« 上一頁繼續 »
The Old Museum was not a remunerative enterprise-museums never are-and one day an auctioneer scattered the rare and valuable things all over town -some of the more antique and delicate specimens (like birds) to the winds. The elephant, we remember, was run up to a high figure, in a jocular way, and knocked down, seriously, to a young gentleman of limited means and exuberant animal spirits. As the elephant, notwithstanding its enormous size, had been the germ of the museum, the rest of that excellent institution had gradually grown up around it, and the huge quadruped had come to be shut off from the outer world by an exceedingly complicated series of improvements; and the rash bidder nearly ruined himself in paying the host of men required to cut away partitions, lower his prize from the fifth story of the Exchange, and transport it to his residence-for years and years had passed away since the imposing brute, glorious in scarlet and silver, had led the van of a caravan, rolling to the clang of cymbals and bugles, and his hide was as rigid as sheet-iron. The aggregate outlay was essentially increased by the building of an elevated
mound of earth and masonry for the majestic animal to stand upon, in the garden of its owner. But the young and volatile citizens soon ceased to admire the grandeur of the spectacle, and devoted their hours of recreation to hurling stones at the venerable effigy; and so the possessor, having contracted a deep disgust for his purchase, and no little anxiety for his life, secured the shavings and sticks with which the monster was stuffed (ivory previously removed) and had the whilom wanderer among African jungles tipped, legs up, into an adjoining lot. The noble beast, however, still retained its shape, and, with its feet in the air, appeared to be throwing out the pantomimic invitation to community: "Come on, with your dead cats and all sorts of contemptible rubbish -it won't be noticed while I am here; this is the spot for rusty stove-pipe, defunct dogs, and lobster-shells; here's the place for trash-come on!" And then the neighbors entered a complaint; and that was the reason, which has never before been satisfactorily explained, why the nuisance-committee took hold of the matter, and made the owner of the brave old elephant pay a heavy fine.
former times-or, to name a definite period, we shall say in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, ere paper money was introduced-it was customary, in the great commercial cities of Italy, and very likely, also, in those of other European countries, for a bag, purporting to contain a certain sum of gold or silver money, to pass from hand to hand, without its contents being examined or counted, on the credit of the little label attached to it, specifying how much there was, or ought to be, within. This saved a great deal of trouble; and when, at length, it might become necessary, from any cause, to count the money, and a deficiency should be found, either in the tale, weight, or standard, why, then, the holder had his remedy against the person from whom he got the bag, and might recover from him the deficiency-if he could. What the label was to the old leathern money-bag, such has been the term "Venerable" to the character, literary, moral, and religious, of the old monk of Jarrow. From the customary influence of this little word “venerable,” though the old Miracle Trading Company, by which it was sanctioned, if not originally imposed, has greatly declined in credit; and from the ponderosity of Bede's bag, bis works, to wit, in eight volumes folio, appalling to even the most assiduous teller, its contents have been very seldom examined; and, though hints have, from time to time, been given by a few who had had the curiosity to look into it with some degree of attention, that it was not filled exclusively with the precious metals, it has yet been sealed up again and put into circulation at pretty nearly its old nominal value. Dropping here the metaphorical bag, we shall proceed to give a few particulars relating to Venerable Bede, illustrative of his times, his knowledge, and his writings.
Bede was born, A. D. 637, in that part of the Saxon kingdom of Northumberland which now forms the county of Durham; and, according to tradition, in the neighborhood of Monkton, a village about two miles to the southwestward of Jarrow, in the monastery of which he died, A. D. 735. Jarrow church, which originally belonged to the monastery of Jarrow, is one of the
oldest in the kingdom; it was founded, in 681, by Benedict Biscop, who had founded another monastery at Wearmouth, dedicated to St. Peter, about seven years before. According to an inscription, of the period, now placed within Jarrow church, over the arch of the tower, it was dedicated " to St. Paul, on the 9th of the kalends of May, in the 15th year of King Egfrid, and in the 4th of Ceolfrid, abbot of the said church," that is, on the 22d April, 685.
