ePub 版

appellation of the English Florus ; and he is observed to pay a more than ordinary attention to dates and authorities.

William of Malmsbury, in his book de Gritis Regum Anglorum, and in his Hiftoriæ Nouvellæ, has collected all that he found upon record, from the introduction of the Saxons, to the year 1144. The highest com!n-ndations have been bestowed upon him; and it must be confeffed, that his writings are peculiarly valuable, since to him we are indebied for the knowledge of many transactions previous to the Conquest, with which we should not otherwise have been acquainted.

The Norman scholars, who were introduced by William the First into England, were not wholly inattentive to polite learning. Godfrey, prior of St. Swithin's, at Winchester, wrote Larin epigrans with a considerable degree of elegance and smartness. Geoffrey, who had been invited from France to superintend the school of the abbey of Dunstable, composed a play, called the play of St. Catherine, which was acted by his scholars, and is thought to have been the firft instance of theatrical representation in this country. John, commonly called Joannes Grammaticus, who was employed in educating the sons of the principal nobility, wrote an explanation of Ovid's Metamorphosis, and a Treatise on the Art of Verafication, Laurence, prior of the church of Durham, was the author of nine books of Latin clegies, and of a work concerning the method of waiting epiftles, which was then a favourite subject. He employed himself, likewise, ia composing declamations and orations in the nanner of the ancients; with more spirit, indeed, than elegance; but yet the design was laudable. Robere of Dunstable shone as an elegiac poet, and displayed great altention to the harmony of his Latin verGfication. It must noc be forgotten, that Herman, a Norman, bithop of Sa. lisbury, promoted the cause of literature, by tounding a noble library in the ancient cahedral of that fee.

In the course of our work we have had occasion to be. hold, how much the doctrines and pretensions of the Ro. man fee were built upon the ruins of rational piety, good fenle, and seal learning: In the period we are now treata 3

ing ing of, the popes advanced to the highest pitch of inso, Jence; such an insolence, as could only be assumed when the human understanding was reduced extremely low, and true knowledge almost totally banished from the earth. Not content with having erected an empire over the mind, and subjected it to the most wretched liavery, the pontiffs, taking advantage of the superstition they had cultivated, and of other favourable circumstances, claimed a mighty temporal power, and even asserted, that to themselves belonged the dispofal of kingdoms. So weak were the princes of the time, that several of them acknowledged this absurd principle, when it seemed to agree with their present interest by which means they forged chains for their own necks, and encouraged an authority that, in the end, they severely felt and regretted ; as was the case with regard to Henry the Second.

By one of those revolutions, not very uncommon in places where the highest preferments are open to persons of ihe meanest birth, if poffcffed of abilities, merit, and an opportunity of displaying their talents, Adrian the Fourth, an Englishnan, had ascended the papal throne. According to the best accounts of him, his parentage and education were of the lowest kind, and he had been rejected with contempe by the abbot, when he solicited an adoyillion into the monastery of St. Albans. Not discouraged, by this disappointment, from endeavouring to make his way into the church, he betook himlelf to the University of Paris, and having received instruction there, became as learned as most of his contemporaries. Entering into the order of the Austin friars, he fucceflively mounted from one step of promotion to another, till, at length, he was elected sovereign pontiff, When he had arrived to this dignity, he assumed as much power as any of his predecessors, and gave out the famous bull, by which liberty was granted to Henry the Second to undertake the conquest of Ireland. One principal reason assigned for this extraordinary commission, was the propagan tion of Christianity; as if the Gospel had never hitherto been known or embraced by the Irish: whereas, in fact, they had received it in the most early ages, and had been distin



guished for their religion and literature, when other nations were over-run with ignorance and barbarity. Even at the time we are speaking of, though learning had declined among them, they retained something of the purity and liberty of the evangelical institution. They had a succession of married bishops; they admitted no palls from Rome; and they did not fubinit to the authority of the popes. This was their crime; hence they were treated as infidels; and hence proceeded the pretended zeal of Adrian for the cause of knowledge, piety, and virtue.

