Puslapio vaizdai

This was not the end. Somerton's cause was taken up by Edward's disaffected barons and by Edward's Queen Isabella. The "shewolf of France" gave the abbot to understand that he must reconsider his ways or it would be the worse for him. Somerton was released and was even replaced in his priory. In a little while he disappeared a second time. Whether, as the chronicler suggests, he had promised rewards to his friends the barons which he could not pay,

or whether he had fallen back into magic, no one knew,-any way he absconded; roved about the world; and many years after, when Abbot Hugh had gone to his rest, reappeared as a suppliant at the Abbey gate to be taken in and to die there. Strange history of a noticeable man! Had William of Somerton written his autobiography it would tell us more than we know or are ever likely to know of the England of the second Edward.


Nor was it with his ecclesiastics only that avaricious ways brought Abbot Hugh into trouble. Since the judgment at Westminster, the relations with the St. Alban's burgesses had gone from bad to worse. abbots, presuming on their success, had proceeded to inclose large tracts of wood and pasture land, over which the people had hitherto held common rights. Meadows had been fenced off where they had fed their cattle for centuries. The forests were made into game preserves. Ponds and streams where the farm and village lads had caught perch and pike were now watched over by the abbot's keepers. So long as the times were quiet they controlled their wrath; but Edward the Second's follies bore at last their natural fruit. He was deposed and murdered in a revolution. The country was in a ferment, and now was the day of vengeance for the inhabitants of St. Alban's. The abbot's patron had fallen, and there was a chance that wrong might be made right.

Queen Isabella had borne the A. D. 1327. chief part in her husband's over throw. Passing through St. Alban's, she rested a night in the abbey. The mob of the town flocked about her carriage as she was driving away, clamoring for justice. They had other wrongs to complain of besides the loss of the common lands. The chronicler must tell the story in his own Latin:

Subornaverunt uxores suas et quasdam villa pellices ut occurrant, nudatis pectoribus cum lactentibus pusiolis, reginæ Isabellæ egredienti de monasterio, ad infestandum eam clamoribus importunis, et mentiendum quod

hi essent pueri quos monachi de eis generaverunt eas violenter opprimentes.


The Queen, who did not understand Eng lish, inquired what the women wanted. lord who rode at her side said, laughing, They are only telling you, my lady, that they are all harlots and adulteresses.

Isabella waved her hand impatiently and passed on. The citizens meanwhile, taking revolution to mean justice, proceeded to draw a list of their grievances. As before, they insisted on their right to grind their own corn. They would not wait till it was conceded, but procured dozens of querns and set them to work. They demanded their common rights on meadow, wood and pond. They claimed their privilege as freemen of returning members to Parliament; and whereas hitherto their disputes had been heard and decided in the first instance in the abbot's courts, they desired that for the future their causes should be tried by a common jury before a secular judge.

A deputation carried these petitions to the abbot. The abbot answering enigmatically, the people snatched their bows and clubs, streamed out of their houses like a swarm of wasps, and swearing their demands should be granted or they would burn the abbey, gathered in a crowd about the gates. The abbot, who had foreseen the probability of a tumult, had two hundred men-at-arms with him. The people rushed on with loud shouts, calling the monks ribaldos fures-ribald thieves. They were received more sharply than they expected, drew back with loss, and determined to blockade the entrances and starve the abbot out.

The confusion in London had by this time settled itself. Edward the Third was established on the throne, and the laws resumed their authority. The Sheriff of Hertfordshire was directed to keep order in St. Alban's. Both the citizens and the monks sent counsel to represent their case at the king's court. A commission sat at St. Paul's to consider the people's complaints, and, courting popularity for the new reign, decided this time in the people's favor. An order was forthwith dispatched to the abbot directing him to embody in a charter the liberties which the townsmen asked, and let them have it without further trouble. He called a chapter on the arrival of the king's letter. The monks, who would scarce believe their ears, declared that they would rather die than yield. But the abbot bent to the storm and made a virtue of necessity. It was his enemies' day, and resistance would only exasperate them

uselessly. He enjoined the monks to patience -virtute sanctæ obedientiæ. The charter was drawn, and amidst groans of disappointed rage the convent seal was attached to it.