The form of religion, which then passed for Christianity, having been introduced to the Saxons of the south by the monk Augustine, under the auspices of Pope Gregory the Great, in 596, and those of the north having been converted also by the monks, within the course of the succeeding forty yearsthe bishopric of Lindisfurn having been founded in 635-a profession of monkery appears to have become extremely prevalent among the new converts, and more especially those who were of royal or noble birth. Monasteries were founded in various parts of the kingdom by persons of wealth or influence, of both sexes, who, gathering together a colony of monks and nuns, not unfrequently under the same roof, withdrew from the cares and vanities of the great world, to devote themselves to a life of holy celibacy and pious_seclusion, and, possibly, to enjoy the pleasure of administering the affairs of a little world of their own. That many good and sincerely pious persons found in such places a refuge from the anxieties of secular life, there can be no question; but it is also certain that many of the professed still retained the vices and bad passions which they brought with them, whether from the country or the court; for, since to "a spotless mind and innocent,"
"Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage;"
so neither are the consecrated walls of a monastery a restraint on the cogitations of a mind that is impure.
"What exile from his native land E'er left himself behind ?"
Amongst the best deserving of those of that age who pleased themselves by
founding monasteries, Benedict Biscop may justly claim a place. He was of noble family, and had held an office under King Oswy; but he renounced all secular honors in order to devote himself to religion. He became a monk, having received the tonsure in the celebrated monastery of Lerins, in Provence; and, after having visited Rome twice or thrice, he commenced the foundation of the monastery at Wearmouth in 674, having obtained from King Egfrid a grant of land in order to enable him to carry his design into effect. He sent to France for masons to build the church; and he also sent to the same country for glaziers to glaze the windows-this art, according to Bede, being then unknown in England. He decorated the interior of the church with paintings which he had brought from Rome; one wall being covered with pictures of the Virgin and the twelve apostles, and others with subjects from the Evangelists and Revelations, together with representations of the Last Judgment and the Mystery of the Incarnation, so that the humble disciple might feel his faith confirmed wherever he turned. He further enriched his new establishment with many relics and books which he had obtained abroad; and he also brought from Rome Brother John to officiate as leader of the choir, and to instruct the monks in chanting the service.
Into this monastery (Wearmouth), Bede entered as an alumnus, or pupil, when he was only seven years old. At the age of nineteen he was ordained a deacon by John of Beverly, then Bishop of Hexham; and at the age of thirty he was ordained a priest by the same prelate. Shortly after his admission to the priesthood he appears to have removed to the brother monastery of Jarrow, where he continued to reside till the time of his decease, diligently employing himself in compiling glosses and expositions of the Scriptures, and in composing works for the edification both of himself and his brethren. At that time there were six hundred monks belonging to the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, and in most of the other monasteries of the kingdom their number appears to have been proportionably great. Most of those monks were not priests, but a kind of intermediate class between the clergy and laity bound by a vow to yield obedience to their abbot, and to live a chaste and holy life.
It may be here remarked that, in the time of Bede, most of the monks were accustomed to labor with their hands in the fields of the monastery, as well as to pray with their heart and voice in the church or the cell; they mowed the hay; reaped and thrashed the corn; and eke, milked the cows and fed the calves. But, in subsequent times, the number of monks belonging to each monastery became greatly diminished; for the more pious, who were also possibly the more indolent, and certainly the most powerful and knowing, having discovered that manual labor withdrew them too much from their more pleasing offices of devotion, it was thought better to employ laymen to cultivate their grounds and perform the more laborious servile offices about the monastery. The number of those admitted to profession was restricted; and as the monks belonging to a monastery became fewer and more select, so did the number of its lay laborers increase.
