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he was ordained priest. From this date till his death, in 735, he remained in his monastery, giving up his whole time to study and writing. His chief task was the composition of his celebrated Ecclesiastical History of England, which he brought to a close in his fifty-ninth year. It is our chief original authority for the earlier portion even of the civil history of the Anglo-Saxons. But Bede also wrote many other works, among which he has himself enumerated, in the brief account he gives of his life at the end of his Ecclesiastical History, which has just been quoted, Commentaries on most of the books of the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha, two books of Homilies, a Martyrology, a chronological treatise entitled ' On the Six Ages,' a book on orthography, a book on the metrical art, and various other theological and biographical treatises. He likewise composed a book of hymns and another of epigrams. Most of these writings have been preserved, and have been repeatedly printed. The first edition of the Ecclesiastical History appeared at Esling, in Germany, in 1474; and there are three continental editions of the entire works of Bede, each in eight volumes folio, the latest of which was published at Cologne, in 1688. Some additional pieces were published at London in a quarto volume, by Mr. Wharton, in 1693. It appears also, from an interesting account of Bede's last hours, by his pupil, St. Cuthbert, that he was engaged at the time of his death in translating St. John's Gospel into his native tongue. Among his last utterances to his affectionate disciples watching around his bed, were some recitations in the English (that is, the Anglo-Saxon) language :—" For," says the account, "he was very learned in our songs; and, putting his thoughts into English verse, he spoke it with compunction."
Another celebrated Anglo-Saxon churchman of this age was St. Boniface, originally named Winfrith, who was born in Devonshire about the year 680. Boniface is acknowledged as the Apostle of Germany, in which country he founded various monasteries, and was greatly instrumental in the diffusion both of Christianity and of civilization. He eventually became archbishop of Mentz, and was killed in East Friesland by a band of heathens, in 755. Many of his letters to the popes, to the English bishops, to the kings of France, and to the various Anglo-Saxon kings, still remain, and are printed in the collections entitled Bibliothecea Patrum. We may here also mention another contemporary of Bede's— Eddius, surnamed Stephanus, the author of a Latin life of Bishop Wilfrid. Bede mentions him as the first person who taught singing in the churches of Northumberland.
But at this time, and down to a considerably later date, the chief seat of learning in Christian Europe was Ireland; and the most distinguished scholars who appeared in other countries were either Irishmen or had received their education in Irish schools. We are informed by Bede, that it was customary for the English of all ranks,. from the highest to the lowest, to retire for study and devotion to Ireland, where, he adds, they were all hospitably received, and supplied gratuitously with food, with books, and with instruction.* His contemporary, Aldhelm, in a passage in which he labours to exalt the credit of the English scholars, and especially * Hist . Eccles. iii. 28..
of his great patrons, Archbishop Theodore and the Abbot Adrian, yet admits that tuose of Ireland enjoyed the higher reputation, and bears distinct though reluctant testimony to the crowded attendance of her schools. "Why should Ireland," he exclaims, " whither troops of students are daily transported, boast of such unspeakable excellence, as if in the rich soil of England Greek and Roman masters were not to be had to unlock the treasures of divine knowledge? Though Ireland, rich and blooming in scholars, is adorned like the poles of the world with innumerable bright stars, Britain has her radiant sun, her sovereign pontiff Theodore " * It was during the eighth and the early part of the ninth century that the Irish scholars made the most distinguished figure in foreign countries. Virgilius, the bbhop of Saltzburg, famous for his assertion of the existence of antipodes, for which he was denounced as a heretic by his British contemporary Boniface, but was not, as is commonly said, deposed by Pope Zachary, his elevation to the bishopric having, on the contrary, taken place some years afterwards, was an Irishman, his native name having been probably Feargil, or Feargal. He died in 784. Of the learned persons who were attached to the court of France in this age by the munificent patronage of Charlemagne, the most eminent were Irish. Such, by birth at least, Alcuin himself, the chief ornament of the imperial court, appears to have been, the oldest accounts designating him a Scot (which then meant an Irishman), although he has himself told us that he received his education at York. Alcuin was appointed by Charlemagne to preside over the seminary established * Translated in Moore's Hist. of Ireland, i. 299.
by that emperor, out of which the University of Paris is regarded as having grown. At the same time, his friend and fellow-countryman, Clement, was set over a similar institution in Italy. Somewhat later, we find another eminent Irishman, named Dungal, selected by the Emperor Lothaire I., the grandson of Charlemagne, to superintend the whole system of the Italian universities or public schools. He governed that of Pavia in person; but he is stated to have founded and exercised a general control also over those of Ivrea, of Torino, of Ferno, of Verona, of Vicenza, and of Cividad del Friuli. Dungal has left various works, which bear honourable testimony both to his scientific and his literary acquirements. A second Irish Sedulius, the author of a prose Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, also appears to have flourished in the early part of the ninth century. He became bishop of Oreto in Spain; and, besides his Commentary, is the author of a treatise entitled ' The Concordance of Spain and Hibernia;' in which he maintains the Irish to be Spaniards by origin, and even asserts their right to be still considered as merely a division of the Spanish nation. Donatus, who was about the same time bishop of Fiesole, in Italy, was also an Irishman. The only piece of his that remains is a short Latin poem in praise of his native country.*
But the glory of this age of Irish scholarship and genius is the celebrated Joannes Scotus, or Erigena, as he is as frequently designated,—either appellative equally proclaiming his true birth-place. He is supposed to have first made his appearance in France about the year 845, and to have remained in that country till his death, * Moore's Hist. of Ireland, p. 300.
which appears to have taken place before 875. Erigena is the author of a translation from the Greek of certain mystical works ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, which he executed at the command of his patron, the French king, Charles the Bald, and also of several original treatises on metaphysics and theology. His productions may be taken as furnishing clear and conclusive evidence that the Greek language was taught at this time in the Irish schools. Mr. Turner has given a short account of his principal work, his Dialogue de Divisione Naturae (On the Division of Nature), which he characterises as "distinguished for its Aristotelian acuteness and extensive information." In one plaee "he takes occasion," it is observed, "to give concise and able definitions of the seven liberal arts, and to express his opinion on the composition of things. In another part he inserts a very elaborate discussion on arithmetic, which he says he had learnt from his infancy. He also details a curious conversation on the elements of things, on the motions of the heavenly bodies, and other topics of astronomy and physiology. Among these he even gives the means of calculating the diameters of the lunar and solar circles. Besides the fathers Austin, the two Gregories, Chrysostom, Basil, Epiphanius, Origen, Jerome, and Ambrosius, of whose works, with the Platonising Dionysius and Maximus, he gives large extracts, he also quotes Virgil, Cicero, Aristotle, Pliny, Plato, and Boethius; he details the opinions of Eratosthenes and of Pythagoras on some astronomical topics; he also cites Martianus Capella. His knowledge of Greek appears almost in every page."* The subtle speculations * Turner, Anglo-Sax. iii. 393.