Most of the requisitions were thus conceded the handmills especially, and the pasture rights. The game preserves had still been withheld, but the people were not to be put off. The cry rose: "Give us back our Asheries! Give us back Barnet wood! We must have Barnet wood!" "The Abbot hearing these words, and perpending that the world was at enmity with God's Church and His ministers," thought it best to bend altogether. At once, mad with delight, the boys dashed off with their nets and lines to the ponds. The men rushed to the woods, tore down the fences, and marched back to the town in procession, carrying branches of the trees as a symbol of their victory.

With the help

tained his mechanical tastes. of his mathematics he constructed, amidst the scoffs of the convent, an astronomical clock which was the wonder of the age. Besides the ordinary functions of time-keep ing, it described the motions of sun, moon, and planets; the fixed stars; with the rise and fall of the tides. He called it, punningly, Albion-All by one-quasi totum per unum ;-at once the glory of England and an instrumental embodiment of existing scientific astronomy. He was a student of the weather too, and foretold rain and sunshine But while he appeared to be amusing himself thus harmlessly, he was biding his time to avenge the dishonor which the town had inflicted on the abbey. Among his other accomplishments he was a lawyer. In Edward the Third there was again a vigorous sovereign on the throne; revolutionary ferment had cooled down, and the barons were reasserting their feudal authority and bringtheir vassals back into obedience. Between order and liberty the struggle is as old as the world, and is likely to be coeval with it. In ages when belief in duty is superior to the temptations of interest, large powers fall naturally to men of high ability and lofty character. Society is only healthy when the laws are obeyed under which harmonious action is possible. They can only be discerned by intellect; they can only be enforced by authority; and intellect and authority are allowed to govern in the interests of all.

The convent looked on with despair and indignation. For five years "these enemies of God and man" killed the hares and rab-ing bits without respect or fear. For five years they ground their corn in their own querns, and paid no more tolls at the abbey mills. It killed Abbot Hugh. He died in the same year, bewildered and heart-broken with the change of times; all his splendor vanished and his sun gone down in storm.

His pro

fusion left a heavy load of debt behind it, and the brethren, humbled and mortified, were brought into a transient mood of penitence. They elected in Abbot Hugh's place a plain unpretending blacksmith's son from Wallingford, chiefly noted as a mathematician, and they addressed themselves to moral reform. There was a general inquiry into incontinence,-de lapsu carnis. Some made their purgation-quomodo Deus novit. -God knows how. Others confessed and did penance.

They could bear neither their vices nor their remedies. They professed a desire for correction. When correction came they mutinied. "Abbot Richard was overrigid with us," says the chronicler. "Partly he was himself to blame, partly his predecessor, who had let us all do as we pleased." The new abbot took their grumbling coolly. "He had not coveted his place," he said; "there was little pleasure in ruling a set of mules; but since abbot he was, he meant to be obeyed, and at least would preserve decency." They were obliged to bear with him, and he in turn rendered them a service, after a few years, which made them forget their griev


The abbot, who had begun life, perhaps, at his father's forge at Wallingford, had reVOL. VII.-13.

Power brings temptation. Rulers are betrayed by selfishness. Their high functions are abused to fill the pockets of themselves and their friends. Authority becomes legalized oppression, and the multitude clamors for the restoration of their liberties, which are taken from them without adequate return. Thus come revolutions and a war of classes. The rulers fall back upon the theory. Subjects think naturally of the prac tical wrongs which the theory, grown degenerate, inflicts upon them. And so the strife goes on till organization dissolves into anarchy; the commonwealth becomes a chaos of divided units, each contending for itself: till again, the confusion becoming intolerable, a new order shapes itself to grow and gather power; and again, as the wheel goes round, it is abused and forfeited. Of such material is human history composed.

