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and legal fictions till mankind groaned under the burden laid upon it. The failure of both is now matter of history. But until the time was ripe for liberty of conscience and selfgovernment in its widest sense, generation after generation went down to the grave, believing in the power of the mind to reproduce God's order in earthly government, and with the infinite elasticity of Omnipotence, to regulate the smallest as well as the greatest concerns of life. Existing legislation might be incomplete; but a higher tone, a subtler thought, a few more enactments, would surely complete the ideal fabric, that should be wide and deep as the actions and heart of man.

So strong a belief in systems might have petrified the growth of society. Spain is an instance of a country which developed the theories of the middle ages with all the appliances of modern civilization. The genius of Cervantes, the heroism of nameless thousands who died on every possible battle-field under Don John or Alva, the devotion of Loyola and St. Teresa, have gilded, but could not arrest, the decay of the nation. Mediæval Europe was saved from this fate by the rudeness of its organization, by the vivid contrasts of church and state, and by the large latitude which a power confident of its foundations can afford to leave to opinion. The two rival codes of law, the privileges of church, barons, and towns, were so many standing protests against administrative unity. There was little fear, in the twelfth century, that the state would cease to be religious. The dread lest the church should again separate itself from actual life might seem better founded. It was saved by the vastness of its empire. Its monasteries were the seats of learning, and the tonsure was a title to respect which the student could not dispense with. Hence the church was another name for the learned professions. Architect, poet, painter, historian, philosopher, and grammarian, lawyer and physician, escaped from the plough or the service of arms by ministering at the altar. No wonder if art was religious, when all its associations were sacred. In one respect, religion suffered by the services of men who often brought with them the secular tastes and passions of the world they professed to



leave. But it gained in culture and breadth by occupying the energies of such thinkers as Abelard, Lanfranc, and Roger Bacon. Six centuries later, Abelard might have been an encyclopædist, Lanfranc a cabinet minister, and Roger Bacon a scientific chemist. In default of these vocations in their own times, they did noble service to the world by reconciling its faith with the highest attainable thought.

At once systematic and universal, the church occupied a very different domain in the twelfth century from that to which it is now confined. The tendency of modern devotion may be described as lyrical; it aims at expressing the inward communion of the soul with God, the experiences and thoughts of individual life. The church of the middle ages was essentially dramatic. Its hymns were liturgical; and in the function of the mass, it represented the doctrine of the faith as a present reality. By a few changes of words and costume, the ritual was transmuted into those stately mysteries which dramatized Bible stories for the multitude. The gospel for the day, broken up into parts, and interspersed with church hymns, needed nothing more to make it attractive but the rich dresses which every great church possessed. The peasant understood these appeals to the sense. Believing that he served God in his mirth, he used the one public building of his village for amusements which barely preserved a religious colouring. He learned to act in the solemn scenic performances. He joined in the wild revelry of the winter months, in the Feast of the Ass, when a donkey was brought into the choir, and the Feast of Fools, when

dice were thrown on the altar, and the celebration of mass parodied. He saw the same contrasts of jest and earnest in art. The walls around him glowed with pictures of the patriarchs and prophets, and with all the incidents of the life that began in Bethlehem and ended on Calvary. But here and there a cor

1 Wright's Early Mysteries, pp. 1-62. The vulgar buffooneries which Voltaire has ridiculed in the Mysteries belong chiefly (except in the case of Hrotswitha's) to the later productions written in the vernacular, and at a corrupt period.-Hone's Ancient Mysteries, pp. 1-72.

2 "Parum putamus * * nisi multicoloribus parietes picturis renideant."



bel, or the decoration of a stall, embodied a satire on the priesthood, or represented the fiend himself grinning scorn in the holy place. Precisely because it was profound, the faith of the middle ages could afford to jest with itself; and men who lived in a spiritual world, who prayed mostly on consecrated ground, who believed that the angels and saints were always round them, coloured every act of their lives indifferently with religion, as a Puritan in later times spoke of household matters in scriptural phraseology. If they did not speculate critically on doctrine, they realized intensely the history of Christ, and its bearings on human society. Their cravings for political reform were always justified by an appeal to religion. Every faculty of the soul, every day of the week, every feeling and thought, owed service to the church, and found satisfaction within it. Is it wonderful that a century and a half intervened between Wycliffe and Luther?