Henry the Second, to gratify his ambition, had given fanction to the bod claims of the Roman fee; and therefore he is the less to be pitied in suffering afterwards so much from the infolence of the clergy. Sensible that their power had arisen to an enormous height, he would gladly have restrained it; but in vain did he attempt to effect it by the Constitutions of Clarendon. The prelates of the nation, supported by the pontiffs, vigorously opposed the designs of their monarch; and Becket, in particular, excited troubles that embittered the reign of his prince and his benefactor. The arrogance of Becker was astonishing, and his conduct shews him to have been no better than a daring rebel; and yet, such was the superstition of the age, such the abject bondage in which the minds of men were held, that Henry was oluliged to seek a reconciliation with him in the humbleft manner, and to procure it by the most mortifying concurfions, Nay, after the death of this proud prielt, the king was forced to acknowledge him for a saint, to visit his tomb, and submit to be scourged by the monks. When we fee one of the most powerful, spirited, and accomplished fovereigns of his time, yielding to so much ignominy, we need not ask what was the character of the period in which he lived : we need not ask whether it was an æra of the groffett ignorance and weakness. The application of a few men in retirement to the study of literature, and who were themselves bigoted adherents of the popes of Rome, will not redeem the

age from this disgraceful character. John, the fon of Heory the Second, exhibited a still more surprising scene. We behold him folemnly furrendera 4


ing his crown into the hands of the legate, professing that he held it from the favour of the Roman see, and receiving it back again, as the gift of the pope. It is true, he was driven to this infamous action by the unfortunate ficuation of his affairs; it is true, that the nobles were offended, and the people murmured; but what must be the general state of the human mind, when such an event could, upon any terms, take place!

We might mention various other proofs of papal insoJence to our princes : but, quitting the disagreeable subject, we may observe, that the clergy themselves often feverely felt the force of the authority they had contributed to raise. A custom now began, in the Twelfth Lateran council, of proposing canons for confirmation, without allowing themi to be debated; and in England a piece of tyranny was ven. tured upon that fills us with astonishment, even when we recollect the time in which it was performed. Pope Alexander the Fourth required the bishops, abbots, and priors, to lign false notes, fpecifying that they had received certain Jarge sums of money for the use of their churches, and promiling repayment at a stated day. The perlons concerned strongly remonstrated against the imposition; but means were, in the end, found to make them submic.

While so much darkness prevailed in the nation, a few Germans, who had made their way into the kingdom, following the natural light of their own minds, and the plain directions of Scripture, entertained juster notions of religion than princes and prelates. It is probable that they were disciples of the Vaudois, and that they had fied hither from the persecutions of their own cuuntry: but alas! they only mer what they sought to avoid. They were condemned by a council held at Oxford, branded with hot iron, and no one was permitted to afford them the least relief. In conlequence of this they miserably perithed, and exhibited the first instance in which our country disgraced itself, by putting men to death for their religious principles.

Another circumstance that marks the general character of the age, was the madness of the crusades. The land of Canaan had been long in possession of the Saracens, who


had the same right to it that societies generally have to their territories. But it was now proclaimed, through every place, that nothing could be a greater act of piety than to rescue Palestine from the hands of the infidels. Accordingly, the people of Europe were seized with the most ardent defire of recovering the Holy City. Kings, princes, nobles, genclemen, priests, women, and persons of all ranks, deserted their habitations, impoverished their families, carried debauchery, wickedness, and desolation along with them; and, in their turn, endured the most dreadful hardfips.

Ic is remarkable that the first enterprise of these devout warriors was the taking of Constantinople, the metropolis of the Christian world. That Europe should tous loosen from her foundarions, and move toward the East, is, perhaps, the highest effort of superstition. England was as much infected by the prevailing folly as any other country. Several of our monarchs, who could not themselves go to the conquest of Judea, encouraged it, by contributing large fums of money towards its accomplishment. Richard Caur de Lion left his kingdom to perform prodigies of valour against the famous Saladin : but his ill judged heroism only brought a multitude of calamities upon himself and his subjects. Edward the First, likewise, when prince of Wales, engaged in an expedition of the same kind. In short, the crulades against the Saracens were esteemed the most pious of all undertakings; and to make a part of them was confidered as an atonement for every sin. But though thele adventures were highly absurd in their origin and principle, and very hurtful in many of their effects, they became eventually the cause of a considerable change in the state of Europe. They had some influence in breaking the power of the great nobles ; and by the new scenes they presented, and the new manners they exhibited, tended, in no small degiet, to enlarge the understandings of an unpolished race of men, and to prepare their minds for a greater improvement in literature, and a superior cultivation of the arts of life.

How generally ignorant the laity, even of the highest sank, were, at the period we are treating of, appears from

« 上一頁繼續 »