« PreviousContinue »
the south porch of the church. After being removed to a more honourable situation within the church, they were stolen from the monastery by Elfred a priest of Durham, who used for some years previously to offer up his prayers at Bede's tomb, on the anniversary of his death.
"On one of these occasions," says Simeon of Durham, "he went to Jarrow as usual, and having spent some days in the church in solitude, praying and watching, he returned in the early morning alone to Durham, without the knowledge of his companions—a thing which he had never done before-as though he wished to have no witness to his secret. Now, although he lived many years afterwards, yet he never again visited Jarrow, and it appeared as if he had achieved the object of his desires. When, also, he was asked by his most intimate friends, 'Where were the bones of venerable Bede?' he would reply, 'No one can answer that question so well as I. You may be assured, my brethren, beyond all doubt, that the same chest which holds the hallowed body of our father Cuthbert, also contains the bones of Bede, our reverend teacher and brother. It is useless to search beyond that little corner for any portion of his relics.'
By this artifice the cathedral of Durham obtained posses sion of a valuable source of revenue in the offerings which were sure to be made at the tomb of so venerable a man. The theft was kept secret by the brethren until all who could have reclaimed the body were dead, and so Bede's bones remained until A.D. 1104, when St. Cuthbert's relics were removed, and those of Bede were placed alone in a linen bag in the same chest. Fifty years afterwards Hugh Pudsey, bishop of Durham, erected a shrine of gold and silver, adorned with jewels, in which he enclosed the relics of venerable Bede, with an inscription placed on it, which may be translated thus:
Within this chest Bede's mortal body lies.
In the reign of Henry VIII this beautiful shrine was demolished, and the saintly relics were treated with every indignity by the insane and ignorant mob. The only memorial now remaining in Durham cathedral of its having once been the resting-place of Bede's remains, is a lɔng
nacription to his memory concluding with the well known monkish rhyme :
'Hac sunt in fossa Eedæ venerabilis ossa.’
Here lie beneath these stones-venerable Bede's bones.
CHAP. III.-ANALYSIS OF BEDE'S ECCLESIASTICAL
THE Ecclesiastical History of venerable Bede was first published on the Continent: numerous editions of it have been printed, which it is here necessary to enumerate.
It was first published in England by Wheloc, fol. Cantab. 1643-4, with an Appendix containing the Anglo-Saxon translation by king Alfred the Great.
To this succeeded the edition of Smith, printed at Cambridge in 1722, which superseded all the preceding. The basis of this edition was a MS. formerly belonging to More, bishop of Ely, and now deposited in the public library at Cambridge. [Kk, 5, 16.] At the end of the MS., which is written in Anglo-Saxon letters, are several notes in a somewhat later handwriting, by which it would appear that the volume was copied in the year 737, i.e. two years after Bede's death, and probably from the author's original manu. script.
The last edition of this celebrated and valuable work is that of Stevenson, published by the English Historical Society, Lond. 8vo. 1838. The editor professes to have used the same MS. of bishop More, and to have occasionally collated four others [Cotton. Tib. C, II, Tib. A, XIV, Harl. 4978, and King's MS. 13 C, V.]. Prefixed to the volume is a copious and valuable notice of the author and his work, from which we take the liberty of making the following long extract, as containing the most judicious account of this our author's greatest work.
"The scope of this valuable and justly esteemed work is sufficiently indicated by its title. After some observations upon the position, inhabitants, and natural productions of Britain, the author gives a rapid sketch of its history from the earliest period until the arrival of Augustine in A.D. 597, at which era, in his opinion, the ecclesiastical history of our
nation had its commencement. After that event, he treats, as was to be expected, for a time exclusively of the circumstances which occurred in Kent; but, as Christianity extended itself over the other kingdoms into which England was then divided, he gradually includes their history in his narrative, until he reaches the year 731. Here he concludes his work, which embraces a space of one hundred and thirty-four years, with a general outline of the ecclesiastical state of the island.