The monasteries are sometimes spoken of as the ancient substitute for poor-laws. It would be truer to say, that in the middle ages a pauper's chance of relief rested on the duty of every Christian to give alms, and not, as now, on the right of every man to demand that support from his fellows which he cannot earn by himself. Naturally the calls of charity pressed chiefly upon the clergy, and more upon rich corporations than on individuals. In a thinly-peopled country, where inns were few and far between, the obligation to entertain strangers was felt more generally than can now be the case in England. But with all these allowances, the efficiency of the church as an antidote to pauperism, cannot be rated very high. The doctrine that it is more blessed to give than to receive, may be misinterpreted so as to promote mendicancy, and create the evil it ought to stem. Except for the rigid frank-pledge system, all England would have been overrun with vagrants in the twelfth

Malmesbury, lib. iv., p. 516. Texts of Scripture were sometimes painted up. Henry of Winchester, "Cathedralem ecclesiam textis philacteriis

* ornavit.”—Ang. Sac., vol. ii., p. 421. Compare Milman's Latin Christianity, vol. iii., p. 487, note a.

1 Martonne, la Piété du Moyen Age, pp. 105-117.



century, as it was in the fifteenth. But a large vagabond population may subsist where the working poor are ill off. An ordinary cottager might easily live so far from a monastery, as not to feel its influence, at a time when roads were bad and communication difficult. Even if he were in its neighbourhood, he might find that its resources were spent in maintaining its own state, in grandiose architecture, or in entertaining the nobles who passed that way. Charity was only one of many objects, which even a pious abbot might care to promote. Fasting and prayer were the real occupations of men who had retired from the world, and the adornment of a shrine, or the carving of an oriel, were more attractive methods of serving God, than the relief of indigence. The splendid buildings of the middle ages, were chiefly, no doubt, due to the system of labour-rents; but Caen stone, painted glass, and gilding, involved an actual expenditure of money. Accordingly, in the thirteenth century, an impulse of strong enthusiasm created the mendicant orders, to combat the misery and ignorance which had grown up under the walls of church and cloister. Yet the monasteries subserved several economical purposes. They were improving landlords, at a time when the nobles cared rather to raise men-at-arms than cattle or crops. They were easy landlords, from the tendency of all corporations to respect vested interests. They were the great granaries of the kingdom, at a time when it was unsafe for individuals to incur the suspicion of forestalling or regrating. Their estates were comparatively safe, under the shadow of church censures, from the risks of war which fell upon private property; so that convent-gardens and orchards were early famous for their thick turf, flowers, and secular trees. These may seem small benefits, but perhaps they are more real than the visionary system of indiscriminate doles would have been.

A few incidental notices enable us to form an idea of social life among the middle and lower orders in the twelfth century. London was even then pre-eminent among English towns. The high houses that lined the long narrow streets were partly the abode of nobles who came to attend the court, partly of




merchants. There were thirteen conventual, and a hundred and twenty-six parish churches. A long suburb lined the side of the Thames from Temple Bar to Westminster, but it cannot have stretched far to the north, for the men of London and Westminster played football in the fields that lay between. Country-houses and gardens studded the country round the walls, and further still were forests, in which the citizens hunted and hawked. To a stranger, the only drawbacks on residence were the frequent fires and the curse of drunken riots rich young men would scour the streets at night, molesting the citizens. But sharp justice sometimes overtook the offenders. The justiciary, Richard de Lucy, hanged a ringleader in these disorders, although he was the son of an eminent citizen, and offered a fine of five hundred marks for his life. A Jew trying to inveigle a Christian, is represented as telling him that all the wickedness of the world was to be found in London: the gambling-house, the theatre, and the tavern; troops of parasites, beggars, and sorcerers. There is a brighter side to the picture. The citizens were famous for their hospitality. Intercourse with strangers refined their manners. The city matrons were modest, and the city schools frequented by diligent scholars. Above all, it was "Merry England" in those days; and in the metropolis, cock-fights, bear-baits and bullbaits, boat and horse races, games at ball, water tournaments and skating, were among the amusements of holidays and the carnival.1

It is probable that London was exceptionally rich. Yet a traveller in the country, if he could not expect to find a restaurant like that on the banks of the Thames, which satisfied every want, and seemed to its chronicler to realize Plato's dreams, might at least count upon clean sheets, upon wine or ale, and substantial if homely fare. The varieties of fancy bread known in London cannot have been common elsewhere: the men of

1 Fitz-Stephen, Vita Beck, vol. i, pp. 172-181; Ric. Div., pp. 60, 61. 2 Palgrave's Rot. Cur., vol. i., p. xxxvi.

twelfth century.-Ric. Div., p. 62. bread.-Schol. Salern., cap. 54.


Bristol was famous for soap in the teeth were cleaned with sops of

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