Puslapio vaizdai
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PREFACE.

MR. TURNER's learned and elaborate work has done much to make the Anglo-Saxon times better known than they were formerly, and we have ceased to regard them as antecedent to the dawn of civilization amongst us, or as destitute of the spiritual and chivalric features by which in reality some of the subsequent centuries (though not those immediately subsequent) were less distinguished than they. Of the dark ages, in this country, the tenth century was hardly so dark as the fifteenth ; and if the aspects of each could be distinctly traced, the civil wars of the AngloSaxons would probably excite a deeper interest than struggles such as those of the Houses of York and Lancaster, in which there was no religious, and hardly any political principle at stake. Indeed, though the three centuries which preceded the Conquest were on the whole less enlightened than the three which followed it, yet the Anglo-Saxon times furnish examples of both the Hero and the Scholar, which the Norman can hardly match ; and perhaps the real distinction between the periods is, that amongst the AngloSaxons, learning and ignorance, and rudeness and refinement, co-existed in stronger contrast.

But even when Anglo-Saxon history was less read, and otherwise understood, than it is now, some interest was always felt in the reign of Edwin the Fair.' There was left to us little more than the outline of a tragic story ; in some parts, indeed, even less—for here and there the outline itself is broken and wavering ; but the little that was known was romantic enough to have impressed itself upon the popular mind, and the tale of 'Edwy and Elgiva' had been current in the nursery long before it came to be studied as an historical question.

Edwin's contemporaneous annalists, being Monks, were his natural enemies; and their enmity is sufficiently apparent in their writings. But notwithstanding all their efforts, and all the influence which the monastic orders undoubtedly possessed over the English populace of the tenth century, there is reason to think that the interest taken in Edwin's story may have dated from his own times. His name having been supplanted by its diminutive · Edwy,' seems to indicate a sentiment of tenderness and pity as popularly connected with him from the first; and his surname of The All-Fair' (given him, says the Monk Ingulphus, “pro nimiâ pulchritudine"), may

be construed as a farther indication that the success of the monastic faction in decrying him

with the people, was not so complete as the merely political events of his reign might lead us to suppose.

Whilst the details of his story are left, with one or two exceptions, to our imagination, the main course of the struggle in which he was engaged, represents in strong and vivid colours the spirit of the times. It was a spirit which exercises human nature in its highest faculties and deepest feelings—the spirit of religious enthusiasm ; a spirit which never fails to produce great men, and to give an impulse to the mind of a nation; but one which commonly passes into a spirit of ecclesiastic discord, and which cannot then be cast out without tearing the body. In the tenth century it vented itself in a war of religious opinion.

The monastic orders--in this country at leastwere then in the ascetic and fanatical stage of their existence; and the wisdom of this world at Rome, profiting by the enthusiasm of these distant regions,—-in which the Pope had more honour than in his own country,—was engaged in the endeavour to fasten the obligation of celibacy upon the Secular Clergy, thereby reducing the whole Church into a more compact and orderly subservience to its Head. The Regulars afforded their zealous co-operation; for they naturally grudged to their secular brethren the liberty which they had denied to themselves : and for their own rule of life they had adopted, in its fullest rigour, the maxim of St. Augustine“Malum est mulierem videre, pejus alloqui, pessimum tangere.” This question of clerical celibacy, therefore, became one of the great sources of divisions in the Church.

The growing influence and uncompromising spirit of the monastic orders had been regarded by successive Kings, sometimes with favour, and sometimes with jealousy and fear; and according

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