Under his instructors Bede acquired such a knowledge of the Latin language as to be able to write it with clearness and ease; and it has also been said that he had a knowledge of Greek: if he had, it was very small, and certainly not beyond a mere knowledge of words as synonymous with others of Latin. From the Greek he derived no knowledge of things; for of all that is most interesting and permanently valuable in Greek literature, he was wholly ignorant. We are informed that the genius of Bede embraced the whole cyclopædia of human learning; that he acquired his knowledge of natural philosophy and mathematics from the purest sources, namely, from the works of the Greek and Latin authors themselves; and that he had a competent knowledge of poetry, rhetoric, metaphysics, logic, astronomy, music, cosmography, chronology, and history. By one writer he is represented as "trimming the lamp of learning, and irradiating the Saxon realm of Northumberland with a clear and steady light;" while another, who has recently edited a translation of a portion of Bede's works, professing to amend the language of the text, and in his own slip-shod introduction supplying proof of his incompetence to perform the task, says, in his own peculiar style, that it "seems not a little surprising that one who had scarce moved further than the place of his nativity should so accurately
describe those at a distance." correctness of description, it is to be observed, is here taken for granted: the correct transcription of a portion of Gulliver's Travels by the master of the City of London School, would be just as surprising as Bede's accurate description of "those at a distance." For a specimen of such accuracy, we beg to refer the reader to Bede's tract, "De Locis Sacris," which the learned editor has, most unaccountably, neglected to cite.
allude is that in which Pope Gregory the Great answers the queries of Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Bede's life of St. Cuthbert is a perfect specimen of that kind of biography which, when served up by writers of a later period, is usually classed under the head of "pious frauds." Strange, that those who are most eager to magnify the extent and value of Bede's learning and knowledge should seek to absolve him from the charge of pious fraud, on the plea of pious ignorance! It cannot be said that the miracle's which he records of St. Cuthbert were consecrated by time, for Cuthbert was living when Bede was born, and did not die till 687, when Bede was thirteen years old. As Bede had many more to imitate the fictions which he recorded, than to be edified by his facts, it may be truly said that the light which he contributed to diffuse was of that kind which renders man blind, rather than enables him to
The writer, who described Bede as "trimming the lamp of learning," might have represented him, more truly and graphically, as a good-natured, garrulous old monk, of great but not accurate memory, beguiling the long winter nights by reading to the other monks, in the common hall, with the aid of a rushlight, a huge volume of extracts, compiled by himself, from the works of the fathers; varying his course of lectures with a chapter of his own Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, "stuffed here and there with thumping miracles, for which he must be pardoned," as Bishop Nicholson charitably observes; and occasionally rousing them, when he perceived that they were becoming drowsy, with a narrative from the life of St. Cuthbert, which, as he has represented it, was nothing but a series of miracles from beginning to end. To speak without figure, he is, in his purely theological works, the mere transcriber of earlier authorized opinions, without ever venturing to inquire into the reasons on which they might be based. His ecclesiastical history is, in many places, where opportunity is afforded of testing it by other authorities, extremely inaccurate, while it abounds in passages which, at first sight, are perceived to be purely fabulous. That he did not invent them may be a salvo for his honesty; but then the fact of his recording them, as he has done, must be admitted to be a proof of his being no less blindly credulous than the most illiterate of his countrymen. This work is also infected, though in a slight degree, with that loathsome impurity which is often to be met with in the writings of monkish authors, both of the Greek and Latin church. That which was shameful for a layman to do or even mention, the cloistered monk often seems to have felt a depraved pleasure in recording. The portion to which we
Dr. Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, speaking of the legendary lives of the saints, says that St. Gregory the Great and Bede, whom he erroneously dubs
St.," "showed the way to the rest, and by their own credulity and want of judgment gave a pattern and encouragement to all the monkish tales and impostures afterwards." This is not, however, exactly correct; the way was previously shown by St. Athanasius, in his life of St. Anthony, the patron of monks, and by Sulpicius Severus, in his life of St. Martin, of Tours. It has, indeed, been denied that the life of St. Anthony was really written by Athanasius; yet the genuineness of no one of the works ascribed to him depends on better authority.