"The Introduction, which extends from the commencement of the work to the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, is gleaned, as Bede himself informs us, from various writers. The chief sources for the description of Britain are Pliny, Solinus, Orosius, and Gildas; St. Basil is also cited; and the traditions which were current in Bede's own day are occasionally introduced. The history of the Romans in Britain is founded chiefly upon Orosius, Eutropius, and Gildas, corrected, however, in some places by the author, apparently from tradition or local information, and augmented by an account of the introduction of Christianity under Lucius, of the martyrdom of St. Alban, copied apparently from some legend, and of the origin of the Pelagian heresy,—all of them circumstances intimately connected with the ecclesiastical history of the island. The mention of Hengist and Horsa, and the allusion to the tomb of the latter at Horstead, render it probable that the account which Bede gives of the arrival of the Teutonic tribes, and their settlement in England, was communicated by Albinus and Nothelm. It is purely fabulous, being, in fact, not the history, but the tradition, of the Jutish kingdom of Kent, as appears from circumstances mentioned elsewhere in this work, as well as from the authorities there quoted. The two visits of Germanus to England, so important in the history of its religion, are introduced in the very words of Constantius Lugdunensis, and must therefore have been copied from that author. ante-Augustine portion of the history is terminated by extracts from Gildas, relative to the conflicts between the Saxons and Britons. As the mission of Augustine in A.D. 596 is the period at which Bede ceases to speak of himself as a compiler and assumes the character of an historian, it becomes incumbent upon us to examine into the sources upon
which he has founded this, by far the most interesting portion of his history. The materials which he employed seem to have consisted of (1.) written documents, and (II.) verbal information. (1.) The written materials may be divided into (1.) Historical information drawn up and communicated by his correspondents for the express purpose of being employed in his work; (2.) documents pre-existing in a narrative form, and (3.) transcripts of official documents.
"(1.) That Bede's correspondents drew up and communicated to him information which he used when writing this history, is certain from what he states in its prologue; and it is highly probable that to them we are indebted for many particulars connected with the history of kingdoms situated to the south of the river Humber, with which a monk of Jarrow, from his local position, was probably unacquainted. Traces of the assistance which he derived from Canterbury are perceptible in the minute acquaintance which he exhibits not only with the topography of Kent, but with its condition at the time when he wrote; and the same remark is applicable, although in a more limited degree, to most of the southern kingdoms.
"(2.) Documents pre-existing in an historical form are seldom quoted: amongst those of which use has been made may be numbered the Life of Gregory the Great, written by Paulus Diaconus; the miracles of Ethelberga, abbess of Barking; the Life of Sebbi, king of the East Saxons; the Legend of Fursey; and that of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, formerly written by Bede, but now augmented by himself, with additional facts. These, together with some extracts from the Treatise of Arculf de Locis Sanctis, are all the written documents to which the author refers.
"That other narratives, however, were in Bede's possession, of which he has made liberal use, is certain from his express words, and may also be inferred from internal evidence. Albinus and Nothelm appear to have furnished him with chronicles, in which he found accurate and full information upon the pedigrees, accessions, marriages, exploits, descendants, deaths, and burials of the kings of Kent. From the same source he derived his valuable account of the archbishops of Canterbury, both before and after ordination, the place and date of consecration, even though it took place abroad the
days on which they severally took possession of that see, the duration of their episcopate, their deaths, burial-places, and the intervals which elapsed before the election of a successor. It is evident that the minuteness and accuracy of this information could have been preserved only by means of contemporary written memoranda. That such records existed in the time of the Saxons cannot be doubted, for Bede introduces a story by which it appears that the abbey of Selsey possessed a volume in which were entered the obits of eminent individuals; and the same custom probably prevailed throughout the other monastic establishments of England.
"The history of the diocese of Rochester was communicated by Albinus and Nothelm. It is exceedingly barren of particulars, and probably would have been even more so, had it not been connected with the life of Paulinus of York, concerning whom Bede appears to have obtained information from other quarters.
"The early annals of East Anglia are equally scanty, as we have little more than a short pedigree of its kings, an account of its conversion to Christianity, the history of Sigebert and Anna, and a few particulars regarding its bishops, Felix, Thomas, Bertgils, and Bisi, which details were communicated in part by Albinus and Nothelm.
"The history of the West Saxons was derived partly from the same authorities, and partly from the information of Daniel, bishop of Winchester. It relates to their conversion by Birinus, the reigns of Cadwalla and of Ina, and the pontificate of Wini, Aldhelm, and Daniel. To this last named bishop we are indebted for a portion of the little of what is known as to the early history of the South Saxons and the Isle of Wight, the last of the Saxon kingdoms which embraced the Christian faith. It relates to the conversion of those districts by the agency of Wilfrid. A few unimportant additions are afterwards made in a hurried and incidental manner, evidently showing that Bede's information upon this head was neither copious nor definite.
"The monks of Lastingham furnished materials relative to the ministry of Cedd and Chad, by whose preaching the Mercians were induced to renounce paganism. The history of this kingdom is obscure, and consists of an account of its