« PredošláPokračovať »
itself from which we print (v. p. 16); and Mr. Robert Harrison, a very learned person, who died in Durham in the commencement of the present century, * has explain. ed novellis temporibus by scilicet post Bedam, within the cover of the book, with the contents of which he seems to have been well acquainted.
That the legends of Reginald were received with full assurance of faith is indubitable, a fact humiliating enough to human reason. Of Reginald's veracity we have no means of judging ; but that the venerable Abbot of Rievaulx, whose life was a model of all the virtues, would relate that which, however absurd and even puerile, he did not believe to be true, will be admitted by no one acquainted with his character and writings.t This excessive credulity was the universal failing of the
When every part of nature was peopled with visionary beings; when the domestic fiend nightly frequented the hearth; when the elfin tribe scattered
* See Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, Vol. VIII. p. 328, for an account of Mr. Harrison.
+ For the life of St. Etheldred, see BOLLANDUS. ACTA SANCTORUM, Die JANUARII XII. For his historical writings, see TWYSDEN, Decem SCRIPTORES; and for his religious, the thirteenth volume of the BIBLIOTHECA PATRUM.
His character as a writer is very fully entered into by Ceillier, Histoire des AUTEURS ECCLESIASTIQUES, tom. XXII., p. 135, &c.; and a very interesting account of both his life and writings is contained in Mr. Dunham's History of Europe during the Middle Ages, in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia, Vol. IV., p. 247— 255. We may add, upon the authority of Reginald, (p. 32 and 60) that Etheldred was of Durham extraction, and that he was the grandson of Elfred, the son of Westoue, who was Sacrist of Durham during the Episcopate of Bishop Edınund (1020—1041), and the bringer to Durham of the bones of the venerable Bede and other Saints.
over the wild heath, or in the woodland glade, danced in the pale moonbeam ; when the water-nymph sang to the clashing of the torrent, and the mountain spirit screamed from his craggy eminence; when the souls of the deceased revisited the scenes of their earthly experience, what wonder that the same superstitious feeling should give rise to so many miracles of the saints ? Men whose lives had been distinguished for exalted virtue were justly held to be the favourites of heaven : that this favour should be signalized in a supernatural manner, was, under the general creed of the age, to be expected. Where information is not generally diffused, superstition must prevail. A century ago, and a vast mass of it existed among the lower classes of our countrymen : two centuries ago, and it reached the middle, nor was it unknown to the higher ranks. At the present day it pervades, not only several Continental regions from which the Roman catholic religion has been long exiled, but the mountains of Wales and Scotland. It is some gratification, however, to find that even in the darkest period miracles were believed to be wrought, not by the virtue of the Saints, but by the power of God. Even Reginald, one of the most credulous of hagiologic writers, says, “ Omnia quidem ipsorum (Sanctorum) opera digna præconio sunt, quia singula ipsorum in Dei potentiâ et ipsius nominis gloriâ facta sunt." This general declaration may be a sufficient reply to questions which might arise from parts of his book where the sole merit seems to be attributed to his favourite Saint.
A more important consideration regards the reasons which have determined the Council of the SURTEES
Society to commence their series of publications with REGINALD.
If the chief object of that Society be to illustrate “the intellectual, the moral, the religious, and social condition” of the northern counties of England, that object will assuredly not suffer by the publication of the present volume. Within itself it exhibits something of all these characteristics:-1. Of the first we need scarcely remark that it was on a low scale : yet that the writer had a considerable knowledge of the Scriptures—a degree of which even a modern divine would not be ashamed, is evident from his constant allusions to them. This fact alone, to say nothing of innumerable others which might be adduced, disproves what has been asserted, that even to the clergy of the middle ages the Bible was a sealed book. The truth is, that they perused it too exclusively, since they were far from comprehending its more abstruse subjects, and were perpetually mistaking its meaning. In general they had little acquaintance with the early fathers of the church, the only sure guides in the interpretation of Seripture. The style of Reginald is not worse than that of his contemporaries, who had little knowledge of the classic models of antiquity, and whose taste had been formed on the jargon of the Schoolmen. Occasionally, however, he becomes highly animated, and manifests great descriptive and pictorial powers; and it may be added, that in many passages the Philologist will meet with something to interest him, in regard both to words in other languages than the Latin, and their acceptation. 2. Respecting the moral condition of the Northumbrians, we have some materials for reflection. They were evidently a people scarcely reclaimed from Paganism : traces of their northern descent, and of their intercourse with the Pagans of the north, are visible. Hence the darker crimes were not uncommon. Piracy was not confined to the Pagan Scandinavians : it was equally exercised by the half-christianized inhabitants of these counties. Open robbery and secret theft were no less frequent. Sacrilege occurs as often. Murder, rape, and incendiarism were not unknown. There seems to have been little security for person or property. But let us remember that the passions of human nature are always the same ; and that if the laws, or their administration, be defective, the same evils will arise in every country, and at every period. 3. The religious aspect of the country is not more flattering. Reginald, at least, although not without a knowledge of the essentials of true religion, in general pays more attention to the relics of Saints, and to the efficacy both of Saints and relics, than to the inward dispositions of the heart. In this respect he appears to great disadvantage when compared with the contemporary Abbot of Rievaulx, who, though his equal in credulity, exhibits abundant proof that with him religion was a vital principle, enlightening the mind and
; sanctifying the heart. 4. Respecting the social condition of the people, some interesting, however incidental, hints
may be gathered. Much light is thrown, in more places than one, upon the character of King Stephen, and the hardships which the mildness of his sway occasioned to the more defenceless of his subjects. During his reign the nobility seem to have robbed and imprisoned at will. Public events during the reign of Henry II. are.
also noticed. On the nature of villenage, of tenure in general, of feudal exactions and obligations; on the state of society, of opinions, habits, sentiments, and feelings, the thoughtful reader will collect some information. We may add, that the legends of our Monk will amuse those who have no relish for antiquarian or philosophical researches.
To these public grounds for selecting REGINALD as the first antient author whose works they bring to light, the SURTEES Society must be permitted to add a consideration which has had its degree of influence in their determination, that to the lamented gentleman whose name they bear, and to whose memory it is one of their objects to do honour, the collections of Reginald were well known; and that it was his fixed determination to give them to the world himself after the completion of his HISTORY OF DURHAM. “ We will print him soon,' said he, awhile before his death, holding in his hands the very manuscript which we have been permitted to use.
The abstract of the matters of fact, &c. contained in each chapter of Reginald, which it has been deemed expedient to append, may, perhaps, in some instances, appear to contain notices of trifling importance: but et it be remembered that the period, extending from the Conquest to the reign of Edward I., within which Reginald, our author, flourished, is one of the darkest of our national history; and if Reginald throws one single ray of light upon the men, or manners, or arts of his
, time, however humble the information he affords may be, he fills up a very important gap in our knowledge of the history of our ancestors and their operations, during the