It is related that, shortly before the Reformation, a French bishop, in returning homeward from an embassy to Scotland, visited, on the same day, the shrines of St. Cuthbert and Bede, in Durham Cathedral; that at St. Cuthbert's he offered a small copper coin, saying, "St. Cuthbert, if thou art a saint, pray for me;" and that at Bede's he offered a French crown, requesting his prayers because he was a saint indeed. This anecdote, and its quotation by certain shrewd persons, for the purpose of depreciating Cuthbert and exalting Bede, present a curious exemplification of the manner in which the mind, though conscious of a fallacy
somewh e, is yet unable to disentangle it, and, cutting boldly, cuts wrong. Cuthbert is, to a certain extent, regarded as an impostor; while in this case the real impostor is extravagantly honored; though it be owing to his fallacious narrative alone that the mind has become impressed with a confused idea of the former having pretended to have done or said that which the false or credulous biographer has recorded of him. He who really thinks Bede a saint is bound to receive Cuthbert as a saint, also. A man pays but a left-handed compliment to the knowledge and piety of a friend, by treating a person as if he were a cheat, merely because he was highly reverenced, and his saintly virtues much extolled by that friend.
Bede was very highly esteemed in his own age for his great learning; and William of Malmsbury says that Pope Sergius wished him to come to Rome, in order to consult with him on ecclesiastical affairs. From what circumstance he first acquired the title of "Venerable" has not been determined. According to one account, he obtained it from the following circumstance: When he was old and blind he was led about by a young monk, who once took him to a heap of stones, telling him that they were country people waiting in reverent silence to hear him preach. He forthwith began, and at the end of his discourse the stones saluted him with "Amen, Venerable Bede!" The other is, that one of his scholars, when engaged in writing his epitaph, could not complete it for want of an approprite word; but leaving it at night thus,
"Hac sunt in fossa Bedæ
he found, next morning, the blank filled up with the word "venerabilis." It is equally credible that both those accounts are true.
eager to secure possession than scrupulous about the means. "It seems," says the late Mr. Surtees, in his History of Durham, "that a propensity to con veying, as the wise it call,' was no less inherent in those ancient collectors of rarities than in their modern representatives." An old chair, said to have been Bede's, is still preserved at Jarrow. The seat, which is of oak, of great solidity, and rudely hollowed out, is unquestionably antique; the back and sides are more modern, the originals having been several times carried off in small pieces, by visitors, as portions of Bede's chair.
Bede was interred at Jarrow; but about the year 1022 his remains were conveyed" to Durham, and placed beside those of St. Cuthbert, by Elfred, a brother of that monastery, who was an enthusiastic collector of reliques, more
About the year 1370, Bede's remains, which were inclosed in a shrine of gold and silver, appear to have been removed from the feretory of St. Cuthbert, and placed on a marble table in that part of the church called the Galilee. This shrine was defaced at the Reformation. His bones were buried beneath the spot where it stood, and over them was erected a plain table monument. In 1831 the tomb was examined, when several bones, reputed to be Bede's, were discovered; that they really were his is uncertain, seeing that several monasteries, both in England and on the Continent, could boast of having some of them.
We have not said all that we could have wished to say respecting Bede, but our paper is out. That the opinions which we have expressed concerning Bede may not, however, be misconstrued, we beg to say that we have no desire to unfairly depreciate a Saxon relique; we only wish to ascertain its real value and use, not only with reference to the standard of times past, but also to that of times present. An acre of land might be purchased for a shilling in the time of Bede; but he must be grossly infatuated with the love of antiquity who would now give an acre of land for twelve Saxon pennies. To draw to a point. Oh, Wiseacre ! part not with thy mental freehold upon such terms; and ever as thou lovest correct accounts, trust not implicitly to the label, but examine the contents of the bag.