in the year

of grace 674 a wealthy thane* of the name of Biscop obtained from the piety of king Egfred a piece of land at the mouth of the Wear, for the purpose of there founding a monastery, which was subsequently called after him Bishop Wearmouth'. The founder was a man of learning and religious feeling, and we might have given the cloisters of St Peter and St Paul credit for more than an ordinary share of scholastic erudition, even did they not boast the education of one whose very name is a reputation in itself; for Bede entered their walls in 680 at the age of seven years, and after spending there more than half a century in the almost unbroken retirement of study died among his disciples in 7354. Greek learning of Albinus abbot of Canterbury and Tobias bishop of Rochester in particular, see Bede, H. E. v. 20, 23.

• His pious zeal had induced him to adopt the monastic habit at the monastery of Lerins in France, and his name must ever be remembered as one of the principal patrons of learning and art among the Anglo-Saxons.

See Bede, H. E. iv. 18. Fita Abbat. Wiremuth. 1–14. ? See Stevenson's Introduction to Bede's Ecclesiastical History,

[ocr errors]

3 “Qui natus in territorio ejusdem monasterii, cum essem annorum septem, cura propinquorum datus sum educandus reverentissimo abbati Benedicto ac deinde Ceolfrido; cunctumque ex eo tempus vitæ in ejusdem monasterii habitatione peragens omnem meditandis scripturis operam dedi : atque inter observantiam disciplinæ regularis et quotidianam cantandi in ecclesia curam semper aut discere aut docere aut scribere dulce habui.” H. E. v. 24, $ 454.

See the striking letter of Cuthbert to Cuthwin in Stevenson's Introduction to the Hist. Eccl., $$ 16—22.

We have had preserved to us from his pen a full description of the course of education and study in that learned Benedictine society. Amid the delights of learning, teaching, and writing, the care of Church music was not forgotten, and from the list he has handed down to us of his works, during a lifetime of the severest mental labor, we may reasonably conclude that the condition of the Wearmouth Scriptorium? would scarcely have realized those extravagant tales of monkish ignorance which an age proud of its intellectual progress takes so much pleasure in repeating*. But while we admire the mental activity of the most learned of the Anglo-Saxons, whose attention, in an age when the old sources of information were after all but very partially opened, was directed to

Benedict Biscop, in returning from his fourth journey to Rome, brought back to Wearmouth “libros omnis divinæ erudi. tionis non paucos vel placito pretio emtos vel amicorum dono largîtos. Rediens autem ubi Viennam pervenit, emticios ibi quos apud amicos commendaverat recepit” (Bede, Vita Abbat. Wiremuth. 4): on his fifth journey“innumerabilium librorum omnis generis copiam apportavit” (ibid. 6): he returned from his sixth enriched “magna copia voluminum sacrorum” (ibid. 9): and during his last illness “bibliothecam, quam de Roma nobilissimam copiosissimamque advexerat, ad instructionem ecclesiæ necessariam, sollicite servari integram nec per incuriam foedari aut passim dissipari præcepit” (ibid. 11). His successor Ceolfrid " bibliothecam utriusque monasterii” [Wearmouth and Yarrow],"quam Benedictus abbas magna cæpit instantia, ipse non minori geminavit industria: ita ut tres pandectes novæ translationis ad unum vetustæ translationis, quem de Roma attulerat, ipse super adjungeret” (ibid. 15).

* See the Epilogue to his Eccl. Hist. [v. 24. $8 453—456) and Alcuin, Ep. 13 [ed. Froben. Ratisbon. 1777].

every one of the studies which were accessible to his contemporaries, we must not suppose him to have stood forward as a solitary marvel of learning in the midst of a dark clergy and nation. On the contrary, we have evidence from his voluminous writings, that he, as all great literary men have done, formed the centre of a circle distinguished by every branch of science and erudition. The names of Egbert of York and Cuthbert of Canterbury stand distinguished among many other worthy disciples of so great a master*. . The second era of monastic history in England at which we shall glance is the latter half of the eighth century, where, in a Benedictine monastery at York, we obtain an insight into the education and intellectual progress of the Saxon Alcuin, the brightest ornament of literature and science since the fall of the Roman Empire. York during that century contained the most renowned schools in England or, we may perhaps say, in Europe, unless we ought to ascribe to national prejudice a letter of Alcuin's to Charlemagne t, in which he advises him to send over French youths to England in order to receive that perfection of science which their own country was

* See Wright's Anglo-Saxon Literary Biography, pp. 289—308, [and Stevenson's Introduction to the Hist. Eccl., $ 14.]

+ Alcuin, Ep. 38. [? “Sed ex parte desunt mihi servulo vestro exquisitiores eruditionis scholasticæ libelli, quos habui in patria per bonam et devotissimam Magistri mei industriam, vel etiam mei ipsius qualemcunque sudorem. Ideo hæc vestræ Excellentiæ dico, ** ut aliquos ex pueris nostris remittam, qui excipiant inde nobis necessaria quæque, et revehant in Franciam flores Britanniæ.”]

unable to bestow upon them. If we were to give full credence to the exaggerated poetical strains * of its most illustrious pupils, the great Benedictine house at York was a plentiful source of every science and every art; from grammar to natural history, from astronomy to theology. The literary character, however, of Alcuin himself supplies us with a more satisfactory testimony to the merits of the school which produced him. The comparative polish of his style shows him to be one on whom the study of the great Augustan models had not been lost; and those who have perused his ponderous controversial tomes have found tokens of thought and correct philosophy which would have done honor to a more congenial age. That the pursuit of the severe sciences at York was somewhat more than a mere poetical em. bellishment, we may gather from thoset of his letters in which he explains to his imperial pupil the mysteries of the Calendar, and some intricate problems in astronomy. We might add to those two illustrious names that of Aldhelm of Wessex, the pupil of Hadrians, and contemplate the benefits he conferred on his country's literature and theology by his writings, as well as by the flourishing monastery at Malmesbury, of which he was the first Abbot; but the examples we have already given

[ocr errors]

are enough to lay clearly before us the condition of the monastic system during its most prosperous period in England, and to guide us in our estimate of the real benefits which accrued to the literature and philosophy of the seventh and eighth centuries from the Benedictine establishments of that island.

But what we have said does not apply to England alone, for we have abundant evidence that the pre-eminence of the regular over the secular clergy in all the principal functions of their station was common to all the European lands : indeed we could with difficulty point to a single name distinguished either in speculative or practical religion, the glory of which does not primarily belong to one of the great monastic houses. We can distinctly discern that, during this period of vagueness and perpetual change, the relations of the two great divisions of the priestly body to one another had undergone a complete alteration. The old mutual jealousy, which excited the spleen of the monks against the secular assumptions and political influence of the Bishops, and roused the ambition of the Bishops against the wealth, learning, and sanctity of the monks, had been forgotten for the time in a harmonious union1, from

Bede (Vita S. Cudbercti. 16) thus describes the constitution of the monastery of Lindisfarne: “Neque aliquis miretur, quod in eadem insula Lindisfarnea, cum permodica sit, et supra episcopi et nunc abbatis ac monachorum esse locum dixerimus; revera enim ita est. Namque una eademque servorum Dei habitatio utrosque simul tenet, imo omnes monachos tenet. Aidan quippe, qui primus ejusdem loci episcopus fuit, monachus erat et monachicam cum

« AnteriorContinuar »