Abbot Richard sat watching the political currents in the intervals of his mathematics. The abbots' courts had still jurisdiction over faith and morals. Corrupt as were the ecclesiastics in their own persons, they retained the

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right of punishing offenses which are technically described as sins. The people, after their late success, believed that the abbots' authority had become a scarecrow which they might defy with impunity, and according to the abbey records they broke faith and perjured themselves, and seduced each other's wives and daughters as if there was no longer any law over them at all. The abbot waited for a flagrant scandal, and then resolved, se demonstrare cornutum, "to show that he had horns." A citizen of St. Alban's, one John Taverner, was living openly with another man's wife. He was a person with whom it was dangerous to meddle, propter malitiam ipsius Johannis. The abbey marshal ventured at last to serve a writ upon him. The mob rose; Taverner assaulted the marshal; the marshal defended himself, struck Taverner down, killed him, or, as the chronicler mildly puts it, so wounded him ut de percussione idem Johannes postea moriebatur. The citizens flew to their weapons-swords, lances, pitchforks, sticks, stones, anything that came to hand. Their leaders calmed their fury before they resorted to open violence, and not knowing that times were changed, they indicted the abbot for the death of their townsman. The wise abbot desired nothing better. He was acquitted, and at once retaliated. The riots

at the revolution were brought up again for re-examination. The citizens were accused of having extorted their charter of liberties by force. The judgment of the commission was reversed. The burghers were found guilty, and lost all that they had won. The charter was surrendered. The woods and meadows were reinclosed. The fishponds and warrens were again patroled by keepers. Even the querns, the sorest matter of all, were once more taken from the people. The millstones were carried in triumph within the precincts and were let into the pavement of the abbey "parlor," in perpetuam rei memoriam. The cunning clockmaker had re-established the old tyranny, and in pleasant irony, and to end the quarrel in good-humor, he invited his defeated subjects to dine with him in the hall. After

such triumph it is needless to say that Abbot Richard's popularity in the convent was unbounded. He became leprous. An enemy, one Richard of Ildesley, intrigued at Rome to have him incapacitated on account of his disorder. The Ildesley intruder gained over the Pope and obtained letters of provisor, nominating him in the abbot's place. The monks sent word to Richard of Ildesley that if he ventured near St. Alban's with bull or

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provisor they would kill him. And indeed, says the chronicler, it is likely they would have kept their word. "Erant namque eo tempore in monasterio viri magnæ staturæ et fortitudinis sed parvum habentes in hâc parte conscientiæ." "There were at that time in the monastery men of huge stature and fierce, who had but little conscience in such matters."

"Men of huge stature and fierce, with but little conscience" to take life. Let us pause for a moment and look at these gentlemen with other eyes, as they and their like appeared to the English laity. Abbot Richard's reforms had been but skin deep, if they had gone so far; and not at St. Alban's only, but throughout England, bythe middle of the fourteenth century, the religious orders had grown into little better than lecherous ruffians.

The worst of them were the Friars Mendicants, who in conception ought to have been the best. Instituted to supply the shortcomings of the secular clergy, they were bound by their vows to special poverty, and to the special duties of apostles. Their business was to travel from town to town, from village to village, preaching, teaching and hearing confessions. They were chosen or supposed to be chosen for extraordinary sanctity; and the monks of the regular houses were allowed by special license from Rome to transfer themselves into the mendicant order, as if to consecrate themselves to a higher grade of self-devotion. Enthusiasm, as usual, cooled down, after a few years' experience. The transfer continued to be sought by "brethren" who were weary of restraint—no longer, however, from motives of piety, but as an act of favor which they could purchase by money. Freed from obligations of residence, these friars wandered through England at their pleasure; in theory beautiful beingsitinerant angels of mercy; in reality-but let us view them as they are described by a contemporary poet, going about with pedlers' packs upon their mules, watching till the good man of the house had turned his back and only the women were at home.*

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Many a page might be filled with similar indignant denunciations against these socalled ministers of God, as they existed in the days of the third Edward. Within the abbeys and without, the story was the same, for the monks went and came at their pleasure, while the rules hung idle upon the wall as relics of a barbarous age.

Out of this mass of corruption and tyranny came Wickliffe and the famous Lollards. Out of this came the great rising of the Commons under Richard the Second, half religious and half secular, which was crushed at last by sword and gallows, but not till it had shaken the English throne, and frightened the Church into a galvanic revival, which prolonged its sickly days for another century and a half. Part religious, part secular,--for amidst the outward splendor of the reign of Edward the Third there had flowed over England one of those periodic tides of ungodliness which

have recurred again and again, and have been the invariable precursors of convulsion. Prelates and nobles had abandoned themselves to luxury; men of intellect, in natural cynicism, had come to look on religion as an imposture, and on God and another world as a dream of knaves and fools.* Wages were ground down, and the taxes and exactions multiplied; trade became dishonest; false wares were passed off for good, and were forced on the workman in payment of hire. The world was the rich man's world, and the poor were bade scornfully look for better days in heaven, which might be or might not.

The poor had the labour, the ryche the winning, This according noughte it was heavy parting.

Little can be said in this place of the spiritual side of Wickliffe's teaching. The movement began in indignation at lies and injustice; and the revival of earnestness was accompanied with a furious spirit of political revolt. Inquiries, ominous, and at such times inevitable, began to be made into the principles on which the good things of the world were distributed. Discussion rose as to the elemental rights of man, and as the result of them there was an explosion of communism. Labor only, it was said, gave a right to live, and those who were doing no intelligible work were denounced as thieves and drones.

It is to this, which is known in history as Wat Tyler's Rebellion, that we are now coming. The feuds between the abbots of St. Alban's and the neighboring people were typical of similar quarrels in every part of England. The same causes produced the same effects. But St. Alban's fell in for an exceptional share of the danger; and the account of what took place there is especially interesting and instructive.

The English peasantry and the smaller tenants were as yet, it is to be remembered, only partially emancipated. Serfdom and villanage were still parts of the Constitution. "There was an usage in England," says Froissart, speaking of this particular time, "that the noblemen had great franchise over the commons, and kept them in servage: that is so say, their tenants ought by custom

*F. Walsingham, speculating on the causes of the rebellion of 1381, says some attributed it to the sins of the nobles: "quidam illorum credebant (ut asseritur) nullum Deum esse, nihil esse sacramentum altaris, nullam post mortem resurrectionem, sed ut jumentum moritur ita hominem finire." Historia Anglicana, vol. ii., p. 12.

to labor the lords' lands, to gather and bring home their corn, and some to thresh and fan; and by servage to make their hay and hew their wood, and bring it home. All these things they ought to do by servage; and there are more of these people in England than in any other realm, and the noblemen and prelates were served by them. These unhappy people began to stir because they said they were kept in servage, and in the beginning of the world they said there were no bondsmen. They were men formed to the similitude of their lords; why should they be kept so under like beasts? the which they said they would no longer suffer; for they would be all one; and if they labored or did anything for their lords, they would have wages therefore as well as others."

"When the people complain," said a wise man, "the people are always right." The long-suffering of the poor under the inequalities of fortune is a phenomenon which, as long as it lasts, shows that the spring of all the virtues which have at any time done honor to humanity is still flowing among us. Cold, hunger, nakedness,-they bear them all with preternatural patience. Even injustice they endure till it becomes insolent. So long as masters condescend to be courteous, the drudges of society accept their inferiority. and honor and respect those whom Providence seems to have set over them. Only when the human relations are at an end. when they find themselves treated as if they were made of other clay, as if they were machines to extract wealth from the soil, and were rewarded sufficiently in being permitted to exist, only then they begin to ask the meaning of the word gentleman, and for what purpose the lord and lady are robed in silks, and housed in palaces, while the peasant does the work, shivers in soiled fustian, and is worse lodged than his employer's cattle.

The abbot whose fate it was to encounter the skirts of the storm as it swept over Hertfordshire was Thomas de la Mare, son of a distinguished soldier, Sir John de la Mare, who had fought in the French wars. Thomas, who was a younger child and a boy of great personal beauty, was entered at St. Alban's at his own desire under Abbot Hugh. Rising rapidly through the inferior offices, he was sent, while still young, into Northumberland to govern the dependent Priory of Tynemouth, and while there became intimate with the great family of the Percies. In 1369 he was promoted to the rule of the abbey. He had the usual experiences at Rome. The Popes, whether infallible or not, have been at

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